Valdane's Chronicles

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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Standing in the Shadow - Part 2
Gateway to the Wastes

At the base of the lift platform, the acolytes wait their turn to journey upwards. After ten long minutes standing under the Gallowsway’s continuous disgusting rain, the lift returns. Dragging Uziel’s semi-conscious frame aboard, Grax, Amador, and Tybs begin the slow ride to ground level to continue their pursuit of the smugglers.

Eventually, the lift rises up into in a massive, crowded passageway linking Desoleum’s arteria transitways to the surrounding wastes. Huge crowds of pilgrims, merchants, traders, and labourers filter in and out of the hive through a massive Sanctionary checkpoint.

Trying to adjust to the harsh outside light, the acolytes search frantically to relocate the group of smugglers. Grax probes the crowd with his mind, locating some faint echoes of the artefacts. Amador carries Uziel through the crowds while Tybs blends into a group of travellers heading toward the security checkpoint.

Like at Port Gyre, the Sanctionaries manning the gateway scan the oath cogs of any travellers entering or exiting the hive. At one point, the Sanctionaries forcibly pull a man from the line and proceed to beat him to death with their large, cog-shaped maces.

During the scuffle, Tybs spots the smugglers having a heated discussion near the checkpoint. Eventually they split up and stagger themselves within the line.

Tybs informs the Sanctionaries of his Inquisitorial affiliation and of the investigation that the acolytes have been conducting with Oath-Captain Nils. He gains passageway through the cordon for himself, Grax, Amador, and Uziel. Furthermore, he warns the Sanctionaries to be ready for trouble. Once through, the acolytes move off to the side, allowing the smugglers to pass them by.

Outside, just beyond the gateway, the acolytes find a sprawling array of vehicle bays, stables, merchant tents, shacks, and various small temporary pre-fabricated structures. Many of the structures are built directly against Hive Desoleum’s outer shell, using the metal superstructure for strength and support. Small crowds of wastelanders, Desoleum natives, and offworlders make their ways among the stalls, conducting business with various guides, outfitters, and traders.

The smugglers, laden down with gear, push their way through the crowds and small market stalls. They reach a prepared Viator desert crawler – a large, boxy, ruggedized six-wheeled vehicle designed for traversing Desoleum’s harsh wastelands. Dark grey, the vehicle looks like it would blend perfectly into Desoleum’s silicate deserts and would be all but invisible at night.

The smugglers begin loading their gear. Sensing that this may be their only chance to act before losing track of the mysterious group, the acolytes deposit Uziel behind a stall and begin their surprise attack.

Grax taps into the Sea of Souls, unleashing a devastating barrage of living lighting, striking and stunning the smugglers’ supposed leader. Tybs moves for cover in the market stalls while firing full-auto bursts from both autopistols. One of the volleys strikes Grax’s target again, shattering the man’s skull. His lifeless body drops beside the Viator, oozing blood and brains into Desoleum’s harsh earth.

Amador charges with his glaive, severing one of the smuggler’s feet and knocking the target over. Screaming, the man drops to the ground, firing wildly with his pistol. His comrades take to the fight, unleashing volleys from their autoguns and various pistols. Cornered and caught flat-footed, one of the smugglers tosses a small, metal canister toward Grax and Tybs.

The canister bursts into a large cloud of semi-opaque mist. Feeling reality slipping away, Tybs falls to the ground screaming as large insects begin burrowing their way out of his flesh. Similarly, overcome with rage, Grax charges the closest target, attempting to claw and climb through the man’s face.

Now outnumbered, Amador fights for his life. While attempting to shield himself from a torrent of automatic fire, he fights on, dispatching one of his foes. Eventually, one of the smugglers catches him off-guard. Firing nearly point-blank, the smuggler’s autogun tears Amador’s right arm from his body. Amador falls to the ground, stunned while arterial blood sprays madly from his ragged stump. Reciting a prayer to the Omnissiah, Amador locates his medical kit and allows his mechandendrites to begin the desperate work of saving his own life.

Knowing that they have a small window of opportunity to flee, two of the smugglers climb into the Viator and begin their escape. A third smuggler grabs the leader’s dropped bag and leaps onto the Viator’s side rails.

Recovering their senses, Grax and Tybs fire at the fleeing group.

With some blasphemous, unseen force, Grax strikes the smuggler holding onto the side of the vehicle, knocking him to the ground. He gets up and attempts to catch up to the fleeing Viator. The acolytes knock the target over with more accurate small-arms fire. The desperate smuggler fires a last-ditch volley that whizzes past Grax and Tybs.

Sensing that his target is weak, Grax crushes the man in a small gravitational well. With a sickening crunch, the man’s arm and shoulder implodes into his chest cavity, sending a severely damaged autogun spiraling meters into the air.

Safe inside the Viator, the two remaining smugglers continue their journey into the wastes. They quickly work to put distance between themselves and the large Sanctionary patrol exiting the hive.

The acolytes recover the dead smugglers’ weapons and gear and search through their bags.

Inside the leader’s pack, they find a rough, hand-drawn map to a destination far off into Desoleum’s wastes. With it, they also find a small, armoured glass canister holding a bizarre purple fluid. Suspended inside the fluid is a number of luminescent shards of stone. In the other bags, they find a black orb extremely similar to the one recovered from Guljian’s manor as well as another shard of stone matching the one recovered by Oath-Captain Nils.

Amador notices that when brought into close proximity to the other artefacts, the purple fluid reacts violently. Furthermore, the orb produces a faint, discordant whistling. Upon close study, Amador experiences a violent vision of massive cyclopean structures and never ending towers of bone.

Now, with two acolytes gravely wounded, the cell must decide whether to recover, rearm, and refit within Desoleum City, or to rapidly pursue the smugglers into the inhospitable wastes.

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Standing in the Shadow - Part 1
A new investigation begins

After a few weeks of recovery aboard the Reliant Dawn, the acolytes return to Hive Desoleum.

Valdane explains that word has reached him of more disturbing activities within the hive. The Sanctionary Bondsmen enforcing law in Desoleum’s underhive have requested Inquisitorial aid.

The acolytes are to descend into the darkness of the Gallowsway to investigate the situation, and take whatever steps are necessary to prevent further contamination of humanity. They are given coordinates to a lift that takes them down into Desoleum’s decaying underbelly.

At the bottom, the acolytes are met by three Sanctionary Bondsmen. The one in charge, a woman, greats them as Oath-Captain Nils. She offers an oily, extendible tarp to keep off the waters streaming down from the decrepit ceilings high above. Nils explains that after she saw the crime scene, she knew it necessitated “higher” involvement.

The Gallowsway is a dank and forgotten place perched on the under-edge of Desoleum City. It seems as though very little in the way of wealth from the hive has trickled down here. Nor has power, light, or food. The Gallowsway is home to thousands of unclaimed corpses. Sent each day from the poorer sections of the city above for disposal, they fest in monumental warehouses before being processed in the level’s numerous Mortuarius Factorums. It is a foul place to live, but one that must exist lest the city become choked with its own dead.

The Gallowsway is a maze of rusted streets with feeble, failing local lighting barely containing the darkness. In places, the visibility is hampered further by sluggish fog rising up from below. Filthy refuse chokes the low-ceiling corridors and thoroughfares through which Oath-Captain Nils leads the acolytes

The constant, dripping rain is almost maddening. Filthy liquid continues to pour down from the hundreds of hive-levels above. It never ceases, and it leaves the acolytes and their gear covered in an oily sheen.

Much like the dead, Gallowsway’s citizens are slump-shouldered and stumble about their daily lives, pale and listless.

Eventually, the acolytes enter a three-story building. The spacious main chamber is piled high with junk and the ceiling sags in several places. Nine pools of congealed blood lay arrayed about the room and fresh las-burns and bullet holes scarring the wall speak to recent violence. The air is thick with the smell of blood and an overpowering scent of decay. Several Sanctionaries move about the room, taking picts and speaking in hushed tones.

Nils explains that all of the bodies were moved to the Sanctionary Mortuarium before she arrived and saw the bizarre nature of scene. She shows the acolytes a small, oily-looking rock shard that was recovered from within the warehouse. It seems to absorb all light and, in a way, is similar to the black orb recovered from Guljian’s manor.

Furthermore, a number of crates and small shipping containers are arranged in stacks about the room. Most of these are ancient, as shown by the rotten wood and rusted metal. However, a few are more recent, and appear to have been forced open and ransacked. Uziel finds bloody hand prints on the inside of one of them. The packing material also makes it seem that a few of the items were fragile in nature.

Grax feels the stink of the warp all around this place. Uziel finds clear blood trails and some odd, silicate-based boot prints. Amador surmises that the nature of the dirt means that at least one of the parties originated from outside the hive. Amador also deduces that whoever took the contents of the crates must still be alive and on the run. Grax concurs, feeling a strong warp echo leading away from the structure.

First, the acolytes head to the Sanctionary Mortuarium to examine the bodies and to gain more information about the combatants that were present.

Of the nine corpses total, four had been wearing tattered and filthy robes and two were wearing typical downhive workers garbs. Three of these bodies also show advanced signs of decay.

These first six were found with rusty knives, daggers, a variety of small arms in various states of disrepair, several grisly trophies including a shrunken head, several sheets of filth-smeared parchment written with blasphemous prayers, and a rusted iron talisman. They also were carrying a small number of coins scrimshawed from bone.

Three other corpses are clearly more tanned, and have odd facial scars that appear to be ritualized. They were wearing rugged clothing and light armour. The tanned corpses were well-armed and were equipped with a variety of well-crafted weapons and a secure Vox set.

Amador concludes that the silicate-based dirt trails and tanned bodies mean that any of the individuals that had left the warehouse with the items are likely from the same group of well-armed, well-equipped outsiders.

Upon beginning the autopsy of one of the more decaying corpses, Amador and the Sanctionary-Medicae determine that the rate of decay is not consistent with the time of death. As the Sanctionary-Medicae begins cutting into the corpse, it comes to life, and begins to attack the group using nearby surgical implements.

After dispatching the corpse, the group decides that they need to quickly track down the others who had fled from the scene and to quickly gather more information.

Amador uses the recovered Vox set, finding it still keyed to the combatants’ channel. It seems as if there is a small group, some wounded, moving toward the outer wall of the hive. Due to interference within the hive, the acolytes can only hear one side of the conversation. The group determines that there must also be a force aiding the group from outside of the hive.

The acolytes split up, following various physical trails, psychic echoes from the items taken, and clues from witness throughout the Gallowsway. They pass through the Charnel House district as well as a scrap market, all while closing in on their targets.

Past the scrap market, the acolytes find the Drains, the main hab-block for this district. A constant stream of vile water passes through these structures from above. Located at the end of the primary conveyor hub, the Drains stretch towards the hive wall in a series of prefabricated containers stacked one on top of the other. Shaky walkways bridge the gaps between towers.

Here, Tybs and Uziel are ambushed by a two of the tanned outsiders. In a brief struggle and firefight, Uziel tumbles from one of the walkways, smashing into the ground below and is knocked unconscious. In a tremendous exchange of gunfire, Tybs kills one of the assailants and the other slips away.

After rendezvousing with Amador and Grax, the acolytes continue to track the enemy group past an area called the Boneyard and into a series of maintenance passageways.

Eventually, they find five figures standing at the base of a massive cargo lift, waiting for the platform to arrive. Clearly anxious and loaded with gear, one figure is mashing the call button repeatedly. One of the men is clutching his left arm to his chest, while one is pale, with a growing crimson stain on his tunic.
Although some are wounded, the group is still incredibly well armed.

The acolytes decide to play it safe, waiting for the lift to arrive and for the enemy group to climb aboard. They watch as the platform grinds its way back up into the main hive.

Carrying a gravely wounded Uziel, the acolytes wait for the lift to return and for the chance to resume their pursuit.

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