The Returned (Short Story)
|Collected in||Legends of the Space Marines|
There Is Only War
On the world of Gathis, atop the Ghostmountain, sits the Eyrie, fortress-monastery of the Doom Eagles. Here they memorialise their honoured dead, then forget them. But what to do when one of those dead comes back to life? Brother Tarikus returns from years of captivity and must contend with suspicion and mistrust as he strives to reclaim his place in the Chapter.
The Doom Eagles' homeworld of Gathis II is rocked by an unexpected event. Veteran Sergeant Tarikus has been rescued, after he was thought dead when the medical frigate he was recovering on was attacked by the Red Corsairs.
Tarikus relates that he was actually captured by the Corsairs, who sold him to the minions of Fabius Bile. He was imprisoned on Dynikas V, where he was tortured and experimented upon by Bile. He was eventually rescued by the Blood Angels and returned to his Chapter.
After his return Brother-Sergeant Zurus, who now commands Tarikus's squad, is assigned to watch him and to observe him for any sign of Chaos taint. The Eagles' Chapter Master, Commander Hearon, is not sure what to do; more than any other chapter, the Doom Eagles embrace the inevitability of death, and for Tarikus to "return" after being declared officially dead is anathema to their beliefs. But Hearon decides that, although expediency demands that he simply sacrifice Tarikus rather than risk any uncertainty, he refuses to dispose of a brother who may turn out to be untainted, and loyal.
The decision eventually rests with Librarian Secundus Thyrn. Under his direction, Tarikus is subjected to several grueling ordeals, including being trapped between "The Talons," a pincer-like torture device, and stripping Tarikus naked and leaving him on the walls of the mountain, until he is half-dead from exposure. Throughout these ordeals, Thryn asks Tarikus searching questions, and Tarikus responds the same way each time: he is the real Tarikus, and still loyal to the Emperor. Thryn reports back to Hearon that Tarikus's mind and body are sound, but there is still an undecided question as to his soul. Hearon orders that he wants the matter settled, no matter the risk to Tarikus.
By now, Zurus has joined his squad in pleading for Tarikus's reinstatement to the chapter, but Thryn insists on putting Tarikus through the final test. Using a psychic illusion, Thryn makes Tarikus believe that Traitor Marines have attacked the fortress-monastery with Tarikus's help, and Tarikus turned to them after seeing that his chapter and his brothers had abandoned him. Tarikus senses that what he sees is a lie, and screams his defiance back at his tormentor, snapping him and Thryn out of the vision.
Ruefully, Thryn realizes what secret Tarikus was hiding from his brothers: his moment of fear, inside his prison, when he wondered what would happen if he did break and give in. But he did not, and Thryn is satisfied to pronounce him sound in body, mind, and soul.
Exonerated, Tarikus reclaims his weapons from the Chapter's reliquary, and strikes his name from the roll of the dead. He is mildly surprised when Zurus volunteers to step down and let Tarikus resume leadership of his old squad. Tarikus accepts, but only on the condition that Zurus remains as his second-in-command.
Gathis II, homeworld of the Doom Eagles. The Fortress-Monastery, the Eyrie, upon Ghostmountain located in the Razorpeak range.
- Chapter Master Hearon
- Librarian Secundus Thryn
- Captain Consultus - "The Luckless" 3rd Company
- Sergeant Tarikus
- Sergeant Zurus
- Apothecary Petius
- Brother Mykilus
- Brother Korica