When we last paused, our Acolytes had just cleansed a group of ferals. They are now ready to investigate the feral lair, a toppled factory that seems once to have been a generatorium.
++++++++++++++++++from the data slate of Quintilla Mola++++++++++++++++++
Inside the crashed factory-cum-lair we find evidence that suggests the Cadavers have been running a mutant-building lab, but it seems that one of their creations busted loose and fixed their wagon, for the time being. It’s disappointing but not surprising that the Cadavers are on the side of Heresy.
The catalysts for mutation seem to be created themselves – possibly xenotech – creepy-crawly creatures as long as my arm. Grimm blows them apart.
We’ve found scrawled directions to the main Cadaver lair, but we decide not to follow up on that just yet. We are nominally allies after all. And Franz can creep over there later where the rest of the lads would be seen immediately. I record the directions and destroy the original. Then we retrace our steps back to town and head to the fair!
I do not consider myself dry of emotion for my soul burns with duty to our divine Emperor. But the price old Skirl the fortune-teller asks is something that I have an emotional attachment to. I can hardly give her my devotional, as it would reveal my true identity. After thinking for a few seconds I slap a Throne down and tell her it will buy 20 bullets, and that’s pretty significant. She takes it.
[Mola is one of the least-emotional characters I have ever played, if not the least. I think it’s part of the DH environment – there is no meta-reason to have any kind of private life, feelings or attachments.]
Old Skirl tells me of a vision:
The cold of the void… I am fighting… a temple with walls covered in severed hands… dying light… halls of the holy are aflame… a skinless man… allies from darkest of places… the resting place of three heroes… an illuminated man… the sum of all wickedness… do not look into the well!
It sounds as though old Skirl may be referencing the Illuminated Cathedral, with its relics of fallen saints, and possibly some of the forged manuscripts. Or she may be blathering.
I rejoin the lads and learn that Jahr has been hectored by Rali the Fell-handed, the main draw of the boxing ring. But the giant barbarian is still feeling the effects of those arco-flagellant claws and has decided not to fight. So, we head into the Big Top. It costs us a bullet apiece and proves to be merely a freak show.
The worst freak appears to be one Hass. I coax him [Fel 04 reroll] into telling us his story. He was operated on by the Cadavers – he thinks – and sure enough has one of the creepy-crawly worms surgically attached.
A few bullets more
We meet up with Mulkan again. He reneges on the gold part of our deal but promises bullets and information. He sizes up as a slippery customer to me, and I make a note to try to ensure we don’t lose sight of him at the critical juncture.
Franz is now detailed off for his clandestine mission. Based on the directions we have and the local knowledge he has acquired in our exploration, he believes he can be back before the two sides go to war.
While we wait, and while the Cadaver and Skarit’s Dragon gangers filter into the main street of Blinding Gulch, Grimm sketches out how he understands the plays at work.
- The Dragons are relying on their pact with Khorne and Sunderbone’s demonic-assisted armor
- The Cadavers are going to produce a number of extreme mutations
This makes sense but our basic plan is to allow the two sides to kill each other off, then deal with the survivors. There’s no point in over-planning. We will simply attempt to stay out of melee. This plan suits Jahr, though it would normally be abhorrent to him: he does not wish to risk a stray blade slicing through his Guard armor. He elects to act as co-sniper with Franz.
Franz returns as the evening shadows lengthen. The gangers insults and challenges, called along the street, have sent honest townsfolk into hiding. Franz and Jahr pick a reasonably elevated building to fort up on.
That leaves Grimm, Zarkov and I to meet Ghor when he summons us over. It’s reassuring to find that although he seems to have a touch of the mystic about him, the tattooed Cadaver chief is physical. A bullet will deal with him as effectively as it does to any other heretic. His guards are huge and hideous mutants: living weapons really.
Ghor explains that our job is to slay Sunderbone. I nod and assure him we will get the job done.
Battle layout: A fairly broad main street, where the Dragons HQ forms the head of a T and most of the action is along the street rather than across. It’s not clear whether the Dragons and Cadavers begin facing off directly across or along. I’d like to think it is along, because that’s how Yojimbo/Fistfull of dollars/Last man standing set the scene.
The sides glower, hurl insults and challenges. Gunshots herald the start! Lord Sunderbone, armored in his fancy crimson armor, leads the Dragons from the front while Ghor lurks well behind the Cadavers with a mystic whorl of energy hovering around him. Sunderbone wields a huge greatsword with which he carves Cadavers up like gingerbread men. “Blood for the Blood God!” he Elrics hysterically and the Dragons echo him.
A cadre of huge contorted Cadaver mutants charge the Dragons, their claws and mandibles tearing normal Dragons apart. They briefly isolate Sunderbone but he is dragged clear by his own hench-gangers. As they fall to buy him time, he’s left to fall back to rally his remaining forces virtually alone. It’s time for us to take a hand.
Round 1: Franz takes leisurely aim from his vantage around 70m up and back. Mola, around 40m from Sunderbone, sprints past him to concealment along the porches. The muties eye her hungrily but let her be. Grimm aims his bolter briefly [offsets the range penalty] and fires, his shot hitting Sunderbone in the chest [12+4pen] – it hurts! He stumbles. Jahr, who has chosen the laz-gun rather than his Spider autogun, lets a barrage of laz-shots rip but they cannot breach the armor. Zarkov aims with his bolter and hits Sunderbone’s right arm a brutal blow [14+4pen]. Sunderbone continues to retreat.
Round 2: Mola is now in point-blank range of the retreating gang boss and shoots him in the left arm with her Carnodon [13+2pen]. Franz’s aimed shot hits Sunderbone at virtually the same time, breaking his helm apart [13+3pen, Rk5crit] and stunning him. Grimm aims and fires again, his bolt blowing the armored chest apart! Mola is struck by gory fragments and is knocked back slightly stunned, but she scrambles back and loots the corpse. The greatsword [2d10+2pen] is the main loot.
Noting that the mandible horrors have chased the remaining Dragons on, we return to Ghor.
“An old Guilder land train lies buried two days north, where two lava rivers converge. Venomskin is living in that hideout.” – Ghor
“Good. Now, about the bullets…” – Mola, levelling her Carnodon
Ghor is a psyker but he’s not fast enough on the counter-punch as our snipers (Jahr having sensibly switched to the Spider) blow him apart. Mola shoots at the nearest mutie and [RF, 38 points to chest] drops him on the spot. Zarkov and Grimm finish the other mutie off before it can act on Ghor’s final instruction.
Without Ghor’s guidance the rest of his mutie cadre are easy pickings. But Mulkan is notable by his absence. It seems he bored a hole in the horizon about the time Ghor threw off his mortal coil.
The thing in the cell
Franz briefs us as we march, well equipped, to the Cadavers’ lair. He is highly pleased with himself, though I wonder what the Cadavers would have made of their pict-stealer being shot out, had we not been on the verge of battle. It seems he scouted into the bowels of their operation so is able to guide us every step of the way.
So it proves. No ganger has made it back to their lair – or if Mulkan did he has packed and fled - so we walk through empty echoing chambers to the cell block where luckless captives were turned into mutants. Only one cell is occupied and the sight blasts out eyes.
[Only Jahr makes the WP check and that’s on reroll! 1 insanity point all round.]
Grimm’s lawgiver puts an end to the thing’s existence.
The thing in the tank
The final chamber lies behind a barred door. “That wasn’t barred before,” Franz comments nervously. We unbar it.
Hot, stinking gas rolls off a liquid-filled semi-opaque tank, and through the gas we can see a great bulbous, bulging, pinkish obscenity of a thing. Its one vertical slit eye opens…
[This time both Franz and Jahr succeed their WP check. 1 insanity all round to the others. Mola has now accrued 10 insanity points and must make an instability check, which she makes easily. She has had an “unsettling” experience, no other penalty.]
Jahr pumps a grenade into the tank but even as he does the thing is reaching out with its psyker tendrils into our minds. The grenade blows, the tank cracks. We retreat and as we shut the door on the corrosive gas rolling out, Grimm puts a final round into the tank to ensure it drains out completely.
The townsfolk, while not about to throw a shindig in our honor, do acknowledge our part in cleaning up the town. They provision and lodge us for free. Jahr and Franz rest up in the medicae clinic: the prognosis is good but five days will be needed at least. Grimm chafes at this but I remind him that we can trade and re-equip ourselves, with luck.
[We have a quick group vote on this, and since Jahr's player is sick of acting all coy and no-melee he votes my way. Five days is nearly enough to push him back to full health.]
I locate Kayala the “trader” and offer the greatsword for trade. Jahr has decided (reluctantly) that it is not worth keeping. Kayala, a striking-looking but somewhat masculine figure, seems willing to negotiate. I persuade her [charm success] to open up her secret stash of weaponry: it contains four frag grenades, a grenade launcher, a long-laz, and a heavy stubber. Jahr, who is voxed in on this, seems exceptionally keen on the stubber. He raves something about being able to hip-fire it with a bit of practice. Grimm tries to count the number of heavy weapons Jahr is carrying already and needs more than one hand. But I’m keen on the grenades and swap the sword for them plus some leftover value.
“How flexible are you on price – maybe we can throw in a night with one of the boys – Franz is good-looking?” – Mola [charm success]
“How flexible are you my dear?” – Kayala, stroking Mola’s hand
I take one for the team (I will do worse, in my Emperor’s service) and next morning the heavy stubber is ours.
Trading Jahr’s shotgun and old autogun for a mountain of bullets, we are now ready.
Equipped with what passes as iron rations locally (jerked rat, I believe), we travel out to where Venomskin’s hideout is supposed to be. After two days of hiking (there’s no transport to be had, not even a four-limbed mutant) the temperature spikes up. We are nearing two lava streams. The outside of each is black but this is deceptive: lava flows within each.
We locate the hatch to the concealed land-train in the dust and ash below the junction of the two rivers and the now-healthy Jahr pops it open while we stand back a respectable distance. No reaction, so it’s time to descend and explore.
The dusty, corroded interior contains a bunk-house style unit, a galley unit, and finally a luxury unit where a chair facing away from us holds a man – or a corpse. It is Venomskin, or at least a man who is heavily tattooed with pict-style tattoos, and he is not long for this world, Zarkov judges. Poison, he thinks.
Venomskin is clutching a letter from Ignato which missive tells Venomskin he is about to be executed because we are on the trail and he, Venomskin, is inconvenient.
As Zarkov bends to his examination Venomskin whispers something we can only faintly hear through the vox. He has left something hidden behind the portrait that adorns one wall, it seems.
It’s a data slate and it contains only one thing, a direct-feed retinal recording of Ignato and other conspirators explaining their forged-holy writ schemes. It’s good proof. We leave Venomskin to his tomb.
“It’s time to get back to Scintilla. If we stay much longer I’ll be running a string of whores and plotting to take over the town mayoralty” – Mola
++++++++++++++++++++Data slate paused++++++++++++++++++++
Xp 500 each, 50 bonus for Mola trying to boobytrap the Dragons lair last session.
This was a good session in terms of roleplay. It felt as though we had plenty of choices and the outcome was not entirely a given. In terms of plot development less so: we are heading back the way we came, very much as expected, with no sub-boss or conspiracy confronted. But I forgive the writer because of the whole Western riff, which we all enjoyed.