The Lady-Captain Aurora Black was reeling from the vision that the Star Mirror had imparted upon her – however she now had certain knowledge of the location of the Righteous Path. She found that with concentration she could move the vision forward in time, watching the Harbinger of Glory enter the system, and now knowing where the Righteous Path was in the Shard Halo.
Lady Ash began to broadcast into the Lady-Captain’s mind, manifesting a minor psychic power. The voice that resounded in her head had a lilting and elegant tone. “Truly fascinating, if somewhat unhinging! I guess myself and my servant will be off now…”
With a gesture from the Lady-Captain, Sigmund Severius disarmed the captives, with obvious disgust at their witch prisoner. They went quietly. After, they remounted their vehicle and slowly wound their way back through the maze-city while tend to the cuts and bullet wounds that some had suffered. As they travelled they saw in the distance an Aquila lander taking off and heading away.
“Ah, the one that got away…” Lady Ash psychically broadcast to the group.
Soon enough they reached the Guncutter and blasted off, heading up to the Harbinger of Glory. Once there, Talon Kyridas took responsibility as ship’s Bosun to secure the new captives in luxury, yet secure, accommodation. They set a course for the part of the Shard Halo where the Lady-Captain psychic vision had indicated that the treasure lay. It would be several days travel across the system – enough time for the wounded to recover, and the rest to reflect on their experiences and train themselves.
It was at this point where two new faces enter our account. Having joined the ship with Blade, and each leading a contingent of over a hundred voidfarers, Elorn Von Persen and Rex Stormgard were experienced space travellers. And they felt that they had not been given the whole story by Blade. They connived their way into a private meeting with the Lady-Captain. While no-one else is sure what happened, the results must have been persuasive – they each left the ready room with a signed contract that entitled them to a fair share of the treasure provided they remained loyal to the Black Dynasty and were willing to put themselves into harms way.
During this time, Magos Bertha spent the time repairing her wounded arm and practising her techno-arcane arts – her insights through such repair have given her the confidence to take up additional work as ship’s armourer.
Sigmund Severius was spending some time in quiet contemplation in the sick bay, attempting to gain understanding of his few books written in the secret tongue of the ecclesiarchy, when a crewman approached him. Apologising profusely for interrupting the Confessor’s rest and recovery, the man introduced himself as a Ghost-Warder of the ship, and wished to ask Sigmund to join him to meet with senior ghost-warders. Sigmund warily followed the man through several empty compartments and disused portions of the ship until he reached a circular chamber, lit by flickering torches. Facing him were three Ghost-Warders, wearing the simple white-red quartered robes that can be occasionally be seen across the ship during their ceremonies. On their faces were simple white cloth masks that hid their features. Their request was simple: the crew had heard that the Lady-Captain had imprisoned a witch and the ships ghosts were being more active than usual – could the Confessor bless the salt which they use to ward off ghosts from the active compartments? The Confessor, proud that these mysterious cultists had the God-Emperor in their hearts, was happy to do so.
Having reached the Shard Halo, the icy asteroid field at the edge of the system, the Harbinger of Glory piloted through. Though there were areas where the asteroids were dense, the Harbinger of Glory had no trouble taking up a position orbiting one particular asteroid. Closing to within a few thousand kilometres of the icy asteroid they crew scan its surface, and the surrounding area, and identify the twisted wreck trapped inside – the Righteous Path. Drawing closer, it was seen that the treasure ship was not alone. Dozens of other craft seem to have been drawn there, creating an icy ship graveyard.
The closest landing point to the wreck was about 300 metres away in a clearing between the twisted wrecks of other ships. The Lady-Captain immediately gave the order to begin preparing the Guncutter, the Post Haste, to depart, and summoned her trusted advisers to join her to discuss the plan of approach.
After a particularly intense and heated session moderated by Jeremiah Orst, the ships etherics officer, the following had been decided:
- Lady Ash was to accompany the team
- They would bring a dozen armsmen as escort
- Grenades all round
- The ship was to remain in contact in case of any incidents
- Everybody was to remember their spacesuits
With their plan made, everyone grabbed their equipment, suited up and assembled in the hanger bay. Rex took the controls of the Post Haste and took them down to the asteroid. Despite the over-strong gravity of this icy rock, he deftly piloted them down, as good as his promises of his piloting skill.
They left Armid Drays, the Harbinger of Glory’s vox officer, at the radio controls of the Guncutter, keeping contact with the ship. Checking their suit seals one last time, they opened the airlock and took their steps out onto the asteroid. All around them, the wrecks of ancient vessels thrust up toward the void from the lifeless frozen rock. The broken forms created valleys and hills of scrap, throwing harsh and jagged shadows across the landscape. They could just see the corroded prow of an Imperial vessel looming over the piles of junk about 300 metres away. A path led out of the clearing and down a narrow avenue toward to the vessel. As they made their way down the valley something pricked at the Lady-Captain’s paranoia… she readied her weapons but nothing happened.
The Explorers see the faded majesty of the ancient treasure ship. Once an impressive vessel, it has now fallen to ruin; its hull is stripped of ornamentation and its length is riddled with holes and scars. Most terrible of all the damage is a mighty rent halfway down its hull where the ship has almost been broken in two. Taller than a hab block, the rent has exposed dozens of decks. Posting three armsmen at the entranceway, the Explorers begin to investigate the wreck, deciding to head down into the stern of the vessel where the cargo holds and engines are most likely to be located. They find themselves losing contact with Armid Drays at the Guncutter, but are able to maintain contact with the guards they have posted. In this way they are still in contact with the Harbinger of Glory as well.
The lower decks are a mess of twisted corridors and ruptured bulkheads. It was dark, oppressive and utterly silent. Illumination for their exploration was provided by Magos Bertha’s servo-skull. Eventually they reached huge reinforced multi-deck bulkheads, shortly before where cargo bays should be. The Magos Bertha discovered amidst a shower of sparks that that the doors were also protected by great energy seals, amazingly still powered. With the engineerium behind this barrier, they made their way back and then up to the bridge. The upper decks appeared to be in better condition. Shortly after climbing a lift shaft, they found themselves outside the bridge’s internal airlocks. Deftly working the 2,000 year old control panel, Magos Bertha took them through the airlock and into the ship’s bridge. They were greeted by a sluggish breeze of ancient air and the feeling of being far heavier on their feet – the life-sustainer systems and grav plating of the bridge were alive.
The bridge is faintly lit with the pale radiance of Magoros’ star through the vista-panels of its observation gantry. Under this cold light, the Explorers saw a long semicircular chamber with the lord-captain’s throne at the far end. Down each side of the chamber are servitor pits, cold and dark and packed with ancient part-mechanical corpses. They saw a Navigator’s well rising form the centre of the chamber and an access route to a room just below the throne. Everything is covered with a thick layer of glittering dust, smoothing lines and hiding the human remains that lay strewn about the deck.
The Explorers began to search the bridge, though there is little to find. Sifting though the dust revealed only a collection of ancient corpses, and ruined equipment and sidearms long degraded to an almost worthless state. The Lady-Captain conducted a search of the Navigator’s well which revealed a desiccated corpse wearing a platinum medallion bearing an unknown symbol and the name Astrianna – the Lady-captain quickly took possession of this loot.
Eventually, the Magos Bertha made her way down into the room which she had determined to be a cogitator core vestibule. There she began the long sequence of rituals required to be able to access the energy seal control and the other remaining active systems on the vessel. As the Magos worked, Rex convinced a couple of armsmen to join him in more thoroughly searching the room, with an equal lack of success as earlier. In the end, he wrenched the skull from the dessicated Navigator, declaring it to be his trophy.
After about 40 minutes the Explorers received word that there were figures approaching the ship. The armsmen on guard reported that they appeared to be hulking combat servitors. The verbal report was interrupted by the frantic comm chatter as they opened fire and were fired upon. Through their voxes the frantic breathing of the last remaining guard was heard, as he desperately fell back through the ship. He described how they had managed to destroy one with grenades, but that their weapons were unable to penetrate the armour of the things.
Leaving the Magos, with a small contingent of guards, the Lady-Captain sprung into action. Once they had filed into the airlock, they realised that none of them knew the sacred rituals that Magos Bertha had used moments earlier. Rex pushed his way to the front of the party “I know a few tricks…”. He began to work the controls without reverence or respect. The Machine Spirit protested at this brutality and it took a full 6 minutes for Rex to cycle the airlock. All the while, the breathless reports of the surviving guard came through over the vox, reporting his inability to stop or slow his cyborg pursuers.
Eventually they managed to converge at the lift shaft – the guard frantically looked for cover, and decided to take his chances by climbing the ladder up the shaft. Seconds later he was riddled with bullets and fell to the floor with sudden yet silent violence.
As the Explorers took up positions around the lift shaft a void suited figure stepped forward. He tuned his vox until he was able to communicate and introduced himself as Roboute Loblaw, a servant of Hadarak Fel, and in place to negotiate on his behalf. He offered the explorers simple terms – no further violence, they would all be spared, and they would be allowed a third of the treasure haul. While the Lady-Captain pondered these terms, Sigmund Severius offered his spiritual advice. “We are obviously not going to agree, so why stain ourselves with the sin of lying? Let us shoot him, and take the treasure, and return to the ship.”
Aurora and Elorn suggested that perhaps they might exchange Lady Ash for Hadarak Fel’s departure – a suggestion that was rejected. While Lady Ash had value to Fel it was unlikely that the treasure of the Righteous Path would be less than her value. Sigmund repeated his straightforward suggestion.
Rex stepped forward and broadcast over the vox “I am the negotiator on behalf of the Lady-Captain. I have come to offer these terms…”
“Ah, excellent” said Roboute, his delight obvious “Finally you are behaving like civilised people and taking this seriously”
At that, Rex tossed a frag grenade down the lift shaft. The low grav put off his aim and it bounced off down the corridor behind Roboute. The vibration from the explosion shook the explorers.
“Treachery!” cried Roboute over the vox, “Kill them all!” he shouted as he turned to run
“Finally” said Sigmund as he pulled the trigger on his bolter.
The next few moments all seemed to happen at once. A combat servitor, one arm a chain saw and the other a huge heavy stubber, stepped into view at the bottom of the lift shaft and unleashed a hail of bullets, causing many to duck back or away. Rex and Sigmund, their nerves of steel unfrayed, stood their ground. As Roboute fled, Talon tossed one of his xeno-filament grenades down the shaft, hitting the servitor dead in the chest and shredding it to a pile of parts and hewn flesh. Another armoured servitor, armed with a glowing plasma cannon, stepped forward only to slip on the blood, oil and grease unleashed by its companion. It crashed to the ground, and was snapped and jerked about by the detonations of the bolts that Sigmund put into it’s chest with deadly accuracy. Aiming to pursue the fleeing Roboute, Talon, Rex and Sigmund daringly leapt and climbed down the shaft, potentially into the teeth of more combat servitors – however, as they each reached the bottom they found the corridor empty, save for footprints in the dust and bullet holes in the walls. Rex, Sigmund, Talon and a squad of armsmen raced off in hot pursuit.
At the top of the lift shaft Elorn and Aurora dragged Lady Ash away from the combat zone and back to the bridge of the Righteous Path.