Malchiah, his jaw set and his eyes reminding the D’Stayn contingent of a Fenrisian Wolf’s gaze, looks over the Explorers and their mercenary force. He seems unimpressed, especially with a thousand or more Reaver warriors surrounding them. When he speaks, it is in a cold growl with accented Low Gothic.
“Who are you?” he demands, “And why would you dare to intrude upon the territory of my people?”
“I am Eurydice Magdalene of the Rogue Trader House D’Stayn,” Eurydice replies. “We are here on a rescue and salvage mission, with a mandate to bring the light of the most holy God-Emperor to the darkest reaches of the void.”
“I understand your tribe is responsible for keeping the Xenos under control here? The Greenskins and the four-armed devils?” She gives Malchiah and his people a respectful nod. “You are obviously a clan of great warriors. I believe we have much to talk about, and much to offer one another.”
Malchiah’s eyes narrow slightly. “And what exactly is it that you think we would need?” he asks gruffly, “And what do you intend to take from us in payment?”
“We can offer you a great many things,” Eurydice says. “Supplies, weapons, food, water, technology, even (should you desire it) our aid in destroying your enemies. If you ally yourselves with House D’stayn, you will find us to be a powerful and resourceful friend. We offer to bring you back into the conclave of Mankind, under the beneficent auspices of the Most Holy Emperor. The wonders of the galaxy itself can be yours. In exchange, we seek nothing more than salvage.”
While speaking, Eurydice examines Malchiah and his followers for obvious signs of chaos-taint.
Malchiah scoffs and sneers. “This tribe has endured here for more than twenty generations against many foes and dangers…and without the aid of any outsiders.” He crosses his arms, his face full of defiance and pride. “And we shall continue to do so for twenty generations more if necessary.”
The crowd of Malchiah’s tribe-folk echo his assertion with mutters, grumbles, and a few war-cries. As the noise dies down, Malchiah’s gaze roams over Eurydice’s battle armour – not in a lustful manner as she has become used to, but with a calculating eye, taking in every small dent or scratch, every purity seal or Ecclesiarchial symbol. He seems to note the signs of frequent use on her chainsword and bolter, as well as the steel in her voice and the unwavering, fearless stare of her eyes.
Malchiah rubs at his beard then intones in a resonating voice. “Nonetheless, we still remember the stories from our many greats-grandfathers’ time….before the coming of the Burning Twists and the Greenskins…when the Four-Armed Daemons grew and multiplied and threatened even the might of our tribe. It is said that more than a third of our warriors had been lost before the Black Angels of War came midst a great shaking and rending of the earth when their chariot city collided with ours. Though broken and bloodied from their fall, the Black Angels gave battle to the Daemons, fighting at our side when the Iron Makers hid in their holes. The Angels spilled their blood to break the Daemons, giving us the opening we needed to destroy them all.”
Malchiah bows his head and he, along with many of his tribe, quietly whisper a bastardized version of an Imperial prayer. The words are old and confused, but the sentiment implies a fervent hope that the souls of the Angels have rejoined the Gods. After a moment, Malchiah looks back up and continues his oration.
“Like the Holy Giants that protected our tribe in its infancy before the Iron Takers took them from us, we remember and honor the sacrifice of the Black Angels. That is why you have been allowed to meet with us in our own home rather than be butchered under our knives, your meat given to our children, your skins tanned into our leathers. If you are what you appear to be and your ‘House D’Stayn’ is indeed among your Holy Host, then we will honor our blood debt to the Black Angels of War and give you both succor and aid.
“But our stories also tell of Daemon tricksters and false messengers. If you want our trust, you must prove that you are willing to shed blood for the tribe. You say that you would join in destroying our enemies. Would you go to war against the Iron Makers or the Burning Twists if that were the price of our alliance?”
To Eurydice’s eye, Malchiah and his tribe show no grotesque signs of mutation taint. A number of the tribe show signs of lesser mutation, but her medical knowledge can attribute the signs to some degree of inbreeding and a limited gene pool.
Malchiah and his warriors definitely wear symbols of the Imperium, including the Aquilla, purity seals, military medals, and so forth. They also seem to wear old symbols that could be representations of the Ruinous Powers, but Eurydice’s sheltered upbringing and training limits her full understanding. (Forbidden Lore skills could be useful, including Heresy, Chaos, Cults, and Daemonology.)
Malchiah and his people also frequently wear war trophies, including skulls, bones, skins/hides, broken bionic bits, and so on. While this could be construed as borderline savagery, many representatives of the Imperial war effort also take part in such practices (especially among the Adeptus Astartes and Imperial Guard units from feral, death, or feudal worlds).
Off to the side Vesper has removed her suit (along with the still unused mechadendrite pack, as she’s not that stupid), and has begun to carefully wrap the slice in her arm with gauze, mostly she’s just wrapping her arm (no medicae, but any idiot knows gauze is your friend until you get home to the ships doctor). Her many tattoos, several of which pertain to Imperium, while some can only be Tyrant Sun affiliation signs, are visible while she does this.
“Can we save time and just go to war against everything? Or did we not bring enough ammo for that?”
According to the images that Pulveria pulled from Kas’ pretty little head, the “Burning Twists” refer to a tribe of hideous mutants that dress in thick robes with flame patterns and like to set fire to the other tribes. The “Iron Makers” (sometimes “Iron Takers”) appear to be Mechanicus-like cyborgs who kidnap members of the Reaver clan to turn into metal monstrosities like themselves (likely interpretation = servitors). According to Kas’ memories of oral history, the Reavers have been fighting/competing with the Iron Makers since the beginning and the Burning Twists since sometime after the appearance and sacrifice of the Black Angels of War.
Vesper’s eyes suddenly widen in that ‘crap she’s about to have an idea’ way, the dozens of trinkets, tokens, empty bullet casing, in her dozens of braids clink with the sudden motion of her looking around, “I bet I could get one of these ships broadsides at least partially working! That’d give us an edge! Or a giant fiery ball of shrapnel ripping through everything in ten clicks.” She shrugs.
Pulveria will scan the village to see if there are any other active psykers in the area. If there are none she’ll start mind probing the chieftain very slowly and carefully so as not to alert him.
To the group she sends >> Without having looked, I’ll wager that this chieftain is sitting on an unsteady throne. He can’t have use come in here and impress his followers too much by being Angles out of Legend or he loses power. He’ll want to throw us at his enemies to weaken both us and his enemies… Now I’ll look and see if I’m right… <<
Pulveria reaches out with her mind to the crowd of Reavers around her, searching for signs of the psyker taint. The process is difficult given the buzzing interference brought on by malfunctioning geller fields and extensive warp contamination. But she nonetheless is reasonably certain that there are no psykers within the immediate population of Reavers.
Satisfied, she turns her mental attention toward the proud and defiant Reaver leader. Malchiah’s mind is as sharp and focused as a sword point and his will is surprisingly strong. Regardless, Pulveria’s Emperor-bound strength breezes through the man’s paltry will to peer within at his underlying thoughts.
>> Those are the leaders of this D’Stayn group, he is thinking as he watches Eurydice, Tryft, and the other officers confer, Those are the ones to be wary of – the rest are warriors but of no real concern. I wonder if the woman is truly one of the Black Angels returned…or simply another trickster of the void. Kas and the other youths seem taken by her appearance, but I will not risk the tribe because of a fireside story. Best to test their mettle and see if they are worthy of our respect.
If they seek to take advantage of us as the Iron Takers, the void Daemons, and the Stark People have done in the past, they will find us ready for treachery. Their meat would go long toward filling our children’s bellies. Their clothing would warm our homes. And their weapons would replenish our failing stores.
If they are honest in their intent but weak of arm and spirit, they will undoubtedly find some excuse not to share their blood with us, as the Stark People did. There is no place for weakness among the Reavers. If they are prey, I will treat them as such.
Though they may have some strength of heart and be willing to battle our enemies. If they are false warriors, at least they will bloody the Iron Takers or the Burning Twists with their brief lives. Any advantage their deaths would gain the Reavers would be welcome. Perhaps they could even do enough damage for us to finish the fight upon their corpses.
And yet….what if she is a Black Angel? Those eyes are not those of a coward or a liar. The scars tell tales of both a warrior and a survivor. I want to believe her. I want to believe that another of the Black Angels, allies of the Holy Giants from whom our creed has been spawned, has returned to vanquish another of our enemies.
But, no….I will not succumb to hope. Hope is for victims. I will see what choices they make and how they fare in battle. Then we shall learn what manner of people these D’Stayn be. I wonder what they will want from us? The Reavers will not give up our territory easily if that is what they think. We would rather…
…why is my head buzzing? We are not expecting another Daemon Storm for at least a cycle or two…. <<
Pulveria ends her connection as Malchiah shakes his head to clear it. His experience with psychic effects must be limited as he does not seem suspicious of the D’Stayns, merely puzzled and somewhat concerned. From her connection, Pulveria could sense Malchiah’s supreme confidence – this was not a man who feared for his rank or status. She could also feel his ruthlessness – he was not one to waste time or show mercy.
Meanwhile, the Reaver girl Kas and some of the other youths from the arena ‘dance’ are whispering to one another, making occasional glances or gestures toward Eurydice’s armor, Tryft’s navy uniform, Vesper’s tattoos, and everyone’s weapons. They are not subtle, and it is obvious to the D’Stayns that they are comparing what they see to their own tribal markings, their own tattered garb, and their own weaponry. Kas can even be seen showing off the field dressing covering the bullet wound in her leg that Vesper gave her.
Eurydice gives the chieftain a curt bow. “Very well,” she says. “You are wise not to trust too freely. The rewards of tolerance are treachery and betrayal, so speaks the old proverb. We will aid your tribe against the Iron Makers to prove our good intent. We’ve already run into their handiwork once, and their heresy is not to go unpunished. But we must be about it quickly, before this hulk vanishes once more into the daemon-haunted warp storms. Agreed?” She extends her hand in a gesture of friendship.
Malchiah stares at Eurydice’s offered hand for a moment then takes it in his own strong grip. “Agreed. Let us hope you are what you claim to be.”
There is no fanfare at the words but the tension in the atmosphere definitely lessens at the chieftain’s words. Many of the Reavers return to their daily chores, leaving only a few dozen warriors and a number of Kas’ youths to surround the D’Stayn party.
“Here is the task I set before you to prove your mettle to us,” Malchiah intones, "Twelve cycles ago, shortly after we weathered the latest Daemon Storm, the Iron Takers struck, making off with two score of my scouts. I want them returned…alive…or avenged. My warriors will prepare to strike should the need arise, but this shall be your trial. If you are strong enough, you should not need our aid.
“Should you succeed, we can discuss what you want of our territory and what we are willing to share. Should you fail, your blood and bones shall grace our soup pots.” There is no threat or malice in Malchiah’s voice, merely an honest statement of what he considers fact.
“When do you depart?”
Vesper stands up quickly, “Right… oh… hey, blood loss, woozy …” She wobbles for a moment, “Nope, I’m good, just like dropping a cargo ship into orbit too fast, where was I? Oh, yes – Right now! We can go right now… Right? We can? That’s an option?”
“We will need guides,” Eurydice says, “Warriors who have fought against the Iron Makers before and know their territory. Two or three will suffice. I must attend to my injured comrade and then we will go.”
Malchiah nods as if expecting the request. “Acceptable. Ready your clan and I will send your guides to you.”
Kas suddenly breaks from her cluster of Reaver youth and comes before Malchiah, dropping to one knee before him. “My chieftain, I will guide them into the Iron’s territory.”
Malchiah frowns. “You are one of the finest of our warrior whelps, Kas, but raids and defense are different than delving into the heart of the enemy camp.”
The girl looks up, eyes flashing. “I have the right by Blood Vengeance, my chieftain. As do Skive and Wrex. You cannot deny us this.”
The armoured Reaver leader stares down at Kas for a long moment then sighs. “Very well. Die with honour, Kas.”
Kas nods, face fixed in determination. She rejoins her group and two boys and another girl join her in making their way into the D’Stayn contingent.
Janessa knows of an old Rogue Trader house with the family name Stark. They earned their fortune during the Angevin Crusade fighting alongside the Imperial Navy. Janessa remembers them because they owed the D’Stayn Dynasty a large sum of Thrones that they finally paid off a few years ago by trading in a pair of mothballed strike frigates. (Unfortunately, both ships were lost during the tragedy at Morgan’s would-be wedding.) From what Janessa recalls, House Stark is struggling financially and hasn’t really been much of a player in the Koronus Expanse in the last hundred years or so. She also remembers hearing that the current patriarch Novus Stark is struggling to restore the House’s fortunes. In its prime, House Stark possessed a vast fleet of dozens of powerful starships thanks to their connections with the Navy and the Cult Mechanicus.