Just a brief segment about the Steel Revenants and their beliefs. I really do need to start posting earlier...
The Steel Father surveyed the small gathering of faces before him. Of the thousands of supplicants who had come to the Monastery a year ago, now only twelve remained. Twelve promising neophytes on the cusp of becoming fully recognized Battle Brothers. Twelve men who would soon suffer the implantation of a Black Carapace. Twelve warriors who would, if they passed these final tests, earn their powered armour. He began to speak in a synthetic bass monotone.
"The hour draws nigh, Neophytes. For a month you waited outside our gates while we ignored your knocks. There you survived, and even thrived, where fully half of the supplicants returned to their homes in shame, where a few fools died and still lie without so much as a gravestone to remember their names. In this, you proved you possessed the patience of the warrior. The ability to sit, to wait, to hold your strike until the opening arrived.
"Once the gates were open, you were among the first to enter. In this, many hopeful candidates failed. Too slow, or else too timid, to enter our fortress. Some unlucky few were lost on the mountain path leading to the fortress, and now feed the holy pinnacle's thirsty roots. You all showed the capacity for rapid action. The ability to strike swiftly, to and to strike precisely. Again, you were among the victors." At this the venerable techmarine placed a paternal hand upon the shoulder of the nearest neophyte, a renowned marksman among the Scout company by the name of Parrius. Had he still possessed lips, he would have smiled at them. Instead, he nodded his helmed head approvingly. The neophytes swelled with pride and the old Marine resumed pacing as he lectured them for, he hoped, the last time.
"Upon examination by the Apothecaries, your bodies showed favorable qualities. All of you are strong, fit, and agile. Your minds are acute, keen, and clever. All of you are free of the taint of mutation. And your bodies reacted well to the Progenoid probe. For what use is a soldier if he fights only for a generation? By contributing gene-seed to the Chapter, you will provide the tools to craft more soldiers, for as long as the Imperium still stands we will stand beneath it and take its burdens upon our shoulders!
"You have all survived combat training. This is no small task - we use no toys here. You left those behind when you left your homes to become Supplicants, and now that you are Neophytes you are all well-skilled in the use of many weapons, from the Holy Boltgun to the mighty Chainsword. You have learned these styles that you may use them to destroy your foes, but also so that your foes can not use them to destroy you.
"You have survived nearly everything that we will do to your bodies, neophytes. You have lived through the rebuilding of your skeletons. You have survived the augmentation and implantation of numerous organs. You showed extreme fortitude, and a tolerance for pain beyond what most men will ever see. Many of your fellow supplicants balked at the restructuring of their bodies, or else their bodies refused the Emperor's gifts." At this, he paused and again examined the solemn faces arrayed before him. They had given much to be where they were today, but their sacrifices had only begun. It was time for them to find out what the first of these new sacrifices would be. The Steel Father placed a metal fist over his augmetic heart before continuing.
"Now comes the greatest test yet. You must mutilate your own flesh and accept a final gift, not from the Emperor as you know him, but from the Omnissiah, the Emperor's essence within all machines. Each of you will take the sacred knife of Agamemnon, the first Master of our Chapter, and sever one of your hands. You will then be ready to accept a cybernetic replacement, just as our forefathers the Iron Hands do, in honour of our great Primarch. I tell you this now so that you can consider. If any of you should choose not to take this step, know that none in the Chapter will judge you harshly for it. You may stand up and leave this room at once and return to your former assignment as a Neophyte. The uninitiated will know nothing of what is said behind these doors and the initiated will surely understand - some of our greatest heroes declined this honor twice or even thrice before accepting. Know that the opportunity may not come for some long time, but if you leave honorably, it will come again."
At this, the neophyte known as Lynch stood to take his leave. His comrades-in-training saluted him as he passed. He clasped each of them firmly by the hand and congratulated them. Once he had left, the techmarine resumed his speech.
"If, however, you enter the room and take up the knife but fail to use it, you will forever be branded with the mark of shame. The blade is a holy relic, and only Battle Brothers may touch it. By taking it into your hand you commit yourself into our sacred covenant, and to withdraw with your hand uncut is as much blasphemy as forsaking an oath to the Primarch himself."
A neophyte spoke up. "Honored Father, why do we replace our flesh with machinery? Is not our flesh a gift from the Emperor?"
"Much of this wisdom will be imparted to you by your Company Chaplain once you are a full battle brother, but I suppose it cannot hurt to provide you with a primer on our ways. Our flesh, though augmented by His works, is still imperfect, and can never be as perfect as His flesh. Thus we rectify our failings with machines, for in the Omnissiah we may find the perfection that our frail beginnings denied us. Thus, through His mastery of the forge, He grants us perfect bodies. Who but a heretic would shun His precious gifts?"
"But are machine spirits not capricious, and known to disobey commands given them?"
The priest looked taken aback, as if the thought had never occurred to him. He imagined knitting his brows, though of course his face had been lost on some long-forgotten battlefield. "If the holy machine refuses to function, it is thanks to an affront given by the flesh. No well-forged augmentics will fail their master unless their master first fails them. Respect the machine; treasure the machine; for in the voice of the Machine Spirit may we attain holy communion with the Emperor, through the Omnissiah.”
"But what if the machine is damaged in the course of battle?" The uneasy Neophyte asked nervously, sensing the techmarine's growing annoyance.
Parrius interjected. "Then surely you have failed the machine, by failing to sacrifice your frail flesh that the mechanism might survive." Reclusiarch Maximus peered at Parrius. His face was marred by the scars and his left leg was a well-crafted metal replacement of the original.
The techmarine's fleshless face beamed with pride beneath his silver helmet. "This supplicant has the right of it. Flesh can be regrown, or replaced with more holy machines. Flesh begets flesh with the same ease that vermin begets vermin or pestilence begets pestilence. Augmentics are unique. No two are alike, and no one, once damaged, can be truly replaced."
"But," said the first neophyte, doggedly pursuing his questioning even at his own peril, "the human form is holy and perfect, granted us by the God-Emperor. Is there not a conflict between your lessons and those of the Ecclesiarchy?"
"Aye, the form is perfect, but do not mutations prove that flesh cannot be relied upon to hold that most precious of forms? A machine-arm will never wilt with age; will never become inflamed with boils or full of pus; will never wither from disuse; cannot be imitated by the Great Devourer; will never become weak the instant you most need strength; does not bleed or feel pain. What better way to preserve the holiest of forms, I ask, than immutable metal?" The artificial larynx was beginning to feel warm in the old Marine's throat – he was more accustomed to the binary language of Mars than the Gothic of the Imperium.
"But, revered master, what of the Magoi who have so deformed their bodies as to no longer seem human? And what of those whose augmentics have fallen to rust and disrepair?"
The marine actually laughed heartily, which sounded through the voicebox like the purring of an enormous, dangerous kitten. "You have many questions, even for a Neophyte, but I assure you they will be answered soon enough. Rust and disrepair are products of improper care by a being of flesh. Metal is immortal and immutable. Fatigue is a fabrication of the mortal mind. No true magos would allow his machines to wither thus - such behavior is heretekal. If you have concerns about the integrity of your sacred machine, consult a forge-attendant at once. Better to utter a thousand unasked-for Litanies of Calming than to suffer the loss of but one sacred machine. Some magoi have, indeed, chosen to mar their perfect form that they might further the Emperor's vision. Surely this is no more blasphemous than our own transformation into His angels of death, for none could argue that the men of the Adeptus Astartes are truly human. Some humans must sacrifice that all of humanity may prosper, and what more virtuous beacon to guide the imperfect into the Emperor's light than one who has embraced all the Emperor's ministrations, those of the spirit, the flesh, and the machine, the holy trinity of His blessings? This is why we seek to become one with the Machine Spirits. Surely we already represent the perfection of His body and spirit, even if we cannot hope to achieve such perfection ourselves. But if we embrace unity with all three of His aspects, we will shine most brightly and bring the unfaithful into the light of the Emperor. Now if there are no more questions...?"
The Neophytes stood motionless, fidgeting nervously or considering, one final time, their mortal hands.
"Then let us go to the ritual chamber. There is much for you to learn, my brothers."