Valdane's Chronicles

Illuminations - Part 1
The players begin their investigation on Iocanthos

The acolytes have traveled from Valdane’s flagship – The Reliant Dawn (their home and central hub) – to the surface of Iocanthos – a dusty, arid, and war-torn planet in the Calixis Sector.

Their goal is to investigate a series of bizarre phenoma that surrounds the construction of a new cathedral at Stern Hope. This cathedral is due to be consecrated in the name of Saint Drusus at the end of the week. The Inquisition is looking to ensure that it goes off without a hitch.

Upon arriving in Port Suffering, the acolytes were ambushed by some unruly youths – the “Old Ones” – a radical sect of the native Ashleen. Upon capturing one of them, they were told that “The wise ones have seen darkness brought from afar!”.

It seems like the locals have noticed unrest in the Ashleen over the last few weeks.

After finishing the fight, the acolytes have met with Aristarchus the Seer, a powerful and senior inquisitorial agent with experience in the Emperor’s Tarot and the investigation of warp-based phenomena.

It seems as if Aristarchus (a direct relative of Saint Drusus) is quite worried by the consecration of the new cathedral in five days time.

Aristarchus has provided meager equipment and arranged for transportation through the Shale Wastes – a dusty, dangerous wasteland often besieged by raiders and bandits.

The journey will take two days.

To supplement their gear, the acolytes have visited the local markets as well as the enforcers’ station.

The party leaves at dawn.

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Illuminations - Part 2
Clues are uncovered

At dawn of the next day, Aristarchus was tired, but eager to travel.

Most of that day’s trek across the Shale Wastes passed uneventfully. Tybs, however, learned that Aristarchus’ beautifully crafted tarot deck was actually a “touching and generous gift” from Abbot Skae – the missionary in charge of Stern Hope.

Additionally, the party spotted some of the reptilian Shale Crows, a native, eyeless species of carrion-eating bird. Lately, the Shale Crows have been restless and have even taken to attacking men. Aristarchus considers them unsettling: “No eyes in the damn things, no eyes at all.” The Ashleen see the Shale Crows as a bad omen.

From then on, it was easy to notice that there was always at least one Shale Crow following the party across the wastes.

Near the end of the day, the acolytes came across a damaged settlement – the occupants long dead. Many of the corpses had deep cuts and bruises, but most curiously, many were missing eyes. As darkness was falling quickly over the moonless Iocanthos, the party made camp for the night.

During the night, scuffling was heard outside. Upon investigation, the acolytes found one of the bodies of the eyeless Ashleen standing, staring right at them. Content Not Found: amidor proved quick to dispatch of the “foe”. Aristarchus, strangely, dismissed their concerns, saying that they were simply afraid of the night and shooting at nothing but shadows and darkness. He quickly returned to a restless sleep, clutching his tarot deck.

On the second day, the party encountered a strange figure on a rocky outcrop. Before they could get close enough to investigate, the figure seemingly disappeared, leaving only a scorched image on the dusty ground. Aristarchus – as a relative of Saint Drusus – took great meaning from this symbol; an image of Saint Drusus’ 2nd Army Group.

That evening, the party arrived at Stern Hope, greeted by brothers Severus and Lamark. They settled in at the Crying Clota – a ramshackle inn and tavern.

The next morning, an extremely worn out Aristarchus took the party to an audience with Abbot Skae. There, Skae described some of the phenomena and offered Brother Lamark as a guide for the day. The party toured Stern Hope, engaged in many discussions with the pilgrims – especially the Ashleen – as well as partaking in small amounts of trade.

Specifically, some Ashleen tell the acolytes that this hill is a cursed place that was once the site of worship of “old and terrible gods.” They had hoped that the cathedral here would bless this land, but the phenomena, the Shale Crows, and all of the eyeless bodies have them worried.

Inside the cathedral, the acolytes saw an immense stained-glass image depicting Saint Drusus. In the image, Drusus stands triumphant over a shadowy, eyeless figure in a field of golden flowers. Additionally, it appears as though dark-coloured birds are fleeing from the scene of his victory.

Upon returning to their lodgings that evening, Aristarchus was nowhere to be seen. Seemingly, he had been in an audience with Skae for the entire day.

The next morning – the day of Saint Drusus’ Feast and the consecration – there was evidence that Aristarchus had returned to his room sometime during the night. Still, he remained missing at breakfast. Soon, cries of excitement were heard around the camp as Warchief Kos’ke and his retinue – including the elder Esha Raine – had arrived.

These massive, well-armed barbarians rode in on their Dustdogs – large bi-pedal creatures accustomed to the harsh wastes of Iocanthos. Immediately, the procession headed toward the cathedral where the morning rituals were soon to begin.

Aristarchus also finally appeared, looking disheveled and exhausted. He claimed that his nights were now sleepless and that his cards were displaying odd visions. He apologized that he would be unable to attend the morning’s ceremonies but he would try to rejoin the acolytes after some much-needed rest.

Abbot Skae greeted the acolytes at the cathedral doors and showed them to seats at the front of the congregation – opposite of Kos’ke, Raine, and their retinue. Surprisingly, Aristarchus rejoins the party just in time for the ceremony.

As Skae’s sermon reaches a fever-pitch, Stern Hope is attacked by fanatics. Kos’ke and his party head to quell their now-stampeding Dustdogs and to ready them for battle.

The acolytes immediately set out after a group of bomb-carrying warriors headed straight for the cathedral. Tybs – cigarette hanging from his lips – takes a single well-aimed shot, piercing the improvised explosive device and taking out the crowd of raiders.

Next, the party headed to save a group of Ashleen women and children from the rampaging fanatics hacking their way through the tents. Their early efforts are useless – many of their shots miss or only graze the assailants. Tybs’ gun jams at an incredibly inopportune moment. The fanatics hack and slash their way through a few unlucky Ashleen.

Amidor launches himself into the fray in an attempt to save the children. Grax – in his attempts to focus his powers – rips open the immaterial worlds and unleashes a horde of warp phantoms.

The children scatter in fear, many of the fanatics are terrified, and Tybs falls temporarily unconscious from the horrific sight. Eventually, Amidor, Grax, and Tybs clear out the remaining raiders.

Kos’ke and his now blood- and dust-stained warriors have turned the tide of battle. They rejoin the acolytes and head to the cathedral doors where an odd scene is developing. A fanatic has been captured – clearly insane. Esha Raine tries to convince Skae and Aristarchus that the man is crazy and is being driven by some obscene force. Before any real discussion can take place, Aristarchus executes the prisoner and attempts to brand Raine and her group as heretics as well. His voice is harsher that the party has heard thus far.

Kos’ke, Raine, and their warriors depart the camp, frustrated, and proclaim that “I see now that you are damned and the crow sits on your shoulder.”

The acolytes spend most of the day surveying the camp’s damage and wounded. Roughly an hour before the true consecration ceremony is set to begin, a gravely-wounded Abbot Skae emerges from the cathedral – bloody, battered, and weakened, Aristarchus and the acolytes rush to his side. He blames his attack on a dark figure – possibly a woman.

Aristarchus is furious. He is convinced that Raine is the perpetrator. He now demands that the acolytes head to her settlement in the hills and arrest her. He is convinced that Raine is a witch and a heretic and that the acolytes must now “truly prove their worth to the Holy Inquisition.”

The journey will take three hours on foot or one and a half hours if they were to use their flatbed truck. The party must now make a decision on how to best reach Raine, Kos’ke, and their warriors.

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Illuminations - Part 3
An ancient evil is conquered

Brother Lamark and the acolytes immediately set out from Stern Hope in search of Raine, Kos’ke, and their men.

Darkness falls quickly as both the night and a great dust storm descends over the region.

Eventually, down a side gorge, the party finds a small settlement currently inhabited by Esha Raine, Kos’ke, and their warriors. Although tensions are high, the acolytes diffuse the situation. Raine tells the acolytes that she has something quite important to show them.

As they head to the entrance of the main dwelling, the dust storm returns with a fury – followed by echoing laughter and sickly lights. Two flocks of Shale Crows descend from the sky to attack Raine and the acolytes. With a quick, fierce fight, Kos’ke and the acolytes drive the crows away.

Raine retrieves what she was after; an ancient book of Ashleen history. Thankfully Lamark can decipher the odd runes and archaic language. The book tells of Saint Drusus’ battle with a daemon-possessed cult leader during the conquest of the planet – viewed through the eyes of the Ashleen as a mythic hero-tale. The account refers to the battle taking place on the very hill on which the cathedral has been built. The cult was founded on lies and deceit and delighted on turning brother against brother. The cult’s high ceremonies and sacrifices occurred around dusk on a day after its followers were forced to battle each other to show their worthiness to serve.

Raine and Kos’ke tell the acolytes that they must go warn their tribes. Before leaving, she gives the acolytes one last piece of knowledge: “The old widow’s tales from before the saint came said that the only thing the Crow Father feared was the agony he most loved to inflict… but what that might be I cannot say.”

After seeing all of the eyeless bodies as well as the mural in the cathedral, Amador posits that the daemon may be vulnerable to blinding.

The party quickly returns to Stern Hope to attempt to halt the ongoing “consecration” ceremonies. Along the way, they encounter Nathaniel Uziel. Lost in the dark and the dust storm, Uziel was hoping to make it to Stern Hope to aid the acolytes in their investigations. After they fill him in on the horrific details of what they’ve uncovered, the party finishes the journey back.

Upon arriving at Stern Hope, they immediately realize that something is horribly wrong. There are no guards at the gates, or, for that matter, along the wall. A strange, dim haze hangs over the cathedral. The population is also ominously missing from the pitch-black camps.

Uziel scans the cathedral with his Auspex and determines that there is a strange energy field inside, as well as hundreds of lifeforms. Grax reaches his mind inside the building and encounters an unrelenting evil. They determine that they must act at once – but it may be already too late.

With the acolytes on the back, Lamark drives their truck straight through the cathedral doors. Inside, Aristarchus stands atop the alter, the cards of his Emperor’s Tarot orbiting around him, each one burning ghost white, almost too bright to look at. In the harsh flickering glare of the cards and the headlights of the truck, the acolytes see that the pews are filled with the people of Stern Hope; men, women, and children frozen in fear, tears streaming down their faces, and their mouths whispering words that are not their own. The domed ceiling boils with a tangle of seething darkness as the warp bleeds into reality.

The acolytes take action and spread out. Uziel throws a stun grenade. The harsh blast and burst of light illuminates another terrifying image. Abbot Skae – corrupted and possessed by the Crow Father – charges right at them. Before he can truly react, Tybs drops to the ground in excruciating pain. With his distorted, spasmodic limbs, the Skae-thing slams his weight into Tybs’ shoulder.

The other Acolytes attempt to fire at the daemon. Grax assails the Skae-thing’s eyes in an attempt to blind it. With a lucky shot, one of the the eyes is ripped from the daemon’s face.

Immediately, the Skae-thing leaps after Grax, ripping open the psyker’s kneecap and sending him flying into the pews. The other acolytes panic and fire widely – thankfully missing their comrades with any errant fire.

Grax reaches out through the warp again, hoping to finish the beast. The warp boils and rips through his mind, throwing him a dozen metres into the air. Landing awkwardly on one of the pews, Grax is knocked unconscious.

Uziel – feeling the might of the Emperor flowing through him – lines up his sights on the Skae-beast, unleashing a volley of fire directly into its twisted, horrific visage. Skae’s head bursts open, spilling a black ichor across the floor. Stumbling backwards in agony, Skae falls into Aristarchus’ psychic field and tarot cards, ripping apart the warp mass above and blowing a wave of psychic energy across the cathedral. Both Aristarchus and Skae are wiped out in the blast and immolated by bale-fire.

The pilgrims of Stern Hope break out of their trance, horribly traumatized and physically wounded by what they have witnessed.

Among the ruins of the altar, Amador finds a single, damaged tarot card. Upon close examination, he determines that the card has been built using xenos technology. The heretical deck is a blasphemy to the Ecclesiarchy, Astra Telepathic, and Mechanicus alike. It is the only remaining piece of evidence.

Aftermath:

In the daemon’s final moments and the ensuing psychic explosion, astropaths throughout the system are knocked unconscious. Imperial authorities quickly backtrack the source to Iocanthos and rapidly dispatch inquisitorial aid. The convent of Adepta Sororitas also arrive at Stern Hope to tend to the wounded and to stabilize the situation.

Thankfully, due the the acolytes’ actions, the Ashleen do not turn their backs on the Imperial Creed. Instead, Raine serves as a new spiritual leader, merging the two communities. The acolytes also become part of the Ashleen oral history and mythic hero tales.

Upon returning to the Reliant Dawn, the acolytes are questioned at length about their mission and Aristarchus’ fall. Valdane congratulates the party but is clearly upset about Aristarchus’ fate. Valdane confiscates the damaged tarot card and vows to determine the xenos technology’s source.

After a few weeks of debriefings and quarantines, the party is moved to an acolyte-only deck of the Dawn.

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Glass Houses - Part 1
The Inquisition goes to war

Eventually, a month passes aboard the Reliant Dawn with little news from Valdane or other members of the crew. During the uncomfortable, idle, directionless time, fights and substance abuse become common among the acolytes aboard. For the most part however, the warp travel is uneventful.

On a seemingly normal day cycle, the acolytes awake to the sounds of servitors pushing around tables and chairs in the common area. A few acolytes had already gathered there, watching from the sides of the room.

Tybaltius admits that he has woken up with a splitting headache and that his eyebrow ring is missing. He attributes this to his time spent gambling the night before.

Surprisingly, a heavily-armoured Valdane emerges from the turbolifts and briefs all of the gathered acolytes on the developing situation.

His agents have traced the source of Aristarchus’ heretical and xenos-tainted Tarot Deck to Zetah VII – a hive world that straddles the border between the Calixis and Askellon sectors. Valdane’s sources are sure that a noble, Tyranius Archibald III – of the Guild House Archibald – is the source of both the xenos-tained deck as well numerous other heretical artifacts making their way through Calixis space. Unfortunately, there are complications surrounding his arrest.

Chaos-led secessionists have recently started an invasion of the Calixis Sector – and Zetah VII is caught directly in their midst. Because Zetah VII has been under siege for the last thirty-six hours, the acolytes’ insertion will be a combat drop. Numerous inquisitorial cells will be distributed along the spire as to provide the best chance of locating Archibald. Casualties are expected to be high.

Valdane tells the acolytes that their mission is to determine Archibald’s location within Zetah VII’s main hive and gain details about his supplier. If Archibald is dead, the acolytes will need to recover all of his trading guild records and accounts.

Valdane departs and the acolytes move to the flight bay to find their pilots, assignments, and other supplemental gear. Emergency lighting turns on and vox speakers announce for the crew to take battle-stations.

As acolytes scramble to their ships, Tybaltius finds a note in is pocket. Addressed from Valdane, he reads it to the others:

Tybaltius,
Unknown to your Bloodborne Brothers, Sorgoth and Archibald had expanded their smuggling business into the realm of xenos artifacts and archeotech. My agents had suspected that they also may have had a disagreement over profit sharing. The information on your ring has confirmed these details.
Likely, this is the reason that Sorgoth ordered you to kill Archibald. We suspect that Sorgoth has now taken on a greater role in the xenos-smuggling trade and that he may have also recently sought transport off-world.
Your mission is to find and interrogate Archibald, obtain the details of his supplier, determine Sorgoth’s location, and execute Archibald with extreme prejudice.
Move quickly and use your knowledge of the hive to accomplish these goals. I have given your cell the best chance of locating the heretic.
Anything else is a secondary concern.

Tybaltius explains to the others that Sorgoth was the leader of the Bloodborne Brothers, a vicious gang on Zetah VII. Tybaltius himself was a senior member – his signature eye-patch hiding his gang tattoo.

Sorgoth had tasked Tybaltius with assassinating Archibald. Instead, Tybs used this time to gather crucial data regarding the noble’s wrongdoings. After Sorgoth found out that Tybs was sleeping with his wife and hadn’t immediately killed Archibald, he had Tybs arrested and shipped to an off-world penal colony.

Now, it seems as though Valdane found and used the information on Tybs’ now-missing eyebrow piercing for his own purposes.

The party eventually finds their pilot, Lt. Antarro Corvath, who leads them to their assault craft. The acolytes are told that they’re dropping on the lower part of the hive spire’s apex. Multiple units of Scintillan Fusiliers and Zetah Planetary Defence Forces are currently engaging the enemy all along the spire and should be able to provide some support – or at least, a distraction.

The Reliant Dawn translates out of warp space. Soon after, the air rushes out of launch bay, leaving a dreadful silence before the engines kick in.

Bursts of light poke through the slits in the side doors of the assault carrier as it leaves the belly of Dawn. Fragments rattle against the hull. With the evasive maneuvers Lt. Corvath is taking, the acolytes can only imagine the true scale of the orbital conflict.

The eventual atmospheric re-entry seems calm in comparison. However, it too is replaced by chaos as the sounds of attack aircraft, orbital bombardments, flak, and anti-aircraft fire reverberate throughout the crew compartment.

After a few agonizing minutes of descent through the chaos, a green light comes on in the compartment. The gunners stand, slide open their doors, and pivot their guns into position. The two door-mounted heavy bolters begin barking to life, covering the acolytes’ descent.

As they start their slide down the insertion cable, Corvath radios a warning. A small group of secessionists are on the roof. A lone missile starts streaking skyward. The acolytes leap to the spire roof as the missile impacts the assault craft. Corvath tries to keep it level, but his other engine explodes, sending the craft into a spiral and crash.

The acolytes eventually fight their way into the spire, weaving through various maintenance corridors and administrative wards. Corvath manages to radio the party, informing them that he’ll try to make it to ground level.

As they approach a series of turbolifts, the acolytes find a large group of nobles arguing with three hive enforcers. The enforcers are trying to push the crowd back from shuttle access points – hoping to allow imminently-arriving Imperial causalities to be evacuated.

The party decides that they can’t waste any more time and they decide to leave the two disputing groups. As they enter the turbolifts, the party hears echoes of gunfire and a few explosions coming from the direction of the crowd.

Having now found their way into the guild district, the acolytes set off to find the Archibald Guild House. The district is abandoned, but debris, bodies, and shell casings show signs of recent conflict.

Inside Archibald’s office, they find two guild servants burning piles of documents and trade records. Through questioning the servants and searching the room, they discover that Archibald has been drafted into the Planetary Defence Force and has been assigned to the air defence batteries at St. Lucia’s Cathedral – located on St. Lucia’s Square. Tybs – a past resident of the hive – knows its general location.

After hearing the sound of some bizarre tracked vehicle, the two terrified guild servants make a break for it. One of them is shot down by Tybs before making it to the door. The other manages to push past Uziel and makes his way into the street.

A chaos secessionist patrol is making their way through the district – looting bodies and buildings. The fleeing guilder is shot down by the secessionists’ heavily armed assault vehicle.

The acolytes fan out and prepare an ambush. Amador arms a demolition charge for Uziel, but they fail to destroy the durable, tracked vehicle. After an intense firefight, the acolytes finish off the cultists.

Heavily wounded, the acolytes now search the corpses and the assault vehicle before heading to the guild cargo lifts.

Hopefully, they can find their way to the Balcony – a once great area of prosperity and huge, exotic markets. The Balcony’s open-air platform wraps around the spire apex and was once filled with markets, parks, shrines, cathedrals, and offices for the nobility and hive elite.

The Balcony also holds their crucial objective – St. Lucia’s Cathedral.

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Glass Houses - Part 2
Zetah VII burns

After catching their breaths and binding their wounds, the acolytes quickly search the bodies of the cultist patrol and the remains of the terrifying assault vehicle. After finding mostly ammunition and a few crude weapons, Amador discovers a House Talamar Oathkeeper, a rare weapon and badge of office for Talamar trading guild officers. Amador and Uziel also attempt to strip the machine guns from the cultists’ tracked vehicle.

The acolytes make their way through the guild district and finally find the private guilder cargo lifts. From the rumbling and shaking of the spire, the acolytes surmise that the conflict is escalating and that the hive is losing structural integrity.

Using the slain guild-servants’ access cogs, the acolytes enter the ornate lift and continue their journey up the spire. After a few minutes, the whole spire shudders violently, and another massive rumble moves through the superstructure. The lift screeches to a stop, loses all power, and slowly starts to fill with smoke. In the pitch black, the acolytes climb through the service hatch in the roof of the car. Just as the acolytes make it to a maintenance ladder in the middle of the massive elevator shaft, a flaming car comes shooting downwards, smashing the lift they just departed, and tumbling into the darkness.

After a long climb, the acolytes arrive on what they believe is their correct floor. Upon prying open the door, the party finds more darkness; an entire level gutted by fire and combat. While navigating the charred hallways, Tybs stumbles into an enemy patrol. Using the newly discovered House Talamar Oathkeeper, Tybs engages the enemy.

After a brief, but incredibly violent firefight, the acolytes push upwards again, finally reaching the Balcony. Unfortunately, instead of easily finding Archibald, the acolytes find a massive gathering of Scintillan Fusilers and Zetah PDF troopers. Hundreds of troops wait, huddling under monumental stone archways leading out to St. Lucia’s Square.

Uziel finds a Scintillan Colonel who briefs him on the situation. Archibald’s unit at the air defense batteries in St. Lucia’s Cathedral are cut off and haven’t been heard from for hours. Enemy troops have also fortified the square in preparation for landing fresh waves of troops. The Imperial commanders are now preparing a large push to retake the square.

Multiple Ministorum priests begin making the rounds up and down the line, reciting prayers and other blazing rhetoric. Soldiers are shaking, reciting litanies of protection, and checking their weapons. A Commissar stands beside a machine gun pit and cocks his bolt pistol. The artillery barrage stops. The line goes quiet. Men tense up.

A young priest climbs a stack of boxes in the middle of line. The acolytes recognize him as Thomas, the missionary from the chapel aboard the Reliant Dawn. He bellows a batte-cry at the top of his lungs and the charge begins.

The Imperial officers blow their whistles and the line surges, pushing the acolytes into the horror and chaos in the square. The secessionists have crated patchwork trenches everywhere, including flamer pits and machine-gun nests. Aircraft – both enemy and Imperial – are making strafing runs and dueling overhead. Dozens of mortar rounds begin in the mass of Imperial troops, one gravely wounding Grax.

The carnage is overwhelming and the Imperial push eventually slows and stops. The acolytes find cover in the shadow of a large, ornate fountain. Finding a maintenance hatch leading under the square, the acolytes requisition two Scintillans – Corporal Erioch and Trooper Octavius.

Following a series of walkways suspended below the Balcony, the acolytes discover an unguarded route into the belly of the cathedral. Slowly skulking up the concrete stairs into the main chamber, the acolytes begin to hear harsh, guttural voices barking orders.

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Glass Houses - Part 3
The fall of House Archibald

From the basement shrine, the acolytes slowly make their way up into St. Lucia’s Cathedral.

Tybs, sneaking up to the top of the stairs, finds a small secessionist command post. It appears that three enemy officer-types are crowded around a makeshift command dais. After exchanging a large amount of automatic fire and a decently placed hand grenade, the acolytes finish off the cultists and find their way to the cathedral’s ramparts and the now-silenced air defense batteries.

They find the remnant of some intense fighting. Many imperial soldiers lay dead and many of the anti-aircraft guns have been destroyed or heavily damaged. Among the bodies, they find an air-defense officer still alive – Tyranius Archibald III. Amador stabilizes the unconscious and heavily wounded heretic so that their interrogation can begin.

Although he tries to feign ignorance, Archibald’s lies are easily discerned.

Tybs’ questioning reveals that Archibald’s source was actually a large smuggling collective that specializes in xenos artifacts and weapons. Furthermore, the entire organization is compartmentalized in a cell-like structure – no one member or organization has information about another.

Not content with the extent of Archibald’s answers, Grax begins probing his mind. Through intense mental and physical pain and anguish, Archibald reveals that Sorgoth has joined the collective in the Askellon sector. It seems as though a large amount of smuggling is happening on the hive-world Desoleum. Having retrieved the necessary information, Grax crushes Archibald’s skull, turning his brain into a wet, pulpy mess.

Tybs radios Corvath, attempting to figure out his location within the hive. Corvath responds that he has already reached ground level, and that he is making his way to one of the hive’s main transit hubs. From there, they can take the high-speed tramways out to the hive’s voidport. Hopefully, they can all secure passage off-world.

The acolytes make their way back out through the belly of the cathedral, not risking venturing into the square. Using the private guilder cargo-lifts, the acolytes make it to ground level and the transit platforms. They find Corvath lying in cover with his heavily injured co-pilot.

Additionally, a chaos patrol is slowly making its way across the platform. The acolytes silently move to Corvath. He informs them that the last remaining trams are without power and that he couldn’t get through the doors.

Amador manages to disassemble the door’s locking mechanism, and sneaks his way into the car. As the rest of the acolytes try to cross the platform unnoticed, the cultists see Grax and begin opening fire. The acolytes dive into the rear car, and Amador awakens the tram’s machine spirit.

The tram speeds away from the platform, but the secessionists have taken chase on a parallel line. After a few minutes spent speeding across the wastes, the two trams approach an arteria rail junction. The two trains slam together, shattering all the glass windows and showering the injured acolytes in a rain of sparks and shrapnel. As the trams pull apart again, the mangled, twisted metal walls of the cars are ripped open.

After a brief firefight from tram to tram, they approach another junction. The two trams slam together again. This time, as the cars pull away, the acolytes see a few cultists making the jump across from the roof of their cars. As the distance between the trams grows again, one misses his jump and falls between the trams. He falls directly under the wheels and is ground into a paste.

Moments later, the roof of one of their cars is blown open by some kind of crude breaching charge. Knowing that the secessionists are on the roof, Amador engages the emergency break, sending two cultists tumbling through the roof hole, and one off of the side of the tram. The culstists’ tram continues to speed forward toward the voidport.

In an instant, another hulking mutant brute drops down through the roof hole, unleashing a terrifying, bellowing roar. With the hulking war-beast in such close proximity, many of the acolytes are paralyzed in terror. Corvath, Uziel, and Grax immediately lay down fire. Grax’s living lighting ripples through the tightly-grouped enemy force. Autogun rounds fire through the car, striking the downed cultists.

Grax attempts to unleash the devastating power of the warp once again. Due to his own fear, his fatigue, and his injuries, reality tears open for a brief instant. The secessionists and their hulking mutant recoil in fear as Grax takes on the crude visage of a horrific warp demon.

In this moment, the acolytes firmly grasp the upper hand, punishing the enemy force. Finally managing to tap into his well of arcane energy, Grax cooks the mutant beast from within. Amador unleashes a few devastating rounds from his hand cannon, obliterating one cultist’s head and blowing off the hulk’s massive arm. The mutant slowly chokes and bleeds to death, his charred body laying smoking in the middle of the car.

Uziel steps forward and unleashes a full auto burst pointblank into the remaining cultist’s face, turning it into a pool of blood, brains, and bone.

The acolytes resume their tram journey, making it to the voidport – the last remaining part of the planet held by loyalists. The cultists’ tram is a burned out wreck at the station, likely destroyed by the many imperial troops stationed in this marshaling area.

One lander remains. A huge crowd has gathered, trying to push their way into its already over capacity, swollen cargo bay.

A blast of light emits from the hive spire in the distance. A massive piece of the upper apex has blown out into a billowing smoke cloud and begins collapsing down the side of the spire. The sound of the explosion hits a few seconds later and is followed by a massive shock wave of dust and ash ripping across the wastes.

The acolytes quickly identify themselves as members of His Immortal Majesty’s Holy Inquisition and push their way up the cargo lander’s rear access ramp. As the large door begins to close, the crowd panics. Shots are fired as the civilians fight their way up the ramp, overwhelming the Zetarian PDF troops. Murco, one of their fellow acolytes, moves forward, unleashing devastating incendiary shotgun blasts into the helpless masses.

The acceleration of the vessel causes others to tumble back down and out of the door ramp. As the ramp begins to close on the unfortunate souls trapped in the mechanism, the acolytes see the remnants of the hive detonate and collapse upon itself.

Zetah VII is no more.

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Dark Pursuits - Part 1
Welcome to Desoleum

Thankfully, the acolytes’ cargo lander punches out through Zetah VII’s atmosphere, making a desperate escape from the doomed world. Dodging flak and the enormous, building-sized rounds punching through the sky, the vessel eventually makes it to the Imperial Navy battle lines.

Immediately upon the return to The Reliant Dawn, announcements sound to prepare for a warp jump. The crews are panicking in the flight bay, closing the blast doors, and quickly securing gear and shuttles. Moments later, an inhuman scream echoes through the cavernous chamber as The Reliant Dawn translates into the immaterium; an ominous sign for the travels to come.

The few refugees who made it to the ship are taken away to what can only be assumed is forced servitude in the belly of the battle cruiser. Other, more resistant individuals are executed on the spot.

The acolytes are told to expect a few weeks of warp travel in which they can recuperate. Heading up the stairs and into the general quarters, the acolytes are stricken by how many of their fellow comrades are missing.

The acolytes spend some time recovering from their injuries, requisitioning new gear, gambling, and trying to rest their weary minds. Eventually, an older figure informs the party that they have arrived in the Askellon Sector and are to transfer off of the ship and onto Desoleum, a “miserable hiveworld”.

Corvath pilots them down to planet’s surface and leaves them at one of the main hive’s multiple spaceports. Almost immediately after they arrive, the acolytes notice how visible each Desoline’s oath cog is. Some are a very simple wheels, others are bizarre, complicated, geared devices like snowflakes of brass and wire. The sizes and intricacies appear to correspond with rank and social standing.

Finding travel arrangements, the acolytes head to the strangers quarters within Desoleum City and find themselves some inconspicuous lodgings. The acolytes spend a solid few days becoming accustomed to this area of the main hive and acquire food, bedding, and extra pieces of gear.

On their twenty-seventh evening on Desoleum, a knock comes to acolytes’ hab-door. A young looking man, in dark, heavy robes hands over a piece of parchment. It features a date, time, and place: tomorrow afternoon, the mid-hive market district.

At the market, a false rain falls over the tents and stalls. Under a steel sky, the rain is disconcerting. The location is a small, street-facing tavern. Now soaked, the stall is warmly lit from within.

Eventually, a hooded man approaches from the crowd. Under his robes, he is armoured and armed. His gait is familiar. As he approaches the light, his face is revealed. It is Valdane, strangely without escort. He sits at the wet, wooden bar without paying the acolytes notice, and begins to speak.

“There are increasing reports of horrible deaths within the hive’s upper levels, with odd items of a possible xenos or archaeotech nature found with each corpse. We assume that they are related to the late Archibald’s wares. Fellow nobles have related that these deaths were preceded with bouts of erratic and troublesome behavior. Many now worry that a lesser hive noble named Lans Guljian has exhibited many of the same behaviours.

Investigate the deaths and possible connections to any illicit artifacts, determine if they are related to Archibald and Sorgoth’s hellish consortium, and terminate their distribution in the Hive. Recover and contain any items uncovered, lest they corrupt others. Desoleum teeters on the blade’s edge of damnation, and one further heresy could topple the entire hive into the abyss.”

After gathering a few rumours, the acolytes hear that Guljian hasn’t been seen in public for weeks and that he even refuses visits from family, friends, and business associates.

The acolytes fabricate a cover story: they represent an upstart Rogue Trader, Magnus Locke, who is wishing to pursue some very lucrative business opportunities. Using this story, they convince Guljian’s servants to let them into his manor.

After waiting a short period to be escorted to Guljian, the servant returns, agitated, and explains that Guljian can not take any guests. Moments later, a chilling scream sounds from upstairs. Guljian’s study on the third floor is a scene of chaos: embossed books and fine quills are strewn about haphazardly, while parchment, ink, and a lamp have been knocked from the desk, leaving only a small black orb sitting atop it. Kneeling on the floor, Guljian screams and babbles incoherently as he claws at his own face—his lips are ripped to tatters, and blood streams from numerous cuts and tears across his face. Lying near him is a bloody letter opener and two pulped white globs—his eyes.

Amador restrains Guljian and provides some medical attention. Tybs searches the room and finds a few incoherent journal entries regarding “forgotten kingdoms and cyclopean cities”, Guljian’s new acquisition, and “the pale children” at the “wheel that wails.”

Upon consulting Guljian’s bodyguard, it becomes clear that the noble had recently acquired the orb from a gang at the Screaming Wheel, a mid-hive cantina. Since obtaining the orb, Guljian’s behavior has changed wildly. During their conversation, Guljian begins speaking in an alien tongue and then promptly dies.

Uziel picks up the orb, a perfectly smooth black sphere, heavy and cold to the touch. After touching the artifact, he has an intense vision of a vast and barren alien landscape, studded with massive and bizarre structures. Grax senses the stink of the warp clinging to the object.

The acolytes decide to find the Screaming Wheel and the gang who sold the object. Inside the poorly lit, smoke filled cantina, the acolytes encounter a vicious and crazy gang, dressed in fineries that would more likely be found among apex nobles. After charming the gang leader, the acolytes discover that the true source is a dealer named Zax Holthane. His area of operations is Three Stakes’ Rest, located in a decrepit and run-down area close to the lower hive.

Once again parading themselves as the envoy of Magnus Locke, the acolytes track down Holthane and start a business relationship. They make a small, initial purchase of mummified xenos hand. Remarkably, the hand twitches and reacts to Uziel and the orb’s proximity. The hand’s shipping crate is stamped with the seal of the Porty Gyre Auctoriate Porteus.

The Auctoriate Porteus serves as the voidport’s administrative authorities, controlling the flow of goods in and out of Desoleum. Holthane remarks that he has a contact on the inside who he uses to doctor paperwork.

Holthane and the acolytes set up a second meeting a few weeks from now and head off to the port, attempting to track down the Auctoriate insider.

At the Auctoriate, the acolytes find and question a young Adept. They learn that there is a large amount of corruption in the port, but one Prefect, Gaius Anteshern has recently been bragging about a large transaction. He’s been throwing around Desoleum Script at local taverns and gambling halls.

The acolytes eventually find Anteshern at his favorite gambling hall and “detain” him for questioning. Dragging him into a dark alley, the acolytes beat him into divulging his secrets.

Anteshern has altered the documents of a shuttle, Arvus Lighter 341 Beta-Sky, for Holthane numerous times – the last time was five months ago. The records he doctors indicate that it arrives with a different Warp-capable voidship each time. As a result, he has no clue as to how the goods—whatever they may be—are actually brought into the system.

A stranger came to the port with his retinue just few weeks ago, offering a huge payment in exchange for obscuring the shuttle’s origin again. The stranger had obtained Anteshern’s name directly from Holtane and was wearing hooded red robes and had a large number of bionics.

The acolytes assume that this stranger may be the Tech Priest and his retinue that they had encountered at the checkpoint leading into the port only a few hours ago.

From Anteshern, the acolytes are sure that a potentially sensitive and highly valuable shipment is arriving in only a few hours. Now, they must find 341 Beta-Sky and the location of its arrival among the thousands of Port Gyre’s landing pads.

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Dark Pursuits - Part 2
Into the Underport

With knowledge that the smugglers’ shipment is arriving imminently, the acolytes make their way back to the Port Gyre Auctoriate Porteus, hoping to find a record of the shuttle, 341 Beta-Sky. After negotiating with a surly Auctoriate adept, Tybs convinces him to find the records amongst countless spools of parchment shipping manifests. He finds that the shuttle is due very soon at platform Tertius-9.

When the acolytes reach the landing pad, they find a stranger clad in a metal faceplate and fine garments waiting on the landing pad. Furthermore, he is flanked by two men with lasguns. They’re clearly impatient and also seem to be waiting for shuttle to arrive.

Confident, Tybs and the others climb the platform’s staircase, attempting to strike up a conversation. Oddly, the stranger laughs deeply. It quickly becomes clear that the stranger is Sorgoth, the gang leader that had Tybs cast out of the Bloodborne Brothers, off of Zetah VII, and imprisoned on a distant penal colony.

After some vocal jousting, 341 Beta-Sky begins its approach, momentarily stealing everyone’s focus as the roar of sub-orbital jets and the hot pressure of the wash pushes down from above.

The acolytes attempt to move toward the shuttle and seize its contents. Sorgoth and his bodyguards object, and a brief, although incredibly violent gunfight erupts on the platform.

Exposed, everyone scatters outwards, trying to put distance between themselves and their targets. Sorgoth takes cover behind some crates, unleashing fury from his bolt pistol. Uziel and Amador manage to down one of the mercenaries, and the other runs for cover.

Tybs leaps over Sorgoth’s cover, firing downwards into his shoulder and causing him to drop his pistol.

Seeing his target unarmed, Grax approaches, unleashing a nightmare-hell of living lighting. Sorgoth explodes into electric balefire, the force of which shatters his legs and snaps his spine in a gruesome contortion. The fire consumes his screaming body and his lifeless, smoking corpse drops to the platform.

Content with their victory, the acolytes have a single half-second before a calamitous explosion consumes the majority of the landing pad. The Arvus Lighter, 341 Beta-Sky has detonated from within, consuming the surviving mercenary and severely injuring Tybs and Grax. Amador rushes to their aid while they stumble to their feet, bleeding from their ears.

It appears that a well-armoured metallic pod survived the explosion mostly intact, but something has clearly burst free from inside. Silver chains that once bound the stasis pod are shattered, and on close inspection, minuscule runes can be seen etched onto each link.

Although the blast has gouged into the ancient rockcrete and plasteel surface of the landing pad, it is clear that something has torn a hole in the damaged surface, granting it access to the loading tunnels beneath.

Amongst the remains of the crew, the acolytes find four pale, gaunt figures, their flesh branded with runic sigils. Besides them, the charred corpses of the pilot and co-pilot are fused to the blinking control terminal.

Hidden among the debris, a handful of xenos relics have survived the blast relatively intact, including some small talismans. The ground also appeared to be littered with stone shards, each engraved with xenos writing.

After communing with the craft’s damaged and dying machine spirit, Amador determines that the shuttle’s origin was Kappex Orbitial Station, a station in geosynchronous orbit above Hive Desoleum.

Grax senses the stink of the warp both around the craft as well as a leading into the tunnels below the platform. Clearly, something has escaped. The acolytes make haste and carefully lower themselves down into the Underport.

These tunnels consist of vast warrens of interconnecting passages, chambers, lifts, and storage depots, many long-since abandoned and fallen into disrepair. Many corridors are completely without power, while flickering lumen-globes or torches set in place by unknown hands dimly illuminate others.

While traversing the tunnels, the dripping of unknown liquids or a distant animalistic scream occasionally breaks the eerie silence and perpetual blackness. Millennia of rust and corrosion seal many of the chambers. The acolytes remember that in the market, they had even heard rumours of subterranean shanty towns populated by the descendants of stranded voidsmen and mutants.

Hopelessly lost, the acolytes lose a few hours in the dark. Eventually, by locking-into the creature’s physic emanations, Grax resumes the hunt. Auras of unnatural light and the distortion of reality mark the trail ahead. Even the others begin noticing signs of the supernatural, as frost forms on many of the tunnel walls. The smell of burnt flesh lingers in the air, and the faint echo of numerous inhuman screams guides their way.

For an instant, the corridor darkens completely. The acolytes’ lights die out and they experience intense, terrifying visions. The creature they are hunting is familiar, and plays on their fears. Grax believes the beast to be the Crow Father, clearly more powerful than before.

Now, the acolytes continue their hunt in the dark, unsure of how their foe has turned up on a different planet, in a different sector, and if they are actually the ones being hunted.

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Dark Pursuits - Part 3
An ancient foe, returned

The acolytes continue their hunt through the dark tunnels beneath Port Gyre. Eventually, gunshots ring out down an adjacent corridor, shattering the eerie silence. The acolytes follow the sound of the intense firefight and find a shocking sight.

At a pumping station deep beneath the surface of Desoleum, a Tech Priest and his retinue are fighting with the malefic creature that the acolyte have been tracking. The Tech Priest is at the back of the room, reciting loudly from an ancient, leather-bound book while his men, and servitors, attempt to drown the creature under a massive volume of gunfire.

The creature floats above the group, a tall, pale mockery of a man who twists and bends in an unnatural manner. Gaunt and naked, the creature’s body contorts and shifts into bizarre, blasphemous forms. Its fingers have become long talons that seem to rip into reality with each grasp. Its eyes are terrible pools of Warp-light. The daemon’s scarred and rune-covered flesh armour is adorned with various charms and tools along with long swaths of ritual cloth and chains.

The acolytes believe that the Tech Priest is the same that they had seen recently at Port Gyre’s checkpoint. Uziel approaches the figure, trying to get a grip on the situation. Immediately upon seeing him approach, the Tech Priest orders his men to fire. Having now had a good, close look, Amador is sure that the Tech Priest is actually a foul Heretek – one who has turned his back on the Omnissiah.

The Heretek fires a charged plasma bolt directly into Uziel’s face. The acolytes dive for cover and join the swirling, three-way battle.

Grax, Tybs, and Amador find their way to an elevated platform, getting a good vantage point over the clash. Uziel dives into the stairwell, grabbing cover, and then begins firing grenades down the wide corridor.

The pumping station is in chaos as the sounds of explosions, gun fire, and Warp-energy erupt through the enclosed space.

Shots are exchanged on each side. Uziel dumps magazine after magazine into the crowds. The acolytes score numerous kills. They also manage to wound the Heretek, who flees down a side passage, sealing the door behind him. The daemon begins ripping its way into the Heretek’s men, occasionally trying to destroy acolytes with abhorrent psychic powers.

Now sure that the being is, in fact, the Crow Father, Grax begins a psychic duel with the creature— and is gravely wounded. Many of the other acolytes are wounded as well.

After his weapon runs dry, Amador leaps from the balcony and attempts to close with the foe. At such a close proximity, the creature’s essence of evil is overwhelming. The foul Warp-light spilling from the being’s eyes terrify the young acolyte.

Finally, with overwhelming firepower, the acolytes finish off the creature. By now, the Heretek’s retinue have all given their lives to fight the daemon. Uziel manages to strike the last blow, demolishing the creature’s face with a sure-fire blast from his shotgun. The daemon’s body dissolves into a puddle of unnatural, purple-black ichor. Uziel takes a small amount of the foul substance as a blasphemous trophy.

The acolytes piece themselves together and start their slow journey out of the tunnels. Returning into Desoleum City, they gather their belongings and seek transport back to the Reliant Dawn.

They secure the xenos artifacts that they had recovered and spend weeks undergoing various debriefings and psychic screenings searching for signs of corruption. Eventually, the acolytes are released back to their deck.

Knowing that another mission is soon to come, they rest, rearm, and reload.

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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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