from ten thousand years of crusading, briefly came alive as the knights in the shadows intoned their agreement with their liege lord's words.

Silence returned, and Grimaldus kept his gaze on the floor.

'We mourn his loss,' the High Marshal said, 'but honour his wisdom in this, his final order.'

It comes to this.
Grimaldus tensed.
Show no weakness. Show no doubt.

Grimaldus - warrior-priest of the Eternal Crusade. It was the belief of Reclusiarch Mordred that upon his death, you would be worthiest of our Brother- Chaplains to stand in his stead. His final decree before the returning of his gene-seed to the Chapter was that you, of all your brethren, would be the one to rise to the rank of Reclusiarch.'

Grimaldus opened his eyes and licked lips that had suddenly turned dry. Slowly he raised his head, facing the High Marshal, seeing Mordred's helm - a grinning steel skull - in the commander's scarred hands.

'Grimaldus,' Helbrecht spoke again, no hint of emotion colouring his voice. 'You are a veteran in your own right, and once stood as the youngest Sword Brother in the history of the Black Templars. As a Chaplain, your life has been without cowardice or shame, your ferocity and faith without equal. It is my belief, not merely the wish of your fallen master, that you should take the honour we offer you now.'

Grimaldus nodded, but uttered no words. His eyes, so deceptively soft in their gaze, did not waver from their stare. The helm's slanted eye lenses were the rich, deep red of arterial blood. The death mask was utterly familiar to him - the face of his master when the knights went to war, making it the face of his master for most of his life.

Its skullish visage smiled.

'Rise, if you would refuse this honour,' Helbrecht finished. 'Rise and walk from this sacred chamber, if you wish no place in the hierarchy of our most noble Chapter.'

He tells me
to rise if I want to turn my back on the great honour being offered to me. Leave if I wish no place among the commanders of the Eternal Crusade.

I don't move. Despite my doubts, my muscles remain locked. The steel mask sneers, a dark leer that is soothing for its brutal familiarity. From beyond the grave, Mordred grins at me.

He believed I was worthy of this. That is all that matters. I had never known him to be wrong.

I feel the edge of a smile creeping across my own lips. It will not fade, no matter how I try to quell it. As I kneel in this hallowed hall, I know I'm smiling, but it's a private moment despite the dozens of fellow warriors watching from the banner-lined walls.

Perhaps they mistake my smile for confidence?

will never ask, because I do not care.

Helbrecht approaches at last, and with the silken rasp of steel stroking steel, he draws the holiest blade in the Imperium of Man.

The sword was
as ancient as human relics could be, given form and purpose in the forges of Terra after the great Heresy. In those nights of saga and legend, it was carried into battle by Sigismund, the first Emperor's Champion, favoured son of the Primarch Rogal Dorn.

The blade itself, as long as a mortal man is tall, was wrought from the broken remains of Lord Dorn's own sword. In this temple, where the Chapter's greatest artefacts are kept in reverently maintained stasis fields to ward off the corrosive touch of time, the High Marshal held the most sacred treasure in the Black Templar armoury.

'You will have your own rituals within the Chaplain brotherhood,' Helbrecht said, his voice solemn with respect. 'For now, I recognise you as the inheritor to your master's mantle.'

The blade's silver tip lowered, pointing directly at Grimaldus's throat. 'You have waged war at my side for two hundred years, Grimaldus. Will you stand at my side as Reclusiarch of the Eternal Crusade?'

'Yes, my liege.'

Helbrecht nodded, sheathing the blade. Grimaldus tensed again, turning his head and baring his cheek.

With the force of a hammer, the back of Helbrecht's fist crashed into the Chaplain's jaw. Grimaldus grunted, tasting the coppery vitality of his own blood - his primarch's blood - and he grinned up at his commander through blood-pinked teeth. Helbrecht spoke again.

'I dub thee Reclusiarch of the Eternal Crusade. You are now a leader of our blessed Chapter.' The High Marshal raised his hand, showing the flecks of Grimaldus's blood marking his curled fingers. 'As a knight of the inner circle, let that be the last blow you receive unanswered.'

Grimaldus nodded, unclenching his jaw, calming his heart and fighting the sudden flood of his killing urge. Even expecting the ritual strike, his instincts cried at him to respond in kind.

'It… will be so, my liege.'

'As it should be,' said Helbrecht. 'Rise, Grimaldus, Reclusiarch of the Eternal Crusade.'



For some hours
after his ritual entrance into the highest echelons of the Chapter, Grimaldus stood alone in the Temple of Dorn.

Without a breeze to breathe life into the austere chamber, the great banners hung unmoving, some faded with the years, others brightly woven, still others even bearing dried bloodstains. Grimaldus looked upon the heraldry of his brothers' crusades.

piles of skulls and burning braziers depicting the war of attrition on the surface of that accursed heretic world…

showing the aquila chained to the globe, when the Templars were recalled to Holy Terra for the first time in thousands of years, to shed the blood of the false High Lord Vandire…

And on into the more recent wars in which Grimaldus himself had played a part -
with the sword impaling a daemon, where the knights had crashed against the tainted followers of the Archenemy in the great Battle of Fire and Blood - when Grimaldus himself had been taken from the ranks of the Sword Brethren and begun his gruelling rise through the tiers of the Chaplain brotherhood.

Dozens of banners hung in the still air, descending from the ornately carved

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