Valdane's Chronicles

Shadows Over Praxos - Part 3
Finding the prospector. Lighting the fires of truth.

Somewhat dismayed by the lack of any solid evidence, the acolytes depart Barrow’s hab. With the start of Praxos’ coming night-cycle beginning to take hold of Foundation, they navigate their way back to the massive lift and return to Midstone.

They search out Krieger’s domicile, looking to gain more information about the “Brotherhood” and their supposed ties into Foundation’s labour movements. Reaching the senior agent’s hab, they find the door locked and without answer. Although they think of breaking into the hab, the acolytes decide against it – knowing that Krieger’s slightly paranoid nature and fondness for gadgets could well translate into the presence of unseen booby-traps.

Instead, the acolytes return to the market district to leave Krieger a dead-dropped message – a request to meet the next morning.

The acolytes pass an uncomfortably cold, dark night in their meager accommodations.

With the returning illumination of the station’s fluorescents and the restarting of the station’s heaters and recirculators marking a new dawn, the acolytes return to the market yet again. Purchasing new bedding and ration packs, the acolytes load up their autocarriage and return back to Krieger’s.

The Interrogator bids them welcome and the two groups brief each other on their progress. Krieger has continued to dig into the Combine’s operations without much luck. Mostly, he has kept an eye on Brenner, whose behavior has regularized into a set working routine in High Haven.

In lieu of a long explanation of the last few day’s events and investigations, Ishamael quickly relays the details and his visions through a telepathic exchange. Krieger agrees with the acolytes’ assessments that there is likely Genestealer involvement in Barrow’s gruesome murder.

Furthermore, Krieger affirms that “the Brotherhood” is The Brotherhood of Praxos, a recently-formed fraternal organization that helps provide basic sustenance as well as helping resolve labor disputes on behalf of the working classes. The Brotherhood has started making inroads into Foundation’s various refineries and mines and has begun taking over a few minor labour contracts.

The acolytes set a meeting time with Krieger for the next night and decide to set out and gather information on their last outstanding victim – the low-level prospector Callen Desun.

To find his trail, they search out a merchant that may have ties to House Terryn, the prospector guild that reported Desun missing. Calidus manages to locate a dealer of tapestries, pottery, and fineries that seems to be of a slightly higher standing than the other merchants in the district.

Calidus and Ishamael claim to be visiting merchants representing House Arkady who are seeking to purchase a suitable gift for House Terryn and to set up delivery of the aforementioned purchase.

Among the available goods, Ishamael notices a bizarre, asymmetrical pot. The merchant explains that the piece is Glavian, from the Scarus sector – a fine example of their exquisite craftsmanship that is a few hundred years old.

Calidus attempts to make the purchase on credit, but as House Arkady is a new arrival in the Askellon Sector, he is forced to use hard currency and a trade of the exquisite Combine chrono recovered from Seran Tellic’s residence.

As the rotund merchant finalizes the agreement on his dataslate, Calidus glances over to see House Terryn’s coordinates brought up on screen. Calidus and Ishamael inform the merchant that they have changed their minds, deciding to take the pottery themselves.

The acolytes find House Terryn located in Midstone, on the cusp of Magnutia Gardens, Midstone’s artificial biome. This surrounding area is taken by guilds and merchant houses too wealthy to brush shoulders with unwashed masses, but not wealthy enough to warrant a permanent stead in High Haven. Gilded double doors and double wide blast windows decorate a mostly stone-grey façade. A large crest of an equine creature and a carrion bird looms over the entryway.

Inside, unlike most guild offices, House Terryn is rather utilitarian. Simple workstations and large cogitators are positioned about the room. A mess of papers, geological samples, and dataslates are stacked high atop most. A few figures in simple uniforms turn their heads as the acolytes walk in. One approaches, a mid-aged man with scruffy, bronze-coloured hair that introduces himself as Quinten Marus, Chief of Terryn Prospecting for the Southern Field.

Having formed a suitable cover story, the acolytes inform Marus that they are sanctioned bounty hunters that have been hired to locate Desun. They ask for any details regarding his whereabouts.

Marus explains that Desun’s name is familiar to him, and that Terryn is looking for the prospector as well. He explains that Desun had acquired a down payment to do a geological survey and assessment of some rock formation on the underside of Praxos – and area know as the Understone.

Although it is normally rare that prospectors are willing to work on the underside of an asteroid – as superstitions state that any that try will fall off into the void – Desun was one of the few that was willing and Terryn had successfully worked with him in the past. Now, it seems like he has pocketed his down payment and ran.

Marus informs the acolytes that House Terryn had even sent a collections team to Desun’ residence without any luck. Finally, Marus offers a finder’s fee if the acolytes can recover Terryn’s lost funds. The acolytes collect the prospector’s address and depart.

Desun’s hab block is located in one of Midstone’s poorer districts, close to the Foundation Lift. It is a squat, grey building among a sea of squat grey buildings. At the top of a few flights of stairs, they find his chambers, locked.

Calidus heads further up and scopes out the roof, seeking a method to possibly enter Desun’ hab from an exterior window if the situation so requires. Caradoc instead focuses on the door’s sturdy locks, eventually opening the entryway after a few attempts. Unlike Tellic’s hab, Desun’s appears to be untouched, with nothing appearing amiss or out of the ordinary.

Among the prospector’s papers, the acolytes find an invoice for the hiring of a small surveyor’s cutter from the Praxos-Urquain Geological Services. It appears that Desun had made a payment for half of the required amount – with the second half due upon completion of the trip.

As another false morning arrives, the acolytes track down Praxos-Urquain among the many terminals and warehouses of the dock district. The front half of the diminutive officio housing the firm is an open stall, allowing customers and new clients to quickly interface with the rotund figure manning the location.

The acolytes inquire about Desun’s business and the owner claims that the prospector had paid for Praxos-Urquian’s services, scheduled the flight, logged the flight plan, but never showed up.

As such, the acolytes convince the purveyor to return the credits to House Terryn and to allow them to take over Desun’s flight plan. They register their details and secure their flight – providing their address as that of the hab next to their own.

As they finalize the paperwork, the merchant explains that a shuttle won’t be ready until the next day.

Ishamael and the others sense some unease in the man’s words. Suspicious of a lie, the acolytes step aside to discuss the matter. Deciding that the merchant may be playing a role in Praxos’ disappearances, Ishamael forces his way into the man’s panicked mind, showing him the horrible damage that the psyker can inflict.

As Ishamael telepathically threatens a horrific fate, Calidus quickly and quietly slips inside the officio’s back rooms. Calidus makes his way to the front of the stall, grabbing the man and pulling him into the back storage area to question him.

The frightened merchant breaks down and explains that some odd looking fellows offered him payments if he provided information regarding prospectors that were planning on performing any surveys of the Understone.

The merchant claims that he has only provided this information a few times, and this is the first where the prospector never showed up for his scheduled flight.

Furthermore, the merchant explains that he sends these messages to a secure one-way channel. He includes flight details, information about the prospectors, their addresses, and everything else available – as he has now done with the acolytes’ information mere moments ago. Although he never gets answers back, the odd men later show up to collect more information and deliver payment.

With the required information in hand, the acolytes force the purveyor to ensure that their flight is booked with sufficient equipment aboard.

Deciding that the nervous merchant could potentially compromise their investigation, the acolytes gag and bind him to a chair with strips of torn cloth. The acolytes then exit out the back of the room as Ishamael taps into the warp and sets fire to the man.

The merchant’s muffled screams and the crackling of Ishamael’s wych-fyre are easily overwhelmed by the numerous and varied sounds of Praxos’ busy piers and void docks.

The acolytes slip deep into the dense crowds as the psychic fire begins to spread throughout Praxos-Urquain’s storage rooms and document archives. The acolytes close in on their rented shuttle as the first wisps of smoke begin to escape from the officio’s sealed doors.

As the acolytes greet their pilot and mount up aboard the cutter, panic begins to grip parts of the crowds. Emergency crews begin filing through the crowds, making their way to the rapidly-engulfed building.

The acolytes’ pilot – unaware of the tragedy that has just befallen his employer – maneuvers the craft from the landing pads and out of Praxos’ large void gates.

As the fires flicker behind their speeding craft, the acolytes inspect their new gear and make ready for the darkness of the Understone.

Shadows Over Praxos - Part 2
Transportation and early inquiries.

After a few days of canvasing the crowds, the acolytes set out, trying to get a true lie of the land and acquire some much needed transportation.

From their cramped and simple dwellings, the party heads deeper into Midstone – to Praxos’ main market district. Like Midstone’s streets, the markets are full of traffic, both vehicular, as well as pedestrian. Most merchants occupy stalls littered across a large stone square as well as under the awnings and overhangs of the adjacent buildings. Other peddlers make their way among the crowds, carrying or towing their collections of trinkets, goods, or refreshments. The smell of sweat and smoke drifts over the press of bodies.

Arkady locates a simple outfitter, acquiring a set of armour for his compatriots.

Meanwhile, Calidus and Felpox attempt to locate some chems in order to supplement the witch-doctor’s current dwindling supply. Finding only a surly narco-dealer, they come up empty-handed.

Caradoc also makes his way among the stalls, attempting to locate some cranial armour to further reinforce the sturdy feudal warrior, Taeric. Familiar with the needed specifications of the augmentation, Caradoc finds a suitable piece and finalizes the transaction.

After a semi-successful day at the market, the group returns to their hab to discuss their next steps.

Felpox goes about setting up a small operating area and spends the next few days bolting the armour to Taeric’s skull. Packing and bandaging the wounds with mashed herbs and plant coverings, he keeps the warrior in a drugged daze, keeping watch for vengeful spirits and maintaining a vigil over Taeric’s condition and life signs.

Calidus, Caradoc, and Arkady head back to the market, finding a scrap dealer at the edge of the district. Arkady and Calidus bargain for a wrecked Hectin autocarriage, acquiring it as well as a Veloxic cycle. They limp the damaged carriage back to their hab, where Caradoc and Calidus spend the next few days repairing it back to working order. Calidus learns much from the talented servant of the Omnissiah, as they gut the vehicle and revamp the body work – turning the once enclosed civilian craft into a rugged open-topped high-capacity transport.

Over this week full of healing and repairs, Ishamael wanders Praxos’ crowds, probing the dock district and Midstone for rumours or other oddities. He discovers that not only are there constant rumours of disappearances in Praxos’ slums deep below in Foundation, but now there’s word that people are starting to go missing from Midstone itself.

After recovery, Taeric rejoins the rest of the party. Mounting their new vehicles, they return to the market once more, finally attempting to find Varl Krieger at one of his scheduled dead drops. Among the crowds, Calidus notices a solitary wandering figure vaguely matching Krieger’s description. Ishamael reaches out to the man’s mind, pushing a telepathic message that they have arrived by order of Valdane. Krieger departs down an alleyway, subtly motioning for the group to follow.

Rounding the corner, they find Krieger gripping what appears to be a weapon in his long storm cloak. He speaks a nonsensical phrase about some kind of “thirteenth sunrise.” Without hesitation, Caradoc replies an equally nonsensical sentence regarding the depth of the “ninth night”. As the acolytes realize that some kind of psycho conditioning has been hidden deep inside their minds during their indoctrinations aboard the Reliant Dawn, Krieger ushers them off the streets.

Krieger takes the party to a nondescript hab block some distance off of the main thoroughfares. Entering the hab, he takes a long look around before bringing the acolytes inside. Then, he sets security latches on the door and thumbs a small device sitting at the bottom of the frame. Walking over to the table, he reaches underneath and toggles yet another switch. Finally, he seems to relax.

From his clothing, he removes and stores his hidden weapons and gear and then pours a round of cold recaf. The acolytes drink slowly as they recount the details of the recent events of Tertia-12.

Krieger then explains the situation on Praxos, offering that there have been a number of disappearances over the last few weeks. Some of the victims have turned up, however, in pieces. Krieger has confirmed identities of a few from marks and names on their shredded up garments.

From what he can tell, there has been little to no pattern – the disappearances have been from both the slums in Foundation as well as a few from Midstone, mostly regular citizens with no personality issues, signs of addiction, or unsavory connections.

Krieger explains that due to his continued investigation of the Combine, he has yet had the chance to fully delve into the disappearances. Now that the acolytes have arrived, he can turn over his meager findings for them to use. Krieger produces a dataslate from a locked storage chest and slides it across the table. Lighting up the room, it shows the names and images of three individuals that have recently vanished:

The closest, geographically speaking, is a woman, 28, Seran Tellic, a mid-level Combine Adept or clerk. She defaulted on her payments for her hab in Midstone. Although no one has seen her for a while now, it wasn’t reported until recently.

The next is a man, Saul Barrow, 53, a worker in Foundation. They found what was left of him near the refinery in which he worked – Seisman Smeltery.

The last on the list is another man, 32, Callen Desun. Krieger is not sure where he lived. Desun was a low-level prospector that often did contracts with House Terryn. Terryn registered him as missing with the local Arbites – it seems like he owed them some money that they’re keen on collecting.

Having set the acolytes onto the most recent trails, Krieger he explains that he will resume his inquest into the Trade Combine’s operations on Praxos to determine if anything is connected. The acolytes explain that they have made their own contact, Dalsius Brenner. Krieger promises to keep a close eye on him, especially with Brenner aware that the Inquisition in operating on Praxos.

Using an address from Krieger’s notes, the acolytes begin by proceeding to the residence of Seran Tellic. Unlike other, higher-ranking members of the Combine, Tellic lives in Midstone. There, the acolytes find her thick, squat building off of one of the lesser highways. Climbing up a few flights of stairs, they arrive at her door, sealed.

Calidus picks the sturdy lock, opens the door, and is immediately hit with the smell of alcohol and stale air. Inside, Tellic’s small living quarters are a mess, with furniture and items knocked over haphazardly. After a cursory glance, it appears that there was some kind of struggle. The mattress is stained with urine and a few drops of blood. A bottle of amasec lays half broken behind a chair.

Ishamael sequesters himself in Tellic’s quarters, peering into the warp, hoping to catch a glimpse of what transpired. Like his vision from a few days before, he sees two robed figures coming to take away a terrified woman. She fights back, shattering a bottle over one of their faces. Furthermore, her own nails tear out while she tries to keep herself from being taken.

Before leaving Tellic’s hab, Calidus locates a cog token used to access to the lifts to High Haven, mostly likely where Tellic worked.

Next, the acolytes investigate the most recent registered address for Saul Barrow. Although they have the coordinates from Krieger’s information and a general idea of their locations, finding either in Foundation’s twisting, ramshackle press of buildings and its maze of dirty streets presents itself to be a challenge.

Eventually, they arrive at Barrow’s hovel, a small, crooked door along a dirt passageway. His address is scrawled upon the hatch in simple rust-coloured paint. The door is closed, as is a small window covered by oxidized metal shutters.

Once inside, they find that Saul Barrow’s domicile is a simple place, minimally furnished. Cracks of florescent light poke in through the shutters, lighting the dust hanging in the air. His bed is a thin mattress on a plain metal frame. In one corner of the room is a small oil furnace. Cooking utensils sit atop. On the other side stands a simple writing desk with a well-worn leather chair.

Inside the small desk the acolytes find a variety of letters and correspondences. The first appears to be some kind of letter from a local foundry’s union – the organization’s letterhead looks official enough. The note is short, simple, and to the point, explaining that now that “The Brotherhood” owns the Seisman Smeltery contract, there is nothing the union can do to aid in Barrow’s labour disputes.

The second letter is signed by Barrow himself. Scrawled on simple parchment, it’s addressed to an unnamed member of the Trade Combine. In the letter, Barrow complains about “The Brotherhood’s” monopoly on labour contracts and pleads with the Combine to intervene. He claims that he will soon start raising the matter to higher authorities.

The last is another message written by Barrow and addressed to his sister. He complains that he is being pressed out of the lucrative shifts and having a hard time making ends meet. He notes that he has vocally expressed his concerns and issues about what he calls “The Brotherhood”, but that he feels like he is mostly being ignored.

Finding no concrete evidence of Barrow’s disappearance or any wrong-doings, Ishamael once again stares into the Sea of Souls. Through alien eyes, he stalks past the belching steam vents and smoke stacks of Foundation’s tangled ceilings. Below, a man in workers’ garments leaves a facility. Following the worker from high above, Ishamael prowls down twisted and cramped corridors. Feeling nothing but searing hate and hunger, he leaps, tearing into the screaming man before the vision fades out – bearing striking similarities to his previous auguries.

Calidus finds a set of Seisman Smeltery workers’ coveralls and the acolytes depart Barrow’s abandoned hab.

Shadows Over Praxos - Part 1
Debriefings and rebriefings. Arriving in Midstone.

After a few hours voyage, the bloodied and shaken acolytes return to the Reliant Dawn, Brenner and Kaur included.

Immediately after landing, they’re set upon by a handful of Inquisitorial storm troopers as well as a large number of Mechanicus adepts, servitors, and tech priests – members of the Adeptus Biologis. It seems like word of the acolytes’ experience has already gotten back to the Dawn. Questions begin flying from the science and security representatives as the acolytes are shepherded down the Dawn’s corridors and away from their typical lodgings.

Separated from Brenner and Kaur, the acolytes are placed in biologis quarantine, undergoing a few weeks of debriefings, body scans, medicae checks, and psychological screenings.

Eventually, they’re released back into the general population to recuperate. They take time to tend to their gear and acquire a few more pieces of necessary equipment.

Arkady, unhappy with they amount of information they’ve received regarding this new threat, sets out to find the Dawn’s archives or any kind of Inquisitorial library. Convincing the senior agents to grant him clearance, he locates Perrin Lemant, the Reliant Dawn’s chief savant and caretaker of knowledge. From among the dark and dusty archive stacks, Lemant recovers a few tomes, offering them to Arkady to study.

After a few days, the party is once again summoned and taken to Inquisitor Valdane’s briefing chamber. He stands in the corner, nodding acknowledgement as the group makes its way inside.

Valdane is explains that the creature they encountered on Tertia-12 was a Genestealer – a vanguard organism of the Tyranid race that excels in the infiltration of other species’ inhabited worlds and vessels. First encountered sixty years ago, it had yet to be seen in Askellon space until now.

The Inquisitor thumbs an activation rune on the table and once again, a holographic view of Port Aquila crackles to life. A single image is highlighted and the hologram zooms in, revealing Praxos Station, a facility the size of a small hive.

Valdane explains that some time ago, the Inquisition started receiving rumours of disappearances aboard Praxos. At first, they had attributed it to Combine wrongdoings. However, with the information the acolytes managed to recover from Tertia-12, there is a new belief that these events may all be connected.

As such, Valdane tasks the acolytes with investigating the disappearances on Praxos and to find out if they are. Additionally, if there are other Genestealers present, they are to find out how they entered Port Aquila and then destroy them for good.

Lastly, Valdane explains that the Heretek from the recovered vid-capture is familiar to the Inquisition – although they have not seen his presence in some time. If the acolytes find him on Praxos, they are to question and kill him.

The acolytes are told that once aboard, they should find lodgings and transportation and seek out Varl Krieger, one of Valdane’s senior agents. Although looking into the Trade Combine’s operations, Krieger is likely to have information that could aid in the acolytes’ investigation. Valdane provides a simple description of what Krieger may look like as well as the times and general location of where he receives his dead drops.

Heading to the Reliant Dawn’s flight bay, the acolytes find Brenner waiting for them. They mount up aboard Corvath’s shuttle and once again depart into the depths of Port Aquila’s asteroid fields.

After a journey slightly shorter than the last, the massive Praxos Station eventually slips into view.

Gaping void gates welcome small and medium sized vessels inside the safety of the station’s confines. Those vessels too large for the gates maintain a safe distance close by, their swollen hulls disgorging cargo and shuttles to the awaiting port.

Passing through the gates into an absolutely gargantuan and cavernous hold, the acolytes hear the rush of returning atmosphere. Lights ahead flash warnings of gravitational return and the multitude of shuttles coming and going switch between their plasma engines and their atmospheric thrusters. Those shuttles still too heavy for terrestrial gravitation wait at the threshold. The acolytes’ Arvus continues through to the mess of landing pads, docking clamps, and other berths.

The docks are easily reminiscent of Desoleum’s Port Gyre. However, rather than built up the side of a hive, Praxos’ landing areas are spread out, like false waterfront piers under a plasteel and ferocrete sky. These piers filter traffic in from the smaller landing pads and giant void gates. Most travelers and workers are on foot, but numerous haulers, autocarriages, and cycles motor past, emerging from shuttles, cargo landers, and the holds of other vessels.

Eventually, Corvath, in communication with the dozens of control towers, chooses and sets the Arvus down inside one of the less-cramped landing areas.

Pulling up the relevant documentation, Arkady recounts how Praxos is separated into three distinct areas:

First, there’s Midstone – connected to the docks by a few main arteria networks and fast travel rail lines. Midstone is supposedly no different than most typical mid-hives and is home to the majority of Praxos’ 647,000 habitants. It also hosts Praxos’ main markets.

Beneath Midstone, dug deep into the heart of the asteroid is Foundation. Past Midstone’s market district, a massive lift shuttles cargo and passengers down and back. Most have no reason to travel there, as Foundation is mostly home to refineries, slums, and ore mines.

Finally, atop Praxos sits High Haven – the main seat of the Combine’s holdings aboard the station and where the main Praxos control centre is located. From the warehouse district along the docks, High Haven is accessible from a series of private lifts.

Even in the hustle and bustle of the piers, it’s clear that like the rest of Port Aquila, the docks are run by the Combine. Ahead, where the pier meets the main assembly areas, a security checkpoint screens those arriving and departing, checking logs and manifests for discrepancies and outstanding tariffs.

At the checkpoint, Arkady presents forged documents indicating their presence as a merchant envoy and the acolytes easily pass through the Combine’s screenings.

Once through, it becomes more evident that besides the Combine, many other guilds have holdings here. Large stamped guild crests mark various warehouses, storage yards, and small- to medium-size officios.

Additionally, towering over the landing areas, a large black structure looms, covered in arrays, spotlights, and a large aquila. It seems that even the Adeptus Arbites have a small contingent here.

Now, past the piers, merchant stalls are set up, attempting to make quick sales of goods and services to incoming visitors. Equipment, transportation, guides, and other forms of labour are readily available, for a price.

As they make their way through the crowds, Brenner stops and informs them that he must check in with the Combine and deliver his report. He wishes the party well and departs to High Haven.

The acolytes attempt to secure some transportation – an autocarriage and cycle. However, with a lack of credits on hand, they are forced to take the dirty and cramped public hab-conveyors.

They exit the transportation network in the very middle of Midstone, which, in turn, sits at the centre of Praxos. Surrounded on all sides by officios, guild halls, and hab blocks, Midstone is a sea of grey metal and rockcrete. Midstone’s many throughways, streets, and corridors are thick with foot and vehicle traffic as the masses come and go about their daily business. Over the streets hangs scaffolding, numerous walkways, and messes of cables and conduits. Every so often the passageways open to small courtyards, terraces, or public squares.

Using their assumed identities, the acolytes secure lodgings in a nondescript hab block.

Their first night’s sleep is uneasy, as many are still plagued with nightmares of the tunnel and of the Tyranid.

Ishamael takes time to ask the Emperor for guidance, seeking to read the ebbs and flows of the warp. He feels dread, knowing that Praxos is full of many evils. Catching brief glimpses of a woman taken, a man cleaved apart, and strange faces in the crowd, Ishamael knows that many challenges await.

Over the next two days, the acolytes canvas Midstone’s crowds, attempting to determine if there has been any news or rumours of their arrival. Although thorough, their inquiries are inconclusive.

Now, the acolytes set out upon their task – peering into the shadows hanging over Praxos.

Belly of the Beast - Part 3
Unwelcome guests.

As the creature tears its way down the cramped tunnel, many of the acolytes are frozen in pure terror. Panic grips them as their few stablights illuminate the monster rampaging through the dark, freezing water toward them.

The beast leaps are Taeric, tearing deep into his shoulder. It swipes again, just barely missing his head.

Arkady and Brenner attempt to flee the living nightmare, making a dash for the ladder back up to the well-lit corridor above.

Felpox’s mind snaps, and he lashes out at his friends, believing that they too are more of these “daemons”.

Calidus opens fire at the beast with his shotpistol. The weapon’s roar is deafening in the tight confines of the maintenance conduit. Unfortunately, he only manages to gouge a few scratches into the thing’s thick chitin plates.

Ishamael too begins firing, overcharging his laspistol. With a crack-hiss, Ishamael’s bolt fires down the tunnel and into the beast, blowing out a chunk as the energy superheats part of the creature’s exoskeleton. Black ichor pours into the water, laying across the surface like an oil.

Incensed, the beast rips its way up the wall beside Taeric and leaps into the middle of Ishamael, Felpox, and Caradoc. With a furious, dizzying assault of talons and blades, it tears into the acolytes.

Felpox is caught by one of the creature’s razor claws, tearing open this throat and adding his own blood to the flooded tunnel. He staggers back, clutching his gaping wound, and tumbles into the bulkhead behind him.

Caradoc disengages from the beast, narrowly avoiding another flurry of attacks. Raising his helgun, he fires a volley of overcharged bolts. A few catch the creature low, throwing up sizzling steam as they punch through the water and into the thing’s powerful leg muscles.

Calidus inhales a series of powerful combat drugs as he draws forth his chainsword. From over his shoulder, a now-recovered Arkady lends his laspistol to the fight as well.

Charging the beast, Calidus catches it in the shoulder. The chainsword roars as it digs deep, soon becoming bogged down in flesh and bone, spraying the walls with the creature’s alien blood. The four-armed monstrosity flails – screeching, hissing, and roaring.

Wounded, the creature leaps to the ceiling, using all six limbs to escape back into the darkness of the flooded tunnel.

Caradoc, Ishmael, and Arkady keep their weapons and lights trained down the dark tunnel, waiting for the beast to return. Wounded, Felpox and Taeric help each other back to the ladder. Back on Deck 16, the acolytes find a terrified Brenner and start their rapid retreat.

They make their way to the docking bay, finding Corvath, oblivious to what has just transpired. Kaur remains aboard the Arvus as well, still sedated and strapped to one of the shuttle’s gravity benches.

Corvath fires up the Arvus’ engines and prepares for their emergency evacuation and the shaken and wounded acolytes drag themselves aboard. Now secured, they depart the beleaguered Tertia-12 for good, beginning another dangerous dance through Port Aquila’s dense asteroid field.

Belly of the Beast - Part 2
A new friend and dark places.

Before proceeding, the acolytes decide to inspect the station’s small security station, hoping to get a better understanding of what exactly has transpired. Brenner informs them that it should be found a few decks up.

Calidus propels himself into the elevator shaft, checking to see if the passage is safe to travel through. Scanning quickly high and low with his stablight, he swears that he spots movement up among the pulleys and chains at the very top of the shaft. For just a split second he feels something staring back, before it rapidly slips away.

Voicing a warning to the party, he continues up, propelling himself gently up to the correct level. The rest of the party follows.

The small security station sits at the end of the hall, the door open, leading to what appears to be a small waiting room. Inside, a handful of chairs and benches are scattered about. A small counter is built into wall on the far side of the room. Its armored window and locked door separates the guard’s station and armoury from the waiting room itself. Like the docking bay’s control room, the armoured window has been sheared open and pushed inwards.

Calidus disassembles the lock, making his way inside. Globules of congealed blood, scraps of flesh, discarded equipment, and a few bodies dance in the zero-gravity. Additionally, in the corner, a small holding cell is separated from the rest by large plasteel bars and a closed cell door. Inside, a man floats dead, gripping the holding cell’s keys. His vacant eyes remain wide open, his lifeless mouth stuck in a frozen scream.

Through a crude vision, Ishamael sees the security team’s desperate last moments – panicked fire at someone, or something breaking through the armoured glass. After a sound of crashing, the guards scream a bloodcurdling scream and the vision slips away.

Gathering what meager equipment they can, the party presses back downward toward the generatorium – knowing that if they can restore power to the station, perhaps they can recover the station’s logs.

Calidus, Caradoc, and Taeric lead the way, gliding down the elevator shaft past roughly twelve of Tertia’s seventeen decks.

The group eventually reaches the bottom, a large engineering corridor leading to the mighty generatorium – a massive, cavernous chamber dug deep into the heart of the asteroid. Half of the chamber is bare rock, a dark brown, porous substance. In the middle of the room, the massive plasma generators sit idle and cold.

On the generatorium’s control deck, Caradoc, Calidus, and Brenner find the cogitators and control panels destroyed, shredded, or blown apart. At the base of the ruined controls is another body. His figure slowly drifts back and forth in the gravity-free environment – his stiffened, bloated fingers holding the metal grating. Congealed blood floats freely around his colossal wounds.

Utilizing a schematic provided by Arkady, Caradoc and Brenner set to work repairing the damaged systems.

Meanwhile, Felpox examines the body. Like the one found in the docking bay control room and those found in the security station, this body has been completely eviscerated by some sort of extremely sharp blades. Furthermore, he determines that this man’s soul departed some seven days ago.

After Brenner and Caradoc finally patch and splice around the major damage, the room is filled with a tremendous roar and a deep glow as the ancient plasma furnaces come back to life. The lights and machines flicker alive and gravity slowly pulls the acolytes back to the deck plating.

Now, the party begins a long ascent to the station’s control centre. With the lift inoperable, they are forced to snake back and forth through the heart of Tertia-12. Eventually, they pass through a few decks that appear to have been the scene of some heavy fighting. Much of the power and lighting in this section is still inoperable. Calidus, scouting ahead, sees a figure dart across the dark hallway from one room to the next.

The party takes positions while Calidus sneaks ahead to gain more information. Suddenly, a blinding stablight turns the corner, the figure yells numerous threats, raising some sort of weapon and claiming that he’ll “take them all with him”.

Arkady calms the man, declaring that they are part of the Inquisition, sent to ascertain what happened to the station and to rescue any survivors. Hushed, the man quickly ushers them out of the corridor, ducking into a hab, and proceeding through a series of vents. The acolytes follow.

The man is a survivor – Bann Kaur – who leads them to his “safe room”. The chamber features a small, dirty bed and is stacked high with empty food rations. Armed with a rivet gun and lascutter, Kaur is on edge, clearly having lived through a nightmare over the last few weeks.

Kaur explains that three weeks ago, “something” began killing the crew. At first, just a few members went missing, then chunks of bodies started turning up. A lock down and curfew were instituted. He notes that he’s heard stories of things like this before, but he thought it was just rumours – a simple myth that prospectors called the "Beast of Praxos”.

Arkady is aware of the myth – a common ghost story spread throughout Port Aquila’s many taverns over the last few years.

Whatever it was, Kaur notes that the beast took out Tertia’s entire security team on its own. Although the facility sent distress calls, no help arrived. Brenner notes that the Combine had never received any distress communications.

Kaur recounts how another week passed as more crew disappeared. Then, about a week ago, Tertia-12 received word over the short-range vox that a Mechanicus repair envoy would be landing soon. The crew was told to ready the docking bay for a single small shuttle.

Kaur describes how the “Tech Priest” and his men killed most of the remaining crew and then ruined the rest of the station’s systems and sole shuttle. Any survivors scattered into hiding, but Kaur believes that he is the last one remaining.

Seeing Kaur’s fragile mental state, the acolytes decide to return him to their Arvus and have Corvath secure him. Felpox administers some sedatives in order to render him unconscious.

The acolytes explain the current situation and their plan to Corvath – if they fail to check in regularly, Corvath should leave without them.

The party makes their way up to the control room. Through the open double-sized blast door, they see the chaos inside. Control consoles have been blown or torn apart. Las rounds and concentrated scorch patterns mark the walls all over. Some bodies lay around the floor, others, including servitors stay hunched over their consoles, dead.

Once again, Caradoc and Brenner set out to repair the main control terminal. After some time, they gain access to the station’s log. Both the station’s surveillance logs as well as the docking bay logs have been removed. The remaining logs match Kaur’s account.

Furthermore, among the personnel logs, they find out that the first disappearance was a crew member who had transferred on from Praxos Station outside of a normal crew rotation. Soon after, many more workers started to go missing.

Lastly, the acolytes find that one of the station’s servitors is still active, Makron-12b. Although damaged, it is still operable. Its location is Deck 16’s secondary maintenance conduit – part of what Kaur had noted as the “beast’s” hunting grounds.

Before attempting to locate the servitor, the acolytes decide to vent most of the station’s atmosphere, hoping to possibly kill whatever is stalking them from the shadows. After an hour, they restore life support and set out to recover Makron-12b’s memory log and then quickly leave Tertia – clearly feeling under-equipped to deal with whatever may still be aboard.

Eventually they find Deck 16 – it too shows signs of conflict. The sounds of flowing water fills the lonely hallway. Reaching the maintenance conduit, they see why. Water pours down the shaft to a flooded corridor below. A slightly damaged ladder seems to be the only way down.

Taeric readies his grapnel and is followed down by a leaping Caradoc. Landing at the bottom, they set up overwatches and secure the dark tunnel extending in both directions. The rest of the party slowly climbs down. The freezing fluid comes up waist high.

They eventually find Makron-12b, charred and badly-damaged, splashing around in the deep water. Its remaining bionic eye flickers as its vox grille emits a low, crackling ramble of numbers. Thankfully, the memory core is in tact. Brenner and Caradoc remove it.

They recover a vid capture recorded from right before the servitor was damaged. It keeps repeating the same thirty-seven second loop:

From its perspective, they see Makron-12b walking down Deck 16 toward a group including what looks to be a Tech Priest clad in his typical crimson robes. The figures he’s talking to are hunched over, with oddly long appendages. Human, but with something not quite right about them.

The Tech Priest talks with a raspy hiss: “Gather the brothers and destroy the pertinent logs. We’re done here. We’ve gathered all the information I require. This strain’s life cycle is even faster than the last”.

The tech priest notices the servitor and from his wrist fires a blue bolt. The servitor stumbles back, tumbling down an open maintenance shaft before the video cuts out.

The acolytes store the memory logs and prepare to retreat back up the shaft. Just then, Calidus sees movement through the dark water ahead, approaching rapidly.

A living nightmare of talons, powerful muscle, and exo-skeleton bursts from the waist-deep liquid. Atop two legs, the creature stands roughly seven feet tall. Its four arms are tipped with massive, razor sharp claws. Chitinous armour plates cover the creature’s elongated head and hunched back. The horrific creature’s glossy black eyes pierce the soul as it leaps towards the group with lightning fast speed. It utilizes all of its limbs on the few strides forward, tearing holes through the heavy bulkheads with ease.

It is death, incarnate.

Belly of the Beast - Part 1
Tertia-12, dead in the water.

The new intake of acolytes had been aboard The Reliant Dawn for almost a week when they met their new so-called “comrades”.

Felpox, the shaman. Caradoc, the Skitarii. Ishamael, the witch. Isaac, the broker. Taeric, the warrior. Calidus, the thief. They would all serve their purpose.

Still, the first few days were uneasy to say the least.

On the second week, after countless orientations, indoctrinations, briefings, and familiarization courses, the acolytes were finally summoned – “activated” as it was called.

With an armed escort, they are led down The Reliant Dawn’s hallways, deposited in a waiting room, empty, save for a single man in an unrecognizable uniform featuring a hollow three-colour triangle. He pays the group little attention, continuing to riffle through reams of parchment and a few dataslates.

Across the chamber, a large guarded door grinds open on ancient gears. Four men walk out and greet the other stranger. The same three-colour insignia is visible on them all. They move off to the side of the room and begin a hasty discussion.

Inside the now-accessible room, a lone figure beckons the group forward. Greeting the party as Inquisitor Tyrion Hectus Valdane, he briefs the acolytes on their first mission.

Thumbing an ancient rune built into the smooth table, the chamber’s lights dim and a holographic projection dances in front of the party’s eyes. A massive asteroid field floats by as all sorts of glyphs identify various structures and vessels.

Valdane provides the acolytes a series of briefings and explains that this holograph is of Port Aquila, a major trade hub in Askellon that acts as a launching point for goods entering from the coreward and spinward systems as well as the neighbouring Ixaniad Sector. Port Aquila is not in fact a single centralized location, but rather a belt of asteroids hosting a wide range of shipyards, docks, refueling posts, strongholds, and storage facilities.

He explains that most of these facilities are governed by a single body – the Greater Askellon Trade Combine – the organization that bears the hollow three-colour triangle as their insignia.

Valdane informs the group that a week ago, the Combine lost contact with one of their stations, Tertia-12, a small ore refinery at the edge of the field.

Although the Combine normally deals with their own affairs, The Reliant Dawn is the closest military and scientific vessel capable of rendering aid. As such, the Combine have asked for assistance.

The Combine has offered little information, but Valdane believes that the situation may not be as simple as it seems. Either way, this “accident” may allow the Inquisition a glimpse into Combine operations. The acolytes are informed that they will be accompanied by a Combine representative, Dalsius Brenner. Valdane requests that the acolytes keep an eye on him.

Departing, Valdane leaves the acolytes to discuss the matter as they see fit.

Calidus finds Brenner outside in the waiting room – the same man they had seen before. He greats him and ushers him into the briefing room, hoping to get answers to a few questions.

Arkady questions Brenner at length, discovering that Tertia-12 is comprised of seventeen decks and roughly 150 to 300 crew. Normally, the station is garrisoned by five to ten security staff, depending on the crew rotation. Additionally, Brenner ads that the station features its own shuttle and long-range vox arrays. The fact that no word has been received leads him to believe that there has been some sort of accident. Tertia’s last message received was roughly a week ago and was vague. As of three days ago, the Combine had decided to intervene.

The acolytes gather their gear and head to their shuttle. In The Reliant Dawn’s flight bay, they great their veteran pilot, Lt. Corvath. Stowing their supplies, they depart the Dawn and prepare for a three hour journey through Port Aquila’s dense asteroid field.

As the shuttle departs the safety of the Dawn’s docking bay, the acolytes get their first good look at their new home. At over five kilometres long, the Dawn – a Mars Class Battlecruiser – dwawfs many of Port Aquila’s asteroids. As a relic from the Gothic War, the Dawn shows signs of previous conflict. Now repainted in black and gold, the cruiser is a stern reminder of the might of the Inquisition.

At a safe distance from the docking bay, Corvath’s Arvus Lighter ignites its main engines and begins its delicate dance among the asteroids. As the field is too dangerous for the Reliant Dawn to navigate safely, it is left to the small, cramped shuttle to close the remainder of the distance.

Eventually, a proximity alarm sounds in the cockpit as a large asteroid drifts silently past the viewport. Built into the rock face, a man-made structure slowly rotates into view. The station’s single large blast door is closed and all exterior lighting is off. The spotlights projecting from the front of Corvath’s Arvus scan across the door, illuminating large white letters: “Tertia XII”.

Corvath hails the station again and again. The vox is silent. Scans show no power signatures inside.

Tertia-12 is dead in the water.

Setting automatic controls, Corvath moves back to the crew compartment as the acolytes form a plan. Brenner explains that although the blast door’s machine spirit is dormant, it may still be possible to open the door. If the party is able to reach the door’s exterior control panel, it is likely that they can sever the locking mechanism’s hydraulics and manually open the massive entryway.

From overhead bins, Corvath pulls out a series of emergency void suits. He explains that they hold a six hour air supply, and that he’ll have to depressurize the entire shuttle should they wish to venture out. The acolytes decide that this is their only course of action.

The suits are stiff, bulky, and stiflingly hot in the cramped Arvus. The helmets have an ever crackling short-range vox and extremely limited vision. The collective sound of the party’s breathing is almost deafening.

Corvath pilots the Arvus as close as possible to the station’s massive and ancient blast doors before depressurizing the hold. The hatch descends as the acolytes look out to the icy superstructure.

Drawing and firing his grapnel, Taeric manages to snag the door’s maintenance ladder. One by one, Taeric, Brenner, Arkady, and Calidus begin their traverse across the endless emptiness of the void. Felpox and Ishamael remain aboard the Arvus with Corvath.

After about thirty minutes of grueling work, Brenner manages to sever the locking mechanism’s hydraulics. However, without power, the door still needs to be opened manually.

Arkady realizes that should Tertia-12’s docking bay still be pressurized, an explosive decompression could obliterate anyone close by.

As such, Taeric and Calidus secure the Arvus’s towline to the door and the party retreats to the safety of their shuttle. Calidus remains at the door’s base in case anything goes awry.

Corvath fires a short engine burn and the door slowly begins to traverse its massive tracks. Suddenly, a burst of air explosively exits through the cracks. All sorts of debris are blown out from the hold. A body glides past the Arvus’s open hatch and a pair of lifeless eyes stare into the acolytes’ souls as the corpse drifts off into the frozen unknown.

Calidus makes his way into the cargo bay, spotting a burnt out shuttle as well as handfuls of bodies and cargo drifting without direction. At the far end of the chamber, the interior doors remain closed. A small control room sits mounted high on struts at the rear corner of the room.

In the meager illumination of his stablight, Calidus can see signs of some kind of struggle. Lasgun burns pepper the walls, and there are a few concentrated scorch marks here and there.

Taeric fires his grapnel again so that the other acolytes can cross into the docking bay. Scattering wide, Calidus recovers the grapnel and secures it to the derelict shuttle. The rest of the party crosses back across the void into the relative safety of Tertia-12’s hold.

The acolytes note that the few bodies drifting around appear to have succumbed from a number of las rounds or stab wounds. The bodies are all unarmed and many are clad in workers garb or jumpsuits. The bay’s servitors also appear to be purely utility models, but are damaged beyond repair or reactivation.

The shuttle present in the hold remains clamped to the docking bay floor – although all of the interior and the electronics have been destroyed in some kind of intense fire.

Ishamael reaches out into the warp, attempting to determine the nature of the conflict that has transpired. Although sensing immense heat and pain, he is sure that there is no chaos taint present.

As Calidus approaches the control room, he can see that the single door is closed. Furthermore, the high-strength blast windows have been sheared apart and pushed inwards. Another body floats within, bouncing around the chamber. However, this one’s injuries appear different in nature.

Calidus dismantles the door’s locking mechanism and allows himself, Felpox, and Brenner to gain entry. Felpox inspects the corpse, noting that the victim was torn apart with a series of incredibly sharp blades.

Brenner scans the consoles and realizes the extent of the damage. The station is completely without power – including emergency reserves. However, because the hold was pressurized before the group’s entry, the emergency air supply is still ready.

The acolytes decide to make room for the Arvus, seal the docking bay, and re-pressurize the hold.

Using his newly-acquired helgun, Taeric blasts apart the docking clamps and the group pushes the burnt-out wreck aside. Corvath deftly pilots the Arvus inside and the group secures it to the deck with the tow cable.

With brute force, Felpox closes the main blast door.

Brenner recalls that there may be a maintenance lift nearby that should run all the way down to the generatoriums. If power can be restored, it may be possible to restore gravity and awaken the station’s machine spirits.

The acolytes carefully open the interior doors, finding that the rest of the station still also has air.

Drifting weightlessly down the dark, silent corridors, the group sees both decades of wear and tear on the station’s bulkheads as well as more signs of recent conflict. Every so often, another body drifts by. The air is stale with death and rot.

Eventually the acolytes find the maintenance lift of which Brenner spoke. Peering over the side, the acolytes see hanging chains and pulleys leading down the shaft to an ancient lift crashed and destroyed at the bottom.

Recollections of a Mournful Guard
Warden Talmon Corren, Eastern Borderlands


I was in my forty-second year of life when the fires fell upon Thaur. Mid-age in Imperial terms, and not unheard of in the Mournful Guard.

That morning had been a mostly pleasant one. My equine companion had carried me most of the way along my assigned route for the day. Out here, among the dense forests of my world, I had time to think, to listen, to watch. For weeks at a time I was out among the tombs and twisting trails of Thaur’s wilderness. I was an outrider, a lone guard on the fringes of a silent world.

By mid morning, however, I had felt it. The shiver in the trees. The departure of the birds. Bad omens both.

Less than an hour later, I had seen the first figure.

More than a dozen metres off into the woods from my overgrown trail, he shuffled about with a bizarre gait. Stumbling over the roots and gravestones within the forest, he moved toward me slowly, almost parallel to my direction of travel.

I slowed and halted my companion in order to take in what my eyes were seeing. From atop my mount, I could see that the figure, mostly decomposed, continued its unholy march. Bumping into a large Illyrian oak, pieces of rot and decay tumbled forth from the creature’s innards. The abomination disgusted me. Its mere presence was a blasphemy against the restful silence of this land.

It was even more disturbing that I knew not what magick drove it forward.

Corpse Crawlers, one of Thaur’s native parasitic creatures often manipulated corpses in such a manner, but this body’s state of decay told me that this was not the explanation.

Then, I heard the second beast. The snap of dead branches alerted me that it was almost upon my position.

Thaur’s forests are dark and dense. Sightlines are highly restricted. Still, I felt the fool that I had let it get so close. As the creature lunged from the dark undergrowth, my equine friend took flight.

The shock overtook me by surprise and I was launched rearward from atop my companion’s powerful frame. I do not blame him for leaving me. I had failed to keep vigilant.

My back hit the wet ground with a sickening crunch. Although my armour distributed the blow, my muscles tensed and the breath was knocked from my lungs. I feared that my shoulder had dislocated.

Now, the closest creature besieged me. Its horrible snarling teeth gnawed and clattered at the air in front of me. Thankfully I had managed to press one of my boots into the path of my assailant. I thanked the Emperor for granting me such strength and speed.

Pushing the corpse away with a firm kick, I could hear the other make his way from the trees. The sound of his foot steps broke from a crackling shuffle into a series of dull thumps.

Rolling backward through the undergrowth, I bought myself a few precious seconds. I reached deep into my mud-caked cloak, unhooking my maul from its ornate mount beside my hip. Thumbing the activation rune, the blunt end crackled to life.

The air ionized around my weapon, producing the smell of righteous thunder. I praised the Omnissiah that my fall hadn’t damaged the maul’s delicate power generator. I knew that I would be sure to recite the Litany of Thankfulness should I survive this day.

My first assailant had not yet recovered from the kick. His twisted form thrashed about in the leaves as he tried to right himself. At least they lacked any true coordination. Although outnumbered, I had the advantage.

I quickly closed the distance, delivering a sickening blow to the target standing in front of me. My maul punched deep into the creature’s soft skull, sinking in just above the thing’s right eye. Buried inside the beast’s head, the power field of my maul crackled and hissed as blood and brain boiled into a foul soup.

Still, it snarled and clawed at me.

I braced my free arm against the beast and with all my might I attempted to wrench my weapon free. I felt my shoulder pop with a painful jolt. Whether it had fallen into or out of the socket, I could not tell.

I cursed the beast in my Thaurian tongue and assailed it again with another powerful strike. This time, the maul caught the creature atop the clavicle. Snapping through the decayed bone, the maul dropped into the thing’s ribcage. A dark ichor drained from the gap.

Separated from the beast, the thing’s shoulder and arm fell free, stripping away some sinew and bone. My maul tumbled free with it. I quickly struck again and again at the gaping wounds, pulverizing the thing’s exposed innards. The crackling field at the tip of my weapon seared and smashed the last few remaining organs. The creature dropped to the ground, motionless.

Now, the second beast rose to his feet. I made quick work of it.

Catching my breath, I cleaned the gore from my weapon and examined the state of my shoulder. Then, the sounds of more and more movement to my rear.

Foolishly, I had expected to see my companion galloping back down the path towards me.

I cursed my hubris.

My work was not yet done.

After Action Report - Thaur
Report from Amador Augustus



Validating authority code…


Upon retreating through the portal, I noted my missing leg, and Graxon’s broken body lying to the side. The flesh is weak. Setting to work, I patched myself up, then stabilized the psyker enough for him to last until the extraction teams could get to us. I also noticed Tybaltius’ half-blasphemous servo skull hovering just out of reach near the ceiling of the chamber.

My mechadendrites took hold of it, and it floated at my side without complaint. At some point it had lost the Iho stick from between its teeth, and it looked odd without it somehow. I went through the hutches in the Lord Pyre’s waiting room until I found a pack and reinserted one in between the skull’s teeth, all the while listening to the thunderous sounds of the Omnissiah’s cleansing bombardment.

It was by His will alone that Graxon and I had made it through the fight with REDACTED, and I spent the remainder of my wait in silent prayer to the Machine God. I do not believe we will be welcomed back to this planet as venerated dead when our time has come.

I am not sure how Graxon survived the blast from Uziel’s melta gun, nor am I convinced that either of us deserved to. I have seen horrors the likes of which I could never imagine in my journeys with these other brave servants of the Emperor, and I am certain that I will be seeing more in the months to come. All I can do is believe that the Omnissiah has a plan for me.

As I lie in recovery on the Reliant Dawn, memories of my fallen comrades flash through my mind. Uziel and Tybaltius died heroically, although I must admit, I do not see the benefit of heroism. Logically, Uziel at the very least could have closed the portal from this side. He was not a very logical man though. Effective, but not logical. In any event, he saved my life, although I also vaguely recall him blowing off my leg with a melta gun. It’s probably for the best. The one they are installing will be an improvement.

Tybaltius seemed to give up at the end. I believe I saw him sitting down smoking an Iho stick rather than making for the portal. I wonder if he believed the Omnissiah’s plans for him had come to an end when he interrupted the summoning ritual. The skull floats beside me, and the Iho stick in its mouth puffs smoke, even though it’s not lit. The machine spirit within it must be restless.

I have not seen Graxon since coming back to the ship. When Uziel’s melta blast struck him, and the portal closed, I was sure he was done for, but when I went to him, he seemed very much intact, though dazed. The Omnissiah’s blessing was strong with him that day. I wonder if we will be reassigned to the same warband in the future, or if I will see his strange sneering face again at all. Admittedly, it is comforting to know that there won’t be any blood from the warp exploding on me in the near future. I don’t know how much more of that I am able to endure.

The experiences that I have had working with these men are incredible, and I won’t forget them. Omnissiah, keep them safe. May the souls of the dead rest with the Machine God, until such time as he sees fit to reforge their spirits into a stronger hull.

End of Report.
Amador Augustus

Nightmares Remembered - Part 2
The end of the beginning

As the black shadow dances over the pool of liquid, doubt creeps into the minds of the acolytes.

Any victory on Thaur will be uncertain. Any triumph will be paid in blood.

Many of the Inheritors drop to their knees in supplication, others have fallen prone, their minds simply destroyed by what they have witnessed. Several of the cultists who retain their faculties drop to the ground, weeping in despair, overcome with the true realization of what they have unleashed upon the world.

The cultist’s leader – surely Renthear – backs away to a tunnel opposite the direction of which the acolytes entered. A small cadre of Inheritors surround him as an escort to the surface.

Grax manages to finally summon forth a telekinetic shield, separating the acolytes’ tunnel from the main chamber. Uziel goes prone, firing his autocannon at the ethereal mist. His rounds go straight through, striking the cave wall on the far side, peppering the Inheritors’ gathering with shards of rock and stone.

The shadow laughs with a dread voice:

“You believe that you can stop anathema? Though I am dead, I am never destroyed. I have walked the stars before your race descended from the trees. I have seen worlds burn. I have consumed them…. Now, I walk among your kind once more.”

Then, with billowing legs, it seems to step from the pool. The remaining viscous liquid begins flowing into its midst. More and more, it gains corporeal form. Large, black wings erupt from the mass. Bone armour bursts from its newly formed unholy skin, covering the daemon in overlapping plates.

Amador knows that this beast is the Crow Father, ascended.

The sight of his full form is maddening. It’s clear that the Mournful Guard and Ossuarian Custodians are shaken, if not already insane. Uziel’s mind is all but completely paralyzed, retreating into a nightmare dreamscape of psychic hallucinations.

The acolytes know that they cannot hope to face both the daemon and the roughly fifty cultists in the chamber at the same time. Instead, they institute a fighting withdrawal.

With divine inspiration, one of the Ossuarian Custodians wades into the melee, trying to buy the acolytes time to stop the ritual above. Gouts of flame burst from his arduroglaive as he cleaves his way through the heretical gathering. The remaining Mournful Guard also take to the fight, pummeling cultists aside with brutal blows from their shock mauls.

As the acolytes pull back they witness the daemon seize one of the xenos artifacts from his misguided followers. Pressing the object into his chest, the artifact dissolves into the same luminescent liquid from the pool and is drawn into the remaining cracks of reality.

Knowing what this could mean should the Crow Father catch them, Amador sets off rapidly with his bag full of the recovered relics. Dragging Uziel’s paralyzed form further down the tunnel, he pulls the stones from his gear and attempts to shatter one.

Grax and Tybs retreat with Jaspar down the tunnels, quickly determining a correct route back to the surface.

Uziel awakes, blasting the xenos artefacts with his meltagun. The tunnels begin to shake violently and the warp phenomenon witnessed before become all but unbearable. More humanoid shadows dance through the tunnels ahead, melting from wall to wall.

The daemon laughs, its hellish voice bellowing throughout catacombs and echoing across reality:

“Despair, for all you have sacrificed is too little, too late. Observe, for my power is finally ready to be reclaimed—here, in the darkness, and above, where my pawn will drag countless souls into my grasp with the chains of their own blind faith. Rejoice, for you shall hear this world’s death cry as only I have heard it, echoing across the aeons.”

Eventually reaching the surface, the acolytes find Saint Merusaad’s square in absolute chaos. Tens of thousands of pilgrims press towards the great monument, completely paralyzed by the dark words of power – the unholy sermon – coming from vox speakers high above. Atop the numerous steps scaling their way up the front of the tomb, Arch Rector Renthear holds aloft a massive xenos skull, swirling with dark violet chaos magicks and filled with the Blood of Izumat.

Among the pilgrims in the square below, those members still loyal to the Euologus Askelline battle with the traitorous Inheritors. Mournful Guard fights Mournful Guard and even the steadfast Ossuarian Custodians aren’t without their own factional split.

Should Renthear be able to finish the ritual sacrifice, the acolytes know that they may not be able to stop empowered Izumat. They decide to ready their ultimate sanction – orbital bombardment.

Taking a position among the crypts at the edge of the crowd, Amador readies the vox set from his pack. Communing with the device’s machine spirit, he unleashes a massive burst of encrypted binaric cant. Providing the geographical coordinates in mechanicum shorthand, Amador keys in the order:

Orbital Bombardment. Danger Close. Fifteen Minutes.

The Reliant Dawn confirms and provides a return message:

“The Emperor Protects. Your deeds will be remembered.”

From the tree line nearby, Morrinoe emerges, sprinting into the cover of the tombs. She explains that she’ll keep the Inheritors at bay if they can kill Renthear and destroy the artifact. Four heads nod in acknowledgement.

Tybs keys in a few commands to his servo skull, setting it up atop a mausoleum to get a good vantage point of the crowd.

Uziel immediately braces his autocannon and fires three massive shells. Normally, a direct volley could shear apart even a mighty armoured Chimera, but the blows only manage to wing the dark priest. Possibly protected by the swirling ruinous energies around him, Renthear stumbles to his feet and continues his work.

Aiming intently, Uziel fires another single shot. Sailing over the densely packed crowd, it strikes Renthear at the hip. His body unravels, spreading a cartwheel mist of blood and bone high above the altar. The ancient xenos skull tumbles back down staircase, its still swirling energies hidden now among the crowd.

Jaspar sets off after it, lobbing grenades over the masses, hoping to destroy the target from a distance.

Then, with a great rumbling, Izumat bursts forth from beneath the square, soaring high into the sky above. Picking out the acolytes among the chaos and din, he spews forth horrific energies from his outstretched talons, attempting to destroy the Inquisitorial forces in a mass of pure darkness.

Grax attempts to strike back, only angering Izumat further. The daemon laughs, mocking Grax’s pitiful witchcraft:

“You believe you can control the Warp? I have bathed in its orphic light for millennia. I AM THE WARP.”

The daemon lands in the crowd below, crushing a few pilgrims beneath his clawed feet. Wading towards Grax and Uziel, it attempts to shred its only real opposition. Levitating up on his maglev coils, Amador glides into the fray, engaging the beast in close combat. Although he lands a few blows, the daemon strikes back, tearing deep wounds into the tech priest’s augmented flesh. Grax and Amador still attempt to strike the daemon with ranged shots, knowing the danger it poses to their comrade.

Morrinoe continues to fire on the Inheritors emerging from the crowd, allowing her newfound comrades to focus on the ancient evil before them. Tybs continues his own accurate fire from his servo skull companion, taking solid shots at the massive beast.

Sensing their fight may be hopeless, Grax begins to call forth a Gate of Infinity, hoping to provide some form of escape from the orbital holocaust soon to rain down from above. His senses and skills are pushed to the limit as he attempts to bridge time and space across the ebbs and flows of the warp.

Jaspar, deep within the crowd is overcome by disguised Inheritors. Although he escapes the whirling blades of the first two, the chainsword of the third digs deep, tearing through Jaspar’s knee cap. He falls to the ground screaming in pain, the ragged limb barely held on except for a few strips of torn flesh. Tybs knows now that Jaspar won’t be able to make it to the skull.

Tybs immediately sprints into the crowd, nimbly slipping by the dense, swirling chaos of packed bodies in the square. Reaching the skull, he grabs it and continues dashing to the top of the monument. Holding it aloft, he blasts it with his plasma pistol, shattering the object into numerous molten shards. Among Renthear’s pulverized robes, he finds more artifacts – including vials of the Blood of Izumat and a variety of bone and stone icons. Drawing his autopistol, he fires a fully automatic burst, strafing over the pile and destroying all that he can. From far below in the square, Izumat roars as a shard of his form slips away from the material world.

Scrambling for his shotgun, Jaspar blasts the chainsword wielding Inheritor away, as well as one of the other assailants. Attempting to finish off the third, his gun jams. The Inheritor pounces, plunging his twisted blade into Jaspar’s shoulder. The mercenary draws a combat knife and rapidly stabs out at his foe, bringing him to the ground. With both hands, he drives his knife deep into the Inheritor’s brain.

Uziel and Amador continue their fight with the daemon, allowing Grax to manufacture their only chance of survival. Time and time again, Uziel’s shots miss the daemon as it seems to slide in and out of reality.

Reaching into Uziel’s mind, Izumat overcomes the Arbites’ weakenned will. By controlling Uziel like some obscene puppet, the daemon paralyzes one of his attackers, allowing him to focuse on the destruction of Amador. With a flurry of exchanged blows, the daemon manages to wound Amador again.

Suddenly, Uziel wrestles back control and readies his meltagun. Once more, the daemon dodges the blows. The daemon propels himself forward on massive wings, plunging his talons deep into Uziel’s chest, spreading his blood over the cobblestone skulls below.

Amador charges the beast again, hoping to prevent it from killing his ailing comrade. Uziel turns, raising his gun to the beast. Knowing that this may be their only chance, Amador yells at him to fire. The round misses just wide as the daemon swings about in the melee. The superheated blast engulfs Amador’s leg, fusing his armour and robes to his leg, charring his flesh and pulverizing the mass into a clump of useless ash.

As more Inheritors emerge from the crowd around her allies, Morrinoe fires again. The monomolecular shurikens fired from her pistol catches a few of the cultists below their noses, instantly severing their spines and sending the lifeless masses to rest on the squre.

With a final litany and chant, Grax rends open space. A swirling mass of blue energy spirals through the air, framing an otherwise idyllic room on the other side. Inside the Palace of the Wake, torches and candles glow softly, seemingly directing the acolytes home.

Slowly gliding into the gate’s refuge on his maglev coils, Amador continues to fire at the daemon, using his mechadendrites to quickly change guns and maintain his rate of fire. Uziel too continues to fire, without great effect. He drags his wounded body through the gate and beckons for his allies to join them.

Knowing that he’s too far to make it to the gate in time, Tybs hears the rumble of the orbital rounds starting to punch their way through the upper atmosphere. He lays down his weapons beside him. Through his dataslate, he orders his servo skull to proceed through Grax’s portal. Tybs closes the control panel and sits back, drawing the dense, sweet smoke of his last remaining Zetarian Iho deep into his lungs. Removing Sorgoth’s faceplate, he stares at it, remembering the life he once lived, what seems like so long ago. With a gentle toss, he sends the mask spiraling down the monument’s staircase.

Jaspar looks up, cradling his destroyed leg and sees that Tybs has accepted his fate. Looking over his shoulder, Jaspar too realizes the great distance that spans between him and salvation. Laying back against the rough ground of the square, he draws a broken Iho stick from his breast pocket. With shaking hands, he pulls a lighter from a blood-soaked leg pouch. Holding it to his lips, he tries to spark it. Realizing that he’s out of fluid, he laughs, listening as the rumbling in the sky grows rapidly nearer.

Morrinoe holsters her pistol and makes a sprint for the gate. Just steps away from safety, Izumat seizes her, holding her aloft and his talons dig in deeply. She squirms and tries to wrestle her way out as the beast closes his grip on her form. Her ribs snap and the talons plunge further into her vital organs. Staring at the beast, she exhales for a final time.

Trying as he may, Grax is unable to close his gate. With the bombardment only seconds away, Uziel knows that the open gate will direct the apocalyptic blasts into the Palace of the Wake, killing Pyre, and destroying the entire apparatus of Imperial governance on Thaur.

Uziel steps out of the refuge, taunting the daemon away from his allies. Turning back, he levels his gun at Grax, hoping to either kill or incapacitate the witch – the witch that he had managed to call a friend for the last year of his life.

Accepting his failure, Grax stands in place, stoically accepting Uziel’s devastating volley. He glances down to Amador beside him, knowing that at least his sacrifice is not without triumph. Surely, Amador’s data will help the Inquisition piece together all that has transpired this day.

The superheated blast slams into the psyker, throwing him body to the back of the room, forever charring his body and soul.

The gate slams shut with a ripple of energy and the first orbital rounds become visible high above.

Knowing now the acolytes’ plan, the daemon roars.

Tybs smiles.

Uziel laughs.

Jaspar bleeds out.

With an incomprehensible, thunderous crash, Thaur shakes and the sky turns to fire.

The acolytes’ job is finished.

Nightmares Remembered - Part 1
Beneath the House of Pyre

Using Anzaforr’s lighter, the acolytes, Morrinoe, and the hired mercenary Jaspar enter Thaur’s atmosphere. Gazing through the shuttle’s viewports, a few of them catch glimpses of the planet’s dense forests and distant obelisks and towers of bone.

Recognizing the towers from the hallucinations brought on by the relics, the acolytes shudder, dreading the bizarre fate that awaits them planetside.

Eventually the craft sets down in Port Restful, one of Thaur’s few spaceports. Port Restful is a simple clearing approximately three kilometres across in an otherwise forested area. Compared to Port Gyre, Port Restful is almost shockingly primitive. It consists of a handful of levels, with basic, functional landing platforms of cracked and blackened plascrete struts rising off the ground – most are poorly maintained or showing signs of neglect. A few pads consist simply of patches of compacted, scorched dirt, although there are minimal prefabricated lodgings on-site.

Handfuls of labourers come and go, with seemingly no sense of order or organization.

The acolytes make their way into the port, noticing that even here, many of the buildings and perimeter walls are made from human bones.

Near the port’s exit, Tybs notices a phalanx of individuals in somber dark tunics emblazoned with an emblem of a skull and a rose. The group are watching the newly-arrived acolytes and are are clearly armed, with hints of flak armour visible beneath their decorative uniforms. Several of the group are brandishing unusual, crossbow-like weapons. Amador deduces that they must be the Mournful Guard, Thaur’s planetary enforcers.

The party attempts to blend in to the other groups of travelers and leave the port unnoticed. Morrinoe quickly skulks off to the shadows of the port’s outbuildings.

Almost immediately, the Mournful Guard dismount their large equines and a vox-amplified voice issues from beneath the helmet of the lead warrior informing the party to lay down their weapons. By the order of the planetary governor – the Lord of the Wake Jeronius Pyre – the acolytes have been suspected of interplanetary smuggling.

The acolytes attempt to explain that they have actually arrived to stop Thaur’s smuggling problem and to destroy a powerful cult. Surprisingly, they convince the Mournful Guard to let them keep their weapons – although turning over their ammunition – and to take them to Lord Pyre.

The group mounts up upon the Mournful Guards’ heavy, open-topped wooden carriage and depart for the Palace of the Wake. Shortly down the road, the acolytes see the monolithic structure. The immense palace towers over the surrounding woods, and is constructed of stone blocks hewn from local mines. In more recent years, areas of the edifice have been shorn up with rockrete or even ceramite. Mostly, however, the palace looks as it did millennia ago. Like most of Thaur, the architecture includes human bones and even full skeletons with a quantity much higher than typical of Imperial architecture. Much more curious, however, is the inclusion of strange, black stone with an oily sheen. Uziel notes that this is the same material that they have seen and recovered on Desoleum. However, Grax notices that unlike the artifacts, these examples bear no psychic resonance.

The palace is like a solemn cathedral and the grounds around the edifice are decorated with macabre statues. Simple burning torches provide meager illumination. The smell of musty, damp undergrowth permeates the senses.

The acolytes are led inside to a simple stone room furnished with wooden tables, chairs, and benches. They are served a variety of refreshments while they wait for Lord Pyre. Eventually, a man clad in ornate black and crimson robes adorned with bone and gold enters the chambers. The Guards great Lord Pyre and depart the room. Pyre himself is ancient, resembling a walking corpse more than a living man.

Through a lengthy conversation, the acolytes brief Pyre on the situation affecting his world. Although Pyre suspected that his order – the Eulogus Askelline – is ripe with factionalism and differences of philosophy, the idea of heretical cults operating in his midst is unacceptable to him.

However, the acolytes find out that the Inheritors are likely the Children of Inheritance, an oft-rumoured offshoot of the Eulogus Askelline that Pyre believed was just a myth. Furthermore, they determine that the “Arch Rector” described by the Heretek in the previously discovered dataslate recording is likely Arch Rector Carolus Renthear, a powerful member of the Eulogus Askelline that has withdrawn from sight and shirked his responsibilities in the recent years.

Upon seeing the proof before him, Pyre is deeply troubled that the very man set to lead the celebration in the name of Saint Merusaad might actually be a powerful, heretical cult leader. Although he once believed that Renthear’s retreat from the order was simply a result of being passed over as Lord of the Wake, Pyre knows now that the truth is much, much more sinister

It is obvious to all that the next morning’s ceremonies being led by Renthear are the likely target of the Inheritors’ planned sacrifice. Pyre pledges all the help he can, providing the acolytes with transportation and a squad of his personal cadre of Mournful Guard.

The group soon departs, seeking to close the distance with the Great Ossuaria where the tomb of Saint Merusaad and tomorrow’s ceremony is to be found.

After some time they spot a small settlement. It seems as if this is Afterlife, a common stopover point for travelers on the road from Port Restful to the Great Ossuaria. Now nearing nightfall, the group decides to secure lodgings and nourishment.

Strangely, they acolytes learn that everyone in the village believes themselves to be dead. Before staying the night, the party takes some time to reconnoiter the bizarre settlement, watching the villagers go about their lives in an odd, dreamlike state. Although still out of the ordinary, the villagers seem nice enough and the amenities are cheap. Tybs orders Jaspar to post up as a sentry and to inspect the town for any mysterious happenings. In the local tavern, Uziel overhears that the Eulogus Askelline have recently barred entry to all nearby catacombs as a preparation for tomorrow’s events.

The next morning, the party rejoins Jaspar and the Mournful Guard and continues their journey to tomb of Saint Merusaad. Towering above the trees on the horizon, the bone-work structures of the Great Ossuaria looms over them. Stretching further than they can see, these massive edifices to the memory of the Askellon Sector’s great and powerful are, to all appearances, made entirely from human bones. The structures depict a variety of styles, due to the whims of their creators. Some resemble Ecclesiarchy cathedrals, while others seem to be senseless jumbles of bone, the creation of some mad architect. According to the now absent Morrinoe, somewhere beneath it all is their ultimate destination.

A massive throng of pilgrims and worshipers crowds the streets heading towards the gigantic, bone-wrought complex, and getting close to it, let alone inside, seems to be difficult for even the most devoted. In the distance, a choir of Eulogus Askelline chants a plainsong hymn, laud hailers amplifying their words of veneration so that they might be heard across the plaza and echo throughout the tombs.

Uziel scans the crowd, unsuccessfully looking for any signs of the Inheritors. Eventually the Mournful Guard informs the group that an entrance to the catacombs lay close by.

Down an adjacent path, the Guard lead them to a small crypt overgrown by moss and vines. The building is a single-level structure of rectangular shape and constructed almost entirely from human bones. A wrought-iron and wooden door appears to be the only entrance. Out front, two members in robes of the Eulogus Askelline stand waiting. Seeing the group arrive, one of them enters the crypt and locks the door behind them.

The group approaches the lone figure and asks to gain entrance to the tunnels below. In an instant, the member pulls out a frag grenade, cursing the “unbelievers”. He pulls the pin and steps towards the group. Tybs quickly unholsters his sidearm, blowing apart the disguised cultist’s face.

With just a split second to react, Grax uses his telekinetic powers to toss the grenade away to a safe distance. Without having had a chance to prepare himself, the warp energy ripples back through him, its tendrils lashing at his mind and striking at his fragile mental defenses.

Finding a heavy iron key on the heretic’s shattered body, the group enters the crypt. Surprisingly, they find an empty room occupied only by several coffins constructed from polished bone. Uziel’s auspex recognizes a sonic dead-zone, but the acolytes are unable to locate any kind of hidden switch or entrance. Tybs lights an Lho stick, hoping for the smoke to find some kind of secret passage. Slowly but surely, the sweet-smelling smoke drifts towards one of the coffin lids. Inside, a set of bone stairs descends into the tunnels.

Descending the passageway, the group finds a spacious nexus carved into the bedrock and initially lit by torches ensconced at regular intervals. Already, a myriad of tunnels branch off in dozens of directions. Past this chamber, light appears to be sporadic at best while some other tunnels remain in darkness. Many of the tunnels are cramped, with no room for more than one abreast. In others, the ceilings are only shoulder height.

Using Uziel’s auspex, Grax’s psyniscience, Tybs’ navigation skills, the Mournful Guards’ own knowledge, and Amador’s study of the recovered map, the rag-tag squad proceeds down a tunnel that they assume will take them to the Inheritors’ ritual.

As they take their first steps, an overwhelming sense of dread overtakes them. Later, certain tunnels seem to rip the breath from their lungs while others produce eerie winds, extinguishing some of the few remaining light sources.

At one point, the group notices a bizarre, humanoid figure cloaked in shadows seemingly melt through the walls as if moving down some invisible, otherworldly corridor.

Knowing that they are truly heading deep into the unknown, Uziel maintains constant watch of his auspex, looking for any bizarre signatures. Eventually, it detects a few energy fields at a junction ahead – possibly life signs.

In the pitch black and distressing silence, the group decides that they are likely approaching some kind of ambush. Uziel wishes to preemptively strike at their foes with the use of heavy explosives but the Mournful Guard argue that it would be sacrilegious to defile these holy tombs in such a violent manner. Eventually, they decide that the Mournful Guard will use their knowledge of the tunnels to flank the Inheritors. Upon their signal, the acolytes will rush the position as well, hoping to overwhelm their foes.

The Mournful Guard depart into the darkness while the acolytes begin a long, agonizing wait. Through the silence, they begin to hear some faint thumps followed by the sound of crackling. Not knowing what they’re hearing, the acolytes and Jaspar continue to wait. Soon, the silence is broken even further by frantic gunfire and screaming. The group rushes ahead to find that the Mournful Guard alone have overwhelmed the cultists with shockbows and a vicious assault with shock mauls. One of the Guard lays dead, another gravely wounded.

The Marshal expresses his displeasure that the acolytes did not respond to the attack in a timely manner, resulting in the death of his charge.

Thankfully, the Guard managed to take two of the cultists alive. Grax quickly begins his psychic interrogation, taping into the heretic’s mind. Wrenching answers out of the cultist’s crumbling sanity, he learns that the ritual is already well underway. Further more, he learns that the Inheritors on Thaur number in the hundreds and that the cultists believe that there is no chance of stopping them now – Izumat awaits.

With obscene psychic energies, Grax obliterates the Inheritor’s skull, peppering the crude stone walls with brain matter.

Suddenly, two more energy signatures are detected, approaching rapidly from a side passage. The group prepares an ambush, hoping to catch their assailants off guard. Instead, the group finds two Ossuarian Custodians – sacred guardians of the catacombs – responding to the noise and violence.

Having been informed by Lord Pyre of the developing situation, they had been placed on high alert. The Custodians agree to aid the acolytes, pushing deeper into the tunnels to find their prey.

Eventually, the rough-hewn rock and piled bones give way to walls of smooth black ridges, like the inside of some great serpent’s rib cage. The material, while appearing like polished stone, is oily to the touch like many of the artifacts the acolytes have seen.

The tunnels here are much larger and are barren, almost pristine. There’s a bizarre sense of wrongness to it all. Occasional statues and runes decorate the walls, depicting vague forms, perhaps humanoid.

The Custodians notice that their ornate death-masks have begun weeping blood.

The acolytes encounter another bizarre, almost-human figure, passing from one wall to the next. Uziel opens fire, fruitlessly attempting to harm the being.

Eventually, the strange ebon tunnels open up into a large chamber, lit by sputtering torchlight suffused with an unnatural glow. Well more than two score of robed figures chant in an unholy tongue around a vast pool of liquid. The fluid seethes and twists with unnatural energies, its viscous, purple waves flecked with countless tiny points of light. As their profane words echo throughout the chamber, the flickering light casts brief shadows of inhuman faces on the chamber walls and the waters churn, almost spilling over the edges of the pool before coming back down with a soul-shaking crash.

Grax attempts to project a telekinetic dome, but fails to conjure the crucial defensive magicks in his still weakened mental state.

Then, as the chanting reaches a fevered pitch, a man in dark and ornate robes screams out a final entreaty, breaking from the unholy tongue into Low Gothic, imploring Izumat to awake. The pool of Warp-tainted liquid surges once again, splashing over the edges and onto several cultists, who perish in hideous agony as their forms horribly twist and mutate. From within the writhing, purple Blood of Izumat, reality tears open with a sound like a thousand voices screaming just beyond perception. The waters crash down, slowly ebbing back into the circle. From the pool, a billowing figure of inky shadow emerges, its face a dread visage burning with twin points of violet fire.

In a voice that should not be, the thing speaks: “I return.”


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