The Licenian Crusade

The Forgehammer
Craftworld Aletheia / Neumos / Delta 676 Asteroid Belt

(700 + GE)
(All Present)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: A Great Weight Lifted
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “Opportunity Comes from Unlikely Places”

As I sit in my new quarters aboard this massive ship of war, my belonging still in disarray, and a million small tasks left to do, I cannot help but take a moment to reflect on the great weight that has lifted from my mind and soul.

I only learned about the blasphemous xeno-technology infesting the Sovereign of the Void recently, as well as the true, depraved depths of my father’s fall into darkness, but even before then the ship had shared my father’s ill-starred reputation as a vessel cloaked in secrets and stained by the blood of the countless betrayed directly or indirectly by my father’s dark dealings. I signed on as First Officer because I believe in my heart that cousin Roland, Lord-Captain of the Aguirre Dynasty, was the last and best chance we had to turn down a different path, to elevate the Aguirre once more into the Emperor’s light. I still believe that, but a part of me feared, deep inside, that my father’s secrets, and his blood-stained ship, might corrupt Roland, tempt him down dark paths. It is fortunate, I suppose, that during his brief tenure we did not enter into any naval engagements serious enough to tempt him to use the darker powers of this xenos artifact.

Roland has finally jettisoned, however, this last remnant of the old in favor of that which is bright and new. I understand his hesitance. After all, the Sovereign of the Void has come to be synonymous in many minds with the Aguirre dynasty, but that also makes this change a positive one. Those inclined to doubt the Dynasty’s new direction have less reason to do so now that our flagship is an ancient Grand Cruiser once in service to the Adeptus Astartes.

To record how this change came about, I must needs refer once more to the xenos Eldar, to whom we were to deliver some rare artifact of their people, the sphere that was responsible for the energy cloak over the world known as the Throne of the Sky Father, as well as an ancient war machine of their people which apparently contained Eldar souls. In exchange for the service of delivering the sphere, they had promised to “cleanse” the xenos-artifact infesting the Sovereign of the Void such that it no longer thirsted for the pain and death of human sacrifice. They readily acknowledged that the cancerous tendrils of the device could not be extracted from the vessel. I admit to being hesitant to permit Eldar to have intimate and extensive access to this ship to enact this “cleansing” for I do not trust that their intentions are entirely what they admit, but the matter was made moot when the Farseer of Craftworld Aletheia offered an alternative.

The former Licenian Consul, Julius Zora, the seemingly-immortal mystery who sat at the heart of the Licenian Heresy, the man whose renegades and allied Space Marines and Eldar fought at the Battle of Licenia against the daemon-corrupted only to disappear, the man wanted for questioning by High Admiral Aldred, was (of course) aboard the Craftworld. He offered to Cousin Roland a bargain that was almost suspiciously good.

It would seem that when the Iron Templars of the long-ago Licenian Crusade washed up out of warp storms near the planet of Vitruvia, they still possessed their fleet. Later, when they pledged themselves to the Consul, that fleet was most useful in establishing the nascent rebellion. Only later, when the alliance with the Eldar was finalized, did the Consul and his rebels have an effective means of guerilla hit and run, and at that time, the remaining ships of the Consul’s marines were effectively sidelined. The navigators aboard those vessels apparently also caused problems by stealing or sabotaging some of the fleet when they went over to the Regency to join the Calyx House. The Consul had a small fleet of warp-capable ships with no navigators to steer them, and no ability to bring them into the Eldar’s webway. They’ve been little-used for centuries. The Consul offered Roland the former flagship of the Iron Templars, a “Repulsive-class Grand Cruiser carrier” named the Forgehammer, complete with the full armaments and complement of attack craft, as well as the time and port resources to transfer whatever equipment from the Sovereign as was desired, in exchange for the Sovereign of the Void, in a functional state, with the xenos-infection intact.

The Consul’s motive was fairly clear. He had ships he couldn’t use, and wanted a ship that could travel the webway of his Eldar allies that nevertheless looked human enough to serve his purposes. He claimed that now that the Regency was ended, and the Licenian subsector is brought into the Pax Imperialis, that he was going to seek the mystery of his own origins and needed a vessel to help him do so.

The offer was no doubt calculated to be too good to refuse. Nevertheless, cousin Roland had some understandable concerns. From a purely mercantile point of view, it was an amazing offer. From the point of view of our dynasty’s reputation it was an amazing offer. But Roland is a pious man, and the Consul is an unknown quantity. To what purpose would he use this vessel that is so renowned in connection to the Aguirre dynasty? Would Cousin Roland be responsible for unleashing a great danger to our Imperium by dealing with this man? Furthermore, what would be the response of the Inquisition, specifically Inquisitor Steendahl, who clearly has an ongoing interest in our own continued possession of this rare ability to access the Eldar’s dimension?

Discussion raged amongst cousin Roland’s advisors, sometimes heatedly. Svenya, unsurprisingly, wanted to keep the Sovereign, no doubt calculating his master Steendahl’s continued interest. The others leaned toward taking the deal. Cousin Roland took a side trip back to Neumos to consult with Steendahl, and apparently reached an arrangement wherein Roland would negotiate an alternate method for Steendahl to access the webway via the Eldar themselves. I am given to believe there were some collateral worries imparted when cousin Roland set foot on the base on Neumos’ moon, but the details were not imparted to me.

Upon returning to Craftworld Aletheia, cousin Roland sought to get a second ship out of the Consul to no avail, but our Navigator Primaris offered the services of navigators from her house to the Consul’s space marines, now taking the Chapter Name Iron Aegis. While the Sovereign could travel through the webway, the remaining ships could not. In exchange for brokering and negotiating a contract, the marines offered servitors and tech priests sufficient to make the Forgehammer operational despite the shortfall in crew after transferring our own crewmembers to the much larger ship. This bargain also included the expertise of Drivesmaster Stanislav, the tech-priest who apparently is familiar with the rare and unusual plasma drives that power this rare ship. I am given to believe that the deal also included a vial of the Consul’s blood, doubtless with our Magos Genetor in mind.

Upon sealing the deal, the Consul, aboard a small Eldar vessel, led us through the webway to an isolated asteroid belt around a distant star where the remaining vessels of his fleet were berthed. The Sovereign of the Void is now alongside the Forgehammer, and we are engaged in the weeks-long process of transferring our interest to the new vessel. I have done what I can to aid Missionary Tyrian in properly transferring our temple shrine to the Emperor to the new ship and consecrating it. While that went well, for some reason the ship has thus far resisted our attempts to bless and consecrate it fully. I am told that this class of Grand Cruiser does have a certain reputation of its own, but so long as the reputation does not arise from dark deeds or xenos-artifacts, I have every confidence that our faith in the Emperor will overcome it.

Our crew is slowly settling in. It would appear that Enginseer-Prime Graylock will be staying with the Sovereign of the Void, committed as she is to battling the corruption of that ship’s machine spirits. I am sure one of the Tech Priests will eventually rise to the position she vacated. Svenya has begun sweeping this massive vessel for problems, and Darrius has ensured that our Astropaths have been made comfortable. It may take a while to become used to an entirely new ship, but a part of me is looking forward to forging a new destiny for our Dynasty aboard a rare and prestigious warship. The Flamels will doubtless seethe in jealousy.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

View
Unexpected Allies
Throne of the Sky Father / Neumos / Craftworld Aletheia

(500 + GE)
(Julie, Leigh, Matt, Miguel, Tyson)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: The Throne of the Sky Father
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “Chance Favor’s the Emperor’s Own”

The wreckage from the fragmented space hulk rained down upon the planet below. Storms and fires raged out of control. Fortunately most of the more valuable salvage sites escaped direct hits. While the planet burned, we considered what we had salvaged. The primitives we rescued began integrating into the crew-clans under the careful eye of Missionary Tyrian’s lay-priesthood and the more covert eye of our shipboard death cult. Marduk, their high priest, was another concern. Interrogator Svenya of the Ordo Xenos considered him a real and present threat more for what knowledge he may possess than for any hostile intentions, as Marduk seemed more than happy to be aboard a still-functioning “gift” of the Sky Father, on his way to meet his deity. Svenya arranged to sedate Marduk’s acolytes, although the sedative failed to work on Marduk himself. Svenya then invoked Inquisitorial authority to commandeer this vessel to deliver Marduk and his acolytes to Inquisitor Steendahl, which would presumably have taken us weeks back to Ichabarr and more weeks back.

I was hesitant to leave this world so quickly after we had opened up its riches for salvage, but Svenya was adamant that these psykers represented a real and present danger. Before we could depart, however, we detected a faint transmission from the planet’s surface. We were being hailed by a Frigate-class vessel calling itself the Silver Crescent, commanded by Lord Captain Aasif Haram of the Haram Dynasty. Apparently the ship had crashed upon the planet two weeks before our own arrival, having appeared out of the warp nearly atop the planet just as we had. Only now had they been able to repair their vox-caster, and only now that the shroud was dropped could their transmissions leave the planet in any case. As Lord Captain Roland was still unavailable, Svenya asked my counsel. I told him that we had two clear options: 1) destroy the vessel and all aboard and hope that Dynasty Haram never discovered it; 2) Render aid to Dynasty Haram’s vessel and reap the diplomatic and monetary rewards, but also risking leaving a rival to plunder the planet while we urgently departed.

Svenya opted to promise food, water, and medical aid to inhabitants of the trapped ship while communicating their location to Lord-Captain Aasif Haram’s brother, the bearer of the Warrant, Ali Haram aboard the Golden Sparrow. Aasif believed that Ali was merely a few days by warp travel away. This plan was altered with Navigator Primaris Soteris, utilizing the sight of her kind, noticed daemonic and xenos infestations growing from the impact craters of the shattered space hulk. At this point, Missionary Tyrian engaged in negotiations with Lord-Captain Aasif Haram, utilizing the force of personality that only the truly faithful may summon, to compel truth from him. He offered a service, namely the fact that we could not adequately protect our claim to the planet if we’re leaving so quickly. He offered to guard our stake in the salvage against third parties in exchange for 20% of the total salvage value of the planet below. In my estimation this would permit Dynasty Haram to recover their losses from the crash, but little more. It seemed a reasonable bargain, and we reached an accord. Svenya then agreed to delay our departure for a few days until the Golden Sparrow could arrive with its Lance battery to excise some of the daemonic and xenos encampments that were flourishing below. Our new nova cannon is far too blunt a weapon and would destroy much of the very salvage we could profit from.

Since we were waiting in-system anyway, we evacuated the Silver Crescent. Cousin Roland entertained Lord-Captain Aasif Haram. Dynasty Haram, it would seem, has close ties to the Ecclesiarchy and access to… interesting resources. Overall, however, their philosophy seems well-aligned with Cousin Roland’s piety. A few days later Lord-Captain Ali Haram arrive and was similarly courteous and grateful for our succor of his brother and his niece, the Lady Fatima Haram. He regaled us at dinner with the current news from Licenia, including the bounty placed on the head of the Consul by High Admiral Aldred, as well as current events out of Port Echo. He was overall a very congenial dinner guest. He and Cousin Roland retired to have a more private conversation which I was not privy to.

Having confirmed the friendship between our two dynasties, we left the Haram to survey the salvage on the planet while we left to deliver Marduk to Inquisitor Steendahl. In the interim, Astropathic communication revealed that Steendahl was in the vicinity of Neumos. We had a somewhat rocky passage, encountering a brief warp storm that our Navigator Primaris handled quite ably. We arrived at Neumos and noted the presence of Inquisition satellites and a fairly stealthy Grand Cruiser. After Svenya communicated our bona-fides, we were permitted to dock at the lunar base formerly belonging to the Mechanicus where the Inquisition had their base of operations.

I am given to believe there were some tensions between Marduk and Inquisitor Steendahl that were ultimately resolved. Marduk, his acolytes, and one of the artifacts recovered from the Throne of the Sky Father were delivered into Steendahl’s care. I noted that Svenya’s gait seemed slightly more… authoritative when he returned. I hesitate to speculate as to why.

We departed almost immediately to Craftworld Aletheia. Once again, Cousin Roland and his entourage boarded the massive vessel to confer with its mysterious Farseer. The sooner this Eldar artifact, as well as this massive war machine full of Eldar souls, is delivered the happier I’ll be.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

View
The Herald and the Harbinger
Throne of the Sky Father

(600 + GE)
(All Present)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: The Throne of the Sky Father
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “Fate is the Manifestation of the Emperor’s Will”

We spent most of a week surveying the system containing the planet known, in our records, as the “Throne of the Sky Father.” The intense energies enveloping that world scored the sides of the Sovereign of the Void during our arrival in the system, and further experiments demonstrated that this envelope of atmospheric energy could effectively pulverize asteroids and other objects that got too close, but that the energies did not appear to actively seek out orbiting objects. Our Master of the Vox, in cooperation with our Master of Etherics, ascertained that the energies flux, ebb, and flow in somewhat predictable patterns, increasing the chances of a small landing craft slipping through one of the infrequent gaps in the shroud to make its way to the planetary surface.

Those among my cousin’s most trusted retainers who are more versed in such lore determined that these energies, while mysterious to our instruments, were not untamed products of the Immaterium, and that the planet was not, in fact, a daemon world wracked by chaos. Master of the Vox Darrius consulted with the mutant witches and received from them a vision of apocalyptic doom awaiting the planet, but nothing of immediate use to us. Cousin Roland and most of his senior retainers boarded a shuttle with our Master Helmsman and departed to risk a landing leaving me on the bridge and Svenya to root out some troubles that had arisen in the lower decks.

They appeared to slip successfully through the shroud, but two days passed with no word. I presumed they were looking for the Eldar artifact that the Farseer had requested. After two days, however, a larger danger loomed large upon our augur arrays. The immense space hulk that we had previously encountered slipped out of the warp at the very location where the Sovereign of the Void had done some days before. As the Sovereign and the planet itself had moved on somewhat, this hurtling mass of human and alien ships was on a somewhat oblique course that would nevertheless bring it to impact upon the planet’s surface in some five days. I summoned Svenya to the bridge. Upon seeing the situation he, with admirable resolve, took a second landing craft along with some guards and a Tech-Priest, to brave the energy fields himself and bring word of the looming danger to Cousin Roland and his party. Within hours of his departure, the instruments registered a massive explosion at the origin point of the shroud, and the energies vanished from the planet below. Subsequent vox communication revealed the following details of Cousin Roland’s expedition.

It would appear that they flew low over a blasted landscape devoid of oceans, forests, or other ostentatious displays of life. The landscape was dotted by the wreckage of ancient ships, most of which were rusted, useless hulks, but some of which still seemed to have power and automated defenses. The ships they flew over were of Eldar, Human, Stryxix, and Rak’Gol design, although there were doubtless more elsewhere on the world. As they approached the fountainhead of the energy shroud, they saw more and more evidence of former Eldar civilization, although most everything but foundations had been stripped by regular sheet-lightning energies that ravage the surface. They also saw sporadic, sparsely populated human tribes.

As they approached the fountainhead, an immense pillar of blue light erupting from what appeared to be a former Eldar metropolis, they saw a significant gathering of humans, somewhat more than 500, led by a man in red robes bearing a staff with the iconography of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica. He was clearly neither a tech-priest nor an astropath, and had likely scavenged both objects. He and his followers did, however, appear to be expecting Cousin Roland, who emerged to much ostentation. It would appear that this “High Priest” named Marduk had foreseen the arrival of the “Herald” of the “Harbinger” of his people’s judgement. Some telepathic interrogation by Darrius and subsequent conversation revealed that the people of the planet live in savage tribal groups, all warring and competing for limited resources, but that the High Priest of the Sky Father and his Acolytes are accorded great respect by all tribes, and most tribes have an embedded acolyte in their midst to guide them spiritually. These five hundred represented six tribes who had heard Marduk’s call and had traveled for more than a week to be there when the “Herald” arrived. Roland made claim to the Herald position and carefully ascertained that they believed that he could judge them worthy, and thus accord them escape from the planet that was their prison before those who were not worthy were wiped out by the Sky Father’s Harbinger of doom.

At this point, of course, the space hulk had not yet appeared, and so the notion that this doom might be literal was not yet known to the shore party. They left the cultists to contemplate their warped faith while they traveled on foot toward the fountain head. They arrived at the only intact edifice of ancient Eldar civilization and discovered the broken webway portal machinery that was responsible for the shroud. Their tampering caused the machinery to explode and drop the shroud just as Svenya was arriving.

What followed was four days of frantic activity. Missionary Tyrian marshaled multiple landing craft to bring Marduk’s acolytes all across the planet giving every tribe a last chance to accept the salvation offered by the “Sky Father” (whom she properly renamed the “Emperor” in the eyes of these primitives). Those who accepted their word were ushered aboard the Sovereign of the Void, where each tribe was taken in by a different ship-clan for crew-integration. Marduk and his acolytes, psykers all, were kept separate with the intention of eventually handing them over to the Scholastia Psykana or the Inquisition. Darrius and a small team excavated the Eldar ruins as best he could and discovered a massive wraithbone statue containing the souls of a score of ancient Eldar. He convinced them to permit him to bring their statue-vessel aboard for eventual delivery to their people.

Cousin Roland and I monitored the progress of the space hulk, devoutly refusing to permit its constant Vox pleas to enter our ears. Eventually, however, our Master of Etherics noticed that the immense crystalline mass, which Svenya theorized was the remains of an ancient Yu’vath capitol ship, was flaking off small crystal shards at a constant rate. Roland and Svenya, rightfully fearing some sort of alien contamination of the system, opted to open fire upon the space hulk with our new nova cannon, obliterating the crystalline ship and breaking the hulk into multiple smaller pieces. When these pieces did, eventually, strike the planet, the damage was therefore far less devastating than it otherwise might have been, although it and the climate changes from the loss of the shroud most likely have ensured the death of all life remaining. The salvage, however, remains there for future claim.

Something about these crystalline shards, however, jolted some realization in Svenya’s mind that prompted him to counsel the quarantine of an artifact brought up from the planet by Roland’s shore party, as well as Marduk and his acolytes. I am not entirely sure why other than that he fears that their minds have been tainted by Yu’vath influence. I bow, of course, to his inquisitorial discretion, although I wonder what difficulties may arise should a psyker as powerful as Marduk realize that his isolation is not so much an opportunity for meditation and reflection as it is an imprisonment. They are currently in the care of Missionary Tyrian, who is the only one aside from Roland, Svenya, and myself permitted to interact with Marduk and his followers.

Cipher Lock Disengaged.

View
Return to the Void
Ichabarr System / Throne of the Sky Father

(500 + GE)
(Julie, Kevin, Leigh, Matt, Miguel, Tyson)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: An Overhaul and Refit
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “The Emperor’s Voice Whispers in the Smallest Detail”

We have spent the last month and a half enjoying the fruits or our arrangement with the Inquisition over the matter of Neumos. The Sovereign of the Void has been in dock at the Calveren Naval Shipyards in the Ichabarr system receiving a fairly boggling number of upgrades. The ship’s antiquity meant that there was a lot of unused space, empty decks, unpowered segments, and empty crawlspaces full of the rusting detritus and half-repaired bulkheads of centuries past, some crawling with long-forgotten mutants. Our time in dock has permitted a team of thousands of technicians to overhaul the ship, installing new systems to increase our ability to profit from our endeavors. Amidst the new cargo holds, salvage systems, defensive countermeasures, etc. cousin Roland opted to turn a large segment of little-used space near the Temple-Shrine into a full-fledged arboretum. He arrange the import of pleasant trees, bushes, landscaping, water features, and the rest, at great expense, to be installed under plasteel domes looking out upon the stars. I have spent time in this new park and I find it soothing… certainly more so than the melodium that was also installed. While I enjoy music as much as the next person, having it piped throughout the ship constantly does get a bit aggravating.

A number of personal items were purchased as well. Our armsmaster has a shiny new set of light power armor and our Navigator Primaris has a quite-unusual new weapon of xenos manufacture. Most disconcerting, however, is Astropath Darrius’ new cybernetic eyes. It is clear that his soul-bonding to the Emperor has rendered him utterly incapable of sight, even by artificial means. I gather he had them installed for cosmetic purposes, but as he has not quite figured out how to operate them effectively, it gives him a vaguely leering countenance. I shall have to give him some gentle suggestions on putting people at their ease.

As our upgrades neared completion, Commodore Tyrian and Task Force Litany returned to the Ichabarr system, having been the first group of ships to be rotated out of the Licenian subsector. The Commodore came to dinner aboard the Sovereign where he conveyed the Lord-Sector’s personal gratitude for the service of House Aguirre in recent months, conveyed the formal honor of “Lord-Captain” rank upon cousin Roland, and more importantly, rendered due payment for our services in reconnoitering the subsector for the Battlefleet’s arrival. It seems like so long ago that this task was first given us that it was nearly possible to forget the contract that brought us there in the first place.

After the formal honors were concluded, the Commodore introduced us to his daughter, an attractive young redhead named Noemi Tyrian, who had apparently recently returned from an extensive sojourn at the edges of the Scarus sector as a Sister of the Missionaria Galaxia. The Commodore was well aware that cousin Via had stayed behind on Licenia to aid the former “arch-ecclesiarch” in his ambitions to become Cardinal of the subsector, and more importantly, to aid him and the former Regency in integrating into the proper Imperial faith. Realizing that the Sovereign of the Void may be lacking in a Ship’s Confessor, the Commodore informed cousin Roland that he would take it as a personal favor if Roland were to accept his daughter aboard to serve in that capacity. Missionaries often find common cause with Rogue Traders, and I personally was delighted that all the structure and elaborate schedules of religious services that cousin Via had instituted among the crew would carry on with minimal interruption under the stewardship of another of Via’s order.

I gave the dear girl some time to settle in before approaching her. Underneath the red hair, freckles, and cute, slightly upturned nose there seems to be a fairly cunning mind and I was overall quite pleased with my impressions. I sought to bring her into my confidence by revealing certain matters regarding Svenya and the history of the ship upon which she now serves. While I do not anticipate betrayal from Svenya, it is always best to take precautions, and having a solid ally of a fellow Sister of the Faith is never a bad thing.

I noted she seemed more suspicious than cousin Via of the Adeptus Mechanicus, asking quite penetrating questions as to the extent of that cult’s flock aboard the ship. I think she was somewhat pleased to note the… fervency of our crew’s faith, reinforced by the constant presence of the Emperor’s mercy should they fail in their devotion. I don’t know what issue she may have with the Mechanicus aside from the usual rivalry. She is not highly ranked enough in the Ecclesiarchy to have an active role in the “War of the Empty Cathedrals” played out by the Cardinals of the Ecclesiarchy and Magi of the Mechanicus. Perhaps it’s something personal.

After Missionary Tyrian settled in, we departed for the Licenian subsector once more, aiming to conclude the errand asked of us by the Eldar of Craftworld Aletheia. The journey through the warp was a long one, stretching out some few weeks. Near the end of it we encountered a most disturbing apparition… a fabled space hulk hurtling through the Empyrean. Such things are rarely encountered in the warp itself, and I could see cousin Roland desperately trying to conceive of a way to salvage or profit from it while still warp-bound. We received signals of all sorts, most of them insane gibberish. Of note, amidst the aggregated wreckage, were two capitol ships of the Children of Thorns, a truly antique Battle Cruiser dating from the time of the Horus Heresy, the light cruiser “Serena’s Grace,” a ship of the Adeptus Sororitas, lost in the warp during the Meritech Wars, and an assortment of blasphemous alien ships that seemed to greatly disturb Astropath Darrius, who has made a study of such things.

While I was personally quite interested in the “Serena’s Grace” there did not appear to be any way to dock with the hurtling hulk or salvage anything while still enveloped in the safety of our Gellar field. There was the notion that perhaps research in old records might identify this particular hulk, and perhaps predict when it might emerge from the warp once more and where, but such speculation remains quite tentative at best. We had to, somewhat reluctantly, leave it to continue hurtling through the void.

Through some error of astromancy, we emerged from the warp practically on top of the planet we sought. This is somewhat of a mixed message when it comes to the admittedly significant talents of our Navigator Primaris. She pinpointed a single planet that had not been visited in millenia based on old charts to the point where we were practically on top of it… yet arriving that close was incredibly dangerous. Fortunately Svenya’s piloting skills apply to cruisers as well as shuttles, and the calm demeanor of cousin Roland and our new Ship’s Confessor kept the crew from panicking, and we fled the seething energy fields that have been the deaths of so many other ships.

We are now parked at a safe distance, contemplating this dangerous world while damage-control teams put out plasma fires. The damage appears to be minor. We would have lost more crew if not for the new servitor-reclamation facilities installed aboard the ship. The Enginseer Prime and her people are doubtless quite pleased that such… raw materials… have not gone to waste. Personally, I will say a prayer for the souls of those who have now been given over to the Machine Cult’s graces.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

View
The Fall of the Regent
Licenia / Ichabarr

(700 + GE)
(+1 Fate Point)
(Julie, Kevin, Matt, Miguel, Tyson)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: The Regent’s Fall
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “The Emperor Moves in Small Ways and Large”

As we cruise through the alien dimension known as the “Webway” with our cargo of a bound Chaos godling, I wonder sometimes at the strange twists that life in a Rogue Trader dynasty takes.

No sooner had Inquisitor Steendahl removed the daemonice “Conceit” from the minds of Orison Calyx and Admiral Silas Starbourne then an Eldar flotilla arrived making the naval arrangements above the planet of Licenia even more convoluted. The Eldar seemed content to keep their distance, although Darrius, communicating with them from afar, determined that they were there to bombard Licenia should their prophesied doom come to pass.

This coincided with a telepathic plea for emergency help. The situation as it eventually emerged was this: Markov, Primarch of the Licenian Ordo Psykana, was besieged in the throne room of the Regent. Forces loyal to the Veiled Mask, including a majority of the planetary defense force, were besieging the castle while a potent chaos entity sought to manifest in this reality via the conduit that was the Regent’s mind. Admiral Starbourne was somewhat stymied, as he had no significant ground forces of his own. High Admiral Aldred had ground forces, but they would have to fight through Hive Primaris to get to the palace.

Darrius considered orbital bombardment of the entire hive to be an excellent way to ensure this godling did not emerge, but Cousin Roland, recognizing the rarity and potency of his teleportarium, volunteered to lead a small strike team to the throne room to attempt to render aid before that final solution should become necessary. They took a half-dozen of the Murder Servitors with them and entered the archaic device.

What followed Svenya informed me of after their return. They arrived to discover Markov and four of his psykers engaged in a ritual about the stasis-vault containing the half-seen form of the Regent. Soldiers were invading the room, firing at the psykers when Roland and his team arrived. Making a quick survey of the scene, they opted to repel the soldiers, at least for now. Navigator Primaris, Lady Soteris opened with a blast from her warp eye that dropped the majority of the soldiers only to discover that each of them were possessed by minor daemonlings, and the blood sacrifice of their deaths permitted a sort of half-real tangibility. Two assassins, presumably of the Veiled Mask’s organization also appeared, and Cousin Roland’s party had quite a fight on their hands.

Amidst the combat, they sought some communication with Markov as they realized that the chaos godling had essentially taken up residence in the Regent’s body, and that the stasis vault was failing. Markov communicated that he was attempting binding rituals to keep the godling trapped in the Regent’s flesh, but if he was interrupted, the entity would be unbound.

Cousin Roland’s party fought daemons and soldiers and assassins alike until Markov completed his ritual, at the expense of the lives and souls of his four psykers. The vault failed, and what emerged… well…

When I was an acolyte in the Schola Progenium I studied certain texts that I imagine the Sister Superior would have been horrified to know that I had so much as looked at. They were intended for advanced students on the path of the Battle Sister and spoke of matters daemonological. There are whispers of a type of bound daemon known as a “daemonhost”, a warp entity trapped in warded human flesh, tenuously bound to the will of the binder. This is what emerged, and it appeared to obey Markov docilely enough.

Markov then threw himself on the mercy of Cousin Roland, explaining that a chaos cult known as the Starry Order had deeply infiltrated the Veiled Mask’s secret police, as well as the High Marshall’s command structure. It is the goal of these cultists to release the godling bound into the Regent’s flesh, and he needed the use of Cousin Roland’s ship to get him and his bound monstrosity off the planet. Seeing no other alternative, Cousin Roland agreed, but not before Darrius communicated to me the need to have Cousin Via and Sister Bast meet them at the Teleportarium to keep the daemonic creature in line.

We eventually esconced the beast in a meditation cell in the Temple-Shrine, where the light of the Emperor could keep it at bay. Markov, along with the former Licenian Ecclesiarch and Cousin Via, stayed behind to monitor it. The situation on Licenia changed once word of the Regent’s fall and Markov’s defection became known. High Admiral Aldred started dropping Imperial Guard detachments to Hive Primaris while the Consul’s freedom fighters, borne with the Eldar fleet, and supported by the Consul’s “Praetorian” Space Marines, entered the fray (against Admiral Starbourne’s will). The fight was no longer about an invasion of the Regency as it was the recapturing of the Hive from chaos-worshiping rebels.

Inquisitor Syrah Distaff, aboard the ship of Rogue Trader Aric Corbin, emerged from behind Licenia’s moon to attempt to sway the High Admiral into taking a harder Imperial line. Cousin Roland spoke stirringly about the need for all the children of Licenia to join together to bring peace in the name of the Emperor. Eventually the Inquisitor came over to the Sovereign of the Void to parlay with Inquisitor Steendahl and Cousin Roland. Both Inquisitors agreed on a need to return to Ichabarr to report to the Inquisition all of the events in the subsector, and Inquisitor Steendahl offered Cousin Roland the option to transport them. Unspoken was the assumption that Cousin Roland had a transaction to finalize regarding the value of the planet Neumos, as well as the assumption that the Ordo Malleus back on Ichabarr might be able to handle this daemonhost, the existence of which was not made known to Distaff.

Roland acquiesced, but recognized that transporting a daemonhost through the warp was a potentially disastrous move if the gellar field should fail, and so he, the Lady Soteris, and the Inquisitor Steendahl hit on a plan to utilize the Sovereign of the Void’s unique properties to navigate the Eldar webway. They invited a diplomat to visit from the Eldar fleet, who offered to take the daemonhost off our hands. After some consideration, Roland declined, but did get the cooperation of the Eldar in aiding Lady Soteris in navigating their esoteric dimension.

And so we have. We have just left the nexus of Craftworld Aletheia, and we are in the hands of Lady Soteris as she navigates this confusing network of quasi-real tunnels. It is my prayer that soon this daemonhost will be off our ship.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

Cipher Lock Engaged

Supplemental Entry:

We have arrived at an Inquisition fortress-station in the Ichabarr system. Cousin Roland and an Inquisitor Valenti, with a contingent of Gray Knights, have taken Markov and the daemonhost off our hands. I am informed as a preliminary matter that Roland has negotiated a sum for Neumos and all it’s related properties (including the 117 refugee Tech Priests) that is, frankly, staggering. We could buy a new ship or two with that sort of payout. I trust Cousin Roland may shortly put this cursed vessel aside for one more… wholesome.

Cipher Lock Disengaged.

View
The Skies of Licenia
Craftworld Aletheia / Licenia

(600 + GE)
(Julie, Kevin, Matt, Miguel, Tyson)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: Alien Minds
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “Even When an Eldar Speaks Truth, it Lies”

The quote above was one I overheard, once, in the cloister before taking my final vows and entering the sector as a Sister Famulous of the Adepta Sororitas. The speaker was an experienced Sister who had worked often as an Imperial Diplomat speaking in a rare unguarded moment. When later I got up the nerve to ask her what she meant she said, merely, that every word that comes from the lips of an Eldar, whether truth or falsehood, was calculated to bring about some effect, and that these calculations were often inscrutable to us. The quote came again to mind as the Sovereign of the Void arrived at the coordinates for Craftworld Aletheia.

The immensity of an Eldar Craftworld truly cannot be expressed in words. It appeared, at first, as an immense, graceful, somewhat organic looking ship, perhaps the size of an Imperial cruiser, until one made sense of the auspex data and realized that size, in space, can be an illusion. The tiny specks barely visible against its flanks were, more truly, the cruiser-class vessels of the Aletheian fleet. One is used to seeing planets from space. One is not used to seeing something the size of a planet that looks so much like a spacefaring vessel. We made contact and they spoke in a delightfully archaic dialect of High Gothic. They seemed wary of our presence, but even at that vast distance could sense the “taint of madness” we brought with us. Cousin Roland with exquisitely politic in presenting the mad minds we had come to deliver couching in terms of returning fallen souls to their final rest.

While I maintained our alert status on the bridge, Cousin Roland and his retainers went to greet one “Zia of the Thousand Stars,” some sort of Eldar diplomat. She received the black gem that Astropath Darrius had removed from Neumos. He emerged from the landing craft in which he had voluntarily secured himself for the entirety of our voyage somewhat haggard, but having shown remarkable fortitude. Even this Zia seemed impressed that he had personally safeguarded such corruption for so long. She rapidly returned to her ship, asking us to remain for a moment.

Some hours later Cousin Roland received a surprise invitation from the Lord of the Craftworld himself, one “Farseer Alros Uxor,” something that Zia seemed to think was a great rarity and honor. Cousin Roland and his usual advisors, along with Inquisitor Steendahl and his female companion, took a craft over to the immensity that was the Craftworld for a private discussion.

I was not, of course, privy to what this ancient alien had to say to my Cousin, but when they returned, Astropath Darrius and our Navigator Primaris spread out the star charts, poring over them. Apparently this Eldar had given them some motive to visit a distant world near to the dangerous Birth Stars known on our charts as the Throne of the Sky Father. More immediately, however, he had delivered some news by way of the Consul and his rebel faction that High Admiral Aldred of Battlefleet Ixaniad, along with the former Regency fleet under Admiral Silas Starbourne, had invested the planet of Licenia and begun a siege to bring it, and by extension the rest of the Regency, formally within the Pax Imperialis.

After some discussion, Cousin Roland decided to take the journey to Licenia so as to be present as great events unfolded. The warp voyage was, however, plagued by an odd sort of madness, a sense of temporal displacement gripped all aboard the vessel making them feel as if they had experienced every moment, every hour, dozens, hundreds of times before. I felt that I had relived the same day so often that it threatened to pull at my sanity. Fortunately my faith in the Emperor saw me through, and when we emerged it would seem that, in actuality, we had lost hardly any time at all.

We arrived in the midst of a vast naval engagement however. Some elements of Silas Starbourne’s Regency fleet were apparently rebelling against the Imperial elements of the fleet. Although vastly outgunned, they were putting up a good fight. The nova cannons of the Battleship “Cataclysm” had apparently destroyed a significant chunk of Licenia’s moon, which our sensors indicated once had extensive shipyards and other facilities, and other wreckage and violence was ongoing. We hovered at the edge of the battle, the bridge crew doing all within their power to make sense of the situation. Ultimately they ascertained that something had incapacitated Admiral Starbourne and Lord-Patriarch Orison Calyx, and panicked Captains, some of whom were not all that excited about an “invader fleet” orbiting their homeworld, had decided to fight an impromptu rebellion.

Additional investigation, as well as Cousin Roland’s ability to command military-minded people and get obedience regardless of whether they should, in actuality, obey him, revealed even more disturbing details. Apparently Admiral Starbourne and Patriarch Calyx, as well as some few others in the Regency fleet, suddenly collapsed, and through every door or portal in proximity to them, warp-spawned entities coalesced and attacked. As the Admiral’s men defended him from the horrors, they attempted to drag him to safety only to discover demons attacking through every door they passed. Ultimately some bright-light of a junior officer thought to put the Admiral in one of their specialized brig cells which has a sealing wall rather than a door. As for the Patriarch, he was being guarded by his own.

With his usual decisive air, Cousin Roland and his entourage decided to fly a boarding craft through the midst of a running space battle so as to board Admiral Starbourne’s ship, the “Cerulean Sea,” and attempt to render aid. Just to be safe, they brought along Inquisitor Steendahl’s lady-companion and a half-dozen murder-servitors. I, as usual, awaited word aboard the ship. I was impressed, despite myself, with the piloting skills of Svenya. I hadn’t known he could pilot a shuttle with quite such… dexterity. Whatever my feelings for him, he got Cousin Roland to the “Cerulean Sea” safely.

Some time later, Admiral Starbourne’s voice was once more heard over the vox systems taking control of his errant fleet with a mix of threats and sheer command presence. I admit being somewhat impressed by how rapidly he cowed the mutinous officers and brought order to the chaos.

In the midst of this, Astropath Darrius contacted me in my mind with a rather unusual request. He wanted me to inquire of our Tech Priesthood whether they had a means by which to selectively edit a man’s memories. In the course of relaying this request via the vox system, Inquisitor Steendahl, who was on the bridge keeping an eye on the battle, overheard. He volunteered that the Inquisition has… extensive methods of mind-cleansing individuals, and that he could put these techniques at Cousin Roland’s service should it resolve the conflict. After some further discussion, it came out that somehow some daemonic mental “puzzle” was planted in the Admiral’s mind, and so long as he retained knowledge of it, these daemonic entities would hunt him through every door. Only by forgetting this… thought? idea? could the incursions be stopped. Inquisitor Steendahl gathered the rest of his companions and took another boarding craft through thankfully much calmer space. Apparently whatever techniques he brought to bear was able to remove this dangerous idea from the minds of Admiral Starbourne and Patriarch Calyx, although what lasting effects his methods, or this daemonic experience, will have upon both gentlemen remains to be seen.

I stayed and monitored the fleets as they regrouped and repositioned above Licenia. Once all seemed calm once more I left the bridge in the hands of Cousin Via and retired to get some food and record my thoughts. Cousin Roland and his people remain on the “Cerulean Sea” and I trust they will lend what aid they can to reintegrating the fleets.

I wonder who was responsible for planting this daemonic thought in the minds of these two former members of the Regency Council. The obvious answer would be this “Ordo Psykana” leader Markov. If, in fact, the leader of those whose task it is to defend the Regent from daemonic incursion make use of daemons themselves, we may all be in the most dire peril. I will pray to the Emperor to watch over his children in the days and nights ahead.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

View
The Cradle of Man
Neumos

(700)
(All Present)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: Secrets of the Ancients
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “The Emperor Embraces All Mystery”

By the sixth day after Cousin Roland and his entourage disappeared into the ruins of Neumos, I began to seriously grow concerned. Even one trained to patience and decorum such as myself can grow anxious when the last hale, adult heir of my dynasty vanishes for extended periods of time. When he emerged once more, I was sufficiently relieved that I even forgot to seethe on Svenya’s deeds when he came to my chambers, as if nothing had changed between us, to tell me all of what had occurred in that mysterious place.

To back up somewhat, after concluding Inquisitor Steendahl’s errand, he and his entourage retired to their quarters, apparently in no great hurry to return to Port Echo. Lord Captain Roland, not overly concerned with getting the Inquisitor off his ship, finally ordered a course be set for the planet known to the ancient Licenians as the “Birth World,” or “Neumos…” a world that had piqued my cousin’s interest ever since he read the scanty intelligence on that world gathered by Explorator Fleet Kappa Seven some seven centuries ago. Our Navigator Primaris, with her usual puissance, pulled us flawlessly through the Immaterium in record time, although many reported disquieting dreams and waking fears for the day our voyage took. We emerged from the warp near the planet, the only one orbiting its yellow star, and the single cold, dead moon that circles it. Our Master of Etherics once more showed his skill, and we were all shortly poring over the data scrolling across the hololithic displays. The planet was clearly a feral one, covered in vast plains, forests, and oceans. Our instruments detected small patterns of minor fires denoting primitive tribes in the vast plains. The only thing of particular note about Neumos itself were the vast, subcontinent-sized city ruins that could be observed readily even from our great distance through the crystalline viewports.

Of more immediate interest was the thrum and fires of a plasma fusion reactor powering a base upon Neumos’s moon. The moon, it would appear, was tidally-locked. The base was built upon the face of the moon that would never see the planet below. Despite giving every indication of being fully powered, with active life-sustainer systems, the base did not attempt to hail us, and no response came from our own attempts at communication. Cousin Roland took his retainers and some void suits and made a visit to the moon.

It wasn’t long before the Navigator Primaris, Lady Soteris returned alone. She informed me that the base was built by the Tech Priesthood of Mars, apparently the very group detached from that long-ago Explorator Fleet. The base, however, was empty, with only a… disturbingly advanced cogitator system with a disturbingly self-aware machine spirit left in charge. This machine-spirit had indicated that it had been 572.28 years since all the Tech-Priests of the base had gone forth to the planet on a survey mission and never returned. While Cousin Roland grappled with the ethical questions surrounding this machine spirit, as well as the rather extensive records held in the base, Lady Soteris and I engaged in discovering where the Mechanicus landing vehicles were upon the planet. We located them in a trio of landing sites within a single one of the immense city ruins. They appeared to be intact, at least insofar as our auspex scanners could determine. We entered a suitable orbit and Lady Soteris utilized the unique gifts of her bloodline to gaze upon the planet below. She reported that at all three sites there was iconography, that of a stylized male figure with a featureless face, right arm extended with palm showing in a gesture of forbiddance. Lady Soteris asked my opinion of the matter, and something about the figure, which she was kind enough to draw a likeness of for me, reminded me of religious iconography from certain mystery cults, symbols intended to ward the inquisitive from that which they should not know.

Eventually, Cousin Roland resolved matters aboard the moon base. He moved some hundreds of our crew to man the station, and particularly its macro-battery guns, while emptying the base of all technology of value, including many cogitator stacks full of Mechanicus data. The plan, as I understood it, was to sell the data back to the Mechanicus, and claim right of salvage over the base. Although it was a worthy and no doubt valuable find, Lord Captain Roland decided that Neumos represented a great mystery. It had swallowed 117 adepts of the Adeptus Mechanicus without a trace, and as my good cousin is nothing if not daring in his pursuit of knowledge and wealth, he determined to go to the surface and see if he could discover what had become of them.

Cousin Roland and his trusted retainers and some bodyguards first determined to speak to the primitive tribes-people and see what their legends might tell of the ruins. I am given to believe that Sister Via de Oros comported herself most marvelously in this, her first real opportunity to bring the light of the Emperor to a benighted people. Aided by the Astropath Darrius, she was able to surmount the barrier of language and draw parallels between their own primitive worship of the sun and the earth with the golden light of the Emperor, the “Sky Father.” There was briefly some difficulty, as the natives associate the concept of “emperor” with a dark, evil figure, a machine-god of sorts, an unnatural being responsible for the cursed city ruins. This impression was not dispelled by the fact that Cousin Via’s party arrived in a flying machine and bore technologically advanced weapons. She managed to smooth over that misunderstanding, however, and soon had the natives ready and willing to hear the word of the great Sky Father, the Lord of the Sun.

In return, of course, they related their own legendry which, much distilled, seems to allude to the rise of a once-great civilization which collapsed catastrophically. Most of the population of the massive hive-cities fled in great starships (giving credence to the ancient legends unearthed by Arch-Missionary Vargas Lin that this world was the origin-point for the ancient Licenians). The rest fled to the rural areas, where their descendants eke out a primitive life as nomadic herders of beasts, fearing the ruins with a superstitious dread that, one would think, would have died out long ago if the ruins were truly as ancient as the Adeptus Mechanicus records seemed to indicate. It would appear that the spiritual leaders of the tribes, the shamans and shamanesses, would engage in a dangerous “spirit quest” which involved entering the cities to specific sacred locales where they would commune on the ancient stories, maintained through exacting mnemonic processes, and would receive vision-communication from the “Iron Emperor” who would tempt them with power and rulership. Those who had the willpower to refuse the dark god’s power would return to their tribes as shamans. Those who did not would never be heard from again.

Having learned what they could from the primitives, Cousin Roland and his retainers visited in turn the three sites where the long-missing Mechanicus had landed. Their shuttles were still intact and somewhat functional. Their equipment was less so. Of the Mechanicus there was no sign. The Astropath Darrius, emulating the savage shamans, sought to commune with the mysterious blank-faced statues they found. Battle-Sister Bast noticed a faint dark smoke issue from the outstretched hand of the statue, as Darrius felt a tingling across his body. Acting swiftly, Cousin Via called upon the light of the Emperor to banish all dark powers, scouring the black smoke from the room, and shutting down the statue which, Lady Soteris reported, seemed to be constructed with psychically-active materials. It would appear that there was something to the primitives’ stories.

Cousin Roland’s party ascertained that these temple sites contained ancient technology that utilized psychic power, a blasphemy in the eyes of the Cult Mechanicus, but the sort of thing the Tech Priesthood was ill-equipped to recognize on their own. Astropath Darrius reached forth his own senses in an attempt to reverse the process and contact whomever was on the other side of the statue-machines. What he discovered shocked him. Apparently the entire planet contained an intricate matrix of psychically-active material. Apparently the planet itself was somehow alive. Not only was it alive, but it was quite insane, and desperate to be… healed? repaired? Whatever it was, and whatever had built it, it had effectively kidnapped the Tech Priests of five hundred years ago and now it dearly desired for Darrius to descend beneath the ruins and finish the repairs.

Unsurprisingly, Cousin Roland opted to descend beneath the statue into the depths of the planet where our ship’s auspex scanners could not penetrate, nor any communication signal. That is when my long wait began.

Svenya has just finished telling me of what they found in their long sojourn beneath the surface of Neumos. I find the tale hard to countenance, but I know that Svenya, for all his crimes, has no cause to invent fantasies. It would appear that Neumos is an artificial planet, a world constructed by ancient human hands from the Dark Age of Technology, from an era before the coming of the Emperor, an era so lost to the darkness of history that we cannot even conceive of the powers our distant ancestors wielded. It would seem that Neumos was constructed to be some sort of refuge or paradise, a world psychically connected to all its inhabitants, a world that preserved all the knowledge, memories, pain and love of every person to walk its surface. It served this function adequately until xenos refugees from some great catastrophe, Eldar, apparently, who fled there as their worlds fell to Chaos at the beginning of the Age of Strife, arrived and were welcomed. The integration of alien minds into the immense psychic mechanism that was the planet introduced a tiny flaw, a burr, a thorn, the wormed its way deeper into the planet, growing, until the great Mind that was the world itself fractured.

It would appear that Cousin Roland’s party, led by the Astropath Darrius, were able to somehow heal the world, to extract that thorn. Darrius himself has been locked in the landing craft that returned him to the ship, not to emerge under pain of execution, until the Sovereign of the Void arrives at Craftworld Aletheia, where he hopes to hand over the… minds? souls? of the xenos they somehow extracted. I find the whole notion somewhat fantastical. I tend to agree with Cousin Via that whatever dark madness was pulled from Neumos should be blasted into the nearest star and done with, but Cousin Roland points out that we may have cause to continue dealings with the Xenos of Aletheia, they who protect this mysterious Regent of the Licenian “Republic.”

To be honest, I find the concept of an artificially created planet to be unbelievable enough. A planet-sized machine that bonds with its populace, preserving their minds for eternity is something that strikes at my very soul. That such an ancient machine should predate the Emperor’s coming, his Great Crusade, and all the ages of mankind that have come since is a third impossibility. That we now possess the souls of Eldar from the days of their distant fall is just one more thing in a cavalcade of matters that I will need to pray long and deeply upon.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

View
Ordo Xenos
Port Constance / Commorragh Outpost

(700 + GE)
(All Present)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: A Trial of Faith
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “The Emperor Tests the Worthy”

My heart lies conflicted. The Will of the Emperor as interpreted over the millenia by the Ecclesiarchs holds that loyalty to one’s family is second only to loyalty to the Emperor himself, yet now that I know the slayer of my father, my brothers and my nephews I find those two loyalties in opposition.

I suppose I should attempt to organize my thoughts chronologically. After being informed that an Inquisitor of the Ordo Xenos would be shortly arriving at Port Echo, and wished to charter our vessel for an unknown purpose, Cousin Roland determined that we still had time to look into some of the more intriguing hints in the two-millenia-old records of Arch-Missionary Vargas Lin. We entered the Licenian subsector in search of the lost Port Constance, a naval station that current naval records do not record. We encountered the station, or rather the thick cloud of particulate matter that surrounded and enfolded the station. As we tentatively entered, our Navigator Primaris and the Astropath Darrius determined that the cloud was likely Xenos in origin. The Astropaths reported feeling a cold and alien mind at the heart of the cloud, which Darrius and Svenya theorized was some extremely dangerous species known as the Slaugth. The vox-contact we received from the still-occluded station, however, claimed merely an isolated navy station continuing their eternal watch against the return of the ancient Yu’vath. Of interest was the fact that this supposedly isolated and forgotten station knew the name of our ship as well as the name Aguirre, and that we were deemed… potential allies. They claimed to be low on personnel and offered a significant fee for additional headcount. Cousin Roland promised to go find them some people as a pretext to escape the cloud and depart.

We arrived at Port Echo to receive this Inquisitor half-concerned that his target was, precisely, Port Constance. He arrived with his entourage of five. While Inquisitor Hans Steendahl was, himself, most courteous and respectful of our Dynasty and Warrant, his courtesy did not extend to introducing his companions by name, although I was able to uncover their names from the servants shortly after they settled into their quarters, and I record them here: Lind D’rien of the immensely powerful noble House D’rien is Inquisitor Steendahl’s female escort upon this mission. The Inquisitor’s archivist was the scholar Archibald. A Magos of the Adeptus Mechanicus who, I’m told, has strayed somewhat from the Omnissiah’s true way by dabbling in xeno-tech is named Linnaus. A hard-bitten storm-trooper of the Imperial Guard is named Argus. Finally, a black-clad man who, I shiver to speculate, belongs to one of the secretive Temples of the Officio Assassinorum is called Orb.

An hour after their arrival, the Inquisitor met Cousin Roland along with those Roland deemed trustworthy. This included myself, as well as Lady Soteris and his primary associates and retainers. Inquisitor Steendahl immediately made it clear that he wished passage on the Sovereign of the Void due to some… unique xeno-tech property the ship possesses. I was surprised to hear this from his lips, but was even more surprised to discover an utter LACK of surprise on the faces of anyone else in the room. Before I could formulate precisely how I might delicately inquire to be filled in, the Inquisitor turned the meeting over to Svenya who… revealed that he has been an agent of Inquisitor Steendahl upon this ship for the past fifteen years. Some potent xeno-artifact my father brought aboard necessitated Inquisitorial investigation and Svenya was the agent chosen.

The shock of this revelation was compounded by Svenya’s further briefing on his long-term mission. My father had, apparently discovered Svenya’s affiliation and the two engaged in mutually profitable work. My father profited in the cold trade with the benefit of the Inquisition’s blind eye while Svenya received detailed information on the details of that trade that he passed on to his master. It wasn’t until my father reneged on this arrangement that there came a power struggle for the future of the House. Svenya’s faction won, despite the Children of Thorns that Francesco let aboard. It was Svenya who cut my father’s throat, leaving him just alive enough to cut one final bargain. It was Svenya who killed my brothers and my nephews to ensure Roland’s succession to the Warrant. It was Svenya all along.

Apparently the value of this ship, and whatever this xeno-artifact has made it, was enough to guarantee the survival of House Aguirre when otherwise the Inquisition would long-ago have had reason to destroy it. Svenya cast his role as savior and preserver of the Dynasty against the evil of my father, yet that preservation was entirely for the self-interest of the Ordo Xenos of the Inquisition.

I felt a great swell of affection for Cousin Roland at that meeting. I could see that something akin to my own conflict warred within his soul. Although Svenya’s duplicity brought about Roland’s own rise, I could see that his inherent honor rose in his gorge somewhat. He does not have the extensive training on etiquette I have received, and thus was unable to maintain a dignified silence while his soul was astir, but even the edge of bitterness to his voice in his response to this information did him credit, and he did not embarrass himself or the House. And to Inquisitor Steendahl’s credit, he made it clear that Svenya’s rank within the Inquisition was not a challenge or threat to Roland’s sovereign authority upon his ship and within his Dynasty. In fact, the Inquisitor took significant pains to reassure Cousin Roland, and the rest of us, that while House Aguirre owes its survival to him, he respects our autonomy and our worth as independent hands of the Emperor’s will.

The Inquisitor informed us that our ship is capable not only of warp travel, but also of entering the strange Eldar dimension known as the webway. He indicated that this made our ship almost unique, for the Eldar are terrified of ordinary warp-travel, relying entirely of their webway for transport. A faction of the dark subspecies of that race known as the Children of Thorns infected this ship with their xeno-tech as part of an experimental attempt to contact a lost colony within their webway, the passages and gates to which have been cut off. Without webway access, these dark aliens sought to subvert a ship of humanity to ride through the Empyrean and then on into the cut-off parts of the webway they sought. The Inquisitor informed us that he has the coordinates of a webway portal to this isolated outpost, and that he wished us to transport him there to ascertain what was so important about this isolated outpost of the Children that multiple factions within their dark city of Commorragh were expending so much time and so many resources to regain contact. There were other questions asked and answers given, but I must admit that Svenya’s revelations made it hard for me to concentrate on such alien matters. I left them to the others and quietly retired to my rooms to pray.

Svenya came to me. My… reaction to his presence was surprising to me. Intellectually I know he was but a tool of Steendahl when he slaughtered my family. Intellectually I know that what he did has immeasurably improved the prospects of my House and brought it from the brink of annihilation. But when I saw his face at my door I felt this great surge of betrayal, almost hatred. Here was the man whose hands drip red with my blood, a man who cut short the lives of my nephews before they ever had a chance to choose the light of the Emperor over their grandfather’s dark path. I think I could forgive him for my father, even for my brothers, but I look at Svenya and I see the man who would use children as food tasters, and I know that here is a man who has slain children.

The Emperor tests me, assuredly, and I will not disappoint. Svenya, no doubt, has a dedication to his master and his purpose that has long-since eclipsed any sense of personal morality and I must come to accept this. Until such a time as the Inquisition removes him from House Aguirre’s service, I must continue to work with him.

It won’t be easy.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: A Hellish Realm
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “The Emperor’s Light Illuminates Dark Places”

We arrived at the Inquisitor’s coordinates, a planetary system of dead planets around a dying star. Svenya took me to the bowels of the Enginarium and showed me the device, a blasphemous black bone-like growth that has enveloped our warp drive. He called upon the Enginseer Prime to brief me on the device’s capabilities, a horror that left me numb. I understand, now, why Graylock has permanently wired herself into the ship. She claims her soul does battle with the alien device for the purity of the ship’s machine spirits. I have no reason to doubt her. The device itself can consume the soul of a crewman to repair damage to the ship, but at the cost of permitting it to grow like a cancer throughout the ship’s structure. My father, unsurprisingly, used this capability often, and the devices has infiltrated and replaced enough of the ship that it cannot be readily removed. The device’s primary function, however, appears to be to permit a Navigator to transport the ship into the Eldar’s proprietary dimension. This is what our Navigator Primaris did once we arrived.

It was a hellish, mind-bending landscape… an immense city of black bone, delicate spires reaching hundreds of kilometers into a space so immense that a dull red star pulsed at the heart of it providing light and power to the city.

Three sleek black ships engaged us in combat. Cousin Roland personally led our murder servitors on boarding actions utilizing our teleportarium while the Sovereign of the Void utilized its lasbatteries to good effect. Darrius revealed a surprising fluency with the language of the Children of Thorns and he, alongside the Inquisitor, convinced them that we serve one of their blasphemous sects. Upon demonstrating our strength, they permitted a parlay whereupon the Inquisitor, his retinue, Cousin Roland, and his own retinue went “ashore” to one of their awful spires.

I did not go with them. They all returned, although Svenya was sheeting blood from multiple puncture wounds on his back, legs, and arms. I can’t say any particular sympathy welled up in me. The Inquisitor claims that he learned what he came to learn, and I was pleased to see the end of that hellish place.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

View
Dynastic Rewards
Port Echo / The Hedge

(700) (+1 Fate Point)
(All Present)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: A House Reunited
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “Fortune Favors the Righteous”

Dinner negotiations with Lady-Captain Evelyn Lin went swimmingly. Cousin Roland was in top form in charm and grace and rapidly elicited from our guest confirmation that Darius Starbourne was her guest about the Star Heron. It would appear that the Starbourne Dynasty is in significant debt to the Lin Dynasty for monetary and logistical aid in the former’s botched attack on Starbourne’s World and that the Lady-Captain wants to make sure she recoups those losses.

Cousin Roland gave his assurances that he would personally give his word of protection over Darius so that he could come with us and attend negotiations with his long-estranged relative Nicolas to reunify their fractured dynasty. Lady-Captain Lin delegated her ship the Firestorm to convey Darius to Port Echo along with Lady-Captain Lin’s own representative.

During dinner, our Navigator Primaris had her own private dinner with other Houses of the Navis Nobilite serving the Lin dynasty as well as our passenger Robar Calyx. I am not privy to the inner workings of the secretive Navigator Houses, but I got the subsequent impression that House Calyx, whose own estranged branches serve both sides of this conflict, decided to push strongly for the Starbourne reunification.

We arrived at Port Echo to discover a significant battle-group of Battlefleet Ixaniad present, along with the Imperial Battleship “Cataclysm,” flagship of High Admiral Aldred. Apparently the Licenian High Admiral Silas Starbourne was already aboard the Cataclysm and engaged in ongoing negotiations. Cousin Roland set up his own negotiations on Port Echo, bringing Darius and Nicolas together. House Aguirre and its retainers went all-out in working for the success of these negotiations, and eventually, after a mere two days, all the details were hashed out. Nicolas would retain the Warrant as Lord-Captain of the Dynasty, and Darius would become his Seneschal, and perhaps subserviant Lord-Captain of one of the Dynasty’s remaining ships. Darius would lend his knowledge of the Dynasty’s commercial empire and Nicolas would lend his legitimacy and military honor. The reunified Starbourne Dynasty made their appreciation for Aguirre’s aid clear in the form of favorable trade contracts and other intangibles which can only improve our own position in the long term.

As part of the signing and sealing of this agreement, both Starbournes asked our Astropath, confusingly also named Darrius, to enter their minds to assure that no intentions of duplicity were present. I don’t think they understood just how much of themselves they would be revealing. In the course of reading Nicolas Starbourne’s mind, Darrius discovered that the Licenian Regency has, for all seven hundred years of its existence, fought a defensive war against successive waves of twisted chaos mutant raiders. These mutants, apparently the sad victims of the warp storms that swallowed a legion of Imperial Guardsmen, come from a world orbiting “Sabine’s Star,” a location to Rimward of the core Licenian worlds at the edge of the region of space known as the Birth Stars. It would appear that the “threat from the birth stars” that we have been told of in somewhat mystical terms is an actual, physical, military threat in addition to a spiritual threat to the person of the Regent. This explains why an isolated polity felt the need to have a significant standing navy.

Nicolas Starbourne renounced his commission with the Regency Navy immediately, and stayed on Port Echo to establish his control of Starbourne resources on that station while Darius returned to the Firestorm. Cousin Roland dropped by the Cataclysm to determine the state of military negotiations where he discovered that Silas Starbourne’s bargain to become Imperial Admiral of the Licenian subsector was essentially a done deal, and the extended discussions were mostly about tactical logistics going forward. Seeing that all seemed to be going according to our desires, we prepared to return once more to the Hedge to fulfill a promise to aid Lady-Captain Lin in her efforts to recover the Grand Cruiser hulk from the surface of the planet.

The Sovereign of the Void was the largest ship present, but it appears that the Lady-Captain had procured a dozen archaeotech graviton grapnels and an equal number of cargo-hauler ships to mount them in. With the Sovereign of the Void as the backbone, her small fleet, aided by the active plasma drives on the hulk itself, managed to drag it into stable orbit around the Hedge. We discovered the name of the vessel, the “Angevin’s Fire,” a Grand Cruiser owned and operated by the distant ancestor of Lady-Captain Lin in Angevin’s Crusade. It would seem that in the aftermath of that glorious time, this ancestor abdicated his Warrant to his daughter and took the Angevin’s Fire on an extended pilgrimage. This ancestor, Vargas Lin, ultimately became an Arch-Missionary of the Ordo Missionaria Galaxia, the same Vargas Lin who founded the University of the Imperial Creed on Tria. He and his ship apparently came to rest on the Hedge under circumstances mysterious.

Cousin Via, realizing this connection to her own Order, made a request for any data that might have survived two thousand years on the planet’s surface, hoping that the fate of this famed member of the Missionaria might be determined, but also that his travels and research on the native Licenian religion and culture might be ascertained. A session of bargaining ensued, and Lady-Captain Lin provided the data. It was fragmentary and corrupted, but the three Missionaries aboard the Sovereign eventually deciphered enough to make the planet of Neumos an attractive next step in our explorations of the Licenian subsector. Apparently Neumos held a prominent place in the ancient religion of the Licenian Republic as the “birth world” of that civilization, and upon an ancient cataclysm and the death of their “Emperor” they fled to settle the Licenian core world. All of this was steeped in ancient heretical beliefs, of course, but even in heresy might lie seeds of potential profit.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

View
Negotiation and Obligation
Port Echo / The Webway

(700)
(Julie, Kevin, Matt, Miguel, Tyson)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: Complex Military Negotiation
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “The Emperor speaks through truthful tongues”

We arrived in the vicinity of Port Echo, outside of macrobattery range thanks to the skill of our Navigators, whereupon Cousin Roland entered into initial negotiations with High Admiral Silas Starbourne of the Licenian Regency. Our speculations as to his intention to defect to the Imperium were not dashed as he invited Cousin Roland and an entourage to dine with him aboard his flagship.

We arrived, bringing with us the “Ecclesiarch” of the Licenian Regency, our passenger, as well as Robar Calyx, similarly associated with that regime. The High Admiral met us with all due formality, making it clear in his greetings and speech that he considered Roland to a “cousin” Rogue Trader, notwithstanding his own high military rank. With him was another member of the Regency Council, Orison Calyx, the Patriarch of that house, a number of flag officers, and finally Lady-Captain Surma of Port Echo.

I sat beside Cousin Roland, prepared to offer my subtle aid should it prove necessary. It didn’t. Roland was in excellent form, having recovered somewhat from his unfortunate daemonic encounters. Roland explained that the attack by Darrius Starbourne was not an official act of the Imperium, but rather the attempt by a misguided Rogue Trader to accomplish long-held ambitions. He furthermore indicated that he, Roland, on behalf of the Imperium, and empowered by Commodore Tyrian, was there to negotiate terms of reintegration with the Imperium.

I noted this subject caused some consternation among some of the flag officers. The conversation wended its way around this subject with a certain amount of politesse before, at the conclusion of the sorbet that started the dinner, four of Starbourne’s flag officers choked and keeled over dead, apparently by poison. At this point, the High Admiral spoke plainly. He told Cousin Roland that it was his intention to join the Imperium, bringing the loyal elements of his navy with him, provided he could be assured of the rank of Admiral of the Licenian Subsector within the overall Naval hierarchy. He furthermore indicated that he planned on passing off his Warrant of Trade to his eldest son to continue to the Starbourne Rogue Trader Dynasty while he personally served the Imperial Navy in his new capacity. He indicated that he and Patriarch Calyx were of one mind on this matter, and that it was also his belief that the head of the Regency’s Adeptus Mechanicus also favored re-integration. He outlined the political obstacles, namely the Regency’s Ordo Psykana, whose entire power base relied upon the continued existence of the Regent and the beacon he represents. The Veiled Mask, who leads the Regency’s secret police and propaganda arm, would likely also resist, as would the majority of the planetary defense forces under the command of the High Marshall.

The High Admiral did not sugar-coat the obstacles ahead, but indicated that Cousin Roland should take his offer to the Commodore and higher up the chain of command as necessary while he continued to “protect” Port Echo.

The conversation went on rather longer than that, of course, but those were the salient highlights. After returning to the Sovereign of the Void, Cousin Roland, his senior retainers, and I discussed matters. I offered my extensive connections in Sector government, the nobility, and the Administratum to spread rumors of High Admiral Starbourne’s capability and military might, as well as willingness to bring it all under High Admiral Aldred’s command with the notion that these rumors would reach Aldred and prepare him to receive such a proposition favorably. Cousin Roland accepted my offer and I worked with the Astropathic choir to send a number of messages to this effect, as well as to my contacts within the Ecclesiarchy on behalf of the Licenian “Ecclesiarch” who is aiming for the title of Cardinal within the greater church.

Cousin Roland decided that it would be more politic to bring this offer to Commodore Tyrian and permit him to bring the matter to High Admiral Aldred, thus saving face and permitting him to turn his apparent defeat into a victory. This excellent idea, coupled with Roland’s silver tongue, made the Commodore deeply indebted to House Aguirre, promising extensive resources should Cousin Roland need them. He sent a return message for Starbourne, and we returned to Port Echo to deliver the Commodore’s provisional acceptance while we awaited his own report to Aldred.

We spent a day or two at Port Echo whereupon Uncle Svenya discovered that multiple factions were scouring the station for the elusive Darius Starbourne, who had failed so spectacularly to bring the Licenian branch of his House under his control. Despite these searches, nobody had yet uncovered any evidence that he had returned to the station. Lord-Captain Lazar Starling, however, once again demonstrated his… quite unusually effective sources of information and offered to reveal to Svenya the location where Darius Starbourne was hiding in exchange for House Aguirre’s intercession with High Admiral Starbourne to permit ships of the Starling Dynasty through the blockade, granting effectively a monopoly in the import of badly needed supplies. This Lord Captain Roland did, convincing High Admiral Silas Starbourne on the basis of Port Echo’s need, not mentioning the lead on his rival. Having delivered on his promise, Svenya received the news that Darius Starbourne was apparenly hiding aboard the “Star Heron,” flagship of Lady Captain Evelyn Lin, currently in orbit around the Hedge.

We set off, now, once more, to that remote planet, this time to see if we can untangle whatever threads of obligation and alliance that may exist between the Lin dynasty and Darius Starbourne’s branch of the Starbourne Dynasty. In preparation for this departure, Lord Captain Roland met and spoke with High Admiral Starbourne’s son, Nicolas Starbourne, Lord-Captain of his father’s flagship. In this meeting, they learned some of the details of the altercation at Starbourne’s world, and got Nicolas’ assurances that should they convince Darrius to emerge from hiding, Nicolas will treat him well in exchange for House integration under Nicolas.

We shall see what further complications we discover once we arrive at the Hedge.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: Strange Meetings
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “Faith Brooks No Blasphemy”

We have arrived at the Hedge. Lord Captain Roland invited Lady Captain Lin to dine aboard the Sovereign of the Void, but put off the dinner itself until after he and his retainers had descended to the surface. He had decided that it would be a good idea to keep the Consul informed of ongoing political developments lest the terrorist leader undermine our efforts. After that, he determined to enter the complicated negotiations alluded to in my previous entry.

They have just returned from the planet ill at east. All I have thus far learned is that the Consul is more than he seems, and unlikely to be a Primarch. Nevertheless, his agenda aligns with our own, and he is willing to coordinate his terrorist network with our own interests going forward. If I were not so busy putting the final touches on the formal dinner for Lady Captain Lin, I would press for more information. Perhaps after dinner once Lin and her people have departed.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.