Dolgath reclined in his chair and watched Nelthas as she glided back and forth in front of the vast view port of his audience chamber aboard the Subjugator. She wore all black on this day, a complex and severely structured garment jeweled with rubies like glistening drops of blood. Her psychomorphic mask held a faint bluish tinge like glacial ice its support apparatus dense and spiky like a nest of black thorns. Through the view port behind her the silvery mass of the moon, Alpha Prime, loomed like a soothsayer’s orb, but Nelthas was not looking at the moon at all, her gaze seemed to stare off into the void of space beyond. Although any display of her true feelings were obscured by her elaborate façade, Dolgath could clearly tell she was agitated. The presence of two of her mysterious robed guardians lurking in the shadows confirmed it.
“Cardinal to Regent’s three,” Dolgath challenged, trying to draw her attention away from her preoccupation. His antique regicide set, the beautifully carved pieces representing historic Imperial figures, was laid out on one side of his massive desk. She had defeated him in their last three encounters and he was determined to break the trend.
“Primarch takes Cardinal, check” Nelthas replied absently without looking at the board.
Dolgath moved the pieces and then quickly moved a ephemera into a bridge position, “Crusader to Inquisitor four.”
Just then a light appeared through the view port. Dolgath rose to stand at Nelthas’s side. As always, he was amazed by the rippling effect of space/time as a ship penetrated the veil of reality. The ship that emerged was the sleekest, newest pattern cruiser Dolgath had ever seen. It bore no battle scars or discontinuities from major structural rebuilds as was common with most Imperial ships that had seen service for untold millennia. It was flawless and beautiful in its traditional blue and white Adeptus Arbites color pattern. Indeed, clearly it was purpose built for the Arbite’s mission; massive bombard cannons protruded from the hull vectored downward oriented for planetary targetting. Launch bays, exclusively designed for the Arbites Justice-pattern dropships, lined the bottom of the hull. This was a ship with only one purpose: planetary pacification.
Nelthas turned her mask toward him. In the last few months she had become nearly his constant companion, almost his consort – if he ever dared to penetrate the layers of façade draped around her… The posture she assumed was diminutive, barely coming up to his shoulder, yet he sensed the intensity emanating from her. Finally she turned away from the view port and glided over to gaze at the regicide board.
“You know this Witch Hunter?” Nelthas asked from across the room.
“Treyquill? Yes, I do,” he replied as he gazed at the approaching cruiser. “We worked together on several operations during the Black Crusade.”
“Which Black Crusade?” Nelthas’s porcelain mask grinned ever-so-suggestively. “Primarch takes Crusader,” Nelthas moved the respective pieces with a delicate hand gloved in black silk.
“Don’t be obtuse,” Dolgath said with humor as he walked back over to sit down. He moved his Magos into a crux position. “We were just young bucks then, but together we broke the grip of corruption on three worlds.”
Nelthas quickly moved to intercept him. “Primarch takes Magos, check.” She turned to gaze out the viewport at the cruiser. “I know him as well, although we’ve never met. He interfered with my work infiltrating the Kyjax infestation on Galleron, resulting in six years of civil war and hundreds of thousands of lives lost!”
Dolgath clumsily blocked her Primarch with a Servitor. “Witch Hunters operate with a different imperative than you or I.”
Nelthas quickly took the Servitor with her Primarch. “Do you trust him?”
Dolgath snorted. “He is an odd bird and no mistake, but Treyquill possesses one trait different from any other Witch Hunter I’ve ever encountered…” Dolgath made a quick minor advance with a Sentinel and looked up at her.
Nelthas looked quizzically back at him, her psychomorphic mask almost seemed human to him. “Which is what?” She asked as she took his Sentinel with her Primarch.
“Unpredictability,” Dolgath moved his final piece ever so slowly. “Astropath takes Primarch, checkmate!”
Her defeat registered at almost precisely the same moment as the chamber doors abruptly parted to admit a chaotic mass of assorted functionaries, cyber-notaries, recording servoskulls and skeletal scribe-servitors trailing reams of parchment. The mass was accompanied by an equally chaotic babble of noise as voices vied to be heard above the nonsense.
Dolgath eased himself back into his chair and steepled his fingers as if expecting just such an assault. Nelthas, on the other hand, retreated behind him rising up to three times her former height like a cat bristling, her mask assuming an icy, forbidding aspect.
The mass rolled forward until it stopped before his desk, none of them seeming to notice his presence, each intent on imparting its bit of information to the particular individual at the center or the mass in the noisiest way possible. After a moment a voice began to cut through the babble.
“Psst! Bzzz! Shush!” After a moment the babble faded. “Begone! Away with you! I have important Inquisitorial business to attend!” Slowly the mass parted and shuffled back out of the room leaving only a single figure standing silently looking at them. His face was ageless and androgynous crowned by an elaborate coif that dangled a sheaf of black hair over his eyes. He was dressed in a panoply of varying attire consisting of an ecclesiarchical samite half-cape, an Arbites officer’s uniform jacket with senior commandant rank cord on the epaulets, a frilly laced undershirt, flared britches and high black boots, a dueling power-rapier was at his hip and an elaborate Inquisitor Rosette affixed to a gorget was at his throat. He promptly plopped down in exhaustion in the chair in front of Dolgath’s desk. “I’m parched…”
Dolgath pulled a fluted decanter and a set of crystal from his desk. “Zhianna, Fifty Seven?” Dolgath poured them each a drink.
“Ian, you evil little man!” The figure took the drink with a slightly trembling hand and sipped it with eyes closed like a man in ecstasy. After a moment he slowly opened his eyes and looked askance behind Dolgath. “What is this apparition? It frightens me…”
“Inquisitor Treyquill, meet Inquisitor Nelthas,” Dolgath said as he gestured toward Nelthas.
“Nelthas?” Treyquill gazed warily up at her. “You mean, The Nelthas, Scourge of the Necrons?”
Dolgath glanced inquisitively up at her. “I don’t know anything about that.”
“Someone good to have at your back, or your front,” Treyquill grinned.
Nelthas reduced her height somewhat and moved to stand at Dolgath’s side.
Treyquill poured himself another drink and sat back to savor it. “Ah, I fondly recall the days we sat sipping Fifty Seven, playing regicide and pondering the machinations of the ruinous powers…” Suddenly he seemed to notice the Regicide board at the side of the desk. “Oh, did he pull that Astropath move on you? He did that to me five times; then I got wise!”
Dolgath looked at Nelthas and noticed her mask had turned slightly pink. Treyquill looked at Dolgath then winked at Nelthas.
“Don’t trust this one, he’s all kinds of devious,” Treyquill said to Nelthas. “Unless it comes to your life, then there’s no one better to trust!”
It was Dolgath then who turned slightly pink as he sat back in his chair. “Why are you here, my old friend?”
“Don’t ask me, they just send me places!” Treyquill replied innocently.
Dolgath just gazed blankly at Treyquill for a long moment. “Okay, I lied,” Treyquill responded. He turned back and uttered a shrill whistle over his shoulder. After a moment a skeletal scribe servitor shuffled up to him. He rustled through the reams of parchment trailing around it.
“Some heretic named, Sylax,” Treyquill said as he examined the minute scribbling on the parchment.
“Then you’ve come all the way out here for nothing. He died in the fighting for New Boston,” Dolgath said.
“Really,” Treyquill sorted through the long scroll of parchment. “Is this the sixth or seventh time that you’ve killed him?”
Dolgath glanced sheepishly at Nelthas. “Seventh, I think. I have a reliable report of his demise from the Adeptus Astartes.”
“Do you have his body?” Treyquill asked.
“Um… No,” Dolgath replied frankly.
“Well then,” Treyquill said. “I’ve got a whole detachment of Sororitas with me whose only purpose is to immolate Sylax body and soul; seems they are somewhat sensitive about a high ranking member of the ecclesiarchy turning foul.”
“Heretics are not the problem here, xenos are,” Nelthas spoke up.
Treyquill took a long drink and then sat peering at her from beneath his shock of dark hair.
“Heretics are always the problem. Behind it all there is always a heretic…”