[Note to readers: For brevity’s sake I’m using the non-DH term ‘raise’ to refer to levels of success. In normal skills this is 10 better, and in autofire this is 20 better, than required.]
++++++++++++++++From the data slate of Quintilla Mola++++++++++++++++
Having dragged the ermine-robe armor from Thrungg’s disgusting corpse the grotesque nature of his weaponized – presumably xenotech – arm is plain to me. I gag and invoke the Emperor’s protection. Zarkov is more prosaic: he joints the arm off neatly and bags it up as evidence. The armored robe fits him well enough, so he dons it. He may need to pretend to be Thrungg at some stage, I warn. He quips that as he now has the arm, he might be able to pull it off. These japes are typical of Zarkov’s lack of orthodoxy, and I duly indite.
We stand alone amid swirling, shrill flocks of birds. Around the menagerie, the battle between SPA and house guards goes on; the closer parts of the estate are ablaze. Grimm voxes back to Captain Scipio of the SPA and baldly announces Thrungg’s death. After he is off-net I gently remind Grimm that there are ways to log a report and should leave that for those who best know how to do so.
We discuss our next step. The flaming corridor and blocked doorway, then a return to the chapel should that not lead anywhere useful, is our decision. Zarkov inspects the fittings for data-points as we go: he should be able to switch the internal fire defenses on, he thinks. But no such opportunity presents.
We make ready as swiftly as we can: the flames are not life-threatening but uncomfortable. Jahr flips the cabinet aside almost casually [Str, 2 raises] and kicks in the door behind it: the doorway is small, and the barbarian has to double over to peer down through it.
Mannequins dressed in house Thrungg regalia fill the room beyond. A lone house-servant timidly hides among them. Grimm coaxes her out – brusquely – and asks her what’s to do. Her name is Nonnomina and she can add nothing to our intelligence. I keep her with us as we retreat to the chapel, then leave her to shelter by the pinioned guards.
Zarkov switches the sprinkler system on [tech use, normal success] while Jahr re-ties the guards – one was working free. He is not gentle: the guard lapses into unconsciousness. I update Captain Scipio and briefly discuss some sort of truce in which the house guards can be disarmed without further risk to the SPA. But, the captain seems confident of bringing things to a close. We turn our hands to searching for access beneath the altar and I do at length find a pressure plate [1/2 perception with a raise].
We open the secret museum of apostasy. Here are heretical proofs galore. Captain Scipio not only arrives at this time but officiously sweeps through the room ahead of us. Franz covers while Jahr and Grimm begins searching for dangers. I log all items as they are examined and packed out. There are a number of weapons that absorb the attention of the heavy lads, but more importantly a data slate and a small library of books. Zarkov works on the data slate’s encryption [tech use, one hour] while I quickly flip through the books as I log them. [Mola has no relevant Lore skills to pick up hidden lore.] Everything is cataloged right down to the antique Chrono-with-auspex, and packed away for safekeeping in the black library of the ordo. Zarkov has deciphered enough of the data slate to report on a significant reference to the xeno arm hailing from a world with a golden cathedral.
Vaarak is pleased with us after our debrief [300xp]. He nods significantly at the arm: he recognizes it as daemonic, not xeno. He also points out one journal as being particularly dark. A good thing I lacked the skills to read it. He advises us to re-equip swiftly and report to the starport again, for the data slate is pointing us towards Barsapine, where a gilded cathedral awaits!
Grimm has risen to Investigator and has a pay rise, and other backdated pay comes through as well. Mola sells off the loot [Unskilled barter, ½ Fel] and divvies up the thrones, 82 each. Everyone spends up on equipment! The top acquisitions would be Zarkov’s new metal shell and sternum-mount probes – and greaves to protect his legs – Grimm’s new Judge-tastic helm and super-costly bolter rounds, and Mola’s new stub auto. Franz and Mola buy manstopper rounds (and Mola a clip of dumdum rounds as well) and Jahr just re-ups his grenades.
++++++++++++++++From the data slate of Quintilla Mola++++++++++++++++
Barsapine is not a rotating world. Its hot side is a desert wasteland, its cold side a frigid wasteland. Only the ‘ridges’ between offer habitable environments: there is a ‘twilight’ ridge and a ‘daylight’ ridge. Those, and the strange blessed region of the Gilded Cathedral.
Our briefing notes explain that we are not to cause any disturbance in lawful worship at the Cathedral. Abbot Jurutas will be expecting us and will aid us. The briefing also urges us to subtlety. I glance over at Jahr and Grimm who have just returned from their daily distance-urination competition, and who are breaking wind loudly and laughing oafishly, and wonder. I recall that Zarkov amused himself for the first few watches of our passage on the Rogue Trader by sneaking his new spy-probes under my sleep-cover. Still, subtlety is relative.
In orbit we transition to a lander and inspect our equipment. We have been loaned an ancient and very valuable Medispex, with a strong warning not to get it damaged. We are also geostationary against the satellite that sends the blessed rays down upon the Gilded Cathedral. Apparently the solar light reflected down is varied to order the days and routines of the people. Wonders and blessings does the Emperor shower down upon his unworthy subjects!
At the Cathedral – which being completely gilded is impressive for those addicted to worldly pomp – the elderly and wizened Abbot Jurutas greets us. We present our credentials. He seems alone save for an array of servitors, but dimly the sound of studying and orthodox chanting can be heard.
Jurutas explains that his Cathedral houses a relic that, so prophesy says, will lay low a daemon. He fears the daemon is active. He mentions manifestations experienced by his lesser clergy – such as decay. The theme of feathers – as we noted in the Thrungg chapel – is also evident. In terms of research, he points us to the thriving Librarium of the Cathedral, only asking us not to disturb his catechumens.
Whilst Franz Jahr and Grimm eat heartily, Zarkov and I snack swift and then pore through the many and ancient tomes in the Librarium. At length I discover a key entry among a catalog of ecclesiarchy on the planet.
“EH#120 Haemetite Cathedral located upon the Twilight Ridge along eastern coastline. Clergy in residence: none. Assign no clergy to this accursed place. Request Ordo Hereticus investigation into activities of Koronath Hekate, Gustavus Hekate, and Nikaea Hekate.”
Jurutus agrees with this ancient inditement. Of course, he would do if the roots of the current daemonic threat were in fact close to home. This would not be the first time that an Abbot has fallen into apostasy or worse. I assign Grimm, who has the necessary research skills, to push further into the Hekate house while Zarkov and I eat properly and rest. It seems they are now either gone or extinct, he concludes.
We spend an extra day making sure extra research is done and nothing turns up. Jurutas has continued to play faithful, and my guard is lowered as we bid him farewell and emerge from the Cathedral doors. But I am not completely off guard! And, I yell a warning to my peers as I catch movement some 50 meters or so away in the scrubland beyond.
Battle layout: The Cathedral portico offers hard cover if the team can duck back to the massive gilded stone pillars framing the portal; steps down to the ground do not present a significant advantage or obstacle. The area beyond offers only light concealment. Half a dozen robed, masked cultists advance: each wears wings strapped to the back and a carrion-bird-style mask or domino. One bears an iron staff, the others flails.
- Grimm/Cult Psyker/Jahr/Cultists
Round 1: Mola yells a warning and for the cultists to stand down in the name of the Holy! and zips back to cover while readying her stub-auto. Undaunted by Mola’s lack of intimidation and general retreating, the cultists chant and Z grimaces [WP check ok on reroll] for he understands their chant. Franz also warns of the attack and gains cover, readying his autogun. Grimm gains cover and readies his Lawgiver. Jahr yells “die heretics” tilts his laz-gun up off its slung position, and blazes away, missing. The cultists run up towards the steps, getting within 5 meters of Jahr, while the Cult Psyker levels his staff at Jahr and unleashes his power. [WP Jahr, fails on reroll.] Jahr is still on his feet, though he looks groggy [3 levels Fatigue, -10 to everything]. Z gets to cover and draws his weapon.
Round 2: Mola’s gun jams [1st shot from the Stub Auto, not a good omen!]. Franz’ shot hits the Cult Psyker hard, a body shot: Mola [raise on Perception] warns his cowl is probably armor. Grimm aims for the nearest cultist, hits [6 damage, no armor, 4 Wounds]. As he is hit with yet another Psyker attack Jahr drops his laz-gun, flips out a grenade, preps it, and rolls it down at the oncoming cultists while falling unconscious [WP fail, another 3 Fatigue]. The blast narrowly misses him but all five cultists are wounded. The cultists trample over him on their way up the steps, not pausing to do him more damage. Z unjams Mola’s gun and snapshots, missing.
Round 3: Mola aims for the cultist Grimm shot, and hits him again in the body [Rk 7 crit] and he drops. Franz misses the Psyker. Grimm switches targets and breaks a cultist’s arm with his next shot, forcing him to drop the flail, though he continues running up the steps. The Psyker focuses his foul Psyker talent on Franz [WP 03] who resists its power. The cultists charge the doorway but miss with everything. Z steps back and shoots his man – a light wound [4 damage = 2 Wounds].
Round 4: Mola opens up on semi-auto and wipes the cultist in front of her away with all three rounds hitting solidly [3 raises, damage is 10 7 and 10 to legs and body]. Seeing a gap open up, Franz tumbles through – but badly, and ends prone below one of the cultists [bad fail on reroll]. The Psyker swings his staff to point at Franz who screams in horror – before Grimm steps sideways, gains a clear shot, and blows the Psyker’s head off [righteous fury]! Franz shakes off whatever was threatening his sanity [WP ok on reroll]. The cultist above Franz swings the flail down at him but the nimble Franz not only rolls clear but kips up nimbly [01 dodge]. One of the two other remaining cultists runs through to strike Mola a massive blow with his flail [armor absorbs 8 as the weapon is primitive, toughness 2, 3 Wounds taken, Mola is lightly wounded]. The last cultist at the portal misses. Zarkov steps back again, takes a snapshot and his laz-gun burns his opponent’s face off: the cultist falls blinded and unconscious.
Round 5: Mola runs to cover, calling a reload. Franz draws his laz-pistol and shoots at his antagonist, missing, but the cultist disarms himself with a wild and painful-looking swing of his flail. The remaining cultist on his feet inside the cathedral closes on Z and misses. Grimm shoots into the melee (yet again) catching the cultist square in the back and he falls stunned. Z steps clear and snap-shoots down the steps, catching the disarmed cultist in the head, and incinerating the man [righteous fury].
My wound is swiftly repaired by our Medispex, while Zarkov brings Jahr back to his senses (in a loose sense – he later assures us his tactic of standing in the open was the right one). Jahr will need rest.
We investigate the cultists and find they are mutants! Two are still breathing. The cultists had been using something herbal akin to Frenzon: hence their mad determination. We shall not let this deter us! Soon, we shall travel to the Haemetite Cathedral where it stands on a dismal Twilight shore.