“Well then. Can either of you fix it?”
Two pairs of thoughtful eyes turn to regard him. One of his companions - a burly, hulking man - leans back in his chair and folds his arms with a slow nod. The other, taller, but no less broad, raises one eyebrow in consideration and shrugs slightly.
“Of course,” says Vulkan, at the same time Ferrus Manus says, “I can make you something better instead.”
Corax sighs softly as his two brothers frown at one another and square off for another round of their interminable arguing. “I don't want something better, I just want this one fixed.”
His declaration is lost beneath the low growl of Vulkan's voice as the enormous man heaves a disapproving sigh at his brother forge master. “Your words lack respect, Ferrus. This weapon is a symbol of our brother's past; his fight to overcome the odds set against him.”
“It's inefficient. He would do better with a fine sword that complements his speed,” Ferrus replies with characteristic disdain for another's contradicting opinion.
“You disregard the symbolism of a weapon in favour of theoretical advantages, brother. A weapon is not only that which holds the sharpest edge, but that which fits its master's hand, and his heart, most surely.”
“Pah! Vulkan, you would not know a fine weapon if it bit you on the arse!”
Corax closes his eyes as Vulkan's frown deepens, the Salamander Lord's burning gaze flaring with newly kindled fire. Allowing the pair's bickering to wash over him, he leans back in his chair and rests his head against its soft padding. This place, this new world of his, is so very luxurious. He exists now in the very state which he once abhorred, surrounded by finery and riches the like of which the people of his home world could only ever have dreamed. But this is what his father, that strange, wonderful, awe-inspiring figure, had promised him. All this in return for the chance to set this galaxy to rights, to ensure that no other world suffered as his had. And that is why his Power Whip is so important to him. That damned thing is an exact replica of the devices they used to torture his own people, whipping them until they dropped dead from pain and exhaustion. He wants that Power Whip. He needs it. It is his way of paying back the entire galaxy for the wrongs it has inflicted on him.
“I want the whip restored. One of you do it, or I shall find another that can.”
To their credit, both of his brothers fall silent. Corax opens his eyes to find Ferrus standing with folded arms, giving him a look of perplexed tolerance. The look of a man who simply cannot understand why the other is behaving in such an illogical manner, yet who is willing to forgive such foolishness out of brotherly affection. Vulkan, for his part, simply leans back in his chair and nods once more. “It will be done,” the Lord of the Salamanders replies.
“Thank you,” Corax says.
They sit in a semblance of comfortable silence then, as Ferrus turns the shattered grip of the Power Whip over in his hands, setting the broken pieces out carefully on the table in neatly ordered lines. The Ork war boss whose enormous maw Corax had thrust the shaft down had certainly done quite the number on his favoured weapon. Giant, slab-like teeth had crushed and mauled both the weapon and the gauntlet that held it. The gauntlet had not survived, and it had seemed debatable at the time whether the weapon had either.
“You have heard the news regarding our last brother?” Vulkan says suddenly.
Ferrus snorts indelicately. “Corax has been on campaign, not dead, Vulkan. There is not a man, woman or child alive that has not heard the news."
Vulkan does not react to Ferrus' baiting, leaning towards Corax, his strange eyes intent. "Has Horus spoken to you of him?"
Corax attempts not to stiffen, but knows immediately that he has failed. He lifts the delicate cup he holds between his fingers to his mouth and takes a sip of the sweet tea, deliberately making the movement as calmly as he can. The sympathetic look in Vulkan's eye tells him that he has nonetheless failed to conceal his poor reaction. "I have not spoken to Horus recently. Our Warmaster and I do not see eye to eye, as well you know."
Vulkan's gaze does not waver, but Ferrus turns, a frown on his features. "You still hold on to that bitterness, Corax? It is not well that you do so."
"What of our last brother?" Corax replies, cutting him off. He has no patience for another lecture from his two companions. Certainly not on the matter of the soured relationship between himself and their appointed leader. Vulkan, thankfully, chooses not to push the issue.
"He has been found, as it has been announced. But other than that, little information has been revealed. Not even a pict of him."
Ferrus cuts in, "His name is Alpharius. That much we do know."
"Strange though," Vulkan nods, "That Horus has chosen not to bring him back to meet his own family. It is said that not even our father has met him yet, and that Horus is the one who has equipped him with his Legion."
"Who knows what's going through our brother's mind?" Corax replies, unable to keep the bitterness from his voice. "Anyway, why do you ask me? You know of my feud with our brother. Are you trying to anger me?"
"Enough, Corax!” Ferrus lays one hand across the shattered pieces of Corax's Power Whip and points a finger of the other at him in admonishment. “No-one is trying to offend you, brother. You take offence enough as it is without anyone needing to offer you opportunity to take more! Vulkan and I have spoken of him, that is all. But whoever or wherever we ask, there are none who know more than the barest scraps of information regarding the last of our brothers. You know as well as any of us, that if anyone is going to know more of something kept secret, then it is you."
The barest of smiles curves the edge of Corax's lips, and he takes a moment to sip his tea before he replies. "Ferrus, beware. I do believe that was a compliment."
For a moment they both fall silent as a wandering servitor trundles into the room, refilling their refreshments with hot water and new tea, small cakes and slices of meat. Corax is reaching for the sweet things before the creature has even left, delighted still on some level by the easy abundance of such luxuries now. His brothers give him a moment to indulge himself before impatience overcomes politeness, and Vulkan shifts to draw his attention, raising one eyebrow.
"Mm, yes," Corax sets the remaining half of his cake down and raises his gaze to look out of the window. "Some small morsels of information have come to me. Just whispers, mind, but nonetheless of interest."
He savours the taste of the icing on his tongue, delighting in the richness of it, and the feeling of forbidden indulgence it brings, making the pair of them wait on his words. Truly, Fulgrim would love him to admit to such fancies, he thinks.
"What whispers?" Ferrus demands, predictably impatient.
Corax closes his eyes briefly, swallows and then turns his attention back to his brothers. "Horus will bring him here soon, to meet with us."
His brothers take in the information with raised eyebrows and looks of satisfaction, settling back into their chairs to savour this new revelation. That they trust the accuracy of his information without question pleases Corax greatly, and in reward for their confidence he thinks perhaps he will tell them a little more than he normally would. Reaching out, he refills his cup with tea, Ferrus immediately pushing the sugar bowl further within his reach.
"Do you know when?" Vulkan asks.
Corax taps the teaspoon on the side of his cup, then sets it down with a soft clink. "Soon. Very soon."
Vulkan and Ferrus exchange looks, both nodding at the revelation. "It's about time," Ferrus says.
"We should prepare a welcome," Vulkan agrees. "It is fitting to give him gifts of fellowship. Do you know what weapon he favours, Corax...?"
The Raven Lord frowns across the rim of his teacup at them both. "I hope that you intend to fix my Power Whip first," he replies testily.
"Of course," Vulkan rumbles soothingly. "But it is good to provide a welcome that will set him at ease."
Corax holds his gaze for a moment, deliberately ignoring Ferrus' poor attempt at an accompanying expression of reassurance, then sniffs. "Well then," he replies. "I do not. Nonetheless, might I suggest that whatever it is you do decide to use as a bribe for his friendship, that you stock up on double the amount of material you intend to use in its creation."
Ferrus and Vulkan both stare at him blankly, then Manus' gaze wanders thoughtfully, his eyes narrowing as he hits upon what is most likely completely the wrong conclusion. Corax can see him mentally sizing up the build of a man that would require double the amount of material to build his armour, and only just keeps the smirk off his face.
"Brother, what do you-?" Vulkan begins.
But Corax cuts him off with smile that could slice ceramite itself. "Perhaps," he says smugly, "Once you've fixed my Power Whip, I may be moved to tell you."
Vulkan folds his arms, a slow grin crossing his stoic features, and Ferrus huffs, gathering together all the shattered pieces of the weapon. "I shall take this to my workbench," he says.
"No," Vulkan frowns suddenly. "It must be reforged with fire."
Corax takes a sip of his sweet tea, closes his eyes and leans back in his chair to listen to his brothers bicker.