Valdane's Chronicles

Standing in the Shadow - Part 8

A new Dawn

With only one task remaining, the acolytes ready their weapons. Even from a distance, the black and bone building creates a bizarre sense of unease and nausea. Already, Grax feels a sharp pain burrowing through his mind’s eye. The unnatural malevolence contained within somehow both draws his soul forward and absolutely repulses his very being.

Donning their rebreathers, the acolytes stack up on the building’s single doorway. Grax pushes away the oppressive nature of structure, tapping into the Sea of Souls and deploying a telekinetic shield. Uziel raises his grenade launcher, readying its powerful hallucinogenic payload. With a swift motion, Tybs pushes the heavy door inwards, allowing a Uziel a clear line of sight toward the rear of the single chamber. With a hollow thump, the holy canister sails to its target, quickly filling the small chamber with choking gas.

The acolytes pour into the room, finding their four targets immobilized. One lays on the ground, apparently dead. Another tears his own leg apart with a large ceremonial knife. A third has pinned himself to the wall, slowly trying to slide his way out of the room. The last cultist kneels, screaming insane, terrified gibberish at his own hands.

The acolytes begin their quick work of dismantling the Inheritors. Dressed in their dark robes adorned with stone and bone jewelry, the pale, gaunt figures take punishing fire.

Grax’s mind, although clouded by the psychic interference from the chamber, manages to conjure forth and unleash his unholy living lighting, turning their first adversary to a statically-charged cloud of ash.

Sensing that the prone cultist is actually alive, Tybs’ pistols find their mark, killing his prey.

After a few swings, Amador severs the third’s head, whetting his great axe.

Thinking quickly, Uziel manages to wrangle the last into a set of manacles.

Dragging the trapped, screaming cultist outside, the acolytes get their first good look at the chamber. The building’s onyx black walls have been elaborately chiseled with strange runes and patterns, reminiscent of the second xenos orb. In the center of the room sits a plinth of glass carved from the nearby plains that acts as an obscene altar. This crystalline structure reflects and refracts an eerie pink light from the scores of candles situated around the room’s piles of carefully arranged bones.

Atop the blasphemous altar sits an irregularly-shaped, roughly conical piece of the same black material of the orbs and other xenos artefacts. Arrayed about the artefact are six human skulls, elaborately engraved with swirling lines and strange geometric shapes.

Close to the artefact, Grax has another hallucination, seeing vivid images of a world of endless overgrown forests and structures of bone. Eventually the vision is overwhelmed by sickly purple light.

With Uziel securing the fanatic, Grax steadies his mind and begins his interrogation. Although asking many questions about the Inheritors’ motivations and goals, he receives nothing but hisses and sharp, rasping cursing from behind the heretic’s pointed teeth. Cackling in a bizarre language, the cultist reveals nothing of their ultimate plans. Still, the acolytes keep him alive, intending to turn him, and the structure over to more senior Inquisitorial staff.

Searching the bodies finds nothing but some bizarre tomes, bone jewelry, and scrimshawed bone coins and tokens.

With the sun rising over the desert plains, salvation finally comes. Launched an hour previously from the Reliant Dawn, two Arvus Lighters and an Aquila Lander scream across the wastes toward the smoking shell of the smugglers’ base.

Spotting the fast moving lights over the silicate wastes, the acolytes prepare to receive their Inquisitorial overlords.

From the rear ramps of the Arvuses deploys two units of Inquisitorial storm troopers. Clad in heavy baroque carapace armour and wielding a variety of powerful weapons, they quickly begin to scour and secure the remaining ruins and structures.

From the bottom access ramp of the Aquila Lander emerges Valdane and his personal entourage. One older figure under heavy guard, clearly a psyker of some renown advances toward the Inheritors’ abode. Additionally, a Tech Priest and entourage of medical servitors descends, accompanying a large, grav-secured stasis pod. They too depart into the camp, heading toward the direction of the shattered priest Iyathson.

Valdane greets the acolytes but makes haste in explaining the situation. The Inquisition will secure this camp as a forward operating post, hoping to scoop up and remaining smugglers in the wastes and setting up a staging area for inquisitorial operations. He has also deployed an advance team to Port Gyre, keeping a careful eye on the smuggler’s ship at platform Omicron 7-2A. The acolytes will meet them there and determine the best course of action to gain access to the soon-departing shuttle.

They’re provided with a tracking beacon and some basic medical supplies to patch up their current wounds. Corvath’s Arvus is prepared and ready for immediate departure.

Before they leave, the acolytes ask Valdane about the bone tokens. He explains that they are the currency of Thaur, a venerated and sacred cemetery and shrine world. They thank him and prepare to depart.

In a few hours they Gyre. Rising from the desert wastes ahead and jutting out from Hive Desoleum, the port dwarfs the ramshackle settlements clustered in its shadow. Seeing it for the first time from the outskirts, the port is akin to a miniature hive in itself, the landing pads and officios sitting atop the hive’s structure hundreds of metres above the sand, held up by a myriad of ancient structures, loading tunnels, and machinery, much of it derelict.

Vox-spines and landing platforms sprout from the upper levels of the port, while ventilation grates and pipes raining sludge jut from its lower depths. A fog of smoke and plasma engine exhaust envelops the head of the towering port. Hundreds of blinking lights illuminate the cloud from within, some marking landing platforms.

Crowded around the towering base of Port Gyre are haphazard and ramshackle encampments. Like those found at the gate with which the acolytes exited the hive, these settlements appear to cater to wasteland nomads, port workers, off-worlders, merchants, and a hundred other types.

Furthermore, the walls of the hive feature massive tracks on which freight elevators scale the journey up and down from the Port. It seems as though the lifts are the primary way that the inhabitants of the work camps reach the port.

Depositing the acolytes at the ramshackle camps, Corvath wishes them good luck, not knowing the new mission that awaits them.

At the base of the lifts, the acolytes are intercepted by Murco, one of the senior acolytes they had met aboard the Reliant Dawn. He tells them that his team has been watching the shuttle. There seems to be no armed presence, simply the pilots aboard.

After passing several lifts already in use, the party reaches one just in time to begin its journey high above. The platform is already crowded with labourers in heavy coveralls, wasters in sand-blasted robes and merchants in gaudy dress. Several servo-skulls hover about. Once aboard, one of the port’s workers pulls a large lever, and with a hiss of steam and series of loud grating and clanking sounds, the lift begins to move.

The lift moves at a moderate rate, taking over thirty minutes to traverse the kilometer-high structure. The cramped platform has barely enough room for the roughly two dozen passengers aboard, with little in way of railings stopping a surely fatal fall to the ground. At the top, Murco quickly leads the group through the Sanctionary checkpoint, clearly using a previously-established connection.

Weaving between the landing pads, the acolytes find Omicron 7-2A. As a tertiary platform, it lays hidden from view by a few other pads. Like many other platforms around Port Gyre, it is covered with a layer of ash from previous departures and landings. The blinking lights outlining its surface are discoloured, and many have failed already.

A squat, small cargo shuttle is waiting on the platform. There is a hatch in the side of the hold, as well as a large, fold down ramp at the rear. Inside, the crew performs the last few rites and checks the remaining checklists before launch.

The acolytes depart Murco and his team, climbing down the steps towards the shuttle and up into the cargo bay. Greeting the pilot calmly, they pass themselves off as the same Trade Sable Smugglers that they left laying dead and decaying in the wastes.

Told to store their gear, the acolytes strap into a handful of rickety jump seats and prepare for launch.

Amador clutches his gear, his machine-mind already preparing the sacred rites to activate the holy transponder contained within.



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