They both turned at the sound of strong rapid footsteps advancing into the chamber. A Space Marine officer in full regalia marched toward them – his green and white power armor gleaming, his feather-crested helmet held in the crook of one arm, his opposite armored fist gripping the pommel of an ornate power sword. A second figure trailed in his wake, endeavoring rather comically, to keep up with the massive stride of the Astartes. His attire was suitably impressive in the Ordo Maleus style, yet his flushed face and labored breathing defeated his attempts at dignity.
The Space Marine snapped to attention at the foot of Dolgath’s desk, his youthful, clean-cut face belied the fact that he was likely significantly older than Dolgath’s advanced years… The second figure stumbled up to his desk standing red-faced and breathing heavily.
“Captain Jeremiah, 9th Company, Imperial Dragons Chapter, Legions Astartes,” the space marine stated smartly.
“Inquisitor Welch, Ordo Maleus, Segmentum Obscurus,” the second figure said breathlessly.
Dolgath didn’t recognize either of them. Although had had worked with the Imperial Dragons chapter on numerous occasions over the years, he expected that he might not know some of their officers. Conversely, the Inquisitor was a member of his own order, yet he was young – probably hadn’t even been born yet the last time Dolgath had attended an Ordos congress. As Dolgath walked slowly to his desk, Nethas moved behind him rising up to twice her former height creating an effect both intimidating and comforting that Dolgath was growing quite fond of…
“Captain Jeremiah, the Inquisition acknowledges the past service of the Imperial Dragons as exemplary. In fact, I personally stand in your debt,” Dolgath bowed deeply. For a moment the space marine seemed taken-aback, but saluted smartly in return.
Dolgath turned toward Welch. “Why are you here?” Dolgath said in a strikingly icy tone. The space marine’s eyes shifted sideways, but his stony face showed no other signs of emotion. Welch blinked in surprise, but quickly produced a sealed message scroll and responded in a tone that seamed well-rehearsed.
“By order of High Lord Veridian of Ultima Segmentum Ordos Command and Lord Inquisitor Sarc of Charadon Sector, authority and command of all forces engaged in the prosecution of the subsequent campaign against the Tau invaders has been transferred to Inquisitor Nelthas of the Ordo Xenos. The services of Inquisitor Lord Dolgath shall henceforth be retained in an advisory capacity only.”
Dolgath took the offered scroll without expression; however, Nelthas suddenly rose up like a towering storm cloud her voice booming link thunder: “What!” The space marine actually tilted his head backward to gaze up at the enraged apparition. Welch cowered like a frightened animal.
Dolgath’s calm voice quickly diffused the situation. “Our thanks, Captain Jeremiah; Inquisitor Nelthas shall convene a tactical briefing of all campaign forces at the earliest opportunity. Inquisitor Welch, accommodations shall be made available to you immediately.”
The space marine captain turned on his heel smartly and marched out of the chamber, leaving Welch to stand blinking up at Nelthas stupidly.
“Was their something more, Inquisitor?” Dolgath asked.
“Um, I was instructed to remain as an observer for the subsequent operations,” Welch replied focusing with difficulty on Dolgath.
“Very good, you shall be included in all subsequent briefings. Good day, Inquisitor,” Dolgath said with finality. A servitor came to escort Welch out. He departed with a rather bewildered expression. The moment the door sealed behind him, Dolgath turned on Nelthas and pointed a harsh finger up at her.
“That was unwise! Never show emotion, especially in front of an Astartes!” Dolgath growled.
Nelthas shrank like a deflated Emperor’s Day float. She seemed to vanish into a billowing pool of black and cream fabric, making Dolgath wonder just how tiny she really was inside all that façade. Her psychomorphic mask lay in the center of it, upturned; deathly pale, the mouth a tiny crimson pout, the eyes wept blood-red tears. Slowly, a tiny figure rose in the center of it all, hardly taller than a child. Dolgath moved to put his arm around those tiny shoulders, his iron-hard visage cracking for a moment.
“It makes sense, does it not? The elements of Chaos have left this particular engagement. This is now truly an Ordo Xenos matter…” Dolgath opinioned.
Nelthas rose up to stand at equal height. “Yes, you are correct,” she said with an overly harsh tone.
Dolgath looked at her and smiled. “Your outburst was unwise, but very much appreciated!” He smiled at her.
The eyes of her psychomorphic mask opened wider than he had ever seen. He almost though he caught a glimpse of the amethyst orbs that lay beneath. He reached out and touched it, brushing his fingers across the mask’s lips; they were surprisingly warm and yielding…