The room was small, cold with a tense lingering atmosphere devoid of any sense of intimacy. The droning hum of a floating servo-skull dispelled any illusion of calm, and it buzzed irritably around the heads of the occupants, the hourglass in its jaw nought but a stark reminder of the grim task ahead. A broad vein throbbed at the centre of the Psykers forehead, indicating the immense amount of stress he’d been placed under.
‘Again,’ instructed a stoic-voiced individual from underneath a broad-rimmed hat.
‘I… I can’t,’ his reedy voice replied in protest.
Twin hands banged on the edge of the table, ‘You can and you will,’ the Inquisitor forced. A leather-gloved hand picked up a pile of dog-eared cards and shuffled them before slamming the deck in front of his subordinate’s slumped frame. ‘Draw,’ he insisted.
Tobias’ quivering fingers picked up a series of three cards and placed them face down in front of him. How many times had he been forced to attempt Divination and seen nothing but the intricate gilding on the backs of the cards staring up at him?
‘Begin,’ ordered the oppressive Inquisitor, and the servo-skull clicked as an hourglass timer turned in place of where its jawbone should have been.
His eye twitched in consternation as he stared at the cards, willing them to reveal their secrets until his eyes started to water, blurring the ornate patterns into an obscene mess of colour. His fingers lingered above the card, dreading to touch it again with his bare skin. He could hear the uncomfortable squeal of the Inquisitor’s boots on the floor, every grain of sand falling in the timer, his own ragged breath, and he drew in a deep inhale, uttering calming mantra to block out all distractions.
Heat crashed over his pallid, gaunt face, scorching his fingers, he recoiled from the card as though burned. ‘A fire sweeping across a city,’ he started to explain, his hairless brow knitting, ‘but there’s something odd. It’s wrong somehow. Colour. Vibrancy. Origin,’ the words meant little as they spewed from his throat. ‘It’s all wrong.’
His hand emerged from under the table, and he touched the middle of the three cards. ‘A door. It’s huge,’ he breathed. ‘I can hear something from the other side, moaning, screaming. A hand is reaching for the handle,’ his frown deepened. ‘There’s something etched there, a symbol. I can’t see it properly, I don’t want to see it,’ Tobias lamented, fear crippling his abilities.
‘Look,’ the Inquisitor instructed, coaxing him through honeyed tones.
The Psyker shook his head but obeyed. He hovered over the card and closed his eyes to enable him to see better. Hot bile rose in his throat, and he threw himself back from the table. The stool he’d been settled upon for most of the day clattered to the floor. His eyes were wide as he spluttered the acrid taste of vomit from his mouth. As his eyes snapped open, they paled with glaucoma. ‘It’s fire, too,’ he squealed. Drool oozed from the corner of his mouth, he wiped it away with the back of his hand. His fingers unknowingly traced the symbol in the air, an orb wreathed in ever-changing flame. The Psyker took a step back from the table, his near sightless eyes looking for the movement of the Inquisitor.
‘Continue,’ came a clipped decree.
‘I can’t,’ Tobias whimpered as he fumbled towards the table, his breath as ragged as it had been before starting, ‘I need a minute,’ he begged for a moment of respite.
‘You don’t have a minute,’ the Inquisitor hissed, his gaze flicking to the sand running down the skull-laden hourglass. He pulled the stool from where it had fallen and slammed it back in front of the table, pulling the terrified Psyker with him. ‘Read.’
Tears flowed down his withered cheeks, and he placed his palm on the final card. A hurried gasp erupted from his throat. ‘His Lordship stands upon a bloodied pyre,’ he could see the scene clearly in his mind’s eye. Vibrant fire licked at the Planetary Governor’s booted feet as he was bound and gagged to a single, central pole. ‘A hand is holding an archaic torch, encased in flames,’ he could see the glove clearly, dark well-worn leather with metal skull studs across the knuckles. He’d seen those remarkable mitts before.
‘The torch, who holds it?’ asked the Inquisitor, the unmistakable click of a small firearms holster popped as he awaited the answer.
Slowly Tobias opened his eyes and whispered, ‘You,’ he stared accusingly at the man before him.
The Inquisitor leaned forwards and turned each of the cards over, revealing their pictures, a nova, a silver door and an executioner; reversed.
The Psyker looked at the revealed pictures, seeing them for the first time. ‘We can put an end to this,’ he hurried, tapping the table below the cards, reluctant to touch them again after what he had been shown.
‘You’re right. I can,’ the Inquisitor hissed, his expression a loathsome sneer. A bolt pistol levelled towards the pulsing vein on Tobias’ head, and as the last grain of sand from the hourglass filtered down to join its brethren, the pistol fired. A mass-reactive round imploded the Psykers skull, splattering bone and brain matter against the far wall.
He had the last remaining pieces of the puzzle firmly in his gloved hand. Now all he had to do was prevent them from happening.
About the Author
New to the realm of fiction writing Jenn is an enthusiast for the consumption of stories in all their various guises with a particular leaning towards Black Library publications, Historical Fiction and Orc Smut.