Voyages of the Iron Duchess, Chapter II: Welcome to Calyphia

Here’s another report of the last few sessions of my ongoing Rogue Trader campaign. Feel free to read, enjoy, and comment!

THE VISION

The day after the Hesperus mission, Captain Avalon called an early morning staff meeting for all senior officers, and invited the away team to participate as well. At the meeting, he explained all that had happened in the Hesperus mission, and then invited Cygnis to be the one to try to psychically unlock the crystal’s secrets…

As everyone backed away a little, Cygnis tried to mentally probe the crystal, but found it to be an extremely difficult endeavour– only with the (reluctant) help of the ship’s Navigator and chief Astropath did she finally manage to establish a psychic connection. She was rewarded with a hazy vision of a world with green canopies, a blue sky, and the faint outline of an arch-like structure, undoubtedly of Eldar origin. She could not, however, see anything beyond this one scene, or determine where this place was located. The psychic image, she noted, seemed incomplete.

It was then that Captain Avalon revealed what he knew of the crystal– that it was, in fact, just one piece of a larger data-crystal that had been recorded by the navigator of Jacob van de Maar, one of the first Rogue Traders to venture into the Cairn Expanse millennia ago. Very few of the records of van de Maar’s voyage, and of his findings, had survived the long years of strife and war that had followed, and it was believed that the crystal was not only one of the few surviving pieces of that voyage, but that it contained a map showing a stable route into and out of the Expanse– a map that could potentially be unlocked if the crystal’s pieces were made whole again. And as fortune would have it, the rest of the data crystal just so happened to be in the possession of House Avalon, sitting in the family archives back on Calyphia.

And so it was that a course was to be set back to the dynasty homeworld of Calyphia. However, the party had a few hours to accomplish a few other tasks until then…

 

THE INTERROGATION OF ELIAS HARKIN

One of those tasks was to interrogate Elias Harkin, to determine why he had tried to ransom the crystal, whether or not he knew about the crystal’s contents, and perhaps above all else, why he had been so ungodly stupid as to order his own ship to fire on the asteroid base he’d been on. A combination of the bad officer/bad-but-attractive officer routine from Dent and Brigitte, some timely electroshock therapy from Andromeda and some mind-probing from Cygnis all dredged the truth from the grimy little man: although Harkin had no personal knowledge of the crystal’s contents, after he had retrieved it for the Avalons he had been approached by the psyker from back on the asteroid, who had introduced himself to Harkin as Rufus. The psyker had declared he was representing an interested party, and that these benefactors were willing to give Harkin twice the amount that the Avalons were paying him, plus interest, if he not only dekivered them the crystal, but also, as a bonus, brought Tiberius Avalon to them alive.

Why Rufus and his benefactors wanted either the crystal or Captain Avalon, however, had never been disclosed to Harkin, and with Rufus now dead, he wasn’t in any position to get any answers from him. What Harkin did admit, however, was that back on Hesperus he had been ready to accept Brigitte’s offer, until Rufus had “whispered into his mind” and made him react aggressively. Harkin readily admitted that Rufus had probably been psychically influencing him ever since their first meeting, and pleaded that he (probably) wasn’t responsible for trying to kill them– a plea that fell on deaf ears from the party. When pressed, Harkin further admitted that he had been thinking only of petty revenge when he had ordered his ship to fire, deciding that if he, the great pirate Elias Harkin, was going to go down, then he would take his foes with him. It had, on retrospect, been a foolish move that had cost him his leverage, his ship and what little dignity he had left.

Upon realizing that they would get nothing of further use out of Harkin, Dent declared that they should either hand him over to the Imperial Navy or cast him out into the void and be done with it. At this, Harkin at first threatened the adventurers, and then begged and pleaded with them for his life, before finally telling the party that he had stored a hidden cache of valuable contraband (including xenos items) in a secret hangar on the Hex, and that they could have it if they spared his life. At this, the party agreed to spare Harkin and investigate this cache if they ever went to the Hex, though also decided that whether or not he would be handed over to the authorities would be up to Captain Avalon to decide.

With time to kill before the ship translated to the Warp, the party whiled away the time as best they could: Cygnis engaged in flight simulations against Calan Mkrae, the Iron Duchess’ best shuttle pilot, whom she had something of an ongoing rivalry with. Afterwards, Andromeda helped perform shuttle maintenance for Cygnis and, in the process, hit on Calan, which left the pilot very confused. Andromeda also spent time trying to further investigate the message she had found on Hesperus, but sadly, could turn up no additional leads on what this “Incunabula” might be, or what it might have to do with her homeworld. Dent and Ka’ra, meawhile, had a chance to bond and converse, despite the fact that once upon a time they had both been on opposite sides of a war. And Brigitte, of course, later held a party in her quarters for the rest of the adventurers and for a good portion of the senior officers, which left all of the player characters in various states of inebriation the following morning.

 

THE TOUCH OF THE WARP

The following day, the ship prepared for warp translation to Calyphia. Cygnis was brought to the deck, and asked by Captain Avalon to use her unique Void Dreamer abilities in aid of the ship’s ailing Navigator, Mistress Selethon. Despite an ongoing antipathy between her and Selethon, Cygnis agreed to aid the Navigator all the same, although the prideful Selethon was none too happy about having to rely on an ‘Eldar’ for help. Nonetheless, thanks both Cygnis’ scrying, a clear course was charted to Calyphia, and the ship would only have to spend a few days of travel time.

During this voyage, the crew passed the time in different ways: Dent trained his men, Brigitte remained huddled in her quarters to keep as far from the roiling tides of the Warp as possible, and Cygnis maintained a vigil on the bridge. At one point, the ship was found to be moving at a sub-optimal speed, and both Andromeda and Ka’ra were sent to engineering to fix the problem: however, despite continued inspections of the warp drive, they found no problems to fix. The ship’s drivesmaster, Gudrun, told them it was nothing to worry about, that the ship’s machine spirit simply did not like to be rushed– an explanation that neither Andromeda nor Ka’ra could accept, as neither believed in the existence of machine spirits.

c. Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight Games

It was during this trip also that Andromeda came across a viewport that had not yet been closed. Out of curiosity, she decided to look out into the Warp. What she saw was a roiling, nightmarish cascade of colours and shapes that whirled into and out of focus, until, little by little, she swore should see the faces of her deceased parents. Thankfully, one of the crew members managed to pull her aside in time and close the iron shutter of the viewport, before she could be affected by the madness beyond. (GM’s note: Andromeda gained a few points of Insanity and Corruption from this encounter)

Near the end of their journey, Cygnis picked detected something unusual with her scrying: the faint return of something cold, metallic in the distance, something that sent a shiver through her mind. She tried to focus on it, to determine what it was, but the feeling disappeared as quickly as it appeared. Although she could not detect it again, she remained vigilant all the same for the rest of the journey.

 

GIRLS’ NIGHT OUT (PLUS A SHOOTOUT)

Upon arriving at Calyphia’s orbital dockyards, the crew wasted no time going shopping, setting up contacts with the world’s (legal and illegal) markets and trying to find various rare commodities. In the process, more than a few of the crew ran into old faces while searching for leads: Ka’ra, for instance, while searching the black markets for a T’au rail rifle, came into contact with two old friends of hers– Aubrey and Zachary Remington, a pair of smugglers who, years ago, had helped her to escape from the Farsight Enclaves. The Remington brothers indicated via communique that they might be able to help her acquire such a rare weapon.

Cygnis, meanwhile, briefly made contact with another old acquintance of hers, Marcellus Kobold, a self-proclaimed xenologist and a philanderer of (mostly fake) xeno artefacts, who claimed to have a map that showed routes used by Eldar Corsair fleets– something that was of interest to Cygnis, as it might hopefully reunite her with her own lost fleet. Finally, Brigitte sought to re-ingratiate herself into the Chosen Few, a network of high-end businesspeople, traders, governors, and other people of power who had for generations been the main power brokers of the sector, and of whom she had been a member before the warp had swallowed Tethys. One of her old acquaintances from the network, a trader magnate named Harlan Kortenay, was presently in Calyphia’s primary hive, Novantis, and was agreeing to meet with her to bring her back up to speed.

lars-rune-jorgensen-imperial-hive-city-by-larsrune-db38zc4

c. Lars Rune Jorgensen

As fate, coincidence, or possibly sinister design would have it, the Remingtons, Kobold, and Kortenay would all be in the same area– the Libertine, a notorious nightclub in Novantis’ seedy Parishioner’s District. And so it was that Ka’ra, Cygnis and Brigitte (and Brigitte’s bodyguard, Soeur Kathima) booked shore leave on the planet, though beforehand they were given a reminder by Captain Avalon that they, and the ship’s senior officers, were all expected to be present for an official meeting/fancy dinner party at the Avalon family mansion the following day. The four women landed in Novantis, and, after enlisting the services of man whom the group collectively referred to as the God of All Taxi Drivers, took the long route through Novantis to the Libertine. During this trip, all four women had ample time to bond, to argue, and to enjoy Ka’ra’s bewilderment at the sheer, sprawling size of an Imperial hive city.

c. dsorokin755@deviantart

Upon arrival at the Libertine, the various members of the party met with their various contacts. Upon meeting with Kobold, Cygnis, having to fend off Kobold’s amorous advances, made an offer of a piece of Eldar jewellery in exchange for the star-map. To her surprise, however, Kobold told her that he had already received a previous offer for the map, from a trio of mysterious individuals who had offered him spirit-stones in exchange for it. Kobold told her that he was still considering their offer, and that they had given him a spirit stone as an up-front payment– upon requesting to see the spirit stone, Cygnis was able to psychically scan it and determined that it was, in fact, genuine, though she couldn’t tell for certain if it was occupied. To Cygnis’ dread, Kobold then upped the bargaining price, saying he would give the star map to her in exchange for something of a more personal nature from her…

Just as things were getting unpleasant for Cygnis, help came from an unexpected quarter. Ka’ra had been getting agoraphobic after navigating the crowd of the Libertine, and had been thoroughly lost until she had randomly bumped into Aub and Zach Remington. The joyous surprise of their reunion was brief, however, as the brothers told Ka’ra that they were looking for a man who owed them money. It didn’t take long for them to find him, however: before Ka’ra could stop them, the brothers zeroed in on Kobold, declaring that they were the ones who had first sold him the Eldar map, and that the currency he had paid them was in fact substandard, out-of-sector currency that was only half of the agreed upon price.With the brothers now threatening to cave in Kobold’s face, Cygnis and Ka’ra were able to pressure Kobold into giving them the star-map (and the spirit stone) in exchange for his continued safety. Wanting to know more about the mysterious individuals who had approached Kobold, Cygnis attempted to mind scan him, but (after her player rolled abysmally low) was unable and unwilling to pierce the lewd cloud of his thoughts.

Brigitte and Kathima, meanwhile, had booked a private room with which to meet with Kortenay. As Kathima stood sentinel by the doorway, Brigitte and Kortenay exchanged pleasantries and reminiscences, with the trader bringing her up to speed on major events across the sector: there had been scattered reports of T’au ships increasingly crossing over into Imperial space, spiking an influx of illegal trade with the xenos  as well as raising further fears that the T’au were preparing for an invasion. At the same time, pirate activity had gone up in the sector, with human, Ork and even Eldar reavers being spotted with increasing frequency. On the Hex, meanwhile, there were rumours that some famous seer or diviner was preparing to make a grand prophecy, and various noteworthies throughout the sector were flocking to the Hex to see what their future held. Last, but by no means least, various powerful individuals throughout the sector were hoping to shift mercantile influence in the sector and unseat Calyphia as the major hub of westward trade– and in the process, leave the Avalon dynasty even more destitute than before.

It was then that Brigitte (after a very good Awareness roll) noticed the minute but unmistakable signs of unease and tension in Kortenay’s demeanour. Kortenay told Brigitte that, in the aftermath of the loss of Tethys, the Chosen Few had decided that her membership was no longer necessary, especially since another had recently stepped with a new business opportunity in her place. It was then that a side door in the room began to open…and Brigitte, reacting out of paranoid reflex, threw a smoke grenade to the floor and bolted out of the room.

As Brigitte and Kathima ran back out into the nightclub, a gagging Kortenay stumbled out soon after, along with a pair of armed thugs and Beauregard Chasson, a former Tethysan noble and Brigitte’s main political rival (and would-be suitor) back during her governorship. As soon as they recovered, Beauregard had his men searched the crowd for Brigitte, while Bearegard himself loudly offered anyone in the crowd a million Imperial credits for her capture. Although Kobold attempted to shout out her location, a quick knockout punch from Zach prevented that. Brigitte, thankfully, put her xenomesh cloak to good use, hiding in the cloak room until Aub Remington provided a loud, song-based distraction that drew the attention of the whole nightclub. This allowed the adventurers to sneak out the back door unnoticed. By the time Beauregard realized where they had gone, the party (with the Remingtons in tow) had already been picked up by the God of All Taxi Drivers and were speeding off into the Calyphian night.

 

TAVERNS AND LOOSE TONGUES

While this had been going on, Andromeda had decided to meet with some of her fellow techpriests on the surface. After taking a quick shuttle ride down to Novantis, she travelled to one of the industrial districts of the city and soon found a pub frequented primarily by staff from a Mechanicus-controlled refinery. Hoping to have a confidante that she could glean information from, Andromeda ordered a drink, and began to chat amiably with one of the junior techpriests in the bar. Their conversation went well…until Andromeda casually mentioned that she hoped to retrieve and research functional artificial intelligences at some point in the future. The junior techpriest made a horrified remark about “abominable intelligences,” before quietly leaving the table.

Realizing that she had just misspoken, and that now the wary eyes/lens/visual units of several Techpriests were following her, Andromeda quietly exited the bar and made her way back to the landing pad, where she met up with the rest of the adventurers as they returned from their own night about town. As they exchanged stories, however, Andromeda noticed a lone servo-skull scanning her from the distance, before turning and floating away. Someone out there in the city was watching her…

At that point, however, the adventurers noted that they still had an official function to attend the following morning. Without any further fuss, they boarded the next available shuttle to the Iron Duchess, leaving the glittering nightscape of Novantis far behind…

 

Notable Quotes:

“Lissen…we’s pals now, right? I mean, Rufus, ‘e was the real villain in all this, not yer friend Elias! B’sides, I’ve lost me ship, I’ve lost me crew…I’ve lost bloody well everything! So, wha’dya say we just let bygones be bygones an’ just let me go? B’sides, I can still be useful to you! You haven’t plundered the sector as long as I ‘ave wivout learning a few secrets…”
Elias Harkin

“Oh, hi Calan, I was looking out the window into the Warp. It was…weird, and twisty, and creepy, and I think I saw my dead parents, and…by the way, are you busy later tonight?”
-Andromeda

“We’d love to stay and chat, Ka’ra, but someone in this dive owes us money. Like, a lot of money.”
“Hey, that’s him, Aub! Let’s go fuck up his face!”
“If I remember Gue’la terminology correctly…why do you want to have sexual intercourse with his face?”

“Zach, you idiot, what have I told you about using scatological curse words in front of the T’au?”
“And what have I told YOU about calling the T’au a T’au in a public place, dummy?”
Ka’ra, Aub and Zach on the fine art of swearing.

“I DO beg your pardon, ladies and gentlemen, but if I could interrupt your revelries for one moment? One moment, ladies and gentlemen?”
(Beauregard fires his pistol into the ceiling)

“Thank you kindly. My name is Beauregard Chasson, and I have a business proposition for all of you: a certain woman is hiding among you. You would have my sincere gratitude…and a million thrones on your tab…if she were brought before me, preferably intact.”
-Beauregard Chasson

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