In the aftermath of the excursion into Novantis, the party returned to the ship for some much-needed rest. Brigitte, eager to expand the assets of the Dynasty, offered a contract to the Remington brothers and their ship– a contract that Brigitte happily sealed later that night with copious amounts of champagne and other nocturnal activities. Cygnis, meanwhile, was far more concerned with the spirit stone that she had managed to liberate from Kobold, and spent the entire night trying to communicate with the spirit within. Despite her efforts, however, the soul within remained seemingly oblivious to her efforts, and a frustrated Cygnis eventually succumbed to sleep, doubting herself and being given a grim reminder of how alone she truly was.
Ka’ra, meanwhile, had undertaken a small project of her own. Though she was not an Earth Caste by any stretch of the imagination, she had done enough cross-training with engineers back in the Enclaves to know most equipment and machines fundamentally worked. With that in mind, she gathered raw materials and spare parts from the ship, and acquired them through the ship’s requisition forms, and began a slow process of constructing new drone bodies for Ex and Vee– an undertaking for which the chirping AI programs in her implant were most grateful, though Ka’ra assured them that it was just because she wanted to get them out of her head.
The next morning, however, the adventurers had a social occasion to deal with, and as such had to get up at an abominably early hour. The Iron Duchess was in orbit of her dynasty’s homeworld, and, as was traditional, a proper ceremonial welcome was to be held in Avalon Manor by the captain’s family. All of his senior officers were to attend, as was the brave party from the Hesperus mission– barring, that was, Sergeant Dent, who had been tasked with a potentially dangerous mission below the ship’s waterline (Translation: the player was unavailable for a few weeks).
A HOMECOMING OF SORTS
The adventurers were made to dress up in their best attire, and, along with a contingent of the Iron Duchess’ officers and noteworthies, landed by shuttle at Avalon Manor outside of Novantis, where they were greeted by Captain Avalon’s siblings, Catullus and Ophidia. Both of them were Rogue Trader captains in their own right, but the ever-frowning Catullus, despite being Tiberius’ younger brother, nonetheless bore the ceremonial title of “Warden” and thus had final administrative power over the whole of the dynasty, which meant he usually stayed grounded on Calyphia. Ophidia, the sister of the trio, had managed to arrive for the party as well, and while not much had been stated about her, her cavalier attitude and mischievous smirk left an impression on the party– and the the shuriken pistol she wore holstered to her belt, in particular, made an impression on Cygnis.
c. Pedro Otelcana
During the initial gathering of the guests in the foyer and library of the manor, the party did the following:
- Brigitte intentionally made it look like one of the serving girls had spilled a drink on her dress, then used that as an excuse to exchange gossip with the servant; she also (very briefly) attempted to seduce Ophidia, with reasonable success.
- Andromeda seized the opportunity to exchange pleasantries directly with Catullus…and afterwards, used her servo-skull to eavesdrop on a conversation between Catullus and Tiberius while calmly sipping tea.
- Cygnis first used Psyniscience to see if there were any psychic anomalies in the area (there were none) and then spoke directly with Ophidia, trying to get a straight answer from her on why she wore a shuriken pistol. Ophidia was less than straightforward with her answers, but intimated that she had either taken it as a trophy off of a Corsair she had slain, or that it had been given as a gift by an Eldar friend of hers– a friend who had also taught her fluency in the Eldar language, or so she claimed (while speaking in passable Eldar).
- Ka’ra tried to stay out of sight and out of trouble where possible, but as misfortune would have it, she ran right into Catullus, who took a keen interest in both her bonding dagger and in her homeworld. Ka’ra was forced to come up with some inventive lies on the spot, before Tiberius strode into the conversation and backed up Kara’s explanations with some additional ones of his own– that Ka’ra came from a toxic death world, and could not take off her gas mask due to a unique respiratory condition that she had been born with. Catullus was seemingly satisfied by this explanation, though Ka’ra was no less wary from the experience.
Through the course of all of these conversations, encounters and eavesdropping, the party collectively learned the following:
- The siblings’ mother, Miina, was presently upstairs in the family manor, bedridden…and apparently, had been so for several decades now ever since an unspecified accident.
- Tiberius’ wife, Julietta, had died some time ago, and according to Ophidia, Tiberius still hadn’t gotten over her loss. Cygnis saw a portrait of Julietta in the the foyer, but recalled seeing a picture of a completely different woman on the captain’s desk back on the Iron Duchess…
- There was a brief mention by Catullus of an incident that had happened to the Iron Duchess some time ago in the Tyrgard Belt; Tiberius reacted coldly to this, and reminded his brother that he had agreed to never mention that incident again…
- As per tradition, all members of the Avalon family had to serve in an Imperial institution at some point of their lives before they were ever offered a Captain’s seat in the dynasty fleet. Tiberius joined the Imperial Navy in his youth, and his naval career was mercifully brief and unsurprisingly scandal-ridden. Catullus, however, had served in the Navy for a good portion of his life, and had even seen action at the Battle of Macragge (where he got his ugly facial scars from a Tyranid boarding action). He had only left the Navy after the death of their father, as his father’s will had named him as the Warden of the dynasty.
THE QUEST REVEALED
After a lengthy and sumptuous dinner (during which Ka’ra was forced to find inventive ways of eating through the tube in her mask), the party relocated to the main guest room, so that Tiberius could finally get to the grand reveal behind his visit. It was here that Tiberius not only told his siblings that he and his crew had retrieved the crystal from Elias Harkin, but he also went on to reveal why the crystal was so significant: according to trader talk from across the sector, the crystal had been used millennia ago to try to record an exploration into the Cairn Expanse. According to the legends, the first users of the crystal had discovered the location of the Pandorax– an ancient device said to be able to heal any injury, cure any disease, and to even be able to revive the dead.
At this, the party recalled differing stories of their own that they had heard of the Pandorax– to Brigitte, it was a drunken tale among voidfarers, to Ka’ra, it had been heard in whispered stories of the T’au’s Nicassar allies, and to Andromeda, there were rumours among the Mechnanicus that it was some ancient device of xenos origin, often sought after by xenobiologists and radicals. Cygnis, in particular, recalled that the Eldar knew it by a different name, and that, if the stories were to be believed, it predated even their ancient empire. If this ancient device truly existed, then not only would it fetch a truly astronomical price on the open market, but whoever possessed it would be functionally immortal. Whoever found the Pandorax would become a legend across the entire Segmentum, as they would have found one of the last great treasures from before the time of humankind.
Tiberius’ siblings, however, were less than enthusiastic. They immediately summoned him for a private meeting in the study. From outside the door, the party overheard a heated argument erupt between Tiberius and his siblings, one in which they alluded to an “incident” in the past and asked Tiberius if he was drinking again. Catullus outright forbade any expedition to find the Pandorax: with the dynasty’s resources dwindling, he said, they could not afford to risk an asset as vital as the Iron Duchess chasing some myth. Despite Tiberius’ impassioned pleas, Catullus would not be swayed, and not only decreed that the dynasty’s ships were, for the time being, forbidden from deep space exploration, but also forbade Tiberius from taking the other half of the crystal from the archives.
It was at that point that Tiberius stormed out of the study, fuming. When the party caught up with him (with Ka’ra even giving him a reassuring hug), Tiberius gave them all a single order: find some way to circumvent Catullus’ command. They could try to convince Catullus to change his mind, they could find some legal loophole or precedent, or they could try to steal the crystal from the archives– Tiberius didn’t care, so long as they found a way to get into space again.
Ka’ra, for one, decided on the more direct route, and went to speak personally with Catullus. She found him in a room on the upper floor, checking up on his mother: Miina Avalon, she learned, had been comatose for years, after an accident aboard a starship had seen her quarters depressurized. Miina had been in a stasis pod on life support since. As Ka’ra approached Catullus, he revealed that he knew she was a T’au– her bonding knife was a dead giveaway– and told her that the only reason he hadn’t had her shot upon entering the manor grounds was that her disguise was so poor, and her interactions so awkward, that she couldn’t possibly be a Water Caste spy.
In the ensuing conversation, Catullus told her of the many misfortunes of the Avalon Dynasty– of how their mother had been rendered comatose, of how Tiberius’ wife Julietta had died unexpectedly while with child, and of how their father had seemingly lost his mind and ventured off to find the Pandorax, before his ship was destroyed in the Cairn Expanse. This, of course, was not even mentioning how the dynasty had lost most of their holdings and ships to Hive Fleet Behemoth back in the First Tyrannic War. The Avalon dynasty was clinging to what little they had left by their fingernails, Catullus said, and could not afford to take unnecessary risks with a vital ship like the Iron Duchess. Furthermore, Catullus noted that Tiberius was acting with increasing recklessness since his wife had died, and was convinced that Tiberius acting on a death wish, and would drag his crew to oblivion with him.
In response, Ka’ra argued that the Avalon Dynasty had been built upon a line of ancestors venturing out to seek the unknown, and asked Catullus if he was content to let his dynasty die a slow, decrepit death, clinging in vain to what little it had left like some demented old miser. In her impassioned plea, she mentioned that she knew what it was like to see someone she respected slide into madness, but that Catullus could not save her brother by caging him. Ultimately, Catullus relented, and agreed to allow the Iron Duchess out into deep space…on the condition that Ka’ra watched over his brother, that was.
Brigitte, meanwhile, found Ophidia catching a smoke break in the manor’s moonlit garden. Sharing a lho-stick with her, Brigitte engaged in casual conversation with Ophidia (and flirted), and the two of them discussed the dismal state of the dynasty’s finances. Ophidia revealed that a combination of war, tragedy and disaster over the past millennium had wiped out all of the dynasty’s holdings across the sector and had left them with just Calyphia itself, and that where in ages past the dynasty had once boasted fifty or more ships, now they had but three. Little by little, the conversation drifted towards Tiberius, and Brigitte made same discoveries as Ka’ra had with Catullus: that Ophidia genuinely feared for her brother’s life and sanity, and was convinced that he was on a path to self-destruction. Brigitte, however, pointed out that the dire state of the dynasty’s finances would not recover, in her opinion, without any risky endeavours, and that Tiberius’ quest for the Pandorax might just be what the Avalon Dynasty needed to get back up on its feet. Gradually, Ophidia agreed to try to talk Catullus out of his decision, and the two of them shared a smoke break under the moonlight.
AN UNINVITED SPY
Prior to talking with Catullus, however, Ka’ra had noticed something unusual: as per her last head count, four butlers had been present in the meeting when Tiberius had made his announcement, but Ka’ra had seen only three when the Avalons had gone into the study. She had deferred this information to Cygnis, who cast Soul Scry to get a sense of the number and wherabouts of all the souls within Avalon Manor. True enough, there was one isolated soul making his way out of the manor into the garden through a back route. Hurriedly establishing a minor telepathic link with him while he was within range, Cygnis caught glimpses of his surface thoughts– namely, about relaying the information about the Pandorax to his master.
Racing through the house after the escaping spy, Cygnis managed to sneak out into the gardens and get close enough to the spy, who had switched his disguise to that of one of the party guests and was presently leaving by car. Thinking quickly, Cygnis, alerted the rest of the party. Ka’ra, who was back on the lower floor, reacted quickly, jumping through a window (smashing it to pieces in the process) and pulling a long shot with her pulse pistol in mid-jump– a long shot, that, incredibly, still hit one of the car’s rear tires and reduced it to slag just as the spy was speeding through the gate.
Even as the spy veered for control of his damaged vehicle, Cygnis used her mental connection to bombard his mind with black and white images, blinding the man and almost inducing an epileptic seizure in him as he veered off the road and crashed into the treeline. As he struggled out of the car, autopistol in hand, he soon found himself surrounded: Ka’ra had caught managed to get into an elevated firing position in a nearby tree, Cygnis was advancing on him, and Ophidia, having been alerted by Brigitte, had summoned the family’s hunting carnodons. Within seconds, the spy was surrounded in his car by a herd of snarling, snapping reptiles, and Ophidia demanded his surrender.
In response, the man calmly dropped his pistol and informed Ophidia that he would rather not. Recognizing what was about to happen, Cygnis used her mental link to hurriedly grab whatever information she could from the man’s mind before severing the link– just before the man crushed a hidden trigger in his mouth that set off incendiary devices implanted in his body. Within seconds, the spy burst into flame from within, and was utterly vaporized into ash before anyone could stop him.
In the last few seconds before the spy died, Cygnis tried to extricate everything that she could from the man’s mind– and what snippets she felt were a mention of the Hex, and a confidence that even with this setback, the spy’s master would still get the information on the Pandorax, one way or another. This was what she managed to extract before she pulled her mind free, but even then, she felt impressions of the man’s death just before he was incinerated. The experience rattled her far more than she cared to admit. (Cygnis took a few points of Insanity from the experience)
MEANWHILE, BACK ON THE SHIP…
Because he had been stuck on training duty on the ship, Dent had not been able to join the landing party to Avalon Manor. In the middle of these duties, he was approached by “Mother Mari” Ingenua, the ship’s bosun, with a delicate task: a minor tech-adept, one Zekiel Noxx, had been repairing one of the aft-most power matrices in the lower decks when he had gone missing. This was not the first time that people had gone missing wandering into the lower levels, and given how said lower levels were decrepit, labyrinthine, and typically infested with mutants and predatory vermin, any attempts at rescue were probably futile. However, Magos Gogol, the head Enginseer of the ship, had been complaining loudly about the missing tech-adept, and had been threatening to take matters into his own hands if he wasn’t found. Dent agreed that the last thing they needed was Skitarii stirring up trouble below decks, and so agreed to take a search party below the waterline to see if he could find Noxx before the situation got worse.
In preparing for his mission, Dent researched the area, and found that there was a ship’s twist-catcher still on the ship’s duty roster, Obadiah Grenn. However, Obadiah had been missing for some two hundred years now, and had become something of a myth among the crew, “Obadiah the Unseen.” As far as anyone knew, there was no active twist-catcher on the crew roster, which meant that there was no one actively controlling or fending off the mutant population below the waterline.
c. Pedro Otelcana
Recruiting Kinette, a hardy veteran from his boarding team, Dent ventured into the lower decks where Noxx had last been. They had gone through one unused corridor, however, when the floor caved in beneath them, sending them both tumbling one or two floors downward. The two of them eventually recovered with minimal injury, but soon found themselves wandering an area of the ship that did not correspond to the ship’s schematics. Navigating a labyrinthe of lightless, moldering corridors, Dent and Kinette found a wide, empty chamber, with what looked like a few alcoves with chains hanging ominously from the walls. Past it, the two of them found a hallway leading to a sealed door, with what appeared to be runes akin to those of the Astra Telepathica emblazoned on its surface. Try as he might, Dent could find no way to open this mysterious gate, and suspected that it had been sealed for a reason…
Moving deeper into the labyrinthe of the lower decks, Dent and Kinette soon reached an section of the ship where moisture went up to their ankles, and the sounds of scrabbling mutant creatures could be heard in the darkness. Eventually, though, the two of them reached an abandoned ore processing hall, where they found the battered Adept Noxx standing atop a rusted old cart, trying to fend off a pack of half-reptile, half-canine beasts. Dent and Kinette were quick to come to the adept’s rescue, firing their lasguns overhead to frighten the creatures off.
Noxx was profuse in his gratitude, and eagerly told his two rescuers of the wonders he had found down here in the forgotten parts of the ship: like them, he had fallen through the floor and had gotten lost, and like them, he had found the sealed door, and knew just as little as they did about its significance or purpose. However, he had found other things of interest in his wanderings– namely, ancient, dormant cogitators of unknown provenance in some of the aft halls, as well as wiring and power generators for a number of inactive systems that did not correspond to any known schematics. Noxx hoped to get back to the upper levels of the ship soon, knowing that Magos Gogol would not doubt want to organize a formal investigation to further examine these inactive systems– for all anyone knew, the Iron Duchess had capabilities that no one had ever been aware of!
THE ‘UNSEEN’ REVEALED
c. Games Workshop
As the three of them wandered back the way they came, trying to find a functional elevator shaft, they ran into a gang of five mutants. Both groups were startled to see one another, and for a moment it seemed like a fight was about to erupt. That was, until a giant metal pincer closed around the most aggressive of the mutants from behind, lifting him squealing off his feet. The mutants parted, revealing a tall, uniformed figure behind them, silhouetted in the darkness of the hallway, wielding an immense man-catcher with which he was holding the mutant aloft. The newcomer berated the mutants, reminding them that he had told them not to scare “purebloods” or to eat them, and the mutants all mumbled an apology.
Dropping the mutant he had lifted, the newcomer revealed himself to be Obadiah Grenn, the ship’s twist-catcher– the same Obadiah Grenn who had disappeared two hundred years ago. Stepping into what little light there was, however, Obadiah revealed that he wasn’t the same man he had been at that time: his uniform was tattered, and his skin was mottled, grey, and warped with mutation. When Dent pointed this out, Grenn simply laughed and referred to his state as an “occupational hazard”– while he hadn’t been to the upper decks in two hundred years, he had said, some miracle of his alteration meant that he wasn’t ageing either. During his long time below the waterline, he had still been faithfully fulfilling his duties as twist-catcher, keeping the mutant population of the ship organized, loyal, and engaged in the necessary duties too hazardous and too filthy for the regular human crew. That, and he took it upon himself to shepherd anyone who got lost down here back to the upper levels, and he noted that he would be all too happy to escort the three of them to the nearest functional elevator.
It was at this moment that Noxx (perhaps fearful of displeasing the Magos) interrupted that they needed to get news of the door and the mysterious subsystems to the rest of the ship immediately. At this, Obadiah suddenly became angry and hostile, and forbade the trio from leaving if they were going to bring harm back to his “Kindred.” It was then that Obadiah had revealed that the Mechanicus aboard the ship had been regularly raiding the lower levels of the ship, dragging mutants and regular humans alike back above to either be indentured as serfs in the enginarium, or to be converted into servitors. Shocked, Dent demanded that Noxx tell him if this was true, to which the techpriest glumly replied that, while he knew nothing of these raids, he had always had his suspicions of where Magos Gogol was getting his servitors from.
Aghast at what he had learned, Dent vowed to bring this to the attention of the Captain immediately, and to make the Magos account for his actions. Furthermore, he promised, he would try to convince the Captain, if he wanted to investigate Noxx’s findings further, to do so with the permission of Obadiah and his “Kindred” first. At this, Obadiah’s anger dissipated, and he was so pleased by Dent’s proposal that he invited the trio back to the mutant village for tea, though Dent, knowing that time was of the essence, politely declined. After being shown the way to a still-functional elevator back to the upper levels, the trio departed, with Dent promising to bring aid back to Obadiah and his mutants.
But first, of course, there would have to be a reckoning with Magos Gogol…
ACQUISITIONS (for next session):
Brigitte- 6 hallucinogen grenades, xenomesh hood, needle pistol, shock staff, jump packs (for the entire party)
Cygnis- Eldar star-map (counts as Navis Prima)
Andromeda- hellpistol, bionic heart, Selenite-pattern voidsuit (hot pink)
Dent: Ballistic cloth surcoat (from Dark Heresy)
NEW SHIP ADDED TO THE PARTY:
Knave of Hearts (equivalent of Hazeroth-class Raider)- the personal smuggling ship of the infamous Remington Brothers
Crew: 7,500 (mostly servitors and indentured)
Components: Segrazian “Viperdrive” Pirate Engine, Strelov 1 warp engine, Gellar field, single void shield, combat bridge, M-1.r life sustainer, bilge-rat quarters, W-240 Passive Detection Arrays, shadowblind bays
Weapons: Prow Thunderstrike macrocannon, appalling hideousness
NEW ENDEAVOURS ADDED:
Find the Location of the Pandorax (Exploration)
Find Elias Harkin’s hidden stash on the Hex (Criminal)
Follow leads to black market T’au weaponry (for K’ara) (Criminal)
Find out what happened to the Eldar Corsair ship Black Star (for Cygnis) (Exploration)
“I thought you had agreed you were going to be more cautious in the future. Now I can see that isn’t the case.”
“Caution? Is that what you call this? Having what’s left of our fleet running back and forth on errands and cargo runs as though we were some minor trade cartel? Spending all of your time politicking behind your desk instead of on the command throne of your ship?”
“I am trying to keep our dynasty alive.”
“This isn’t alive. We are Rogue Traders! We need to be out there, shining a light into the unknown! That is what we were born for! That is why our dynasty exists!”
-Catullus and Tiberius
“Analyzing…signitatures return as Voidsman-class personnel. Omnissiah be praised, I am delivered. Hmm…response appears to be insufficient for non-Mechanicus personnel. Unlocking emotional subroutine 3332A, ‘panic.’ OH THANK THE OMNISSIAH, I THOUGH THOSE FREAKS WERE GOING TO EAT ME AND iVE BEEN STEPPING IN UNKNOWN BIO-RESIDUE THIS WHOLE TIME AND–”
“Noxx, Anything you want to report to the Magos is your own damned business, but any investigations down here would be done with the CONSENT of the inhabitants, rather then against it.”
“You would do that, then, Mister Dent? You would vouch for us to the captain, and try to have him respect our rights down here?”
“Men loyal to the Emperor should have nothing to fear on his own ship. I will bring this matter to the Captain directly. And, barring the intervention of higher powers, I will have Noxx here debrief the command before he is released to the custody of the Good Magos. I want all the cards on the table before an over-zealous cyborg tin-pot-dictator goes off half-cocked.”
-Dent and Obadiah