Valdane's Chronicles

Standing in the Shadow - Part 4

The smugglers' hideout

On the morning of the second day, the acolytes are greeted by an ominous crimson sunrise. Travers explains that he can feel some sort of storm front coming on, but he is unsure when and where it will hit. Still, the acolytes press on.

After a few hours of driving, the acolytes catch a glimpse of a dark, glittering shape obscuring the horizon. Up ahead, a small group of nomads are running as quickly as possible from the rapidly approaching glass storm. Wrapped in heavy bundles and robes, with goggles and respirators firmly secured, the nomads make haste down the beaten dirt trails.

Travers explains that such storms can slice apart anything in minutes. As these fronts move across the wastes, they pick up not only sand and ash, but also larger pieces of glass and silicate structures from the surface of Desoleum’s plains.

Knowing that they have no hope to outrun the rapidly approaching storm, the acolytes decide to attempt to punch straight through it at speed. As they approach the wall of death, smaller chunks of rocks and shards of glass begin peppering against the hull of the Sand-Lynx. A tremendous roar or wind envelops the vehicle and begins tossing the acolytes from side to side. The abrasive sand and glass wear quickly at the hull, dulling the bright yellow paint of Travers’ prized possession. Soon, larger pieces of glass begin slamming into the ruggedized hull. The impact of a man-sized piece sends a crack rippling across the main viewpannel.

After a few terrifying moments, the acolytes emerge clear out of the other side. Desoleum’s harsh sunlight filters through the particulate matter hanging in the air and a strange calm presides over landscape. Upon slowing the vehicle, Travers exits and surveys the damage. Although it has lost its extensor fuel cells and snub wings, the Sand-Lynx remains operational.

Finally, at dusk, the acolytes reach their ultimate destination. Up ahead, a sprawling encampment rises from an island situated amidst a steaming chemical lake. Gates of scrap encompass an array of prefab buildings, ramshackle hovels, and plastek tents. Men in armour and assorted protective gear move about, hauling crates onto the decks of vehicles while armed guards patrol the perimeter of the camp. The gate lies at the very edge of the island, and two large towers hold up a drawbridge which seemingly provides the only access.

The acolytes determine that the camp is actually situated on a peninsula backing toward a ridgeline. After some time, they notice another desert crawler approaching the edge of the lake. The camp’s drawbridge slowly descends as heavy chains cycle through winch works. Simultaneously, the wide iron and plasteel gates swing slowly open, pulled manually aside by a half dozen men. The bridge buckles slightly under the weight of the vehicle as is crosses over the acidic moat and through the open gate.

Clearly the camp is well-manned and active.

After a brief examination, the acolytes form a plan. Forgoing the use of their newly acquired voidsuit to infiltrate the camp via the caustic chemical lake, the acolytes ultimately decide to stage a well-prepared ambush. With Travers, the group retreats into the wastes along a well-used path. Faking a vehicle wreck, the acolytes prepare themselves for the next group of smugglers to pass.

Only an hour later, a well-armed Viator desert crawler approaches. The acolytes are questioned by the hostile smugglers. Tybs is beaten briefly as the smugglers attempt to steal the acolytes’ supplies and the xenos artifacts they carry. Soon after, the acolytes begin their surprise attack.

Firing from a secluded position on a rocky escarpment a few dozen metres away, Uziel kills the smuggler’s rooftop gunner with a well-aimed headshot. From above the Sand-Lynx, Amador begins firing with the pintle-mounted Bolter. Tybs takes aim and drops another of the smugglers. From his hiding spot beneath the sand, Grax emerges to attack the smuggler’s rugged vehicle.

After taking three casualties, the remaining two smugglers attempt to flee. Amador, Tybs, and Travers chase down the fleeing vehicle. After a brief chase and a tremendous exchange of gunfire, the smugglers’ vehicle is destroyed and incinerated. The smell of charred flesh and the wreck’s flickering fire fill the air. A sickly smoke slowly rises into the night sky.

The acolytes begin to sift through the wreckage before determining their next steps in investigating their well-armed, well-equipped, and well-connected adversaries.

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