Exploring the Ship: Camael

 
Exploring the Ship: Camael

Camael finds the stateroom set aside for him much as Brother Androcles predicted; opulent and ostentatious to the extreme. A crystal chandelier dominates, casting innumerable flecks of light across the murals and ceiling paintings, each one decorated with some scene from the common liturgy. Every piece of furniture has been meticulously shaped, every cushion painstakingly embroidered. . .and every bit of it useless for a Space Marine. Even outside of power armor, Camael could never fit into the chairs and plush sedans. The only thing sized properly is the bed, which would swallow a normal human but appears merely adequate for an Astartes.

After stowing whatever gear he wishes to leave in the palm locked armoire, Camael ventures through the ship's corridors. He does not have to go far to find the rank and file. The Horizon's Pride teems with personnel of all types. Robed ministorum missionaries flit about, their noses deep in books or their eyes set and locked with fanatic glaze. Guards, armed with las pistols and batons, patrol the halls.

He passes another servitor, this one leaking hydraulic fluid as it walks. A scullery maid on hands and knees follows it, furiously working a soapy brush across the carpet.

"Damned servies," she mutters. "May the Omnissiah take them." She carries on, oblivious to Camael and anything else besides her appointed task. Just ahead, a knot of crew members are gathered in what looks to be lounge for the lower ranks, if the bawdy, Low Gothic songs issuing from it are anything to go by.

Brother Camael smiles wryly to himself when he sees the room, imagining the other marines' looks of stern disapproval. Truth be told, the Blood Drinkers - and all of the sons of Sanguinius, really - were accustomed to lavish surroundings. Although usually the artwork and finery was of their own making.

Careful not to damage any of the furnishings, Camael leaves the bulk of his equipment carefully arrayed along one side of the room. His jump pack, grenades, his helmet; he leaves almost everything in the room, choosing to take with him only his chainsword. That, he would feel naked without.

Among the personnel of the ship, the sergeant finds a certain comforting anonymity. They certainly seemed accustomed to the presence of space marines, and if he closed his eyes and listened to the sounds of their labor, he could almost imagine that he was one of them.

His reverie is interrupted by the faulty servitor, and he steps aside politely to allow the maid space to work. Camael frowns, but says nothing, instead striding into the lounge and pausing in the doorway to take in his new surroundings.

The lounge's occupants barely notice Camael's entrance, absorbed as they are in their song. As the last boisterous notes fade away, they raise battered tin cups and clink them against their neighbors, then take long pulls from their drinks. In the relative silence apart from the sound of two dozen throats gulping, Camael has time to get a better look at the room.

Roughly square, the floor here is not carpeted, a prudent measure given how many spirits seemed to spill when the revelers smashed cups. The walls are paneled with some plastic material masquerading as wood, and the narrow bar tucked into the far corner is made from the same stuff. Mementos of a hundred worlds adorn every spare space of wall, from picts of green skies to the massive taxidermied head of some xenos beast, its iridescent antlers spreading nearly the length of one wall. The only space not plastered with souvenirs is the small votive niche in one wall. Its shelves are filled with clay and plastic icons of the Emperor and some saints, like warriors manning ramparts. It appears well maintained, in spite of the purposeful clutter which surrounds it.

All at once, the cups clatter onto tables. Those less used to shipboard rotgut gasp for breath, while the hardened veterans of naval swill grin at their consternation. Then, a gunnery corporal spots Camael.

"A-ten, hut!" he shouts. The whole room lurches to its feet, the more inebriated only with a helping hand from a nearby comrade. "Space Marine on deck."

The more sober among the group try to stay at attention, trying very hard to veil their curiosity. The rest can only stare agape, or grin stupidly as if they aren't aware of anything amiss. While they appear accustomed to Space Marines wandering the corridors of the ship, judging by the crewmembers' reaction having one enter their sanctum is a novelty.

Camael makes the Sign of the Aquila, and an inclination of the head to acknowledge their salutes. He steps forward, conscious of his own heavy footfalls and careful not to let his armored steps ruin the flooring.

"Be at ease, soldiers. None of us are on duty tonight." His voice, low and cultured, is too smooth to convey tones of command. If somewhere were to hear it without seeing his body, they might think he was a priest of the Ecclesiarchy, not a space marine. The Blood Drinker looks around the lounge with a curious eye.

"I heard your singing and realized I was thirsty." Striding across the room, he examines one of the stuffed xenos with grim approval for a moment before turning back to the men with a good-natured smile.

"Do you have any large mugs? I spent almost a year serving with the 19th Catachans, and they have a slightly different version of that song you were just singing..."

The tension turns to bewilderment as Camael speaks, and then to mirth when he requests a cup. Mischevious glances are exchanged across the room. In unison, two crewmen exclaim, "Impotablis!"

The gunner who first called attention nods in grave agreement. "Impotablis."

Several others nod in assent, and soon it becomes a chant.

A grey haired sailor clambers atop a chair, spreads his hands for silence. The room quickly falls quiet. "He asks for a large mug and you call for Impotablis? Is that any way to treat a first time guest?" He glares at the others with mock severity but they look chastened all the same. He hops down from the table, slaps a few work chits onto the bar. "A tall one for the Space Marine, Bosul."

The portly bartender bends down behind the bar, then reemerges with a tin cup half an arm's length tall, as wide at its base as a bolter shell and widening by half at its mouth. He fills it to the brim and the old sailor, Boatswain Brizz by the faded emroidery above his breast pocket, presents it to Camael.

"Your name first, my Lord? Names should come before songs, at the least."

Camael accepts the mug with false gravitas, lifting it solemnly in salutation first to the shrine of the Emperor and then the men. "I am Sergeant Glaucus Camael, a sworn brother of the Deathwatch and proud servant of the Immortal Emperor - and I drink to your health, sirs." So saying, he raises the mug and drains it in one long series of gulps. His inhuman metabolism might be proof against casual intoxication, but a taste for alcohol was something he'd acquired from the Catachans - after a great deal of persuasion on their part and despite the mild disapproval of his Chaplain.

Lowering the mug with a pleased sigh, the pale Blood Drinker wipes his mouth casually and returns it to the Boatswain. "What is this 'impotablis' you men were shouting for? Have I been challenged to a contest? I must warn you - my capacity for drink is the match of any Space Wolf champion."

The Boatswain chuckles. He nods at two men who disappear into a back room. "Old legend of the ship. They say that Lan, the first Lan, mind you, thousands of years back, won the ship and the family's Warrant of Trade by besting Impotablis."

The two men reemerge from the back, hefting a massive goblet between. It is hammered from a spent brass naval gun casing, with a pair of hatch handles bolted onto either side. A few names are etched into the metal, the first nearly obscured by wear.

"Thousands of years back, the old Rogue Trader had a standing challenge; down the three liters of rotgut in one go, and ship and Warrant belong to you. Lan did it, and here we are. Of course, his first act was to abolish the challenge. So now the only reward is to live on through the ages in the hallowed company of those who have defeated Impotablis."

The crewmembers chuckle. "Only a few others have defeated it since then," the Boatswain says. "Last time was when I was just a deckswabber. . ."

"Back in the Dark Age of Technology, right, Brizz?"

The room erupts with chuckles, including from the Boatswain himself.

"A malicious slander, Sergeant Camael. It was merely during the Gothic War. But in any case, the year the Impotablis fell was the best year in memory for this ship and crew. Always its defeat brings fortune. You're welcome to try, Sergeant, if you wish."

The space marine straightens his shoulders and looks at the gargantuan cup as though staring down a potential foe. True to his nature, he does not hesitate.

"With the fortune of your ship at stake, how could I turn away? Fill the mighty vessel! A new challenger awaits him!" Turning away for a moment, Camael takes his chainsword from his hip and places it carefully upon a table. Now totally denuded of equipment - except for his armour - he faces the men. "I do battle today with nothing but the blood of Sanguinius that is in me...and my love of strong drink!"

Something familiar is working in Camael, making him more aggressive and less unsure of himself. It is not the liquor he's already imbibed, but the thrill of a challenge and the suddenness of its onset. If an Avatar of Khaine were to break suddenly through the bulkhead, the Blood Drinker would challenge it barehanded and expect to emerge victorious, so completely is he caught up in the moment.

The crewmen cheer and whistle, and fists pounding on rickety tables sets off a racket. The men lug Impotablis towards the bar, where the tender fills it to the brim with the same brownish liquid. Filled, it takes three men to haul it to Camael, one on each handle and one supporting the wide base. They hoist it aloft to the Space Marine like a Chaplain presenting a hallowed artifact for the Battle-Brothers, and the lounge goes deathly silent.

"Sergeant Camael of the Deathwatch," the Boatswain begins, his voice imparted with all the reverence of a missionary proclaiming the Creed, "you have accepted the challenge of Impotablis. May your throat flow free and your stomach hold!"


Gripping one handle in each powerful gauntlet, Camael lifts the heavy goblet and raises it high before putting his mouth to the lip and tilting it back. The seconds tick by as his throat works, swallowing liter after liter without coming up for air. At last, when it seems that even a space marine would have to come up for air, he lowers Impotablis and holds it upside down. His mouth is covered with foam, but he doesn't seem to care.

Most amazingly, he seems fairly lucid. His face breaks into a broad smile as he shouts his battle cry, shatteringly loud within the confines of the lounge.

"Glory to Primarch and Emperor!"





 

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