Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Captain's Log... Duel of Wills...

The next piece of fiction is new, quite long, and out of sequence with the rest.

I come up with these scene's in my head while I drive between projects for work. Many times it takes me months to get it down into word even though I may have been playing it over and over in my head on several occasions.

'Duel of Wills' is part orginal fiction and part fiction that I wrote with a friend of mine, Consadine, over a year ago and tampered with it to make a story. It was orginally two separte pieces, one being a duel between my character and Cons and one written about Castiel by myself.

I'll be in the corner flying remote controlled helicopters if you need me...


The battle for the body can be won or lost in the battle for the mind. - Sar Constantine

Peering from the hidden observation window down into the chamber, Librarian Nathan Castiel slowly manipulated his thoughts through the mind of the “Fallen”, Castellan Kagen Timoteous. He was close to finding the lies in the truth that had already been stripped from the prisoner.

All his training had come to this moment. He would break the soul without breaking the body and then they would get their confession. He was close. He could feel the layers of a strong mind being torn from their bindings like that of pages in a book. He began to sweat from the concentration. The light of his ether self shined brightly if you could see it, dangerously bright in the realm of chaos.

Calmness spread over Kagen and his breathing returned to some semblance of normal. The unwanted visitor discarded another memory and walked away. Kagen still shook from the chills, part from himself and part from the mental assault and the echoing footsteps that were raging in his mind. He was reliving past memories, the truth, and that no one believed him. The unwanted visitor walked past ignoring the facts and continued the search.

Somewhere else…

Kagen looked across the unatural field of trees and pillars in the arena towards the man before him. There would be no intimidating this one by his looks and his mannerisms. He was humming an unknown tune while the dance of death was about to begin.

I'll just change the tempo, thought Kagen to himself.

The garb his opponent wore was well known. A black coat of armor adorned with skulls. A book of some sort was hanging from his waist. The symbol of the Dark Angels clearly placed on his left shoulder pad with the Crux Terminatus on his right. A chaplain stood before him. A deadly foe indeed if they were enemies, which they were not.

Throwing down his glaive, Kagen thought heavily about his motivations. The man he was to kill, was a man of the Emperor and The Lion, like himself. A feeling of doom and hatred fought their own battle somewhere else in Kagen’s mind. He had killed for differences in faith, but they were of the same faith, yet they were going to fight.

Men of faith, of the same faith, wielding death as if it was a child’s play thing were not supposed to be pitted against each other. The idea that there had to be a higher purpose to all of it floated out of his consciousness. Kagen made up his mind that if this was how it was to come to pass, then what a death it would be.

In the end, the faithful always shined the brightest.

Walking slowly towards The Chaplain, he began a precise sequence of movements. With every step he was set into motion. First came the stare into the eye of his enemy, to distract him, along with the unsnapping of his holster. Turning his walk into a trot he un-holstered his pistol closing the distance. His shot would have to run true and he would have to be close enough to gauge the thickness of the armor. Killing him outright would do him an injustice.

Looking up to see the marine coming at him the man in black pulled out his pistol and started to blast him with round after round, knocking him this way and that when he hit from a distance. Kagen’s armor absorbed some of the blows but between the armor plating had taken a beating.

At some point Kagen knew his armor would fail if he didn't use care and acted foolishly. Kagen envisioned he was going to be struck even before the rounds hit him and angled himself to ensure his target was in sight. With a singular shot he knocked the man from his feet uninjured but obviously shaken by the blow to his armor.

When the man had regained some sense from the grassy plain, he scrambled to his feet quickly while looking for his opponent. To the onlooker Kagen should have been right on top of him judging the distance he could travel, but he wasn't. Kagen had disappeared or so it would have seemed.

Instead Kagen was standing far short of his intended victim. Loading his pistol waiting for him to get up, Kagen spoke. "Stand up and be counted.”

The man never spoke but looked relieved with the respite his opponent was giving him and nodded his response.

He rolled over and brought himself up, the blow his armor sustained was well placed but not too hurtful by Kagen’s estimates. Firing his pistol to empty, the fight took on a different pace.

I will only be a little sore tomorrow.
"Stand and be counted?" The Chaplains voice was familiar as he asked, loaded more rounds into his gun. Kagen was doing the same.

"I stand before the Lion and the Emperor for guidance and faith, for order and to the enemy to deliver their will. You are not the Lion, the most holy Emperor, and you are not my superior." Kagen worked the action on his pistol to chamber the first round; the metallic sound echoed around the field yet unnaturally absorbed into the grass.

"Thus, you are now my enemy, my opponent! Confess! May his will be done this day!" yelled the Chaplain. At this, the Chaplain dropped to a knee and let loose several slugs. All were aimed at the weak spots in power armor, right in the creases, just like they were trained.

Doubt never crossed the ancient Castellan’s face after he uttered a pre-battle prayer. The time now was to act, to kill… to confess. He knew this was not unlike his usual character, but Kagen was not a stupid man and knew when it was necessary to play by the rules. All he had to do was perform, survive, and hope his brothers forgave him for it.

Kagen............Kagen.............Kagen.. .... ..........Kagen.............Kagen………

Voices echoed, canted, as shots rang out in succession heading towards the marine as he shoved the last round into the clip. It was irksome to hear them over and over in succession.

Tuck and roll was the description but that was not was accomplished. Kagen hit the dirt awkwardly and slid into some cover of one the of the tree’s placed in a ring around the two.

Where had the crowd come from?

It was more of a duck, fall, and pray, yet some of the rounds hit him where they were intended. Putting his back to the natural barrier he realized the Chaplain was a crack shot and had the Emperor on his side for the moment. A test of wills was taking place and whoever survived would be the one who believed that the emperor was on his side the longest. Faith in winning was only a matter of believing in it the longest or truly having it on your side. "Kagen" was still ringing in the natural arena driving him on and fortified his faith.

The echo of the crowd was going wild in anticipation of blood in the grass. Kagen could smell it like predators smelt blood in the water from miles away. Hecklers from thin air were taunting both gladiators and from somewhere a shot hit its mark on the Castellan.

Kagen quickly looked around the tree for his opponent, catching him running for a similar tree near his side of the ring, swatting wet mud from himself as he went. Hitting a button on his pistol Kagen looked out again from cover. Snapping off a couple of quick shots he intentionally hit the tree where the man had taken cover not being able to hit his mark.

Counting down silently in his head Kagen looked himself over. One round had hit his knee joint and it was going to slow him down. A huge chunk of armor had been blown off from his arm just below the armored shoulder pad. Another shot in the same place and he might lose the use of his hand until it was attended by a healer.

Manstopper rounds!

Kagen knew how effective they were against a variety of enemies. Special ammunition was not unheard of and Kagen had a few surprises himself.


Two loud reports blew out huge chunks of the tree The Chaplain was hiding behind preparing for Kagen’s move or rather the tree’s next move. A groan issued itself from the huge chunk of wood and it began to fall over in the direction of another tree and the Chaplain himself.

The Chaplain ran from his cover not having time to reload a full complement of rounds. There wasn't any choice in the matter and the tree tumbled down with a rumble, created a billowing cloud of dust combined with sand and partially obscuring the man, but this was what Kagen had wanted.

Keep him running without time to think or to reload and tiring him in the process so he could get closer, close enough for him to see him eye to eye in the end.

As the tree fell, Kagen flicked another switch on the pistol and shot off another couple of rounds as he removed himself from cover.

The Chaplain fired off a round as he ran, to keep the marines head down or push him back into cover, but that wasn't happening at the moment. Heading in a slow walk, the marine shot at the heels of the running man not sure if he had struck his mark during the exchange or not. Kagen kept his pistol ready to shoot any portion of the Chaplain if he exposed himself.

Kagen watched for the Chaplain as he  skidded to a halt behind another pillar and spit blood out of his mouth. His mind was racing a little faster than usual, but he knew this was how his brainstorming went. A plan would form as soon as he finished putting more rounds in his gun.

At least that was the plan, of course they never went right when your back was against the wall. The explosion of a bolt hitting the pillar knocked aside  Kagen’s train of thought with the full effect of a sledgehammer on a small rock. His eyes slammed shut against the concussion of the blast as his ears rung from the ever increasing chant of  his name. And that infernal lyric!

Fear is naught but my faith is strong, fear is naught but my faith is strong, fear is naught but my faith is strong...

The Chaplain repeated those words to himself repeatedly, hoping the prayer would help him. He was at a disadvantage to the Astartes as a bolt pistol round would be as good as fatal while his own shells were having little effect it seemed. The Chaplain had seen some damage done, but he couldn't count on hitting the same spot over and over. Then an idea hit him.

Against his better judgment, The Chaplain took a quick peak around the pillar to his left. Another bolt slammed into the pillar, sending debris bouncing off his armour. This one was coming down, but he had seen what he needed to see: the distance to Kagen. He quickly primed a fragmentation grenade to allow for the maximum error in his judgment.

"Come and get me then, stop wasting my time!" The Chaplain yelled over the crumbling of the pillar. The grenade flew under the falling debris to The Chaplain's left. As soon as the explosion would register, he would come out to the right and hopefully be able to draw some of the blood that the crowd seemed to so desperately want.

At least, that was how he envisioned it.

The Chaplain skidded to a halt behind another pillar while Kagen closed the distance slowly and begining to limp slightly. The manstopper rounds had been laced with an anti-coagulation agent especially designed for heretics in power armour. Kagen's wounds were bleeding.

A grenade rolled out from the rubble as another of the pilliars began to crumble from the shooting damage of the fight. The resulting concussion and falling debris knocked Kagen onto his back, shrapnel hitting him in the face and partially blinding him in one eye. A movement out of his good eye through the cloud of dust caught his attention. Kagen emptied the clip just ahead of the movement.

The Chaplain cried out in pain and stumbled as he scrambled to get to the next pilliar. Falling to the sand at the last moment he low crawled to get behind it and put his back to the protection when he got there. Heaving to get air, the Chaplain reloaded his weapon and looked around despite the pain. He had not been hit directly but a round had blasted the armour apart on his back. He gulped the air and put his hand behind his back to assess the damge he could not see. His hand returned crimson with blood. This was a problem.

Priming his weapon the Chaplain stole a look out at the open portion of the arena. Kagen was nowhere to be seen, but a blood trail led to another pilliar nearby. All the dust and smoke from the explosions obscured any line of sight accross to other cover.

The Chaplain pulled his head around behind the pillar to think. Kagen was somwhere in the arena. Move or not to move? That was the question.

Two shots rang out and yells from the nether indicated something had taken place, that and two bodies fell in between nearby the Chaplain out of thin air. Someone had apearently them.

"Dirty deeds done dirt cheap..." echoed from all around in Kagen's voice but did not indicate his location.

Don't let him play head games with you!

"Penance can't absolve your sin, all your beliefs cannot absolve your sin, Kagen!" The Chaplain yelled through the sea of sound and pain. He had two more frags and two high explosives. One of each behind the bloodied pillar should do the trick.

His pistol magnetizedto his thigh, The Chaplain moved as fast as he could from behind the pillar, grenades in hand. He could feel blood slowly dripping down his back and a pulse of pain with every footstep rip through his body. The Astartes had drawn first blood, but The Chaplain would end this play.

Unceremoniously, the Chaplain threw one of each explosive to the pillar. He pulled the pistol back into his hands and started sweeping left and right, making sure he wasn't caught off guard. It was a crude way to wrap up this affair, but the end justified the means.

The two grenades the Chaplain threw hit the back wall of the arena and bounced back into the bloody pillar indicating the direction Kagen had went. A bystander in the seats above, too drunk with the fighting failed to realize what they were doing, tried to grab one before it fell back to the ground and was caught in the explsion. The stone column wobbled but didn't fall despite being heavily damaged. Dust and chunks of rock flew everywhere including a battered and torn emerald green cape that fell to the arena sand.

The Chaplain looked for any sign of Kagen but the arena was still smokey and there were plenty of spots for a marine to hide. From behind the pillar the Chaplain heard a grunting and groaning like someone was in pain. As he took care to move into some sort of covered position to see what was happening, the Chaplain then saw something he did not expect. Tossed among the rubble was a marines shoulder pad badly burnt and damaged. Grunting from behind the pillar caused The Chaplain to remember where he was at and what he must do.

He came a bit closer to the pillar still struggling to hear the noise from behind. The Chaplain steadied his weapon and lead, muzzle ready, to fire at anything that moved. Another peice of the column fell from the top of the stone works and bouced harmlessly nearby. Looking up he realized that it was tipping over and he caught site of Kagen pushing against it to help it on its way.

The Chaplain, ever agile, dodged to the side to avoid the bulk of the arena decor but there was so much rubble laying around that he tripped and fell. He scrambled to regain his footing and clung to his weapon when a cloud of dust overcame him. Caught in the cloud was disorienting and his back was killing him.

Kagen footsteps preceded his arrival and The Chaplain actually got off a shot in the marines thigh before he crashed into him like a Catachan Devil. Both went down to the sand.

The Chaplain had his pistol and tried to roll, get a shot or hit the marine at his back but Kagen grabbed the weapons muzzle and ripped it from his hands backhanding him with the other. The Chaplain went onto his back dazed, causing even more pain.

His hands worked for him as they slid down to his belt and grabbed the remaining krak grenade at his disposal. Getting some composure he tried to get up and found himself face to muzzle of a bolt pistol.

Kagen's left eye was completely shut and blood was oozing from its brow. The left shoulder pad was missing and his arm looked as it had been through a fire by the burn marks but was still holding the pistol like a small club. He was not standing but in an ackward crouch in the sand. Blood splattered his armour everywhere. He was a wreck.

"For whom the bell tolls?" said Kagen in exhaustion. His blue eyes penetrated into The Chaplains; the window into his soul. He was telling him the end was near without a word. The marine threw the chaplain's bolt pistol away into the sand out of reach and carefully used the same hand to remove a book from one of his belt pouches and placed it in the sand. 'Salvation' was the title. A well worn Chaplains prayer book lay in front of him.

Kagen lowered the pistol, removed the "empty" clip, and smiled. "Well, aren’t we a pair.

"Damn straight we are," The Chaplain said, coughing as another wave hit him.

The grenade had turned to lead by the enormity of the situation. It felt heavy in his hands, a brutal reminder of the split-second decision he had to make. Fisticuffs fight against another superhuman or a slight bit of hope in a lump of explosive. The latter would have to do.

The Chaplain gripped the grenade tightly in his right hand, keeping the lever still as he tired to activate the arming stud. He kept his hope at chest-level, not wanting to break the staring contest going on between him and the pistol. This didn't prevent The Chaplain from noticing the marine's face transform into a slightly quizzical look. The previously overwhelming onslaught of noise from the hungry, invisible audience now failed to register for both combatants although both could still tell it was as present as ever.

The Chaplain turned his eyes to his opponent. Nothing inhuman that he could see. "Let the Emperor to sort this out."

With a speed that beguiled his injuries, Kagen grabbed the Chaplain's hand holding the grenade and blocked his other arm as it came up to defend himself in some manner. "The Emperor protects his faithful, always!"

He couldn't do it. Kagen could not kill a man of such faith and conviction. The Emperor needed men like this to hold the Imperium together. All his actions were distracted by this simple fact. He had crossed the galaxy and killed xenos and heretics alike, but could not raise his hand in death towards those of true faith.

Kagen head butted The Chaplain, knocking him back or out, and attempted to grab the grenade from him. It tumbled from both their grips and landed in the bloody sand nearby. In the struggle it activated itself.

Tossing The Chaplain aside like a rag doll with the last of his strength, Kagen leapt towards the grenade to cover it. "For the Lion and the Emperor!"

The grenade exploded a split second later.

Somewhere else…

The boy Kellen watched from a corner as the librarian trembled as he stared into the prisoner’s cell, a cell that Kellen cleaned each day. He knew that they were after a piece of information, something that Kagen knew and refused to give up.

Librarian Castiel mumbled, something uncharacteristically for him, under his breath and then collapsed. Kellen ran to him from his corner to his aid, but what could a small boy do in this situation. “Castiel are you alright!” Kellen shouted. “Wake up!” he cried again. The small boy beat on his chest to no avail calling for help all the while. “Chaplain Azariah! Help!”

Armored footsteps rumbled down the corridor of the ‘Deliverance’ form differing parts of the ship. Interrogator-Chaplain Azariah pushed Kellen out of the way being the first one to arrive. “Nathan, speak to me!” ordered the chaplain. A formidable sight to see on the battlefield in his black armor and bone skulls, it seemed out of character as he knelt beside his battle-brother.

Kellen shook with fear and tears fell onto his face. He was not like the others yet who ruled their emotions with training, discipline, and enhancements. Kellen was just a boy and barely that but they were the only family he had. The boy knew without knowing that Castiel was dead or close to it.

Next to arrive was Apothecary Drozd with his equipment in tow. Kneeling down he pulled a plug from his beltline and attached it to the librarian’s port. Immediately information was passed between the two suits. “He is alive but his life signs are weakening.” Grasping a vial from a carried bag he placed it in a dispenser and hooked it into another port in the librarian’s suit. “Not today, not today…” growled Drozd. “Not while I still draw breath!”

Opening his eyes briefly, Librarian Castiel struggled with words as if in great pain. Pain caused him to seize across his body. He looked into the eyes of Azariah and focused. “I’m sorry… I believe… He’s telling the truth…” then he died.  

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