Commissar Hector Tarkus, Lord Ruler of the Dominion, was not having a good morning.

Small shards of glass crackled and snapped under his boots as he strode into the round chamber at the bottom of the Protectorate Archive. The smell of blood, a scent he'd come to know well, hung pungent and metallic in the still air. He paused in front of the hulking corpse of the Yagnoloth, which was slowly dissolving into a pool of dark ichor. The vile liquid mingled with the blood on the floor, swirling into spiraling clouds of black on red. Tarkus exhaled slowly through his nose.

"Crand is dead."

The voice didn't enter his ears, so much as it simply appeared in his mind. He was familiar with the sensation. He turned to regard Overseer Tirella as she approached him from the stairway. Her expression was somehow even more sour than usual.

"A shame," he said curtly. "The Order will be worse for it. Overseer Crand was a good soldier."

Tirella averted her gaze. Tarkus knew people well enough to know that this woman had no fond feelings for the dead mage.

"What do we know about the group that's responsible?"

"The Stormguard." She looked back up into Tarkus's eyes. "They call themselves a company of adventurers. Glorified mercenaries, really. Zant's eyes have descriptions of all their members, and I've met five of them in person."

She started listing off the group's members. As she spoke, something nagged at the back of Tarkus's memory. There was a faint familiarity there, but he couldn't quite place it. Odd, he thought. He wasn't the type to forget a face.

"Very well. If I'm not mistaken, Crand's death will mean a promotion for you, correct?"

Tirella hesitated, then nodded. The Bluecloaks had a strict hierarchy, and someone had to fill Crand's place.

"Good. Inform Erasmus that I have a special task for you in your new role."

Tirella's eyes widened. Tarkus could see her shrinking back as he let his cold fury show in his expression. He stepped closer, towering over her as he hissed through his clenched teeth.

"You will find these people and kill them. I don't want them arrested, or even made examples of. I want them scoured from the face of this nation. You have access to divisions 4 and 6, and anything else you need to see this through. Have I made myself clear?"

Another nod.

"Good. I expect you to see this done or die trying."

He left her there, standing in the blood. His boots crushed glass shards to powder as he walked away.

- TO BE CONTINUED -

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