Valdane's Chronicles

The Oath Unspoken - Part 4
An oath fulfilled

Although many are overwhelmed by the hallucinogenic gas, scores of Inheritors continue to pour through the blasphemous portal, firing at the bridge crew and defenders.

Joined by the two surviving Anzaforr armsmen, the injured Uziel begins lobbing frag grenades into the advancing waves. Pieces of foul cultist and machinery are blown about the lower command pit as sparks and blood paint the floor and walls.

The ferocious Inheritors fire back – a few rounds manage to find their target, blowing off a few of Uziel’s fingers from his left hand. Dropping his weapon, Uziel dives for cover, cradling his shattered, bloody appendage.

Grax, prone, unleashes torrents of lightning at the marauding mutant, unsuccessfully attempting to stop the beast’s frenzied rampage. The creature’s blades rip deeply into Grax’s chest, shattering his armour and rending his flesh. His blood spills to the deck, quickly pooling around his body.

Another, lesser mutant leaps over the barricade, firing automatic bursts towards the beleaguered psyker. Thankfully, Grax’s shimmering telekine shield deflects the majority of the blows.

Hearing the gunfire and explosions from down the hall, Tybs injects himself with Slaught, a powerful combat drug. With inhuman speed, he rushes forward to the shattered blast door. Acquiring new targets, he quickly directs punishing fire into the massive mutant warrior assailing Amador. A single round from Tybs’ plasma pistol obliterates the beast’s head, peppering Amador with semi-molten brain matter and skull fragments.

Now mostly free from danger, Amador quickly switches guns and continues his uninterrupted firing. Directing his hand cannon toward the mutants attacking Grax, he delivers a devastating blow. The high-caliber round removes a fist-sized chunk from the wretched, hulking creature, and knocks it prone.

Uziel sees the beast fall, and quickly makes a crouched run through the upper command pit. Rounding the command dais, he unleashes a superheated blast from his meltagun and vaporizes the bezerker.

Grasping his chest, Grax feels his life drain out between his blood-slicked fingers. Temporarily safe, he reaches out into the Sea of Souls, calling forth unholy energy to stabilize his dying physical form.

Throughout the chaos, Anzaforr and his chief armsman Hessial leap from command dais and charge the Inheritors. Morrinoe too continues her assault against the intruders.

Wounded by one of Uziel’s frag grenades, the Inheritor’s leader is overcome by the hallucinogenic gas. Seeing the carnage around him, he knows that his fate is sealed. He opens his mind to the warp, drawing arcane power from the wells around him. In his weakened state the psychic force overwhelms his abilities, blowing his body high into the air. With a sickening crunch, his head and neck impact an ancient cogitator, shattering the life from his wretched form.

Anzaforr, the acolytes, and Tybs’ mercenaries finish off the remaining wounded and still-hallucinating foes. The defenders manage to quickly collect themselves. More armsmen show up to secure the bridge and Anzaforr orders his seneschal to quickly take account of the damaged systems and crew. The Oath Unspoken has survived, but now limps along through space, directionless.

Uziel and Grax drag themselves to the upper medicae bays where Anzaforr’s finest chirurgeons await.

Meanwhile, Amador and Tybs search the assailants, searching for any clues.

On the leader’s body, they find a simple map as well as a series of ancient, blasphemous scrolls.

The map appears that it was torn from a much larger tome, possibly an atlas. Amador and Tybs recognize that the map is definitely from a planet’s surface, but they do not recognize the topography. Anzaforr informs them that he believes that the map is of Thaur, however nothing is labeled or marked except for a single circled location.

The scrolls appear to be written partially in High Gothic with the addition of numerous unfamiliar runes and occult symbols and glyphs. Although the Inheritors claim to worship an ancient xenos god, Amador successfully deduces that some of the runes are in fact daemonic in nature, highlighting the true nature of the threat.

Anzaforr arranges a meeting with one of the high-ranking preachers aboard his ship. Although all members of the ecclesiarchy are intricately familiar in High Gothic, the preacher notes that the scrolls are written in an incredibly ancient, almost indecipherable dialect. Furthermore, the scrolls appear to have numerous authors. The rambling texts also likely point to authors on the edge of crumbling sanity. The preacher’s face fades of colour as he explains that the scrolls outline some bizarre ritual involving weakening the barrier between realspace and the Warp.

On one of the bodies of another high-ranking Inheritor, the acolytes also find a secure dataslate. Amador quickly breaks the encryption and plays the single vid-file contained within. A lone shadowy figure addresses the vid-recorder – the same Heretek that the acolytes encountered in the underport on Desoleum.

Greeting someone he addresses as the “Arch-Rector”, the Heretek speaks about having finalized the process of refining the xenos artifacts into the purple fluid he calls the Blood of Izumat. He claims that this fluid should be able to draw forth “the Awakened One”. He also claims that he shall be seeking retribution against those that disrupted his previous business with “the divine host.”

Over the next two days Grax and Uziel stay confined the medicae facilities, trying to regain their strength as quickly as possible before making planetfall on Thaur. Meanwhile, Amador continues his work on the bridge, helping to repair and restore the Oath Unspoken’s vital systems.

In the hours before reaching Thaur, Tybs and Amador dine with Anzaforr again. Like before, Morrinoe chooses to join them to discuss their options. Tybs and Amador show her the recovered map, which seems to concern her greatly. Once again, the Eldar seems like she knows more than she’s willing to divulge.

She does, however, reveal that the circled area on the Inheritors’ map is the monument to Saint Merusaad. The monument is located on a large square near the Great Ossuarium. The celebration of her martyrdom is set to begin soon. She informs the acolytes that they should search not the surface of the square, but rather under it.

Tybs convinces Morrinoe to accompany the party to the surface, asking for her help against whatever awaits. Anzaforr again thanks the warband for their aid, offering them a shuttle to take them to the surface.

The acolytes convene amongst themselves once Uziel and Grax are released from medical care. They contact the Reliant Dawn and brief them on the recent events aboard Anzaforr’s flagship as well as the Inheritors’ planned massed sacrifice. They discuss their next steps as well as their possible options should the situation planetside turn unfortunate.

The acolytes ask about the feasibility of orbital bombardment should the need arise. The Reliant Dawn informs them that although possible, the threat would need to be truly grave to warrant the massive destruction and loss of life that an orbital bombardment would entail. Bombing a venerated shrine world would have political ripples throughout the ecclesiarchy, the Inquisition, and the entire Askellon sector. However, should the need arise, the Reliant Dawn’s guns will be ready.

Entering one of the Oath Unspoken’s many docking bays, the acolytes witness Anzaforr’s crews beginning to load the scores of bodies up from the Corpse Holds and onto large cargo landers for the voyage to their final resting place on Thaur.

Boarding one of Anzaforr’s lighters, the acolytes prepare their weapons and gear, wondering if Thaur will claim them too.

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The Oath Unspoken - Part 3
Fire in the heavens

After a lengthy debate, the acolytes decide to leave the Corpse Holds, figuring that their best chance to stop the cultists’ plan lays in warning the Lord Captain Anzaforr of the growing threat. First, however, they seek to discover what the Inheritor was transporting before he got away.

Amador manages to interface with the door’s ancient machine spirit and bids it to open. On the other side of the door, the Inheritor’s crate sits empty. Inside, the crate’s dense padding shows indentations from some kind of heavy object. The acolytes suspect that whatever was inside may be used to compromise the vessel.

Empty handed, the acolytes depart the Holds.

Rounding the last corner toward the ancient doors they entered through, the acolytes encounter two large spotlights shining directly at them. Shadowed by the lights, more than a dozen silhouettes obstruct the exit.

Soon, they reveal themselves to be Anzaforr armsmen. They enter the holds, asking the acolytes to relinquish their weapons and accompany them to the Lord Captain. Begrudgingly, the warband agrees.

After a long, tense ride up a servo-lift, the acolytes reach one of the Oath Unspoken’s upper decks. Still surrounding by armsmen, they make their way down a large, ornately decorated hallway. Surrounded by many paintings, sculptures, and fine tapestry, it is evident that they’re in the company of incredible wealth.

As the acolyte approach a final set of large wooden doors, a gilded servitor acknowledges their presence and opens the passage ahead. Within, a chandelier of gold plated skulls and electro candles casts a glittering luminescence across the massive chamber. Even more varied works of art line the walls or sit atop pedestals about the room. The centerpiece of the chamber is an ornate banquet table, carved from the finest hardwood oak, each of the table legs ending in an elaborately carved lion’s foot. Already, numerous dishes and decanters cover the table top. The table appears to seat at least fifty guests, but currently only a few are present, with an additional place setting for each of the party.

At the far end of the table, a man in red and gold stately garb stands. He gestures to the table, greeting the acolytes excitedly. Finally, the acolytes have met the enigmatic Lord Captain Anzaforr.

A second figure, a man seemingly in his fifties also stands and bows, greeting their arrival.

The third figure stays seated, looking up with unsettling alien eyes. The humanoid xenos acknowledges the party’s presence with only a faint nod. Still, even her smallest motions occur with a bizarre, unnatural grace and disturbing fluidity of movement. She quickly returns her gaze to the table.

Anzaforr informs the acolytes that he has some idea of who they are and what they have done aboard his ship, but not why.

Through a heated discussion, Anzaforr admits that like most merchant or chartist vessels, he can only assume that some shady dealings occur aboard. However, he does not know the true extent of the current events plaguing his ship or how his vessel has become involved.

Mainly, his armsmen have been pushed to their limits; understaffed, with too large of a vessel to monitor completely. He claims to operate purely under the confines of Imperial Law, and that his pilgrimage voyages are endeavors of legitimate penance for past transgressions.

Furthermore, Anzaforr calms down Grax and Uziel who are clearly upset by the presence of the filthy xenos. He explains that his Eldar companion, Morrinoe, is officially sanctioned. Anzaforr explains that Morrinoe came to his aid many years ago, and has since “stuck around” for her own cryptic reasons. Like all Eldar, he explains, Morrinoe’s relationship with fate and time is simply beyond his capability to understand. He asks no questions, and she asks no question of him.

Somewhat convinced that Anzaforr may be operating on the level and is actually genuinely unaware of the greater threat, the acolytes explain the danger posed by the Inheritors. They quickly explain that the cultists plan to seize and scuttle the ship as a sacrifice to their ancient xenos god, Izumat. Anzaforr explains this is only truly possible from the bridge and the most likely time they will strike is when the vessel translates back into real-space.

Still, Anzaforr remains skeptical. Eventually, Amador presents a few of the xenos artifacts that they had recovered from the Inheritor and the Sable traders. Surprisingly, the Eldar Morrinoe reacts immediately, telling Anzaforr to heed the party’s warnings. As such, Tybs insinuates that Morrinoe must be involved in some way. Morrinoe becomes infuriated, quickly departing the chamber and cursing the ignorant “mon-keigh”.

Anzaforr agrees to let the acolytes aid him in the defence of his bridge, seeking to leverage their expertise in combating the Inheritors. His seneschal, Gaius Heln aids them in their preparations; securing them armsmen, weapons, barricades, and rebreathers to use in repelling the assault.

Still, the acolytes find themselves short on manpower. Tybs and Uziel decide to return to the Drunnels to recruit any remaining mercenaries while Grax and Amador organize the bridge crew.

Tybs manages to locate a few remaining gunhands among the rabble. He convinces two of them to join the fight.

Uziel heads back to Terrace Del, hoping to convince him to strike back against the cultists that had originally tried to hire him. Unconvinced of Uziel’s sincerity, Terrace turns down the lucrative offer. He claims to not want to position himself into the middle of ship politics.

Uziel’s temper flares and he quickly seeks to obliterate the stubborn merc. Terrace dodges the first blast from Uziel’s meltagun and quickly returns fire with his own bolt pistol. After a few frantic shots back and forth, Uziel lays bloody on the ground. Terrace tries to finish him, but his pistol jams. Quickly drawing another firearm, he resumes his assault.

Feeling his own death is near, Uziel frantically draws a stun grenade, striking Del and rendering him unconscious. Bloodied, battered, and near death, Uziel draws a large blade and promptly remove’s the man’s head, taking a trophy from his worthy, yet stubborn adversary.

The acolytes return to the bridge and finish their preparations. With bridge defences set and armsmen in place, Tybs and his two new hires retreat down the main hall of the command deck, laying in wait.

After a few hours, they hear the sounds of muffled thumps, gunfire, and screaming down one of the adjacent halls. Soon, a large band of mutants and mercenaries round the corner, carrying some sort of large metallic object toward the bridge’s sealed blast doors. Tybs radios his comrades, informing them of the door’s imminent destruction.

With a shudder, the sibilant voices whispering just beyond the edge of perception cease, replaced by the familiar roar of the Oath Unspoken’s mighty plasma engines. The heavy shutters that protect the bridge’s occupants from the sight of the turmoil of the Warp slowly grind open, affording a view through the vista panels of the silent void beyond. The sounds of binary chatter and relayed orders pass back and forth among the crew and servitors with even greater haste and the Lord Captain smiles his relief to be back in reality.

Moments later, the heretics’ bomb detonates, blowing pieces of the door into the bridge.

The molten slag crashes into the armsmens’ barricades while mutants pour through the breach. Waves of gunfire erupt on both sides. The enemy’s ragtag fire is surprisingly effective, mowing down many of the armsmen. Three massive, heavily armed mutants also enter the chamber and begin to rampage toward the front line. One of the beasts wields a large anti-tank gun, shredding crucial systems and personnel alike.

Grax rises from his hiding spot and fires his living lighting toward the incoming wave. One of the bolts strikes a deformed assailant, blowing his legs apart and rendering his corpse into a charred husk.

From one of the command pits, the heavily wounded Uziel lobs hallucinogenic grenades toward the shattered blast door. The cloud quickly envelops the enemy’s vanguard. As a result, many of the pitiful mutants begin to turn on their mercenaries allies.

From his command throne, Anzaforr beckons more men forward, ordering them to hold at all costs.

The large mutants eventually wade into the barricades, cleaving apart the overwhelmed armsmen. Among the barricades, Amador tries to hold the mutants back, firing effective bursts from his bolt pistol. Grax, on the other hand, is overwhelmed by his frenzied mutant attacker. The hallucinating beast is trapped in an unholy rage, and smashes Grax into the ground.

Morrinoe’s long rifle manages to down many of the incoming foes. From the hallway, Tybs coordinates his servo-skull’s own accurate sniper fire.

Suddenly, just as the tide is turning, a swirling mass of energy rips open at the front of the bridge through which a full wave of well-armed Inheritors pour through. Inside the portal, a single figure stands in an unassuming cargo bay. Wielding a large staff, he wades in behind the Inheritors and begins to cry more foul prayers to his ancient alien gods, invoking the names of Izumat, Ordosar, and Behomat. He cries for his mutants and Inheritor cultists to kill the unbelievers.

His skin has a hardened, waxy complexion, colourless and unmoved by nearly any emotion
Like most of the Inheritors, he wears heavy robes ornamented with the pale ivory of polished human bone. However, his accoutrements are enhanced with several talismans imbued with the luminescent purple fluid

Uziel fires even more hallucinogenics towards the incoming reinforcements. The volley is strikingly successful, sending many of the foul, blasphemers into a frenzied, drug-fueled panic.

Surrounded now on both sides, the acolytes and remaining pockets of armsen fire back at their foes, fighting against the mutant and cult blades, bullets, and new psychic assaults.

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The Oath Unspoken - Part 2
Down among the dead

Through the doors, the vast chambers of the Oath Unspoken’s Corpse Holds extend before the acolytes into the unseen distance. The chill of the room slowly sinks into the party, and their breaths begin frosting in the air. Along the sides of the corridors are the stacked corpses of the devoted, untold hundreds of thousands, piled high in the pallid light as they journey to their final rest.

Uncomfortably cold, the smell of rotting flesh burrows into the acolytes’ senses alongside the overpowering chemical smell of preservatives and embalming fluid.

The holds are deathly silent, save for the spinning of large cooling fans and the dripping of condensed water from the large cooling pumps pushing in the chilled air. The Holds are mostly void of life signs, except for a few technomats and crew making infrequent passes to check on the status of bodies and the Holds’ ancient cooling systems.

Following the directions provided by the narco-smuggler Cincayde, the acolytes search for signs of the Sable smugglers or Inheritors. After a few hours of walking deep into the Holds, they eventually arrive at a noticeably different engineering section. Now deep in the bowels of the Oath Unspoken, the acolytes find themselves in an area of rarely used maintenance tunnels and chambers.

One such corridor has been turned into some sort of makeshift lodgings featuring bedrolls, cots, lanterns, and even tents to create some form of habitability. One corner of this area has been decorated with signs of the Inheritors—sculptures of vermin and human bones, dark parchment, fabric, and flayed skins daubed with runes written in a viscous, purple ooze flecked with luminescent dots. The letters seems to shift into different marks of a forgotten tongue each time the acolytes look away.

Peering past one bulkhead, they find the scene of a recent conflict. Amidst a low-ceiling chamber lit by flickering electro-candles and sputtering lanterns that sit atop ancient pipes and cryo storage units, three figures in dark coats and armour lay prone in widening pools of blood. A fourth, grips his stomach and chest, slumped against the wall. Seeing the acolytes, he attempts to reach out for his pistol laying some distance away in a pool of his own blood. Eventually, he relents, knowing that his end is near.

He explains that the smugglers were betrayed and overwhelmed by the Inheritors. He claims that the Inheritors plan to take control and scuttle the ship in order to sacrifice it to some “wretched god”. Knowing that the smugglers would no go along with the plan, the Inheritors turned on their allies and killed them all. Coughing and sputtering up blood, the smuggler accepts his fate.

Grax dispenses the Emperor’s justice.

The smuggler, like his comrades is riddled with bullet and stab wounds. Clearly the Sable smugglers put up a fight, but no Inheritor bodies are present. Instead of searching the camp, the acolytes decide to depart the Holds.

Navigating back through the twisting and turning corridors, the acolytes come face to face with one of the foul cultists. Tybs opens fire, injuring the Inheritor. The figure quickly dashes down an adjacent hallway.

Giving chase, the acolytes make haste through the stacks of bodies. Suddenly, a security door slams shut in front of them. Without any chance to react, firebombs rain down from the corpse racks above.

The acolytes have found themselves trapped in a deadly ambush.

Immediately, Grax and Uziel are enveloped by the flames. With his face alight, Grax drops to the ground, screaming with blasphemies pulled from the Warp. Thankfully, Amador and Tybs manage to leap clear of the threat.

With the fire spreading quickly, automatic weapons fire ripples down from above, punching into Tybs and Uziel. Tybs quickly returns fire, wounding one of the hidden assailants above.

Two more Inheritors leap from the corpse racks, wielding deadly chain weapons. Amador immediately takes to the fight, exchanging wild blows with his hissing foe. As one falls prone, Amador manages to cleave his target in half, plunging his great axe into the deck plating and decimating the cultist’s spine and innards.

Uziel, stoically fires his Meltagun, ignoring his wounds and the ever-consuming flames. With a burst of holy energy, one of the enemy rifleman is instantly vapourized along with a large number of chilled bodies. A charred red mist chills and frosts in the air, spreading a bizarre blood haze throughout the hallway.

At the opposite end of the firefight, another Inheritor rounds the corner. Inhaling deeply, the cultist bends the air and reality around him and spews a torrent of arcane warp fire. The fire ignites Tybs and continues its relentless consummation of Uziel.

Amador immediately sets out against the other marauding Inheritor in close proximity. After a few swings, he plunges his weapon deep through the cultist’s collarbone and ribcage, vertically bisecting the thing’s wretched body and further soaking his own crimson robes.

Uziel turns to face the new psychic threat, unleashing another gout of pure energy from his venerated weapon. The witch is obliterated instantly, adding even more charred residual mist and steam to the damp, dark environ.

Tybs quickly extinguishes the flames from his body rushes to aid Grax.

Overcoming the blinding pain of the fire consuming his flesh, Grax’s mind experiences an explosion of power, opening his senses to the way of flames. Smoking, charred, and bloody, Grax stands, reaching out into the warp and psychically extinguishes the flames covering Uziel’s shoulder and torso.

Tybs finishes the last Inheritor with a blue-white burst of plasma from his third sidearm. As the archaic firearm vents its excess heat, silence falls over the holds once more.

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The Oath Unspoken - Part 1
To the World of Bone

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.

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Standing in the Shadow - Part 8
A new Dawn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Standing in the Shadow - Part 7
Sifting through the rubble

The acolytes recover from the firefight and pillage their adversaries corpses for weapons, ammunition, and any other usable goods. Among the bodies, the acolytes recover a sacred item – an incredibly ancient and powerful plasma pistol.

With the camp secured, they begin to search the surviving structures for clues about the smugglers’ operations.

Almost immediately, the acolytes find what appears to be a converted cargo trailer. There’s one door in and bars over a few windows lining the walls. It appears that the smugglers have constructed a small, crude prison. Inside, steel bars divide the trailer into two cells with a small walkway from where a jailer can open the gates or slip food in. One of the cells is occupied. A shattered figure with tell-tale red robes and cybernetics lays under one of the trailers’ damaged walls, clearly wrecked during the heavy fighting. A single support girder pierces his torso, pinning him to the cell’s floor. The figure is obviously wounded, perhaps fatally.

The acolytes return to the smugglers’ vehicle bay, attempting to find some tools to either remove the bars, or rip open the damage wall. Parked dangerously close to the ruptured promethium tanks are three Veloxic bikes – ruggedized and armed for the smugglers’ dangerous wasteland journeys.

Uziel, Tybs, and Amador mount the bikes, driving them back to the trailer-prison. Attaching large chains to the shattered wall, they attempt to pull away parts of the damaged structure to gain access to the Tech Priest’s cell. With a well-coordinated effort, they manage to make a hole large enough to climb through. Unfortunately, they have caused slightly more damage to the pinned Mechanicum priest.

Scrambling, the acolytes stabilize the figure’s shattered body and leaking life-support systems. Barely gaining consciousness, the priest focuses his gave on Amador. Sensing that his flesh is weak and that his life may be coming to an end, he recounts his tale in a burst of binaric cant.

His name is Iyathson, an Askellian Tech Priest of a portion of the Cult Mechanicus known as the Quaerostori. The Quaerostory regularly undergo pilgrimages, seeking out stolen or misplaced technology in order to return it to the protection of the Omnissiah. Has been a prisoner in this camp for almost three months.

While following a trail of omens, Iyathson was captured by the smugglers. He tells Amador that he was attempting to locate a single relic, the Occulus Ignis. He refuses to share any details about the
ancient item with the acolytes, save
that the extant pattern for the
device on Core Theta became
irreparably corrupted a mere two
centuries ago. He had hoped to
find a surviving example of
the sacred device somewhere
in the Wastes.

However, thanks to his gifts from the Omnissiah, namely his bionic eyesight and hearing, Iyathson states that he has seen and heard a great deal of things within the camp.

First, the smugglers are members of the “Trade Sable”, an organization based on Desoleum but that seemingly spans across the Askellian Sector. The smugglers are collaborating with an off-world group they refer to as “the Inheritors.” The Sable Traders do not trust the Inheritors, but have some sort of mutually beneficial business arrangement.

Additionally, the Inheritors clearly represent a cult of some type, but Iyathson does not know what the object of their worship is. Lastly, a group of Inheritors departed the camp only a few hours before the acolytes’ arrival and before a convoy of smugglers left into the wastes.

Besides the prison, the acolytes also find a secured building that appears to be an office of some sort. Inside, the building is also a small sleeping chamber, as well as a massive vox-set, a desk, and several trunks and cabinets containing papers, cargo manifests, contracts, false shipping documents and identification, and other sundry documents. Upon the desk sits a small, portable cogitator.

After interfacing with the devices’ machine spirit, Amador finds that the cogitator contains several documents pertaining to a recent “shipment”, including a message confirming that the smugglers have secured passage on a ship from Port Gyre, and the estimated departure date – today. The smugglers are to board at platform Omicron 7-2A. It also notes that a previous group of Inheritors have already departed for Port Gyre.

Scattered throughout the documents are multiple references to the Inheritors, with context indicating them either as customers or as partners in operations. Several messages discuss working with the Inheritors to attack other stores of “merchandise.”

Among these effects the acolytes also find a pict recorder with vid-caps of the exterior of the warehouse where the dead cultists and smugglers were found in the underhive, as well as pictures of several other structures within Desoleum Prime. Some of the images show robed figures coming or going, carrying chests or packages.

The acolytes also find a series of correspondences between two of the smugglers. One of the writers seems to be of a slightly lower rank and he laments the difficulties in working alongside the Inheritors. He complains of the constant chanting, and of much nausea and illness amongst his men, which he blames directly on the Inheritors’ activities.

In the office, the acolytes also open a locked chest, containing all kinds of materiel and tools clearly of Mechanicus origin. Believing these to be Iyathson’s seized gear, Amador takes them for safe keeping. Among them is a data slate containing all kinds of research, templates, and diagrams.

The acolytes decide that there is simply too much on the line with too little time to act. They attempt to call in reinforcements. Amador communes with the machine spirit contained within the office’s military-grade vox set and sends a transmission to the Reliant Dawn. After a lengthy, encrypted status report, the acolytes are told to wait two hours for the next transmission. They are unsure that Iyathson will survive that time.

They request an immediate medical evacuation for Iyathson, rapid transit to Port Gyre, and for an advance team to head off anyone attempting to leave Gyre platform Omicron 7-2A.

All that’s left is for the acolytes to await orders and to secure the last of the camp’s remaining structures – the black and bone building untouched among dozens of smoldering ruins. According to Uziel’s auspex, four life signs are still contained within.

The acolytes ready their weapons and prepare to purge the suspected heretics with extreme prejudice.

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Standing in the Shadow - Part 6
... into the fire.

In seconds, the camp bursts into a massive, chaotic firefight.

Uziel hammers the camp. Each report of the heavy stubber rattles and reverberates through his body as the men in front of his sights are turned into a chunky pudding.

Grax leaps with a scowling hiss down into the compound below. Locating an enemy patrol in a state of surprise and disarray, Grax lashes out with a furious psychic assault. Although effective, his witch-blows attract the attention of a nearby machine gun nest.

Before Grax can batter this new opponent with his maelefic forces, he’s cut down by a well-placed burst. In a panicked moment of self-preservation, Grax frantically taps into the immaterium. Although stunning everyone around him, Grax’s unnatural methods form a massive, eerie storm above him. With howling wind and a rain of blood, the warp bleeds into reality. The laughter of daemons echoes throughout Grax’s soul as he attempts to maintain his hold on reality and a tenuous grip on his draining life.

From somewhere within the compound, bolts of blue-white energy ripple across the night sky, ionizing the air with a crackling hiss on their way toward Uziel’s position. Diving for cover of the post’s sandbags, Uziel feels the searing heat ripple past his cheek. More of the energy bolts slam into his barrier, immolating the canvas sandbags and turning their contents to oozing molten glass.

Across the compound, Amador’s bolter chatters away from its mount atop the Sand-Lynx. After empting the weapon’s box magazine into the bodies of some unfortunate souls, Amador slides out of the pintle, over the top of the shattered vehicle, and through the compound’s torn and twisted front gate. Taking fire from an approaching patrol, he takes to the fight with his pistol. Making his assailants pay for every inch with blood and tears, Amador’s bolt pistol easily severs arms, legs, and faces.

On the parapets, hoping to suppress the incoming plasma fire, Uziel blind-fires his grenade launcher into various buildings, tents, and sheds. The frag rounds rip through the temporary structures and prefab buildings. Flaming sheet metal pieces, plastek splinters, and rockcrete shards blow across the camp. Fire quickly engulfs many of the remaining structures.

In the guard tower above, Tybs plunges accurate fire into the crowds below. From promethium tanks to human flesh and bone, he strikes out at his well-armed foes. Eventually, Tybs finds the origin of the bright blue plasma bolts hammering into Uziel’s position. Locating the shooter among the smoke and cinders far below, Tybs takes aim.

Amid the chaotic din and the crackling of his plasma pistol, the mercenaries’ leader barks orders to the men around him, unaware of the threat above. With a slight spasm and a resounding thud-puff, the man’s head bursts like ripe melon, spilling his once valuable mind into Desoleum’s silicate wastes.

With the rest of the enemy destroyed or fleeing, the acolytes regroup. Although Grax is gravely wounded and Travers dead, the warband has won a hard fought victory. With his auspex, Uziel locates a remaining group of survivors – most likely the “bone folk” – that appear to be inside the bizarre structure that they had spotted in the middle of the camp.

Many of the compound’s structures are now destroyed or in flames. The acolytes reload their weapons, bandage their wounds, and being a desperate search for more clues about their shadowy opponents.

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Standing in the Shadow - Part 5
Out of the frying pan…

The acolytes scour the wreckage of the smugglers’ Viator Desert Crawler in search of any ammunition, xenos artifacts, or clues regarding their mysterious foes. Well armed and well equipped, the acolytes’ adversaries are clearly more dangerous and better connected than simple mercenaries.

Unfortunately, Amador finds the Viator too badly damaged to recover anything of value. With the fiery wreck smoldering under the night sky, the acolytes prepare themselves for any forthcoming patrol.

After a few quiet hours, the acolytes decide to return to the smugglers’ camp and to take a better look at the compound.

The party slowly makes their way around the ridgeline nestled behind the camp. Upon a close inspection, two different parties man the camp – the well-armed smugglers they have seen many times before, and an odd group of individuals clad in black robes. The second group seems to remain in close proximity to some bizarre looking structures. Without any magnification tools, the acolytes are unable to make out what purpose the structures serve.

Regardless, the party confirms that the camp is still well armed. Four sentries patrol the wall in a clockwise fashion, alternating routes between four equally spaced machine gun nests. High in a watchtower near the front of the camp, a large spotlight traverses both the wastes outside as well as the interior of the camp.

After a thorough period of observation, the acolytes form a plan.

Tybs will don the newly acquired void suit and infiltrate the base by crossing the caustic lake and climbing the wall near the guard tower. Once inside, Tybs will lower the compound’s drawbridge. Once Tybs lowers the bridge, Travers and Amador will arrive with the Sand-Lynx’s pintle-mounted Bolter for heavy fire support. At the same time, Grax and Uziel will descend the ridgeline onto the peninsula, attempt to cross the open ground, and once they hear commotion, scale the rear wall of the compound and sew confusion and chaos at the smugglers’ rear flank.

The group separates and begins to put their plan into motion.

At the shore of the bubbling lake, Tybs suits up and begins his dangerous crossing. Less than half-way across, the void suit begins disintegrating around him. Tybs begins to swim at a frantic pace as he feels the chemicals start to eat through the suit’s material and into his exposed flesh. Tybs’ visor fogs up with his heavy breathing and the painful vapors pouring in through the suit’s dissolving seams. With the volatile fluid creeping into the suit and beginning to pull him under, Tybs barely makes it to the far shore. He strips himself quickly of the compromised suit and kicks the remnants away to finish dissolving in the bubbling and sizzling lake. Knowing now that he’s on his own, Tybs readies his weapons and begins a slow crawl toward the compound’s walls.

Resting against the walls closest to the gatehouse and watchtower, Tybs listens and watches through the ramshackle defensive barrier. He makes out some crude, but roguish conversation. The mercenaries are making jokes at the expense of the other group inside – what they are calling the “Bone Folk”. Shortly after, another one of the smugglers tells the men to get back to work and resume their patrols.

Tybs seizes the moment, quickly scales the wall, and drops safely inside the cordon. With a quick dash, he slips past a guard and into the base of the large watchtower. Inside, he finds a small guard room, thankfully empty. Tybs decides to forgo the ladder stretching up to the watchtower’s roof, opting for the staircase wrapping around the outside of the structure. This way, Tybs believes he stands the best chance of surprising the spotlight’s crew.

Reaching the top of the platform, Tybs finds two guards unaware. One slowly pans the large spotlight out into the wastes while the other slowly scans the surrounding through the telescopic sight of a sniper rifle. Tybs lines up his silenced Oath Keeper with one of his targets.

The Oath Keeper barks a muffled thump-puff as one of the men’s head explodes into a grey-pink mist. As the brain-vapor slowly drifts into the bright illumination of the spotlight, Tybs quickly adjusts his aim. Before the man holding the rifle can act, another face evaporates behind the silenced report of the ornate pistol.

Tybs scans his surroundings, confident that he has executed the first part of the plan unnoticed. Now, he takes at the drawbridge’s winch mechanism. With hands shaking, numerous rounds go wide, punching into the dirt ground. A lone guard eventually notices the commotion, raking the tower with automatic weapons fire.

Eventually, Tybs strikes the chock, causing the drawbridge to falls quickly and with a tremendous crash

In the foothills surrounding the camp, Amador hears the exchanges of gunfire and sees the bridge fall. Travers brings the Sand-Lynx to life and begins roar over the silicate dunes, closing the distance to the camp. Smashing into one of the guardrails, the Sand-Lynx crosses the bridge. Travers slams the vehicle into the still-closed front gate, wedging it between the unseated bars and the camp’s prefabricated plasteel walls. With the ‘Lynx extremely damaged and Travers potentially gravely injured, Amador begins chattering off explosive rounds from the pintle-mounted bolter into groups of the hapless guards found within the compound.

Meanwhile, having scaled quietly down the ridgeline and crossed silently across the open ground, Grax and Uziel wait in the twilight shadows of the camp’s rear wall. Hearing gunfire and hoping to create a much-needed distraction, they light the chemical lake ablaze. The fire quickly ripples outwards, surrounding the compound. With toxic, noxious smoke climbing into the night sky, the pair scale’s the compound’s wall. Grax and Uziel ambush and kill one of the sentries and seize one his machine gun nest.

Turning the heavy stubber inward, they try to pick out friend from foe amid the chaotic, smoke-covered buildings and enclosures.

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Standing in the Shadow - Part 4
The smugglers' hideout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly the camp is well-manned and active.

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

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

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

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

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

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Standing in the Shadow - Part 3
Into the Wastes

Soon after the firefight, the merchants, traders, pilgrims, and wastelanders begin to filter back out into the small encampment’s various market stalls, vehicle bays, and trading posts.

Standing the shadow of Desoleum’s outer walls, the gravely wounded and weakened acolytes surmise that they are unable to continue in their present state. However, knowing how much is at stake, they quickly decide to recruit a new contact to pursue the smugglers’ into the wastes.

Among the various outfitters, guides, and ruffians, the acolytes locate D’Layne Travers – a strange, idiosyncratic fellow. The acolytes learn that Travers is a trader and guide who makes regular long-range supply runs throughout Desoleum’s harsh wastelands. His vehicle, the yellow and black Sand-Lynx is a heavily modified Hectin Autocarriage featuring an array of alterations. From the practical addition of extensor fuel cells to the purely cosmetic application of vestigial snub wings that Travers is convinced make the vehicle faster, the acolytes believe that Travers’ vehicle is their best bet to keep up with their prey.

Using the map recovered from the dead smugglers’ leader, the acolytes enlist Travers to locate and reconnoiter their adversaries’ ultimate destination. Travers agrees, stating that he will need at roughly a week to check things out and complete his normal trading route. Travers soon departs into the harsh, silicate landscape.

Returning into the hive, the acolytes look to recover and rearm for their future journey and continued pursuit.

Amador seeks immediate medical and mechanical aid at the Jade Foundry, the Adeptus Mechanicus’ largest presence on Desoleum. The Jade Foundry is an immense forge, named for the emerald hue emitted from display screens and voidship sensorium components that it produces.

The Skitarii at the gates take Amador to the Foundry’s Arch-Magos, Telefey’er. For the next five days, Amador undergoes the Rites of Reconstruction, replacing his weak flesh with a new instrument of the Omnissiah. Amador recovers quickly from the procedure and departs the Foundry incredibly impressed by the workmanship and extravagance of his new bionic limb.

The rest of the acolytes rest and recover in a freshly located safe house in Desoleum City’s slums. While Uziel deals with the aftermath of his head wound, Grax and Tybs experience the local “nightlife” and acquire new supplies and ammunition.

Eventually, the group returns to the outer-hive’s encampment and meets Travers at their prearranged time.

Travers explains that he has found the location, a seemingly large camp situated far into the wastes. He claims that the camp was too active and secluded for him to get close and have a good look, but he assures the acolytes that the smugglers are well-armed and well-prepared. He explains that a direct trip will take roughly two days. The acolytes and Travers depart immediately, hoping to arrive just before dusk on the second day.

The first day’s journey occurs mostly without incident. However, late in the afternoon, the acolytes encounter a trader and a small deaf-mute mutant child walking along a beaten dirt trail. The trader’s cart is laden down with junk and supplies and is hauled by two large draught animals.

Grax takes great offense to the mutant child, believing the scaly, malformed creature to be an affront to the god-Emperor. He confronts the pair and begins a ruthless psychic offensive. In the brief struggle, Grax incinerates the old man, weapons and all. The frightened, wounded mutant scurries off into the wastes, trying to distance himself from the fearful strangers.

Travers is visibly upset by how his new allies have treated his fellow wastelanders. Although harbouring mutants is punishable by death, Travers vows to sever ties with the group once their work is completed.

The acolytes search the trader’s cart, taking a few supplies before continuing their journey. They proceed into the night, making their way ever closer to the smugglers’ camp.

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