The Inquisitor arrived shortly after sundown. One of the gate guards found Harrow in the caverns below the tower, reviewing the latest additions to their massive armory. The guard was breathless when he arrived, but all he needed to gasp was the word 'Inquisitor' to send the rest of the room into a flurry of motion. Harrow frowned. It was rare for an Inquisitor to leave the capital city, even rarer for one to travel this far north. The Inquisitor's arrival was not a good sign.
"Hide the tech." His men were already preparing to do so. He turned to Elisor, his second in command. "Make sure the Machinist isn't seen." Elisor nodded and left.
Harrow followed the gate guard up into the tower proper. Four other men followed him out and sealed the thick metal door to the caverns behind them before hiding the doorway behind a stack of empty crates. By the time they were done, the lower floor would look like a simple storage area. The rest of his men would be sweeping through the tower, locking away anything else that would be inconvenient for the government to find.
Harrow schooled his expression into a bland mask as he stepped outside. Most of his frown carried through, but that was to be expected with an Inquisitor on his doorstep. His eyebrow rose slightly as the man's caravan drew up to the tower. There were seven armed guard riding with the Inquisitor. At least he'd come prepared for the north.
The Inquisitor's red robes brushed against the ground as he stepped out of the first of the two armored trucks and walked forward. He was smiling, but it wasn't a pleasant smile. It reminded Harrow of some of the officers he'd served with in the army, men who expected to get what they wanted—regardless of the consequences—and were more than happy to kill whoever they needed to in the process.
"Good evening, Colonel Harrow. Or is it Lord now?" The Inquisitor had a smooth, almost musical voice. He probably preached at Court regularly. He seemed like the kind of man who was overly eager to give sermons.
"It's Lord Harrow. I'm retired."
The Inquisitor's smile widened. "You can take the man out of the military, but you can't take the military out of the man. Or so they say. I can see that retirement has been treating you well. You look as fit as ever. You've built up a nice little colony for yourself way out here."
Harrow's eyes narrowed. Had he met this man before? The voice sounded vaguely familiar but Harrow tended to avoid any and all contact with Inquisitors—when given the choice.
"Where are my manners?" The Inquisitor stepped into Harrow's personal space and if he were any other man, Harrow would probably have stabbed him for it. The Inquisitor's teeth were absurdly white. They reminded Harrow of pictures he'd seen of a shark when he was a child. "I don't think we've ever officially met, at least not in my current capacity." The Inquisitor held out a hand. Harrow didn't take it. After a brief second, the Inquisitor shrugged and dropped his hand. "Edwin Einhart. I serve the Emperor as Grand Inquisitor."
A chill ran through Harrow's body, and he had to fight to keep a straight face. The name was definitely familiar, though when Harrow had known him he'd only been an intelligence officer assigned to the Imperial Brigade. That had been almost two decades ago. Apparently, Einhart hadn't been idle since.
"I see. What can I help you with, Inquisitor Einhart?"
Einhart's smile widened even further. "Grand Inquisitor." He was obviously enjoying himself, though Harrow had no idea what his agenda was. He'd barely interacted with the man when they were in the army. Their past was hardly reason enough to bring Einhart all the way up here. Unless, of course, he'd heard rumors of the forces Harrow was gathering and the amount of tech he had hidden away several feet below where they currently stood, but that seemed unlikely. Harrow's men were discreet; the ones who weren't were dead.
Einhart wasn't the kind of man the army sent for confrontations. He was a spy, here to gather information, perhaps, but not here for a fight. He'd need a lot more men if he was.
"I'm looking for a man."
Harrow raised an eyebrow. There was still a possibility that Einhart was here to investigate him. More than a possibility, really. Einhart was like a bloodhound, sniffing at everything he came across on the offhand chance he'd find a rat. Harrow wondered what kind of man would bring the Grand Inquisitor personally out to search.
Einhart seemed to be waiting for an answer. "I have a lot of men," Harrow said. "You'll have to be more specific."
Einhart's smile stayed fixed in place, but his eyes were sharp and piercing. "Avery Belfour. There are rumors he's been seen in the region."
If Einhart was expecting a reaction, he didn't get one. Harrow was better than that. "The name doesn't sound familiar. I'll have my men ask around."
He'd destroyed an entire colony and fought a pack of shadowbeasts to acquire Avery. He'd lost six men in the process. There was no way in hell he was letting Einhart have his machinist. All of his gathered tech was useless if he didn't have anyone to fix it. But it was more than that. Avery was better than the other machinists who'd briefly served in Harrow's employ, better than any machinist Harrow had ever served with. Not only could he fix what broke, but he was skilled enough to repair the pieces that came to them broken. He'd made improvements to half their weapons and was smart enough to build completely new pieces from scratch, giving Harrow access to a level of tech superior to anything available in the colonies.
Einhart's blue eyes seemed particularly cold as he watched Harrow. His voice was extra warm, as if to make up for it. "Would you? That would be such a help."
He waited for Einhart to offer more details. A description was customary; possibly even a reward or listing of crimes. Einhart offered none of that. He stared at Harrow in a way that made him suspect that Einhart knew Avery was here. He'd have to move Avery to the caverns, in case Einhart requested a search.
"Was there anything else?"
Einhart glanced up at the tower, as if measuring its height. "Accommodations for the night would be most welcome, if you can spare them."
There was no way in hell he was letting Einhart in his tower. He nodded and motioned one of his men forward. "Show Grand Inquisitor Einhart to the South Hall. See to it that they're adequately accommodated."
The man nodded and directed Einhart to one of the large buildings clustered around the base of the tower.
Einhart's eyes stayed on Harrow for a long moment before he climbed back into his truck. The trucks rolled out of sight but Einhart stayed fixed at the front of Harrow's mind. He'd have to play this very carefully if he didn't want to ruin all of his carefully laid plans.