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Tarikus was a veteran Sergeant of the Doom Eagles Space Marine Chapter. He was captured by the piratical warband of Chaos Space Marines known as the Red Corsairs while recuperating from injuries aboard a medicae frigate. He underwent numerous trials and tribulations before finally being reunited with his Chapter and reaccepted into its ranks.
A veteran of bloody conflicts and engagements on worlds such as Thaxted and Zanasar, Tarikus had risen to the rank of Brother-Sergeant with the command of a Tactical Squad under Consultus, the Captain of the 3rd Company. The 3rd Company had a history of ill fate; two commanders in succession had been lost during the 13th Black Crusade of the Archtraitor Abaddon the Despoiler, at Yayor and then again at Cadia, but Tarikus had survived them all -- even the great massacre at Krypt, where the Doom Eagles had lost many men on the surface of that brutal, frigid planetoid. It was only after the destruction of the planet Serek, on a voyage back to the Segmentum Tempestus, that the luck of Tarikus ran dry. The medicae frigate he was aboard was ambushed by the hated Red Corsairs, and torn apart. Tarikus was not among the Astartes who made it to the saviour pods before the wrecked ship had plunged into a star.
Sergeant Tarikus was given the honour of a worthy end by his Chapter, and declared Astartes Mortus, with all the ritual and rite such a tribute entailed. His name was added to the Walls of Memory in the Hall of the Fallen in the great Relical Keep of the Chapter's fortress-monastery on their homeworld of Gathis II, the Eyrie. The Chapter gathered with due reverence as a Chapter Serf carved the name into polished black marble, etched there for eternity among the hundredfold dead of the Chapter. The Chaplains announced Tarikus' loss, and cemented it in the annals of the Doom Eagles' glorious history.
Yet Sergeant Tarikus was not dead.
Return of the DeadEdit
Too weak to fight them all, Tarikus was eventually subdued by the Chaotic pirates and sold to the Chaos Space Marine Apothecary Fabius Bile to be used in his heretical geno-experiments. Tortured and experimented upon for over two standard years, he was eventually freed along with the rest of Bile's captives by the Astartes of the Blood Angels Chapter and was returned to his homeworld of Gathis II. There was no precedent for this in the Chapter's history. For the Doom Eagles, death was the closure of all things, the last page in the passage of life. For that book to be re-opened once they had written the final entry was unheard of.
Some brother Chapters of the Doom Eagles regarded their association with matters of death as unusual. They were held to be morbid, even macabre. The Chapter had heard these slights from warriors of the Space Wolves and the White Scars, even brothers of the Ultramarines, the very Legion their Chapter had been drawn from. Some viewed the character of the Doom Eagles and saw an obsession with fatality; but this was a short-sighted, narrow view. The Doom Eagles were gifted with an understanding of the universe. They knew the truth, that all life is born dying, moment by moment. What others saw as fatalism, they saw as pragmatism, a manner born out of knowledge that life and joy were transient things, that the only constants in existence were despair, loss, and ultimately the embrace of death. "We are already dead," said the first words of the oath of the Chapter. The Doom Eagles understood that death was always close; and so they fought harder, strove longer, to perform their duties before the cloak of the Final Sleep came upon them. They had no illusions, for death was the end of all things. Nothing could come back from the void beyond it. This knowledge was the pillar upon which stood everything the Chapter believed in. Tarikus, by his very presence, his mere existence, had challenged that.
Commander Hearon, the Doom Eagles' Chapter Master, was unsure what measures to take in regards to their returned brother. He had only allowed Tarikus to be brought back to Gathis II on the advice of the Chapter's Librarian Secundus Thryn. Tarikus' return was problematic for he had been declared officially dead. His apparent resurrection was anathema to the tenets of the Chapter's beliefs. Voices called for a swift end to the matter of this return. Chief amongst them were the Chapter's Chaplains and Thryn's senior, Brother Tolkca, the Chapter's Librarian Primus. As the Chief Librarian was in battle in a distant sector, Thryn was assigned to test Tarikus; body, mind and soul. Hearon's responsibilities were to a Chapter one-thousand strong and to a heritage of ten millennia. Though expediency demanded that the Chapter Master simply sacrifice Tarikus in order to protect his Chapter, he could not in good conscience end his life in so cursory a manner, for Tarikus might yet prove to be untainted.
Brother Zurus, Tarikus' replacement as squad leader, helped his errant Battle-Brother understand the consequences of his return. Zurus had been assigned to watch Tarikus and to observe him for any sign of Chaotic taint. He took Tarikus to the Hall of the Fallen, where free-floating panels of polished obsidian were suspended. These great polished tiles were perfectly laser-etched into thin strips; each strip sported a half-globe of glass, behind which lay a random item. Next to each name, inside the glass, lay a relic: a fragment of armour, an eye-lens, a Bolter shell, an honour-chain. Every artefact was something that had been touched by the dead. These objects were a piece of them, to be held in trust for as long as the Chapter existed. The name of the dead Battle-Brother was carved in High Gothic script, etched into the black obsidian by a Servitor stoneworker, the letters lined in heavy silver. Zurus gestured towards a particular pane that hung before them. Behind the glass bubble, an Astartes combat blade was visible, the fractal edge still bright and sharp even though the length of the knife was dirty and pitted with use. Tarikus realised that the knife belonged to him. Zurus then had him look to an indicated memorial panel; Tarikus' name had been etched in High Gothic script into the panel. Tarikus finally understood his Chapter's predicament; he was considered dead, and in their eyes, he no longer existed.
Back in his isolation cell, Tarikus reflected on what had occurred in the Hall of the Fallen. While he had been held in captivity his greatest fear was that he would be forgotten; that after he was lost in deep space, the many sorties and battles he had fought, the honours he had earned, all would count for nothing amongst his brethren. He feared that all he had done would be meaningless. But now he saw an even greater horror -- that he had been remembered, in so final and damning a way as to make each breath he drew now a phantom. In the eyes of his Chapter, Brother-Sergeant Tarikus had perished aboard that lost medicae frigate, years past. His kinsmen had counted him gone and made their peace with that fact. When Zurus and Tarikus had encountered a squad of Scout Marines on their way towards Relical Keep, they would not even look upon Tarikus, for they were unsettled by his presence. For a Chapter so intimate with death, the return of a warrior to life shook them to the core. "Our ghosts remain dead," or so said the words written in the Doom Eagles' Prayer Mortalis.
No longer able to stand the accusatory stares and shabby treatment, Tarikus demanded to undergo the trials that would test him; body, mind and soul. The first of these trials began with the Talons; a mechanism made of bright, polished steel that wrapped around the body of Tarikus and held the Doom Eagle in its grip. It resembled an Artificer’s vice, scaled up to the size of a giant. A great oiled screw turned, bringing knurled blocks of metal towards one another in an inexorable approach. From each block grew a fan of wicked barbs, claws modelled on the talons of the great raptors that rode the thermals of the Razorpeak mountain range. The muscles of Tarikus' arms and legs bunched and became iron-solid as he settled in against the blocks. Only his strength and fortitude held back a crushing death.
The Talons pressed in, never tiring. The slow-turning gears pushed against the Space Marine’s resistance, daring him to falter for just a moment. If the warrior relaxed, even for an instant, the blocks would lurch forward by a full hand’s span, reducing the space between by a good measure—but in doing so, giving him a moment’s respite from the struggle. Thus, the Talons preyed on fatigue and inattention. After hours, days between the blocks, a warrior might consider letting them close the distance a little, just to take a precious second of rest before they reached their stops and started to press in once again; but that was the route to failure. It was said Hearon himself once managed a lunar month in the Talons and had never given any quarter.
Tarikus was there for days. Unlike Hearon’s trial, Tarikus was not left alone with his struggle. From the shadows about the Talons, figures moved and called out to him, bombarding him constantly with questions and demands. They asked him to recite lines of catechism and Chapter rote, or they hectored him over every last point of the story he told of his confinement in Fabius Bile’s prison. The interrogation went on and on, without end, circling his thoughts until he felt his mind going numb. Thryn was among his questioners. But Tarikus did not give the answers that the Librarian wanted. He repeated the same story over and over, he recited his hymnals and prayers as he should have, all the while resisting the constant, blinding pressure. Denied food, denied water, denied release, he stood his ground. Then without warning, a week into the trial, it ended. But Tarikus knew that this could not be the end of his trials, for he had not suffered enough. He would prove correct.
Chapter Serfs gathered around the fatigued Tarikus and stripped him naked. He was then put into the hold of a rotorflyer. The aircraft left the Ghostmountain and deposited the battered and bruised former sergeant on a shelf of icy rock of one of the many high peaks of the Razorpeak Mountainis. Exposed to the elements, the naked Tarikus was left to be punished by the unforgiving weather. Tarikus entered a Sus-an Membrane-induced coma in order to survive. By the time he was recovered, his body was clinically dead. But he had been recovered before brain death could occur and was brought back to the Chapter's Apothecarion to be revived. He had endured the trials, his flesh withstanding great punishment. Tarikus had never wavered beneath chastisement that would kill a warrior of lesser courage.
Librarian Secundus Thryn reported back to Commander Hearon that Tarikus' mind and body were sound. The Chapter Master was not pleased with the results. For though Tarikus had, thus far, survived these arduous trials, a thing of meat and blood could control his tolerance to pain and extreme exposure. The question of the health of Tarikus' spirit was what truly worried him, for the answer lay within. Librarian Thryn explained to Commander Hearon that Tarikus' faith in the Emperor was strong as well as his faith in the Chapter, despite all that they had done to him. Modelled after the Senatorum Imperialis of Terra, the Council of Eagles encompassed a commission of Doom Eagles Astartes of the highest rank who would draw together on matters of import facing the Chapter. The group would offer advice to the Doom Eagles' Chapter Master, and while ultimately it was he who held the final sanction over all commands, he was able to draw upon the knowledge and advice of all his company captains, his senior Chaplain, Apothecary, Forge Master and Librarian. The greater body of the Doom Eagles questioned the need to prolong the matter further, in regards to Tarikus. They believed that the risk outweighed the gain. For the damage that might be wrought by one single turncoat amongst their number was huge when compared against the value of one veteran sergeant. The Librarian mentioned to the Chapter Master that there was still one method that he yet hesitated to employ to test Tarikus' spirit. The Chapter Master ordered Thryn to settle the matter and bring him the answers he sought, even if Tarikus was destroyed by the ordeal.
Zurus' squad, Tarikus' own, contained many surviving members of the Red Corsairs' raid on the doomed medical frigate. They confronted the Librarian and insisted on Tarikus' purity, pleading for their former sergeant's reinstatement to the Chapter. But Thryn informed them that he must put Tarikus through one final test to ensure that he was untainted. Using a form of weirding, the Librarian summoned a powerful psychic illusion that made Tarikus believe that Chaos Space Marines had attacked the Eyrie, gaining access to the fortress-monastery with Tarikus' help. The Traitors almost convinced the sergeant that he truly was tainted and had helped them after being abandoned by his Chapter. But Tarikus stood steadfast, clinging to his faith and belief in the Emperor and his Chapter, which snapped both himself and the Librarian out of the conjured vision. Thryn had attained the answers that he had sought, discovering the truth hidden even from Tarikus' own conscience. Tarikus had hid his fear, the black and terrible fear that came upon him in the darkest moments of his confinement, when just for a moment, he wondered what would happen if he weakened. But he had not. He had remained a true Son of Gathis. Tarikus' integrity was assured. He had been returned to his Chapter as a brother -- in body, mind...and in soul.
Finally exonerated after having undergone the Trials of Purity, Tarikus stepped forth from his isolation cell and pushed his way past his disbelieving former squad mates. They followed the veteran sergeant as he made his way towards the Reliqual Keep and the Hall of the Fallen within. He did not stop until he had reached his objective; a particular memorial slab that bore his name. The veteran's fist shot out and punched through the bubble of glassaic at the end of the panel and then folded around the death-remnant inside. The Doom Eagle drew out his blood-streaked hand, and in it, a battle-worn Combat Blade. Tarikus looked down at the knife, and then up at his men for the first time. His steady, clear-eyed gaze crossed each one of them in turn, ending with Zurus. He then took the blade and slowly drew the blade point over the stone, etching a heavy line through his own name, erasing the record of his death and reclaiming his life. Zurus voluntarily stepped down from leadership of the squad and passed the honour-chain that signified his command of the battle squad to Tarikus. Tarikus was surprised by the gesture, for by all rights, the squad now belonged to Zurus. But the sergeant insisted that though it had been an honour to lead Tarikus' men into battle in the name of the Emperor and the Chapter's founder Aquila, he had never truly been their commander. He had merely been the caretaker of that post. It was Tarikus' right to reclaim his prior status. Tarikus accepted, but only on the condition that Zurus remained in the squad as his second, to which Zurus readily agreed.
- Black Tide (Novel) by James Swallow
- Legends of the Space Marines (Anthology), "The Returned" (Story) by James Swallow