Never Ending Fables
Epics of Redemption
Fables of the Unforgiven
Tomes of Valour
Doctrinae Unforgiven
Walk among them.
Become as they are.
Deliver judgement,
For the Lion and for the Emperor.
                                                                                                    - Sapphon, Master of Chaplains.

The dust swirled, whipped into miniature tornadoes by the stifling desert wind.  The heat of the day had long since reached its peak and it would be only an hour or so before the numbing cold of the night descended.  Hart hated the desert.  He stood, eyes fixed on the distant township of Arat that appeared infrequently through his window only to disappear without warning behind the dust storms and the encroaching gloom.  With a sigh of resignation he turned away and returned to the spartan living area of the shack that had been his home for the past two months.  Morton sat at the wooden table that dominated the centre of the building.  He was carefully oiling his knife, as he had every night since they'd arrived.  He looked up as Hart approached.  "Did you see anything?" he queried.

Hart lowered himself onto the remaining chair.  "It would be impossible to see them arrive if we were one hundred yards away with these accursed storms," he spat in annoyance.  "Are you certain they will keep to their schedule?"

Morton lowered his blade, "Omega said they would be here today.  That is all we need to know."
Hart lowered his head briefly.  "Perhaps we should go to the town and wait for them?  With the night here they could slip in undetected and be gone before we can react.  What if Omega cannot reach us?  We cannot afford to lose them again."

Morton stood and moved towards the bunks propped against one wall of the shack.  "He will find a way to let us know in good time."  He gestured to the beds, "We should sleep."

Hart nodded his head slowly, "Alright.  You sleep now.  I will keep watch and wake you later."  Nodding, Morton lay down on the lower of the cramped bunks, and Hart pulled his chair over to the Comm unit in the corner of the shack.  He wrapped his cloak about him as the wind rushed through the gaps in the shack's corrugated sides.  It was going to be a long night.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The sky spat lightning down on the interrogator from the blood red sky.  Beside him a bolt struck, exploding into a rocky outcrop and sending jagged splinters of stone outwards.  Reflexively, he shielded his eyes from the glare and continued his climb.  Sulphurous rain tore into his face, certain death had he not been enclosed within his armour, and streamed in torrents down the path he had just climbed.  Above him a sleek shape shot forwards, the sign of a talon on its side and the deadly form of an assault cannon slung beneath it.  They were hunting.

The lightning flashed again, and he saw through his visor the shape of a man a few metres ahead.  He was desperately scrabbling up the mountain, unaware of his pursuers' presence.  Tightening his grip around the power sword he carried, the interrogator increased his pace.  The footing was unsteady, and more than once he stumbled as the loose rock was washed away by the deluge.  Where was he running?  The interrogator could not understand.  He could not hope to escape and yet he moved ever upwards.  He pushed the questions from his mind and redoubled his efforts.  Again the figure of his prey flashed before him.  He was gaining now, there was no doubt.  He reached the top of a small rise and stopped to catch his breath.  The figure before him had slowed.  "Varas!" the interrogator screamed over the din of the weather.  The figure turned.  An expression of terror crossed his face, but almost instantly was replaced by one of determination.  He shouted something back, but it was lost in the wind.

The interrogator leapt forward and the figure shot away.  Almost instantly the terrain steepened and he was forced to use his free hand to pull himself up.  The man was just above him now, his movements frantic as he fought to stay ahead of the chaplain.  Abruptly the path levelled, and the figure burst into a run once more.  As the interrogator reached the top he saw that they were on a plateau.  Judging by the clouds surrounding them he guessed that it was the summit.  The chase would end here.  He pulled an ornate bolt pistol from his side, and spoke across the Comm net  "This is Lexus.  I have him.  Squads Delta one and two form up on my position."

Sighting carefully he aimed a shot at his prey's leg.  A single bolt speared forth, but ricocheted from the man's crude environment suit.  Cursing silently, the interrogator continued his pursuit.  A dark spire of rock loomed skywards on his left, and the figure before him ducked around it.  The chaplain increased his pace once more and turned the corner at a dead run.  Ahead of him, framed against the lightning storm, sat a transport craft.  The man had reached it and was clambering up the boarding ramp into its armoured hull.  Already the chaplain could hear the low whine of the pilot gunning the craft's plasma engines.  "Echo group, require immediate intercept in sector 3!  Respond!" he yelled.  The Comm net was broadcasting static.  The lightning must have hit the relays.  The transport's landing jets flared into life, lifting the craft up from the plateau and out of his reach.  In desperation he emptied his bolt pistol into its side, but it was too late.  The transport rose from the mountain, manoeuvred clumsily and shot skywards, heading for space.  In anger and frustration, the chaplain lashed out at the rock around him with his power sword, sending sparks high into the dark skies.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The jolt of the transport moving over a dune jerked Caines awake.  He sat up, instantly alert.  In the front of the vehicle, silhouetted by the rising sun, he could see the muscular figure of Haden.  He was hunched over the transport's controls.  Through the cracked view screen Caines could see a collection of buildings drawing steadily closer, a grey stain on the horizon.  Forcibly burying his contempt for the man, Caines moved forwards.  "Morning," Haden said in a tone that was failing to disguise its owner's suspicion.

"Morning," replied Caines, "We're nearly there I see."

"Right," said Haden, ending the conversation.  He was powerfully built man, but his face wore a trapped expression.  His eyes darted from side to side, as if constantly expecting ambush and his hand repeatedly strayed to the holster at his waste.  Caines had met Haden and his employees two months ago and after several days of drinking and talking, had finally persuaded the merchant to carry him to the township of Arat.  Haden journeyed to Arat regularly in order to refuel the fleet of fuel haulers he operated, but in the meantime Caines had had to endure weeks of desert travel, as the merchant went about his business.  He was thankful it was finally coming to an end.

He turned and walked to the back of the transport.  It would not be long now, he thought.    Discreetly, he touched the amulet that he wore clasped around his right wrist, and a tiny rune lit up on the hidden display that was projected in front of his left eye.  This task complete, he sat back down and waited for the journey to end, his hand reflexively rubbing the black pearl that hung hidden around his neck.

A low chime swung Hart's head around swiftly to the Comm unit.  A small rune flashed up on the display, bathing his face in green light.  Morton moved to his side studying the screen intently.  "That's Omega's signal," he confirmed.  "They must be approaching Arat now."

Hart looked up at him, "The time has arrived then."  He rose and moved to the small locker stood by the door.

Morton bent over the Comm and manipulated the control panel.  "I'm issuing the signal," he reported.  "We have three hours."  Hart returned from the locker holding his knife and bolt pistol.  He handed Morton his weapons and strapped his own beneath his cloak.  The two exchanged glances, gave a final look to their home, and left for Arat across the desert.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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