After interminable minutes, the constant shaking of the acolytes’ shuttle’s movement comes to an abrupt halt, jostling the cargo compartment as it shakes forcefully. Immediately, the roar of the engines dies down, replaced a moment later with the sound of hissing steam and clanking metal as the rear access ramp lowers, revealing a large metal chamber: a cargo hold.
Several additional shuttles sit nearby, clamped into their docking cradles. Across the surprisingly empty chamber, a number of servitors stack crates and shipping containers, seemingly oblivious the acolytes’ arrival. The shuttle’s pilot and copilot perform their post-flight rituals and checklists, thanking the Omnissiah for another safe journey.
As the acolytes cross the deck plating of the cargo bay, suddenly, massive shutters abruptly slide into place across every exterior window and port of the ship, blocking out the view of the void beyond. The background noise of the vessel’s plasma engines, a throbbing sound that permeates everything, abruptly ceases. A moment later, a prickling sensation denotes the reality-encompassing bubble of the ship’s Gellar Field springing into existence. With a gut-wrenching shuddering, the vessel seems to tilt without moving, leaving reality behind as it drags itself into the Warp.
As the acolytes make their way down a few corridors, they begin to hear the sound of songs and chants echoing down the corridors. The sounds grow louder as they approach the source, and the sweet smell of incense wafts strongly through the halls. Rounding a corner, the acolytes encounter a massive parade of hundreds, if not thousands of pilgrims shuffling slowly, each and everyone lending their voices to the praise of the Emperor. Clad in robes, simple cloths, and strips of leather, the raggedy bunch carries censers, torches, and banners proclaiming their devout faith. They head down a main thoroughfare, deeper into the vessel and toward an even larger crowd.
Squeezing alongside the masses, the acolytes question a spectator. Although they raise some slight suspicion, the acolytes discover that the ship is a rogue trader vessel, the Oath Unspoken. Although the flagship of a powerful merchant fleet, the Oath Unspoken currently makes simple pilgrimage runs between Desoleum, the cemetery world of Thaur, and a few other worlds.
Ahead of the acolytes, the corridor opens up into another, even larger chamber whose ceiling is lost amidst shadow, mist, and tangles of steel wire and heavy cablings. The space is given over to a huge, open market – the Drunnels.
The roar of voices echoes across the cavernous chamber as thousands of individuals push past one another in a huge mass, surveying the goods offered at stalls and haphazard shop fronts. A tangle of freestanding structures erected from scrap metal and flak board are built atop one another, rising almost to the ceiling. Gantries, ladders, and rope bridges connect the many entrances and platforms, and a number of acrobats perform their art amidst the ropes and beams that hold the upper levels aloft, to the entertainment of the crowd below.
Making their way into the crowd, a small figure bumps into Uziel. Thankfully noticing the work of a crude pickpocket, Uziel gives chase. Grax leaches energy from the dreg’s soul, causing him to collapse to the ground. Tybs sneaks into the crowd to watch out for other threats while the others drag the thief toward the ship’s outer bulkheads. The acolytes retrieve their stolen goods, rid the thief of his own wares, and turn him over to a nearby patrol of armsmen. Clad in crimson carapace emblazoned with gilded lions, the heavily armed enforces drag the still stunned ruffian away for “processing”.
The acolytes eventually make their way to the market stalls, seeking to refit and rearm for the next leg of their journey. Here, they study the intense and bizarre customs of haggling that have permeated the ship’s culture. As a performance unto itself, the haggling appears to be an intrinsic part of any transaction. The acolytes notice that in many cases, neither party actually has any tangible goods for trade besides their own oratory prowess and skilled deliveries.
Leveraging his Adeptus Arbite background in high-tension negotiations, Uziel manages to successfully haggle and “perform” a transaction for a venerated Melta Gun. Although slightly less successful, Tybs also manages to acquire pieces to construct a customized Servo Skull. Lastly, Amador tracks down some cybernetics and finds a medicae facility of sufficient standing to install them.
While Amador is indisposed, the group gets the lay of the land, and canvases the crowds.
Primarily, the acolytes find out that the vessel’s main destination is indeed the cemetery world of Thaur, and although the Oath Unspoken normally carries a large number of pilgrims, this voyage has more passengers than normal. Furthermore, many of Oath Unspoken’s clientele are the deceased – undergoing their final pilgrimage and awaiting their burial among the venerated graves and mausoleums of Thaur. This swell of passengers is due to a very special ceremony happening on Thaur; the celebration of the martyrdom of Saint Merusaad the Virtuous.
The journey normally takes approximately two weeks of warp transit, but many feel that this journey is ill-omened.
The acolytes also learn the name of Calvan Sterr, a well-respected information broker who operates aboard the ship. After Amador recovers from his procedures and new installations, the party eventually seeks him out.
Like all merchants aboard the Oath Unspoken, Sterr haggles over the information he trades. Notably, he offers more for reliable or interesting information and makes it clear when he is dealing with rumours. Sterr is a slight man with lank, oily hair that hangs over his eyes and over his perpetual and slightly unsettling grin.
In exchange for Inquisitorial connections, Sterr provides some key pieces of information.
First, a well known narco-smuggler named Jarrad Cincayde is travelling aboard the Oath Unspoken.
Secondly, some group has been hiring as many mercenaries and gunhands as possible. Sterr directs the acolytes to one he knows that turned down their offer – Ternace Del.
Additionally, not long ago, a strange, dark, stone-like object came into the possession of one the local merchants, Ghorace Malk.
Lastly, as the acolytes rise to leave Sterr’s bizarrely formal office, he provides them with a small rumour – a higher than normal number of crew have recently gone missing from the lower decks, specifically from among the Corpse Holds.
The party splits up to cover as many bases as quickly as possible.
Posing as a simple obscura addict, Tybs heads to the narco-smuggler Cincayde. In a dirty room furnished with a soiled mattress and a stack of boxes, Tybs procures some narcotics and slyly plies some information from Cincayde. He finds that Cincayde knows about the Trade Sable smugglers and their reputation for being ruthless. He claims that he refuses to deal with them, as they deal with goods even more prohibited than narcotics – “Horrible things that drive men mad.” He brags to Tybs that he had seen two of them among the Corpse Holds. Nonchalantly, he describes the rough location.
Uziel heads to track down the mercenary Ternace Del in a rented room off the Drunnels. Del explains that a dark-robed, somber man approached him with a vague offer of employment, offering a large payment of Thaurian bone chips. Although the pay was high, he turned down the work due to “a bad feeling”. Specifically, the figure offered Del no details regarding the job except that it could put him at odds against the Lord Captain Anzaforr at some point during the journey.
Finally, Amador seeks out Ghorace Malk’s stall. Using Sterr’s name, Amador finds out that Malk had received the bizarre object over the course of a regular trade. He thought it was merely peculiar – as if it held a purely novelty value. He was told it came from Thaur, but it was bizarre – a stone that was cold, almost oily to the touch, and blacker than the void. Eventually, a figure came and paid a king’s ransom for it in bone chips. Normally, like all merchants, Malk would have haggled, but sum was too large to risk. The customer was a somber, gaunt man in black robes adorned in bones. Although Malk hadn’t seen the figure in a week or so, Amador leaves one of the party’s orbs with him, hoping to set a trap.
Lastly, Grax finds out that the Corpse Holds are actually much larger than the party had believed. In fact, the Holds comprise of dozens of square kilometres given over to the storage of corpses on their final journey to Thaur. Knowing that he can’t possibly hope to safely cover that ground alone, Grax returns to the Drunnels where the acolytes brief each other on their respective developments.
Eventually, they determine that they must explore the Corpse Holds and seek out either the Trade Sable smugglers that Cincayde had seen or attempt to find any more signs of The Inheritors that are aboard.
They find the Corpse Holds locked behind immense, frosted doors. Forcing the ancient mechanisms open, the acolytes prepare themselves to enter the frozen domain of the dead.