Relaxation, it was a strange concept to Inquisitor Lord Dolgath. Settled into the cushions of his ancient chair, seated before his equally ancient desk, he was beholden to the legacy of his masters who sat there before him. Yet seated opposite him, across the playing surface of his antique Regicide set, sat Inquisitor Nelthas. Strangely, she inspired relaxation. As always, “sitting” was a relative term for her. She assumed an aspect of sitting, having reduced her towering height to something more demure. On this day her pychomorphic mask was pink – nearly the pink of a human infant’s flesh. In contrast to the blacks and dark grays she usually wore, today she wore a billowing lace dress of off-white that in her current posture formed a mass of rumpled fabric around her, making her look like a babe floating in a shoal of sea foam. In one of her tinny lace-gloved hands she held a red rose, as dark and crimson as blood. Dolgath knew this rose, as he had plucked it himself from an abandoned garden on New Boston as he was preparing to depart from the last pivotal battle. He had given it to her as a passing fancy, yet she had flash-frozen it in a crystal matrix, a process that would have cost tens of thousands of credits.
He regarded the regicide table laid out before him. The pieces were arrayed in a classic Marcharious pattern. He leisurely moved a minor ephemera into a semi-dominant position. She immediately moved a major ephemera to a crux position. Dolgath feigned to take interest in the table, yet his thoughts were focused on Inquisitor Nelthas. He had to admit, he was quite smitten with her. His thoughts were often preoccupied with imaginings of what she looked like beneath her façade. His rational self informed him that the reality was likely something grotesque, yet even that was enticing to him…
“Your thoughts are not on the game,” Nelthas said as she moved her Count to take his Cardinal. Dolgath countered with a clumsy blocking gambit.
“These Tau perplex me,” Dolgath replied.
“Really,” Nelthas said as she moved her piece into a cornice formation. “The Tau are a simple race, their tactics are prescribe and immutable.”
Dolgath moved a major ephemera in a dispersal pattern. “It’s not the Tau in general that confound me, it’s these particular Tau… There is something aberrant about them, they move tangentially, non-geometrically… I suspect they have been influence by Sylax and his ilk!”
“I think you are overreacting,” she said as she moved a Royal piece into a trump configuration. “Check!” she said with enthusiasm.
Dolgath paused to observe the board, and then sat back to gaze upon Nelthas. She had moved forward, poised in excitement above the gaming table. A sliver of her pale flesh was visible behind her flushed mask… Smooth and immaculate like a baby’s…
“Checkmate!” He said as he moved a minor ephemera behind the cornice formation into a assassination crux.
Nelthas suddenly rose up like a towering thunderstorm her pink mask suddenly bleaching white. She hovered there for a moment like a vast mountain ready to fall, and then, unexpectedly, she laughed. Like the pure crystalline chimes of a waterfall, she laughed. If Dolgath was standing his legs would have broken beneath him, so pure and wonderful was that sound.
“Well done,” she said as she subsided once again to a frothy pool of foamy lace. “The Tau would have never taken such a gambit.”
“Indeed, we cannot assume they will retreat from this system, in fact I anticipate an offensive soon and from an entirely unexpected direction,” Dolgath replied.
Nelthas was silent for a long moment. “The next attack will be close, I think. A dagger in the dark,” she said as she brushed the crimson rose against her porcelain cheek.