It was cold.
Colder than he had expected. The wind blew through his short hair and whipped it up, irritating him and forcing him to run a hand through it to calm it.
Marching to the edge of the dam, Lazarus peered over.
It was high.
Higher than he had expected.
He swallowed hard and tried to make out details on the floodlit floor, beyond the massive gulf of pure black. Specks moved around, like pixels on a screen, though really he knew them to be guards. The small dark shapes continued their routines, unaware that they were being watched from this vantage point. As he watched, movement to his left made him refocus, and upon inspection, he found Falorn to be stepping up to the side of the damn and starting to affix his harness. The lithe figure secured himself quickly, not wasting a single action, each stage of his preparation seeming flow neatly from the last.
Lazarus watched carefully, remembering the tutorial he had received back at base and equating each step with what the sniper was doing. Suddenly, the figure in black launched himself from the dam and started his nimble descent. The Preacher watched with admiration; such bravery! Truly Falorn must have great faith in the God-Emperor to put himself in such danger. It was inspiring to see, inspiring enough, indeed, that Lazarus stepped up next.
Without the finesse or pace of the man who had gone before him, he secured his harness and buckles as he had been shown, then swung his leg over the railings, positioning himself carefully, he gripped the metal so tightly his knuckles whitened. Peering over his shoulder, he mouthed a prayer to the Holy Emperor then stepped back, using the clasp as he had been shown.
It did not take long for him to realise something was wrong.
As he released his grip, the rope did not stop flowing and a second later the terrifying thought that he was in free fall took the centre ground in his mind and held it, forcing all other thoughts to the periphery.
For a moment, the Priest contemplated, with some frustration, the Emperor guiding Falorn to save him in the factory only to have him squashed like a bug on a windshield now….it was a less gallant death, less befitting a true servant of the Emperor, he felt.
As this thought cycle concluded it was replaced with a grudging realisation that he had never been much good at climbing. The evidence had been there from the start; he had fallen from the Oak tree in his father’s garden at age 5, trying to recover Helena’s ball. After that debacle, his mother had instructed that he was never to be higher off the ground than his horses back, and not to be in water deeper than the bathtub. The irony of this, which he had seen even then, was that people could drown in baths and many a broken neck had been earned from careless horsemanship.
He wondered where Helena was now….killed by Orks, he expected.
That was sad, he concluded just before he landed hard on a plank of wood. This was painful for a number of reasons; firstly, the impact of the fall knocked the wind from him and sent a wave of shock through him, numbing him for a moment. Secondly, tired with its under-utilised life as Lazarus’s back-up weapon, the stubgun attached to the back of his belt, felt this was the moment to take up its new life as one of his internal organs, trying to force its way through his back and into the space traditionally occupied by his right kidney. It took all the Priest’s willpower not to howl with pain as the gun’s bulk was slammed against him, and instantly forced him to roll onto his side. As he did a small, tinny voice said, “Warning: insufficient altitude for successful grav-chute deployment”
Despite his pain, Lazarus could not hold back a chuckle.
The chuckle soon became a laugh. He reached for the small device, which he had completely forgotten he still had, and pushed the large button at its centre, deactivating the chute again.
“Shh…” came a sound from behind him. Rolling onto his stomach he glanced up and found Falorn looking at him. The black mask gave no emotion away, but Lazarus was sure he saw a hint of despair in the other man’s demeanour.
“Sorry…” the priest said, the smile quickly dropping from his lips.