33. An Unpleasant Reunion

The tailboard closed and those who had worn helmets took them off.
While the others relaxed and milled about, Vox stepped up to Titus and pressed something into his hands. It was a completely black Aquila pattern helmet. Titus stared at him in surprise but the look Vox shot him kept him quiet. His friend looked terrible. With the use of his powers, his eyes had started to bleed again. There were large bruises under his skin and Titus could smell how hard his metabolism struggled to cope with the poison he had caught. A sticky layer of sweat covered his face.
Titus decided that the helmet could wait. He clipped it to his belt and pushed Vox backwards against the wall. Trying to clean his face ineffectually, the brother slid to the floor. He lifted a bleary look as the twins stepped up to them.
“Vox?”, Vyron asked.
“Mh?”, Vox asked back.
“What did you do to us down there?”
There was a dangerous second full of quiet menace before Vox answered in a weary tone: “I shared my foresight with you.”
“You can do that?”, Hyron asked and the surprise in his voice took a lot of tension out of the situation.
“Sure”, Vox said, shrugging one shoulder. He patted the floor left and right beside him, inviting them to sit. “But I will not pretend, it doesn’t cost me to keep it up as long as I did”, he said as the wolves came to his side. “Well done, all of you”, he felt it incumbent on him to mention. Then he sighed and hung his head.
“Could somebody take over for the inspiring speech?”
“Why? Haven’t you prepared one?”, Titus asked and found a spot on the wall for himself.
“Of course I did”, Vox said reproachfully. “But it went with our chaplain.”
“You know, it’s very hard to inspire anyone after a comment like that”, Titus stated.
Vox gave a snort.
“Damn. Let’s start again.”
“Good idea!”, Hyron cut in. “But from where we left off being hit by the water.”
“Yeah, that was fun”, Vyron agreed with a dreamy expression. “Maybe this time we end up in the horde of Orks.”
“That would be glorious!”, his brother agreed.
“Right, great idea. Why lose one when you can get rid of two?”, Vox commented sarcastically.
“No worries, Vox”, Vyron said, patting him on the shoulder guard. “You can join us. We can go out in glory together!”
Vox had to laugh.
“That’s a rather devious trap you sent me in. If I claim that the three of us would have taken out the Orks, I’ll tarnish the memory of our beloved leader.”
“Dankwart!”, Hyron demanded. “You saw him. How did he go?”
“Yeah right, let’s hear your tale, silent man!”, Vyron urged.
“Come on!”
“Boys, you have to give him time to speak”, Vox noted and really, Dankwart took a while to gather his words.
“I never saw someone fight like Ecurael”, he said slowly. “Once he could have run but didn’t. The largest Ork on the field brought him down.”
“Does that mean, we blew up their warboss?”, Tiberius asked.
Dankwart shrugged. “It was the largest around.”
They all contemplated this for a moment. They had not meant to do it but with this, they might have ended the whole Waaagh at a stroke.
“That would certainly be something worth dying for”, Titus said, earning general nods.
“What were these Eldar doing there by the way?”, Tiberius wanted to know.
“I have no idea where they came from”, Vox replied with a shrug. “Their psyker was able to hide the whole group from me. I ran right into them.”
“I never heard of Eldar using poison”, Tiberius said thoughtfully. “Only Dark Eldar.”
“What’s the difference anyway?”, Vyron wanted to know.
“For you? You shoot them”, Vox said drily. “If they’re dead afterwards it didn’t matter in the first place.”
Finally, they cracked up with laughter.
It was the first step away from disaster. Brothers died. This was how it went. Even a millennium old chaplain would find his end and he certainly had found an honourable one at that.
When they had settled down, Dankwart tended to Titus. He was the only one besides Vox, who could be called wounded. There was little left to do, however. Titus’ armour had provided the most necessary rites and he was healing well. The wounds would impede him for some time to come but he had proved already that this was nothing to stop him. Since his hand on the wounded arm responded, Dankwart informed him curtly that he would be spared more complicated treatment.
After this, they soon reached the Aurum. A servant brought the message that Mistress Elaine awaited them in her audience chamber. Aegis took Solomon in their middle and marched him through the ship. They talked idly among themselves. Only Vox in the lead kept quiet until they had almost reached their destination.
“Tiberius?”, he asked then. “Did you have time to look around the ruin?”
“Yes. I didn’t find anything we could carry easily. The cube was the most prudent thing to take.”
“Maybe one day, someone gets the chance to go back there and take the rest”, Vox said.
“Maybe”, Tiberius agreed. “One day.”
“I would like you to handle the debriefing, Tiberius. Confirm.”
“What?”, Tiberius asked in surprise.
“Confirm!”, Vox demanded again.
“Alright! But why?”
“Silence!”, their leader ordered in a quiet voice. They had reached the door of the audience chamber. Vox knocked and marched in when he was answered.
Inside, another woman waited with Mistress Elaine. Those who knew her recognized Inquisitor Laraise at once.
She wore power armour and towered over Elaine like a threatening shadow. A dark apprehension as to why Tiberius might be required to handle the debriefing crept over Titus. It chilled him to the bone.
Vox came to a brisk standstill in front of the women. He saluted smartly while the others took formation behind him, mimicking his demeanour. They had not practised this in detail but even the rough and slightly anti-authoritarian Space Wolves knew how to look imposing when the need arose.
“Mistress, inquisitor”, Vox greeted the women.
Curiously, it was Laraise who spoke first. She smiled and stroked her open hair back a little. In her unfriendly, brown eyes stood a satisfied smile.
“Brother Draconis, it is good to see you alive”, she said with sickening sweetness. “Mistress Elaine tells me that you had Chaplain Ecurael with you. Since I don’t see him here, I suppose he doesn’t share your luck.”
“Our brother chaplain has brought destruction to the enemy”, Vox declared solemnly. “Honour is his and his soul rests with the Emperor. That is all the luck an Astartes can hope for, inquisitor.”
“Of course, brother”, Laraise said and bowed her head slightly as if she wanted to salute the sacrifice of the brother they had lost.
“Now, let us not waste our time”, she went on, even more hurtful for the revelation of her hypocrisy. “Will you be so kind as to testify in the matter, I asked you about?” There was a predatory glint in her eyes.
Vox nodded and spoke slowly and distinctly: “Brothers of Aegis, I call you as witnesses. I, Vox Draconis of the Deathwatch, vouch for Mistress Elaine of Angor, inquisitor of the Ordo Xenos and lady of Angor. There is no corruption I could detect in her or her cause. Neither could I find indications of chaotic taint in her present subordinates, nor any object within the ship. To Inquisitor Laraise, who called for my testimony, I submit for the next twenty-four hours as the law demands. May I be proven free of taint to substantiate my words in the face of my brothers, the Inquisition and the Emperor Himself.”
“Very good, brother”, Laraise said and bowed slightly to her colleague. “My apologies, Lady Elaine. You know how it is. Shall we go?”, she addressed Vox. A repulsive, triumphant expression stood in her features. Their librarian nodded and followed her out without another word. As one man, Aegis stared after them.
“What just happened?”, Titus demanded seconds later. The brothers were just as confused, Solomon looked bewildered and when Titus turned to Elaine, ready to repeat his demand in a much louder voice, he trailed off. The inquisitor seemed to be as shaken as they were.
“Mistress Elaine”, he said as calmly as he could. “Would you please explain to us what is going on here?”
“Apparently”, she replied in a perfectly controlled tone and Titus could see how much it cost her. “Inquisitor Laraise has requested the help of Brother Vox in a covert investigation against me.”
“And now she gets to grab him for a whole day?”, Titus asked.
“That is the procedure, yes”, Elaine said slowly. “I was wondering what she was doing here. The ‘Lawbringer’ arrived a day ahead of you and Laraise announced herself even before I sent you down to the surface.”
“But Vox was here for less than an hour!”, Titus insisted. “No offence but that seems a little short to search the whole ship for corruption.”
“There are means of investigation we have no insight in, Brother Titus”, the inquisitor said mildly, shooting him a long, thoughtful glance. “But, I agree. I have gotten to know Vox as an intelligent man and this seems rather insubstantial. We will know more tomorrow. Killian?” She waved for her legate to put the cube on the table.

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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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