Voyages of the Iron Duchess, Chapter I: A Meeting on Hesperus

Ladies and gentlemen, here is a write up of the first few sessions of the Rogue Trader campaign I am running. Over the next few months/weeks, I am going to be posting regular after-session recaps of what my adventurers have been up to, and what sort of trouble they have been getting themselves into. Enjoy!

 

A meeting is called….

The session began with the player characters all being summoned to a meeting in the Captain’s study. By this time, while all of the player characters were still relatively new to the Iron Duchess, all of them had nonetheless been on the ship at least a few months, and thus long enough to make their presences felt and to become known to Captain Avalon. It was because of this, and because of their unique talents and backgrounds, that they were all summoned for a very important mission.

Meeting the party in the study was a brooding Captain Avalon, his first officer, Aramis Danton, and his master of whispers, Orwell Delaque, the latter two of whom did most of the talking. Danton and Delaque informed the adventurers that months ago they had contracted Elias Harkin, a pirate of some small repute, with retrieving an object for them– a small data-crystal, recently uncovered by a broker on the Hex, containing information that was of considerable value to the Avalon dynasty. Unfortunately, although Harkin had retrieved the crystal, he then reneged on his deal: he was now demanding three times his original payment, or else, he threatened, he would sell the crystal to one of the Avalon dynasty’s many rivals.

At this moment, Harkin and his crew were holed up in Hesperus 7B, an asteroid mining station recently abandoned by the Adeptus Mechanicus, and was demanding an in-person meeting with Captain Avalon there. Danton and Delaque, naturally, smelled a trap, and so instead decided to send this team instead: Madame L’Oiseaux, for her charisma and her skill and negotiation, Magos Andromeda to make use of any still-functional Mechanicus systems, Ka’ra to determined if the crystal was xenotech in origin, Cygnis to use her precognitive abilities in case Harkin was planning a trap, and Dent because of his years of experience in boarding actions.

Planning the Next Steps

Before they made any plans of action, the party asked a large number of questions and made several important discoveries. After much probing, Delaque finally admitted that the crystal in question was (most likely) psychic in nature, meaning the information within could only be accessed by a trained psyker such as an Astropath or Navigator. He further divulged that the crystal was believed to contain a star-map into the Cairn Expanse, which, if true, would have made it utterly invaluable to anyone searching the notorious Expanse for riches. Delaque also revealed that the Cairn Expanse was where Captain Avalon’s father and the family flagship, the Grail of Calyphia, were lost years before, which meant this crystal might have had some personal value to Captain Avalon as well.

As to Elias Harkin, it was speculated that, somehow, he had learned the nature of the information it hid, and so now felt that he could extort the Dynasty given how valuable it was. What was known was that he was most likely waiting in the central mining chamber of Hesperus, and most likely had a well-armed landing party with him. Hesperus itself was situated on the other side of a dense asteroid field that would be difficult for the Iron Duchess to cross, and auspex scans had noticed a few things that didn’t align with original maps of the region– namely that one of the larger asteroids deep into the belt was missing, and there was now a large dust cloud in front of Hesperus that was throwing off auspex scans, and thus making it difficult to determine where Harkin’s ship, the Vulture, was.

As for Hesperus…it remained a mystery why the Mechanicus had left it in the first place. The talk of the sector, however, was that the station still had plenty of backup systems online, and its security systems were still active enough to deter any would-be looters from going into restricted areas.

The heroes quickly came up with a plan that Brigitte referred to as “a silken glove and a mailed fist”: Brigitte, Cygnis, Ka’ra and Andromeda would take a shuttle through the asteroid belt and land on Hesperus to meet with Harkin, and, hopefully, to negotiate the release of the crystal. In the event that the negotiations turned sour, however, or that Harkin was simply setting a trap to hold someone in the dynasty for ransom, then that would be where Dent came in: the Mordian would prepare a boarding party and take a second shuttle through the belt, taking a route that would avoid detection and docking on a separate part of the station. Once they had boarded, they would make their way via stealth to the meeting site, and, if need be, spring upon Harkin and his men the moment things turned ugly. A third shuttle would be waiting on standby in case a hasty extraction was needed.

The preparations were a simple enough affair, that simply involved petitioning the (irate and wheelchair bound) quartermaster Jago Strummer for additional equipment such as flash grenades and, in the case of Dent’s team, a few boarding shields– Dent had very specific ideas in mind for the loadout of his boarding team, and wanted to make sure he got them. Cygnis, meanwhile, used her piloting and navigational skills to plot a course that Dent’s shuttle could take without it being spotted. Dent had a much more difficult task, however, as the squad of armsmen he was given command of was at first reluctant to take orders from a man who had only been on the ship for a few months. A barrage of shouting, threatening and intimidation at the largest of them, however, quickly caused the rest to fall into line.

 

The Abandoned Facility

void_station_web
Artist unknown

As the three shuttles left the ship– all maintaining a safe distance to one another– they were forced to pull some tricky maneuvering to navigate the asteroid field. Luckily, Cygnis, piloting the first shuttle, was more than up to the task, as was the pilot of Dent’s shuttle. Eventually, the first shuttle cleared the densest part of the field and approached the station– a factory complex set atop a massive asteroid. Through the dust cloud, they could see the Vulture moored by anchor cable just above the station– this close, they could see what the Iron Duchess’ auspex could not. The first shuttle managed to dock without incident, while the second shuttle, carrying Dent and his men, managed to stay out of line of sight of the Vulture and dock in a separate part of the station.

Upon boarding, Brigitte and her team established vox-contact with Harkin early on, and proceeded through the station towards the meeting place– although a last-minute malfunction with their shuttle forced Andromeda to stay in the docking bay and repair the damage (the player could not make it to this session).

peter-richmond-warhammer-scene-munitoriumcc. Peter Richmond

As they proceeded through the abandoned halls of the station, Brigitte, Andromeda and Ka’ra found several entrance ways and alcoves that they could potentially have disabled the security systems for and investigated, but they chose not to distract themselves and instead focused on navigating their way to the meeting area. As they progressed, Cygnis sensed two things through psyniscience– the distant presence of another psyker, as well as a vast, slumbering presence, seemingly all around them, that was slowly but surely getting hungry…

Dent and his men, meanwhile, managed to land without incident in one of the station’s upper levels. Like Brigitte and her team, Dent and his men did not allow themselves to be distracted by any of the station’s mysteries.

The two teams managed to arrive at their destination at roughly the same time– a vast, open mining chamber, with a massive drill and several hydraulic claws and cables hanging dormant from the ceiling. A massive, airlock-sealed hole was in the centre of the room. Brigitte and her team  came in through one of the main entrances, while Dent and his team found themselves in an upper-floor office overlooking the chamber, attached to one of the catwalks fixed to the chamber walls.

Harkin was waiting for Brigitte with a landing crew of twelve pirates, along with a hunched, hooded figure that was unmistakably a feral-worlder psyker of some sort. Unaware of Dent and his team overlooking them from the upper floor, Harkin began the negotiation by bluntly stating his demands. In response, Cygnis cast Soul-Scry to give her group a slight, precognitive edge, and Brigitte did what she did best by charming Harkin, leading the conversation and appealing to his pride and greed with counter-offers. Midway through the negotiation, the psyker accompanying Harkin secretly attempted to psychically influence Brigitte…and failed, as her willpower was far stronger than he  had expected, and she resisted his attempted compulsion.

Harkin seemed ready to accede to Brigitte’s counter-offer and take a permanent contract with the Avalon dynasty…until the psyker whispered in his ear, at which point he suddenly became more aggressive, backtracking to his original demands and threatening to hold Brigitte, Cygnis and Ka’ra hostage unless his terms were accepted. It was at this point Dent and his team intervened, throwing a flash grenade through the office window into the mining chamber…and then all hell broke loose.

 

A Firefight Erupts

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c. Fantasy Flight Games

After the detonation left Harkin and his men reeling, Dent and his men flooded onto the catwalk overlooking the chamber, firing as they did so. In the ensuing firefight, the pirates were caught by surprise, and several of them were gunned down before they could even react. Harkin himself was left stunned and blinded, and crucially dropped the crystal– which Ka’ra managed to grab before running to a safe position and firing into the pirates. At the height of the battle, the rogue psyker unleashed his mental powers and incapacitated at least one armsman, ravaging his mind with nightmarish visions. In response, however, the Psyker soon found himself being teamed up on in close combat by one Armsman carrying a chainsword, and by Cygnis, who had cast Searing Light and was now wielding the blazing Carmine Lance of Khaine against the psyker.

Surrounded, and wounded almost unto death, the Psyker, in desperation, opened himself up the Warp to draw on as much power as possible. The end result backfired spectacularly, as the ensuing psychic backlash knocked out the Psyker, Ka’ra, Harkin, and every single pirate in the room (and soured any and all dairy products in the area). Cygnis wasted no time in relieving the unconscious psyker of his head with her blazing spear, and with that, the battle ended– such was the speed and overwhelming power of the Armsmen’s surprise attack that Harkin didn’t even have time to summon reinforcements.

Harkin still had one last trick to pull, however. As he and his surviving men were being cuffed by the Armsmen, Harkin came back to consciousness, unleashed a litany of curses, and managed to activate a vox bead on the collar of his coat, screaming for his ship to open fire and obliterate Hesperus. In the ensuing panic, the heroes and their retinue of armsmen grabbed Harkin and began to flee back to the docking bay just as Hesperus began to shake and fall apart all around them. In the midst of this chaos, Cygnis could sense the vast presence she had felt earlier rousing, and could feel its rising anger and hunger.

 

A Conspiracy Revealed?

Meanwhile, back at the docking bay, Andromeda was able to carry out some simple repairs to the shuttle to get it spaceworthy again. With little left to do, and knowing that she couldn’t risk vox contact with the rest of the party in case Harkin was monitoring anything, Andromeda instead decided to explore a little, dispatching her servo-skull into one of the many tiny chutes and tunnels lining the station, which were no doubt designed for servo-skulls to travel through. After half an hour of exploration, during which time she saw everything her servo-skull did through her mind-uplink unit, Andromeda stumbled across a chute that seemed to be blocked by a coded entrance. After managing to successfully hack the console, though, Andromeda’s skull got through the entrance and floated into an empty office– one that had been seemingly abandoned in a rush some time ago, judging by the fact that its owner had left his computer terminal on.

After a few minutes of perusing the terminal via her servo skull, Andromeda discovered that the office had once belonged to a Magos Exelon Vaarn, the head of the Mechanicus facility before it had been abandoned. In the midst of a long, dull list of logistics reports, quota tables and minerological reports, Andromeda found three outgoing messages dated from several weeks ago, sent to a recipient whose name had been, strangely, redacted. In reading these messages, Andromeda discovered that Vaarn had been using his position as a cover for other, more clandestine purposes– that he and the person whom he had been messaging had been looking for something called “the Incunabula,” and that probes that Vaarn had been sending from the station had found its possible location somewhere in the Cairn Expanse. Vaarn also mentioned, in his messages, that he was fearful of discovery by the rest of the Mechanicus, and that that he had had to work in secrecy ever since “the disaster at Mundus Brunnus.” Andromeda found it particularly curious as to why Vaarn was referencing her homeworld, what disaster he was referring to, and what, exactly, he was so afraid of the rest of the Mechanicus discovering.

This was not all that Andromeda learned from the messages, however: in a final, frantic message to the unnamed recipient, Vaarn revealed that a void kraken– a vast, mineral-based entity that feeds on metal deposits– had been discovered in the asteroid belt, and that it had ensnared and eaten an ore hauler before the Mechanicus in the faciltiy had used a converted neutron bomb to destroy it (thus explaining the dust cloud surrounding the station). The void kraken had not been alone, however– after conducting some tests, Vaarn discovered, to his horror, that the asteroid that this entire facility had been built upon was in fact another slumbering void kraken! Vaarn had called an evacuation, and told his co-conspirator that he would meet with him again on Anubis, the primary Mechanicus base in the Kerberus Sector.

It was at this point, however, that the station began to shake violently. Andromeda summoned her servo-skull back to her, just as all hell broke loose…

 

The Beast Awakens

As the heroes finally reached the docking bay, they found that Andromeda was waiting for them in the repaired shuttle, along with the shuttle Dent and his men had come in. After hastily boarding, the two ships sped off into the void. Behind them, the Vulture spotted them fleeing, and strained against its mooring cable as it set off in pursuit, unleashing flak fire into them as it tried to swat them from space.

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c. Fantasy Flight Games

And then, in that moment, the adventurers saw the station seemingly disintegrate, before the asteroid it was built on suddenly unfolded, dozens of long, rocky tentacles reaching upwards towards the Vulture. From their shuttles, the adventurers watched as what they had assumed had been an asteroid instead revealed itself to be the slumbering void kraken, which, now very much awake, ensnared the Vulture in its arms and tore it apart…much to Brigitte’s chagrin, as she had hoped to acquire that ship once this mission was over.

With the data crystal in their possession, and Harkin now in their captivity, the adventurers sped through the asteroid belt back to the waiting Iron Duchess, their mission a resounding success. Only time would soon tell what secrets the crystal would divulge…

 

Notable Quotes:

“You WILL stand to attention when I order you to do so, you WILL take your place back in line, and you WILL SWALLOW THAT GUM! DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR, SOLDIER?!!”-
-Dent, to Armsman Kintelle

“It would seem Mr. Harkin is a piranha that thinks himself a shark.”
-Brigitte

“I hear we’re being called for a debriefing. Aren’t briefs another word for pants?”
“Yes.”
“Why not just call it a depantsing instead?”
“A depantsing is something completely different…although I am sure they are still quite common on this ship.”
-Cygnis and Brigitte

“You grekking…no one bests Elias Harkin, d’ya hear? OPEN FIRE! OBLITERATE THE STATION!”
-Elias Harkin

“He didn’t just…”
“He did.”
“While HE’S ON the station?”
“Yes.”

“That IDIOT!”
-Dent and Ka’ra, on Harkin ordering his ship to fire on the station

 

 

 

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