147. The Primarch

Finding out that he was not the one with the real problems was a most unpleasant and sobering experience for Titus. It started when Inquisitor Elaine and Killian Solomon took their leave the next day. Vox not only honoured them with her presence in the hangars as they departed, she had also brought Celeste, Saphane, the four captains, Ferone, Nostromo and, of course, Titus.
The moment Elaine and Ferone said their goodbyes it started to dawn on Titus that he had missed out on a whole part of the recent developments. After Vox had pointed it out, he had noticed that the commander and the inquisitor somehow seemed tuned to the same music. When they stood next to each other, they often mimicked the other’s stance and sometimes, when their gazes met for a moment there was a deep, loving understanding there that became apparent in a smile so slight that it illuminated the two faces without ever really showing.
Therefore, it was very disconcerting that Ferone seemed rather stiff and cool in his demeanour when he sent the beloved woman on her way and Titus could clearly see how much his behaviour unsettled and hurt Elaine. She kept herself under admirable control but it showed.
Solomon said a short, friendly goodbye to Titus, before he followed his mistress into the shuttle that would take them back to the ‘Aurum’.
The permanent uneasiness rose in Titus and he turned the scene over in his head again and again. This way missed a few vital clues that might have told him what was going on earlier.
Vox led her retinue to the bridge. Only shortly before they entered Titus became aware of the unpleasant, silent tension in the group around him.
A servant hovered at the entrance waiting for them. He bowed low and handed Vox a bundle of paper as she swept past. She thumbed through it quickly and changed the order of the papers. Then, she handed them over to Ferone. The commander granted the documents little attention. Even as they came to a halt on the captain’s platform of the ‘Hammer of Destiny’, he passed them on to Nostromo.
“Give me a visual on the Aurum!”, the owner of the Fleet of Destiny demanded before he examined the sheets himself.
Meanwhile, Vox’s gentle, sad gaze rested on the commander of the Deathwatch who looked back from pain-filled eyes.
Suddenly it struck Titus: This was a fixed game. These were players he saw in action and every single one of them had been briefed about what would happen. Except for him.
Ferone took a deep breath.
“My lady, I will vouch for you”, he said and the dismay on his face was all the more horrible for the tight grip he kept on himself. “Just… Please. I don’t want to witness it.”
Vox nodded understandingly.
“Retreat to the audience chamber, my friend”, she said softly. “I will join you there.”
“Thank you, my lady”, Ferone said and left. Titus looked at his retreating back in growing bewilderment but had no time to do anything before Nostromo threw the papers down on the table in front of him.
“Captain Tys!”, he called out to the captain of the ‘Hammer of Destiny’, who was overseeing the demand for the surveillance picture. “My Lady Vox is in charge”, he told the man curtly. “Do as she says!” And with this Nostromo left too without looking left or right.
After he had disappeared through a side door, Vox stepped up to the bannister and spread her wings.
“Transmission to all forces of the Wings of War”, she commanded and gave only a short side glance to Titus, who stepped up beside her to inspect the pile of paper. He thumbed through the files with growing horror. They detailed Elaine’s use of Eldar spies on several occasions. There was one report where a whole fleet of Eldar had escaped her pursuit and crowning everything there was the personal file of one Eldar. It was a handsome, male specimen with large, blue eyes and fair hair. This particular Eldar apparently had been seen with Elaine on two occasions and Titus stared at the picture because it looked quite like Ferone. He felt sick.
His gaze was dragged upwards when a servo skull hovered up to Vox to transmit her message to her fleet. On the large pict screen, the shuttle that transported Elaine and Solomon was just disappearing into the shadow of the Aurum.
“This is Vox Sanguinius to all forces of the Wings of War”, the angel spoke loudly and the pale echo of her voice was audible from outside the bridge. “Comrades, it is with the greatest dismay that I speak to you today.”
Driven by a horrifying suspicion Titus’ head snapped around to her and from the corner of his eye he caught a very small movement: Celeste’s hand was tightening around her sword.
‘Such a small gesture to give it all away’, he thought distantly as the full realisation of what was going on here hit him. While Vox’s voice told the Wings of War that Inquisitor Elaine had been communing with the xenos, Titus finally saw what he had missed all the time. The reason why Vox had been so different.
It was so devastatingly simple, so clear. It was a crime that Titus had not picked up on it earlier.
His gaze wandered over to the and in her handsome face, hardly an arm’s length away, this face which could be mistaken for that of a young man, Titus finally saw that this was not Vox standing next to him.
It was Sanguinius.
Titus felt his stomach trying to crumple up while all the moments since she had awoken drifted past his inner eye. Vox had gotten through sometimes. She had told Titus that she needed him, that she would be lost without him and all he had done was to demand that she acted and reached out when this cry for help had been all she had only just been able to achieve. Against her Primarch, who held her prisoner in her own mind, she had been unable to do more. Whenever she had reached out, had stroked and kissed him the Primarch had always buried her again. Elegantly mimicking her behaviour he had covered it over with cool sensibility and a delicate hand for deception.
It was unnecessary to look around. His memory finally provided him with all the clues he had missed: All the Wings of War on the bridge were fully armed for war.
Titus was not.
He only carried his axe, which he was reluctant to part with at any time. Celeste and Saphane had positioned themselves very close to him and there was the hungry air of the slightly impatient hunter about them. If Titus so much as twitched, they would take him down. Sanguinius had set them on him. He had kept as many secrets as possible from him, had manipulated and led him astray and had gotten Titus right where he wanted him: In reach and out of options.
He wanted to scream for the injustice, wanted to grab Sanguinius and stop him from giving the final command.
“Don’t”, he managed, his hand clawing into the paper. “Please stop.” But Sanguinius only gave him a mockingly sad look out of Vox’s eyes and spoke on: “Finally seeing the traitor for what she is, has caught us unexpectedly but it does not find us unprepared.”
Titus closed his eyes in helpless dismay. If he wanted to see tomorrow, he had to stand by and let it happen. Shuddering inside, he wished he could turn off his ears but he was forced to listen.
“Never since the days, the greatest traitor walked our galaxy and laid hands to our beloved father, have we been unprepared for the traitor”, Sanguinius declared. “It grieves me that another friend has fallen from our side but from this grief rises the righteous wrath of the loyal warrior.” Sanguinius took a deep breath. “Open fire at the ‘Aurum’!”, he ordered.
The weapons of the fleet of the Wings of War went off at once. Admiral Starling was no fool. What Sanguinius had been working up to had become apparent almost a minute ago and she had given her orders appropriately, only waiting for the command.
Titus opened his grey eyes and watched the silent image of the glorious, golden ship go up in flames as it was ripped apart. To the bitter accompaniment of this, he had to salute Sanguinius. What a setup. He had swayed her lover against Elaine within a few days. He had drawn Nostromo to his side while concealing it well enough from the inquisitor for her to return to her ship and be killed. As a bonus he had made Titus so edgy that he really felt prone to irrational behaviour. But however much he marvelled at the sheer, horrifyingly accurate mind that had come up with something like this, Titus felt himself harding. It was like standing up and taking up the fight. Primarch or not, this man acted like a common daemon. He had taken possession of his beloved angel and Titus was her bailsman. He lost no thought on trying to kill her before he had tried to get her back. This was what he had always done he realised. He had come for her. Whether she was being held prisoner by some crazy inquisitor, falling towards Almond or gone missing in some stupid cave. He had always come for her.
He looked at the Primarch, right beside him.
He was beautiful in her body. The upright posture with slightly turned out palms, the wings framing him. He was an epiphany. An icon of holiness. Ready to be worshipped even in the darkest hours when friends turned to foes and you lost another person you thought you had known.
Titus slowed down his breathing. Preparing for a fight often meant waiting for the right moment and this had yet to come. Sanguinius could not willfully contradict Vox’s decision to raise Titus to her right hand without losing considerable confidence with their followers. So he had set Celeste and Saphane against him. Probably very subtly. Only mouthed concerns but they were watchful like tigresses behind him. No, now was not the time. The Primarch had come prepared and he had the upper hand.
Bitterly, Titus remembered the moment when Vox had told him that she chose not to spend her time in a stasis field or coma because she needed the connection to her comrades. If Sanguinius wanted to get rid of the only person who enabled him to sleep in the warp, the Primarch would certainly resort to this option. A leader who kept no connection to the led…
Titus gritted his teeth and then forced himself to relax. Not a twitch betrayed him when Sanguinius laid Vox’s hand on his arm.
“I have to see to Ferone”, the Primarch made her beautiful voice say. “Will you be alright?”
“Yes”, Titus said, looking into these eyes, blue as the summer sky over Terra. He loved them so much it hurt.
And when a single tear rolled down her left cheek even though her face betrayed no grief at all, Titus knew that Vox was still behind these eyes somewhere. Grieving for what her Primarch was doing. He restrained himself from reaching out to stroke it away. Anything might have triggered Celeste and Saphane now. He just smiled sadly before Sanguinius fled his presence.
Titus turned his attention back to the pict screen, ignoring the hovering hunters. He had to get off this bridge alive. He needed time and the option for skin contact to Vox.
Titus breathed deeply and slowly, sorting through all the clues. Sometimes, they slipped his attention but he always got there in the end. With every passing heartbeat, he became more certain that Vox pushed to the fore when he was around and that this was the reason why Sanguinius had isolated himself from Titus so carefully.
So, there was a chance.
The ‘Aurum’ had been destroyed, there was only debris left. Sometimes, fragments shone golden in the light of a distant sun. The damage was done. Elaine, Solomon and every soul on the ‘Aurum’ were lost.
All that was left to do was to get off this bridge alive and wait for a chance to get Vox back.

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Guide Me Through the Darkness by Julia M. V. Warren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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