With that he closed his eyes, concentrated, and tore himself from the spot.
The very first thing he noticed was the silence. He had passed beyond a single hatch and yet from in here, he could hear nothing of the exchange beyond.
The chamber illuminated at his arrival, the air simply growing bright around him. He tensed, swiftly exchanging the magazine of his pistol as he searched the wide space around him for any sign of life.
There seemed to no one here, and after a few moments he allowed himself to relax a little.
‘Codian here.’ He said, willing his vox stud into action. ‘Brother Ventris, can you hear me?’
He waited for several moments but there was no answer.
‘Cassius? Tigurius? This is Codian. I have reached our destination. Are you receiving this?’
Again, he was met with no reply save for silence.
He reasoned with himself that there could be any number of explanations why he had lost communication with his Ultramarine brothers, the most obvious being Tau technology. It was perfectly plausible that the Tau had initiated some kind of ship-wide communications suppression net.
Perhaps the others had inadvertently passed beyond the range of his vox, and he had no idea of the properties used in the construction of these vessels. There were many reasons to consider, but he could not help but feel that there was something more to it, something altogether more sinister.
The strange and seemingly random leaps into the nightmare world had done nothing to help centre his mind for the task ahead. Though he knew a little of what lay ahead of him on this distant world, he could not understand why he had returned there more than once. To him, the continuing experience was akin to a warrior seeing the events of his life flash before his eyes upon death. Was he dead, somewhere in the murky mists of the future?
He found he could barely begin to comprehend the workings of space and time, despite his ability to breach those laws. He was a man in possession of an amazing ability and yet of the truth of that ability he knew very little. All he knew was that he had a destiny there on that world, and that the strange, dead world, and that the shadowy Marines waited there for him still.
These thoughts were irrelevant, he reasoned. He still had much to do before he would see the end of this war, and the salvation of his Primarch was paramount now.
He realised with some relief that whatever automated defence systems were in place in this part of the ship had stayed thankfully silent up to now. If what he suspected of Fabius Bile was true, if the insidious traitor had done most of his debased work in secret and away from prying eyes, then it made sense that the Tau would consider the Apothecarion a low-level risk area.
The fact that the Ethereal chambers were so close to this place had worked in their favour, at least as far as he was concerned. The enemy suspected that they had come for the Ethereals, when all along his true goal lay somewhere within these walls.
This part of the ship was unlike anything he had seen since they had boarded her. Though the Tau influence in architecture continued on into these chambers, there was a darker, almost gothic feel to the place.
There were tanks and glass tubes everywhere he looked and in every conceivable size. most of them looked to contain specimens of organs, whilst others held complete specimens. In many cases he found that he could not place the species of the preserved creatures he saw all around him, though he did recognise a number of them.
He passed by a large tube containing a huge, dark-skinned Ork, the creature’s face exuding an air of menace and hate even in death. He turned his gaze away from the alien and continued on, approaching the nearest archway cautiously.
As he had hoped, he could see no signs of life in the chamber beyond. To his dismay, the space was even larger than the previous one, and more cluttered. Rows upon rows of specimen tubes and unidentifiable medical equipment stretched out away from him, as far as the eye could see.
He realised then how monumental the task ahead of him was. Bile would not have kept his greatest secrets out in display for all to see. The truth of Bile’s knowledge of the situation was inconsequential to him now, for the insidious traitor would definitely have kept his most secret work away from the eyes of Guilliman.
He needed help to locate that which he knew he must find.
Call to the shadows.
The dark Astarte had told him this, but only now did he realise the significance of it. Were those dark Marines really a part of his own subconscious mind? Was that distant planet nothing except for a mindscape, a representation of his own unbidden efforts in turning his gaze inward? Were these mysterious interruptions in transition a method devised by his instinctive self to turn his attention to the answers he sought?
Yes or no, the answer was not important, at least not for now. What was important was the goal, and if he was to stand any chance of locating it before the enemy found him, he needed to follow that advice.
He slowed, lowering his weapons as he did so. then, glancing around him, he spoke to the silent gloom.
‘I am Codian, the Prophet, and I need your help.’
His voice echoed away into the distance, the dying reverberations fading into the quiet and ever-present hum of machinery.
‘I…I know that you are here. I know that you are everywhere. I also know that you are aware of me, aware of who and what I am. I seek your aid here. I need to uncover the truth, and I know that you can help me. You know this ship, these chambers, far better than I ever could. You know this ship better even than the Tau. For the good of the continuation of our shared existence, for the good of life, help me.’
For long moments he waited, and listened. He had almost given up when the slightest noise attracted his attention. He glanced to his right in time to see what appeared to be a ventilation grille, not much larger than his helm in diameter, detach itself and then sink away into a pit of utter darkness.
Something dark and soundless poured itself from the space and slid out into the chamber, landing on the floor with only the softest thud of padded feet. The shape rose into a hunched, humanoid form, and he caught sight of what appeared to be a pair of shining eyes beneath a rotting hood.
The thing hissed at him, a feral and animalistic sound. Codian inclined his head in greeting and then gestured out around him.
‘You know all the secrets of this place. Show them to me.’
The voice thundered through the clamour of the battle, singing high above the loudest, most thunderous explosions.
‘Hear me! I, Guilliman, command your attention!’
Roboute Guilliman spread his arms wide as he called out to his legions, his volume of his voice louder and more strident than any mortal could ever hope to manage. That same voice boomed across the communications net, spreading out across the entire Tau army in a matter of seconds.
‘Your god is here amongst us! Aun’Va demands your presence!’
On his knees, his face turned to the floor, Berolinus shuddered beneath his Primarch’s every word. His disbelief at Bile’s sudden demise still burned bright within him. Things were happening so fast now, the situation changing beyond his every expectation.
There was a part of him that railed against all that Aun’Va was, and yet he could not bring himself to cry out against the immortal master of the Tau. Aun’Va had intended Guilliman to become something more than he ever was, something dark and corrupt. It had been Aun’Va’s wish to see Guilliman destroyed, for all intents and purposes, and replaced with some monstrous and alien machine.
It had been the corruption that Fabius had wrought within Guilliman that had prevented this, and he found himself silently thankful for that. In death, it had been revealed that Bile’s loyalties had lain elsewhere, and yet even as he considered this, he found that he could not label the Apothecary a traitor and a heretic.
All along, Bile had been opposed to the rule of Aun’Va, opposed to the crusade of the Tau. He still understood little of what the Apothecary had hoped to achieve, indeed, what he had achieved already. Had he known of the terrible fate that had awaited Guilliman? What had Bile achieved by preventing this? Why had he even sought to prevent it?
All these questions and more coursed through his mind. Each passing moment revealed lies layered upon lies.
And now this.
The strange machine summoned by Aun’Va had simply passed back through the shimmering emerald gate and left, closing the swirling breach behind it. Now Aun’Va sought to gather the Tau to him, even in the midst of the desperate fight against the forces of chaos.
What purpose could this possibly serve? His Primarch seemed unwilling or indeed incapable of denying Aun’Va. Did Guilliman know of the being’s intentions? Again, none of this made sense to him.
The battlefield had taken on a strange quality with the arrival of the Ethereals. Even now they moved to widen the net around his position, around Aun’Va, burning and smashing their way deeper into the chaos forces, towers of murderous strength and power.
He had yet to witness the demise of any one of them, and he had no idea how many of them existed here. Though it may not be immediately obvious to some, he could see that the Ethereals were not just moving to counter the enemy. They were actually driving them back purposely, leaving the area around their commander free of danger and interference.
Aun’Va himself continued to watch the proceedings with an aloof detachment, as if there was not a single individual, force or weapon here capable of harming him. Berolinus looked upon him and believed that such a thing could actually be true.
What is his true desire? He asked himself the question, but really he knew that he needed the answer not from within himself but instead from the dark being residing deep within his soul. He closed his eyes and willed Lucius to answer him. Why would the malevolent spirit not answer?
To feed. Came the reply.
He flinched, quite unprepared to hear the hissing voice in his thoughts despite his plea.
To feed, Berolinus. You had your chance, Ultramarine. You had a chance of true greatness, of survival. Now you are too late. You stupid, pathetic, blind little Astarte. First you pledge yourself to a false Primarch, and then to a false Tau. Still you fail to see the truth behind the fiend before you. The creature you know of as Aun’Va is much more than you could ever imagine. It is a god of this mortal plane, a creature far darker and more ancient than even the most powerful denizens of the warp.
I hope that you enjoy all that you have allowed to happen, Lurom Berolinus, for you will feed that creature. All of you, every last life on this foul world, are fated to become sustenance. A pathetic end for a pathetic warrior. Enjoy your fate.
Berolinus hissed in anger and despair as he felt the spirit of Lucius sink away, abandoning him to this fate.
He vowed then that he would do everything in his power to prevent it.