After their arrival on Erioch, Titus’ impatience knew no limits. When the servant finally came to fetch him to the commander, he was in no mood to lose any more time. Having spent the last weeks of travel in passable calmness, the tension had returned to Titus when the docking had begun. There was no room in his considerations for a gasping human, so the mortal had no choice but to adopt an undignified run to keep up. He gave up after half the distance to the first transportation servitor.
Never had Titus harboured less appreciation for Erioch’s magnificence, never been so impatient to cross a distance.
When he finally turned into the corridor of Ferone’s audience chamber, he saw Grimfang leaving it. The Space Wolf spotted him and halted to wait but changed his mind a moment later. He disappeared towards the shooting range.
Titus had no spare capacity to send baleful glances after him. He was busy cursing his far too good memory.
It was useful most of the time but all of Erioch was filled with memories of Vox. Right in front of that door they had stood on his first arrival. His little brother had handed him the report…
He knocked almost before he had come to a halt and hurried in as soon as the invitation came. Under no circumstances would he allow himself to stand outside and dwell on the past.
The room was unchanged and the commander was working through the usual piles of paper.
“Commander”, Titus greeted and gave a smart salute. For a moment, his gaze was drawn to the only sealed scroll on the table. It looked remarkably like the one he had once carried in. It was reasonable to suspect that Vox had chosen Grimfang as her messenger today.
The commander treated him to a long and thoughtful glance before addressing him: “Sergeant Titus”, he said in his calm, deep voice. “I suspect that you are aware of why you are here.”
“Yes, commander”, Titus confirmed. The Blood Angel with the white-blonde hair examined his Watch Sergeant attentively.
“I just had a few words with the sergeant of Gladius. An impressive rescue, I have to say.”
“The Emperor guided our hands”, Titus said stiffly.
“Personally it seems”, Ferone commented. “Sergeant Grimfang mentioned the involvement of your librarian especially.” He left the sentence hanging but Titus had reached the end of suspense he was able to endure.
“Permission to speak freely?”, he burst out.
Ferone shot him another calculating glance.
“Granted”, he allowed then.
“How is she possible? How can she even pose as an Astartes?”
The light shining from above made Ferone’s features hard and pale. When he lowered his head slightly to glance at the desk, it aged him by centuries.
“My apothecaries tell me that Vox’s appearance is a deformity”, he said calmly. “By gene, he is a man. Since the gene seed has flourished in him, I do not question this but I have to admit that I have yet to see stranger deformities.”
“May I ask how she ended up here?”, Titus inquired. He caught his hands curling into fists on their own accord and tried to keep them in order.
“He, sergeant”, the commander corrected him and leaned forward on the desk. “Don’t let the female pronoun creep in. It’s better this way. As you see, explaining isn’t easy and there will be those who won’t even listen. And: Yes, you may ask. About twelve years ago, I received the top-secret message that an Astartes librarian of an unknown chapter had been apprehended by the Imperial Guard on Pellor. After the mention that they had taken the precaution to separate said codicier from his weapons and armour, the report made very little sense. I was trying to decide what to do about it when Epistolary Corven came in to inform me that the Omega Vault had opened. A tarot deck had been revealed. The librarian who discovered it had died on trying to pick it up, so Corven had ordered everyone to stay out and come to report. Apparently, one of the cards had lain turned.”
“The Voice”, Titus guessed.
Ferone nodded slowly.
“Ah yes. Vox mentioned that you can look at them. I take it, you saw it then?”
“Just after I found out.” Titus knew, he was blushing for the memory. A naked angel with a sword and she looked just like Vox. At least in the places he usually saw.
“Then you know whom it shows”, Ferone said and Titus tried not to choke on the memory of pale skin, stretched over bulging muscles.
“Yes”, he croaked, trying to get a grip on himself. The thought that Ferone could not have seen the card made it a little easier to focus on the present. That this Corven had ogled at her was less pleasing.
“I trust, I don’t have to tell you what a mighty omen that was”, Ferone stated severely.
“No, commander”, Titus confirmed. She had never mentioned that her cards had been found in the Omega Vault. What a strange occurrence indeed.
“While we talked about it, Corven saw the report on my desk and requested to be sent out immediately. He brought back Vox and then, he brought him into the Omega Vault. I can’t tell you what happened. I’m not allowed down there since I’m not a librarian but afterwards, Corven came to me.” Ferone drew back from the table and took a few steps through the room. Thoughtfully, he folded his hands behind his back.
“Corven and I have stood through a lot and I have never seen him as unsettled as at that moment.” He paused and then shook his head as if to dislodge the thought. “I gather that Vox drew a card that told him he had arrived where he needed to be.” Ferone turned his noble, pale face to Titus. “So we found a way for him to stay”, he concluded.
“Who knows of… him?”, Titus inquired.
“Besides Corven and I, only Tiberius and Dankwart. I had sent Aegis with Corven back then and Tiberius had been with them already. All the other team members of this time have died. Dankwart knows because I need one of the apothecaries on board and I have reason to trust in his character. Also, he looks quite like Vox, only a little more male. Very useful in the circumstances. I summoned him especially for this task.”
Titus could see that the commander gritted his teeth once or twice. Then his gaze danced over the desk for a moment.
“I will give you the chance to withdraw your bailsmanship”, he informed Titus. “I will split Aegis if you choose to do so. The time isn’t bad. Two of my officers have applied for Vox to be transferred under their command. I can place him and Dankwart on one of the options without arousing suspicion.”
Titus gritted his teeth. He was certain that Grimfang was one of them. Who was the other?
“Since the Inquisition still has their eyes on you, leaving the Deathwatch might prove politically volatile for you but we might be able to make this happen”, the commander continued meanwhile. “I trust I don’t have to mention that Vox can’t leave and I must impress upon you that his secret falls under your Vow of Silence for your services here.”
The men looked at each other.