Chaplain Halrun Hal of the Word Bearers Legion strode determinedly down the darkened hallway. Though he made every effort to seem aloof, he could feel cold sweat on his back – he hated these meetings with the Herald. Especially now as he had to report on the unbelievable disaster that had transpired on Caligine. The description by the agent defied all belief. The mere thought of it briefly made his stride falter.
Halrun stopped in front of the doorway that led into the Herald’s chamber. He steeled himself for a moment, drawing on wrath and hate to calm his nerves.
The dark room appeared empty as he marched inside. Like an animal that could sense the presence of a predator, Halrun could sense the presence of the Herald. Let him come, he thought, let him try something. His hands fell to his weapons.
“Our understanding,” an calm voice suddenly said out of the shadows. “…was that you had the Caligine operation under control, Chaplain… Short of the loyalists bringing the entire war fleet of Sol Invictus to bear, how could they possibly disrupt it?“
Halrun had spun around to face the voice. When he spoke, his voice betrayed only a small hint of the discomfort he felt. “The entity arrived as prophesized…" he paused, “But there were… complications.”.
“Complications?” the Herald scoffed. “…Complications in the form of those same loyalists who saved the governor on Populonia? The ones YOU should have finished off on Terminal 509? The ones YOU should have finished off when you had them on Cassandria? And this time they were how many? Three?”
Halrun could sense that the figure was smiling but he managed to keep his choler in check. “Go on,” he muttered threateningly. “…make your move against me if you must.”
“Oh, we do not blame you alone, Chaplain,” the Herald said, as it finally appeared out of the shadows. “Those loyalists have shown remarkable resilience. Nevertheless, we feel that we might ought to deal with them before the next phase of our operation.”
“That’s is being taken care of as we speak, Herald,” Halrun said, carefully eying the predatory features of the other. “The Sorcerer will see to it.”
“…The Sorcerer?” the Herald raised an eyebrow.
“Is that a problem… Brother?” Halrun countered, adding the last word mockingly.
“No Chaplain,” the Herald said with an obvious strained patience. “…the Sorcerer will certainly do. We merely assumed that he would be preoccupied with a more crucial part of our operation by now.”
“We can postpone that operation for the moment, ” Halrun said, ignoring the other’s tone. “Right now we need those subservient dogs dead, and the Sorcerer can see to that. Phase three is already underway, his departure from Cassandria will change nothing”
The Herald seemed to think it over for a few seconds. “Agramon will be displeased, we think.”
“So?” Halrun spat. “Agramon will answer to our master.”
“Nevertheless, Chaplain, we must conclude this operation within the prearranged timetable. While Agramon’s embarrassing defeat was a disappointment… truly,” the creature chuckled darkly, a sound that sent a cold shiver down Halrun’s spine. “…it was but a minor setback.”
“A minor setback?” Halrun nearly choked on the words.
“I think you misunderstand, Chaplain… Caligine was not a failure. It was merely the beginning.”
“You must truly move in exalted circles, Herald, that you can remain so confident.” Halrun mocked.
But the other merely turned his head slightly. “Trust in the Word, Chaplain,” the Herald said. “…and you will be illuminated.“
Halrun cast the other a weary look – he hated that his co-conspirator somehow always seemed to be a step ahead of him.
“You have no faith, Chaplain." the Herald went on, “But no matter, I have every faith in our agents on Cassandria. That apple is ripe for the plucking, is it not?”
“There are no opposition forces of any repute on Cassandria, " Halrun agreed, “most of their best men have been dispatched to Populonia,” He smiled, “courtesy of our loyalist friends.”
“Good,” the Herald snickered, “then perhaps I can persuade you to leave that operation to your agents?”
Halrun’s eyes narrowed. “I suppose so. And what, if anything, do you have in mind for me then?”
" Then I would beg you to travel to Populonia and prepare for the fourth phase of our plan."
Before Halrun could answer, the Herald took a long step towards him. “And by the way, Chaplain," the other said with an almost begging tone, “have you tracked the human female who helped the loyalists on Cassandria? We would very much like to know more about her.”
“What? The mortal girl?” Halrun asked, trying to sound unaffected by the unnerving proximity of the other. “If she is so important to you, I’ll have my agents there track her down and bring her to us.”
“Yes, that’s good, Chaplain, see that they do,” the Herald said thoughtfully, almost hesitantly.
“Problem?” Halrun picked up on the other’s strange change of mood.
“Probably not, Chaplain… Anyway, we will confer with Agramon, he will see our point of view, we think. Was there anything else?.”
“No Herald," Halrun said, feeling tired of the others insolent tone, “I will depart for Populonia. I will fight the loyalists while you sit here… doing whatever it is that you do.”
If the Herald took offense, it didn’t show it, “You do that Chaplain,” the figure merely said. “But I’d advise you to make sure no petty mortal interferes with our plan this time.”
Halrun cursed as he left the room. Halfway down the hallway he stopped and looked around. He could swear that he could hear mocking laughter somewhere in the darkness. But there was nothing. Chaplain Halrun Hal resumed his purposeful stride. There was work to be done.
“Allecto Control, this is the Imperial auxiliary cruiser Independence, captain Alfidus commanding."
Nothing but static. Captain Alfidus was concerned. With all that was going on, this did not exactly tickle his fancy. Allecto Control was usually more uptight that a rich man’s concubine. This was something you could expect on Populonia maybe, but not Cassandria.
The governor was standing on the bridge behind him. Well, not standing, more or less resting on a recliner and carried by a few servants.
“Your Excellency,” Alfidus said irritably, “I would appreciate it if you stayed in your quarters for the duration.”
“The quarters on this ships is inadequate,” the governor sneered, “Are we there soon?”
“Yes Excellency,” Alfidus exchanged glances with his comms officer. The officer shrugged. “but we are having some communications problems,” Alfidus went on, “probably, eh, stellar interference.”
The governor stared at him, his eyes betraying intelligence, “Well captain,”_ he said, “perhaps we should reconsider then. After all, Astartes did try to assassinate me. Astartes! Who knows where else they might be hiding? Volscia is out, the Fabricator General dislikes me, and the place stinks. But perhaps Sol Invictus would be a better choice?”
" Excellency, please," Alfidus was in no mood for any more advice from that man, _"we’re already inbound, we’re switching to visual ri-."
He trailed off. Before him lay Cassandria, but something wasn’t right. The whole planet seemed to be engulfed in a strange cloud cover.
“Captain,” the governor asked solemnly “is there anyone on Cassandria that you can trust? And I mean truly trust.”
He could only think of one – “Comms, get me Equester Estenen Furiosa on an encrypted line.”
Captain Alfidus was waiting tensely for a reply when the Independence entered the atmosphere of Cassandria.
- Meet with Equester Estenen Furiosa