Requiescet In Aurum (Gilgamesh)
|Requiescet In Aurum (Gilgamesh)|
|Date of Cutscene:||15 July 2019|
|Location:||The Imperial Palace Of Terra|
|Synopsis:||Gilgamesh has a sit-down conversation with a dead man and a roman cosplay enthusiast.|
|Cast of Characters:||Gilgamesh|
It was the smell that the King detested most.
The staggering towers, piled so high they crushed all the world beneath them, were horrifying enough. The palace, an affair so massive as to have its own cities within it, was an affront in squandered grandeur. The buildings were so mundane, so empty, so...base, beyond its walls, and within its walls, and everywhere. But the stench of it! The stink of humanity, of sweat and blood and urine and overflowing, painful, pointless existence for its own sake, bothered the King the most.
He passed guard after guard. They all drew weapons; they were all met with an arrogant glance and a forceful statement, a "let me through" and a "forget that I was here." They all lapsed back into their watch, as though the demigod in golden armor was not even there, content in their service. In a way, it disgusted him - not that they were weak-minded (he expected that from more or less everyone who was not Gilgamesh), but how...content they were. How they seemed to exist only to serve.
The Custodes received the same treatment; a wave of his hand and a forceful word and they, too, let him pass. They were conditioned to resist psychic power, but he was the Rightful King, and he was not psychic. They were conditioned to have hard wills, and that, at least, impressed him. But they were also conditioned to listen to a glorious man in golden armor, and that made any struggle far, far simpler. He followed one of them to the throne room, arms crossed. Each step through the golden halls made him slightly more suspicious.
After entirely too much time had passed, he entered the Throne Room. "Leave us," he said, and the room was vacated, and it was then that he suspected that his presence was perfectly known and perfectly welcome. He could not prove it. It could have simply been that minds conditioned to follow a perfect man would follow a perfect man regardless of his origin. It could have been that they recognized his glory.
Or it could have been an invitation.
It did not really matter.
Gilgamesh produced a golden throne of his own. It was not so massive, nor so mechanical, but it was beautiful and pompous, and that was what he was at his core. He sat down, his eyes locked on the skeleton before him, one fist against his cheek. There was something almost beautiful about it. He closed his eyes and sneered.
"At least I can say with certainty that your taste is similar to mine."
His fingers drummed against the throne in silence as he watched the Throne's lifelessness. The machines that sustained the God-Emperor, the machines that kept a skeleton in existence. He sat there overlong in uncharacteristic silence. Finally, he broke it once more.
"Don't think I don't notice," he said, waving his hand idly in the distance, "Your golden palace far too closely resembles Babylon. Your Roman columns don't hide your Sumerian origins. My compliments on your memory, at least."
He leaned forward, steepling his fingers in front of him. "You did not desire this, did you?"
"This wretched, abysmal hellhole. This stinking pit of human existence, stuffed to the brim with people merely living. No, you didn't. Not that you could answer me, but I know. I can tell. Even if we are not the same - even if you are not, indeed, Gilgamesh, even if you did not hold that name in this world - I can tell from the very bones of this palace what you desired. I can see it in every inch and every scrap. I can see it in every hallway."
Gilgamesh leaned back in his chair and pressed a finger to his forehead. "You wanted glory."
He spread his arms wide. "Glory! A glory to fill the universe! A mankind that held all the stars in the sky as their own! Gold, the color of glory! No man who lives in a place like this, in a palace so vast and incomprehensibly Babylonian, so perfectly gilded, can be a man who settles for less than the absolute best!"
His hand pressed against his face. "It's a joke!"
"A massive, awful, unimaginable joke! You saw what I saw, did you not? You, in Sumeria; I, in Sumeria; we saw that future stretched across the stars, and we craved it! We craved its glory! We craved to be its architects!"
"And here we are." His hands fell back to the throne's armrests. "I, Gilgamesh. You, perhaps also Gilgamesh, perhaps simply a man too much like me. Two, who saw the future, who stood apart from humanity and yearned to shape it into its truest form."
His voice grew quiet. "Did you, indeed, lose your Enkidu? Did you have a friend who you loved beyond all measure, and saw die?"
"Did you know?"
"Did you know it would happen?" His fingers clenched the throne. "Did you know that it was coming, and yet do nothing to avert it? Did you judge the future you saw worth more than that life? Than that one, dear life that meant all the world to you - the one thing you did not possess?"
The skeleton sat, immobile, unanswering. The King slumped back before the Emperor and pressed his right hand back to his face.
"I did not see one church here." He said, conversationally. "I did not see one religious institution that was not devoted to you. Not one of the myriad Divine Spirits of mankind survived. Not one relic from that Age remains. Just you. Worship of you and you alone."
His left hand spilled over the side. "You didn't want that either, did you? You wanted to be an example. You wanted to rise up and inspire them follow you in greatness. And they didn't understand it. They saw what they wanted to see. They saw a god in gold when you desired they see a god inside, didn't they?"
"Is that what made...this?" His arms spread again, wide, at the throne room. "Is that what turned your grandeur to grotesquerie? Is that what made your beauty into base brutality? What made plan into pain?"
He stood. "What is it about us?" The King of Heroes demanded as he walked forward, towards the Throne itself, "What is it about us that makes us see the best in them? They're worthless. They're wretched. They're ignorant, pointless creatures." He pointed at the window.
"In this world, in this country of Multi-Vars, they swarm. Your project died. Your empire is rotten. The great work is compromised. They live only as BIOLOGY!"
The word echoed through the chamber. The skeleton unmoved, Gilgamesh, irritably, sat back down and clicked his tongue in frustration. "Biology! They live because they are alive! They yearn for nothing! And it is the same for me. The same in my country. The same in my great garden. Humans, living only to live, are vermin, aren't they?"
His fingers found his eyelids. "So why? Why is it that no matter what we do, be we taskmaster or observer, they become this way? Why is it, no matter what we are, we are compelled to want them to be better - only to have our hopes broken time and time again?"
"Do not look at me like that," he said to the skeleton, "I can imagine your face, though it does not exist. I can imagine the frustration on it for it is my face, my frustration. Even if it is not identical, even if you are somehow much larger than I am - and you really should work on that, because it is an hilariously imperfect form for a man who does not wish to be worshipped - I know my own face. I know the face of a man so like me as to be worthy of my name, even if you are not me."
He slumped back into silence for a while. A cup of wine appeared in his hand, and he swirled it, thoughtfully. Because he found it funny, he also placed a cup of wine in the hand of the skeleton. "A gift," he said wryly, "From one Gilgamesh to another. Even if you are not me, you are worthy of my name, and you are a worthwhile commisserator. Priscilla...I do not think she would understand. Or Rhongomyniad. Or Enkidu."
"I do not think they would understand because I do not think they can." Gilgamesh touched the godly wine to his lips. "I do not think that what Priscilla desires is what I desire, love her though I do. I do not think that what Rhongomyniad desires is what I desire, love her though I do. And Enkidu...Enkidu is not a king. Enkidu is a precious, wild, free thing. A shoulder to lean on in dark times. Your Enkidu was the same, I have no doubt, even if it was not called by that name. Someone who understood you, but could not truly understand your dream."
The King of Heroes stared into the wine quietly.
"I do not think they can understand because I think only I can. And thus, I am here. Isn't that funny?"
"The only person I can talk to openly in all of Multi-Vars is myself. And you're dead, so you're not doing me any good, are you."
"Well. They tell me you are like a god. So I suppose that if you are, indeed, you are perfectly aware of all of this. It wouldn't surprise me." He pursed his lips. "It hardly need be said that I would not insult you with prayer."
The skeleton said nothing.
"Still, it is not bad, I suppose. Sitting here in an empty room, speaking to a dead Sumerian skeleton who led humankind to the stars, only to watch it rot. At the least I know you are going through what I am." Another sip, and the reflection of himself in his eye caught his attention. "I would burn it all. Enuma Elish would rip the world in twain bit by bit, shredding away its skin until nothing remained. I would let the strong survive, and see the new world built."
"Not here," he clarified, waving his hand, "But I suspect you share similar frustrations, don't you?"
"I certainly do."
Gilgamesh tilted his head to the side as a new figure entered the room. A massive, monster of a man in blue power armor, he strode forward, hands open. "I'm not here to do battle with you," the man said, "Though I have no doubt that I could defeat you here, in my father's chamber, I do not think you are my enemy."
Gilgamesh cocked his head to the side with a sneer. "Ordinarily I would run you through for such an impertinent statement, but the feeling is mutual. I am not here for a battle, and I do not think you are my enemy, either."
"I am not." The man strode over to the King, and the King waved his hand and produced another chair - a chair sized for a giant. The man sat. "I am Roboute Guilliman."
"I am Gilgamesh, King of-"
Roboute held up a gauntleted hand. "I know who you are, King of Heroes. Did you think you could enter this place unguarded? That you could simply speak your way through, no matter your glory? You look like an Eldar and you walk like my father in his prime, clad in gold and assured of victory. Just looking at you makes me wonder at the veracity of your words." His hands sank back into his lap. "You were noticed. You may be dangerous, but you are not subtle, and here in this Imperium, on this world, I make it a point to keep my eyes open. You can't be too careful."
Gilgamesh tilted his head away. His eyes were still locked on the skeleton, but that brought a sneer to his face. "I appreciate that you are the first common sense I've heard, Roboute Guilliman. Tell me. What frustrations do you share?"
"All of them." Guilliman drummed his fingers on the armchair. "This is not what my father wanted. This is a rotting carcass, driven by fear, hate, and ignorance. Better that we had all burned in Horus's flames than that I witness this perversion. You are right, King of Heroes; you and he are far too much alike, and his dreams far too much like yours."
Gilgamesh pursed his lips. A shadow passed over his face. "Is it unavoidable, then? Is this what comes of the glorious fate of mankind? A fate that cannot be achieved? A potential forever squandered?"
Roboute didn't answer. Instead, he looked back at the corpse of his father, then back at the smaller man in gold. "Why?"
"Why do you do it?" Guilliman's words were the words of a statesman. They rang in Gilgamesh's ears as the words of a tired man, a tired leader, and the weight of the world slumped upon his shoulders, too, a physical burden five thousand years old. No doubt, here, it felt even heavier. To see a failure like this across such a scope must have killed him.
Gilgamesh said, "Because it is my duty. I made the choice for them - I pushed them away from the gods who would rule them, and gave them the chance to take hold of their own destinies, gambling on glory. On exceptionalism. On humanity."
"We, too, have gods who would rule us. I don't mean him." Guilliman tilted his head at the skeleton. "That is a man. A brilliant, impossible, frustrating man. A terrible, atrocious father, who asked the impossible time and again, and expected us to keep following him, and those of us who did have seen this as our reward, and those of us who did not are twisted beyond imagining by those very gods."
"And yet you persist."
"And yet I persist." Guilliman sat there, eyes hard. "It is my duty. It's what I was made to do. The Space Marine is not a soldier. It is a perfect being. When the fighting is done, they are meant to lay down their arms and guide humanity into a golden age. But…"
"But the fighting is never done, and humanity doesn't yearn for a golden age. They don't believe in a golden age."
Guilliman shook his head. "They believe this is their golden age."
Gilgamesh was silent for a long time. So was Guilliman. The two statesmen sat before the skeleton with a cup of wine in its hand for a long time, until at last, Gilgamesh waved his hand and produced another cup for Guilliman. The Primarch stared at it curiously, then at Gilgamesh, before taking a sip.
"The King of Heroes demands only the finest," Gilgamesh said at last. "May I ask you something?"
"I didn't know you asked permission for anything. I'm honored."
"Do you want to fix it?" Gilgamesh's fingers tightened. "Do you want to see this wretched hellhole brought into the dream of your father? Into the dream you must have shared in, believed in?"
Guilliman hesitated into his cup, his lips drinking to avoid speaking. When it sat down again, he shook his head. "Ten thousand years of inertia. Ten thousand years of build-up. Of ignorance. Of hate. Of fear. Of pain. Ten thousand years of illogic and faith ruling quintillions of humans."
"And yet you are still here. So you must believe it can be fixed."
"I don't know. Ask me again another time. Call on me again, King of Heroes, and we'll speak at length on such matters. In the meantime…"
"In the meantime?"
Guilliman raised the cup to his lips. "I would like to sit here and have a quiet moment, free of the concerns of the world, with my damnable father and a man who reminds me entirely too much of him. My father - he didn't love anyone. He couldn't, if he wished to love Mankind. No one was too meaningful to be spared."
Gilgamesh shifted, uncomfortably. Roboute smiled. "I think this must be what it's like to have a family."
The King's eyes turned towards the skeleton. "I don't know. I haven't had the privilege."
"Me, either. I'll drink to that."
The two laughed, and raised their cups, and drank until the Terran dawn. At last, Gilgamesh rose, and the cups disappeared. A keg settled into being next to Roboute as the Primarch stood. "Gilgamesh," he said, "Do you think this is beyond saving? Tell me honestly. You are an outsider, without any interest in this world. You find it repugnant, repulsive to the core. You look at it with eyes that can see nothing but spite and you want to tear it all down. You said as much to Father. And if you think that, I have no doubt Father thinks the same. But if you say otherwise...if you believe it can be saved…"
"Then you think your father must, too, no matter his words."
"That's right." Roboute began walking, and Gilgamesh followed him. They walked through the halls of the great Palace, past Custodes who could only wonder at the strange company the great Primarch kept. The King of Heroes stopped before one of the many vast doors. Roboute looked at him quizzically.
"You asked me to be honest. I am always honest. I am the King, and the King's word is law, and if the King's word is lies, then so too is the law."
Roboute nodded, as if he knew this.
"Then I will tell you that…"
His fingers pressed to his forehead. "I think that as long as a man like you exists, that as long as men like you exist, that as long as there exists but one soul striving for perfection, that this world deserves to continue."
Roboute shook his head. "Perfection? Warp take me, I'd settle for decency."
They laughed again, together, drawing attention from passing Administratum. Gilgamesh sighed and ran his hand through his hair. Roboute offered his, and Gilgamesh took it.
"Thank you," the King said after a moment, "You answered a question for me."
"I haven't said anything."
Gilgamesh's lips turned wry. "You have shown me that I wouldn't be a completely terrible father after all, if my own son was anything like you."
"I wouldn't tell the First that quite yet," Roboute said idly, "My father's eldest killed him."
Gilgamesh's face went first scarlet, then white. Roboute laughed and clapped him on the back, and Gilgamesh grumbled irritably, and the morning passed. Finally, the Primarch stopped at the edge of the Palace grounds, and the King stepped across the threshold.
"That wasn't really what I answered, was it?" Roboute said.
"No. It was not."
"You wanted to know if this place was worth saving. If your own world could be saved. If you should burn it all and start over."
Gilgamesh lowered his head in a nod.
"Well, then. Let's have a family lunch next time." Roboute turned and waved over his shoulder. "You, me, and my father. We'll make a picnic of it in the Golden Throne. A fine sight that would make, Gilgamesh, don't you think?" And then he was gone, back into the massive sprawl of squandered glory, and Gilgamesh laughed as he walked into the crowd, turning curious heads who dared to look upon golden magnificence on a world that had been slowly forgetting what such a thing even meant.