“It’s a key,” Zarkov explains smugly, “I’ve been processing all of the permutations…”
“You mean, you just realized something…”
“…based around factual evidence,” Zarkov continues firmly, “and there is only 0.0001% chance I am wrong. The femur is inserted end-on into something, turns, and unlocks, er, something, and there you are?”
“Where are we?” Jahr asks interestedly, looking around to check. We’re still in our stateroom.
“Well, that I can’t tell you, of course, but now I’ve put in the hard detection work the rest is only footwork. Meaning you lot.”
I suggest that to avoid obvious suspicion we continue with the relic-appraisal. Our next choice is the Chalice of St. Euthrica. This assessment proves routine for me, as the answer lies in the records themselves. [Int: 2 raises from Mola]. The chalice does not match the original description in the provenance.
I summon Drook and pass on the bad news. He’s too full of his own news to feel the shock and disgrace as he should. It seems that Arch-Cardinal Ignato is presiding over a Synod at present, at which relics of St. Drusus will be discussed, and our expertise is required. We have one hour.
Since this could all prove to be a sinister Ignato-laid ploy to expose our deception, we re-equip discreetly. Grimm is to carry my combat cloak, and I shall shelter behind he and Jahr until I’ve donned it.
The business we have been invited for is quickly brought before the assembled ecclesiarchs. The matter is a concern at the multiplicity and therefore dubious provenance of Drusian relics. We are invited to give our opinion as “experts.”
I have had time to assemble a cogent line of reasoning, so trot it out. It seems to go down well. [Player states argument, GM assigns a max bonus Int check as it sounded pretty convincing!] Pressing my advantage I ask Ignato for access to his wing to follow any possible relic crimes. My excuse sounds flimsy even to myself, and he adroitly brushes the matter aside. We find ourselves swiftly moved out of the synod and heading back to our duties before we realize he has side-tracked us like the expert bureaucrat he is.
We deal with a minor relic, then move back to the Sacristy for the Daemonhammer of Agamemnon. It’s out of my range of expertise, though naturally I assemble and analyze the provenance. Zarkov (and Jahr, for whatever reason) pronounce it genuine. We cease work for the day: I secrete my data thief among in the records, on the off-chance it picks up another of those transmissions Xavieticus intercepted.
On our way back though the broad corridors, decorated with reliefs and statuary, we pass a group of monks heading the other way. I note a third and distorted eye blink under the cowl of one of their number and sound the alarm as the “monks” draw weapons!
These are really broad corridors, something like 20m across. The only cover is the statuary, wall-side, both sides. There’s about 30m between the leads of each party.
- Mola/3rd-Eye Mutie
- Zarkov/Mutie Mooks
Round 1: Jahr flips down his Autogun (a special, with three mags and an underslung shotgun) and uses suppressive fire effectively! Not only do all muties fail, he also hits a mook mutie, wounding it. They flinch! [They are pinned, with -20BS.] Franz lightning-draws two Carnodons (heavy, accurate pistols) and opens up on 3rd-eye, discovering his target is well-armored in the body. Grimm hands the combat cloak back to Mola, drawing his Lawgiver hand-cannon. Mola dons the cloak. Beside her, Zarkov draws his Mauler (a heavyish bolt pistol) and shoots past Grimm and Jahr at 3rd-eye, who has taken cover behind the nearest statue. The round slams through the statue [drops from 4 to 3 armor] and into the mutie, but bursts off the armor. It seems to be heavy plates of metal-like material. The other muties scuttle to cover as best they can.
Round 2: Jahr drops his autogun and flips his grenade launcher up off its sling, but the round bursts well short though luckily not at his feet. [Muties all reroll WP checks to become unpinned, one succeeds.] Franz sprints forward and attempts an acrobatic move but instead sprawls foolishly near the 3rd-eye’s cover. Grimm is in good range and makes a called shot to 3rd-eye’s head [7 damage] though the statue saves the creature from death. Mola rushes far along [sprint] to cover opposite Franz. 3rd-eye tries a shot but being pinned, misses. Zarkov aims and shoots 3rd-eye in the head: the head explodes! “There goes the forensic” Grimm comments dourly. The unpinned Mook and most of the others fire at Zarkov (who is well in cover behind Jahr and Grimm) and one manages to hit him solidly with his stub revolver [3 wounds]. Zarkov’s weapon mechadendrite returns their fire, missing. “I’ll move behind them,” Mola advises the team.
Round 3: Jahr runs forward, drawing his mono-axe. Franz bounces athletically to his feet, fans his twin Carnodons down onto his targets – and they both jam! Grimm shoots the most enthusiastic mook in the head [6 damage]. Mola sprints right past all the mooks [well clear as the corridor is so broad] and into cover behind them. Zarkov’s called shot hits the wounded mook in the head again [Rk 1 crit]. The mooks return fire and one manages to hit Jahr, which is a waste of a bullet. Zarkov’s weapon mechadendrite returns their fire, missing again.
Round 4: Jahr finishes his charge by axing the wounded mutie, dropping it. Franz quick-draws two more pistols, sprays autofire across the wall opposite and manages to land a single round, a solid hit to a leg [12 damage]. Grimm runs forward to cover. Mola draws her autopistol for the first time and aims, calling in a (surprisingly) authoritative voice [Unskilled Intimidate: rolls 13] for the muties to surrender: they do!
As the sounds of approaching Adepta become audible we finish tidying up and searching: Franz tucks away a scroll-tube with a knowing wink.
Our quarters are still secure. The tube’s contents is a number of sheaves rather than one scroll. The final sheaf contains an appeal for assistance or reinforcements to be sent to Blinding Gulch. As the missive appears to be directed at someone in power my deduction is that the Arch-Cardinal is in league with mutants.
Their presence in the Cathedral will call for explanation and Ignato is bound to wonder why there was no message. Grimm suggests returning the scroll-tube to where it can be found with a careful search. I suggest a cunning refinement that utilizes Zarkov’s copyist talents and magnifying lens attachments.
Zarkov forges a replacement final sheaf, which is much more neutrally framed and contains no appeal for reinforcement.
Franz slips the scroll-tube back under some rubble from the destroyed statuary. It will be sure to be found when the corridor is cleaned up later.
We have three major relics to go, and decide to churn through them as a way of explaining a departure.
The Tablets of Drusian Wisdom: St. Drusus himself is said to have inscribed them. Sadly we make no inroads on assaying them. The records look genuine but that is all we can say.
The Tri-Skull of St. Uther: This triptych of skulls is said to be the remains of St. Uther who shall we say, went through some changes in the course of his life. Zarkov uses his medicae skills while I check provenance. Jahr idly picks the middle one up, but apart from grunting over a chip or two, makes no contribution. [Zarkov succeeds on Medicae, Jahr fails on Common Lore War, and Mola succeeds on Schol Lore Imp Creed]. As the final skull matches a specific injury – I believe it is the 999th – on the Saint’s record, we decide the three are indeed genuine.
Vestment of St. Drusus: as this remained in the Cathedral since the great Saint wore it, and the records and complete, we pronounce it genuine. Interestingly, there is a coded message in its border, but we can’t decrypt it.
It has been a long day. We sweep our staterooms again, and make plans to move to Blinding Gulch. Franz heads out to look for a keyhole and keep an eye on any suspicious movements.
While he is gone, my data slate informs me that Blinding Gulch is in the under-hive of Gunmetal City. We have a contact in that city – the industrialist and armaments lord Sorkat Authwaite – and the lads are cheered by the possibility of moving to Gunmetal City to continue our investigations. And buy more guns.
At the crack of dawn Franz returns to wearily report no success.
Franz may be disheartened but the night’s work has given me fresh ideas. Before we go, I explain, we should make use of our contacts here to check what they may know. I need sleep and Franz does likewise, but Zarkov can seek out Moy to see if he knows anything – after all, he was possessed by a demon – and go on to Xavieticus to see if he has any further information. Jahr will guard Zarkov and Grimm will guard we sleepers.
After a few hours they vox in brimming with new information. Moy himself was no use, but someone they describe as “a looney” mentioned two works hidden in the Archive, and demons trapped below the Cathedral. Xavieticus has explained to them that one work, the Matters Concerning the Great Work of Illumination, deals with the construction of this Cathedral.
We meet at the Archive, except for Franz who is off searching again. The stacks seem randomly arranged, but this is my forte. After patient work on the old catalog system I am able to lead them to both works. After Zarkov inspects them, we “borrow” both.
Back in our staterooms we kick off the research with the Matters Concerning. There are a great many statistics and diagrams but they prove very illuminating, if you will pardon the play on names. It seems this Cathedral once had a private wing, and it also seems this wing’s entrance was concealed by the altarpiece in the Nave.
The other book, Several Spheres of Eternal Faith, Zarkov decides has no merit. The ravings that could conceal a code are merely ravings.
Franz arrives back at this point. He too is excited. “I’ve found the keyhole!” he exclaims. “Is it in the altarpiece?” Jahr asks. “I really, really hate you,” Franz sulks. “Is it an earhole? I was betting earhole!” “No, it is in fact an eye-socket,” Franz explains, brightening up again.
We send all this as encrypted updates off to Vaarak, retrieve the Femur from the sacristy, and brief Amortus to act as lookout while we investigate the altar. [Mola makes 05 on Fel to convince Amortus]. He will vox us if there is any danger of being interrupted as we attempt to insert the Femur into the eye-socket of a carven demon!