The troops around the palace were so disorganized Secundus would have swarn they were guided by Chaos. Above the obstacles, snarls, and masses of men he could make out the central tower of the Cardinal's palace rising over the grounds. It was still standing despite the blast that had shaken it hours earlier. Troops of the 24th Hibernia in their bright red coats shuffled out of the way of the Land Raider as it eased up the road. He could see the flush of victory in their faces, and many met his eye, saluting up to him in his perch in the tank's copola. Secundus returned a gesture of blessing to them as the moved past, and most smiled and nodded. Secundus could only smile in return.
Rumour had it that their General, Moltke, had lost a hand in the explosion at the palace saving one of his men when the void bomb had gone off. That act was representative of what he had heard of the Hibernian's spirit. The guardsmen had acquitted themselves admirably in the preceding days of battle, and stood their ground despite punishing losses. Their perseverance had paid off, and they had returned the favour to the heretics here on the Palace grounds.
They finally broke free of the press, and Secundus could make out the third company's banner flying over the gates to what appeared to be a small garden. "Bring us up to those gates Brother Peres," he said to his driver, who occupied the forward copola. Secundus could make out Peres' nod, and the tanks surged forward in a smooth brust of acceleration. Secundus pulled himself clear of the hatch, and as the tank ground to a halt before the gate he jumped to the ground. His bodyguard poured out of the Raider's hatches to join him. Brother Wayan was on sentry, eyes alert and gaze steady. He saluted as Secundus landed, "It is good to see you sir, brothers."
"And you Wayan, all is well?" Secundus said.
"Well enough for now, Emperor willing. The Captain is expecting you."
"Thank you brother, Emperor keep you." Secundus and his men strode into the garden. Inside he found a place of beauty, trees gracefully arranged, paths that carefully curved among the verbage, and many varieties of flowers all clearly arranged to complement the overall design. He was pleased to see his brothers had set up their encampment with an eye to conserving the garden, gear and men carefully placed where they could do the least damage. After several greetings and conversations with his brothers he made his way to the center of the garden, where a gazebo overlooked it in its entirety. Hector had set up his command post there, and monitors and communications equipment were clustered under the roof. The captain's bodyguard surrounded the structure. They parted to allow Secundus access, and Secundus returned the favour by gesturing his guards to remain outside the gazebo.
Secundus found Hector the far edge of the gazebo, hands gripping the rail, gazing at the palace walls. He stepped beside Hector and placed his armoured hands gently on the rail. The chaplain could see the rail under Hector's gloves was crushed, and as Secundus followed Hector's gaze he could see the garden under the palace wall was shattered and torn. "Unfortunate that war should affect a place of beauty so."
Hector didn't move, but spoke softly, "House Red's mole mortars."
Secundus could see the corners of Hector's mouth turn down. He hoped it was a sign of displeasure at the damage as opposed to disdain for it. "Ah, but then what should I expect from their sort."
Hector said nothing for a moment, but his grip eased. "It is not over."
"Only for now. Paris is sweeping the city with the other two companies. Some lackeys will be found, but for now Blodsburg is secure. You have done well."
"Not well enough. If I had arrived sooner fewer would have escaped."
Secundus grabbed Hector and spun him so they were facing. He could see Hector's eyes widen and teeth bare, "Damn it," he shouted, "You have crushed the enemy at every turn, and their every word and act show they hold for you a full measure of fear." Hector's hands came up, wrestling with Secundus' grip, and the chaplain felt his hold slipping, "Emperor curse you, get a hold of yourself."
Hector gave a low snarl and broke free, and Secundus stumbled backwards. From their sheaths Hector's lighting claws sprang forth, shimmering.
Seucundus knew he only had an instant, "What would your brother think!" he shouted.
Hector sagged, and the fire went out in his eyes. He spoke quietly, "You bastard."
Secundus ignored the insult, "You have to keep control Hector, the Emperor needs you, your men need you." Secundus paused, "I need you. You are right, this is not over. Emperor knows if it ever will be."
Hector said nothing, but nodded briefly.
"We also must beware our allies, I have received disturbing intelligence."
"What is that?"
"Brother Dane saw Achilles reveal an Inquisitorial seal."
Hector face brightened in an instant, and he laughed."
Secundus shook his head, "I'm glad you find this amusing."
Hector was smiling as he spoke, "You have no idea brother. The high and mighty Raven Guard captain whoring for the Inquisition, imagine that."
Secundus smiled briefly, "I hadn't looked at it that way. Nevertheless, be on your guard."
"Fear not Brother. Am I not at all times the soul of discretion?"
Secundus shook his head and smiled again, "Be wary, Hector, this is no laughing matter."
Secundus hoped Hector really did understand. "I also want you to be embarked by nightfall, there is no use in leaving ourselves exposed."
Hector cocked his head, "And what will I use for a ship?"
"The prize ship is yours. Name it what you will."
The captain paused, but only briefly, "She will be known as the Nemesis."
Korvus 17:43, 9 February 2008 (UTC) Nicholas Cioran