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.
*The First Lightbearer
*Art of the Deal – Vigil
*Mop Up and lockdown