Rogue Trader - Rise of the Fallen

Chapter 6 - Reckoning

Notes for fleshing out later:

  • Captain Mayorga woke up with a new drive, new information, and some new crazy.
  • Enginseer Vinter’s personal project is almost complete
  • Anna Casmirre, The Last Child of Grace, was named as Mayorga’s dynastic heir (Though I think Vidame is still the heir to the Warrant of Trade).
  • A meeting was called with the Deathwatch to report Mayorga’s recent discoveries. This meeting was also used to secure Sister Encaterina’s cooperation and prevent future trouble from the battle sister. It went overwhelmingly smoothly. The Deathwatch formally recognized and sanctioned Anna’s future claim to the Dynasty.
  • Sister Encaterina of the Adepta Sororitas swore to protect and serve Anna Casmirre above all else, even if it means taking the fight to the Ecclesiarchy itself.
  • Malachi, the old holy-man that helped Lux restore Mayorga, has since insisted on being with Anna whenever Encaterina is present. Encaterina has seemed vaguely annoyed, but not combative on the issue.
  • Using the Astral Knives and Mayorga house agents, a series of assassinations were unleashed on the Cygnus Dynasty’s heirs.
  • Matthias Casmirre was raised to noble status within house Mayorga and married to one of the lower ranking Cygnus heirs in the line of succession (roughly 12th).
  • A “neutral” meeting with Gabriel Cygnus was arranged to, hopefully, resolve the conflict. The meeting turned hostile and became an ambush where the Cygnus Dynast was murdered.
  • During the argument before he died, Gabriel revealed that his house possessed and was acting on similar information to that held by the Lord Captain. He also seemed to posses an equal or greater loathing than Mayorga’s for the Ecclesiarchy.
  • Every available resource and ally was tapped brutalize Cygnus assets and leave a weak heir in line to take control.
  • A one-sided meeting with this new Dynast resulted in extraordinary concessions being made to house Mayorga in exchange for peace. His only holdout was a refusal to agree to any form of oath of service or fealty.
  • Despite being otherwise weak and terrorized, he became strong-willed, eloquent, and downright fierce whenever the issue of fealty was pressed. It seemed as though he was psychologically incapable of taking such an oath, and Mayorga granted Cygnus this singular concession.
  • The only remaining Cygnus concern was Gabriel’s (now former) flagship, the Ascendancy. It left port when Gabriel was murdered, and has not been seen by Mayorga or Cygnus’ agents or informants since. It is believed to have gone rogue.
  • With his reputation now in ascendance, Mayorga was finally able to have Master Or fill out the Corpus Dei’s navigator staff. The ship now hosts a total of 6 navigators in all.
  • Mere weeks into the process of consolidating Cygnus’ seized assets within the house, the assassinations continued to thin the ranks of house Cygnus.
  • All investigations concluded that no asset or ally of Mayorga was responsible, and the deaths were initially written off as an internal restructuring of power.
  • It wasn’t until nearly half the Cygnus family was dead that the truth came out. The current captain of the Ascendancy was claiming to be the “real” Gabriel Cygnus and Dynast. He was older and looked similar, but hardly identical, to the Gabriel that Mayorga had killed earlier (and whose corpse was now a personal servitor).
  • Unable to track the Ascendancy for the time being, Mayorga absorbed the handful of Cygnus survivors not loyal to captain of the Ascendancy into his own house and secured the holdings that remained intact.
  • Moving to expand the House’s power and influence, Mayorga set a course for Scintilla.
  • Invitations were sent to all the minor noble houses along with most of the key players present on Scintilla.
  • Most notable was the invitation to Lord Sector Marius Hax. Delivered via a custom master-crafted servo-skull and accompanied by a gift of extraordinarily rare (and ancient) amasec/whiskey from Stalinvast, an imperial world lost in M39. Price: nearly 2 million gelt.
  • This (along with his neigh-legendary reputation) allowed Mayorga to host a private dinner/audience. Over this dinner Hax’s blessing was won for Mayorga’s plans within Calixis, though most of the usual “considerations” were required to ensure their burgeoning alliance.
  • The party turned out to be an extravagant social event, even the ship’s own security was compromised to ensure nothing would go wrong. “Vigil” and his best men were brought down and coordinated with Master at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok to secure the location/event.
  • Everything went perfectly, with one significant hitch. Delphi, the Inquisitorial psyker Kerchan and Vidame encountered on Merov, turned out to be of lesser noble house Prudentae. As such she had been indirectly and inadvertently invited.
  • Shortly after arriving she was received by the leaders of house Mayorga: Lord Captain Mayorga, Vidame Mayorga, and Anna, now herself of Mayorga. The moment she entered the private lounge for the meeting, however, she was immediately disturbed by something.
  • Kerchan was the first to notice that both Delphi and Sister Encaterina were reacting in the same manner, though she still had only a moment’s warning before Delphi unleashed her power on the Sororitas.
  • Delpghi’s use of Theosopheny revealed Encaterina as a servant of Chaos. A small host of daemons appeared to attend their master, and a gruesome battle ensued. Though initially overwhelmed Encaterina had an opening to kill Delphi and a number of those still in the room. She never got the chance to exploit that opening, however, as she was stabbed through the throat from behind then cleanly beheaded with a follow-up cut by Anna.
  • The events were covered up with a clever application of distraction and noise, and the party proceeded undisturbed without further incident.
  • Two weeks were lost as the Inquisition did a full sweep and purification of the Corpus Dei, ensuring that the sorcerous sister had not left a deeper corruption in her wake.
  • Anna started having fits and flashes of panic. Lux was able to discern that the problem stemmed from a terrible threat approaching Grace.
  • Or outdid himself, masterfully guiding the ship towards the Grace system. Moreover, the warp seemed to be actively moving and twisting to speed the vessel on its way, an event rarely seen more than once a century. Combined with the Miloslav drive, the Corpus Dei travelled from Scintilla to Grace in a mere three days.
  • This allowed the Corpus Dei to transition into the Grace system before their enemies had managed to even make the trip from the system fringe to the planet itself. Giving the crew time to assess and plan.
  • The threat turned out to be a fleet led by the Ascendancy. With all the crew had learned of Cygnus, the dark secrets of the Mechanicum, and the intrigues of the Inquisition, it was concluded that a large portion of the fleet was comprised of ships belonging to the Phaenonites, a deeply heretical and rogue faction of the Inquisition thought to have been wiped out centuries ago.
  • The true threat, however, was the Enslaver Cage aboard the Ascendancy. Over 200 of the warp-dwelling xenos, ready to devastate Grace, and possibly the Koronus Expanse and beyond if not stopped.
  • Approaching in silence the crew began to work on a plan…
  • Feight used her custom Guncutter to sneak a small strike team aboard the Ascendancy
  • Probes designed to briefly mimic the signatures of large vessels at extreme distances were deployed to create a distraction.
  • The ops squad led by Matthias sabotaged the engines
  • The forward strike team, led by Mayorga and Kerchan, managed to sneak, and then fight, their way to the bridge.
  • Captain Cygnus teleported onto one of the Phaenonite vessels, leaving a sizable team supported by maletek-corrupted Arco-Flagellants to fight off the strike team.
  • The team prevailed, and began taking over the Ascendancy. Firing its weapons at the other Phaenonite and Cygnus vessels, they then focused on ejecting the Enslaver Cage and getting it to the Corpus Dei.
  • A dangerous maneuver was performed under heavy fire, but the hand-off was accoplished while the Ascendancy was battered by its former allies.
  • The Ascendancy was crippled and its shields were down, allowing the Corpus Dei to close to Teleportarium range and extract the remainder of the team.
  • There was no longer any reason for the Phaenonites to remain, and with the flagship rendered useless and the flotilla thrown into chaos they began to withdraw.
  • The Phaenonites deployed a strange warp-based weapon vaguely similar to a torpedo, which appeared to simply eradicate the Ascendancy entirely. They Phaenonite vessels then translated into the warp directly, which would normally be suicide in a system like Grace.
  • The rest of the Cygnus fleet would have escaped as well, but the warp storms surrounding the grace system erupted around the fleeing vessels as they entered the warp, destroying them utterly.
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Chapter 5 - Faith and Flame

Part 1 – Specialists

Before casting off and transitioning into the warp the crew needed to develop a plan of action and prepare accordingly. Shathar was under occupation by effectively hostile Imperial and Inquisitorial forces. Achieving the crew’s goals without risking treason was going to require care and creativity.

On the advice of Warp Guide “Master Or” the team settled on a combination of political deception and espionage. The crew had a few recon teams and specialists to lead them, but their skills were not ideal for a Death World. More worrisome was the recon forces’ relatively light experience in the field. This was not an operation for rookies, no matter how well trained.

As the others began discussing recruiting options, it was Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum that saw the simplest solution. Anna Casmirre was unquestionably qualified for wilderness operations and her father, Ship’s Steward Mathias Casmirre, had the perfect combination of talents for urban work. They would just need find a way to convince the team to follow a 13 year old girl.

Mathias was a given, but there was some concern from Acting-Captain Vidame and High Factotum Edmund Swift over the idea of fielding a 13 year old girl onto a foreign Death World with nothing but a green recon team for backup. Vinter made a strong, logical case for her recruitment. Or saw no problem and was interested to see what could be learned from the undertaking.

Master at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok could hardly think a 13 year old, especially one with Anna’s background, wouldn’t be ready for the field. She had gone to battle more than once herself by that age. It was Choir Master Telepathica “Lux” that closed all discussion on the matter, however. Lux made it clear the girl was both able and ready; to treat her otherwise would be pointless coddling that helped no one.

Edmund was tasked with bringing the Casmirres onto the recon teams. The girl would need to be first and recruited independently of her father. While orders for the recon equipment were being filled and loaded Edmund met with Anna within the Librarium. Edmund, like so many others, underestimated Anna and lost control of negotiations.

It was fortunate for Edmund that Anna’s goals were not directly counter to his own. Exploiting her opening advantage she mined Edmund for information. Before Edmund was able to regain his footing he had indirectly told her nearly all he knew about the Lord Captain’s condition and the full situation on Shathar.

Of course, once Anna had the full picture she was eager to get on board. Anna finalized negotiations with an unconventional move, securing increased compensation and security clauses for her father, rather than for herself. With Anna’s negotiations complete Edmund had little trouble getting Mathias onboard. The issue was making him comfortable with Anna’s deployment.

The teams had been secured and the equipment acquired. The navigators mapped and plotted the course, the soldiers began integration training, and the rest of the crew returned to their duties. Shortly thereafter the Corpus Dei transitioned into the warp.

Part 2 – Smooth Sailing

The warp was in no way cooperative. Breakers crashed into the Gellar field as the warp churned with erratic storm activity for the second half of the voyage. Master Or’s would have handled these conditions without much effort regardless, but with the new equipment the warp may as well have been serene for all the trouble it posed.

What was unsettling were the implications of the storm patterns. The storm’s intensity seemed directly tied to the notional proximity to Shathar. For Shathar to create such a massive disturbance it would have to be in the midst of extreme psyker, warp, or daemonic activity.

Once the ship returned to the materium a system sweep revealed a more extensive fleet presence than anticipated. A small Inquisitorial raider was accompanied by a number of Ecclesiarchal transports and their Chalice-class Battlecruiser escort. It was probably a good thing that the plan did not call for stealth, because the Corpus Dei was hailed by Shathar’s spaceport shortly after the scan was completed.

Part 3 – Talking in Circles

The port’s commander was clearly suspicious, but had no ready justification to flat-out bar a Rogue Trader from doing business. The ship was given a strict approach pattern and tight constraints on its orbital postion that kept it within range of the newly constructed capital’s orbital guns.

Vidame, Edmund, Lux, and Vinter formed the official envoy that shuttled down to the surface. Kerchan made an unprecedented decision to stay behind, concerned that she would be recognized as the most wanted rebel leader on the planet. Mathias was hidden among the cargo containers and slipped off into the shadows of the port city shortly after landing.

Vidame and Edmund engaged the trade representatives over access to Shathar’s psy-crystals and unique biochemical assets (i.e. plants). Vinter stood silently over the proceedings as the official representative of the Adeptus Mechanicus, serving as a harsh reminder that the Ecclesiarchy’s authority had no power over the Mayorga Dynasty.

Vidame and Edmund intentionally worked at cross purposes, bogging negotiations down and spawning days or weeks worth of contractual tangles that would need to be worked through with Shathar’s diplomats. They had secured an excuse to be here for quite some time, hopefully it would be long enough.

All the while Lux presented the appearance of a detached seer in Vidame’s service, idly worrying at the Emperor’s Tarot while completely ignoring everyone and everything else in the room. Of course, in reality Lux was performing a potent divination on the city and their target. While some useful clues to their goal were revealed, an unexpected discovery was about to set a catastrophic series of events in motion.

Part 4 – Warlord Season

Fortunately it was to be a catastrophe for Korshek and his horde. Lux learned that Korshek was not only residing near the port, but that he was unusually vulnerable. The details of how or why remained unknown. Regardless of the details this was an opportunity for the dynasty, and for Kerchan and Lux’s revenge, that could not be ignored.

Kerchan did not take the news as expected. To the outside world she appeared silent and focused, as though planning out the inevitable attack. In reality Kerchan was lashing down her fury with iron discipline. After several long minutes of conflict and reflection the Master at Arms said something not even Lux could have foreseen.

“Get me ”/campaigns/rogue-trader-rise-of-the-fallen/characters/vigil" class=“wiki-content-link”>Vigil."

The words, growled through gritting teeth, revealed the only hint of Kerchan’s emotional state. Kerchan would not jeopardize the mission by returning home. If even one person, whether rebel or loyalist, recognized her everything could unravel and drag the dynasty into a bloody civil war and charges of treason. It disgusted her to keep her hands clean, but her discipline and loyalty to the dynasty outweighed her rage or need for revenge.

A meeting was arranged in a neutral but secure location in the lower promenade, not far from Anna’s favored haunt. Vigil was tense, clearly prepared for an ambush. Without a word of greeting Kerchan thrust a dataslate into his hands.

Row after row of inhuman atrocities were listed below Korshek’s dossier. No effort was made to obscure Kerchan’s connection to the warlord, so Vigil understood immediately. Initially believing that she was proposing a join operation, he was surprised when Kerchan explained that he was to go alone.

His demeanor shifted from wariness to concern as he removed his mask. “You’re sure about this? Will you truly be able to accept your revenge by proxy? In my experience that’s the sort of thing that can drive a person mad.”

Kerchan was stiff, every word forced out while she held to her conviction. “It has to be this way, I can not return to Shathar. My duty here forbids me.”

Vigil could hear that Kerchan was trying to convince herself more than him, and was concerned by the fallout on board if Kerchan cracked. “I imagine then that you will want him taken alive? That will be extra, of course.”

“Wh… well if that’s possible then yes. Wait, extra? What?” Nothing was going as planned or expected, and Kerchan’s rage left her easily put off balance.

“You will owe me for this. You will owe me a great deal if I bring this Warlord back to you alive.”

“Fine, do it. Whatever it takes.”

Vigil had Kerchan supply him with a beacon for the teleportarium, geared up and stowed away on the next shuttle down. Once Kerchan received confirmation of the drop, she settled in for a long, sleepless wait.

Instead she barely had time to get a good angst-ridden anxiety jag going. Mere hours after sneaking off the shuttle Vigil’s beacon began signaling for extraction. Vinter took note of this at the same time and headed to the teleportarium to investigate.

Kerchan explained the basics of what had happened and instructed Vinter to account for the possibility of extra cargo. Curious and effectively uninvolved, Vinter went along without further questions. With the exacting precision that had become expected him, Vinter teleported the hunter and his package back to the ship.

The package, such as it was, was larger than Vigil. Pulling the cloth off his captive, Vigil revealed a mangled but unquestionably alive warlord turned planetary governor. Korshek was completely comatose, and Vigil explained that potent drugs would be required to rouse him any time soon.

Korshek was missing two limbs and appeared to be almost entirely cybernetic. It was now clear how he’d returned from the dead after Kerchan struck him down over a decade ago. Someone had gone to extraordinary expense via powerful connections to perform a cybernetic resurrection.

Kerchan dragged Korshek into a cell and summoned Lux. Lux wasted no time and dissected the usurper’s mind to the most minute detail. Everything Korshek had ever known, even the details he’d long since forgotten, was now at Lux’s beck and call. Lux had not been gentle. The trauma of the experience roused their captive, who found himself trapped in his own personal nightmare.

Lux smiled with vindictive satisfaction. Korshek had one great fear above all others, a fear laden with frustration and shame. That fear now stood over him looking more powerful and terrifying than ever before while he sat helpless in a pool of his own blood and filth.

Lux could not help but grab that fear and fill it with the power of the warp, transforming horror into outright existential terror. Korshek was paralyzed. He just kept dying over and over again in his own mind, looking up at Kerchan Bron Kennok all the while.

Korshek was brought back to crystal clear focus by the press of clan Kennok’s ancestral blades crossed at his neck. Forced by Lux’s ironclad telepathic grip to experience every moment with perfect clarity, denied the mercy of shock or madness, he listened attentively to the last thing he would ever hear.

“Hello Korshek. Goodbye Korshek.” He was almost grateful when the chainswords’ teeth began to spin and chew through his neck.

Lux released his mind just before he died. That was when the two Shathar women noticed the blood. The walls were covered with more blood than a dozen Korshek’s could have contained. More unsettling, at least for the poor crewmen in the vicinity, was how every picture, relief, or staue with eyes was weeping blood as well.

Vinter stepped from the brig’s control room to look over his allies’ handiwork. The unusually human tech-priest ran his fingers through the excess blood. “Hmm, standard low grade overbleed… unfortunate. I had hoped this would be something more interesting.” He then turned to Kerchan and gestured to the corpse. “Are you done that? I want to analyze his equipment.”

Kerchan sheathed her blades and walked out. “He’s all yours, I’ve no more to say to him.”

Part 5 – It’s just a little heresy.

As one would expect, Korshek’s disappearance amidst signs of a violent confrontation did not go unnoticed. In particular, Inquisitor Garthin was furious. More importantly he had little doubt as to who was responsible. Orders were immediately issued to the Corpus Dei not to leave orbit. With even modest evidence of guilt Garthin would be able to execute the entire crew, which was exactly what he planned to do.

Vinter spent the next few days in the Laboratorium before floating a radical idea to the rest of the command staff. He wanted to reanimate Korshek’s corpse and imbue it with an artificial personality loyal to Mayorga. Vinter avoided the precise words, but everyone recognized how deeply heretical such a creation could be.

Constructing a thin but internally logical justification that passed the creation off as merely an advanced servitor, Vinter managed to get approval for his plan. Only six days into Korshek’s “disappearance” his work was complete and the warlord’s lifeless body opened its eyes once more.

After ensuring that the construct was properly briefed and would pass basic scrutiny it was teleported into the wilderness outside the port city. A couple of hours later the “glorious leader of the Red Horde” stumbled through the main gate, calling for his chief lieutenants. It was an easy matter to convince Korshek’s subordinates that he’d been kidnapped and tortured by a rebel cell.

Inquisitor Garthin was suspicious, but “Korshek” refused to see him without his lackeys. This would prevent Garthin from being able to investigate too deeply, as questioning their leader too harshly in public could turn the horde against the Inquisitor. By the time Garthin figured out enough to take action, it would already be far too late.

Part 6 – Emissary

Vinter and Edmund met with the leaders of the tribe of Keepers at the six great holy sites. They warned the Keepers that Korshek was going to break the taboos of Shathar and attempt to conquer the six arks. After years of peaceful diplomatic negotiations this seemed unlikely, but their religious awe of the tech-priest led them accept the possibility.

In addition to warning the Keepers Vinter restored the ark’s ancient defense systems and Edmund gifted the sites’ guardians with hellguns and carapace armor, cementing the Keepers’ technological superiority. Sure enough, only days later Korshek announced a purge of anyone not sworn to him or the Red Redemption creed. First and formost this meant the Keepers.

The Keepers had been informed of the exact time and place where the attacks would occur by a “prophecy” from the emissary of the Omnissiah, Vinter Stum. As such they ambushed the attacking hordes to devastating effect. One assault had been unexpectedly supported by the Adepta Sororitas, however, forcing the keepers at that site to fall back. Despite this singular loss, the Keepers lost less than 5% of their forces in total, while the horde suffered a crippling 85% casualty rate.

This accomplished far more than just crushing the horde’s military power, it turned the 5 great tribes against clan Korshek. Inquisitor Garthin was furious and stormed into Korshek’s private rooms. That’s when he realized everything he had built on Shathar was coming apart. Korshek was dead, killed by his own hand.

While it was not completely clear, recording devices left by Vinter in Korshek’s rooms recorded an argument that appeared to be between Korshek and himself. The fragments of the argument that were intelligible implied that some portion of Korshek’s mind had reawakened. Half-mad from the shock and terror of his last moments and no longer in control of his own mind or body, the broken shell of his psyche become completely unhinged and tried to “kill the impostor”, resulting in his suicide.

Part 7 – Remnant

Mathias had been productive during all of this, and used Lux’s leads to narrow the likely location of the “last bearer of the light’s final flame” to three possibilities. Looking over this report the team concluded that the missionary outpost was the most likely candidate, and deployed Anna and her recon team.

The moment her feet touched earth Anna knew exactly where to go. Moving with singular, focused purpose the team found their target within a few short hours: an old man bearing an aquila, fighting just under a dozen redemptionist recruits. Though the old man was a vastly superior fighter the numerical advantage of his opponents was slowly overwhelming him.

Anna didn’t even hesitate. She fell on the redemptionists with her knife, slitting two of their throats before they were even aware of her, and dispatching two more the handful of survivors could rearrange their formation. By that point the recon team had readied their weapons, executing every last one of them as a firing line.

The old man, though initially surprised, regarded Anna with some sort of recognition. Though the exchange was too quiet for the team’s servo-skull monitor to pick up, they appeared to get along immediately. The team then set off for their extraction point, the old man and the girl conversing all the way.

*Two-Worlds

*Thinning Veil

*Propaganda

*Unity

*Hostage

*The First Lightbearer

*Showdown

*Intercession

*Defection

*Art of the Deal – Vigil

*Mop Up and lockdown

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Interlude 2 - Killing Time

Part 1 – Drydock

After the first two weeks docked at the Outer Lathes Orbital Ring the dynasty’s immediate business had been concluded. The crew of the Black Doge was still being filled out, but all that was left to do about that was wait. The crew had months of enforced shore-leave ahead of them and would need to keep busy.

Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum and F-Eight retreated to the laboratorium to continue whatever “secret project” they’d been obsessing over for the past few months. On occasion they would be joined by Warp Guide “Master Or”. Apparently they required his medicae skills and experience with dangerous experimental surgery.

Despite the almost monthly surgical sessions with Vinter he could not discern much about the point of it all. It was apparent that the Enginseer was working on extraordinarily high-grade implants and overhauling his own form in the process. As a result the Tech-Priest was beginning to look more human than machine.

The most questionable thing he saw was that some of the tech-priest’s implants had been replaced with exceptionally engineered biological equivalents. While rather fringe for a Magos, it was not an unheard of practice among the Magi Biologis of the Genetors. Regardless, pushing the limits of heterodoxy and decorum within the Mechanicum was hardly something worth keeping secret, especially amongst the command staff.

Without more to go on, and not really caring beyond the desire to satisfy his own curiosity, Master Or returned his focus to his own research. He’d begun experimenting with a new medium and was pleased with his progress thus far. He found that working with it calmed the noise and spikes of pain in his mind that otherwise seemed ever-present over the past year or two.

Master at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok had redoubled her training after recovering from her encounter with “Vigil”. She was determined to prevent another such loss from ever happening again. Between her own training regimen, guarding Acting-Captain Vidame Mayorga whenever he left the the dynasty’s compound in the Orbital Ring, and running integration exercises with the new skitarii troops she hammered her life into a tightly scheduled cycle.

Vidame and High Factotum Edmund Swift initiated an extensive campaign of acquisition. Together they worked to ensure the ship would be even better than before once the repairs and refit was complete. The first objective was an upgrade to the Gellar field. This turned out to be a relatively simple matter, and a fifty meter diameter sanctified icon of the Machine God was mounted just below the barrel of the nova cannon to anchor the enhanced wards.

Their second objective was a bit more difficult. After seeing the warp engine in use on the Black Doge Master Or and Vidame consulting with one another. It was determined that a Miloslav Warp Engine would be a worthwhile risk factor if combined with the aforementioned Warpsbane field, just as had been done on the transport. For centuries the Mechanicum has considered the Miloslav designs touched by the profane and just short of outright tech-heresy.

A tempting bargain, the Miloslav designs are more power efficient and tear through the warp at tremendous speeds. The consequence of this is instability and a larger “wake” left in the warp. It is said that some novice navigators trying to use these engines have trapped their vessels in their own wake. This resulted in exponential disruptions that caused catastrophic engine failure and explosion. How anyone would survive to tell such a tale makes this rumor rather suspect, however.

It took two months of careful negotiations and diplomacy before the Master Fabricator gave his assent. Few Miloslav engines are still produced, all of which are only assembled within the Panopticon at the heart of the Lathe world triat. The acting captain and factotum’s efforts paid off, however. Three months into their time in drydock, a Miloslav H-616.b Warp Engine was installed within the heart of the Corpus Dei.

The last piece of their plans for the ship was received much more warmly. With the reduced power draw of the new warp engine and life sustainer the ship could now support an Empyrean Mantle. These devices allow a vessel to become a shadow in the void, nearly invisible to sensors when running silent. Given Mayorga’s preferred tactics such a system would be invaluable.

Such technology was revered and valued by the tech-priests. The only problem was that the parts required to install such a system on a full-sized battlecruiser were extraordinarily hard to gather in sufficient quality. Usually these systems were only installed on raiders and frigates, few naval officers on larger ship were willing to even consider stealth tactics.

This redesign of the Corpus Dei would not have been possible if not for Mayorga’s deep ties to the Adeptus Mechanicus and his dynasty’s considerable successes on their behalf in the past. In light of the Mechanicum’s reverence for the ship and their respect for the dynasty they agreed to pull the required materials together from multiple Calixian forge-world systems on Mayorga’s behalf. It would be the final rite before the ship was released from drydock.

Part 2 – Flicker of the Last Light

While everyone else attended to their own projects Choir Master Telepathica “Lux” remained in retreat. Lux had arranged for Vinter to transfer the Lord Captain and his life support equipment up to his own quarters. Since that time the Astropath had taken on the task of caring for Lord Captain Mayorga comatose body. Lux had not felt the need to inform the others that only his body remained. The blind seer alone could see that Mayorga’s mind and soul were far from his shell, connected by the thinnest of strands.

In the months since leaving the Egarian Watch Fortress Lux had been carefully reaching out along that thread in hope of calling the captain back. Thus far the Choir Master had only been able to strengthen the soul’s remaining connection by the faintest of margins. More time was being bought, but the ultimate conclusion remained unchanged.

Divination had provided nothing but doom, every time the cards fell in the exact same pattern: The Arch-Magos crossed by The Enemy, under the influence of The Mutant The Psyker had led to The Pilot and was doomed to become The Lost. The path ahead looked no better: their Conflict would lead to Exterminatus, which only made way for The Wych to take the lot of them into The Galaxy Inverted… oblivion.

No matter what Lux did the captain was doomed. Mayorga’s death would bring discord and confusion within, leaving the dynasty vulnerable. Their enemies would pounce on the opportunity, once again reducing house Mayorga to ashes along with many of its crew. Without direction or means the survivors would face a hollow, bleak twilight.

It didn’t make sense, too many other paths doomed by this telling remained as bright to the Astropath’s sight. Lux was missing something. “There’s a way out, what is it?” Again the same answer: The Harlequin. “A new idea… as though I didn’t already know that.”

Frustrated and feeling powerless, Lux drifted out to the promenade. The psychic noise of the throng of common crewmen’s thoughts would drown out the tension building in the Astropath’s mind. Lux drew a hood down over blind eyes, no longer looking quite so out of place. A last check of the support system was nothing more than ritual now, his body was not at risk.

Walking amongst laborers, drunks, thugs, and the rest in the lower promenade was a painful relief. A sharp pain dispelling an old, dull ache. It was almost cleansing. Lux relaxed and slipped into a half-meditative state, drifting through the whorls and eddies of the crowd’s current. Then young Anna Casmirre stepped into Lux’s awareness; it was like getting shot in the face with a las-cannon.

The child was looking right at Lux. No, not a child. She stopped being a child before she could walk. She had probably been watching the astropath drift around the lower promenade for some time.

It had been nearly three years since she last saw Lux. Even that had been singular and comparably brief. Yet somehow the young girl recognized the seer through the obscurement of Lux’s robes.

Everything about the girl carried the suggestion of a powerful latent psyker: her past, the omens surrounding her birth, her ability to slip from your awareness even while looking at her. Still, just as three years ago on the blasted plains of Grace, the girl’s soul burned with a purity untouched by the warp.

The girl’s fate was inexorably tied to that of the Lord Captain and the Dynasty. Despite their connection Anna showed no sign of the grim portents that dogged his future. Lux approached Anna. Standing a foot taller than the girl Lux fell into the habit of “looking” down at her face.

Anna looked up at the strange robed psyker with neither the curiosity of a child or the fear of an imperial citizen, only perplexing certainty. Most who looked into the girl’s eyes were disturbed by the certitude and directed will in one so young. Aside from Kerchan, Lux was one of the only people on board that understood Anna’s nature.

Born on brutal worlds, all of them had faced horrors that would kill your average hiver before they were 10. Kerchan killed almost a dozen grown men before she was of age. Lux survived the Lightbearer’s torturous trials of purity. Denied even a name of her own, Anna had learned to evade, counter-stalk, and kill the feral cannibals that populated the wastelands of Grace.

None of them had been given the luxury of a “civilized” childhood, Anna least of all. They had fought tooth and nail for survival from the moment they could walk. Each, in their own way, a dangerous predator in the camouflage of society.

Perhaps that’s why the girl had sought Lux out of the crowd, another predator’s scent within the herd. The two considered one another for a moment before Anna finally spoke. “What brings the Astropathica to the coarse halls of the lower promenade? Gifted with the Imperator’s own light to guide you, and yet still you wander as though lost.”

Lux was genuinely surprised by Anna’s words. Three years ago she barely spoke and only had rudimentary command of Low Gothic. Now Anna spoke with the elocution and cadence of an Ecclesiarch, drifting into fragments of high gothic as though she’d been raised among the savants of the Adeptus Administratum.

The girl’s mind gave nothing away. Anna was a tightly sealed fortress within the warp, not letting even the most banal stray thought escape. It occurred to Lux that a new idea might now be at hand. “I came looking for a new question, the answers I have can not stand.”

Anna grasped the underlying meaning. Her face revealed lines of distress as her hand unconsciously touched the locket worn under her shirt. “You mean… him, don’t you? He’s not getting better is he?”

Anna’s careful cadence and imperious tone were gone. She was clearly being well educated, but the real girl was now visible under the mask. Her voice trailed off and she spoke more to herself than to Lux, “It’s like there’s a light flickering in the distance and it could go out at any moment.”

The missing piece fell into place. The answer had been staring Lux in the face from the start, but the seer had obsessed over the paradoxes instead of seeing the connections. If Lux wanted to see a future for Lord-Captain Mayorga then the key would be to look through threads where that future was strong.

“Actually you are what I needed to find, Anna. Come with me.” Anna followed Lux to the astropathic choir chambers without further question or comment. She took in every detail of the route and the room, and would have little trouble slipping through security to return if she ever had the need.

Lux gestured to a seat at the table used for the more important divinations. Anna sat while analyzing the complex wards that directed the flow of the immaterium through the chambers. She could see what Lux was planning though not why.

Lux wasted little time. A strong pulse from the Astropath cleared the lingering echoes of the work undertaken a few hours before. Then the cards began to flow with the energies of the warp as Lux looked to the Mayorga of Anna’s future.

As Lux shuffled the crystal-woven cards a new pattern emerged as words formed unbidden within the seer’s mind. The Navigator, crossed by The Martyr and influenced by the The Governor, faced The Arch-Magos. Having endured Exterminatus he now approached Judgement. Guided by The Harlequin they would invert The Changer of Ways together to stand beside The Traitor to return the light of The Astronomicon.

As Lux felt the last card fall everything came together effortlessly. Return to where your light was first lost and face that which you have fled. Only when you find the last pure bearer of the light’s final flames will the lost reawaken.

The first part was clear; it was time to return to Shathar and face old enemies, or possibly old sins. The second part was less certain. Had some of Lux’s old order survived under the purges of the Red Horde and the witch-hunts of the Inquisition? Or did they seek something older still? The cards also suggested more than just the Lord-Captain would be restored, which held broader implications.

“Thank you Anna. You may go now.” Lux was introspective, barely considering the surrounding world.

Anna looked at the distracted psyker with vague annoyance. “Anything I should know Lux?”

“I don’t know.”

Something in Lux’s distant tone revealed to Anna what had happened. Without another word she was gone, nothing but a shadow slipping away and into the Librarium. It was time to review the message in Lux’s cards.

Part 3 – A Night to Die For

The presence of Rogue Traders in the Lathes is not unusual, though it is rare for there to be more than two or three present at any given time. An extended stay on the orbital ring station ensures a never ending flow of invitations and petitions to the Rogue Trader and his or her immediate subordinates. Thus it was not terribly unusual when the Pendleton dynasty invited the command staff to an event celebrating the success of their recent endeavor in the Heretic Stars.

The Pendletons were a brother and sister that alternated possession of the warrant each year, one becoming subordinate and the other rising to Rogue Trader of the dynasty with each cycle. This event was to be such a ceremony as well. As the Pendletons were a fellow ally of the Chorda dynasty, and Aspyce was attending in person, Mayorga was politically obligated to present a strong showing.

Ultimately the entire command staff opted to attend. Lux foresaw a locus of important upheaval and a chance at great gains for the dynasty at the Pendleton event. The event began normally enough, at first it just seemed like a harmless opportunity to build the dynasty’s relationships within Calixis.

Then Aspyce Chorda began speaking with Vidame Mayorga. A combination of built-up stress and a frustration with one of the other attendees had led Vidame to overindulge… significantly. In mere minutes Vidame managed to deride Chorda’s ruthless practices in the Expanse, express contempt for her inability to keep control of Grace, question the validity of her Warrant, and then hit on her so crudely that his own bodyguard nearly hit him.

Kerchan extracted the wayward Mayorga from the situation before more damage could be done. Fortunately his behavior was heavily mitigated by his inebriation; he was so drunk and his speech so slurred that Aspyce was not certain he’d actually said all that he had. His sloppy, groping advances required no interpretation, however.

The entire staff went into damage control before a Dynastic War was begun. First High Factotum Edmund Swift diplomatically engaged with Chorda’s people in order to distance the dynasty from “The Dynast’s drunken cousin”. Lux left a few key impressions on the other witnesses that would cast events in the best possible light. Kerchan simply found a room, some chems, and a “companion” to lock Vidame down where he couldn’t cause any more trouble. Or provided an intriguing distraction by loudly debating disturbing details of the navigator eye’s uses in combat.

Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum saw only mitigation that would blunt a very severe blow to the dynasty’s connections and reputation. Not satisfied with merely limiting the damage a means to repair the root of the problem came to him. Vinter’s action would have been tremendously dangerous for a normal human, for a Tech Priest it was nothing short of abject insanity.

Vinter Stum attempted to seduce Aspyce Chorda. While he certainly looked more human than any other Tech Priest in the Lathes (or Calixis, for that matter) his suggestion would have horrified any remotely normal person. Banking on the legendary ennui, decadence, and desperation for novel stimulation among the highest levels of Imperial society Vinter walked right up to Chorda and made an offer that actually caused a merchant eavesdropping nearby to faint.

It worked. A combination of unexpected charm, audacity, and clever duplicity led to one of the weirdest nights the Lathes have ever seen. Once Vinter had access to Chorda he was able to apply a range of chems to manipulate her further. Once her guard was truly lowered it was a small matter to break through the security on her implants and plunder a number of valuable secrets for future leverage against Chorda. The next morning she didn’t even remember the near-disaster with Vidame anymore.

Once Vinter left the event to deal with Chorda, the four remaining officers returned their attention to the Pendletons. As the hosts made their rounds Kerchan found herself chatting with, Victor Mordh, a charming aristocrat who seemed to have enough wit and combat experience to stay interesting.

Then he said something strange. “Does no one know that the Pendletons are slavers for the Red Schola, or does no one simply care?” Seeing the “What the hell am I supposed to say to that?” look on Kerchan’s face Victor smiled and shrugged. “I guess it doesn’t matter, they’re not going to survive the night anyway.”

The offhand comment, the way he stood, the tone in his voice, even the fluid motion of his shoulders all came together for Kerchan in that moment to unmask “Vigil”. Checking her emotions, Kerchan just gave the killer a non-committal noise in response. The next few hours were spent keeping Victor engaged in conversation, giving her time to study him in detail and confirm her conclusions.

This also foiled the original plan, allowing the party to end without incident and the Pendletons to leave still very much alive. That night a game of cat and mouse played out between Victor and Kerchan through the entertainment and hab sections of the station. Finally Kerchan became disgusted with the games and retired to a nearby bar, only to find Victor ahead of her with drinks ready for the both of them.

Kerchan was having no more of it. She turned and left, her mood thoroughly fouled. A few hours later news that the Pendletons had been murdered spread throughout the station.

Part 4 – Kingmaker

Upon hearing news of the murder Vidame and Edmund investigated the fate of the Pendleton Warrant and discovered an opportunity. None of the potential Pendleton claimants had been prepared for this turn of events. The siblings were only in the same region once a year at most and always under heavy security; no one thought it possible for them to die together.

There were a half-dozen potential claimants in the Pendleton Dynasty, though half of them would never be able to gather the resources or support to challenge the two most likely candidates. Malthus was the most aggressive of the three and had more resources to put into his bid for the Warrant. Iris was more cautious and didn’t have the resources of Malthus, but would have the easiest time gathering support for her claim among the rest of the family.

If Malthus and Iris got into an extended deadlock over the warrant, they could have become weakened enough to be overtaken by Thaddeus. Thaddeus was clever, wealthy, and resourceful enough to make a claim if his more powerful relatives dragged each other down. He was unlikely to even attempt a claim unless the opportunity presented itself.

Edmund checked into Iris and Malthus to assess their personalities and potential as allies. The Pendleton dynasty was both smaller and divided, thus both had much to gain from Mayorga’s assistance. With vocal support from the Mayorga Dynasty and access to its connections Malthus would be able to overcome Iris’ influence and secure his claim. With the resources of a larger dynasty behind her, Iris would overshadow Malthus’ resources and render him irrelevant.

Further investigation showed that Malthus was well suited as an ally to Chorda. He was sure to continue or even expand the Pendleton’s (almost certainly illegal) slaver operations. Accordingly he was also more likely to thrive as a Rogue Trader, bringing Mayorga greater wealth and influence for their investment.

Conversely Iris was the more cautious of the two and lacked the stomach for the slave trade. She would most likely reduce the Pendleton holdings and its overall power upon taking control by disbanding any excessively criminal endeavors. If she could survive the first 3-10 years without catastrophe or assassination Iris would be able to rebuild the Pendleton Dynasty as a much more stable and legitimate power with strong diplomatic ties.

Thaddeus was too uncertain and would have required a much larger investment for a smaller payoff. His candidacy was discarded out of hand. Ultimately it was decided that backing Iris was a safer, more reliable play. Agents were dispatched to establish a compact with a very surprised and grateful Iris Pendleton.

Iris agreed to generous terms for Mayorga and to turn over the less abominable slaver operations (such as raiding feral worlds to sell powerful conscripts to the Imperial Army) to Chorda, increasing Chorda’s favor of both Pendleton and Mayorga. In return Mayorga poured extensive funds into Iris’ accounts. The dynasty’s liquid assets temporarily doubled overnight and most of that money was now Iris’. It was then a small matter to flex her diplomatic strength and crush any rival claims to the warrant.

With a few whispers, a little investigation, and a sizable investment the Mayorga dynasty had raised their own ally to Rogue Trader, permanently damaged the slave trade in Calixis, and made a respectable profit. All this without even leaving the orbital ring or getting their hands dirty.

Part 5 – Shadows of the Past

The Corpus Dei had been docked at the Outer Lathe Orbital Ring for over six months. Repair and overhaul were complete and the new equipment had been installed. Just connecting to the navigator pod was enough for Warp Guide “Master Or” to feel the difference. The seething power of the new warp drive was simply begging to be used while the new warding on the Gellar field made the process far smoother, the controls more responsive.

A quick shakedown exercise in tandem with the Black Doge allowed Vidame and Kerchan to assess the effectiveness of the new Empyrean Mantle. The results were better than they’d dared to hope; the Corpus Dei was a shadow in the void. The only issue was a lack of sensors, and there was some discussion of switching to a W-240 Passive Array system.

The design issue would have to be resolved later, they had already spent too much time in dock while their Dynast languished on life support. Lux had a lead. It was a strange, vague, and dangerous lead but it was all they had. It was time for Kerchan and Lux to return homeā€¦

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Interlude 1 - Lost Beyond Time

Part 1 – Out of Space

With the immediate crises behind them (or at least on hold) the crew of the Corpus Dei began investigating the alien domain they’d escaped into. Acting Captain Vidame Mayorga order Enginseer Stum to divert maximum power to the auger array and began an intensive sensor sweep. Most of what the sensors returned was unintelligible. In all the noise a few things could still be ascertained, though with considerable difficulty.

The most obvious issue was a large region (about 5 times the size of Sol) that was showing some sort of distortion. The strange pattern that revealed this was slowly attenuating; according the the Enginseer’s calculations it would resolve in roughly 5 standard days. Within this distortion was a large planet (roughly 3 times the size of earth but of similar mass) that appeared to return a relatively high energy signature and unusual composition. Beyond this everything else seemed an endless expanse of nothing in every direction.

At the same time Warp Guide “Master Or” attempted to gain some insight on the metaphysics of the area. The warp could barely be seen or felt, and any attempt to channel his navigator abilities was exhausting. Not seeing any other solution Master Or opened his fragmented mind to the disjointed connection he had established with the Magoros Array.

The strain on Master Or’s mind and body were almost overwhelming. Had he not been suspended in the ship’s navigation pod the navigator would have been left prone and reeling on the ground. Despite the pain and disorientation, however, the navigator was able to find a few useful bits of information.

There was some sort of powerful connection on the nearby planet along with a distant flicker of something 5-10 days travel away (at his best estimate, given the circumstances). More importantly there was some powerful disturbance approaching the ship. More unsettling was that there didn’t seem to be a point of origin or direction from this disturbance. It felt as though it would simply appear from nothing around the ship in the next few hours.

The crew assembled their accumulated information and discussed their options. There was a great deal of trepidation about any plans to go into the distortion to investigate the planet, even more so regarding the idea of actually sending a team down to the strange world. Despite their concerns the damage to the ship along with dwindling supplies made the opportunity too valuable to ignore.

The ship moved into orbit around the apparently rogue planet. The ship began an in-depth augury of the world and launched a squadron of chiroptean scout ships with fighter escorts to investigate as well. The strangest discovery was how all the readings looked more like single snapshots of data rather than a proper log; the energy signature of the planet was perfectly static. While that was disturbing and bizarre the rest of the information was much more interesting.

Part 2 – Sleepers Beyond Time

The planet was nothing but a hive of perfectly ordered racks of alien stasis pods. The hive blocks were built around a planetary core that had been modified into the same sort of pseudo-organic energy source discovered in the Magoros system. There were a handful of areas that seemed to house some other equipment, but sensors could not penetrate the walls of those structures. Aside from a static and apparently endless flow of power the planet was silent and motionless.

A test of the teleportarium showed that it was completely inert within the alien space, unable to access the warp as a medium for transit. Kerchan and Vidame gathered the best skitarii soldiers that were still in one piece and organized a team to scout the surface. The troops were loaded into a shuttle and sent down while the crew prayed they didn’t wake anything up.

The troops found the planet instinctually disturbing and nearly lost control. Thankfully the skitarii were disciplined and avoided complications. Their reports indicated that the technology and structures were all of xenos origin. They did not investigate the pods directly but tentatively concluded the inhabitants to be xenos as well. The troops were concerned that the xenos machines built into the stasis hive were watching them, tracking their behavior.

It was clear to Kerchan that her troops were only going to hold it together for so long before they did something potentially disastrous. Recalling the scout troops she and the command staff prepared to head down themselves. Master at Arms Kennok, Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum, and Warp Guide “Master Or” headed down to the surface with Flight Marshal F-Eight on her converted gun-cutter.

The moment the team hit the ground Vinter scanned the area via Warp Auger while Or established bearings for the connection he had felt earlier. Vinter immediately saw why the troops had been so on edge; even asleep the aliens filled the planet’s well with more background psychic energy found anywhere outside the astronomican. If the patterns hadn’t been so calm it’s unlikely any human would have survived landing.

With the navigator leading the way the team found a familiar, if disjointed, sight. The Fortress Array’s main hub had been ripped from its housing and displaced onto this strange planet. Based on the size and connections present it was clear that this had been where the Egarian Device had previously resided.

Master Or approached the hub. He could feel that it had been disrupted by the transition and its disconnection from the rest of the Egarian Watch Fortress, but that it still held enormous power. Unconcerned with the risks, the Navigator opened his warp eye and began attempting to attune to the damaged array.

Part 3 – Alien Insight

Meanwhile the Enginseer Prime attempted to open a dialogue with the Xenos machine spirits. An initially hesitant exchange of basic mathematic principals unfolded into a complex language of tech that bridged both species and era. The details of the conversation were known only to Vinter and the xenos machine, but the ultimate result was material assistance from the Egarian machines followed by a request that the “People of the Emperor” conclude their business, take “The agreed upon device”, and leave.

Shortly thereafter Master Or stumbled away from the broken array with a maniacal grin, his eyes wild with xenos knowledge. Their business on the stasis-crypt planet complete, the crew returned to their battered ship. Before further action could be taken, however, the Guardian of the Egarian Gates unfolded into the space around the ship.

The Corpus Dei was practically cradled within the tendrils of the otherworldly monstrosity. With only moments to act before it tore the vessel apart, Master Or attempted to replicate the communion he had seen Lord Captain Mayorga perform with the beast almost a year before.

The first wave of impressions of the almost godlike alien mind nearly knocked the Navigator unconscious. Reeling from the crushing presence of the Guardian’s mind his initial attempts to placate the thing faltered. Feeling the creature’s tendrils running along the ship’s hull Master Or switched to a new approach. Mustering every ounce of will he could gather, Or invoked his authority as a gatekeeper and rebuked the creature for failing in its duties.

The logic was straightforward enough to translate cross even the most alien perspectives. Believing that it faced a legitimate authority, the creature acquiesced and returned to its post deep within the heart of the network.

Part 4 – The Common Man’s Vigil

The ship was again spared the Guardian’s wrath but the strain had not been kind to the Navigator. Blood ran from his eyes, nose, and mouth as Master Or lay dazed on the floor. With some ministration from Vinter he was able to recover enough to point the way to the Magoros gate before retiring to the med-bay for the next few days.

The ship drifted towards the gate at low power. This allowed the Chief Enginseer to direct extensive repairs in preparation for the return to the materium. Before the ship left the gate network the Enginseer had used the materials acquired from the Egarian AI to temporarily reconstruct the Void Shield Array, greatly increasing the vessel’s chances for survival.

Once the ship transitioned into the Magoros system, it would be a small matter to set a course for the Jericho Gate. By the time the ship reached the gate Master Or would be fully recovered and could complete the voyage back to Erioch with little trouble. Then the ship could finally get more thorough repairs and divest themselves of the Egarian Device.

Before any of that could happen, there was a more immediate concern to address. While a complex weave of disinformation, bribes, and careful management had kept morale up thus far the crew’s conviction had become fragile. One major disruption could bring the entire web of propaganda and misdirection crashing down on the officer’s heads.

With so many crewman already dead and the people of the Corpus Dei already destabilized, news that an apparent serial killer had continued to confound the ship’s constabulary and only grown bolder with each kill was the last thing anyone wanted to hear. The command crew could no longer leave this issue for the ship’s lower peacekeepers to resolve, and would have to investigate the problem themselves.

In fact, Acting Captain Vidame Mayorga made it quite clear he wanted the killer’s head on a platter in his office and in short order. High Factotum Edmund Swift leveraged his informants and agents within the habs while Master at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok physically investigated his leads.

The pattern that emerged revealed a few details about the killer:

  • The killer was hunting down people that had foul reputations. Some were just generally described as “assholes”, while others had reputations for abuse or exploitative criminal behavior.
  • The hiller had no problems taking down dangerous prey, a number of his victims were skilled fighters
  • The killer gave more leeway to women, and their deaths were far more merciful. The women that had been killed were all exceptionally vile: abusive madames, women who horrifically exploited their own children, etc.
  • The profiles of the male vs. the female victims along with the manner of their murders indicated that the killer was almost certainly male.
  • The killer was careful about the location of his kills. He was obscuring his own location.
  • The killer knew technology exceptionally well. He never showed up as even a shadow on the ship’s security or surveillance systems. Some security devices had even inexplicably “slept” while the killer took a victim nearby.
  • The killer’s favored weapon was a primitive blade, though there were signs of more advanced technology, such as shock weapons, used to subdue the victims first.

Looking at the data they had gathered, Kerchan1 was able to deduce the hab-block of the killer. With his continual success there had been a few slips. A few victims had been taken from one area only to be killed much farther away, and the scrambled security devices from other incidents revealed a trajectory of the killer’s approach.

With an area to focus their efforts on the factotum and master-at-arms came up with a characteristically bold plan. Edmund would spread foul rumors of a slaver matching Kerchan’s general description kidnapping children from the neighboring habs. Edmund finished priming the bait by throwing in a few planted leads to make tracking the “slaver” down manageable.

Kerchan was fitted with hidden trackers and transmitters (in case the killer somehow got the drop on her) and began “stalking” the neighboring habs. The rumors had apparently struck a nerve. The killer took the bait almost immediately, far faster than anyone had anticipated.

1 At least I think it was Kerchan that made the critical logic test success, it may have been Vinter.

Part 5 – First Blood

Only the reflexes honed over years of near-constant warfare and a youth spent stalking the monstrous wildlife on the death-world of Shathar saved Kerchan from being ambushed and taken down without a fight. She didn’t even have time to unsheathe her blades. Only feeling a prickle of electricity from behind Kerchan barely had time to shift her weapons within their harness to stop the shock-sword from shattering her fifth vertebrae and electrocuting her into unconsciousness.

With the ambush deflected Kerchan slipped around to free her swords of their ruined harness and face her attacker. The man wore fine clothes and an ornate clockwork mask. He was unexpectedly of medium build despite his considerable strength. A quick read of his fighting style suggested conflicting conclusions; his opening strikes carried the ruthless aggression of a street thug, his defensive tactics were idiosyncratic to the dueling styles of Malfi Nobility, and his closing strikes were specifically those of an imperial bounty hunter.

The killer remained silent as he pressed his advantage. Kerchan deflected the worst of the assault before the shock-weapon slipped through her defenses and left her bleeding and winded. The injury was minor, even considering the electricity backing up the strike, but first blood had gone to her opponent for the first time in years. Furious at this insult Kerchan swung a wide, wild arc in front of her. Drawing the killer in for what appeared to be an easy disarm she reversed the arc at the last moment and sent the shock weapon flying into a gutter a dozen meters below.

Still reclaiming her breath the master-at-arms called for backup over her comm-bead. Unknown to her the signal was completely suppressed, no one could here her call for help. Though disarmed of his primary weapon the killer was still far from unarmed. With a casual flick of the wrist he fired a fusillade of darts from his sleeve. Kerchan barely dodged the unquestionably toxic payload, twisting around to bring her blades down in a powerful downward chop-and-draw attack that would have opened the killer’s torso in four different directions.

The flourish and aggression of Kerchan’s assault cost her. With what appeared to be his bare hands, the killer brushed the blades away in a half-circle and snatched one of the swords from Kerchan’s hands. This limited victory did not come without a price of its own, however. As the killer adjusted his grip on the newly acquired chainsword his opponent drew her remaining blade back and across, opening his bicep up with a spray of blood and forcing him to use both hands to maintain control of his weapon.

Now insulted twice-over, Kerchan was in a fury. Continuing to hammer away at the wounded killer’s defenses she screamed for him to return her clan’s ancestral weapon between threats of escalating physical improbability. Growing uncertain about both the situation and his chances if the fight continued, the killer spoke for the first time.

“Fine.” was all that preceded the return of Kerchan’s blade via her ribcage and right lung, effectively sheathing the chainsword in its owner’s torso. The pain was only momentary as shock set in almost immediately. Kerchan choked as blood poured up from her chest and out from her mouth. The last clear image in Kerchan’s vision was the twirl of the killer’s coat as he fled, followed by the sight of a lake of blood at her feet flying towards her face before everything drifted into darkness.

Though already alerted by the screams moments before, with the killer gone Edmund and the security team could hear the wet choking over Kerchan’s vox connection and see her plummeting vital signs. The team rushed to her aid, getting their commanding officer to the med-bay with all possible haste.

Master at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok should not have survived. Instead she punched Death in the face, stomped its head into the curb, spat in its face, and told death not to return until he’s grown a pair. Covered in bandages and with a wet rasp to her voice, Kerchan was back in action the next morning.

Part 6 – Professional Courtesy

With a genetic sample and more insight into the killer’s tactics added to their previous information it only took an analysis of water, power, and waste usage to track the killer to his safehouse. The perimeter was secured and a raid sent into the building. Numerous witnesses to the killer’s day-to-day activities were taken into custody, but of the killer himself only a letter addressed “To Ship’s Officer Kennok” remained.

“My Lady Kennok,

I must apologize for the insult of the wound I left with you at our last encounter. Had I possessed an inkling as to your true identity that night I would never have sought to harm you; I have nothing but respect for the leadership of this vessel. Indeed, the very fabric of this ship’s society and well-being of all its people hinges on the strength and integrity of you and your fellow officers.

Unfortunately my task here is not yet complete, there is still so much filth corrupting the otherwise pure society within this herald of the Omnissiah’s truth. However, your recent involvement in my work suggests that I may have overstepped and allowed my zeal to undermine my purpose. Accordingly I will retire from my work until I have regained a proper perspective and the ship’s community has regained some stability. You won’t see my hand at work again any time soon, I promise you.

Given the nature of your work and place on the ship I know you can not always intervene in every matter that you would like to see resolved. Should you need some problem element on this vessel resolved, be it by a pool of blood or in chains, I would be happy to assist when your attention is needed elsewhere. I have arranged a blind dead-drop for any messages you might wish to leave, the details of which are attached.

I leave you with my sincerest apologies along with my wishes for your swift and comfortable recovery. I dearly hope this incident will not leave you with any personal animosity towards me. I humbly ask you to consider that I only assaulted your esteemed personage because I had been led to believe you were actually the slaver Grishka, whom I now thankful to realize never actually existed.

Sincerely,

Vigil"

Intentionally or not the letter revealed yet more insight into the identity and nature of its author:

  • Obviously, the man considers himself a vigilante rather than a serial killer
  • His word choice and sentence construction falter in numerous places, revealing an awkward attempt to mimic the correspondance of actual imperial nobility.
  • He appears to be an imperial convert to the Cult of the Omnissiah, or at the very least making a serious attempt to act as one.
  • His respect for legitimate authority is genuine and could be used to manipulate him
  • He may very well be terrified of Kerchan, or at least the consequences of his fight with her.
  • He has a much stronger will to live than most killers (profesional, murderous, or otherwise).
  • His “dead-drop” is for electronic messages, and the complexity of its design indicates that he’s either an ordained lay-practitioner of the Omnissiac faith or is on the verge of being a Heretek.

Testing the waters a handful of messages through this “dead-drop” led to a tentative back-and-forth in the last few days before arriving at the Deathwatch Fortress of Erioch. Nothing of substance was communicated, but a means of two-way communication without revealing a location (yet anyway) was set up for future use (or exploitation).

Interrogations/interviews of “Vigil’s” neighbors uncovered little of use. Descriptions were highly varied and frequently conflicted. One witness even insisted that the only person living in the killer’s safehouse was a woman. The only details of any interest were in his generally benign day-to-day activities.

  • He frequently played music that, according to Master Or’s surprising knowledge of the arts, is generally regarded as a technically brilliant composition rooted in the study of mechanically powered instruments, but that was otherwise regarded as awkward and too reliant on the tropes of its time.
  • He was not terribly social, but was quite handy at fixing up various maintenance issues within the hab complex that cropped up over the past few weeks.
  • Study of his work within the hab revealed a talent for mechanics and proper observation of the requisite rituals, but only basic skill with more complex infrastructure

The only interesting discovery came from a 12 year old boy living on the floor above the killer. The boy admitted that he’d received a gift from “Vigil” after his father was beaten nearly to death in a street or bar fight of some sort.

  • The gift was a masterfully handcrafted personal chronometer2, easily worth more than 6 months of the family’s wages.
  • A quick check with Vinter revealed that the child’s father was still recuperating at a nearby “free clinic” rather than the ship’s official medical facilities.
  • Further questioning revealed that the boy’s father had grown considerably more violent over the past few months (coinciding with the ship’s approach to the Eye of Terror).
  • With some coaxing and negotiation the boy finally admitted that on the night before his father was nearly killed he had severely beaten the child in a drunken rage.
  • The chronometer was clearly crafted by “Vigil”, many of the same tools used in the maintenance repairs were used in the construction of the chrono.
  • Any suggestion that the child might not be allowed to keep “Vigil’s” gift was met with exceptional resistance (whether he was allowed to keep the gift or if it was taken for further study needs to be determined)

With all of this information compiled, assurance that the matter was at least temporarily resolved along with the fact that the ship had reached the Deathwatch fortress the issue was put on hold to be addressed at a later time.

2 Better known in the real world as a pocketwatch

Part 7 – Bloody Plans

During the return from the depths of the warp there had been considerable discussion and concern over the Egarian Device. If the technology of the device was in any way tied to the Golden Throne then it was a potential threat to the Imperium itself. The simple fact that it was of xenos construction made this risk even more disturbing. Warp Guide “Master Or” even theorized that such a device might be an attempt to supplant the Emperor himself.

Given the Deathwatch’s particular purpose and specialization, however, it was determined that it would be better to let them study the device and determine its fate. The distance of the Jericho Reach from Holy Terra was an additional comfort.

Once the Corpus Dei docked at the Erioch Watch Fortress problems started the moment the cargo pods were plugged into the docking tubes. A confusion in communications and conflict between the dock workers nearly allowed Inquisitor of the Chamber Hezika Carmillus to take possession of the Egarian Device before the Deathwatch could claim it.

Unfortunately for the Inquisitor, the disruption of the mission within the Watch Fortress’ very walls sent Apothecary and Sanguinary Priest Cassius into a fury. Dressed only in a white robe the Deathwatch Blood Angel stormed into the loading dock with fangs barred as the whites of his eyes began to redden.

The terrifying sight of a furious space marine on the verge of the Red Thirst put the fear of the Emperor himself into every servant and laborer in the fortress, regardless of their particular loyalties. While efforts were made to appease the Apothecary the device was delivered without further complication.

Part 8 – The Black Doge

Watch Commander Mordigael was disturbed by the news that followed along with the Egarian Device. The Warden of the Gates was in a coma, the daemon-world fortress, and escalating internal conflict were only outweighed by the relief that the device had been recovered intact and (presumably) uncorrupted.

Negotiations over the details of compensation took over a week. This was less a matter of hardball-tactics than the fact that the ship needed time to rest and some of the Deathwatch’s equipment needed to be removed from the vessel anyway. With little to distract the crew, it made sense to work out all the details as completely as possible.

Some unconventional offers from the Deathwatch did complicate the process, however. While they were happy to pay in any number of forms, the Ordo Xenos had recently seized an Orion Class Star Clipper, the Black Doge from cold-trade smugglers which was on offer as a portion of the payment.

After some deliberation the offer was accepted and the clipper transport added to the fleet. Thanks to shrewd negotiations by High Factotum Edmund Swift an archeotech upgrade to the Corpus Dei’s life support systems was rolled into the same agreement. Some small personal additions were made to the remainder of the payment and the agreement was finalized. A few more days were spent installing the new equipment and transitioning command of the Black Doge.

One unsettling detail was uncovered regarding the new addition to the fleet. A death cult had taken root amongst the lower crew, most likely led by members of the Astral Knives. This resulted in a fanatical but perpetually smaller crew (murder and sacrifices eventually lead to a fairly consistent equilibrium). The situation would require constant monitoring, but was potentially quite useful, especially given the dynasty’s fairly positive relationship with the Astral Knives.

Part 9 – Homebound

With all business concluded, the Corpus Dei and the Black Doge set course through the Jericho Gate back to the Lathes. Even the repairs done at Erioch were limited to key systems and points of integrity, extensive care and ministration was needed.

The most immediate concern was the dangerously thin crew both ships were now operating with. Erioch could not supply additional crew to fill out the ranks of the Black Doge and thus a temporary detachment had to be sent over from the already thinned crew of the Corpus Dei. Only the Lathes could supply the repairs, equipment, and skilled crew in sufficient supply for the Mayorga Dynasty’s fleet.

The crew would spend months in the Lathe orbital docks while the Corpus Dei was repaired and reconsecrated. While during the later months of this period the Black Doge would be able to provide support to the dynasty’s burgeoning trade network, the command staff would have more pressing concerns of their own…

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Chapter 4 - Eye of the Storm

Part 1 – A Gaze into the Eye

Following the awakening of the last Egerian, the Deathwatch contracted Mayorga to retrieve the device the creature described. The Lord Captain’s attunement to the Egerian network was apparently required to access it.

The ship was refitted with a full barracks, teleportarium, and emergency-failsafe gellar field. In addition, a Deathwatch killteam detachment was assigned to assist with the mission.

The vessel first returned to the Lathes for further resupply and to acquire more troops. Using their pull with the Mechanicum and their increased wealth the dynasty was able to acquire elite skitarri storm troopers and add highly skilled specialists to almost every staff segment (crew quality increased to 40).

All the while the Egerian and Warp Guide “Master Or” worked to find the location and warp route of their destination. They finally concluded that it was in the fringe of the Eye of Terror. On hearing this Vinter recalled seeing Exporator records indicating that the world had become a deamon-world.

Despite considerable concern over this revelation, the crew set course for the fringe around the Eye of Terror. This turned out to be the most difficult navigational challenge Warp Guide “Master Or” had ever faced. Progress was slow, and numerous warp disturbances over the first two months of the voyage threatened morale and the ship’s health.

Part 2 – Dark Salvation

Then things got worse. First the ship was nearly ambushed in the warp by a large Chaos flotilla. Only a remarkable counter-ambush, the ship’s Nova Cannon, and a lot of luck kept the venture from ending right then and there. Then as the ship moved deeper into the fringe progress practically stopped. Two more months passed without any measurable progress towards their goal.

All the while, Vinter and Feight spent all their free time in the ship’s laboratorium working on some expansive R&D project. Three months into the voyage Vinter had already designed two extensive surgical redesigns on himself, having Master Or perform the actual surgery. Following this the Enginseer emerged looking much more human than before… an unusual change for any Tech-Priest, even a Genetor.

Finally Master Or came to a horrible conclusion; he and the ship were lost. Wandering blind in the warp is tremendously dangerous at the best of times. Unable to locate the light of the Astronomican, the Navigator could not even see if they were heading deeper into or away from the Eye of Terror anymore.

An emergency meeting was called, and it was decided that dropping out of warp to reorient was too dangerous this close to the eye. There was no question that some way to reliably flee the fringe was required though.

A strange message appeared on Mayorga’s dataslate: “Give a sign, and I can awaken Or’s instincts.” The situation was sufficiently dire that Mayorga didn’t hesitate or question the providence of the offer. “Do it.” was all anyone in the room heard, and Master Or underwent a now all too familiar change.

A cruel grin broke across the Navigator’s face, “No problem, I’ve got this.” A few days later Or’s id guided the ship back out of the fringe. Moments after the ship dropped back into the materium the Navigator regained control of his mind. Too focused on the task at hand to worry about the lost time, he immediately began preparing a new course to the lost daemon-world.

Part 3 – Future Past

Valuable lessons had apparently been learned from the recent near-catastrophe. Once the journey resumed progress was much smoother. It would only be another 30 days to reach their destination.

As the ship got closer, the warp disturbances became more pronounced and disturbing. Whole sections of the ship were melted, warped, or rearranged without warning and only the creative insights of Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum allowed the vessel to recover. The worst was the “un-mutiny” stemming from some sort of time-slippage.

Everyone on board was suddenly two-days in the past. The crew retained a surreal but seemingly-full recollection of the events that had been “lost” with no evidence of those events having ever occurred. Many details were blurry. On further investigation approximately 2-6 additional hours were found to be missing from most people’s memories at the end of the lost time.

Finally the lost events were reconstructed with a disturbing revelation; there had been a mutiny against the command staff. No clear cause to the mutiny could be found in the reconstructed memories but the results became quite clear. The Lord-Captain “was to have been”1 tortured before his execution via airlock, while most of the other officers were simply killed in the fighting. A handful of others escaped in a gun-cutter, but had no way out of the warp…

While these events effectively never transpired and no cause was ever found, these discoveries led to an atmosphere of paranoia and uncertainty. Extraordinary effort was put into reinforcing morale and the rest of the voyage was spent waiting for everything to go to hell.

1 Future-past tense is awkward no matter how you slice it.

Part 4 – A World Apart

Until this time the alien psyker had been conferring with Warp Guide “Master Or” from time to time, generally in regards to the nature of navigator tools and equipment. Less than a week from the daemon world he called on the Lord Captain and Enginseer to discuss their plans.

The alien believed that the technology of the ship, primarily the navigator pod and gellar field, could be used to expand his control over the energies of the warp. If it worked he claimed that he could temporarily pull the daemon world fully into the materium, allowing a ground team to land without being ripped apart by the warp.

Mayorga expressed some disbelief and began to question the entire purpose of the mission. Unable to verbally explain with sufficient clarity, the alien imprinted a complete picture of what it knew. The understanding was alien in nature, but ever since Mayorga’s attuning to the Magoros Array he had become progressively more familiar and comfortable with alien thought patterns. In fact such patterns seemed almost natural by this point.

The planet held an ancient Xenos fortress, refit for human use thousands of years ago. The fortress held a greater array than the one found on Magoros. Originally it had been part of a failed project to contain the Eye of Terror’s growth. Now it secured the device from the eyes of chaos.

How the fortress could remain functional once the world had been overcome by the warp was unknown. However, the alien psyker was certain it still stood intact and untouched by the rest of the world’s corruption. After his alien communion Mayorga was just as certain and ordered the crew to begin work under the alien’s direction.

Part 5 – Poking Chaos in the Eye

Upon arrival the ship’s auspex came to life with dozens of ships in the system. The ship had already begun running silent after the initial sensor sweep, which may have saved the 100,000 plus lives on board. This was a small comfort in the face of a full Chaos naval garrison.

Master at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok consulted the bridge’s archeotech hololith, calling up a map of the force distribution throughout the system. Recalling their encounter with Karrad Val’s raiders at Magoros she realized that they weren’t looking at a military garrison at all. These ships were part of a civil project.

Most of the ships were transports, many of them in considerable disrepair. Nearly half of the vessels were in orbit over the Array world, primarily clustered over what was assumed to be the Fortress Array. The ships were arranged to optimize for transport and delivery of resources to the planet’s surface, not keeping the system secure.

Though this news was somewhat comforting, the military forces were still considerably more than the Corpus Dei could take on by itself. It was time for Mayorga’s crew to update their plans. Rather than hours or days, the ground operation would have less than two hours to get the device and return to the ship. Even that presumed that they somehow disabled all of the combat-capable ships currently in orbit.

After tense hours of slow, silent coasting the ship was in position. The plan was a bold one, but it was the best the crew had. One of the grand cruisers had set itself up as a makeshift station and stardock, with a cruiser and three transports physically attached and powered down.

The Corpus Dei fired its nova cannon directly into the makeshift space station. Exposed and without its void shields even a Grand Cruiser couldn’t withstand a direct hit from a nova cannon shell. Broadsides and two wings of bombers accompanied the collateral damage of the shell’s explosion, crippling most of the priority targets before they could mount a sufficient counter-attack.

No matter how successful, this ambush was just an opening gambit in a larger battle. The patrol wing the ship had managed to sneak by earlier came about to engage and two other cruisers in orbit had been too far away to be a part of the initial strike. The Corpus Dei was surrounded with four times its own mass in Chaos vessels and a protracted, costly battle ensued.

Hours of grueling combat, multiple boarding actions, and two more nova cannon shells later the battle had been won. Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum and Master Or’s medicae skills had helped mitigate the casualties enough to keep the ship running while High Factotum Edmund Swift’s remarkable talent for manipulating the crew kept morale from collapsing.

Part 6 – Sundering

The real concern was the damage to the ship. The void shields had been completely destroyed and the hull was hanging from the ship’s spine. On top of it all the rest of the ships in the system would arrive in less than 90 minutes and there was no way the Corpus Dei could expect to survive another fight, not even with a single frigate.

The last Egerian fulfilled its promises, both to the crew and to those he left behind millennia ago. He ripped the caul of the warp from the planet’s surface and brought the world fully into the physical realm. To those with even the slightest psychic sensitivity it was a complete violation of reality, ecstatic and terrible.

The ground team was already underway. Lord Captain Mayorga was accompanied by Master at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok, Choir Master Telepathica “Lux”, and Warp Guide “Master Or” on a small shuttle piloted by F-Eight. Flying in escort formation around the shuttle was a full wing of fighters, and bombers had been deployed for ground support.

The Deathwatch kill team deployed via orbital drop and secured the landing area. F-eight wove through the waves of anti-aircraft fire and sorcerous assaults with almost supernatural precision. Still, by the time the ground team had been dropped half the escort craft had been destroyed and the kill team’s assault marine was already dead.

The astartes were pouring bolter shells in every direction, bombers kept the worst of the Chaos horde in check, and it was still clear that there was little time to waste before everyone would be overwhelmed. The space marines held the line with air support while Mayorga’s team made a mad dash for the fortress.

Despite all the screening a small horde of monstrous, warp-spawned “things” had managed to cut Mayorga’s team off. With nowhere else to go the party stood before the beasts mere meters from the protection of the Fortress Array. Kerchan stood ready to carve a path for the rest to get through, but Choir Master Telepathica “Lux” recognized the creatures before them and knew that any such gesture would be futile.

Striding forward the astropath brandished nothing more than a small, strangely decorated knife. Just as the daemons were about tear the party apart a torrent of Lux’s blood poured out onto the ground from a horrific self-inflicted wound. With an single invokation the blood flowed into arcane patterns across the ground and the daemons were blown back. Some were even thrown into the warp outright.

Horribly wounded, Lux stumbled across the line of the Fortress Array’s shields. The others followed close behind before the warding collapsed. Mayorga’s team was safe for the moment, but they had just over half an hour left before there would be nowhere to retreat to.

Part 7 – Passing the Torch

The team took a moment to ensure Lux was still with them and stable. Only Master Or recognized the truth of what had just transpired, the rest were too focused on more immediate concerns to ponder “psyker matters”. With a long-standing suspicion confirmed, he made a mental note to follow up later.

Having finally caught their breath enough to look around, Mayorga’s team was greeted with a disturbing sight. Young women, all ranging from roughly 15-20 years of age, had been cybernetically built into the very walls of the Fortress. The girls were clearly in pain and had their vision sealed with a warded plate bonded over their eyes.

Or’s naturally inquisitive mind was the first to put everything together. Every one of the girls was a powerful psyker and almost certainly a clone. Based on their ages he further surmised that they were being interred into the fortress walls at rough 15 years of age and survived no more than six years as part of the living ward that protected the fortress from the Eye’s influence. For this to be true there would be many more being prepared within along with their handlers.

While Or was fascinated the rest of Mayorga’s team was too driven to get their prize and get out to pay his observations much mind. Pressing on, they eventually came to a large chamber housing a considerably more complex version of the Magoros Array. Within the chamber a ancient looking woman knelt on a small dais surrounded by a number of young girls with varying levels of cybernetic “enhancement”.

Only Or so much as spared the silent woman and her charges a second glance. While the others focused on the array Or came to some genuinely shocking realizations. The old woman was a psyker of tremendous power and almost certainly the original genetic template for the clones. With all he had learned and discovered Or concluded that she would be several thousand years old.

The ancient psyker watched Mayorga approach the array with barely concealed anticipation. Or could see she was more than ready to be released from her millennia-spanning vigil. The children seemed to have a more basic understanding, lowering their gaze and pulling tighter towards one another and their progenitor. A hush settled over the fortress as Mayorga brought his lens towards the array’s central hub, even the cries of the living barrier abated.

Mayorga opened his mind to the Xenos network once more. This time the flow was far more powerful than when he had attuned to the Magoros Array. While his well-trained and incisive mind was able to open itself to this new understanding, further surrendering his perspective to this alien way of thinking pushed him yet further from humanity.

Stumbling from the strain, Mayorga held his focus and sought out the location of the device the Egarians had secreted away so many millennia ago. It was only then that he could understand why attuning to the Fortress had been necessary; the device was hidden on the Egarian homeworld which had itself been sealed within a pocket of their gate-system. The Fortress Array was the last remaining array holding the necessary keys to unlock that pocket.

With The Warden successfully attuned to the array, the ancient psyker released her hold on life with a sigh of relief. At that same moment the shields protecting the fortress began to fail. Master Or knew what was to come, and thus what he had to do.

The renegade navigator had committed numerous horrors in his time, some for knowledge and others out of simple necessity. Despite all he had done, Master Or hesitated for the first time in memory. It was no more than the slightest moment but it was an unexpected sign of humanity long since thought discarded.

Dispelling his momentary lapse of conviction the Navigator opened his Warp Eye. Sweeping his destructive gaze over every surface of the fortress Master Or obliterated every last psyker child in the fortress. It was a merciful atrocity; their death now was quick and purifying. Left on the daemon world they would become puppets of Chaos, if returned to the imperium they would be torturously examined then executed by the Inquisition, and set loose on the galaxy they would be unable to care for themselves and fall to a variety of truly horrific fates.

While the navigator’s display was horrific, the rest of the party had little time to react. The Lord Captain felt what was happening around the fortress and could see what was coming towards his people on board the Corpus Dei. He did not see how they would have the time and freedom to enter the alien homeworld and did not wish to see the array claimed by the forces of Chaos. So there was only one chance, and it was a hell of a gamble.

Mayorga had been contemplating the Egarian array network and the possibilities it presented for some time. He had a loose theory he had been toying with and the new understanding from the Fortress Array gave him just enough information to attempt an “unconventional” manipulation of the network.

Reaching through the Fortress Array’s hub he sought the dormant connection to the sealed device. Taking hold of that connection he “unfolded” the connection within the hub, dumping it into the gate-system and pulling the device into the crumbling fortress. It was much like turning reality inside-out.

Unfortunately this process ran through Mayorga both psychically and, at least in part, physically. The violation of reality around and within him very nearly killed him, and he was left with only the faintest flicker of life remaining within him. While Kerchan moved to stabilize the captain Lux felt the fortress shield collapse. Back on the ship a violent spike of thought slammed into Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum’s mind, calling for immediate extraction.

With the shield down and the chaos forces in disarray there was no longer anything blocking use of the teleportarium. In the time it took to breathe the Enginseer performed an exhaustive series of calculations that would have left even most of his peers in contemplation for hours. Entering this masterwork of logic into the teleportarium’s terminal he pulled nearly every individual and asset on the planet’s surface back to the ship.

It was at this time that Mayorga’s backup plan was discovered; a rapidly destabilizing gate had opened next to the ship just before he collapsed. With a chaos fleet incoming and the ship badly damaged First Officer Vidame Mayorga took the helm and plunged the ship back into the non-space of the Egarian gate system.

Free of an immediate threat the crew conferred over their situation. Of course everyone’s first concern was the captain. Vinter hooked The Mayorga up to the very best support and diagnostic system he could devise within the ship’s considerable med-bay. The captain had been severely traumatized in ways that only the Warp Auger could fully analyze. However, the Lord Captain was stable but lost within a deep coma.

Work to revive the Captain would continue but for the time being First Officer Vidame Mayorga would be acting captain. Hoping for some insight on the alien realm the ship was now potentially trapped within, Vidame ordered the navigators to pull the alien from the navigation pod. Unfortunately all that remained in the pod was a warp-wracked and desiccated corpse.

Now the ship was lost in an alien realm with no guide, in severe need of repairs, light on supplies, and its captain in a coma. Then there were the losses to consider. Only a single member of the Deathwatch killteam, the apothecary, had survived the raid. Four of the Starhawk bombers and eight of the Fury interceptors had been left in ruins on the planet’s surface, though five of the pilots had managed to survive long enough to be teleported out.

Further casualties comprised over a quarter of the ship’s active crew. More than five thousand crewmen were dead and nearly than twice that number would be unable to return to service. A quarter of the elite skitarri storm troopers had been killed, with another quarter convalescing in the med-bay.

Now the crew had to find their way back to Imperial space before supplies ran out or their enemies caught up with them…

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Chapter 3 - Fate's Key

Part 1 – Corpus Dei

Beyond simply being a larger, more advanced vessel the Corpus Dei brought a number of new tools to the table. The most prominent of these was the massive Nova Cannon installed along the length of the ship’s spine. With a blast radius of over 15,000 kilometers a single well-placed shot could wipe out an entire battle-group in tight formation.

The feature that required a complete overhaul of the crew’s existing naval tactics, however, was the pair of Lathe-Pattern launch bays. Stocked with 40 fighters, 20 assault-shuttles, and 16 bombers, these bays expanded the viable tactical options considerably. While the ship was staffed with a full flight crew, an exceptional specialist to lead them would bring out their full potential.

Knowing this, the Mechanicum pointed Lord Captain Mayorga to the best flight marshal in Calixis: F-Eight. Everything they told Mayorga was entirely true. It was the extensive omissions that would be the problem. The Tech-Priests had reasons of their own for wanting their wayward skitarii attached to the Corpus Dei, where they could keep an eye on her.

Part 2 – Fate’s Path

F-Eight’s last check-in had been for some custom upgrades to her personal guncutter/fighter-bomber that she commission from the void yards over Hive Capella on Merov. That work had been completed a few weeks ago and she fell off the grid shortly thereafter. While this was not inherently strange, the Tech-Priests neglected to mention the context of her disappearance.

With a clear path ahead of them the crew set course for Merov. For Warp Guide “Master Or” the warp route between the Lathes and Merov was so smoothed-over that the ship slipped through the warp in mere days. The Lord Captain ordered an orbit set over Hive Capella and contacted the local Magos in charge to follow up on F-Eight’s trail.

The Magos informed the captain that the former skitarii had commissioned a piece of tightly regulated technology for her craft: a parasite clamp. These devices could be used to attach a small craft to the side of a larger, warp-capable, vessel and allow the craft to remain within the protection of the larger ship’s void shields and Gellar field. Generally these were only provided to certain espionage agents in the employ of the Mechanicum.

F-Eight was obviously planning to leave the system, if she hadn’t left already, on the heels of some unknown quarry. Given her time spent as a bounty hunter, this wasn’t entirely bizarre. At least, not yet.

The only other detail the Magos could provide was that she spent all her planet-side time in the capitol hive, Hive Merovech. With only one lead to work with a pair of teams were sent to Merovech to investigate.

Part 3 – The Ultimate Heist

Lord Captain Mayorga was accompanied by High Factotum Edmund Swift to the lower hive where they secured the assistance of numerous underworld fixers and leaders for their search. With the resources at their disposal and the reputation they had both built up within the underworld of Calixis and the Expanse it ended up being a small matter to find the lead they sought.

The captain and his seneschal made contact with a nigh-legendary team of mercenary “specialists” that had been hired by F-Eight shortly before she disappeared. After extensive discussion Mayorga finally convinced the team’s negotiator that their previous employer’s best interests would be served by helping him find her. That’s when they dropped the bombshell.

F-Eight had hired the team to raid the Ordo Xenos’ archives within the Library of Hope. They had completed the job without being discovered, but the Ordo Xenos was now in an silent uproar trying to figure out who had raided them and what they had gotten. Thus the team was lying very low for a very long time.

Seeing an opportunity, the Lord Captain agreed to hire the team and pull them off world, keeping them hidden from the Inquisition. In exchange they would provide all the information they could provide about what she’d stolen, why, and/or where she’d gone. The deal was struck, at which point they revealed another surprise.

Concerned about the nature of their target the team retained a copy of the records they had stolen from the Ordo Xenos. The records were still tightly encoded with the highest possible grade of security, and was going to require more than a mere cipher to decode. For better or worse, that was about to take care of itself…

Part 4 – Fateful Meeting

Meanwhile First Officer Vidame Mayorga and Master at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok had been working their way up through high-society in search of a lead. Eventually they found themselves guests within an elite social club(private, members-only bar). They had been informed that some of the people here would know more about this pilot. How or why, on the other hand, was beyond either of them.

The two investigators found themselves drifting towards a couple that looked as strange a pair as they themselves did. An elegant young woman with an impossibly large and complex hairstyle and a dress that even the dynasty itself would consider expensive was accompanied by a frontiersman trying (and failing) to dress and act like he belonged there.

Without warning Kerchan grabbed Vidame’s arm and began pulling him out of the bar as quickly as she could manage without making a scene. Kerchan had seen a symbol she hadn’t had to face in a long time, almost hidden beneath the woman’s wig: the brand of a sanctioned imperial psyker. After her experiences on Shathar the pieces fell into place for her easily. They had nearly approached a pair of Throne Agents, one of them possibly an Inquisitor themselves.

Trying to escape was pointless, and with all she’d seen Kerchan wasn’t really surprised. Before they were halfway to the door a soft, soothing, melodic voice caressed her mind. “Don’t leave now. Please, come join us.”

Despite the comforting touch of the Psyker’s mind, Kerchan knew better than to trust her emotions in the presence of an unknown telepath. Regardless, fleeing now could only end badly. So Kerchan and Vidame sat down across from one another with the throne agents, hoping they’d be able to escape with their minds and bodies still intact and their own.

The woman introduced herself as Delphi and her friend as Isaac. Idle conversation followed for a few minutes, after which the everyone in the room had been subconsciously driven elsewhere. With the room cleared Isaac looked relieved while Delphi simply appeared satisfied.

Despite the roles of a noble and his bodyguard presented by Vidame and Kerchan, it was Kerchan that Delphi turned to address. The psyker placed her slim, pale fingers on the back of the former warlord’s hand. Despite her best effort, even knowing what it was she was facing, Kerchan could not help but find herself calmed.

“Warlord Kennok, I don’t know exactly what’s going on now but I do know about what happened on Shathar. I have more in common with those that stood at your side than those that brought the Red to your home, it’s important that you trust me. I also know that what you are doing right now is important; the ripples of your actions now stretch far beyond the horizons of even my sight. This should help you and your allies.”

The strange, tiny seer then pressed a small chip into Kershan’s hand. Seeing this exchange Isaac turned to Vidame with a shrug, “For what it’s worth, it’s pretty much always like this. ’Fact, I generally end up feeling like I can only see half the picture.” A playfully annoyed look was the only reaction Isaac got from his companion.

“I’d love to continue our conversation, your lives look so… interesting. Unfortunately, I think you need to return to your people. They need you, or maybe they just need what you have. Either way, good luck. I do hope we get to meet again.”

Despite the calming effect of the small psyker’s presence Kerchan’s instincts kicked in and got her and her XO back into the greater hive with considerable haste. Halfway to the shuttle platform both the voidfarers noticed the hive itself was tracking them. The security cameras, various servo skulls, and anything else with a sensor seemed to be tracking their progress.

An understandably spooked Kerchan was about to pull Vidame off the street and go to ground. Before she could take two steps a strange voice with the distinct quality of the lower-hive scum of Scintilla’s capitol hive crackled over their comm beads. “Don’t git spooked on us now friends. We’s jist makin sure you get back safe isal. Delphi seys i’ shadow is hunting your seal, whoteva’ tha means. So I’s to make sure you git back to yer people.”

Notes for completion:

  • Reviewing their notes
  • “We have the codes”
  • To Jericho
  • Erioch
  • Rendezvous with Feight
  • The Plot Uncovered
  • Confrontation
  • The Vault
  • Standoff
  • Dismissal of the Chamber
  • Contrition of the Watch
  • The Last Egarian Awakens
  • Negotiations
  • Reconcilliation
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Chapter 2 - Alien Light

Part 1 – Agent of the Machine

The Mayorga Dynasty was directed by the Mechanicum to meet up with one of their agents, Dray, whom they believed had acquired a lead on the location of the lost Disciples of Thule fleet. The agent had gone to ground on Wayfarer Station, and would need to be extracted and debriefed in order to follow up on his lead.

After some extraordinary wheeling and dealing from Edmund over trade arrangements for their upcoming trip through the maw, the crew set off for the Imperial waystation. Once they arrived the crew discovered that an unknown competing organization had agents of their own trying to capture Dray for themselves. A trap was set for the enemy agents, and they were torn apart in an ambush. With a little misdirection the team was able to extract Dray without further incident.

Interrogation of the surviving enemy forces and a follow-up investigation revealed that the ultimate power behind this attack went way up a chain of subordinate agents. The crew was able to identify the immediate director on site as the piratical rogue trader Hadarak Fel. Extensive research after departing Wayfarer station led Kerchan to the conclusion that the ultimate hand behind these forces was Calligos Winterscale himself, the only true rival of Aspyce Chorda and one of the two most powerful dynasties in the Expanse.

The lead recovered from dray was an astropathic record crystal. The crystal contained the last message sent by one of the Thulian Fleet’s outrunner frigates. With a bit of astrogation research the location of the planet from the message was deduced. The Surfeit of Moral Lassitude headed back through the Maw, stopping briefly in Footfall to conclude the remainder of the contracts Edmund had previously arranged.

Part 2 – Black Vigil

While in transit a series of gruesome killings amongst the ship’s population began to pile up enough to draw the command staff’s attention. Psychic echoes near the killings had the distinct signature of a navigator. This led to some completely justified paranoia, given that there were only two known navigators on the ship. Further investigation turned up footage of a shadowed, ephemeral entity killing the victim with an ability similar to the Lidless Stare of a navigator. More disturbing was the apparent possibility that the thing was consuming the soul or essence of the victims afterwards.

Edmund’s ear for the whispers of the ship along with the assistance of the First Officer Vidame Mayorga led to the discovery that the victim had actually been an agent of the Ecclesiarchy attempting to subvert the ship’s populace. This discovery consequently uncovered the entire spy-ring (who were promptly spaced).

Around the same time Captain Mayorga had been on an unusual emotional and psychological roller coaster. Eventually he concluded that his heirloom “lens”, an ornate chained crystalline design, was affecting him as the ship approached Magoros. It was almost as though it was eager to get home, filling its bearer with anticipation and alien emotional triggers. Further study with Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum’s assistance determined that it was some sort of Xenos interface device for a powerful warp-obvervatory or sensor array.

Part 3 – Magoros

Though on edge, the crew nonetheless tabled the issue of the warp-empowered vigilante in their midst when they arrived in the Maragos system. On departure from the warp three chaos raiders were detected over the main world and one of its moons. The usual ambush tactics were applied to great effect, and all three were destroyed. The flotilla only managed to deliver a single defiant salvo from the final, doomed raider. Denied any orbital support, the ground forces of Chaos were brutally exterminated byMaster at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok and her soldiers.

Two weeks were spent securing the area, making repairs, and performing extensive scans of the array found on Magoros and the organic power source that had been built into one of the moons. The captain wanted to take no chances, and felt a loss of time and a little extra investment was worth additional caution. Thus a supply run was arranged from a nearby system to ensure the crew had all the time they would need.

Shortly thereafter a frigate was detected attempting to stealth into ambush position in a manner not dissimilar to the crew’s own tactics. In a baffling combination of luck with the auspex and catastrophic error on the enemy pilot’s part the frigate was boarded and conquered in less than an hour, with minimal damage to either ship or their crew.

With his capture it was learned that Hadarak Fel had tracked the group through the warp via his navigator’s special talents. Of course he only ended up without a ship and in Mayorga’s brig as consequence. Dinner was had, negotiations were performed, and an arrangement for ransom was made.

Part 4 – Damning Insight

Having clearly reached a point of diminishing returns the captain headed for the xenos warp array along with Master at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok, Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum, Choir Master Telepathica “Lux”, High Factotum Edmund Swift, and Warp Guide “Master Or”.

Once with the alien complex, not everyone was left unaffected. Kerchan wandered off in a fugue while most of the others fought off alien impressions and impulses. Master Or, on the other hand, was overwhelmed by the uniquely structured warp-data flowing all around him and slipped into an altogether different sort of fugue state. Lux noticed the shift right away because Or’s “presence” suddenly matched the soul-reaping killer perfectly.

In the main chamber of the array a tense stand off was defused with what could ultimately be called dark comedy. The crew realized after some conversation that Master Or’s “Dark Side” wasn’t measurably more worrisome than his regular persona. In effect, Master Or was saved by his own disturbing and somewhat sociopathic behavior.

Captain Mayorga even allowed the sundered navigator an attempt to bond with the array. Unfortunately for Or, his divided mind was unable to sustain the overwhelming overload of alien data and systems. Bleeding from eyes, ears, nose, and mouth Or was nearly killed and left in a coma.

The Lord-Captain, thanks to the interface device he had inadvertently bonded with over the past few years, synced up with the array with unsettling ease. Once so bonded he had immediate and total knowledge of every detail within the Magoros system. Locating the lost Thulian vessel half smashed into a large asteroid in the secondary belt was now a simple matter.

It was short work to loot the wreck and strip it down, from which the final destination of Thule’s fleet was finally uncovered. The next destination was an alien world beyond the farthest known reaches of the Hecaton Rifts. Opting to play it safe and consolidate before continuing on the ship returned to Footfall. The ship’s command staff restocked, replenished their crew, brought their Mechanicum allies up to speed, and returned Fel to his dynasty for his ransom.

It was decided that the safest option to the destination would be to return to Magoros and use the warp-gate system the captain had gained access to from the array. Despite the significant risks, the other two options seemed even worse. Before that was possible, however, more ships had come to investigate the system in the wake of Fel’s capture. Worse still, these were directly from Winterscale’s fleet.

The ships were unprepared for the Surfeit and the dynasty’s talent for naval ambush. All but one of the scout flotilla were destroyed, which was captured nearly intact. It was decided that the best course of action would be to return the captured crew and vessel to Winterscale’s dynasty along with a small diplomatic envoy to express the Mayorga’s regrets over the unfortunate conflict.

Part 5 – Alien Light

With this detail resolved, the Captain opened the warp gate and the ship transitioned to place neither materium nor warp. Within the alien gate system a guardian was stirred that could only be described as some sort of “Warp Kraken”. Luck held and the crew was able to get the ship to the destination and out of the alien realm before it became hostile.

The system was a warp-wracked ruin of some extremely advanced but long-dead species. The sensors were able to pick up a significant portion of Thule’s fleet dead in orbit around various planets and moons, with a number of other vessels grounded. Also discovered were 4 massive planetoids within the asteroid belt in perfect alignment around the system’s star. Each of these was carved into alien abstraction of one of the four dark gods of Chaos.

Part 6 – Lost Machines

Though the system and its inhabitants slept, there was little question that one misstep would awaken every corrupted hulk within the system. Plans were drawn up for various contingencies and a careful augury of the system was performed. An away team was assembled and preparations for an excavation of Thule’s grounded flagship were made.

The scans had revealed the planetoid statues to be of a different composition than the rest of the belt. Lux and Or concluded that the latent energies of the idols was focused inwards, almost as though binding the system in some way. The initial assumption was that these formed a trap that would be sprung on any hostile vessels entering the system, such as their own.

Lord Captain Mayorga’s alien insight filled in the rest of the blanks behind the system’s story. With the information provided by the rest of the crew he realized that these things were not a defense system or religious expression of the inhabitants but some sort of warp-powered siege engine. The inhabitants had been trapped and likely wiped out by Chaos worshipping xenos.

The crew had assembled the most complete picture of the system that they could manage. The ship was put into position and Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum’s team began their venture to the unnamed planet’s surface. As the shuttle descended it became apparent that the ships had begun to come together into a single superstructure via some sort of mechanical “growth”.

With their original maps of the vessels rendered useless, the team touched down at an airlock a few kilometers from the flagship itself. The team made slow, cautious progress for some time. It wasn’t until the flagship was breached that the planet and the sleeping fleet in orbit began to wake up. Lux was able to intuit that the awakening forces on the planet were divided, some still tied to whatever native life had existed here while the rest remained in the thrall of Chaos.

Back on the Surfeit of Moral Lassitude the signs of an awakening fleet were hard to miss. Hoping to disrupt the process, the captain ordered every weapon system fired into one of the planetoid idols. It is still difficult to assess whether this saved the crew and mission or damned the vessel.

The attack on the idol had three major consequences. First, the alien awareness of the planet’s long-dead natives came to see the away team as allies against their murderers. Second, the awakening fleet was thrown into disarray; the ships still woke up but now lacked a central directive. Each chaos possessed ship was forced to operate independently. Finally, the damage from the attack and disruption of the chaos idols resulted in a terrible backlash that nearly crippled the Surfeit of Moral Lassitude.

The excavation was now a race against the clock. The team began an all-out assault through the grounded flagship, finding strange assistance at some turns and scrap-code infused machines assaulting them at others. At the same time the Lord Captain and his crew were systematically crushing corrupted ships as quickly as possible before they could be fully powered up.

As the away team reached the cogitator core of the flagship the corrupted fleet had finished its reawakening. While the ground team faced off against a mechanical daemonhost, the ship’s crew faced a hostile corrupted mechanicum fleet with a single half-crippled cruiser. The psychic powerhouse of Lux and Or working in tandem along with the martial might of Kerchan gave Vinter the space to quickly pull the cogitator core from the vessel.

With the core removed the daemon was distracted long enough for the team to press the advantage and send it screaming back into the warp. An adrenaline-fueled escape from the fallen flagship got the team off-world just in time; the Surfeit of Moral Lassitude would not be able to hold together much longer against the ever-growing fleet.

Part 7 – Rise and Fall

The ship was already beginning to break apart and stood no chance of escaping into the warp with so many vessels bearing down on it. Seeing only one option the Lord Captain reached back through the alien flicker in his mind and opened another gate leading back to Magoros. The gate snapped close behind the Surfeit, denying the corrupted fleet its prey.

As everyone had feared, the guardian beast of the gates stirred at the sudden and frantic entry of their foreign vessel. Heedless of the cost to his sanity or soul Lord Captain Mayorga pushed his mind through the gate connection and toward the beast. Surrendering to an unknown and alien will, instinct guided the captains mind. Some primal connection was made and the beast returned to its rest.

Finally the ship drifted back out of the gates and into Magoros. Concerned that the ship would not survive even a minor complication during a warp voyage the captain sent an Astropathic message to the Lathes. The message simply stated that the dynasty had recovered the data they were sent to find and had been left no longer warp-capable.

The response was swift and overwhelming. A full battleship and accompanying forces arrived in system less than a month later, retrieving the ship and crew along with the coveted cogitator core. The Captain and his staff were escorted back to the Lathes with as much pomp as the tech priests could manage.

The command staff were granted lavish quarters within the diplomatic suites of the Lathe worlds while work was begun on their vessel. For months the crew was able to rest, recover, and catch up on their more mundane concerns. Six months later they Fabricator General of the Lathes himself called the crew to the Void docks for a personal audience.

The elegantly constructed magos was accompanied by a full honor guard of skitarii, but lacked the posturing of his imperial peers. “I must express our deepest regrets that we were unable to return your vessel to service. The damage was simply too extensive to repair properly. Conversely, I should express pleasure that we have managed to save the ship’s most revered spirit and interred it into a new housing.”

While most of the crew were distraught at the news a few caught what would have almost been a glint of excitement from the Fabricator General, were such a thing possible. After a brief pause to let his statement sink into the soft brains of the uninitiated the magos continued. “In recognition of your exceptional service to the Omnissiah and the continued sacrifices your dynasty has made in his name, we present this gift”. At this the void docks were flooded with light, revealing the mars-class battlecruiser Corpus Dei.

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Chapter 1 - Return to Grace

Part 1 – Grace Revealed

One of the two most powerful Rogue Traders in the Expanse, Aspyce Chorda, summoned Mayorga and his crew to her manse on Footfall. During their meeting she explained that an old holding of hers, the Grace system, had recently emerged from a 10-year long warp storm. She offered the Mayorga Dynasty claim to the system along with any salvage or resources found within it. In exchange, she simply required the reclamation of a “package” left behind when Grace became cut off from the rest of the galaxy. While suspicious, the dynasty’s crippled finances and Chorda’s considerable influence left Lord-Captain Mayorga little choice but to agree.

Before embarking High Factotum Edmund Swift sought some arrangements for additional backing for this endeavor. The Kasballica Mission of the Black Brotherhood agreed to offer support and a channel into the black market. In exchange the Brotherhood required the confirmed death of Dobren Vakis, a former member that had gone rogue. Vakis had run to Grace for Chorda’s protection before the storm erupted, and they wanted to make sure he was truly dead.

A contract with one of the larger Narco-Gangs on Footfall offered to buy any Grace Gyn that the Dynasty could acquire at a premium, just so long as they were guaranteed right of first refusal on the supply (including future production).

The Astral Knives, a divinatory death cult with a great deal of influence on Footfall, offered their support in exchange for transporting a group of their assassins to a specific location on Grace, an old Estate. They planned to enact a purge on whatever they found there, as their divinations had told them they must do in the Emperor’s name. Post-purge the assassins would convert the estate into a monastery for their order.

In final additional contract the Dynasty agreed to take on a group of colonists from The True Path, a xenophilic cult. The colonists paid quite well for this service, and also agreed to help rebuild civilization on Mayorga’s soon-to-be new holding.

While making these arrangements Swift’s contacts and Mayorga’s agents uncovered two other ventures heading to Grace. Helgred Bolger, practically a pirate rather than a proper rogue trader, appeared to be heading the Grace in the hopes of looting the estates of the extremely wealthy (presumably former/dead) inhabitants of Grace. Of greater concern was the appearance of an old rival: Gabriel Cygnus, the Rogue Trader at the forefront of the raids and annexation of house Mayorga’s assets during its fall. It was decided that these problems could solve one another, and so the Lord-Captain ordered a 3 day delay behind them on the way to Grace.

Part 2 – Warp Tides

The trip to Grace was initially uneventful but as the ship got closer to the system things started to get weird. First crewmen started reporting ghostly flickers and images on the ship and everyone began having extremely vivid dreams. This culminated with Captain Mayorga seeing a vision of a young girl (estimated to be about 10 years of age), haloed by a corona of warp-light. In this vision the child held a planet suspended over her palms in front of her chest. The floor turned to perfectly reflective glass, water, or ice. Meeting Mayorga’s eyes with her own, his awareness split… he was on both sides of the “mirror” at the same time. On one side the girl ascended on wings of light as the planet she carried began to shine with the warmth of the Astronomicon, while on the other the girl began bleeding from her eyes and ears covering the planet in blackened, corrupted blood. As the light side of the girl ascended out of sight the bloody reflection screamed as the planet was crushed in her bare hands. With the crack of the planet’s implosion Mayorga’s mind briefly snapped in response, though he was fortunate enough to not be discovered until he had recovered on his senses.

Finally, about a day or two from the Grace system the ship was surrounded by a sizable fleet within the warp. Behind the fleet a massive warp breaker threatened to wipe out the fleet and Mayorga’s flagship with it. Despite the tight window the Surfeit was able to make an emergency transition into the materium. As the vessel began to shift out those with the senses to see it observed over a third of the fleet being ripped apart as the breaker caught up with them. This added another day to the trip, but given the situation there wasn’t much alternative.

Part 3 – Partying with Kaptain Kommando

After roughly 10 days the Surfeit of Moral Lassitude transitioned into the fringes of the Grace system. The bridge crew began auguring the system just in time to discover the ork raider that was initiating an ambush. After a couple hours of chest-pounding and some exchange of fire, negotiations were opened that resulted in an unusual pact with the Ork Kaptain Ammer’Ed. Coordinating efforts with the ork Kaptain the crew set a trap that would bring both competing Rogue Traders into conflict with the orks stationed on the Dagger of Fate (the space-station orbiting Grace that held the package sought by Chorda) and hopefully each other. The plan worked; while the competitors were busy with each other the Surfeit used Grace to set up an ambush of its own.

Just before launching their attack Vidame noticed another vessel, a Lathe-class monitor cruiser running silent in the shadow of Grace’s moon, clearly positioned to sweep in and mop up the survivors once everyone was done killing each other. After some deliberation the vessel was identified as the “Explorator KE-XVII”, helmed by a censured Tech-Priest known colloquially as “Ferdinand” (actual name: Brother XXCv-177a-888). Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum confirmed that, while he had not been excommunicated or accused directly of heresy, the Mechanicum had rescinded their protection of and their responsibility for Ferdinand due to both his suspected involvement in a number of serious crimes and his known heterodoxical practices. With a slight shift in plans the course was altered so as to ambush the fallen tech priest instead.

The combination of a brutal opening salvo and a devastating boarding action led by Master at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok left Ferdinand with little opportunity to do anything but flee, which is exactly what he did. Leaving his ship behind Ferdinand took an escape pod to the surface of Grace. While the crew of the Surfeit was busy taking Ferdinand’s vessel apart, Ammer’Ed came down on Cygnus’ cruiser from off the elliptic. Already battered from his battle with Bolger’s raider, Cygnus was in no position to contend with the ork’s overgunned ship as well. Cutting his losses he ran only to have Bolger come to the same conclusion and attempt to flee shortly thereafter. Ammer’Ed would have gone for the bigger target but Cygnus deployed an Ghost Field of some sort and vanished from both sight and sensors.

Ammer’Ed set off after Bolger while Mayorga’s crew looted the monitor cruiser and set up a prize crew. A few hours later, a victorious and practically jovial Ammer’Ed returned with a stripped down raider hull in tow. Deciding that he really didn’t want to expend the crew, resources, and repair costs that clearing the orks from the space station would require, Mayorga made a generous offer to the Kaptain: clean out the other orks and the (mostly intact) cruiser was his. The Kaptain agreed and had the Surfeit punch a hole in the side of the station just before he rammed the nose of his raider into it, spilling most of his crew into the heart of the station and kicking off a level of carnage that only orks could produce.

With the job complete Ammer’Ed took possession of the cruiser. Final negotiations to establish a long-term arrangement between the ork privateer and the dynasty were settled; the dynasty would trade weapons for the various luxury goods hauled in by the orks. Once the details and some meeting sites were finalized, the Kaptain set off with his prizes for other systems.

When the crew finally found Chorda’s package, most of those present recognized it for what it was: a dark-age of technology suspension tank. After a great deal of discussion it was decided that investigating the contents was worth the risk, and Vinter carefully took apart the outer casing to get a look. Inside was one of Aspyse Chorda’s older sisters, whom she had placed in stasis as a means of taking her dynasty’s warrant of trade for herself. The casing was quickly reassembled around the device and put in a secure compartment.

Part 4 – Port Chorda

With the immediate goal achieved it was time to secure the system and establish Mayorga’s claim, as well as fulfill the terms of the other contracts. Scanning the surface it was discovered that the capitol and starport of Port Chorda still had a small urban population that had managed to hold together for the previous 10 years.

When the Lord-Captain touched down he was met by a ragged reception of survivors led by “Director” Gallo. While he came off as grateful and obsequious, he was kept occupied with logistics arrangements while the bulk of the team slipped away to investigate. A number of potential concerns were discovered and Vidame made contact with one of Gallo’s staff, Lady Fulci.

Later some of the team met with Fulci, who offered to help secure the dynasty’s interests on Grace and spill the secrets of Port Chorda’s people in exchange for protection and a life of comfort on a world far from Grace. Given their suspicions and the rather simple request she was making, the crew agreed. She then sketched out the hierarchy of Port Chorda, along with who was loyal to whom. In addition she revealed the real secret of the town’s leaders: that they were cannibals hunting the feral humans out in the wastes to feed their hunger and grind the remnants down into a gruel of meat and marrow for the rest of the unknowing citizens.

With this revelation and Fulci’s assurance that she could manage spin control if they worked together an immediate decision was made by Kerchan and First Officer Vidame Mayorga: Director Gallo had to die, and he had to die right now. So that night Fulci made sure the guards were distracted for a few minutes while Kerchan snuck into Gallo’s room and butchered him into bloody chunks. With Gallo’s death Fulci consolidated power behind house Mayorga while Kerchan made the rounds as a blood-splashed reaper, ripping the cannibalistic leadership apart with her chainswords.

Part 5 – Lost Signal

The next priority was the Astropathic and communications hub, Signal Station One. The station was located near the northern pole of the planet, making for a cold and nervous security detachment. While the troops secured the exterior Master at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok led a team into the station along with Choir Master Telepathica “Lux”, Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum, and First Officer Vidame Mayorga.

The station was clearly haunted, echoes of some terrible mass-slaughter continued to play out with greater intensity and clarity as the team continued their exploration. After some time spent psychically assessing the facility, Lux was able to locate the heart of the disturbance in the lower levels where the choir-chambers were located.

When the team approached the sealed vault door to the choir chamber it was evident that the wards had been broken from the inside. As they prepared to open the vault, warp-infused corpses rose from the ground and began tearing at the team. At the same time Lux detected powerful telekinetic effects triggering security doors and sealing the building around them.

A long and messy battle with what seemed like an endless supply of warp-zombies wore the team down while Lord Captain Mayorga led a rescue attempt with the rest of his command crew. When the last wall was finally breached there was a moment of silence, then the vault door exploded outward to reveal a horrific fleshy mass that had once been the astropaths of the station.

Now merged into a single terrible warp-beast the mass unleashed withering psychic attacks while sending a continued wave of warp-possessed corpses at the crew. Unfazed, perhaps even appearing amused, Warp Guide “Master Or” stepped forward and opened his warp eye before the oncoming horde. While the beast pulling the strings was unperturbed the wave of energy disrupted the animating forces of the zombies, allowing Kerchan and the Captain to rally the rest of the crew and turn the tide of the conflict.

No longer needing to focus on keeping the zombies at bay, and with the rest of the crew keeping the monster physically contained, Choir Master Telepathica “Lux” began to shred the minds of former peers and tear the monster’s very soul apart. The flow of the fight had turned against the warp-creature; it was then shredded and vaporized both physically and spiritually.

Part 6 – Cleaning Up the Mess

With the entity disposed of the Station could be cleansed and reconsecrated. However, a more immediate problem was discovered as the smoke cleared; both Kerchan and Lux had been infected by an unknown warp-tainted illness during the last battle.

The crew returned to the ship so the afflicted members could recover. With some clever experimental applications of Medicae, wards, the Warp Auger, and Gellar field technology a treatment was cultivated by Lux and the more scientifically minded crew members. The treatment worked wonders for Kerchan, but Lux’s stronger psychic presence fed the warp pathogen and presented an additional challenge.

Behind closed doors Lux and Master Or engaged in some unknown procedure to make the treatment viable and allow Lux to recover. Afterwards whatever occurred in that chamber has not been mentioned again.

The next objective was getting the Astral Knives off the ship on into their soon-to-be monastery. Kerchan and a few support staff kept clear and set up to observe once the assassins were dropped near the manor. They got quite a show as they watched the Knives butcher a chaos cult that had set up shop in their target. A few logistical arrangements were all that remained and the contract was complete. For once, things went according to plan without complications.

Close to settling the outstanding contracts, the dynasty closed in on an ideal location for the True Path cultists’ colony. A site was selected and Mayorga’s forces moved to secure the sight. No resistance was encountered, but a number of problems with the troops on site began cropping up almost immediately. Most just zoned out and refused to leave after less than an hour in the manor, some began to act dangerously delusional or unhinged.

Kerchan and a selection of the command staff moved in to investigate. The manor’s atmospheric regulators were configured to fill the manor with a euphoric haze, which was having hallucinogenic effects on a handful of the people exposed to it. In addition the manor was full of brilliant artistic works of unknown origin, though it appeared to have been created by the anonymous former residents of the manor as part of some artistic commune. The works were looted, and a brilliant treatise on artistic theory was added to the ship’s librarium: The Eris Transform.

Part 7 – The Last Sane Man

Time was invested to secure and refit the manor to ensure problems didn’t arise with the True Path in the future. During this project there were sporadic attacks from packs of the feral and cannibalistic humans previously seen scattered across the planet.

During one of the Lord-Captain’s on-site reviews of the colony development another oddity was noted. Something was stalking the captain and, despite the crew and soldier’s best efforts, only the occasional cold evidence of the stalker’s passing could be found. Finally, after a few diplomatic gestures from Mayorga, Mathias Casmirre made contact.

Stepping out of the shadow cast by Mayorga’s own shuttle, Casmirre explained that he had been surviving in the blasted lands of Grace with his daughter for years. Before the warp storm cut the planet off Casmirre had been the seneschal of planetary governor Giallo. His wife died giving birth as the storm hit the planet, and within a year it had become clear that the population was going mad, Giallo first among them. Shortly thereafter he fled into the wastes with his infant daughter.

Mathias was greatly relieved to learn of Kerchan’s purge in Port Chorda, though he still had no desire to return there after everything he’d seen. Assured by Mayorga’s results so far, Mathias offered to serve as a guide and advisor for the dynasty. Mathias even offered to swear an oath of fealty to the house, should the captain desire his service.

In exchange he asked that he and his daughter be taken from the Grace system, and that his daughter be provided and cared for. When questioned about his daughter, Mathias explained that he had never given her a name. He seemed to believe that this had protected her, that “names draw the attention of the warp” and she was never taken by “the ravenous” (his name for the feral cannibals) because they could not see her clearly without a name.

The price of Mathias’ assistance was practically nothing and his request was a humanitarian one. Thus, Mayorga saw no reason not to accept. With the deal made the nameless girl seemed to simply appear at her father’s side, apparently even more of living shadow than he. The Lord Captain nearly lost his composure when he saw her, managing to simply appear a bit surprised. On the inside he was fighting back panic; the girl was unquestionably the one from his recent vision.

Leaving High Factotum Edmund Swift and First Officer Vidame Mayorga to handle the arrangements, Lord Captain Mayorga sought the council of his astropath and seer. Choir Master Telepathica “Lux” confirmed that the girl was touched by fate, but that her future remained in flux. Some crucial catalyst would collapse her path into a single destiny, and it would be inexorably tied to the dynasty.

Part 8 – Brotherhood’s Bounty

The most immediate benefit of Mathias’ assistance was his knowledge of Dobren Vakis and his estate-turned-bunker hidden in crevices of the western canyons. This guidance alone probably saved the crew a month or more of painstaking scans and analysis. Mathias also warned that Vakis has become even more psychotically paranoid over the past few years, and had protected himself with layers of dangerously unstable automated security and defense systems.

Master at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok and her strike team assembled to put together a plan of attack. During the analysis of the long-range scans made on the external defenses, Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum came up with a bold1 idea. Kerchan and her troops would engage at range as a distraction while he deployed directly onto the defense system’s primary system hub via orbital drop-pod.

The plan would have been fairly extreme even with proper facilities and equipment, but the Surfeit of Moral Lassitude lacked either a drop-pod launch bay or a troop-capable drop pod. Instead Vinter planned to be shot from orbit, into a comparably narrow canyon no less, encased in nothing but a reinforced supply pod. While this would certainly outright kill a normal human, it would have been risky even to an Astartes. Regardless, Vinter was certain his mechanical form would preserve him.

The command staff displayed either remarkable faith in the Enginseer’s capabilities or disturbing lack of concern for his well-being when they backed Vinter’s plan. While Kerchan and her soldiers got into position, Vinter Stum and First Officer Vidame Mayorga prepared the pod and launch sequence with as much care and precision as they could manage. With a prayer to the Omnissiah on nearly everyone’s lips, the command runes were invoked and the plan, along with Vinter’s orbital drop, was launched.

Everyone’s (presumed) faith in Vinter was well-rewarded. The pod slammed into the drop-zone with a Vindicare sniper’s precision. Vinter Stum emerged from the crater with barely a dent or scratch. Then he felt it was the time to show this cowardly would-be Heretek the price of his crude, blasphemous jury-rigging. A crackling shout of binaric static echoed through the canyon, carrying the Tech-Priest’s rebuke of the abused machine spirit’s controller.

The canyon’s machines spirits cried out in response, rallying to their savior’s side. With a mere wave of Vinter’s hand the turrets turned as one to blow open the bunker they had been tasked to protect. Kerchan and the strike team formed up around in a protective wedge around the Enginseer as they proceeded inside.

With the more aware machine spirits turned to the Tech-Priest’s cause, it was the simple and more primitive traps and defenses that remained a threat. Initially emboldened by their overwhelming success outside, Kerchan’s troops became hasty and careless. Dozens of troops were killed or severely injured by traps and explosives hidden throughout the crumbling estate-turned-bunker before Kerchan finally restored order.

Pulling back into a defensive formation and following Vinter’s lead, the strike team made slow, steady progress to Vakis’ panic room. On arrival they were faced with an entrenched defensive emplacement that would be costly to to take out directly. With his faith still enflamed by his earlier success Vinter strode heedlessly into the deathtrap of a hallway. A rebuke against the Heretek overwhelmed the auto-cannon’s spirit, leaving it bowed and silent before the Omnissiah’s emissary.

The heavily encrypted and fortified security door of the panic room flew open with barely a gesture, revealing a shocked and now terrified Vakis. The years of degenerative insanity and paranoia had not been kind to him, but there was no question of his identity. Furious at the cost in her soldier’s lives exacted by the wretch, Kerchan pulled out a shock-maul and worked Vakis over with cruel brutality.

Dobren Vakis was captured alive. He was a lump of singed and mangled flesh, in a deep coma, and had to be carefully ministered by Vinter until he could be placed in stasis. Still, he was alive and that would carry even greater favor with the Black Brotherhood.

Realizing that the bunker could be restored with a decent amount of reconstruction, Vinter drew up plans for the dynasty’s crew to begin work. The facility would soon serve as the dynasty’s military command and observation facility.

1 (GM’s Note) Read: Balls-Out Crazy

Part 9 – Estate of Grace

The primary task was complete, the system secured, and the dynasty’s various contracts resolved. All that remained was to clear out and loot the various palatial estates of Grace’s former elite. Regular scans had been performed and analyzed over the weeks that the Surfeit had been in orbit, and a number of likely targets had been assembled. This was then refined further with Mathias Casmirre’s information.

Forward teams were systematically sent down to assess and secure each location, then a collection team would strip the estate down once the site was determined to be safe. Most of the estates were stripped down in less than a day’s work with little incident. Of course there were a few complications.

Some locations were simply curiosities. The estate that would be converted to the Mayorga’s personal manor was built on a cliffside with a breathtaking view of a storm-wracked ocean. The estate’s facilities were lavish and left in remarkable condition despite having been abandoned for nearly a decade. Built into the cliffside itself, below the manor, was a large and well-hidden medical research facility filled with restraining devices and equipment of extremely questionable origin and application.

Another site was much more worrisome. Initially it simply appeared to be a compound for a group of cold-traders. Only with further investigation and the insights of the crew’s Xenographers Edmund Swift and Vidame Mayorga was it revealed as a haven for a Xenos conspiracy, almost certainly the Slaughth. With this revelation a tight quarantine was put into place.

Most of the xenos artifacts were seized and put into secure lockup. A handful were determined to be too abhorrant and dangerous despite their considerable value to the Black Brotherhood’s clientele. The most disturbing find was not a device, however. A map of the Imperium with a number of worlds flagged and marked for some insidious purpose was plastered on the wall of a large meeting room.

One world had been crossed off the map in red: Acreage. Acreage was a formerly prosperous agri-world that had recently fallen into a bloody civil war whose body-count was only continuing to climb. Referencing the other designated worlds from the map, it was clear that nearly all of them had been showing recent signs of civil unrest and escalating violence.

Other estates had become charnel-houses used by the more successful ravenous packs, a couple had the last surviving remnants of various heretical cults, and one held a small group of Giallo’s cannibalistic loyalists that had fled before Kerchan’s purge. All were put to the sword in short order, a few estates were even razed as a precaution against contamination from the previous inhabitants.

Part 10 – Logical Efficacy

Within less than a week every estate had been swept clean, cataloged, and looted. Details were filled in on the arrangements with the new leaders of Port Chorda, the colonists of the True Path, and the Astral Knife monastery. Final preparations were now underway for the voyage back to Footfall.

One loose end concerned Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum: “Ferdinand” was almost certainly still alive and running free on Grace. Vinter was certain this would become a major problem if left alone, and began trying to locate or contact the wayward Magos. It didn’t take long to establish a dialogue.

The fallen Magos was entirely reasonable and was not going to let emotions over the loss of his ship prevent him from moving forward. He was willing to purchase passage off Grace back to Footfall or any Forge/Hive World. It was in response to this request that the most notable differences in Explorators and Magi were displayed.

Vinter expressed complete understanding and acceptance of Ferdinand’s position and request, and agreed immediately on behalf of the dynasty. Arrangements were made for the pick up and Vinter headed out via shuttle to escort the Magos personally.

The two disciples of the Machine God discussed a mix of shop and recent events amicably on the flight back towards the ship. Vinter went over the Magos’ itinerary and the arrangements that had been made for him, along with the generous assistance that House Mayorga would be providing to the Magos in exchange for his agreement not to contest the loss of his vessel with the Mechanicum.

Then Vinter Stum shot Brother XXCv-177a-888 in the back of the head with a plasma pistol. The Magos died instantly. Vinter stripped the dead Magos’ records from his cortex implants then kicked the corpse out of the shuttle in high-orbit over the ocean, confirming the corpse’s complete incineration and scattering of its ashes before directing the shuttle back to the ship. Problem solved.

Part 11 – Payday

With his immediate usefulness at an end, Mathias met with the Lord-Captain to determine the long-term arrangements for him and his daughter. In gratitude for his child’s rescue, he asked that the Lord-Captain be the one to grant her a name. Choir Master Telepathica “Lux” felt the skein of fate’s weave shift and tighten, and with a glance made it clear to Lord Mayorga that this was no small matter.

Lord Captain Mayorga spent a moment in reflection, and graciously excused himself. A short time later he returned with a small jewelry box, withdrawing from it a small but exquisitely crafted locket. “This was worn by my mother, Anna Mayorga. Along with this charm I grant you her name.” Turning to her father the captain continued, “My ship has need of a skilled Steward, and from what you’ve told me of your previous life you should be able to fill that role.”2

Now Ship’s Steward Mathias Casmirre, the man was overwhelmed by the Lord-Captain’s gesture. He accepted the honors bestowed on his family humbly, and immediately set to work. All the while Lux’s blind eyes watched the threads of fate collapse into a new form with tense anticipation. The meaning of those threads has thus far eluded the seer, but the child’s fate was tied more tightly to the Captain’s in that moment than even Lux’s considerable talent could have foreseen.

Setting course for the edge of the Grace system, the captain simply left a beacon attached to the transport stating his ownership of the hulk as an extension of his claim to the system. From even the distant assessments of the Navigator and Astropath it was clear that the vessel was dangerously warp-tainted. Feeling that the staff and crew had already pushed their resources far enough, it was decided that he would rather contract specialists to clear and secure the hulk once the rest of the endeavor was resolved.

The trip back to Footfall was unusually fast and calm. The Surfeit of Moral Lassitude was secured in the void-docks of Footfall for proper repairs and ritual reconsecration in thanks for the great machine spirit of the ship’s remarkable service and the crew allowed extensive shore leave. At the same time Mayorga and his most trusted officers took Chorda’s “package” to her estate, glad to be free of it.

Aspyce Chorda was pleased with the results of Mayorga’s work. Lord Mayorga was surprised to see that she even seemed pleased at the success he’d had in taking control of her former holding. her reaction to Mayorga’s reports made it apparent that she really did hold an irrational resent of the system.

The narco-gang, the True Path, and the Astral Knives all fulfilled their side’s of the deals made with House Mayorga. Of particular note, the hand-off to the Black Brotherhood was exceptionally gratifying and rewarding. While nothing regarding their plans for Vakis was revealed rumors eventually came back that they had gone to extensive lengths to restore his mind and body, all simply so they could torture and break him more completely.

The live capture of Vakis combined with the collection of xenos artifacts recovered from Grace added up to quite the payoff, and the dynasty’s continued business with the Brotherhood had made the Ork trade-route even more profitable since. Even that didn’t compare to the sheer scale of wealth from the estates of Grace that packed the ship’s hold to nearly bursting.

2 (GM’s Note) I’m not 100% on the details in this paragraph, let me know if any of this is different from what you remember.

Part 12 – Aftermath

The reclamation of the adrift transport left behind, the Widening Gyre, turned out to be considerably more expensive than expected. It had turned out that the warp drive had been bleeding the immaterium into the ship for years without containment. Warp beasts wiped out the first team of mercenaries that had been sent in. Significant strings had to be pulled with the Mechanicum and some extremely questionable underworld figures to get the ship exorcised and cleansed, though the cost was still far less than the value of an intact warp-capable transport vessel.

The haunted transport was given an extensive refit and repair, though the dynasty could not yet afford a full overhaul. It was then tasked with a trade route rotating through Footfall, a couple of nearby colonies, and the meeting with Ammer’Ed. So far this has been profitable, and with the later addition of a proper escort the inherent risks of the route have been greatly reduced.

Once the dynasty’s vessels had finished being serviced, the assets of the endeavor consolidated, and the crew restored and new members brought up to speed, the command crew was refreshed and ready to take on the next endeavor…

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Prelude - The Fallen

Placeholder post for now.

1. The Height of the Mayorga Dynasty
2. The Fall of Mayorga
3. The Bloody Plains of Shathar
4. The Pacification of Shathar
5. <<redacted>>
6. The Intrigues of Strella
7. Machina ex Deus

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