Valdane's Chronicles

Standing in the Shadow - Part 2

Gateway to the Wastes

At the base of the lift platform, the acolytes wait their turn to journey upwards. After ten long minutes standing under the Gallowsway’s continuous disgusting rain, the lift returns. Dragging Uziel’s semi-conscious frame aboard, Grax, Amador, and Tybs begin the slow ride to ground level to continue their pursuit of the smugglers.

Eventually, the lift rises up into in a massive, crowded passageway linking Desoleum’s arteria transitways to the surrounding wastes. Huge crowds of pilgrims, merchants, traders, and labourers filter in and out of the hive through a massive Sanctionary checkpoint.

Trying to adjust to the harsh outside light, the acolytes search frantically to relocate the group of smugglers. Grax probes the crowd with his mind, locating some faint echoes of the artefacts. Amador carries Uziel through the crowds while Tybs blends into a group of travellers heading toward the security checkpoint.

Like at Port Gyre, the Sanctionaries manning the gateway scan the oath cogs of any travellers entering or exiting the hive. At one point, the Sanctionaries forcibly pull a man from the line and proceed to beat him to death with their large, cog-shaped maces.

During the scuffle, Tybs spots the smugglers having a heated discussion near the checkpoint. Eventually they split up and stagger themselves within the line.

Tybs informs the Sanctionaries of his Inquisitorial affiliation and of the investigation that the acolytes have been conducting with Oath-Captain Nils. He gains passageway through the cordon for himself, Grax, Amador, and Uziel. Furthermore, he warns the Sanctionaries to be ready for trouble. Once through, the acolytes move off to the side, allowing the smugglers to pass them by.

Outside, just beyond the gateway, the acolytes find a sprawling array of vehicle bays, stables, merchant tents, shacks, and various small temporary pre-fabricated structures. Many of the structures are built directly against Hive Desoleum’s outer shell, using the metal superstructure for strength and support. Small crowds of wastelanders, Desoleum natives, and offworlders make their ways among the stalls, conducting business with various guides, outfitters, and traders.

The smugglers, laden down with gear, push their way through the crowds and small market stalls. They reach a prepared Viator desert crawler – a large, boxy, ruggedized six-wheeled vehicle designed for traversing Desoleum’s harsh wastelands. Dark grey, the vehicle looks like it would blend perfectly into Desoleum’s silicate deserts and would be all but invisible at night.

The smugglers begin loading their gear. Sensing that this may be their only chance to act before losing track of the mysterious group, the acolytes deposit Uziel behind a stall and begin their surprise attack.

Grax taps into the Sea of Souls, unleashing a devastating barrage of living lighting, striking and stunning the smugglers’ supposed leader. Tybs moves for cover in the market stalls while firing full-auto bursts from both autopistols. One of the volleys strikes Grax’s target again, shattering the man’s skull. His lifeless body drops beside the Viator, oozing blood and brains into Desoleum’s harsh earth.

Amador charges with his glaive, severing one of the smuggler’s feet and knocking the target over. Screaming, the man drops to the ground, firing wildly with his pistol. His comrades take to the fight, unleashing volleys from their autoguns and various pistols. Cornered and caught flat-footed, one of the smugglers tosses a small, metal canister toward Grax and Tybs.

The canister bursts into a large cloud of semi-opaque mist. Feeling reality slipping away, Tybs falls to the ground screaming as large insects begin burrowing their way out of his flesh. Similarly, overcome with rage, Grax charges the closest target, attempting to claw and climb through the man’s face.

Now outnumbered, Amador fights for his life. While attempting to shield himself from a torrent of automatic fire, he fights on, dispatching one of his foes. Eventually, one of the smugglers catches him off-guard. Firing nearly point-blank, the smuggler’s autogun tears Amador’s right arm from his body. Amador falls to the ground, stunned while arterial blood sprays madly from his ragged stump. Reciting a prayer to the Omnissiah, Amador locates his medical kit and allows his mechandendrites to begin the desperate work of saving his own life.

Knowing that they have a small window of opportunity to flee, two of the smugglers climb into the Viator and begin their escape. A third smuggler grabs the leader’s dropped bag and leaps onto the Viator’s side rails.

Recovering their senses, Grax and Tybs fire at the fleeing group.

With some blasphemous, unseen force, Grax strikes the smuggler holding onto the side of the vehicle, knocking him to the ground. He gets up and attempts to catch up to the fleeing Viator. The acolytes knock the target over with more accurate small-arms fire. The desperate smuggler fires a last-ditch volley that whizzes past Grax and Tybs.

Sensing that his target is weak, Grax crushes the man in a small gravitational well. With a sickening crunch, the man’s arm and shoulder implodes into his chest cavity, sending a severely damaged autogun spiraling meters into the air.

Safe inside the Viator, the two remaining smugglers continue their journey into the wastes. They quickly work to put distance between themselves and the large Sanctionary patrol exiting the hive.

The acolytes recover the dead smugglers’ weapons and gear and search through their bags.

Inside the leader’s pack, they find a rough, hand-drawn map to a destination far off into Desoleum’s wastes. With it, they also find a small, armoured glass canister holding a bizarre purple fluid. Suspended inside the fluid is a number of luminescent shards of stone. In the other bags, they find a black orb extremely similar to the one recovered from Guljian’s manor as well as another shard of stone matching the one recovered by Oath-Captain Nils.

Amador notices that when brought into close proximity to the other artefacts, the purple fluid reacts violently. Furthermore, the orb produces a faint, discordant whistling. Upon close study, Amador experiences a violent vision of massive cyclopean structures and never ending towers of bone.

Now, with two acolytes gravely wounded, the cell must decide whether to recover, rearm, and refit within Desoleum City, or to rapidly pursue the smugglers into the inhospitable wastes.

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