The Murder of Crows

The Officer and the Gentleman

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After an exchange of telemetry and servitor binary chatter, the Ghost docks at Port Wander.
Lord-Captain Elias Cole orders shore leave for the crew, except for the ring leaders causing unrest over pay.
At Serverus‘s suggestion, Cole sends Commandant Rh’ahv Han’dile covertly onto the station. The eldar mercenary takes Iyan’na and three of the Sons with him. They have Kor’El transport them in an Arvus lighter to avoid suspicion and sneak aboard via one of the many cargo bays. Kor’El wears a sun-shielded blast helmet to hide his face. One of the Sons remains on the Arvus with him for protection, and backup for the team if required.
Meanwhile, Cole places Antonius in command of the ship which somewhat disgruntles Regina.
He gathers four of his Household Troopers as his personal guard, and has Flight Marshal Iesha Feulner fly them, Haarlock and Serverus across to the station in Cole’s personal Aquila. The Enginseer has brought his troublesome servo-skull +++Disdain+++ with him.
Cole tasks Haarlock with securing him a Refractor Field at the Guilt Processionals while he and his retinue heard towards the Control Bastion to meet with Commander Sans as requested, whilst Serverus takes his leave and makes his way to the Halls of the Mechanicus, hoping to discover more of Magos xxx’s whereabouts. However, he tasks Disdain to remain with Cole to act as his eyes and ears.
Cole and his bodyguards are escorted by Naval security personnel to the heart of the station, which is separated from the rest of the den of rogues by code-sealed hatches, isolation bulkheads, and sentry weapons. Behind these defences are the staff and systems that keep Port Wander functioning and safe. As they near the base of the Central Bastion, they pass the Arbite guarded blast doors that lead to the Adeptus Arbites Precinct Complex.
Upon entering the bastion, Cole orders his guards to stand to, and is greeted by a senior naval officer who escorts him up to the Command Deck. Both Cole and Serverus(via Disdain’s auspex link) can’t help noticing that several cogitator displays linked to the station’s Sensorium and weapon’s batteries are currently displaying the Ghost.
Cole steps on to the Command Deck, a cavernous room that rises above the upper reaches of the superstructure, forming a grand deck house with dozens of consoles and displays, dimly lit and filled with the smoke of purification incense.
LariusSans.jpgThe station Commander Larius Sans, dismisses a number of his senior officers in order to receive Cole. They converse amicably in the Commander’s private office over amasec and lho-stubs. The Commander strikes a chord with Cole, as they are both currently find themselves in tenuous positions between power brokers, wealthy merchants, ambitious Rogue Traders, and House Krin money-lenders, not to mention smugglers, cultists, and pirates! Cole learns that the Commander’s position has been made worse yet, as reports suggest that a notorious spy from the Inquisition has recently begun an investigation on the station. Little is known of the Inquisition’s representative other than that she may be the reason an entire planet was committed to dust.
The talk quickly turns to Cole’s Grandfather’s feats whilst in the Imperial Navy, House Cole’s continued links to the Navy through long standing arms deals and the Ghost’s ties to the history of Port Wander. The Commander then steers the conversation to what Cole realises is his real agenda. Sans has recently received word that the world of Damaris in area of the Expanse known as the Cauldron, has begun requesting aid to repel an impending Ork invasion. The Battlefleet Calixis High Command have however, ordered that no assistance be given to the system and have begun a withdrawal of their assets in that area;
Having given Cole time to review the data-slates, the Commander asks if he would travel to Damaris to investigate if there is any truth in the reports of invasion. All Cole would be required to do, is to transmit a ciphered signal that would be provided by the Commander once the Rogue Trader is in-system. Cole is initially non-commital, so the Commander sweetens the deal by offering Cole a Writ of Claim for the xxx, a wrecked starship recently discovered by a Naval Scout Pinnace in the Battleground station of passage within the Maw. The cargo manifest for the ship shows that cargo belonging to Cole’s Grandfather was being transported in one of it’s holds. The Writ requires that Cole be the first to set foot on the stricken vessel. Cole is intrigued, and agrees to investigate Damaris, and the pair shake on the deal.
Meanwhile, Serverus arrives at The Halls of the Mechanicus. They occupy a large, blisterlike extrusion of metal and sensor spines at the base of the station. Here is where the tech-priests conduct research into the strange objects brought out of the Koronus Expanse, and monitor the data sent from their many stations scattered throughout the solar system, only some of which are known to the Navy. The cavernous interior also hosts the altar to the Machine God, where hundreds of priests chant in binary rhythm with the station’s cyclic bass rumbling. The Main Enginarium is located not far from the Mechanicus Hall, and its enormous reactors provide power for the station’s various systems, station-keeping thrusters, weapons systems, shielding, life support, and more. Extensive backup systems are in place in case of emergencies. With so many demands on its limited capabilities, however, large power drains such as void shield activations cause lights to dim across the port.
Serverus makes enquiries with the priests regarding any records of Magos Thraun having been on the station. He learns from a data-trawl of the mechanicus archives that the Magos passed through Port Wander 3 years previously. Whilst on the station, Thraun appears to have been researching obscure references to a mythical piece of powerful archeotech known as the Occulus. A subsequent less-than-legal search of the station’s archived shipping manifests carried out by Serverus’ Mate, Arcadia, revealed that Magos Thraun appeared to leave the station aboard the Bloody Harlot, a Chartist vessel bound for the Damaris system.
During his visit to the Halls, Serverus is approached by a senior tech-priest in charge of the station’s servitors. He had seen the Omnisiah Staff carried by Serverus and incorrectly assumed him to be a high ranking Magos. He confided in him that he had, via his servitors, observed odd behaviour on the part of the station’s Magos. He had also heard rumours that she has an unhealthy interest in forbidden tech. He felt it was his duty to bring it to Serverus’ attention.
Cole and Serverus both receive a request from Haarlock to meet him at the Bloodstone, a lowdecks tavern that lies just off the Gilt Processional as he has made an important discovery. They arrive to find that the Bloodstone is a highly disreputable drinking den, located uncomfortably close to some of the passages leading to the station’s Black Holds. Only the toughest will ever gain the respect of the regulars; those who do not will rarely survive their second visit. To become regarded as a regular here is a mark of true respect among the scummers and heavies on the port.
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Haarlock informs them that whilst he was in the Court of the Dead, purchasing a refractor field for Cole, he came across the obscure emporium of ‘the Baron’, the man Tycho Rhett had confirmed the Crow Mother had spoken with whilst she was aboard the station. Haarlock has spoken with the Commandant, and he and his team have set up in covert positions surrounding the emporium.
Serverus sends Disdain to observe from the gantries, while he, Cole and Haarlock enter the emporium.
They speak with ‘the Baron’.
Cole agrees to give the Baron passage to Footfall in exchange for information as the proscribed artifacts dealer wants off the station as soon as possible following the rumours of an Inquisitor being on board.
They learn that the Crow Mother was enquiring about powerful psykers soon to be holding a foretelling on Footfall. Entrance to the foretelling will only be granted to those who make a successful bid at an auction soon to be held. The Crow Mother had discovered that the Baron was acting as a Broker for the auction on Port Wander. Entrance to the auction itself requires a vouchsafe from the House of Krin to prove that you are of sufficient financial standing. It transpires that the foretelling relates to the ‘Pearl of Dread’, the artefact the Crow Mother has been searching for.
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Notice the Baron has a small cylinder bearing the mark of the House of Cole adorning his necklace of bones and fetishes. Cole raises the cost of passage to Footfall and demands that the Baron hands over his family’s property and tells him how he came by it. The Baron won the ‘trinket’ from a drunkard called Orbest Dray as settlement for a gambling debt. Dray tried to convince him it was very valuable, and somehow linked to the fabled treasure ship the Righteous Path. The Baron didn’t believe him so took some of Dray’s fingers too.
The Baron hands over cylinder as they are leaving the emporium. As Cole’s fingers grip it’s cold metallic exterior, it slides open, and……..

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A Rude Awakening - The Hunt Begins

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Lord-Captain Elias Cole is awoken by the vox alarm in his personal quarters. It is 05:00 Solar time, and he is badly hungover. This is not a good combination. He rubs the sleep and sweat from his bleary eyes with his biological hand. Not for first time he curses himself that for all his new found wealth, the cheap Amasec still tastes the best. Even if it does turn your brain into a throbbing, existence of pain. Heavy blast shutters cover the gothic-arched windows of the Lord-Captain’s quarters making them thankfully dark.

A naked Midshipman Violetta Cortez curses Cole for not stopping the alarm more quickly, before rolling back to sleep, dragging the last vestiges of the sheets with her.
Rising from the bed, Cole awkwardly hauls his breeches on over his cybernetic leg and pulls his brocaded maroon jacket on, not bothering with a shirt. He tosses his boots into his personal elevator, before irritably slamming his fist onto the vox receive button, to silence the infernal alarm if nothing else.

“Ah, Lord-Captain.. I was beginning to think you might be sobre. I do hope I didn’t wake you”, the mockingly sarcastic tones of the ship’s Factotum, Gabriel Haarlock, did nothing to improve Cole’s mood.

“What the hell do you want?” he growled. Cole didn’t trust the man. His ‘loyalty’ to the Cole Household was being enforced by the barbed hand of the Inquisition. The former Cold-Trader had said as much, and had even gone so far as to admit his future betrayal, “when the price is right”. But, Cole did have to admit, though grudgingly, that the man had his uses.

“By some miracle, ‘my Lord’, The Crone has actually managed to guide us through the Empyrean, without dragging us through any more ‘unforeseen’ stellar phenomenon, which makes a welcome first. We translated into real space an hour ago, and are inbound for Rubycon II. I took the liberty of having Kor’El and Drake set us a course for Port Wander as agreed.”

“Fine. What about Rhett?” Cole asked, attempting to massage some of the throbbing pain from his temples.

“Why Lord-Captain, straight to business? A most refreshing turn of events”

“Spare me the bullshit Haarlock, has he found her or not?”

“There’s fresh blood on the trail, if that’s what you’re wanting to hear, Cole. Apologies, ‘my Lord’. Our enigmatic Enginseer Prime, Serverus, was able to boost the sensitivity of the Ghost’s augur array as requested. He clacked something about re-routing flux converters or some such but there’s only so much of his white noise I can listen to. Anyway, he received a coded Household transmission shortly after the ship translated. I checked the ciphers personally, and can confirm that they’re definitely Rhett’s. Our Master of Whispers delivers once again.

I have called an immediate assembly of our Inner Council and will brief them in full. All this secrecy must be killing that Ordos bitch, hah. We shall await your presence on the bridge as soon as is convenient. I shall have the servitors prepare the vomitorium for your arrival. Out”

“Bastard”, Cole swore under his breath as he crossed the cold floor and entered the elevator, retrieving his boots as he climbed onto the imposing armoured command chair. As the heavy doors sealed shut behind him with the strobe of warning lights, he pulled a crumpled packet of Lho sticks from his pocket. He hadn’t even finished lighting the first one of the day before the elevator lurched violently upwards in a cloud of escaping steam and the clanking of heavy gears as it sped towards the bridge.

The Lord-Captain’s elevator arrives on the bridge. It is a hive of activity, with a swarm of crew and servitors under the watchful eye of the experienced Lord-Lieutenant-Primus Antonius Augustus. Lord-Lieutenant-Secundus Regina D’Stan-Cole stalks the deck like a caged animal, barking orders at the ratings, and administering a tongue lashing when they do not respond quickly enough to her commands. Void Commander Kor’El and Luthor Drake man the helm.

At the foot of the Lord-Captain’s command tower, the Astropath Transcendant Torquemada Deliberato chuckles maniacally to himself at some unspoken message, while the Crone Tabitha van Heppel studies holographic projections of the local star-system.

Haarlock has assembled a number of the ship’s senior officer’s, the Inner Council. This includes the gaunt eldar Commandant Rh’ahv Han’dile and the Ordos Interrogator Elisabeth Xanthe.

Serverus’ leering Servo Skull + Ambivalence IV + startles Cole as it suddenly rears up before him, it’s baleful bionic eye bathing the Lord-Captain in ruddy light as it scans his face. With the voice of a thousand rusted type-writers clacking at once, it deliver’s a vox recording from it’s master.
Serverus’ informs the Lord-Captain that he is too busy re-aligning the ship’s auger array to attend the Cold-Trader’s gathering in person. He has however sent a fitting replacement for such an esteemed council, his Servo Skull. He would observe the meeting via the auspex and vox system’s of his macabre servant. Furthermore, he wishes to attend the Halls of the Mechanicus on Port Wander to further investigate the disappearance of his Thulian contact, Magos Thraun whom was last recorded as heading for the barren death world of False Hope.

The Lord-Captain descends from his command tower and Haarlock begins his briefing, the Cold-Trader rapidly tapping away at a data slate and projecting it’s data holographically as he speaks.

Lord-Captain, esteemed Councillors. I have received word from our Master of Whispers and have compiled a brief report for your consideration.
I must apologise for the secrecy, but following what occurred on Protasia, and the Crow Mother’s escape there is the very real possibility that someone onboard warned her of our impending assault.
However, i am pleased to inform you that we have picked up her trail again.
The assassin scum that you were able to capture was not immediately forthcoming with his former employers whereabouts and heading. But after vigorous questioning by myself and our head arbiter Rosamann (he plays a very convincing, if reluctant, bad cop).
Learnt that the Crow Mother headed for the Koronus Expanse. I’ve taken the liberty of sending Tycho on ahead.
With the Lord-Captain’s consent I had that hag Van Heppel plot a course for Port Wander, the Gateway to the Expanse.
I received a brief, coded transmission from Rhett only an hour ago. His initial operation on Port Wander has confirmed that the Crow Mother was aboard the station not 3 weeks past. Rhett’s initial investigation has determined that she met with a number of individuals, including a Captain of the Ventan Iron Hands and a low level Acquisitioner known as the Baron. However, Rhett’s questions appear to have drawn some notice, and I understand from his message that he has had to resort to lethal means to avoid discovery, though he does not identify his assailants. His message ends stating that he is taking immediate passage through the Maw, but as agreed does not specify his intended destination.
I would recommend we continue to make landfall at Port Wander as soon as possible and undertake our own investigations.

There are also matters closer to home that need to be addressed. Our little operation doesn’t run for free, and House Cole, quite frankly, is in a mess.
Following the attack on the Family’s Spire on Scintilla (by persons unknown), several rival Houses, most notably Fel and Scourge, have taken the opportunity to exploit the Household’s apparent weakness and disruption to production. They’ve poached many of our more lucrative contracts with PDF forces across the Sector. Some have even gone so far as to spread rumour suggesting your own involvement in the attack Lord-Captain. I’ve compiled a list of these slandering bastards so that you may deal with them as you wish.

As I’ve said, our pursuit of the Crow Mother is certainly not without cost. I have reviewed our production revenue from the Household’s current Holdings, and factoring in the cost to repair the family Spire and recruit replacement Household troopers, I estimate approximately 6 months before we’ll be unable to pay the crew (although we could flush some of them into the void to save costs). There’s already talk within the lower decks and gun crews that maybe they’d be better off jumping ship if they’re not going to get paid. You may wish to address the crew in person to allay their fears, or I could have the most vocal dissenters rounded up and shot, it’s your call?

Having reviewed our assets, I’ve identified a number of potential opportunities and endeavours that may serve to increase the Household’s profits. I have ordered Rhett to push our intelligence network deeper into the Expanse, paving the way for our arrival. He has informed me that one of his contacts has sent word from Zayth, a distant war planet in the Heathen Stars. His contact has sent word of a unique pattern of macro-cannon produced on the world’s mobile Hive Fortresses. Currently they are only produced to sustain the near constant warring of the planets Hives, with minor sales being made within the wider system. If we were the first to establish a trade route between Zayth and the murdering bastards of the Calixis Sector we would have exclusive mercantile rights, meaning a healthy cut and a tidy profit.

I also had Waltharius scour the Household inventory for anything remotely profitable. Not including the narco stims he manufactures and sells to the officers. Unfortunately, aside from thirty thousand corpse starch ration packs gathering dust in a manufactorum storehouse on Malfi, his search was fruitless. Until he checked a selection of archived ledgers and discovered a partially corrupted reference to holdings on an obscure system, Svard. It appears that when our good Lord-Captain’s grandfather, Benedictus, went wandering in the Expanse, he discovered and claimed an entire star system all to himself, and then named it after his dog. High intelligence clearly runs strongly in the Cole blood. However, Grandfather Cole did at least pick a system with a high Promethium content, and proceeded to construct a large orbital refinery complex. It appears that for many decades high volumes of refined promethium , and a voidship load of Thrones, flowed from Svard back to Scintilla to fuel the munitions manufacturing plants. However, around 150 years ago, a decade after Benedictus followed the cliché for Rogue Traders and disappeared never to be seen again, the number of shipments from Svard began to decline, until contact appears to have been completely lost with the system 112 years ago. It doesn’t take an Adept to realise that re-establishing contact with the system, and more importantly the refinery, could prove to be very profitable.
Waltharius did discover a numer of non-sensical entries in the more recent ledgers that mentioned Whispers, but what are words when we have guns. Lots of guns.

Received a communiqué via my old cold-trade network from Vladaym Tocora, a senior negotiator for the Kasballica. He wishes to speak with you on Footfall at your earliest convenience. I’ve never met the man but his reputation precedes him. A cold, canny, severe psychopath is what I’ve heard. Not someone to be taken lightly.
However, the man’s a gateway to a vast array of illegal services, hidden information, and dangerous goods, but I understand that the price is always high.
However, his links to the criminal network may provide some lucrative opportunities, but I’d advise caution when dealing with him. Obviously it’s still the likely probability that elements of his organisation played an active part in the murder of your family. He could just be looking to ‘clean house’, so to speak. But is it riskier not to speak with him?

Having met our Lord-Captain, I’m sure that none of you will be too shocked to learn that his grandfather also had a finger in many pies, not all of them entirely above board. His name became rather familiar with those whom were engaged in the ‘distribution’ of xenos artifacts. A subject close to my own heart as you’re obviously well aware. By all accounts I understand he became rather wealthy off the back of it, predominantly from the illegal sale of Yu’vath artefacts from the star systems of the Cineris Malificum. Not that I’d admit this to an Inquisitor, but I still have a number of contacts in the Calixis sector that would pay handsomely for such ‘luxuries’, were we to establish our own Cold Trade network. High reward, but high risk. Look at what it did for me" he says tapping the cranial control implants that the Inquisition had installed surgically against his will.

During the briefing, it is very obvious that there is no love lost between Haarlock and Xanthe owing to her ties to the Inquisition. Serverus also voices his disdain at the fact that untrustworthy xenos are allowed to walk the decks unchecked. Haarlock ‘helpfully’ translates the comment into Eldar for the Commandant, who sends the Servo skull flailing across the bridge with a deft flick of his armoured wrist.

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The Council confer after the briefing, and agree that heading to Port Wander is the best course of action. From there they will be able to investigate the Crow Mother’s movements while on the station, that may give clue clue as to her current whereabouts and intentions. From there they intend to push on through the Maw and on to Svard to re-establish contact with the Cole Family’s promethium refinery of old.

As they approach Port Wander, they observe that a number of interesting vessels are currently docked with the station. Serverus conducts an auger sweep and is able to identify them as the Hazeroth-class privateer Chains of Dusk, the Firestorm-class frigate Fel Hand and the light cruiser Nihontu.

Kor ‘El steers the Ghost expertly into dock and maglocks clamp the ship to the cathedral-like docking arm. Amid the thrall of vox traffic the Lord-Captain receives an import message. It is from the Imperial Navy Commander of Port Wander, Larius Sans. He offers the Lord-Captain the ’Freedom of the Station’. All that he asks in return is that the Lord-Captain attend him at his earliest convenience…………

“Revenge proves its own executioner”
Lord-Lieutenant-Primus Antonius Augustus

<transmission_ends>

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Aftermath - A New Era

During the voyage to Scintilla, someone onboard briefly shuts down the Gellar field during warp travel. The momentary increase in the raw energies of the warp are enough for the daemon to take full possession of Mira for a time. It stalks the warp haunted ship, feeding off Mira’s knowledge of stealth and killing to cut a bloody swathe through the crew. However, Mira manages to regain some self-control as the Gellar field is reactivated and brings the mindless slaughter to a halt, but her soul and mind are forever tainted by the daemon’s cruelty and inhuman lusts, and she becomes the symbiotic abomination now known as ‘The Crow Mother’.
The Crow Mother escapes from the Emperor’s Grace in a shuttle.

Serverus and Cole are ‘rebuilt’ with extensive use of cybernetics. Serverus maintains the xenos leg that was grafted to him.
Cole’s family on Scintilla are murdered – he inherits the Cole Dynasty and with it the Warrant of Trade. He buys the Lord Drusus from the Imperial Navy, and with the help of Serverus has it repaired and refitted. He renames her the ‘Ghost of Golgenna’ after the calamity that befell her and his family.

The Crow Mother joins/founds criminal and mercenary organisations to aid in her search for the ‘Dread Pearl’. She sows terror across the Calixis sector with her terrorist activity. She has confirmed dealings with the Enunciator.

Inquisitor Kaede tasks Cole, Serverus and crew to search for the Crow Mother and stop her finding the Dread Pearl, whatever that might be. The Inquisitor selects some members of his cadre and assets to serve aboard Cole’s ship. This importantly includes the Adeptus Astartes Librarian Thoros, as the Inquisitor wants to ensure that the Crow Mother never succeeds in possessing another soul covertly again.

Over a number of years, the ‘Explorers’ pursue the Crow Mother across the sector, battling with many of her allies, but she always seems to stay one step ahead. Gabriel Haarlock, the former cold trader, turned begrudging servant of the Inquisition, turned Master-of-ship aboard the Ghost, receives word via his spy master Tycho Rhett that the Crow Mother is making haste for the Koronus Expanse for reasons unknown.

The ‘Explorers’ head for Port Wander, Gateway to the Expanse and give chase…

Mission Primaris – Track down and destroy the Crow Mother – prevent her obtaining the ‘Dread Pearl’
Mission Secundus – Find and ‘secure’ the Enunciator

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Iocanthos - The Crow Father

Having escaped the Pilgrim’s Folly, their pursuit of the Enunciator, and the need to find medical treatment for Lazarus takes the Acolytes to the desert world of Iocanthos. They land in Port Suffering where they deliver Lazarus into the care of local medicae facility, the Alms House. There they meet Sister Xanthe, a Sister Hospitaller currently exiled from the Sororitas Abbey of Dawn and sent to oversee the Alms House as a ‘punishment’ following her continued ‘transgressions’. She agrees to accompany the acolytes while Lazarus recovers under the care of the medicae staff, using her knowledge to act as a local guide. During their stay in the Port, the acolytes are attacked by a group of thugs from a local clan, the Ashleen. The acolytes are also accosted by a crazed man who screeches about ‘the Crow Father, dancing at the threshold’. As instructed by their Inquisitor, the acolytes ask Sister Xanthe to take them to the seer Aristarchus. Aristarchus is a member of the Scholastica Psykana and a widely famed reader of the Emperor’s Tarot, known for the accuracy of his divinations. He is also a known ally and agent of Inquisitor Kaede. They learn from him that building materials (including ore) have been imported to the planet in large volume due to the construction of a new Cathedral in the settlement of Stern Hope. The seer has received a gift of thanks in the shape of an ancient set of the Emperor’s Tarot, apparently an heirloom from Aristarchus’ familiar ties to St. Drusus, from the leading member of the Ecclesiarchy at Stern Hope, Missionary-Abbot Orland Skae. The seer asks the acolytes to assist him in investigating reports of strange psychic phenomena that seem to centre around the cathedral and its construction site. There is no time to lose as the cathedral is due to be consecrated in a few days time.
Cole and Serverus secure a battered old flatbed truck for transportation, and the party head into the desolation of the Barrens as they journey towards Stern Hope. They have an eventful journey, including encounters with dead men that walk, eye-less predatory birds known as ‘Shale Crows’ and witness many signs and portents that all is not as it should be. Aristarchus grows increasingly animated by his Tarot divinations, claiming it truly is a time of miracles. It is during this journey that Praetorius and Xanthe strike up a relationship.
They arrive at Stern Hope where the acolytes continue their investigations into sinister goings on relating to the construction of the cathedral. They stay in the Crying Clota Inn. They meet senior members of the congregation, including Brothers Lamark and Severance and finally have an audience with Missionary-Abbot Skae himself. The Abbot asks the acolytes to route out and purge any evil that may have afflicted his congregation.
Brother Lamark leads the acolytes into the hills to investigate the sightings of strange lights and bodies that had been discovered there. They are attacked by a huge carnivorous Hexalid. It had clearly been dead for some time yet had somehow been reanimated. After a brief struggle, Mira clamps the beasts mouth shut with a sword while Cole blows its rancid skull apart.
Aristarchus is consulting his tarot more frequently, and appears haggard.
The Warlord Seth’s fanatical cult-clan the Voicers attack Stern Hope, intending to stop the consecration of the cathedral. The acolytes rally the defenders, including the war chief Koske and his men, and defeat Seth’s crazed zealots. During the fight, Cole becomes embroiled in a close quarter knife fight while protecting some civilians. He also inadvertently obliterates several Voicers with a fumbled pipebomb. Serverus defends the settlement’s Generatoria, shredding a number of the enemy using one of their own vehicle mounted heavy stubbers. Mira blows the Voicer leader’s head apart with a well placed round of high explosive. The remaining attackers flee.
However, one of the Voicer’s is captured. Aristarchus and Skae have a heated argument with Esha Raine, the Ashleen tribe’s Death Singer, regarding the significance of the attack. She believes it is a dire omen. Aristarchus executes the prisoner and he and Skae decree that the consecration will go ahead. Esha curses them and leads her people, and Koske away from Stern Hope.
An hour before the ceremony, Abbott Skae staggers from the cathedral spattered in blood. He says that he and Brother Severance were attacked by a dark shape in the form of a woman. Brother Severance is dead, his eyes have been torn out.
Aristarchus is furious and declares Esha Raine to be a witch. He commands the acolytes to arrest her.
Xanthe receives a vox from the Alms House regarding Lazarus’ care and returns to Port Suffering.
The acolytes journey through a raging dust storm to reach Esha’s steading.
Upon their arrival, there is an uneasy standoff with Koske’s men who refuse to let Esha be taken. Cole draws his pistols and guns Koske down. A gunbattle ensues. Serverus rams the truck into several foes. Mira puts a bullet through Esha. As the firefight rages, the dust storm hits with a vengeance. It brings with it echoing laughter, baleful sickly lights and flocks of taloned Shale Crows that swoop down and attack.
The acolytes survive the attack and recover a book from Esha’s bleeding corpse. It tells a tale of Saint Drusus battling a daemon-possessed cult leader on the very hill upon which the cathedral has been built.
The acolytes received a garbled vox message from Aristarchus, saying that Skae had taken him into the cathedral where he had seen a vision of Saint Drusus, and that he could be a vessel for the Saints blessed rebirth.
Unable to hail the Seer, the acolytes made haste back to Stern Hope.
They find the settlement ominously deserted but for a score of bodies that appear to have committed suicide. A dim haze illuminates the cathedral.
At the foot of the stairs lies the body of Brother Lamark and several junior clerics. They have all had their eyes removed. With his dying breaths Lamark tells the acolytes that Skae has everyone in the cathedral and is ‘waiting to be freed and to feed’.
Inside the cathedral they see Aristarchus standing atop the alter at the cathedral’s centre, the cards of the emperor’s tarot orbit in the air around him, each one burning ghost white, almost too bright to look at. In the harsh flickering glare they see that the pews are filled with the people of Stern Hope, men, women, children frozen, standing as if to attention, eyes wide in terror, tears streaming down their cheeks and their mouths whispering words that are not their own. The domed space of high ceiling boiled with a tangle of seething darkness as the warp bled through.
The acolyte team confront Skae. The preacher has been possessed by the Daemon Prince Tsyiak, The Crow Father. In a distorted gurgling voice, the thing that was Abbot Skae says, “I’m glad you could make it, my friendsss.” The Abbot’s body shuffled forward and fixed them with burning white eyes. “Behold! A miracle of faith! Behold! Saint Drususss is returning to usss!”. The Skae Thing barks guttural laughter, “Sssoon I shall be free, oh not in thisss pretty fragment of meat, but in a form imperishable! And all thanksss to these witless foolsss and their faith! They came scrabbling in the dirt for a saint and found instead a god! Foolsss they were – easssily blinded, one by ambition and one by pride, and what shall I blind you with I wonder… Now, come forth and receive my blesssssing!”.
A deadly and fatal battle ensues.
One by one the acolytes are bested, have their eyes ripped out, and are torn to pieces by the daemon, until only Mira remains. As the fell creature begins to dismember her it gloats about the coming of a ‘Dread Pearl’ that will allow it to cross the boundaries of realspace and the Warp.
Unbeknown to the acolytes, their master, the Inquisitor Vownus Kaede had been monitoring their progress remotely from the distant Bastion Serpentis upon a Scintillan moon, covertly directing their efforts via his agent the Sister Xanthe, to draw the daemon out. The Inquisitor had a strike team of Deathwatch Adeptus Astartes waiting in low orbit above Stern Hope, and upon hearing the daemon finally reveal his eldritch plans he gave the order for them to destroy the creature.
The Deathwatch team, led by Marcus Arrelius, descended upon the cathedral and assaulted the Crow Father with all of the Emperor’s might. After a bitter and terrible struggle, the daemonhost Skae was finally slain, and the daemon cast back into the warp.
Or so they thought. For in the daemon’s final desperate throes it lashed out psychically, searching for a new host. It latched on to Mira’s soul as she lay dying, and tried to force itself upon her. But the training Mira had received as an assassin had conditioned her mind as much as it had done her body. The daemon pushed inside her physical body, but her strong mind and forceful will refused to be overcome. And so assassin and daemon fought unobserved for control of the unconscious body that lay broken on the cold cathedral floor.
The tattered and torn bodies of the fallen acolytes and decimated congregation of Stern Hope were recovered and delivered to the Abbey of Dawn for urgent care under the supervision of Sister Xanthe. The Sisters Hospitaller worked fervently, but were unable to save many of those injured, including the acolyte Guardsman Praetorius and Brother Lamark , for the wounds they had sustained were so grievous. However the Sisters were able to stabilise the critically injured Cole, Serverus and Mira, and their unconscious bodies were repatriated to the Emperor’s Grace for return to Scintilla and full medicae care.

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Golgenna Reach - the Pilgrim's Folly

The acolytes leave Sepherus Secundus aboard the Brazen Sky, destined for Iocanthos.
However, whilst in warp transit, the ship suddenly develops a critical fault with its Life Support systems.
The small voidship drops out of warp space.
Drake detects a large, derelict starship, the Pilgrim’s Folly, drifting in the vicinity. He scans it and discovers that it should contain the parts required to repair the Life Support.
They dock with the much larger ship.
The acolytes split into two parties to search for supplies and the required replacement parts.
The starship is in strangely good condition, but it’s plasma drives and auspex arrays appear damaged and inoperable, and its corridors are depressurised and seemingly abandoned.
They discover strange, beetle-like robotic creatures apparently rewiring and reconfiguring the starship.
Delving deeper into the ship, they encounter members of the crew, now horrific, violent fusions of flesh and machine. Mira uses her skills in zero gravity to make her escape but Brother Serverus is captured when his cybernetics are short circuited by a form of EMP weapon. He awakens as his leg is being forcibly amputated and replaced with a limb of ‘Living Metal’. The procedure is undertaken by Dr Havelock, a brilliant scientist that was captured, enslaved and merged with the technology of the ancient Necrons to become a Pariah, whilst on an expedition to investigate a newly discovered pylon on what turned out to be a Necron Tomb World. Havelock tells Serverus that he intends to use the Brazen Sky’s auspex system’s to boost the Pilgrim’s own, to convey a ‘virus’ to all craft that intercept the signal.
Serverus has his cranial circuitry reconfigured by the Pariah. Serverus returns to the Brazen Sky, disables the locking mechanism on the outer airlock before attacking and critically wounding Adept Lazarus before Drake and Cole can over-power him. The scarab beetles converge on the Brazen Sky and begin to connect its auspex wiring to the Pilgrim’s. Having set delayed charges on the Brazen Sky’s bridge, Drake and Cole don void suits and float across to the outside of the Pilgrim leading the unconscious Serverus and Lazarus as the machine horrors storm the Brazen Sky’s now unsealed airlock. The pair head towards a lighter bay where Cole had earlier discovered a ships boat that appeared untouched by the scarabs.
Meanwhile, Mira unintentionally finds herself in Havelock’s inner sanctum, a cargo hold where the retrieved pylon sits wired into a mechanical ‘throne’ and to the Pariah himself. He is flanked by two hulking abominations of metallic claws and torn flesh, Flayed Ones.
Havelock informs Mira that there is no longer any means by which she can escape. He offers her the choice to join him in mechanical symbiosis, or to die in agony. Mira takes the third option and tells Havelock to ‘go fuck yourself’. The explosion from the detonating Brazen Sky rocks the cargo hold and gives Mira her chance to escape. She dashed from the hold into the labyrinthine bowels of the ship, with the Dr screaming in rage behind her and the Flayed Ones in close pursuit. As they close in, Mira ruptures an H2O tank as she passes. This causes the Flayed Ones to slip, buying her the few seconds she needs to throw herself into the Life supports drainage system where she is flushed from the Pilgrim into hard vacuum. It is only her life experience as a Void Born that allow her to survive long enough for Cole and Drake to recover her in the stolen ships boat and make their escape.

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Icenholm - Inquisitorial Competition

The acolytes returned to the Inquisitor’s manse in the city of Icenholm on Sepherus Secundus.
The Inqisitors Adept, Lazarus, assisted the acolytes in determining where the Enunciator was likely headed. With Lazarus pulling some strings, and with a show of force and authority, they learn from the starport traffic controllers that a likely ore hauler, the Malefactor left orbit earlier that day. They also learn that when starport officials attempted to inspect the cargo ahead of departure, they were attacked by a number of the ships crewmen. A brief firefight ensued in which several security personal were injured and a number of crewmen killed. One however was taken alive and detained. It was explained away as an isolated narco fueled incident by the ships seneschal, and the transport was allowed to depart without a full inspection to prevent its late departure ‘causing an administrative headache for port authorities’.
The acolytes, suspecting the seneschal to be the Enunciator, and the crewman a member of the Brotherhood, are granted their request to speak with the prisoner, only to discover that he has been snatched whilst being transported to the detention facility.
The acolytes follow the ‘liberator’s trail to an old hab block in a run down part of the city’s lower levels. The crewman is being guarded by mercenaries, seemingly recruited from Icenholm’s criminal element. Mira covers the team from a snipers hide across the street while the others move inside to secure the crewman. A vicious gun battle ensued as the acolytes literally smashed their way through the stained glass walls of the hab. But as the acolytes manage to grab the crewman, an Inquisitor of the ordo malleus, Inquisitor Valentine arrives with reinforcements and gives chase. Heavily outnumbered and outgunned, the acolytes fled the building and bundled the crewman into a hover car, speeding off with the Inquisitor’s cadre in hot pursuit. A high speed chase through the streets of Icenholm ensued with a high level of collateral damage. The acolytes only escaped Inquisitor Valentine’s clutches by fleeing back to the manse where Lazarus had a company of PDF troopers loyal to Inquisitor Kaede waiting to protect them. Inquisitor Valentine was furious to be robbed of her prize, but backed down and led their cadre away from the manse, vowing to exact her revenge.
The crewman was taken away by Lazarus for interrogation. Three days later Lazarus informed the acolytes that the cargo hauler was bound for Iocanthos at the Enunciator’s command. The crewman had not survived the ‘questioning’.

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Sepherus Secundus - Gorganid Mine

The acolyte’s first assignment was to travel to the frozen industrial world of Sepherus Secundus to support the Planetary Defence Forces there in investigating and putting down the dissent that had been sown within the population of mine workers by the clandestine group ‘the Brotherhood of Malice’ lead by the recidivist figure known only as ‘the Enunciator’. The initial unrest had nearly escalated into full scale rebellion, and the mines had been sealed following the disappearance of a platoon of PDF troopers who had been patrolling within. Upon arrival, they were briefed by Commissar Nihilius as to the current situation, and also spoke with a now crazed trooper that had been on a previous scouting mission into the mines. Shortly thereafter, the acolytes entered the Seal and traversed deep into the Gorganid mine, where they rescued the Guard Captain Praetorius and the medicae Dyner from crazed mine workers. But their further delving uncovered a far darker secret in the bowels of the mine, an area known as the Shatters. They discovered that the Enunciator had been using his sway over the miners to have them excavate at a specific set of co-ordinates. Their digging had uncovered bizarre, xenos crystals that were disturbing to look upon and glowed with a sickening pink light. Their radiation had warped many of the miners into twisted, mutated horrors that stalked the dank depths of the mine. Having battled their way past many of the hellish beings, the acolytes discovered that the Enunciator and the Brotherhood had been loading much of the quarried crystal onto a void capable transport ship and they had returned to the surface, via a hidden servo-lift, with the last of their fell cargo just hours before.
The acolytes rigged the excavation site with explosives, and fought their way desperately through the mutant horde to the central core of the mine, only just managing to stay ahead of the wretched creatures and falling debris as the mine shafts collapsed as the explosion tore through the lower levels. Initially their short range vox communicators couldn’t penetrate the tons of rock overhead to call for assistance, but thankfully Serverus was able to use the mining equipment at hand to boost the signal strength. Just as their ammunition was running low, and the filthy, screeching, mutated hordes were closing in, the pilot of the team’s Guncutter, Drake, mounted a daring rescue by flying down through the mine’s core to reach the acolytes stranded below. The team clambered aboard as the platform to which they had clung began to give way under the cutters immense weight, but as Arbitrator Lionus turned to steady himself on one of the cutter’s landing struts, a horrific creature of monstrous proportion grabbed hold of him and they tumbled into the dark depths of the mine as the platform collapsed beneath them.

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