Inquisitor Majoris Malakai reclined in the leather seats of the F.A. Sterling, his helmeted head resting on his gloved palm, while through the helmet’s opaque lenses he watched the terraformed landscape of the Fergan Clan’s asteroid slide swiftly by. Dotted on the lush fields surrounding the winding road was the clan’s lifeblood: cattle.
“We are almost to the manor, Inquisitor Majoris,” his driver said, as the car drove underneath the Fergan Arch bracketing the road.
“Good. This visit will be short,” Malakai’s voice sounded resonant and distant because of his helmet. “Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Once I am finished my work here, I am going to have to leave quickly.”
“Yes, Inquisitor Majoris.”
The Sterling purred to a stop outside of the Fergan Clan manor house. The clan’s home was a large and sprawling estate, mostly reserved for raising cattle, but still had a good bit left over for the humans and their dwellings. The night fled from the warm, inviting light that glimmered from the open bay windows. The sounds of boisterous conversation and laughter floated lazily out to the Inquisitor’s car. Malakai stared at the house with apprehension, which was unheard of in an Inquisitor, much less a Majoris.
Malakai’s turned his head slightly to glance at his driver. The man’s name was Willoughby, who came from a well to do family that was affiliated with the Fergans. He wasn’t blood, but he was a Fergan, and as loyal as they came. The Inquisitor sighed ruefully. “Yes, yes,” he muttered as he opened the passenger door, much to the chagrin of his driver. Willoughby hurriedly tried to get out of the sedan so he could formally open his passenger’s door, but Malakai held up his hand to stop him.
“It is quite all right, Willoughby. I think I can handle this myself,” Malakai said as he got out of the car and shut the door behind him. With a heavy heart, he walked up the steps to the front door and struck the knocker, which was in the form of the clan’s crest: the black bull. There were quiet sounds of movement coming through the thick oak door, and after a pause, it opened.
A short, rotund woman with hair the color of dried straw stood at the threshold. Malakai was at least a head and a half taller than she. Her grey eyes were large with shock at the commanding figure that stood on her doorstep. Her eyes scanned the Inquisitor from the ichthys-style helmet that covered his head, to the black, double leveled shoulder pads, to the crimson and black raiment he wore, down to his large black boots. Once she looked him over, she returned her gaze to his covered face.
“Lady EimhearFergan,” Malakai intoned to his hostess, nodding his head in acknowledgement.
“Ach, take tha’ thing offer ye napper so’s aye kin see ye proper,” Lady Fergan said with her eyes welling up with tears of joy and a broad smile spreading across her face. Reluctantly, Malakai did so and placed the helmet into the waiting hands of Dónal, the butler. With a whoop of happiness, Lady Fergan charged Malakai, wrapped her arms around his broad trunk, and rocked him forcibly back and forth. “Oh, Ailín! Aye never thought ye make it!”
Malakai rolled his eyes and looked heavenward. “It is ‘Malakai’, Ma. As in, ‘Inquisitor Majoris Malakai,” he said, kneeling down so he could look into her eyes. Tears began to crease down the sides of her aged face and her wrinkled hands took his face in their grasp.
“Ye wil always be Ailín to me,” she responded warmly and then hugged him tightly to her. For all her eighty years, and even after he heard the Calling of the Cardinal, she still considered him her baby. “Happy Cardinalmas, m’son.”
Every year, the Fergan Clan, as with most Light fearing cathedral goers, would hold a celebration on the birth date of the founding Cardinal, Durand the First. Usually, the celebrations would last for days but Malakai knew he would not be there long enough to enjoy the festivities.