Rogue Trader: Pride and Profit

Face Off

With a destination in mind and a route planned out, the D’Stayns loaded themselves, the surviving Black Lancers, and as many Reavers as they could into their Thunderhawk gunship and a pair of Arvus lighters and flew away from the wreckage of the Unfailing Allegiance and the Red Haze to a higher location in the space hulk. When they were unable to travel further with spacecraft, they unloaded their Chimeras and Vesper’s Sentinel walker and proceeded on foot.

An hour or two of walking brought them along the edge of what would be the remains of the Pit of Despair, a Chaos slaveship that Brother-Sergeant Lazarus had explained had been part of the reaver fleet that the Allegiance’s battlegroup had attacked. When the Allegiance and the Red Haze jumped to warp following their impact, the Pit of Despair was caught up with them. Brother-Librarian Gideon had said that he sensed a great multitude of dark warp energy from where the Pit of Despair had lain but the Space Marines had never been able to investigate.

Cautiously the D’Stayns continued on. Sharp-eyed members suddenly noted a trio of dark shadows skipping up to their lines followed by gutteral voices. Most of the company missed the shadows sliding into their midst and focused instead on the half dozen Orks charging around the corner. Vesper opened fire with her walker’s lascannon, forcing the startled Orks under cover. Eurydice (much to her distaste) tried speaking to the cornered Orks, who explained that they were hunting “spookies,” not “humies.”

At that moment, the three shadows suddenly manifested as twisted shapes vaguely resembling brutalized human figures. Two of the shapes leaped into the bodies of two of the Black Lancers, who screamed in agony….then began firing on their own fellows! The third shape reared up before Meretek, who barely kept his wits and lashed out with his power axe. The weapon passed through the spectre without harming it. The dark thing screeched and Meretek felt pain throughout all his organic parts.

Seeing one of the Black Lancers turning his flamer on the other mercenaries, Vesper turned her lascannon on the Lancer. As the man’s body vaporized, the possessing spirit turned on her, its dark thoughts ripping into her mind and unlocking fears she didn’t suffer from until now. Vesper screamed, firing ineffectally at the creature. The Orks rushed forward, firing strange-looking “snazzguns” at the spectre. The beams of energy seemed to hurt it…and finally kill it. Eurydice grabbed one of the weapons, heedless that she was dragging its wielder along the ground with her and fired at Meretek’s foe, sending it back into the warp. The other Orks blasted the second possessed Lancer, their energy beams killing the spectre and only mildly burning the human host.

The Orks were quick to explain that they were part of Zogstuf’s mob and that they had no quarrel with any humans on the hulk. They were just making sure none of the “spookies” got past the barriers the Greenskins had constructed to contain them. This fit with what Kas had told Vesper before and (with reluctance) the D’Stayns let the Orks go.

The party continued on, eventually coming to the hull of a large transport ship. Morgan was able to find an access hatch (without really realizing it), allowing the group to venture inside. Much of the ship was dark and without power, but Meretek followed his internal auger scans toward to the warp engine. Even the engineerium was only minimally crewed by mindless servitors and only the barest amount of power. However, Imperial hymns echoed throughout the ship and religious iconography decorated every wall and door.

During the trek, Pulveria found herself relegated to the rear of the company, her attempts to ‘help’ Vesper with her sudden phobia of the dark unappreciated. While back there, Pulveria felt a light brush against her mind and a gentle beckoning. Turning she ‘saw’ a lithe humanoid figure clad in multi-colored, skintight clothing of varied patterns. The figure’s face was concealed behind a hood and mirrored mask. When Pulveria tried to contact her companions, she found her telepathic link blocked by a much stronger mind. Her allies were drifting away, leaving her alone with the stranger.

The alien thoughts reached to her again, asking pleasently whether the D’Stayns had learned about the twin-headed serpent yet. Pulveria was evasive. Unperturbed, the stranger noted that the D’Stayns obviously had not found the “Star Forge” yet. He (or she?) then mentioned that when the D’Stayns come across the “warp gates,” they would need to be protected. The stranger also asked that his (her) “brethren” would need help from the D’Stayn. Finally, he (she) mentioned that an encounter was upcoming and that diplomancy might be the best route. And with that, the stranger stepped back into the shadows and was gone.

Pulveria tried to explain some of the conversation to her companions but most had trouble following what she was saying. In the meantime, Meretek’s augers were picking up a large number of lifeforms up ahead. Sending a handful of the D’Stayn officers and a few Black Lancers to scout, the group found themselves into the ship’s warp core where several dozen hideous mutants clad in robes decorated with a flame motif were standing across from Lord-Captain Casimir Fortunado and his entourage, which included a number of colorful characters plus a contingent of Skitarii warriors (the elite soldiers of the Mechanicus on Mars) and armored female bodyguards.

The conversation was becoming heated, as it sounded like the mutants were planting melta bombs on the ship’s warp core while Fortunado insisted that killing everyone aboard the hulk was not part of the agreement. The mutants were insisting that the hulk was infested with “heretical” and “Chaos” taint and needed to be purged. Fortunado was angrily demanding that the mutants restrain themselves until after his people had approached the other factions to determine if they were indeed tainted. The situation was obviously tense with both sides close to drawing weapons.

Pulveria suddenly sensed another psyker attempting to mind scan her party. Drawing on her own power, she deflected the attempt, locating the psyker as another astropath situated on the opposite side of the D’Stayns. He crouched there, a long-las rifle in his hands, momentarily disoriented by Pulveria’s counterattack. Then he concentrated and one of Fortunado’s companions glanced up at the D’Stayn group. With a quick gesture, he motioned for two others to break away and head up toward the D’Stayns’ position.

The D’Stayn party scattered, trying to avoid being spotted, but Tryft and Pulveria was cornered by a stocky voidfarer armed with twin hand cannons. While the man and his Skitarii contingent held them at bay, Tryft subtly signaled the nearby Lancer grenadiers, who launched a series of blind grenades into the mutants and Fortunado’s group. The distraction worked, as the gunman hastened to rejoin his Lord-Captain.

The confusion of the smoke caused the mutants to open up on Fortunado’s group with flamer weapons…as well as sorcerous fire and force. Fortunado’s Skitarii warriors formed a screen to protect the rest of Fortunado’s band and, unhindered by the blinding smoke, began methodically gunning down the mutants. Fortunado himself was being shielded and dragged away by his female bodyguards, much to his loud protestations.

Tryft, Eurydice, Morgan, and Pulveria scurried down to join the fighting, planning on taking out whoever they could and working things out afterward. Meretek made a beeline toward where he had last seen the melta bombs, hoping to disable them before they could set off the warp core. One of Fortunado’s companions, a woman in Ecclesiarchy robes and with heavy bionic augmentation, came alongside the D’Stayns. Recognizing Eurydice’s armor as one of the Adeptus Soriatas, she assumed the D’Stayns were Imperial reinforcements sent to help Fortunado’s group. Given the mutants’ intent, Eurydice did not correct her just yet.

Meanwhile, Vesper had gotten bored and taken a team of Black Lancers in a wide arc that brought her on the opposite side of the warp core chamber…right behind the astropath sniper and his Mechanicus guards. She took a shot at the astropath who swiftly dodged while his Skitarii opened up on Vesper and her team. The astropath then telekinetically plucked Vesper up and hurled her over the edge.

Vesper tumbled through the air, colliding with the warp core shielding (denting it slightly), and crumpling painfully on a metal walkway. Dazed, she still managed to take a potshot at Fortunado, only to have one of his bodyguard intercept the shot with her own body. Fortunado appeared genuinely horrified at his bodyguard’s injury, shoving her to one side in order to keep her out of harm’s way.

Pulveria, unencumbered by the smoke, plunged into the mutants’ midst, using her psychic scream to knock out the mutants still trying to activate the melta bombs. She then telepathically called out positions to guide her allies’ weapons fire into the worst of the mutants, especially the small collection of sorcerers throwing fire and force blasts in random directions. Tryft killed several with well-placed grenades and Pulveria finished off the rest with a few swings of her force staff.

When Fortunado emerged from the smoke at last, Morgan called him out, challenging the Rogue Trader to a personal duel. Fortunado, prideful that he was, accepted, ordering his companions and bodyguard to stay back. Drawing an ornate power sword of exquisite make, he saluted Morgan and lunging. The two went back and forth for several passes, neither able to draw first blood. Finally, Morgan feinted an overhead slash then slapped Fortunado’s legs out from under him with a casual swipe with her power fist. Fortunado hit the floor hard and Morgan was quickly over him, her sword raised menacingly.

At that moment, Tryft and Vesper spotted Fortunado’s astropath taking careful shots into the smoke. Vesper fired at him but missed. Tryft followed up with a precision shot that drilled the psyker through the chest, wounding him badly. Fortunado saw what was happening and swiftly told Morgan: “If you call off your men and spare my friend’s life, I will accept defeat and cede all rights to the space hulk to you and your Dynasty. Please.”

Taken by surprise, Morgan quickly agreed, ordering Tryft and Vesper (and everyone else) to stand down. The fighting drew to a close as the last of the mutants were killed and Meretek gained access to the controls of the warp core and shut the engine down.

Fortunado gathered together his companions and surviving troops and officially gave his surrender to House D’Stayn. He asked for (and was granted by Morgan) safe passage back to the surface of the hulk where his lighters and shuttle waited. Vesper, perhaps in an attempt to make up for her earlier aggressiveness, extended an offer of alliance between the two Rogue Trader Houses. Fortunado seemed reluctant, mentioned that concessions would need to be given for any alliance to be made between their Houses. He looked meaningfully in Tryft’s direction as he said this.

And with that, the Fortunado party departed, leaving control of the space hulk to House D’Stayn.

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Beatdown

As the Tech-Priests, servitors, and seed-born rushed to attack in a massive wave, Tryft signaled the D’Stayn forces to counterattack. Black Lancers dropped from vents and maintainence hatches to attack clusters of Mechanicus just as they rushed past. Led by Eurydice, Lancer heavy weapons teams dropped missiles, grenades, and stubber fire into choice groups of Tech-Priests or vital equipment. Meretek conveyed what he knew about Mechanicus combat traditions, allowing the D’Stayns to predict and counter the assault. Vesper and her Reavers lashed out at power conduits and other essential technology, damaging the Tech-Priests ability to coordinate among themselves and control their servitors and war machines. Tryft hung back, collecting tactical data from his archeotech eyepiece and shouting orders. Morgan simply waded into where the fighting was thickest, rallying Lancer mercenaries by felling dozens of enemies.

What had begun as an overwhelming Mechanicus assault swiftly became confusion and chaos.

Morgan led the D’Stayn officers toward the raised workstation where Fabricator Zophon stood with his bodyguard of seed-born and cadre of magos assistants. “You will not interfere with knowledge and progress!” Zophon screamed in defiance, “The secret of the Emperor will not have died with him!”

Vesper was the first into the fray, firing on Zophon – only to be intercepted by the seed-born, who laid into her with oversized chainswords. Vesper was horribly mangled by the assault, holding onto consciousness by sheer stubbornness. After trading ineffectual shots with the seed-born pair, she casually mentioned how “obviously” weak she was and how Meretek over there was the tougher opponent. One of the seed-born obligingly charged at the startled Tech-Priest, chopping at Meretek’s arms and legs with his chainsword.

The magos assistants formed a firing line and peppered the D’Stayns with las fire. But the Mechanicus were scientists and not warriors. Most of their shots went wide and Tryft and Morgan were able to make short work of them with a mix of automatic las fire and melta beams.

Zophon himself entered the fray, flailing about with a power axe and dozens of medicae mechandendrites. Although he wounded Morgan, the Lady-Captain and Tryft drove Zophon back, injuring him badly enough that the Fabricator fled behind his failing line of Tech-Priests. His speed was uncanny and it was only when Janessa’s servo-skull managed to light the Fabricator on fire with its built-in flamer that the D’Stayns were able to catch up to the heretek and end him.

Meanwhile, Meretek managed to slay his seed-born attacker with some help from Janessa, who also assisted Vesper in finishing off her own opponent.

With Fabriator Zophon dead, the surviving Tech-Priests seemed disinclined to continue fighting. The battle became a rout, with many Mechanicus and seed-born fleeing into the bowels of the Allegiance. While Janessa took the time to catalog and process the remnants of the battle and calculate the captured booty (a fortune in bionic material, Mechanicus equipment, and Astartes weaponry), the rest of the D’Stayns and Black Lancers spread out into kill-teams to hunt down the escaped Mechanicus.

One team, including Vesper, Eurydice, and Morgan, found themselves in an isolated, dark corridor. The passage was littered with ancient dead, mostly Mechanicus but some Reavers, mutants, and others as well, all killed by a variety of weapons fire. Continuing on, the group accidentally triggered a barrage of automated weapon traps that decimated their Black Lancer escort and left the trio trapped within a circle of death. As they awaited their own demise, a concealed portal marked with the glowing Imperial aquila and a tiger’s head, hissed to life and cycled open.

Standing in the threshold was one of the mighty Astartes warriors – a Space Marine in battle-worn silver armor bedecked with purity seals. At a gesture, the automated weapons ceased fire but remained trained on the three women. Morgan was the first to go to her knees in respect but was followed quickly by a awestruck Vesper and a stunned speechless Eurydice. The Space Marine marched closer to the D’Stayn and spoke in a resonant voice through his armor’s voxcaster.

“I am Battle-Brother Gideon of the Tigers Argent Chapter. And I would know your purpose aboard the Unfailing Allegiance.” And then Morgan, Eurydice, and Vesper felt the Astartes’ psychic presence push into their thoughts, sifting through their recent memories with ease. The trio did not resist, allowing the Marine (a Librarian!) access to recent events. For his part, Gideon did not delve deeper than their recent memories since arriving in-system. When he finished he seemed satisfied.

“You have vanquished an ancient traitor by destroying Magos Zophon and his heretekal cult,” Brother Gideon said, “And for this, we are indebted to you. Come.” He led the women through the portal, which turned out to be a converted secure cargo locker containing a small amount of living supplies and six statis pods. As the D’Stayns watched, Brother Gideon activated the pods, reviving another five Tigers Argent Space Marines!

The leader of the Marines was a personable Battle-Brother named Lazarus, who inquired about the D’Stayns’ purposes for being on the space hulk as well as for details about Zophon’s downfall. Eurydice and Vesper quickly assured the Marines that they were here under the auspices of the Imperium and an official Warrant of Trade that stretched back to the Age of Forging. Sergeant Lazarus and his Brother-Marines seemed pleased with the turn of events, explaining that they had been among the last survivors of the battle between the Unfailing Allegiance and the Red Haze raider vessel. While trapped within the warp, Magos Zophon had begun experimenting on their slain Brother-Marines, hoping to unlock the secrets of the the Astartes gene-seed, a secret known only to the Emperor Himself. The surviving Tigers Argent had tried to stop him, but the Mechanicus forces vastly outnumbered them and the Allegiance was theirs to command. Finally, Lazarus and his five Battle-Brothers were forced to conceal themselves within this storage room, taking turns out of cold statis to keep watch until the situation changed enough for them to strike back at Zophon.

Morgan and compang returned to the rest of the D’Stayn forces to much awe and surprise. Sergeant Lazarus conferred with Tryft and Janessa, explaining that the space hulk continued to randomly jump through the warp because of three malfunctioning or corrupted warp drives. The Allegiance contained one (which Meretek disabled without too much effort) and the Red Haze contained another. The Red Haze’s drive was defended by a corrupted cogitator that called itself the “Speaker of Blood.” The third warp engine was unknown to the Marines.

Sergeant Lazarus told the D’Stayns that he and his Battle-Brothers would fight alongside the D’Stayn Dynasty in their efforts to secure the space hulk and that he would support the D’Stayn Family’s claim to the hulk….as long as the D’Stayns would see the six Space Marines back to Imperial space so that they might rejoin their Chapter after so many millennium. The D’Stayns readily agreed, noting that nothing was said about how direct a route back to Imperial space would be taken.

Janessa asked Sergeant Lazarus if his men could handle the “Speaker of Blood” and Lazarus agreed that he could. Before the Marines departed on their mission, Janessa made a point of having the six visit the home of the Reaver Clan and their leader Malchiah. With the Space Marines’ influence, the Reaver clan pledged their lives and loyalty to the D’Stayn Dynasty.

While the Space Marines went about their work, the D’Stayns located and accessed the bridge of the Unfailing Allegiance and gained control of the ship’s damaged auger array. Even with the damage, they were able to use the array to locate another vessel further “above” the wreckage of the Allegiance and the Haze. This ship had an active warp engine and would need to be disabled in order to lock the space hulk to its current position.

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Running the Gauntlet

The delegation of Mechanicus (all of whom the D’Stayns now considered hereteks) departed without incident. Forward Black Lancer scouts confirmed that the contingent disappeared into the depths of Unfailing Allegiance. They would no doubt be back and with numbers enough to deal with the intruders. As such, the D’Stayn forces decided to make themselves scarce.

Hovering outside of the Allegiance in her newly captured Thunderhawk gunship, Vesper opened fire on weak points in the hull with the Thunderhawk’s lascannons, breaking through the damaged metal to reveal the D’Stayn team below. Unfortunately, the action got the attention of several of the Allegiance’s macrocannon batteries (which were not as destroyed as previously assumed). Vesper’s masterful flying prevented her from being atomized on the spot, but the Thunderhawk suffered a fatal crash landing only a few dozen meters from the rest of the D’Stayns.

Undeterred, Vesper led the D’Stayns back to the hanger bay she had previously discovered and secured a second Thunderhawk, though this one required more of Magos Omnus’ technical skill to resuscitate. While the repairs were underway, the D’Stayn leaders conferred and decided that they would attempt to fly into the massive engines of the Allegiance, traveling as far as possible with the Thunderhawk before proceeding on foot to enter the sacred engineerium of the warship. Once there, they would recon the situation and, if necessary, strike at the hereteks.

The flight to the great plasma exhausts of the light cruiser was a simple matter – at least for Vesper. Only a hundred or so close combat gun turrets were still operational and Vesper was able to avoid those with ease. She guided the gunship through the ever-narrowing exhaust ports until the ship could go no further. Leaving a token force of Lancers to guard the ships, the D’Stayn team pressed on.

They found the outskirts of the engineerium to be largely unoccupied and dark, with signs of crude salvage attempts and ransacking of supplies everywhere. As they went deeper into the Mechanicus realm, some power was restored but the walls were littered with heretical symbology, futher proof of the Tech-Priests’ treason against the Imperial Creed. When the D’Stayn force reached the edge of what would be the warp drive chambers, they encountered resistance in the form of three heavy combat servitors and two of the so-called ‘seed-born’ encountered with Magos Barrabas’ delegation.

Stealth was attempted but failed, erupting into a bloody combat. The seed-born proved especially brutal and strong in the fight. In the end, the guards were slain thanks to pinpoint shooting by Lady-Captain Morgan and Tryft, but Eurydice was critically injured by a barrage of heavy bolter fire and barely survived the battle. She was forced to settle back in a makeshift stretcher carried by Lancers while the painkillers ran their course. While in a delirious state, she inadvertently confessed to Vesper the secret of her liaison with one of the Emperor’s elite Astartes warriors. Vesper kept the information to herself, rocked by the revelation.

The D’Stayn party moved on, albeit a little slower than before. When they finally reached the warp core itself, they found it surrounded by a pattern of dark mysticism. The energy of the warp engines pulsated through the symbols and blood-stained lines. Small groups of tech-priests tended to the arcane design while others periodically wheeled in modified stasis pods. The pods were placed in certain segments of the pattern and the warp energy seemed to flow into the containers. After a few seconds to several minutes, the pods would be wheeled away.

The D’Stayns were able to see that virtually all traffic seemed to come and go from a single corridor. Using their knowledge of Imperial ships, Vesper and Tryft led the D’Stayns in a roundabout path that eventually came back to that same corridor. Most of the chambers they passed were storage for medicae equipment and biological samples. Others were converted processing rooms where scarlet-splattered Mechanicus busied themselves with dissecting a myriad of space hulk creatures. Still others were implantation rooms for installing and modifying bionic augmentation – many of the ‘seed-born’ were within these rooms.

Finally, the D’Stayn scouts located one of the larger storerooms that was heavily guarded by a dozen ‘seed-born.’ Guessing that this was obviously an important location, Tryft sent the Black Lancers along with Eurydice, Pulveria, and the young Reavers into the ventilation ducts and access conduits while the rest of the D’Stayns disguised themselves in crimson Mechanicus robes and marched straight up to the main entrance. Meretek (with some coaching from Janessa and Vesper) bluffed his way past the ‘seed-born’ guards and led the D’Stayns into the chamber.

The sight that greeted them filled the Explorers with revulsion. Dozens, if not hundreds, of stasis pods were stored in the vast room. Tech-priests and servitors were busy butchering the remains of Imperial Space Marines, attempting to harvest the sacred gene-seed from the corpses along with the specialized Astartes organs that made the Marines the most powerful fighting soldiers in the Imperium. Magos-biologis were storing and cataloging the harvested parts before taking samples and sending them through some sort of replication machine. The genetic material from this process was then being implanted into a variety of brutalized human (and semi-human) bodies while hereteks chanted arcane words and worked mystical rituals.

At the center of the charnal house, like a maestro directing a dark symphony, was a Mechanicus Magos of immense size. His body was warped and twisted beneath his tattered red robes and his Mechanicus augmentations seemed an unholy blending of organic and bionic. A face covered in lenses and protruding bone swiveled to face the disguised D’Stayns, as if the Magos could sense the intrusion into his domain.

“Unbelievers…pawns of the hidebound Martian powers,” he hissed and bellowed, his voice the sound of gargled metal, “You have intruded about the realm of Fabricator Zophon and for that you forfeit your organic material our cause – the secrets of the Emperor await!”

And seemingly as one, the hundreds of tech-priests, seed-born enforcers and combat servitors turned toward the D’Stayn group and attacked.

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Bluebook - Thunderhawk Found

Vesper moves quietly off to one side, whispering (actually whispering) to the Reaver’s, “We need to flank them, just in case, and maybe find an alternate route in. I know fighting through is honorable, but also dumb. Come one.” And with that she’ll take the Reaver group and quietly look for a place to sneak around to get into a flanking position of where the main group will be negotiating. Also, if that doesn’t work out so well, look for a sneaky way to get further into the enemy territory…


With the Black Lancers’ attention focused entirely on the tense scene down below, no one noticed as Vesper and her Reaver friends slipped back into the lance battery barrel. With the Reavers’ help, Vesper came across a crack in the side of the barrel that led to another barrel. This entry led to yet another barrel that brought the small group a short distance above the opposite side of the ram-prow of the Red Haze raider. There were still a couple dozen labor servitors mindlessly cutting chunks of hyper-dense metal from the ram, but the automatons didn’t even register Vesper and the Reavers. Best of all, there were no Tech-Priest supervisors or combat servitors watching over the operations.

Vesper and the Reavers dropped down from the lance barrel, moving with easy haste through the tangled forest of twisted metal that made up the impact site. While Kas and company pulled slowly ahead of Vesper, the void-mistress eyed the tears in the hull of the Unfailing Allegiance, damage done by the ramming action of the Red Haze. She was certain that she was making out large chambers that could be cargo or hanger bays. She also spotted powered down lift shafts leading further up and down the light cruiser.

The Reavers paid little attention to those side corridors, save to make quick glances to ensure no Mechanicus automatons were present. They were focused on circling around the point of the ram-prow and coming up behind and slightly to the right of the Mechanicus contingent.


“Hey!” Vesper gets the attention of her cohorts, “Hangar bays, come on, bound to be something fun in here.” She motions off to one of the side passages and starts down it, “Nothing says I Win like air superiority.” She nods.


“Like what?” Kas asks, looking confused, as Vesper dashes down one of the numerous side passageways. After a brief exchange of silent, puzzled glances, the quartet of young Reavers hurry after the more experienced voidfarer.

The corridor widens as Vesper makes her way through it. Large metal doors dot the side walls, frequently marked with the Imperial aquilla but occasionally with the cog-gear of the Mechanicus. Vesper knew (actually, her mother knew and drilled the data into Vesper’s head) that the cog-gear would indicate repair supplies. A quick check into the unsealed hatches confirms this, revealing partially looted grav-plates, metal slabs, barrels of sealant and crate after crate of bolts, screws, and nuts – some of them as long as her arm or as large as her head. Vesper makes a mental catalog of these supplies….then dismisses them as dull before moving on.

Finally, Vesper finds what she suspected would be nearby – the personnel access hatch to one of the Unfailing Allegiance’s port hanger bays. The automatic doors have already been sliced out of the walls via las-cutters and the metal itself removed. Vesper slips through the portal to an expansive chamber full of flickering electric lights and contrasting shadows. As her eyes quickly become used to the poor lighting, she spies the shapes of big winged vehicles in varying status of repair.

Then one of the Reaver youths, Grish, gives a surprised cry and Vesper hears the sound of tearing metal and flesh. Whirling about, she draws her hand cannon and sees Grish standing over the prone form of a repair servitor. Grish is hammering the servitor in the head with his shock maul, though the automaton does not respond. To his side, Kas is pointing out a dozen more servitors standing motionless by a pile of scavenged material and the other Reavers quickly set upon them with a savage relish.

“They were concealed in the shadows,” Kas hisses to Vesper, her power blades humming to life, “Quickly….before they can form a counterattack!” With that she lunges forward, her energy weapon severing the arm of an unresisting and unmoving servitor.


Vesper takes a second to come to her senses, they were in fact dismembering defunct, and possibly non-working servitors. She holsters her gun, draws her own blade and joins in to hasten the carnage. At the very least she gets to hit something, but mostly to speed up the process of killing dead things. It was clear the Reaver’s just didn’t know how things worked aboard a proper ship. Well, it was at least fun stomping one of the defunct things into parts….

“Right,” She said when the vicious repair robots were properly dispatched, she’d have to explain why they might have been useful in a less hostile environment. “One of these things, Emperor willing, will fly and is still armed.” She quickly set about looking for the ship that would best be used to mount a rescue that she was in no doubt her companions were in dire need of at that very moment… “A Starhawk would be the best option, but a Gun Cutter will do if there’s one in here…” She explains quickly and quietly as she checks of the craft best suited for flight, “Worst case scenario, something with a good thick hull will do.”


Their fear-induced bloodlust sated for the moment, the Reavers fall in step behind Vesper as the older woman surveys the wreckage left in the hanger bay. Within short order, Vesper realizes that the Allegiance was not a carrier vessel. There are no Imperial Navy space fighters, bombers or assault boats at all.

There are a half dozen or so Arvus lighters, small and stout cargo shuttles used for transporting up to a dozen troops or equivalent cargo across the void or through atmosphere. Most were in the process of being disassembled by the now-defunct servitors, salvageable components sorted into storage crates apart from chunks and panels of metal. None of the lighters appeared currently fitted for combat (not unusual), though the two or three that looked mostly intact did have empty mounts for anti-personnel weaponry.

One of the Reavers, Brulla, calls over to Vesper while the voidmistress is studying a lighter in particularly good condition. She shows Vesper a series of side storage chambers that show signs of being systematically unsealed and emptied. Light munitions (missiles, heavy bolter shells, and so forth) are being sorted by what is intact and salvageable and what is not. From the maker-marks on the munitions, Vesper suspects that they were produced on ship – on the Allegiance.

Grish calls out next, having ventured deeper into the bay. When Vesper joins him, she finds to her delight a pair of damaged Thunderhawk gunships. The Imperial aquilla is prominent on both vehicles along with a symbol that looks like a silver head of a great cat, probably a tiger. (Vesper doesn’t recognize the symbol but assumes it must be a Space Marine Chapter insignia.) The Thunderhawks’ armament is in the process of being removed, with only one of the vehicles sporting any weaponry – namely half of it twin dorsal lascannon array and one wing of twin heavy bolters.

Kas slips into the armed Thunderhawk for a quick look around its wide interior, returning only a short moment later to report that there is no one aboard. “But I did find several old scraps of bloodied clothing,” she says, handing Vesper a stained strip of fabric. The fragment bears a sunburst symbol.

“Do you recognize this insignia?” Vesper asks.

Kas nods. “It is the symbol of the Stark People, who came many cycles ago to plunder our home. They were no match for Morscrap and his warrior ”/campaign/rogue-trader-pride-and-profit/wikis/orks" class=“wiki-page-link”>Orks though….and between us, the Twists, and the Takers, they were slaughtered to the last."

Vesper tilts her head. “Morscrap?”

Kas nods again. “Zogstuf Morscrap. Chieftain of the Green Ones. He and his tribe protect us from the death-touch of the Angry Spirits.”

Vesper’s mind struggles to keep up. “Wait….what do you mean ‘Angry Spirits’? And…and are you allies with the Orks?!”

Kas frowns. “Ally is too strong a word. We don’t kill any Orks and they don’t kill any Reavers. Occasionally, we trade food, water, and supplies for salvage. They’re main concern is keeping the Angry Spirits contained.” She pauses, obviously trying to think of a way to explain. “The Angry Spirits are the restless dead from another chariot-city….a dark place full of ancient pain and suffering. Surely you saw the wards the Green Ones placed around that unholy site?”

Vesper remembers the runes and oversized ‘teef’ that blocked some of the corridors outside the Allegiance and the Red Haze. She and her companions had thought the xenos symbology looked like the Ork equivalent of a geller field….

Grish and another Reaver – Wrax – emerge from the armed Thunderhawk. “We don’t know much about the relics of the Holy Giants, but this battle-craft does not seem as damaged as the others.”

Kas looks back at Vesper. “What are we going to do with this?” she asks.


Vesper pockets the scrap of cloth to have someone who actually cares look at it later, “Do? We’re gonna fly her!” Vesper’s eyes are alight with joy and mischief. “The Emperor has blessed us with one of his great chariots!” She double checks the name written on the side before almost literally bouncing up the ramp.

She motions for them to follow her on board as she does a quick internal inspection, “I could get along without a co-pilot, but I really need a gunner,” She turns to her crew, “Anyone want a crash, er, uh, quick course in the gunner position?” She sits in the pilots seat and without even thinking about it starts a pre-flight check of the console.

“So, Orks are friendlies and Mechheads are enemies… man this whole wreck is half backwards.” She says out loud, “Though the Orks are probably what’s keeping everyone in here from being Chaos food, so I’ll let ’em have a pass for now.” She pauses at the words that just came out of her mouth, “Anyway, the important thing is to remember that the Takers, Mechanicus, are basically like feral pets. We just need to remind ‘em whose boss and they’ll step back in line. Twists you can’t reason with.” She rambled, “So, OK, Sister Eurydice would want us to rescue and bring to her the Icy Orison, so that’s the plan. And, well, The Emperor has a creed – One must strive for superior numbers, superior position, and superior firepower at all times. Right now, this is all three!”

She looks at her young followers, hoping they’ll take the idea that blowing the enemy to pieces with a Thunderhawk sounded appealing, “And besides, the Mechanicus make a wicked hell of a fun noise when you shoot them.”


On the private vox, and speaking in the odd cant unique to the House of D’Stayn, Eurydice asks, “Vesper, what is your 20?”

“Um… nothing! I wasn’t doing anything,” Vesper replies, perhaps too quickly. “Why do you ask?”

“Because I told you to take the Reavers and remain silent and unseen. Since I neither see you nor hear you, I can only assume that you’ve managed to sneak away and are up to some sort of mischief.”

There was a longer pause this time. “We’re acquiring superior air support. You’ll like it! We can really bring the thunder!”

Eurydice managed to avoid rolling her eyes. “Good. Negotiations are not going well. Be prepared to provide cover, ASAP.”


Vesper sighs when the connection is cut, “Seriously, what if I actually was sitting still and being quiet? Huh? They never think of that.. alright everybody – I told you they’d need rescuing.” She stashes her flak armor somewhere out of the way and prepares to do some serious flying, “OK, internal bulkheads, damaged at that, aren’t going to be too much trouble to blast through…” She tries to remember exactly where they are in position to where she started and the Thunderhawk goes through a power up cycle. “Oh, listen to those engines….”


Kas gives Vesper a grin. “You are obviously a close-knit tribe,” she says, “that the Black Angel can so accurately know your movements. Surely few foes can stand against your clan.”

Vesper directs the Reavers Wrax and Zek into unsealing the ancient hold doors, using a mix of electrical splicing, brute force, and old Imperial Navy codes she lifted from one of Tryft’s dataslates. The metal doors groan as they slowly open, metal grating on warped tracks, until the open area outside of the two ships is revealed. Chunks of debris continue to drift about in the odd gravitational field above and around the vessels. Vesper notes that she and her Reaver accomplices are to the starboard side of the Red Haze, not far from where the raider’s thick ram-prow is thrust into the port side of the Allegiance.

As Zek and Wrax rejoin everyone on board the Thunderhawk, Vesper gently eases the gunship through the open cargo doors and into the cluttered space outside. She evades the floating debris with barely an afterthought, and her Reaver allies are silent in wonder at her skill at piloting one of the divine war-chariots of the Holy Giants. For her part, Vesper feels a giddy thrill at being behind the stick of a Space Marine gunship – she couldn’t wait to tell her mother about this!

Coming up above the torn impact point between the two ships, Vesper hands the controls over to a startled Kas while she steps over to the engineering station. Standing over Grish’s shoulder, she explains quickly how to run an auger scan and notes the mass of lifeforms that show her where her companions and the Mechanicus delegation are located in relation to the Thunderhawk. With a wicked smile, she sees that the meet-and-greet is happening close to one of the rent section of the Allegiance’s hull, which should be breakable with a few well-placed lascannon shots.

Vesper moves back to the pilot’s chair as a chunk of floating debris bounces off the Thunderhawk’s hull. She shifts controls back to her console, letting a white-faced Kas slump back in the co-pilot’s chair, and raises the gunship back up the three dozen meters it had descended a moment ago. She places the vessel into a hovering position, occasionally shifting to avoid more drifting debris, and waits for Eurydice’s vox-signal…


“I like to think we’re close. Though sometimes I wish they knew me a little less…” She shrugs as they prepare the bay.

“See, piloting is easy, you’ll get the hang of it in no time.” Vesper casually remarks as she shifts the gunship around, “The trick is never try for a straight line, reality abhors a straight line.” She angles the nose around a little bit, trying to place as many of the Mechanicus into the firing line as possible, “The other trick when firing is to fill the available space with as much firepower as the laws of physics allow, then see if you can fit a few more in, because physics is a pansy….”

Vesper tries to imagine how negotiations might be going. This is the part where she usually waits for Janessa or someone else who’s allowed to talk to say something like “kill ’em.” …. But she still has just a little bit of battle lust from smashing the powered down drones, she wants a live enemy… something that might, laughable as it would be, fire back. She also wonders if the prow of this is reinforced enough to punch through the rent once she weakens it more with fire.

Calculating acceleration, gravitational pull, the general feel of the trajectory the gunship backs up slightly, angles itself inwards, and possibly gives out a slight growl of anticipation…

“When I say so we’re opening up with every gun and ramming them.” She says to her crew.

View
Bluebook - Negotiating with Hereteks

An hour had passed since the end of the battle with the Mechanicus Priests and their servitors. Two or three dozen of the mindless machine-men continued their monotonous work cutting sections of the hyper-dense metal from the gigantic ram-prow that made up the front of the Idolator raider. They were allowed to continue working as no one was quite sure what else to do with them.

Four of the six Tech-Priests were dead, most of them atomized by weapons fire from the Black Lancers, but two had managed to survive, thanks in no small part to efforts by Eurydice and Meretek. Now the pair sat comfortably against a slab of wreckage, kept far enough apart that they could not whisper to one another. As a precaution, Tryft had instructed Meretek to disable the two prisoners’ bionic arms and mechadendrite, a process that the young Explorator found distasteful, though he complied nonetheless. Their weapons had also been taken, revealed to be heavily modified Imperial laspistols and exceptional quality Lathe-pattern mono-blades. There was little else of interest on their persons.

The two Tech-Priests had only recently regained consciousness, recovering quickly thanks to their bionic augmentations. They had silently assessed their situation and remained unmoving and unspeaking, not even broadcasting in binary to one another. As the D’Stayn leaders conferred quietly about what to do next, the two men simply sat on the ground, observing their Black Lancers guards and the motley group of Rogue Traders.


“Perhaps our tech priest should attempt to speak with them?” Eurydice suggested. “Tell them who we are and what we are doing here? Perhaps he can make a good impression on them.”

She glances over to Meretek, who is currently fiddling with one of his servo skulls, laughing and talking to it as if it were a beloved pet.

“Or… perhaps not,” she sighs.


“Maybe… we tell them we’re here to bring them back into the Fold of the Imperium so we get an escort to their leaders. They don’t fight without a leader right?” Vesper asks, out of earshot of the two techpriests, actually whispering for a change.


Though he had only been quietly listening to this point and was loathe to intrude, Lexmechanic Gauss cleared his throat and stepped forward. “My Lord and Ladies, if it pleases you, I will be happy to try speaking with my brother Priests. I would prefer to defer to Magos Omnus’ seniority and wisdom, but if you require it, I can interview the two Magos. I would simply need to know what information you wish me to learn.”

On the outskirts of the discussion, Kas and the other Reavers lurked. They had been asked to keep a distance from the captured Tech-Priests, which they did – though they kept shooting wary or hateful glances toward the two robed figures. Instead, they ventured closer and closer to the mindlessly working servitors, hands drifting more and more toward the hilts of their weapons.


“”/campaigns/rogue-trader-pride-and-profit/characters/vesperevasaraphangeline" class=“wiki-content-link”>Vesper, you may want to distract your new friends before they start something we may regret later." Janessa turned to Gauss. “I think the most important thing we need to know is their history and are they actively attacking the Reavers.”


Gauss bowed respectfully and moved toward the two disabled Tech-Priests. There followed a long conversation in rapid lingua-technis. While Janessa was not as good at reading tone and body languages in the Mechanicus as she was with other people, she did get the impression that the two prisoners were ‘talking down’ to Gauss. The young lexmechanic seemed unperturbed by this behavior though and, after several minutes, returned to the D’Stayn leaders, a somewhat troubled look on his face.

He bowed again to Janessa. "My Lady, I was not able to glean as much information from the prisoners as I’m certain you would prefer. Due to my low rank within the Mechanicus, I am not worthy of their secrets. However, I was able to infer some data from our conversation.

“Neither of these two enginseers are from the original core of the local Cult. One originally served aboard a vessel called the Hymn of Faith, an Ecclessiarchy transport that collided with this space hulk after being caught in a warpstorm approximately seven hundred years ago. The other was part of the crew of the Celestial Majesty, a Rogue Trader ship that crashed here about one hundred fifty years ago due to an Ork gravity weapon. Both were recruited, along with many of their fellow Mechanicus, by the core group of Magos, who made up the enginseer corps of the Unfailing Allegiance.” He gestured around them. “That is the name of this vessel, which did indeed do battle during the Angevin Crusade as Lady Magdalene surmised.”

Gauss shifted slightly, looking uncomfortable. “The core Magos are led by Fabricator-Genetor Zophon, originally the head of the medicae corps aboard the Allegiance.” He paused then pressed on. “My Lady, I should note that I am disturbed by this Zophon using the title of ‘Fabricator.’ Such a honor is reserved for the leaders of the Adeptus Mechanicus on Mars. This designation seems….presumptuous.”

Gauss was silent for a moment then returned to reporting hard data. “The Mechanicus are taking members of the Reaver tribe for use as servitors and experiments. The Tech-Priests were very open about this….and callous as well. They see the Reavers – and the local mutants and even Orks – as a resource to be harvested as needed. I was not able to learn much about the experiments they mentioned as genetics, biology, and medicae are not among my skills, but Zophon and the core Magos seem to have a goal in mind. Something about re-creating a great work of the Emperor.” Again, Gauss paused, looking disturbed.

“The Mechanicus have been operating here since the Angevin Crusade some 2500 years past when the Allegiance collided with the Red Haze…” He gestured to the raider vessel. "…and suffered a warp engine failure that took them and a slave vessel named the Pit of Despair into warpspace. They have survived the centuries thanks to cold sleep capsules, though these two imply that Zophon and some of the greater Magos live on thanks to advanced biological and bionic augmentations. Everything they do seems to revolve around their genetic experiments.

“Also, they do not refer to themselves as the ‘Iron Makers’ or ‘Iron Takers.’ That appears to be a designation given to them by the Reavers.”

Gauss bowed once more. “Forgive me, my Lady. I was unable to gain any further information.”


Vesper wanders over to the small reaver group sneaking up on the servitor skulls, “They’re not really an enemy you know.” She says quietly, “They’re tools, we could make them useful. They’re more like self-aware screw drivers. Sort of.” She thinks for a moment “They also make great basketballs in zero-g.”


“If this so-called Fabricator is attempting to recreate the great work of the Emperor, then this is heresy most foul and base,” Eurydice says through gritted teeth. “We must learn more, and then put an end to it.”

“The only question is, do we go in shooting and then ascertain our answers later, or do we attempt to greet them peaceably and then slay them when our fears are confirmed?”

“Going in shooting is going to be difficult. They know the terrain and can set ambushes, and we do not know their numbers. We might never make it to the command center. Attempting to parlay with them first has the advantage that we may be able to get to their commanders quickly and without losses, but we’ll be in the middle of hostile territory with no safe egress. I and my men are ready and willing to do that which the Captain commands.”


Janessa nodded to Gauss, “You did an excellent job.” She listened to Eurydice’s comments, “I’m not sure if either is going to work. If they see everything as resources to used, that could include us. I always perfer the diplomatic route frist, we can alway shoot later.”


Gauss put in. "I should note that my brother Tech-Priests here do not seem overly hostile or negative toward our group – at least as far as I could ascertain. It is my opinion that they might be open to a dialogue, especially given their prisoner-of-war status. I of course cannot speak to the response of the rest of the Mechanicus.

“It is important to say that I believe they were successful in getting at least a partial call for assistance during our attack. They seem to be expecting reinforcement very soon.”


“Let’s see if Gauss or Meretek can send out a broadcast on their vox frequency, to let them know we want to open a parlay with them. That way, when their reinforcements do arrive, they might not come in shooting.”


While the two Tech-Priests worked to commune with the holy vox frequency used by the two prisoners, Tryft and Eurydice organized the remaining Black Lancers into a wide defensive deployment, taking advantage of the cover made plentiful by the torn wreckage of the two ships and the mining operations of the still-toiling servitors. A third of the Lancers – especially those with long-range and heavy weaponry – returned to the edge of the _Allegiance_’s lance battery barrels, providing cover over the area. The rest spread out in small groups behind cover but within sight of other groups. A small detachment led by Tryft moved outside of the mining operation, guarding the handful of corridors and access ways in preparation for the arrival of the Mechanicus contingent – regardless of whether it would be friendly or hostile.

Kas and the other Reaver youths grudgingly allowed themselves by led back up with the overwatch Lancers. Vesper was forced to go along with them to keep them under control. The Reavers were like caged cats, pacing and fidgety, constantly checking their weapons. The fear and hatred that Kas and her friends felt toward the “Iron Takers” was almost physical. It was so strong that Pulveria had to move to the lower levels to avoid a migraine.

After a bit of effort, Meretek was able to access the Mechanicus binary frequency and transmit roughly the same introduction that Eurydice had made to the Reaver chieftain Malchiah – namely, that the D’Stayns were a Rogue Trader House looking for trade and salvage and willing to negotiate with the Mechanicus for some sort of profitable agreement. Since the prisoners had said that a distress message was already transmitted, Meretek also added that a tragic exchange had indeed occurred between the D’Stayns and the mining group but that the conflict had been the result of a misunderstanding and that House D’Stayn would like to avoid further hostilities through conversation. Janessa coached Meretek through proper language to hopefully avoid further antagonism with the Mechanicus.

Almost thirty minutes passed (in which Meretek re-transmitted the message a couple times) before the so-called Iron Makers responded. The reply was terse:

“Requested dialogue accepted. Await Mechanicus contingent at current location.”

The Lancers remained in position and under cover. Tryft returned to the rest of the D’Stayn group, though Vesper was forced to stay with the Reavers to make certain they kept out of trouble. Pulveria brought all the D’Stayn officers (and a Lancer sergeant from each of the three deployments) into a mental communion, mostly to avoid eavesdropping by any of the Mechanicus. The D’Stayns quickly decided who would greet the Mechanicus (no one really looked to Meretek) and who would accompany them.

After almost another hour, Pulveria heard from the sergeant in command of the outrider Lancers. Hostiles incoming. Count six cogboys, er, Tech-Priests. Same number of combat servitors. Also same number of electro-priests. And…. There was a pause. And…four…uh, four ‘things’ — huge, look like a cross between an industrial servitor and some kind of hulk mutant. The sergeant then got a hold of his surprise and reported weaponry, direction of approach, ETA, and so forth.

The hidden Lancers and the prepared D’Stayn contingent readied themselves. From her vantage point, Vesper spotted the Mechanicus group first. As reported, a half dozen Tech-Priests wrapped in worn crimson robes marched purposefully toward the D’Stayn group. Each had a powerful combat servitor, arms replaced by heavy weaponry, accompanying him. A ring of six of the fanatical electro-priests, sparking electoos dripping with liquid lightning, were spread out around the group, constantly looking for likely targets.

Finally, a trio of massive humanoids formed a triangle between the Tech-Priests and the electro-priests. They were the size and mass of Ogryns or Ork Nobz with limbs and features twisted and warped like space hulk or deep underdeck mutants. Obvious bionic grafts were affixed at joints and over faces, looking like they were painfully correcting defects. The main similarity in appearance between the three twists was a black fibrous tendrils that seemed organic in nature and wrapped around the humanoids, especially dense around the torso. In addition, each of the three carried bolter and chain weapons, apparently sized to fit in their massive hands.

The group approached the D’Stayns without looking around (save for the electro-priests, who looked at everything) and stopped a short distance from them. The lead Tech-Priest stepped away from the others, his servitor only a pace behind him, and briefly studied the D’Stayns from beneath the shadows of his cowl. Twin pinpricks of red light (and a third of green) flickered under the hood.

“I am Magos Barrabas,” the Tech-Priest said without preamble, his voice scratchy and mechanized, “This dialogue may now commence. Begin with additional data as to your identity and purpose. Conclude with reasons for your attack on our operation. Response will depend on the content of your data.”


In order to keep the Lady-Captain and her aid out of the sight of these potential hostiles, Eurydice steps forward. “I am Eurydice Magdeline of the Rogue Trader House D’Stayne,” she says. "We are 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. We are, as you can see, also blessed by the presence of Mechanus Explorators.”

“We ask your forgiveness for the tragic misunderstanding that took place here. Your mech-brothers were slain before either of us had a chance to identify ourselves properly. As you can see, we performed the medicae rites on those who survived the initial firefight. As a gesture of good-will, we return them to you.”

“House D’Stayne may have much to offer, not the least of which is a welcome back into the Holy Imperium of Man. I believe we have a great deal to talk about.”


Magos Barrabas stares unmoving for a moment before emitting a short burst of binary static. Meretek is able to recognize the static and Explorator Binary – it is a command to the lesser Magos to recover the two prisoners and bring them into the protective circle of the ‘seed-born’. Two Tech-Priests move to their captured brethren and assist them in getting to their feet and joining the main group.

As the other Magos begin reactivating the prisoners’ disabled bionics, Barrabas speaks to Eurydice. “Symbolic gesture is acceptable. However, loss-compensation ratio remains inadequate.” The Tech-Priest gestures with a metal hand tipped with needle-like injectors toward the missile craters and scrap remains of battle-servitors. “Six combat units destroyed. Four Enginseers killed.” Barrabas flicks a surgical mechadendrite toward some of the visible Lancers crouched nearby behind cover.

“Eight organic combat units will be taken as compensation for battle-servitors,” Barrabas continues in a toneless voice, “All field equipment and weaponry included. Twelve additional units and two D’Stayn command units will serve as compensation for loss of Tech-Priests. Further donations of biological material will be counted as proof of diplomatic intentions.”

The nearest Lancers tense at the cold demands of the Magos, but they keep their discipline and avoid opening fire outright. The Mechanicus electro-priests seem to notice and the arcs of electricity dancing around their bodies accelerate, casting blue light and contrasting shadows. The fear and tension is enough to make Pulveria wince.

Magos Barrabas doesn’t seem to notice. “Additional clarification: no interest in returning to the Imperium exists. The holy work dictated by Fabricator Zophon must continue without interference. The secrets of the Omnissiah await.”


The ex-Sister of Battle fights the urge to simply pull out her bolter and put a bullet into the skull of the impudent Magos who would dare say such a thing. “One moment while I confer with my comrades,” Eurydice says.

On the private vox, and speaking in the odd cant unique to the House of D’Stayne, “Vesper, what is your 20?”

“Um… nothing! I wasn’t doing anything,” Vesper replies, perhaps too quickly. “Why do you ask?”

“Because I told you to take the Reavers and remain silent and unseen. Since I neither see you nor hear you, I can only assume that you’ve managed to sneak away and are up to some sort of mischief.”

There was a longer pause this time. “We’re acquiring superior air support. You’ll like it! We can really bring the thunder!”

Eurydice managed to avoid rolling her eyes. “Good. Negotiations are not going well. Be prepared to provide cover, ASAP.”

The Sister then turns back to the Mechanus. “I would like to offer a counter-proposal,” she calmly replies. “Since your people fired first without giving us the chance to identify ourselves, and since several of our own contingent were killed or wounded by their rash actions, we require the safe return of the 40-some Reaver scouts taken approximately twelve cycles ago. In exchange, we will gladly welcome you back into the sheltering arms of the most holy Imperium.” These last words have an edge of steel to them.


Vesper sighs when the connection is cut, “Seriously, what if I actually was sitting still and being quiet? Huh? They never think of that.. alright everybody – I told you they’d need rescuing.” She stashes her flak armor somewhere out of the way and prepares to do some serious flying, “OK, internal bulkheads, damaged at that, aren’t going to be too much trouble to blast through…” She tries to remember exactly where they are in position to where she started and the Thunderhawk goes through a power up cycle. “Oh, listen to those engines….”


Out of her peripheral vision, Eurydice can see that the Black Lancers – professionals that they are – have picked up on her tension and are (if possible) more alert and prepared. She knows that the Lancer officers and Tryft have planned for a confrontation. Should fighting break out, the Lancers on the main floor will open fire, trying to keep the Mechanicus clustered together. At the same time, the long-range heavy weapons teams located on the lip of the Red Haze’s lance barrels would rain down death in that cluster, working on the military adage that there is no overkill, only “open fire” and “time to reload.”

Magos Barrabas stares his shrouded gaze at Eurydice for several minutes, though Meretek informs the D’Stayn group through Pulveria’s telepathic link that the Tech-Priests are conversing rapidly into high-frequency binary between one another….and with some remote contact as well. Meretek is able to glean that the Tech-Priests are discussing the tactical situation, calculating the odds of four ‘seed-born’ and six electro-priests successfully eliminating fifty or sixty combat-ready organics, while Barrabas confirmed with that remote person regarding the existence of recently ‘harvested’ biological units. Meretek overhears that the Tech-Priests do not feel that a battle now would be in their favor, despite the fanaticism of the electro-priests and the programmed combat prowess of the ‘seed-born.’ He is unable to hear both sides of Barrabas’ conversation but does hear Barrabas accept the news that the captured Reavers are already in the process of being converted into servitors. He also seems to accept some sort of instructions, but Meretek is unclear as to what they are.

As this silent communications occurs, the giant ‘seed-born’ have eased toward the front of the Mechanicus contingent. A couple electro-priests are between individual ‘seed-born’ while the others spread out along the right and left. The Tech-Priests are subtly moving further behind the cover of their minions.

While Eurydice and Tryft notice this, Magos Barrabas – who continues to stand in front of the rest of the contingent – finally speaks. “Conference with fellow Enginseers confirm your data regarding hostile exchange. Counter-proposal is deemed reasonable. D’Stayn command and combat units will accompany delegation to where requested biologicals are being detained. Biologicals will be released into D’Stayn custody and further negotiation may commence at that time and location.”


Flipping back to the D’stayne private channel, Eurydice says, "I’m disinclined to go with them deeper into the ship, where they could ambush us. And if Meretek is correct, the Reaver youths have already been ‘processed’ and are therefore useless to us.

“Options?”


“We surrender all our ammunition to them.” Vesper pipes in over the line.


“We leave.” Janessa states. “I agree with Eurydice, going with them would be too dangerous and we would lost our newly acquired air support. It’s too late to save the Reavers and since these Mechanicus seem unwilling to re-join the most holy Imperium anything we could gain may only be achieved with substantial loss.”


“Negotiations are best carried out on neutral ground,” Eurydice tells Magos Barrabas. “Where there are no secrets to be hidden. We have proven our good intentions by releasing our prisoners. Kindly show your good intentions by doing the same.”


Over the command team’s telepathic link, Meretek confirms that Magos Barrabas is again conferring with a remote contact. Barrabas summarizes the situation and ‘requests’ of the D’Stayns then is silent for a moment as he listens to what must be instructions. Then he speaks briskly and curtly.

“Request accepted. Mechanicus delegation will depart to recover appropriated organic units. D’Stayn delegation will withdraw from Mechanicus territory to await contact. D’Stayn vox frequencies have been analyzed and recorded to facilitate future communication. Warning: further incursions into Mechanicus territory will be categorized as hostile and appropriate countermeasures will be activated. This dialogue session is closed.”

Without any fanfare, Magos Barrabas turns away from Eurydice and the other D’Stayns, walking through the line of hulking ‘seed-born’ to rejoin the other Tech-Priests. As one, the Mechanicus leave the direction that they arrived from, with the ‘seed-born’ walking slowly backwards, meaty hands tight around their bolt weapons and mismatched eyes glaring at the D’Stayns and the Lancers. The electro-priests, still keyed up and crackling with blue arcs, also withdraw, circling the whole Mechanicus party, alert for surprise attack.

View
Lost in the Hulk

With Kas and the other Reaver youths leading the way, the D’Stayn party left the Reaver homestead and began working their way through the warped corridors of the raider vessel, trying to make their way into the Imperial light cruiser. Originally, the D’Stayns considered leaving the raider and venturing outside, which would be easier to navigate, but Kas warned against that route as apparently the Iron Takers has functioning augers and turrets and fired upon anyone approaching from the outside. Instead, Vesper suggested traveling along the crushed wreckage of the raider’s forward lance battery and exiting directly inside the center of the Imperial ship, where the prow of the raider had penetrated the ship’s hull.

Unfortunately, the so-called “Daemon Storms” that the Reavers referred to continued to twist and warp the ships’ hulls, making navigation and travel a tricky proposition. The D’Stayn party got itself turned around a number of times, stumbling onto an ancient and long-unused sacrificial chamber to one of the Ruinous Powers as well as finding the ship’s bridge. They investigated the bridge, finding an ancient battle site where Chaos Reaver bridge crew appeared to have been slaughtered by a small and precise force operating from the center of the bridge. With some tactical discussion, Tryft and Eurydice deduced that a group of warriors had teleported into the center of the bridge and begun firing precision shots in all direction. Eurydice suspected that the attackers were the Holy Giants that Malchiah mentioned, whom she believed to be members of a Space Marine chapter.

The D’Stayn party finally found their way into the forward lance, the only distraction being the psychic presence of an angry intelligence somewhere near the enginerium decks that Pulveria sensed and encouraged the party to ignore. Instead, the party crawled through rents in the barrels of the lance and began making their way down the quarter-kilometer long tunnels. Before long they heard the sounds of many somethings approaching from the darkness ahead. Illuminating as many lights as they possessed, the D’Stayns were shocked to find a slavering pack of gigantic Flesh Hounds, a ‘minor’ Daemon of Khorne, rushing toward them!

The sight of the Daemons proved too much for most of the party. Janessa was paralyzed with horror. Tryft’s nerve broke and he fled the battle. Lady-Captain Morgan went momentarily insane and started attacking her own Black Lancers bodyguard. Vesper barely managed to keep her cool. And Pulveria, Eurydice and Meretek drew on their faith to drive them into battle. Fortunately, fate was with the D’Stayns and they were able to vanquish the Daemons, with only Vesper suffering any serious injury.

The party continued and as they neared the end of the lance weapon barrels, the sounds of heavy work echoed up from ahead. Janessa, along with a few Black Lancers and one of Meretek’s servo-skulls, crept forward to have a look. They discovered a half dozen Tech-Priests directing a number of labor-servitors in what looked like a mining process. The Tech-Priests were literally mining the reinforced ramming prow of the Chaos raider for its metal. As they watched though, one of the six combat servitors that were standing guard spotted Janessa’s group. A Black Lancer pulled Janessa away from the edge and out of the line of fire but took a heavy stubber round through the head. Other battle-servitors opened fire with rockets and automatic fire, forcing Janessa’s group to retreat from the barrage.

As explosions rocked the edge of the lance barrels, Tryft quickly organized a counterattack. Feigning death from the heavy weapons barrage, Eurydice, Janessa and a number of the Lancers lay still or hidden near the edge as the combat-servitors climbed up to survey the damage. When they reached the top, Tryft and the other Black Lancers sprang out of hiding and opened fire on the servitors. The tough cyborgs weathered the fire for a while, dealing out casualties to the Black Lancers, but eventually fell before the overwhelming fire.

Eurydice, Morgan, and Vesper then vaulted over the edge, Eurydice using her archeotech jump pack to bring the women in close, to deal with the remaining battle-servitors and Tech-Priests. They dealt with the servitors first then closed in on the Tech-Priests, who had ducked for cover when the firing started. From the lance edge, Meretek detected binary vox traffic, indicating that the Tech-Priests were calling for help. He did his best to jam the communications but feared that some message got past him. Meanwhile, any Black Lancers with heavy weapons set up firing positions from their elevated location and rained down death from above on the concealed Tech-Priests. In the end, the Mechanicus attempted to flee but none survived the attempt.

While the industrial servitors continued mindlessly mining away, Eurydice, Tryft and Meretek looked over the battlefield and discovered two of the Tech-Priests that were not mortally wounded. With some effort, they stabilized both men and took them prisoner.

Now they could get some straight intel about the so-called “Iron Takers…”

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Bluebook - Negotiating with Savages

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?”

OOC:
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?”


OOC:
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.

-

OOC:
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.

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Hulk Delving

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?”

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Let's You and Him Fight

As the xenos horror of animated dead corpses loomed over the D’Stayns, half the group panicked while the other half held their ground. Standing firm were Eurydice and Meretek, both holding to their respective beliefs in the divine, as well as Morgan, who held to the belief that nothing bad could ever happen to her. Vesper was paralyzed with fear, her previous encounter with one of these monstrousities having haunted her dreams since the dark moon. Janessa fainted dead away, leaving her combat servo-skull hovering over her prone form. Tryft remembered something important that needed doing back on the Tyrant Sun and raced out of the chambers.

Meretek led the assault by violently severing the xenos creature from the core cogitator. Eurydice rolled frag grenades into the creature’s mass, remembering that area effect weapons were more effective against the construct. Morgan fired burst of bolter fire into the swarming bodies while Janessa’s servo-skull took a cue from Eurydice and poured its compact flamer into the massed bodies. Vesper eventually snapped out of her fear as the xenos intelligence tried to psychically prod her to shoot her own Lady-Captain. Tryft also returned, having fought off his own fear and brought his hellgun into play. Though the xenos construct continuously healed itself with dessicated corpses of the ship’s crew, the D’Stayns poured enough overwhelming fire into its “body” to finally break it down. The black energy dissipated and a small, irregularly shaped chunk of material the color of bone and the size of a man’s head. Morgan and Tryft vaporized it with melta and las fire.

With the creature’s destruction, the insect-like things controlling the ship’s servitors also collapsed, curling into inert balls. Eurydice and the Black Lancers methodically worked through the Wheels of Industry and destroyed every one of the metallic insects that they could find. Meanwhile, the rest of the D’Stayns surveyed the factory ship and found it to be in otherwise pristine condition save for the loss of all non-mechanical crew. The cargo holds were full of exotic artifact and goods from a hundred worlds, including xenos materials and examples of archeotech. Each of the D’Stayns claimed a choice bit of archeotech as personal booty.

Corrupted log files showed that the Industry and the rest of the Explorator fleet had visited a region of the Unbeholden Reaches and found many strange and wondrous xenos technology. The bone-colored chunk that had been the heart of the monster in the cogitator chambers had been one such prize. It had remained dormant for years until the crew had moved a the bodies of a few crew killed in a reactor accident into the same hold. Presumably, the xenos construct had used the corpses to create its body and proceeded to take control of the ship’s servitors and massacre the rest of the crew.

The D’Stayns moved enough personnel from the rest of the fleet to give the Industry a skeleton crew and slaved the control systems to the Tyrant Sun before continuing their warp journey. The space hulk X020174RT-013 still awaited them and they had lost precious time in the race to claim the hulk. After a few days to survey and claim the Industry and another week of warp travel, the D’Stayn fleet exited into a dark system dominated by a small star of dark blue surrounded by asteroid debris and a couple of gas giants. Long range auger scans located the hulk drifting out of one of the asteroid fields and into view of one of the gas giants.

Those same scans revealed a number of starships already in the system and around the space hulk. The Blaze of Glory of House Fortunado and the Joy of Vindication of House Dubliex were closest to the hulk, figuratively circling each other while vox traffic showed much posturing and subtle threats going back and forth between the two Rogue Traders. Dubliex also had his two transports with him though one, the Crimson Surprise was moving on silent running. More impressive work by the Tyrant Sun’s retrained auger crews spotted three ships from House Morotai hovering on the edge of the confrontation. The ships were identified as the Hostile Takeover, a light assault cruiser, and two raiders, the Punisher and the Belligerent. In addition, beyond even the Morotai vessels were a pair of ships belonging to the pirate organization, the Brotherhood of Fangs – a frigate dubbed the Cruel Fate and a raider called Blackadder. The Morotai ships seemed to be watching the Fortunado and Dubliex ships while the Fang pirates seemed to be watching all of them.

The D’Stayns went back and forth as to how to handle the situation. Finally, they chose to take the Dubious Enterprise into the confrontation on silent running. They closed in on the Blaze of Glory and the Joy of Vindication, eavesdropping on the argument until a crucial moment when one was demanding a response from the other. At that moment, Meretek and his Tech-Priests scrambled all vox frequencies while Pulveria and her choir jammed all astropathic communication. Both Fortunado and Dubliex seemed to think the other was jamming the other, heightening the tension…until someone from the Vindication detected the Enterprise. Fortunately for the D’Stayns, Pulveria and Meretek were able to keep Dubliex from informing Fortunado about what was happening.

The Enterprise fell back to line up with the Morotai contingent, prompting the Dubliex ships to come after. Pulveria and Meretek extended the jamming to include the Morotai ships, who simply saw the Dubliex vessels closing in on the Hostile Takeover while Dubliex seemed to think the Enterprise was part of Morotai’s fleet. The Enterprise fired a quick volley of macrocannon fire, just enough to brighten the Vindication’s void shields. Dubliex reacted immediately, returning fire against the Morotai…who naturally saw this as an attack and fired back. The Enterprise, still on silent running, drifted away from the conflict.

While this was happening, Fortunado apparently decided it was a chance to take advantage of his rival’s distraction. Gun-cutters and shuttle craft were departing the Blaze of Glory and making a run for the space hulk. The D’Stayns took the Dubious Enterprise in close to the hulk, preparing to take their own boarding party to the hulk. And just to give Fortunado something to think about, they ordered the Vorpal Bunny to attack the Blaze of Glory.

Now it was a race to claim the hulk before Casimir Fortunado could.

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Encounter 7B

As repairs to the growing D’Stayn fleet continued, the Dynasty rulers continued efforts to build up the family’s strength. In particular, Eurydice spent that last of the windfall Thrones paid by Nobliate House Orden to hire a full division of mercenary forces from a group called the Black Lancers. The Black Lancers were a relatively new mercenary group but one with a good reputation for skill and professionalism. Made up primarily of ex-Imperial Guard who had been “lost” in the Expanse, the soldiers were well-armed and experienced and took their job very seriously. Eurydice negotiated a contract for upwards of 6000 mercenaries to supplement the Dynasty’s own House troops. Eurydice also purchased several dozen Chimera armoured transports and a couple hundred Sentinel walkers to serve in House D’Stayn.

Vesper and Tryft spent the weeks training the crews of the Tyrant Sun, trying to improve their skills in preparation for what would undoubtedly be more trouble on the way. At the same time, Vesper also went trolling for rumors and learned that an unclaimed space hulk – a massive conglomeration of derelict starships and astral material compressed in a single mass – had drifted into the nearby sector from warp space. Designated X020174RT-013 by initial Imperial Navy scouts, the hulk was reportedly half the size of a small moon and of interest both to the Navy and the Adeptus Mechanicus. Already a number of Rogue Traders and independent salvage teams were making plans to claim and explore the hulk.

Janessa and Vesper did some additional follow-up work to learn more about who was interested in the hulk and where it might be located based on Navy projections of its trajectory. They learned that at least three Rogue Traders were making serious plays for the hulk, including House Fortunado, House Dubliex, and House Morotai. Morotai was surprising, given that the Dynasty’s scion Gaius had been slain by Morgan and company a few months past. Further investigation showed that Gaius had two sons, Ares and Maximus, who were possibly in line for control of the Morotai Warrant of Trade. Claim of a new space hulk would certainly help the dynasty recover from the loss of their Belial holding and their leader.

The two other Rogue Traders were Lord-Captain Casimir Fortunado and Lord-Captain Remus Dubliex. The Dynasty had encountered Fortunado before, when his cargo of xenos creatures suffered an odd accident, releasing several monsters to rampage across the D’Stayn loading docks. Tryft had exchanged angry words with Captain Fortunado and few officers aboard the Tyrant Sun cared much for the young Rogue Trader. In addition, Morgan knew that Casimir was known as a daring and prideful captain and that the Fortunado Warrant was earned by Casimir’s grandfather for recovering several STC fragments for the Adeptus Mechanicus while a Chartist Captain. The family apparently maintained a strong alliance with the Tech-Priesthood and the House flagship, a frigate called the Blaze of Glory, was rumored to be heavily modified by the blessings of Mars.

Captain Remus Dubliex was a known rival of Fortunado. House Dubliex maintained strong ties with the Imperial Administratum, supposedly following when Remus’ uncle Tomas had uncovered damning material against several prominent officials while serving as a Calixian planetary governor. Some years after Remus’ father was slain in an assassination attempt meant for Tomas, the elder Dubliex fell ill and died, leaving Remus in charge of the dynasty. Litte was known about young Dubliex’s trade dealings, but it was rumored that he possessed a widespread spy network between Port Wander and Footfall. The dynasty possessed three ships: a frigate dubbed the Joy of Vindication and two freighters, the Solar Wind and the Crimson Surprise.

While some debate was made as to whether or not to ally with one or another of the Rogue Trader houses, the D’Stayns still decided to make their own play for the space hulk. After discovering the hulk’s most likely position, the D’Stayn fleet made left Footfall and jump to warp space in the hopes of beating their rivals to the prize. The warp transit was rough despite Navis Cedd‘s best efforts and caused a periodic flicker in the ships’ geller fields. A week into the warp journey, the Tyrant Sun’s auger crew detected the signature of another vessel close by the fleet. While experienced voidfarers often avoided these “ghost ships,” Morgan decided it would be fun to investigate.

The “ghost” turned out to be an old Goliath-class factory vessel with Mechanicus markings. Auger scans were inconclusive due to warp interference but Pulveria and the other astropaths were reasonably certain that no thinking life existed on board any more. Morgan assembled an away team with Eurydice bringing along a contingent of Black Lancers. The Tyrant Sun came close enough to the ship to blend the geller fields together, allowing Vesper and Dash to fly the team across in a gun-cutter. Magos Meretek was able to override the outside airlocks and grant access to the vessel. Immediately the Explorator was able to identify the ancient nature of the vessel, recognizing signs of older Martian designs and archeotech systems. This, he explained to the rest of the away team, was bordering on a holy vessel to the Mechanicus.

The team moved cautiously through the vast halls of the ship, the Lancers spread out with military precision to scout all directions and protect the core officers – much to Vesper’s chagrin. Meretek and Vesper were able to access to ship’s machine spirit to learn that the vessel’s name was the Wheels of Industry and had been a part of a Mechanicus Explorator fleet traveling through the Koronus Expanse. According to the data-logs, the Industry had made warp transition more than eight hundred years ago. It was a cargo vessel meant to store vast quantities of valuable materials and supplies found by the Explorator fleet. In addition, its plasma refinery allowed it to refuel at blue giant stars, giving it theoretically limitless range. But as they communed with the spirit, some other presence or force seemed to be pushing against them, corrupting the data and trying to get into their minds. Morgan began to hear a voice whispering to her, saying, “D’Stayn….the Ally….the Controller….” Naturally, Morgan assumed she was just hearing things.

The team made its way to the bridge and ran into a half dozen servitors. The mechanical constructs had strange metallic insect-like things wrapped about their faces that reminded the D’Stayns of the xenos Worm they had encountered on the Emperor’s Bounty. The servitors attacked without warning but Eurydice and the Black Lancers were able to cut them down with a disciplined barrage of las fire and flame. The Lancers then assaulted the bridge with the same careful, professional level of destruction, eliminating more than two dozen hostile servitors, showing the same signs of xenos possession. Through all of this, there was no sign of the ship’s crew…or even the remains of the crew. A quick survey of the bridge showed the same, though the Lancers did find the passageway to the Navigator’s Spire to be barracaded. Tryft and Eurydice investigated and found Navigator’s chambers sealed and a half dozen or so Navigators beyond dead by self-inflicted lasgun wounds. It was obvious that the Navigators had sealed themselves from whatever had taken the ship and then killed themselves to avoid possession and to prevent the Industry from ever leaving warp.

Another communion with the machine spirit revealed that something was manipulating the core cogitator of the ship, preventing any sort of remote systems control. The D’Stayns hastened to the cogitator chambers, avoiding bands of servitors whenever possible. The outside of the chamber was guarded by thirty plus possessed servitors but the Black Lancers launched a calculated attack that drove a wedge in the servitors and opened a clear path to the chambers for Morgan and her team. They punched through the outer doors, Meretek with his technical knowledge and Morgan with her power fist, and entered the chambers.

They were greeted by a horrific sight – a nimbus of black energy animated a mass of rended flesh and bones from human corpses. The energy joined not only a myriad of dead humans but also a series of servitors plugged directly into the core cogitator. The monstrous thing was similar to the undead horror the D’Stayns had encountered on the dark moon…but much larger and more complete. The thing seemed to roar into their minds, affecting Morgan and Vesper the strongest, and lunged forward to consume them all.

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