The faint hint of blood is what arose the Colonel. He was asleep at his desk after an 8 hour strategy meeting with a number of outsiders. His sergeant didn’t speak up, Kriegians. His head rose to see Captain Creel Poth making haste towards him. She seemed to have been watching like a vulturax watches a wounded grox. He ran a hand through his hair and placed his hat upon his ruffled hair and draped his long coat over him.
“Colonel, we have urgent matters to discuss. Sir are you quite ok?” She looked at him with concern. That worried him. She was usually a wall of properness and propriety.
“What am I dying or something?” The colonel said jokingly, he thought upon capitalising this moment of real human emotion to build a standing relationship with this distant woman.
“Are you?” she said meaning the words, “You are bleeding from your nose.”
“Throne!” He never considered it could be his blood. He started feeling it now he peered down to his stomach. A small blade was lodged in his stomach. His alarm was evident.
“Sir I shall fetch a magos.” she said turning on her heels and without missing a beat marching from the tent they had jury-rigged into a command centre.
“No!” He said, a little too forcefully, he knew the knife had not inflicted a wound but he certainly did not want to indicate to the rank and file their commander could so easily be accessed and eliminated. That would shatter the already wavering moral of his disparate forces. “Collect those who seek an audience, I shall deal with their concerns in person.” He then stumbled out, “In here I would like to retain my seat.”The captain turned, eyed him carefully, then nodded.
“Understood sir.” With that she was gone. Harven ripped the blade from his inside. Surprisingly it left no mark, no ruin or scar. That was worrying. There was no hole in his clothes, the cloth seemed intact. The blade had vanished when he turned back to it. Very worrying indeed. He had no time for delusions or mysteries. Now he had to lead his men as best he could.
The colonel had managed before the meeting began to instruct the long range mortar fir to fire upon a fragile lake structure to the East creating a natural barrier to the location. He had also assisted in the repulsion of a small entourage of the so called corpse warriors that churned from the castle upon the hill. He had seen that only sustained and dedicated las-fire would down there number, they were incredibly resilient if not ponderous. He had believed them to be easy picking when first arriving but they were evolving, always faster and stronger. They could tear a man limb from limb in an instant if they entered their personal space. Still he had only suffered minor casualties from actual combat. The land was the true enemy. Starvation and ice flows were constant and the wildlife was rather aggressive. Still he had tactical and political matters to attend currently. The meeting began when a number had arrived. Another tactical briefing. In attendance were himself, The captain by his side, the count, always sulking like he was expecting preferential treatment even these intense conditions, the masked woman who had supplied an amount of information that seemed to come from both mechanicus and ecclisiarchical sources, Suzimoto his childhood friend and commander of his mechanised division as pitiful as it was and troublingly the Inquisitor.
“I shall begin,” the Inquisitor announced allowing a moment for the room to hunker in for the long haul. The majority of the beginning was basic troop movements, supply distribution and other such logistical matters. 3 hours slogged by. The sound of ordinance resonated from outside. Recaf was produced by attendants every hour. The next 2 hours was spent reviewing the enemy lines, casualty rates and projections of enemy procedures. This was to be a long dragged out battle. There was unlikely to be a single battle to dictate the outcome. Harven managed disputes disagreements and clashes in personality quickly and completely. He could not allow chaos to break out. Following this was the report from Thais Minana. The Inquisitor’s pet psyker entered the tent. She spoke on dark times ahead prophecy and other such nonsense. In Harven’s mind psykers were mutants. Creatures too warped to be considered human any longer. He allowed her to speak but he disregarded what she said. The only conversation he talked in length on was the tactical operations of the dark elder as he was considered the expert on their raider tactics. The meeting finally fizzled out. All left apart from the Inquisitor. Seeing this Suzimoto stood at the tent flap till Harven waved her away.
“Inquisitor what is it you need of me.” He started with the open question so he could then explain away what he could not do. His resources were scarce and could not be spared.
“Not anything from the resources you have gathered.” He tried not to react to being read so openly. “I am asking for your personal accompaniment to a tomb. You shall be required.”
“I cannot leave the camp. I…” he stopped. He saw her produce a strategy map from a Vellax hide satchel, one lined with purity seals and assumedly specific wards set up by the ecclesiarchy. He saw a movement of Orks. He would have to move tonight. Through the night to avoid them. He wouldn’t lose resources. He wouldn’t lose men. He had been stolen the chance to prepare and fight of the green skins. He had been stopped from any other manoeuvre than retreat. He had been played by someone better at this game than him. He had no inkling of the Orkish movements, the tombs or anything else dictated by this simple movement. “I will not accompany you, I shall send Sgt Stagler and his auxiliaries with you. I shall not be forced into this. I cannot be. You have made me retreat and robbed my pride but you shall have the men. I cannot fight you here.” He raised his hand in compliance. He had already realised his being that didn’t matter but the considerable pressure she had put on him was necessary for him to follow her plan. He almost admired this, almost.
“Thank you. You are an intelligent man. This is acceptable.” She said this placing the map onto his desk. She was a bully but that was her right. He had control here. She could only take control in these underhanded ways. He felt safe in this fact. He had been beaten this time but not the next.
“If that is all Inquisitor?”
“Well there is one more thing. I understand you are lacking supplies and men. There shall be a forcible drop 20 clicks north East of here, they shall reunite with the group once they are prepared.” He nodded unsure of what to think. “I wish no ill will between us, I hope you do not hold a petty grudge.” He was unsure of the woman. She was very odd, he would regard her more carefully from her on.
Harven had began to prepare the movement of his men. A number setting mines, a number scouting and securing a route, the majority collected the supplies together. After the Colonel had finished in his order he consulted with Suzimoto.
“I am in need on council if you are not burdened by duty.”
Smiling she said “Of course Harven I can speak, you are my commanding officer are you not.”
“I’m sorry it is not anything major just a single question. Can we win?” It wasn’t that he doubted, he couldn’t afford to, he just wanted reassurance. She smiled again and left without a word. He understood yet had no worries. The Tomb then. He supposed it could be defensible. It was at least not in the territory of the dead or the warpath of the Orks. He would see. He was ready.