As the Dubious Enterprise closed with the massive space hulk, the D’Stayn Explorers readied their boarding party. Bringing along a hundred of the Black Lancers mercenaries, a trio of Chimeras, and Vesper’s customized Sentinel Scout Walker, the scions launched from the D’Stayn transport as soon as they were within range of shuttle craft. A quick orbit and auger scan of the hulk revealed at least three potential entrances: the wide plasma engine exhaust from one of the hulked vessels, a series of impact tunnels along one side, and a natural chasm formed when internal structures must have shifted.
The last option was selected as the easiest for the shuttles to navigate, but even then the jagged edges of the fissure made it difficult to put down and deploy the D’Stayn ground forces. The trek through the winding passageways and corridors was a confusing and harrowing one. The party quickly became lost in the maze of caverns as they searched for the engine (or engines) of the hulk in the hopes of preventing the mass from vanishing into the warp once again.
Their first encounter was with a swarm of feral servo-skulls that attacked Vesper and her escort of Black Lancers. Eurydice and the Lancers were able to destroy most of the servo-skulls while Meretek was able to pacify and deactivate the rest. The party found freshly killed human corpses (perhaps eight hours old) with their heads severed and partially stripped of flesh. There were also signs that the servo-skulls were scavenging nearby ship components for parts. The murdered humans had been young and dressed in tattered flak armour and old Imperial Navy uniforms. That indicated survivors aboard the hulk…which complicated matters.
The D’Stayn party continued on, discovering sections of an Ork attack ship. There was obvious evidence of Ork survivors as well, in the form of a twisting race track complete with crude booby traps and the wreckage of Ork vehicles. The party was soon working its way through the wreckage of the Ork ship, finding little of salvage except large amounts of high-grade refined metal. At one junction, the D’Stayns inadvertantly unsealed a hatchway that opened into the void! Daring reactions kept Meretek and Pulveria from being lost to the black but a number of Lancers were expelled too far to reach in time.
The party eventually exited the Ork hulk, following Pulveria’s vague sense of living minds deeper in the space hulk. They passed an old battle site where dozens of vicious Genestealers had been slain by opponents armed with slugthrowers and blades. It seemed that whatever survived in the hulk was a force to be reckoned with!
Finally, the party emerged at a kilometer-high cliff looking out over two starships. Around the two vessels floated tons of broken debris, caught in the overlapping gravity wells of multiple malfunctioning grav-plates. The two ships were identified as a Dauntless-class light cruiser of Imperial military make and an Idolator-class raider of a type used by Chaos reavers on the fringes of space. The Idolator had obviously rammed the Dauntless, inflicting immense damage to both vessels, and the two ships remained locked in that position. The mass of minds that Pulveria had been sensing was coming from below.
After some discussion, the party temporarily abandoned their vehicles and began climbing down the rocky, debris-strewn cliff to the twin hulked ships. Eurydice and Janessa noticed a dozen or so corridors in the cliff-side and all were covered in Ork glyphs and symbols. Janessa was even able to determine that the glyphs were used by Orks to ward off daemonic entities while traveling through warpspace. Either the Orks dwelled behind these glyphs…or something horrible was being contained by them. In both cases, the D’Stayns decided to avoid the tunnels for now.
Further study of the outside of the two ships revealed to Eurydice that the Dauntless was likely a battleship from the Angevin Crusade, the grand conflict over 2,000 years ago that subdued the Calyx Expanse in the Calixis Sector it was today. It was obviously a vessel that had seen a number of victorious battles and thus was a ship to be respected and venerated.
For expediency, the party choose to enter the Idolator raider first and Pulveria was able to locate a cargo hold door to gain the group entry. The cargo hold showed signs of ages-old scavenging, but a number of crates containing either valuable loot (gems, metals, and such) or potentially heretical objects (books, xenos religious artifacts, etc) still remained. Janessa filed away the locations for future recovery.
The party worked its way through the raider, searching for the engines, when forward scouts spotted movement down one of the side corridors. Vesper volunteered to investigate and came upon a large arena-like chamber. Within, dozens of young men and women clad in the same garb as the servo-skull victims whirled and danced in a coordinated battle. In the mock combat, some of the dancers wore the chitin of slain Genestealers while others had painted their skin green. Still others brandished broken bionic limbs and weapons. Vesper swiftly realized that these people were re-enacting past victories.
As she watched, Vesper failed to notice the quick approach of a young girl who slid a pair of power blades across Vesper’s throat. Pulveria, who was watching the scene unfold through the eyes of her psyber-raven, warned the rest of the party, who hastened to Vesper’s aid.
Vesper, of course, was unperturbed by the situation, however, asking her would-be assassin, “Are you going to cut me, or are we going to fight properly?”
In response, the girl stepped away from Vesper, regarded her with a predator’s eye, and slipped into a dueling stance. She and Vesper went at each other with power blade and hand cannon before the rest of the group arrived. When the girl saw Eurydice come into view, she gasped in surprise, dropped her knives, and prostrated herself before the former Sister of Battle. Speaking an a hodge-podge of Low Gothic and Void Cant, the girl called Eurydice one of the “Warrior Angels.”
Confused and wary, Eurydice prodded the girl (Kas was her name) for more information. From Kas’s explanation, her people, the War Reavers, had lived in the hulk for many, many generations, keeping some sort of warrior tradition. She had been told stories of the “Warrior Angels,” which seemed to refer to other Soriatas warriors, aiding the Reavers in vanquishing the Many-Armed Demons, though at the cost of their mortal existance. Kas also referenced the Green Ones, the Iron Takers, and the Burning Twists. Pulveria tapped into Kas’s mind to determine that the Many-Armed Demons were Genestealers, the Green Ones were Orks, the Iron Takers were Tech-Priests of some sort, and the Burning Twists were mutated humans clad in robes of a flame-motif.
The D’Stayns worked out that the Iron Takers seemed to be an aggressive sect of Mechanicus who were occasionally absconding with members of the Reavers to be used as servitors. They apparently dwelled within the remains of the Daultless light cruiser. The Burning Twists sounded like mutants who had somehow created a Redemptionist cult – the Redemptionists being an accepted cult within the Imperial creed dedicated to eradicating anything deemed inhuman or heretical, including xenos, psykers, mutants, and so on. Their preferred method of execution was fire.
At Eurydice’s insistence, Kas agreed to lead the D’Stayn forces to her tribe and their leader, a man she called Malchiah. As Kas and the other Reavers led the way, the D’Stayns found themselves passing increasingly more and larger groups of Reavers, most of whom dropped what they were doing to stand at a passable Imperial military attention stance. The D’Stayns also went past weapon and equipment caches, fungus farms, carefully maintained recycling systems, and even a few smoking power plants. Finally, when Vesper estimated that they were somewhere within the impact point between the two ships, the group came to the Reaver clan’s settlement.
Dozens to hundreds of dwellings had been built into side rooms or inside cargo holds. It was a defensible arrangement, with narrow access corridors lined with jagged spikes and armed Reaver guards. Thousands of men, women and children could been seen throughout the settlement and all showed signs of having experienced combat. All stopped their activities to watch the D’Stayn force pass through their territory, hands near salvaged weaponry.
When the D’Stayn party reached an open meeting area, they were met by a tall, athletic man dressed in battered but well-cared-for light power armour. His helmet was off, revealing a harsh-featured face lined with scars and ritual tattoos around a black beard and a bald scalp. The man fingered a fine chainsword at his side and adjusted an exotic looking energy weapon across his broad back as he surveyed the D’Stayn leaders and their Black Lancer escort. He showed no fear, only predatory calculation.
When he spoke, it was in a deep, cold voice in oddly accented Low Gothic. “Who are you?” he demanded, “And why have you intruded on my territory?”