Following the battle in the ice rings of Magoros, the Fel Hand, and it’s Captain, Hadarak Fel, had surrendered themselves to the Harbinger of Glory. The ship was in a perilous position, barely operable, with its crew desperately attempting to maintain control before they collided with another asteroid.
Lady-Captain Aurora Black, consulting with Magos Bertha, chose to magnanimously send some repair crews along with the prize crews that were to secure the vessel. As the two ships worked to bring themselves on-line and to patch any major holes, the Explorers began to investigate what they had bled and shed blood to gain.
The next two weeks were a flurry of activity, as the meagre complement of cargo ships began to empty the holds of the Righteous Path. Elorn von Persen was particularly invaluable, as she meticulously noted the items, and cross-checked them against a ledger of valuable artefacts rumoured to be extant in the sector. Sigmund Severius kept a close watch on the loading and unloading for fear that a holy artefact of the Angevin Crusade might be damaged – his alert eye spotted two very holy relics, which he moved quickly to secure in the Harbinger of Glory’s temple-shrine.
Eventually, the Fel Hand was in a good enough condition to make a warp jump. The Harbinger of Glory and the Fel Hand made their way to the edge of the Magoros system, and jumped through the warp towards Footfall. Navigator Anar D’Nast was able to retrace his own steps through the roiling warp, and so the return to Footfall was as quick as the jump to Magoros, leaving the crews experiencing the discomfort of warp travel for just a day.
In the time taken to reach the edge of the system, Rex Stormgard crept into Magos Bertha’s lab, taking advantage of her dedication to returning the two ships to full operation. Once there, he located the xenos crystals that he had heard the Explorers had brought back from Magoros Prime. Over the next few days, Rex was barely seen by the rest of the crew as he racked his memory for knowledge of the items. He strong-armed several archivists into helping his research, but not to much avail – all he knew that these glowing crystals would be of value if a buyer or a Cold Trade middleman could be found.
The other Explorers used some of this time to inspect the Fel Hand. Inside the ship, there were still sections rendered uninhabitable or stranded from the rest of the vessel. It would be quite the effort to bring the ship back to optimal operation.
The two ships arrived in Furibundus, greeted by the ancient stars distant glow. Messaging to procure sufficient docking space, the ships proceed towards Footfall and docked at the longshore. The longshore was as bustling and disgusting as the Explorers remembered. By the time they had disembarked, the crew was already busying itself with procuring supplies and advertising for some replacement crew members.
As the Lady-Captain and her retinue took stock of the area and planned their next move they were approached by a group of five individuals. Each was wearing a high-collared, double-breasted uniform, bedecked with epaulettes, gold piping and a vast array of rank insignia. These apparent officials introduced themselves as tithe masters of the “Administratum Oeconomica Imperialis.” They politely and firmly requested that the Lady-Captain accompany them to their offices. The Lady-Captain scoffed at these bumbling fools – and gave a polite and firm “No”. The five each started to claim that the Administratum was very powerful and that they could make life difficult if tithes were not paid. The Explorers did not budge, and Talon Kyridas stepped forward, charging up his new Consort Honour Blade. Most of the officials got the hint, with three of the five fleeing. The official who appeared to be wearing the most impressive uniform said with a trembling voice “You don’t want to mess with the likes of us, Rogue Trader. Just remember who controls the gunnery turrets. You’ll have to leave sometime, and when you do, we’ll be watching!” and then he ran too.
Having dealt with one tiresome distraction, the adventurers began to turn to the important matters of bringing the Fel Hand into service of the dynasty! However a messenger, bearing the insignia of the Fel Hand, ran up to the Lady-Captain, panting with breathlessness. He passed the Lady-Captain a set of messages, each marked with official seals and stamps. One was from the Navigator of the Fel Hand – he does not wish to overstep his official capacity and impinge on the rights of House D’Nast in serving the Black Dynasty, and so would be leaving his post immediately. Another letter was from the head of the Astropathic Choir of the Fel Hand. They declared that they were personal servants of Hadarak Fel and so have left the ship to await his release. They also noted that they have messaged back to the Port Wander in the Calixis Sector to alert Imperial authorities that Hadarak Fel was last seen in Aurora Black’s custody. The final message was inscribed by hand on parchment and seemed to have been signed by over 200 people. It stated that the message was from many senior officers aboard the Fel Hand. They believed that their ship’s contract had been signed with Hadarak Fel and that at the change of ownership it was rendered null and void. They were quitting the ship forthwith, and if the Black dynasty was interested in procuring their services it would be possible to do so for the right price.
This grave news was soon added to as a familiar figure approached. Augustus O’Shaughness, the man who had emerged as the leader of the pilgrim group that the Harbinger of Glory had rescued. He had evidently been encamped in the longshore for much of the last few days – likely since the ships had arrived in-system. He beseeches Sigmund for aid – the pilgrims are being preyed upon, and there have been several grizzly murders already. Word is sent to gather together a contingent of armsmen from the ship, who are immediately posted at the hab-fane sub-complex that the pilgrims had managed to occupy.
Sigmund and Elorn take the lead in investigating these recent murders, visiting the pilgrims, questioning them and investigating their living space. They learn much, but little of use – except that each of the victims had had jobs that had taken them down to the local markets, and that each victim was notably pious in their worship of the Emperor.
Over dinner that evening. Sigmund explains that he has a plan to disguise himself as a pilgrim, to show his faith openly, and to lure the murderer into an ambush. Quite an elaborate ruse for the often-blunt Confessor. The Lady-Captain, wishing to be at the forefront of the action, insists on accompanying him. Elorn von Persen reveals herself to be adept in the art of disguise, and rushes to fetch a rummage box of clothes and make-up. She works to masterfully attire the pair to look just dirty enough to be realistic. “These will have to go” she says, indicating Sigmund’s bulky and distinctive chainsword, flamer and bolter. Thinking fast, the Explorer’s find one of the xeno-tech treasures from the Righteous Path – a compact crystalline blade. Until activated, this deadly weapon appears to simply be a hilt. When the rune of activation is pressed, a sharp and deadly blade slowly extrudes, reaching a length of 80 centimetres – seemingly impossible from such a hilt! The Lady-Captain, taking no chances, ensures that she is able to conceeal her armour beneath her disguise, and brings along her autopistol concealed beneath her robes.
They spend the day masquerading as a penitent pair – visiting the markets, buying sundry goods and generally displayuing a level of piety familiar to Sigmund but quite strange to the Lady-Captain. They had a first hand look at the squalor which these people endure in their pious pilgrimage. They walked through the market, looking at old and worn pots and pans, while under the eyes of the narco-gangers that some of the merchants had hired to provide protection.
Meanwhile, the Explorers have put together quite the shopping list and Elorn begins the task of flitting through the markets securing several acquisitions, to be delivered by the end of the week. In addition, Elorn ends up securing a date with a repugnant merchant, instead of a combat motorbike, and agrees to join him at a bar for some food and drink in the evening. When Elorn does so, he finds that Elorn’s interest lay with the food and drink more so than with him. They begin to drink heavily, and Elorn ends up leaving the merchant slumped over the dining table, making it clear that the unfortunate man will be picking up the tab!
By this point, it it is deep in the night time hours. Aurora and Sigmund hold an uneasy vigil in their pilgrim’s habitation. Around this section of the hab fanes some guards from the Harbinger of Glory have been posted, and Talon Kyridas and Rex Stormgard take up posts from which they will be able to observe and respond to any incursion.
Suddenly, the lights go out.
In the pilgrim cell, the Lady-Captain and the Confessor steel themselves, drawing their concealed autopistols and swords. This is clearly the first part of the night’s bloody business. Neither of them have any way to see in the pitch blackness, however. They hear some sounds near the door and then a hissing. For a moment the pair are confused, but when they breath in the toxic and caustic fumes they realise they are being gassed!
Sigmund looks around in what little light is coming through the door as he realises that aliens are smashing their way into the room, through the walls, the floor and the ceiling. Twisted beasts, with razor sharp claws and mouths filled with needle teeth, and they are after him – he opens fire!
At the doorway, two figures wearing darkvision goggles and gasmasks are surprised at the automatic fire. They burst into the room, holding rope and pistols. The Lady-Captain is also surprised – her companion has fired half his magazine at the wall, each shot briefly illuminating his crazed and terrified face!
The Lady-Captain calls for back-up as she attempts to drive the assailants back – one shot blowing hitting one of the figures through the eyesocket of his gasmask. The other charged in, swinging his knife at her. Emergency lighting flickers back on, revealing two more burly invaders just outside the hab-units door. In the light, the Lady-Captain could see these peoples scarred bodies gang leathers, as well as the combat shotguns that they began to aim into the room.
As soon as the lights went out Rex and Talon sprang into action, closing on the hab-unit where Captain and the Confessor had been waiting. The sudden sound of the Confessor’s angry cries and the noise of distant gunshots added a sense of urgency, as they called the other guards to join them as back-up. Not far behind, Elorn had returned to the ship to shower and change and was drunkenly approaching the hab-block.
In the room, the Confessor unloaded his gun hitting both the Lady-Captain and the thug attacking her. His gun empty, he felt compelled to begin slashing at the walls with his sword in order to fend of the alien beasts that he could see. Rounding a corner in the hab-block, Rex could see the two heavy-set gangers with shotguns. He chooses to close the distance, however he is very surprised when a laser blast from the other end of the corridor, where Talon has arrived, detonates his target’s ammunition just as he steps up to him. The explosion blows Rex into the wall, leaving the thug’s chest cratered and his body buirnt to a crisp. The other thug is flies into the room due to the powerful explosion, crashing into furniture and being knocked unconscious. The last attacker is subdued by the Lady-Captain, and soon shackles are brought to make sure that both the surviving thugs are detained.
Now, the question remains – who are these people and why did they attack?