The Licenian Crusade

The Unknown Future
Neumos

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: Uneasy Foundations
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “The Foundation of the Imperium is Faith”

I’m not entirely sure what to think of Cousin Roland’s new retainer. Julius Zora has found both origin and destiny, and can not be reliably said to be human, notwithstanding his appearance. He has instantaneous access to knowledge I’m not even remotely equipped to evaluate. I fear that Roland has played midwife to the birth of something monstrous.

We departed the Eldar Craftworld none-too-soon with the intention of following up with reports from Port Aguirre. It would seem, however, that the direct route would have taken far longer than routing our journey past Neumos. When we arrived in the vicinity of that world, we encountered a chaos invasion force.

The Void Star, captained by Interrogator Marigold, alongside Angrom’s Fury, captained by Astrid Flamel, fought alongside our old ship, the Sovereign of the Void, commanded by Elder Soros. They opposed a fleet of six chaos ships consisting of four raiders, a planetary-invasion cruiser, and a carrier.

The battle was vicious if brief, by the standards of such things. In the end, only the chaos carrier escaped. The planetary-invasion cruiser completed its task, albeit probably not in the way it intended. The burning hulk continued on its trajectory to crash into Neumos in pieces. The Forgehammer took significant damage, but not enough to unduly threaten it. Of our allied ships, only the Sovereign of the Void was destroyed as chaos raiders boarded it and detonated the nova-cannon magazine. I admit, it gave me something of a pang to see this vessel, the first ship I had the honor of commanding as First Officer under Roland, burning in the void.

The battle was, apparently, a defensive action. The Consul and Inquisitor Steendahl had already transported themselves to the surface. We brought the wreck of the Sovereign of the Void to a halt so that Marigold of the Void Star could engage in rescue or salvage operations. Flamel took up picket duty against possible chaos reinforcements, and Roland and his retainers took a shuttle to the surface to try to track down the Inquisitor and the Consul.

When they returned, some hours later, it was on the heels of a dark bargain. Julius Zora had achieved his created destiny by joining with the planetary mind of Neumos, but Inquisitor Steendahl had, of course, expressed certain reservations about permitting such a walking heresy to roam freely through the galaxy. Cousin Roland brokered an agreement. Zora would join House Aguirre and would harbor under the protection of our Warrant of Trade, providing to us wonders of archaeotech to make our dynasty’s fortune and future secure. In exchange, he, through our dynasty, will slowly seek to bring a technological renaissance to the Imperium. Inquisitor Steendahl would have Marigold bonded to Neumos as one of the Consul’s peers, alongside our Confessor, Sister Tyrian, who would stay on Neumos to bring the light of the Emperor to the inhabitants, and guide them as another bonded soul. Navigator Primaris Soteris managed to get one of her own embedded on the planet as well, creating a “Council” of individuals to monitor the heretical planet, and hopefully act as a check on the Consul’s power.

We now act as guardians, shepherds, and beneficiaries of a font of ancient knowledge with the potential to revolutionize the Imperium… or get us all killed. We have a tentative alliance with the Inquisition, and access to technology no-one else can match. It may well be that we will thrive on this bargain. I worry, however, about the impact it will inevitably have on our souls.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

View
The Black Library
Craftworld Aletheia

(700 + GE)
(all present)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: Eldar Mythology
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “Understanding leads to Corruption”

As we waited at Craftworld Aletheia for the arrival of the Consul and Inquisitor Steendahl, Cousin Roland and his entourage was invited to a special cultural event aboard the immense Eldar vessel. He was kind enough to include me in the invitation, and so we were all transported by the Eldar assigned to be our liason, Ms. Zia of the Thousand Stars.

At the Eldar equivalent of a theatre we were met by the Farseer of the vessel, Alros Uxor, who explained that this particular performance was of great cultural significance to his people, and that there were some who disagreed with his decision to permit us to attend. He furthermore stressed that only Darrius and Lady Soteris would be able to perceive the full depths of the performance, as much of Eldar art is psychic in nature. We were offered a “sense link” with Zia so that we might fully appreciate the performance. I grudgingly agreed to the offer, as did the others, with the exception of Cousin Roland who rightly opined that should something occur, at least one of us would need to keep his wits about him. We arrayed ourselves and waited while the hall filled silently with nearly a thousand of the Farseer’s kin.

The lights dimmed, and suddenly a motley assortment of Eldar appeared upon the stage. They were garish and beautiful, graceful, with trailers of light following every movement. They were dancers who moved without music, accompanied only by the wash of potent emotions conveyed through their movements and directly upon the minds of their observers. The elaborate dance told a tale of a pantheon of deities, or metaphorical representations of Eldar ideals, all in balance, all nourishing and nourished by a vast empire of their people. One of the dancers began to dominate the dance, however; an eerily graceful creature exuding Eldar delight and pleasure in the good things in life. The others, representing law, warfare, mirth, and other such ideals, were inexorably pushed back, losing dance space to pleasure. The emotional states transmitted by the performers were… breathtaking, strong and pure, almost intoxicating. I have never felt, personally emotions so strongly or so unmixed.

Then the lights flickered, and the dancer representing pleasure vanished to be replaced by a single figure, swathed in concealing black, wearing a blank mirrored mask for a face. This new dancer emanated a vast hunger for sensation, for pleasure, for power, for any and every sensation, and one by one he slew the other dancers, their emotions and bodies severed like puppet strings, the blank-faced dancer consumed them until only two were left, the dancer of war and the dancer of mirth. As the war-dancer held off the blank-faced one, the mirthful one vanished in a cloud of colored smoke. The war-dancer fell, but did not snuff out. His mind fractured into pieces and faded from our sight.

And then… then the blank-faced dancer turned to the audience. I cannot speak to what my companions witnessed in that mirror-mask, but I saw myself reflected there, I saw my own hungers, my own hidden desires and pleasures laid bare, I saw the depths of my secret sins. I saw the delight the dancer would take in devouring my soul. It was easily one of the most traumatic experiences of my life.

The other Eldar clearly felt something similar. Previously silent, they murmured and gasped as the mask turned to them all, then the lights went out, and he vanished.

The performance was over. Lady Soteris seemed most shaken of my companions, but none stood unscathed. The Farseer informed us that the performers were known to our tongue as “Harlequins” and that to them was given the task of preserving the tale of the Fall of the Eldar and the Birth of the Great Devourer. He had other words for us about cultural understanding and mutual trust, but I was overwhelmed by nausea and needed to depart. Fortunately the Farseer didn’t keep us long.

I took myself rapidly away from the Craftworld back to my comfortable chambers aboard the Forgehammer where I spent a night of long hours in prayer and self-flagellation.

A day or so later, Inquisitor Steendahl arrived and conferred with Cousin Roland about a plan of action in the coming summit. Shortly thereafter, the Consul arrived via webway portal in our former ship, the Sovereign of the Void. Accompanying him to the craftworld was Elder Soros of the Consul’s personal Space Marines, and the Eldar Warlock Aleph.

I was not present at the summit itself, but I am told that Cousin Roland presented the truth as he knew it to the Consul in keeping with his given word of honor, but that he stressed the unknown dangers of the Consul joining once more with the planet of his birth. As a result, the Consul was convinced to take the process slowly, and in constant coordination with Inquisitor Steendahl. I am also told that Elder Soros was deeply disturbed to learn that the man he and his people had served for seven centuries was not, after all, the blood-descendant of the Emperor, but rather a being created before the Emperor’s own birth in the waning days of the Dark Age of Technology. I’m given to believe that Elder Soros will, however, manage to adapt their personal religious notions accordingly. It is a shame to see such loyal children of the Emperor following a false god.

As Inquisitor Steendahl and the Consul prepared to return to Neumos, Cousin Roland and his retainers discussed their next plans. Astropathic communication relayed that our other ships continued their tasks salvaging material from the Throne of the Sky Father and refurbishing it at Port Aguirre. The only wrinkle was the report that a few Tech Priests had committed suicide, presumably as a result of studying the Oculos we had left there. Additionally there was the matter of ensuring that Inquisitor Distaff had bargained truly and that Galer was uncontestably ours. Ultimately, however, such notions of maintenance held little appeal compared to two other courses of action. First, to accompany the Consul to Neumos to look upon that process, but second, to attempt access to the Black Library, something that apparently the Harlequin troupe could facilitate if they could be convinced to permit it.

Rumor of the Black Library has haunted us for some time. The semi-mythical repository of all Eldar knowledge about chaos and its entities has been a goal of Steendahl’s for years. The Farseer implied that Steendahl’s addiction to data made him… unsuitable but that the “Solitaire” of the Harlequins might be convinced to permit Roland and his entourage to glimpse it. Roland, Lady Soteris, Darrius, Svenya, and Missionary Tyrian ultimately made the attempt, traveling deep into the heart of the craftworld to speak to the Solitaire, the dancer who was tasked with the burden of playing the role of the Great Devourer itself, the masked presence who had so terrified us a few days before.

A few hours later they returned, pale and shaking, some rocking catatonic, others jumping at shadows. They had been through a dramatic and traumatic experience and would not speak of specifics. I will ensure the servants prepare comforting meals, and will see if they can be brought out of their shells. Surely they were unable to actually visit the mythical library in that short a time? I wonder what their encounter with the Harlequin Solitaire revealed.

Perhaps soon they will be in a position to speak with me.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

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The Fall of Vallenti
Neumos / Craftworld Aletheia

(700 + GE)
(all present)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: Inquisitorial Strife
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “Hubris Can Topple Even the Mighty”

We transported Interrogator Astrid Flamel back to Neumos while Svenya held her terrifyingly powerful daemon weapon in custody. En route, we fell afoul of a warp miasma that infected our crew with bloodthirstiness. Sadly, Missionary Tyrian also fell prey and had to be subdued by Steihr, Svenya, and Darrius while Cousin Roland rallied the crew to stand firm against the urge to slaughter their fellows. He was quite successful. We lost only about 6,000 crewmen by the time we emerged from the warp.

We arrived in the Neumos system and invited Inquisitor Distaff aboard to discuss what must be done. We released Markov from the stasis vault in which he had been imprisoned and apprised him of the situation. Distaff promised that his talents would be evaluated by a council of inquisitors rather than just one, going forward. As we spoke, Darrius detected the transmission of astro-telepathy from our ship. Apparently one of Astrid Flamel’s astropaths had a heightened metabolism and had not, in fact, been sedated, just biding his time. As a loyal servant of the Imperium, he was apparently under the belief that he and his Interrogator had been kidnapped by enemies of the Imperium and sought to warn his employer, Inquisitor Vallenti. Svenya killed the astropath, but the damage was done.

Cousin Roland and his retainers, along with Distaff and Markov, jumped into a shuttle while we scrambled fighters. A single gunship was departing the moon-base toward Neumos, but the skills of our Navigator and Astropath determined it was a ruse. Steendahl’s ship, the Void Star, began maneuvering to fire on the moon base, while damage and explosions were detected within the facility itself. The Void Star also began broadcasting a powerful psychic signal to interfere with any attempts at astro-telepathy.

Cousin Roland opted for a boarding action on the Void Star. Svenya piloted them safely past the ship’s defenses and they boarded. They determined that the Void Star had been compromised, and that the captain, Steendahl’s Interrogator Marigold, had been somehow removed. This was an interesting challenge, as the entire ship seemed constructed to obey her unusual technological abilities.

They arrived on the bridge and found Inquisitor Vallenti and his Daemonhost, along with the bleeding and unconscious Marigold. On the way, Darrius ascertained that all but one of the ship’s navigators were dead (the one having been merely badly injured) and all the ship’s astropaths similarly killed.

The pair were expecting them. The daemonhost sent a swarm of razor-sharp shards of force toward Markov, presumably acting under orders to neutralize the man who could remove Vallenti’s control over the beast. Steihr pushed his way in front of the surprised psyker and took all the shards himself, a blow that I’m told gave the distinct impression of having killed him. Svenya rushed Vallenti while Cousin Roland did what he could to aid Markov in his own defense. Demetria and Darrius attempted to neutralize the daemonhost but limited effect. The Daemonhost ultimately seized control of Cousin Roland’s mind, forcing him to shoot his plasma pistol at Markov, fortunately to no avail.

While Svenya dueled Vallenti, Confessor Tyrian ran to Steihr’s aid. Much to her surprise, he got up from wounds that should have killed him and charged Vallenti utilizing strength and speed beyond what was human, cutting the Inquisitor nearly in half with a single blow, all while Markov desperately tried to take control of the daemonhost.

Markov ultimately succeeded, and Darrius, much to my immense relief, utilized his psychic powers to put Vallenti in a sort of bio-stasis, preserving his rapidly dwindling life. It would have been… politically and personally catastrophic if Inquisitor Vallenti had died at our hands. No Convocation of the Inquisition would be able to overlook a straight assassination of one of their own. We needed him alive to be taken back to the Solemn Hall to face the judgment of his peers.

While Confessor Tyrian and Inquisitor Distaff looked to the health of Marigold, Darrius and Svenya took Inquisitor Vallenti’s daemon-weapon into custody (giving us two…) and began assessing the situation.

While all of this occurred, I was quite busy aboard the Forgehammer. Vallenti’s ship, as well as Distaff’s ship, arrived from their patrols at speed, looking to defend their respective interests. I pulled every trick of diplomacy and subterfuge to keep them from interfering in the apparent fight between the Void Star and the moon base, enforcing my opinion with the implied threat of nova cannon fire. Ultimately, the psychic jammer was disabled, and communication restored between all parties. Steendahl and his agents aboard the moon-base had survived the bombardment, although the moon base was no longer a viable inquisitorial base of operations.

Distaff took Vallenti and the two daemon weapons into custody. Cousin Roland had a conversation with Interrogator Astrid, who ultimately agreed to take control of Vallenti’s ship and take over his role of guarding the Neumos system, alongside Inquisitor Steendahl. Distaff, Vallenti, the daemon-host, and the two daemon weapons would return to Ichabarr, along with one of Steendahl’s trusted agents, the noble Lind D’rien.

Before she left, Distaff made a point of upholding her end of the bargain. She revealed her leverage on Reginald D’rien, the new Imperial Governor of the Licenian Subsector, and ensured that the acquisition of the planet of Galer as a protectorate of the Aguirre family was secured.

We considered our next move, and Cousin Roland decided that it was time to convene our delayed summit with the Consul, the Eldar, and Inquisitor Steendahl. We set course for Craftworld Aletheia where once again we brought forth salvaged artifacts of their people in trade. This time, we gave them the items recovered from the Children of Thorns ship wrecked upon the Throne of the Sky Father.

Farseer Alros Uxor spoke to Cousin Roland at length about ancient history and ancient debts and obligations. He seems to believe that the Consul, reunited with Neumos, and under the watchful eye of the Inquisition, would be a great boon for the Imperium of Man. I remain unconvinced, but it is not my place to say one way or the other. We are waiting now for the arrival of the Consul and Steendahl to commence our summit.

Cipher Lock disengaged

View
Eldar and Daemons
Neumos / Asteroid Belt Z86Alpha-10034

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

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: Inquisitorial Politics
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “No matter how high we rise, we remain pawns”

Lord-Captain Roland and his entourage returned to the ship from Neumos. Apparently their efforts to apprehend Hiram Vain were unsuccessful. They spoke to him within the psychic world-mind of the planet, and were convinced that the threat he represents is relatively small compared to other, pressing issues. I’m unsure if, in fact, this was the true reasoning or if they merely could not discover a way to bring the here-tek to justice without the interference of the immense Dark Age artifact, but the end result is the same. It is somewhat mollifying to realize that Inquisitor Steendahl and his own agents similarly failed. Cousin Roland invited the Inquisitor to dinner to speak on the subject.

It became clear over dinner that Neumos is a veritable font of ancient and powerful information. It was wise of us to hand it over to the Inquisition. Among the ancient truths discovered was the origin of Julius Zora, known for centuries in the Licenian subsector merely as “The Consul.”

Apparently the Consul is the result of ancient genetic fabrication, an artificially created infant, tied psychically to Neumos, and preserved in stasis, smuggled off the planet in times unimaginably long ago, when the first ark ships fled Neumos, ultimately settling on Licenia and founding the Republic. The original intent was, apparently, to use the child as a psychic link to the collective wisdom of their forebears once the planet regained it sanity. Apparently over the last 30,000 years or so the infant in the ancient stasis pod achieved a sort of religious status, and when the most recent warp storms emerged, the burgeoning Licenian Heresy activated the pod and awoke him. He has no knowledge of his connection to Neumos, millenia of warp storms have effectively severed the psychic link. It is anticipated, however, that once his compulsive questing for his origins brings him into contact with the planet, he will once again serve as a living conduit to the world-mind.

Cousin Roland pointed out that he had given the Consul his word that should he uncover information about his origins, that information would be forthcoming. Roland intends to keep his word, the question is how to manage the aftermath. Inquisitor Steendahl was most eager to take the matter in hand, rightly pointing out that the Consul is a walking heresy collection, and to let him walk free, with the power of Neumos behind him, and a chapter of loyal Adeptus Astartes, as well as the alliance of an Eldar craftworld… well… without Inquisition oversight he would be a significant threat and would have to be put down.

It was decided that we would arrange a conclave at Craftworld Aletheia where we would sell to the Eldar the data crystals recovered from the Children of Thorns vessel, but also use it as a neutral location to meet the Consul, introduce him to the Inquisitor, and reveal what we know.

As almost a passing remark, Steendahl mentioned that his fellow Inquisitor, Syrah Distaff, was interested in a private conversation. Cousin Roland opted to meet her the next morning for breakfast.

The proposition she brought not only flabbergasted me with its audacity, but stunned me with how it was constructed politically. She proposed that Cousin Roland and his vessel attack a secret prison facility owned by another Inquisitor, there to break out a prisoner to be used, by her, as a political weapon against the aforementioned rival. This proposal, on the face of it, is ridiculous and all right-thinking Rogue Traders would shun it.

But that’s not how she presented it. She pointed to Inquisitor Vallenti’s pet demon, she spoke of a long-suppressed heretical faction within the Inquisition called the Phaenonites who believed in melding daemons with technology and using the resulting daemon engines for great personal power to fight the Imperium’s enemies. She made the clear connection that Vallenti, as an Ordo Malleus Inquisitor with an unusually-powerful daemonhost at his disposal, had no rational reason to be interested in Neumos unless he planned to do something with both daemon and planet-machine. She pointed out that even if her suspicions were incorrect, the daemon’s proximity to the planet was a threat, even if Vallenti was merely stupid or incompetent rather than actively malevolent.

She acknowledged that, as an Istvaanian, Cousin Roland had little enough reason to trust her at her word, but with everything she said, I could see the chains tightening around my pious cousin. Despite his distrust of Distaff, despite his suspicions, he could not see a reasonable way to refuse her request, and could not help but recognize that of all the possible individuals she could hire, him and his ship were clearly the optimal agents for this job.

The job, of course, was to rescue Markov, the psyker who actually bound the daemon, from Vallenti’s secret prison asteroid. Apparently, after Markov told the daemon to obey Vallenti, Vallenti had him locked in a stasis vault and hidden away. Distaff claimed she wanted Markov back, wanted him to revoke those commands, and then she claimed a desire to hand the daemon over to more rational members of the Ordo Malleus while her own political machinations within the Inquisition brought scrutiny to bear against Vallenti. She claimed that she had already seeded the necessary suspicion, but that the other Inquisitors, used to the habits and their comfortable ruts, would need something to nudge them to action.

I could not help but admire how she snared us. Cousin Roland and his agents were present when Markov bound the Radiant King into the body of the Licenian Regent. They transported both parties (along with Distaff, who was a passenger at the time) to the Inquisition. They are one of the few independent actors permitted in Neumos’ system. They include a known agent of Steendahl, in Svenya, so even if the mission goes terribly awry, Steendahl takes the blame, not her… it was beautifully constructed.

And so, to my chagrin but grudging acceptance, we flew off to do battle with the servants of an Inquisitor.

Fortunately, despite the temptation to use force upon the station, and upon Vallenti’s Interrogator, one Astrid Flamel; despite Flamel’s obvious daemon-weapon and the fact that the whole facility was practically filthy with cultists and sorcerers and other prisoners better off as stellar debris, Roland engaged in diplomacy and actually convinced Flamel to surrender herself and her station to us.

This has provided the additional complication of putting her daemon weapon in Svenya’s hands, and leaving this prison without its oversight, or its astropaths, but our plan is to rapidly transport Markov to Distaff to conclude this matter so that the Inquisition can sort out its own politics and we can make our rendezvous with the Consul.

View
The Hunt for Hiram Vain
Galer / Neumos

(700 + GE)
(All Present)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: Chasing a Here-tek
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “A Bargain with Heresy Always Rebounds”

No sooner had our ceremony to annex Galer under the authority of our Dynasty concluded than Cousin Roland’s retainers began to second guess the decision. Although we had not yet consolidated our hold, and had yet to even begin discussing which Imperial authorities we should engage with, and how we might convince the various arms of the Imperium to respect our claim, our Choirmaster became convinced that the here-tek Hiram Vain was a stain upon the planet that would embroil us to our ruin.

Darrius commonly becomes gripped by sudden fears like this one, but this time his words found fertile soil in the mind of our Lord-Captain. A discussion ensued debating what to do about the man in question, the right-hand advisor to our new planetary governess. Darrius pointed out, quite rightly, that Vain had apparently sold his entire mercantile empire to the Amaranthine Syndicate only to vanish into the Licenian subsector where we found him advising the leader of an insurrection. He had apparently brought enough food to support Galer during the violence on Caedicius, but the ships he must have used to bring it were nowhere in evidence. Remembering the legends of the Meritech wars, Darrius speculated that Vain, and his supposed Logician allies, had any number of esoteric technologies available, and feared that there might be nearby fleets cloaked from our auspex arrays via unknown methods. Darrius speculated wildly about the motives of a man like Vain, and ultimately expressed the fear that the mysterious world of Neumos was his ultimate goal, a piece of unknowably powerful technology outside the Imperial norm.

To be fair to Darrius, although much of what he said was rank speculation, there were enough seeds there that an investigation began. It became rapidly apparent that our new governess, the former Queen, was not actually aware that Vain’s technological innovations were heretical. She had been told that the Empire’s technology had changed over the centuries Galer was cut off from the Imperium. She openly showed Cousin Roland an implant that Vain had given her which permits her low-grade telepathy, a fact that rightly horrified him. It was clear that Vain was experimenting with warp-fueled technology of some sort. Darrius discovered a signal in the warp that seemed to infer that Vain himself had set up in the depths of the planet a warp gate of some sort connecting to Tria and that he could move between those planets without need of a ship. This seemed confirmed by Navigator Primaris Demetria’s failure to locate any Navigators in service to Vain and the absence of any ships in the area belonging to him.

The planetary governess indicated that Vain came to their world and offered his knowledge of the politics of the greater Imperium, as well as food, in exchange for access to their planetary archives. Cousin Roland and others descended to Galer’s planetary archive to discover what Vain was after. There, the Adeptus Mechanicus librarian pointed them to a section filled with data involving ancient, pre-Imperial legends of the Licenian Republic, legends of the origins of the Republic, spending a generation on great ark ships from a distant star. There was enough information there to permit a skilled navigator to find Neumos.

Also there were the complete records of Arch-Missionary Vargas Lin, a fact I’m noting for future use as to my knowlege those complete records were lost. Hopefully we can return to Galer sometime soon and transfer those records. Who knows what secrets they will reveal about this subsector.

In any case, it would appear that Darrius’ fears were well-founded. The Here-tek Vain sought Neumos, for reasons as yet unclear. We communicated this matter to Inquisitor Steendahl via astropathy, but such communication can take days, and we needed to decide what to do now.

To add some continued stress to Cousin Roland, Svenya revealed the contents of one of the Inquisitor’s messages which indicates that the Starling siblings are not, in fact, scions of that dynasty, but rather imposters, pretenders to the Starling warrant, and furthermore, that they are distant relatives of Roland’s, scions of Dynasty Aguirre. It was speculated that perhaps this was one of my father’s many schemes, to procure the Starling warrant by some means and prepare cunning distant relations to seize it fraudulently, creating another Rogue Trader dynasty with hidden loyalty to ours. If that was the only part of the plan, I can’t say I would disapprove. Sadly, we already know that the Starlings are deeply indebted to the Amaranthine Syndicate, who we know to be pawns of the xenos Slaugth. The matter came to a head when Elizabeth Starling and her vessel arrives near Galer, apparently seeking to discover if she had won the contract to assume control over the planet.

Upon being informed she was not, she graciously conveyed her compliments to Cousin Roland, who had to decide whether to act forcibly against her to discover her secrets. He ultimately decided that he had enough on his proverbial plate, and left Starling to depart, to be confronted some other day.

We made all due haste to Neumos, unfortunately encountering some warp predators on the way who temporarily disabled our Nova cannon. Fortunately the faith of Missionary Tyrian and the martial talents of Svenya, Steihr, Darrius, and Cousin Roland removed the daemonic gremlins and our journey continued apace, taking a mere 4 days of a theoretical 14.

Upon arriving, we found no sign of a feared Logician fleet. We contacted the Inquisitorial base on Neumos’ moon and discovered that Steendahl was not present. We invited Inquisitor Vallenti aboard, along with his… daemonic associate. The meal we had was unpleasant, but productive. It would appear that our warning to Steendahl was timely. A ship had arrived a mere four hours before we did, encountered the Inquisitorial interdiction satellites, and then departed. Thanks to our warning, however, the Inquisition noted signs of teleportarium-use, and Inquisitor Steendahl and his entourage, along with the psyker Marduk, descended to the planet to find Vain. Considering our own history with the planet, Vallenti granted us leave to descend if we so wished.

Cousin Roland, ever the valorous, took his companions and descended to the planet below. They have entered one of the vast temples, and descended into the infinite labyrinth of Neumos’ inner workings. I can only hope they return sane and hale.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

View
The Annexation of Galer
Galer

(700 + GE)
(All Present)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: A Distasteful Obligation
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “The Love of Thrones is the Root of all Evil”

The quote above comes from an ascetic sect, and I never before gave much thought to it. After all, the pursuit of wealth and power can provide powerful tools for the faithful, and it was ultimately upon that reasoning that cousin Roland made a decision that I sincerely hope won’t cause significant harm to this Dynasty.

After ensuring that our other ships were gainfully engaged in transporting ship hulks and parts to Port Aguirre, we met to discuss what our next course of action should be. Two potential avenues rose to the top. First, we could return to the Eldar of Craftworld Aletheia and trade to them the data-crystals recovered from the hold of the Children of Thorns vessel we salvaged off of the Throne of the Sky Father. The other option was to deal with the planet of Galer.

The Imperium is currently engaged in stamping out the last vestiges of the Licenian Regency in an ongoing hot-war on the planet of Caedicius. The forces of the Licenian High Marshall, along with the daemon-cultists and assassins of the Veiled Mask have made that agri-world their bastion and much in the way of Imperial materiel has been dedicated to resolving that problem. This has left the secessionist insurrection of the former prison-world of Galer relatively unremarked upon and untouched.

We reviewed what we knew of Galer… namely that it had been the prison planet for the ancient Licenian Republic, back when their lack of warp technology required a ten-year travel time between Licenia and Galer. It was the planet to which they sent their undesirables, a place so distant that often by the time they arrived, they had children of their own. A place from which there was no likely return. Over the unknown millenia of the Republic, Galer developed its own culture, it’s own non-criminal population, supplemented by fresh supplies of criminals every so often. After the Angevin Crusade, and the introduction of warp travel to the former Licenian Republic, Galer continued to be the traditional prison planet for the subsector, and this tradition apparently continued during the seven hundred years of warp storms and governance by the Licenian Regent. Now, the population was agitating for independence from the Licenian Imperial governor, but due to its remote location and general lack of political influence, it has been low on the agenda thus far.

Cousin Roland decided that we would resolve this insurgency, perhaps a bit optimistically. Galer has a population of a billion and a half, all living below-ground in sprawling hives that were converted from ancient mining tunnels. Military conquest seemed… unlikely. But Roland has great faith in the power of his diplomacy, and so we engaged our warp engines and made our way to Galer.

Upon arrival, we noticed the planet had six vessels in defensive orbits. They hailed us and requested we stay at least a hundred thousand kilometers away while a representative of the “Queen” of Galer came to speak with us. This we did, while a shuttle came to the Forgehammer.

The representative of the “Queen” introduced himself as Hiram Vain, a name that rang little bells in my mind that I had to think on. Vain’s two bodyguards aroused some suspicion and curiosity from Missionary Tyrian as well as our Master of Ordinance, Steihr Mandis. It would seem that the battle armor and high-tech rifles were… not entirely martian in origin, a suspicion confirmed with others of our group noticed that Vain himself seemed to possess extraordinarily subtle cybernetic enhancements of a pattern and make unknown to us.

Cousin Roland made his pitch, that Imperial conquest was inevitable and that he could help broker their surrender in exchange for trade concessions. Vain then countered by referencing Rogue Trader Dynasty Vallenti, renowned for their ownership and control of the planet Rubrica, among other things, and proposing that Dynasty Aguirre annex the entire planet of Galer, placing it among the Dynasty’s possessions, and insulating it from greater Imperial oversight.

The proposal came as a bit of a surprise. Apparently, the citizens of Galer are used to being mostly ignored by the greater Imperium, and have developed a culture and a society they would prefer to retain. Now that the warp storms have abated, they are soliciting Rogue Trader dynasties to annex their planet in exchange for the aforementioned Dynasty permitting them to continue with their autonomy. They were currently in negotiations with Dynasty Flamel, as well as Dynasty Starling.

Cousin Roland and the rest of us retired to discuss the offer. It was clear that Vain had his own agenda. His name finally rang a bell with me as well as with a few others. He had, until recently, been the owner and head of Vain Mercantile Enterprises, a chartist merchant organization in the greater Ixaniad sector. It was apparent that he might have here-tek sympathies, perhaps even Logician tendencies, and his persona interest appeared to be a planet, insulated from Imperial oversight, where he could practice and develop his unsanctioned technologies. That said, an entire planetary output would seriously increase our power and wealth, and so long as Vain’s heretical notions were not widespread on the planet, and so long as they evaded other Imperial notice, the Aguirre warrant might, in fact, successfully prevail in its claim against other Imperial agencies, especially considering our extensive contacts among those agencies.

Much of the debate circled the apparent fact that by taking this planet, we’d be aiding and concealing a heretical cult. In our conversation with Vain, and our own knowledge and suspicions, it seemed clear that the Logicians, in in fact that’s who they were, had no love for the daemon or the alien. Their heresies were aimed squarely at the Adeptus Mechanicus, and that they were otherwise firm in their commitment to human supremacy.

The argument was put forward that if Flamel won this contract then the cult would never be dealt with, but if we succeed in staking our ownership of the planet, then we would be in an excellent position to deal with the cult. That was the argument that eventually won the day, and cousin Roland informed Vain that we would meet with the “Queen” to negotiate for her planet.

Lady Mira Kyrathis, “Queen” of Galer, met cousin Roland and his party over a light lunch. She was cybernetically augmented to an unusual degree, but none of it appeared to be Vain’s work. She was relatively straightforward with Roland, pointing out Galer’s history, and its desire to continue to govern itself without a disruptive “re-conquest” or (perhaps more tellingly) without a re-evaluation of their Imperial tithe grade. It would appear the last official Imperial survey was eight centuries ago, and Galer’s means of production has subsequently expanded. Part of the offer was that, under a Rogue Trader’s rulership, that excess could be pocketed as profit in exchange for a hands-off approach to governance, and retaining the “Queen” under whatever title the ruling Dynasty wished to award.

Roland asked some probing questions about heresies or other troubles. The “Queen” was forthcoming about having ousted the previous “Warden” (a hereditary title) for being an agent of the Veiled Mask, and leading a purge of Regency sympathizers in order to start her “insurrection.”

Roland then made what I’m informed was an eloquent and impassioned pitch that although Dynasty Flamel was richer and more powerful in a broad way, their unsavory practices risked even more Imperial attention which Galer clearly did not wish. Furthermore, Dynasty Aguirre had specialized contacts among the local navy and Ecclesiarchy that Flamel could not match. She seemed impressed, and indicated they could expect a decision in days.

Cousin Roland then met with Orion, Lady-Captain Flamel’s local representative, to discuss… contingencies. There was some back and forth, but they reached a side-arrangement. Should Dynasty Aguirre win the contract, Dynasty Flamel would not use their extensive networks to sabotage Aguirre’s attempts to consolidate official ownership of the planet in exchange for 40% of all post-taxation output for five years.

While they waited, Missionary Tyrian made the acquaintance of some of the local faithful. Proximity to Tria apparently has seeded Galer with an array of competing religious sects, all battling for supremacy. It would seem that the official government of Galer has long given free reign to the competing religious sects to engage in open and covert religious warfare in exchange for their unified aid in rooting out psykers born to the populace and chaos cultists. Despite the bloody competition between sects, many of which we would consider quite heretical, Galer appears to have very little problem with chaos cults or rogue psykers as a result of this system.

Choirmaster Darrius met with Galer’s “planetary psyker”, an old man named Angus Fallow, who, like other psykers of the old Regency, was incredibly potent, if not altogether sane. It wouldn’t surprise me if our Navigator Primaris met with her counterpart in Orion’s party as well.

Ultimately, the “Queen” chose Aguirre, in a ceremony with the full governing council of the planet, and Flamel’s representatives. Now comes the difficult and engaging task of convincing the Lord-Sector and all aspects of the greater Imperium that this planet now belongs to us.

First, though, came a meeting between cousin Roland and Lady-Captain Callista Flamel herself. It would appear that the 40% deal offered by Orion held up, and notwithstanding her disappointment at having lost out on such a profitable endeavor, she proposed a… loosening of the traditional rivalry, based on the reality that Roland was not contesting her Cold Trade market as his predecessor was wont to do. As a gesture of good faith, they both had a conversation about the Amaranthine Syndicate. Roland informed her of their alien Slaugth connections, and she informed him that they had… dramatically expanded their power, having co-opted the entirety of Lord-Captain Finn’s covert pirate and smuggling network as well as being the purchasers, through third parties, of Hiram Vain’s entire mercantile interests.

As well as marking a concerning leap in power and wealth for the a xenos-controlled organization, it also raised more questions about the new “planetary governess” of Galer’s advisor. Why did he sell everything to the Syndicate? What is he doing with all that money?

It would appear, though, that for now, Aguirre and Flamel have common cause to engage in clandestine trade-warfare with the Amaranthine Syndicate. We will see what opportunities present themselves as we make our rounds through the Sector convincing our various allies and contacts to pull strings to grant us full control of Galer and it’s resources.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

View
A Fleet and a Relic
Port Aguirre / Throne of the Sky Father

(600 + GE)
(All Present)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: The Emperor be Praised!
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “A Diamond May Be Found in Every Cess Pit…”

I am still amazed at the miracle. I should put my maelstrom-thoughts in order by focusing on chronology and more mundane events. Perhaps then I can readily relate what reports are coming to me about the Serena’s Grace.

I have been so busy these past six months helping missionary Tyrian recruit, train, and re-organize the faithful among our (now) three ships that I haven’t had much opportunity to reflect privately in writing. Suffice it to say that we have spent those months pouring time and resources into rehabilitating the two vessels salvaged from the surface of the scrapyard world known as the Throne of the Skyfather.

Our new frigate, the Star of Caedicius, is armed and capable, commanded by cousin Althea d’Oro at the suggestion of Navigator Primaris Demetria Soteris. It would seem that our Navigator saw some promise in cousin Althea, and I can’t disagree. Soteris also delegated her own trusted second, Eryx, along with his wife, to provide primary navigation services. Svenya sent his trusted (lover?) Mahesh to act as quartermaster, and probably spy. Missionary Tyrian and I have settled upon two pious young men from the crew-clans named Samuel and Jacob to elevate via Holy Rite to the rank of Priest of the Ecclesiarchy. Samuel shall act as ship’s confessor to the Star.

Likewise, our new trading vessel the Angel of Tria is fully functional. Cousin Roland has yet to decide on who shall captain her, and it is true that, as a trading vessel, less care was put into her command staff overall, but our new Choirmaster has sent our former Choirmaster Orlen Ilex to serve aboard the Angel, doubtless as an honorable form of working retirement. It is true that Darrius has been effectively acting in Orlen’s stead for a good long time now aboard the Forgehammer, and the Sovereign of the Void before her.

We brought our new vessels back to the Throne of the Sky Father just in time to relieve lady Fatima Haram of her Dynasty’s obligation to guard the world on our behalf. She seemed keen to depart once we had determined that our new vessels were capable, but came aboard for one final proposal. She noted the speed and apparent secrecy with which we refit our two new ships, and surmised (rather cleverly and correctly) that we must have a secret shipyard somewhere. She opened negotiations for her Dynasty to make clandestine use of it in their own salvage operations.

Many days of back-and-forth and close-lipped negotiations concluded with a deal, entered into by Cousin Roland and lady Fatima’s father, Ali Haram. Dynasty Haram shall pay us an annual fee for use of Port Aguirre, and a percentage of the value of every ship they rehabilitate there. They also shall permit Dynasty Aguirre to inspect every hulk they tow into the vicinity to ensure its safety before permitting it to seek docking, as Dynasty Haram’s source for their ships is the dire-rumored Processional of the Damned.

Although this caused some consternation, Dynasty Haram has assured us of their own care and caution in making use of such a resource.

We spent some days pulling hulks off the surface of the Throne of the Sky Father and casting them into orbit for the Angel and the Star to pick over and transport to Port Aguirre. Of particular note was the hindmost half of the Adeptus Sororitas light cruiser Serena’s Grace. We had first encountered this ship crushed into the conglomerate of the space hulk that we encountered in the warp, the same vessel that emerged in our wake and impacted the planet below. The ship had served honorably in the Angevin Crusade, and had received its name by being the vessel that transported the body of Saint Serena from the battlefield where she fell to the world of her theophany, Entheo. The history of this ship was intriguing enough when first encountered that Cousin Roland even considered the unprecedented and dangerous move of boarding the space hulk while it was still in the warp.

Apparently the hind-half of the Grace survived impact relatively intact. Cousin Roland and his senior retainers, along with a half-dozen murder servitors, descended to reconnoiter, notwithstanding the high likelihood of daemonic infestation.

Reports I’ve heard make that likelihood a certainty. They encountered gibbering horrors in service to the Changer of Ways, kept tangible by the will of a sorceress of great power. After defeating her and her daemons, investigation surmised that she may well have been one of the Battle Sisters of the ship, driven mad by some ancient circumstance, given longevity and power by the blessings of the dark gods. It makes me tremble to think what it must have taken to corrupt a heart so pure, but my own heart is bolstered when I learned of what cousin Roland found there, a holy relic being used by the sorceress in blasphemous rites, but still pure and powerful, the long-lost Imperial identification tags of Saint Serena the Conscripted herself!

Missionary Tyrian wears them about her neck, a fact that I found shocking but for the revelation that she had donned them in a moment of inspiration (and lacking a proper container) and once having done so, she shared in an echo of the Saint’s ancient theophany. The relic has recognized our ship’s confessor, and she swears that someday, once the Saint has finished with her, she will gladly donate the relic to the Ecclesiarchy on Entheo.

Wonder of wonders. We even now know the Saint’s original name, at least as recorded on her Guardsman’s tags: Ilyana, a name lost to history.

I will need to pray upon this development.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

View
Salvage
Port Aguirre / Throne of the Sky Father

(600 + GE)
(All Present)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: Knuckling Down
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “Purge the Alien”

Upon departing from Port Echo, we made good time to Licenia where the core of Battlefleet Ixaniad continues to monitor the ongoing pacification of the subsector. Lady-Captain Antigone’s writ was good, and we spent some weeks repairing the Forgehammer, garnering new crew from the planetary population, inducting the crew taken from Port Echo into the proper Imperial Creed, taking on fighter pilots for our small craft, and negotiating a long-term contract with a Magos-Technologist Coris, an envoy of the Lord Fabricator of the subsector.

It appears that the Adeptus Mechanicus of the subsector are keen to reintegrate with their greater brethren of the Imperium, as well as to establish ties to strong Imperial institutions. Dynasty Aguirre is certainly such an institution, and Cousin Roland did a fantastic job bargaining Magos Coris down to merely a staggering amount of wealth. Paying for the hundred-odd Tech Priests and their thousands of servitors for a contract that could span decades, on a secret shipyard far from their usual haunts was expensive, and wiped away many of our recent gains, but much as our deal with Lady-Captain Lin for the graviton grapnels, this is all seen as initial outlay for a potential windfall as we get our ship-manufactory going. To defray somewhat the immense cost of this contract, Cousin Roland threw in the xenos device, the Oculos, that we salvaged from Port Constance. It was, as indicated, dearly wanted, and the cost was defrayed significantly. In fact. Magos Coris offered to take charge of it personally and to study it at a laboratory he would build at our new secret shipyard, which we have dubbed “Port Aguirre”, so that we may continue to have access to the device should we have a need.

Cousin Via took a moment to visit us aboard our new flagship. She is doing quite well for herself and I’m quite proud of her. She ias managed to become the power behind the new Cardinal of the subsector, having guided poor Nestor Larch to the proper path of faith, and aiding him in his political ambitions. Cardinal Solaris’ support of her so long ago when he gifted Sister Bast to her as bodyguard has paid off, as she is making quite a name for herself, and for our Dynasty, in the new Imperial subsector.

We departed for our distant asteroid shipyard, arriving and establishing our Tech Priests who began busily preparing it for business. Without further ado, we returned once more to the Throne of the Sky Father.

The Silver Crescent, a frigate of Dynasty Haram, was in orbit and Lady-Captain Fatima Haram challenged us. When we identified ourselves as Dynasty Aguirre, she welcomed Cousin Roland aboard her vessel to report on the conclusion of our agreement with her family. They have apparently already salvaged what they estimated to be 20% of the value of the planet in scavenged ship components, and having secured the planet until our return, wondered if our arrangement was now concluded. They wished to attempt to raise their crashed vessel and be on their way. Cousin Roland, anticipating that it might be some time before we had additional vessels to guard the planet ourselves, negotiated another six months from Dynasty Haram in exchange for us using our new graviton grapnels to raise the Haram vessel once more to spaceworthiness. This we did. Upon doing so, however, we noticed that part of the hull was encrusted with a crystalline growth. Apparently, the shattered Yu’vath construct that was incorporated into the space hulk we shot down over the planet was composed of a living, crystalline xenos client species of that ancient foe, not too dangerous in small numbers, but a potential infestation to keep an eye on. Dynasty Haram was notified, and their people cleared the infection from the hull.

Missionary Tyrian went among the people of this benighted world who we had long since incorporated into our crew and extracted from them a series of their myths and tales, analyzing them to ascertain which of the wrecks upon the planet’s surface might be the most recent, and therefore the most intact and worthy of full rehabilitation. She met with great success, identifying a trading vessel and a frigate of Licenian Regency design, a shattered light cruiser, also theoretically of the Regency, and a frigate-sized vessel of the Children of Thorns.

Cousin Roland and his retainers soon realized that this xenos vessel was likely the same one that the psyker-prophet of this world indicated had been the source of the crystal-wisp corpse, the shattered Yu’vath construct that we delivered to Inquisitor Steendahl. We used our grapnels on the Regency frigate and Cousin Roland and a team went aboard to clear it of potential danger. They discovered dessicated Regency Navy corpses engaged in combat with obvious, twisted, chaos mutated humans in Guardsman kit, presumably of the supposed “Sabine’s Legion” that we had learned about from Admiral Starbourne. Missionary Tyrian blessed all the corpses, Regency and corrupted, and in so doing appeared to cleanse the vessel of daemonic taint.

We then raised the xenos vessel from the surface under the theory that we needed to learn of any dangers it might represent. Unlike the Regency frigate, much of this craft appeared to be reasonably undamaged, much of it still maintaining seal integrity, and even maintaining a low level of power (in whatever fashion the strange craft generates it). Astropath Darrius detected some 550 minds aboard the vessel, and so Cousin Roland’s group boarded cautiously.

Inside they discovered that the alien ship was apparently engaged in a self-healing mode utilizing methods much akin to the blasphemous system aboard the Sovereign of the Void. All the minds Darrius had detected were humans and even some Children of Thorns, all strung up and impaled on thorny blades, as the ship fed on their agony in order to repair itself. Sensing new sources of pain, the ship attacked the boarding party, but was eventually convinced of the error of that course of events.

The party made it to the bridge where Astropath Darrius sat upon the thorned throne, giving his blood and pain to the ship to learn more about it. Apparently it was an emissary of the distant capitol of this vile species sent to find a way past the blockade of Craftworld Aletheia to the remote outpost where Inquisitor Steendahl had once led us. They were to bring their secret cargo, presumably that Crystalwisp corpse, as well as crystalline data storage devices.

Darrius convinced the ship not to attack the boarders further, and the alien craft was plundered of everything considered reasonably safe. I have some concern about arming our most visible representatives with even more alien devices, but can’t argue their effectiveness as trophies.

The alien ship was then cast adrift and pounded to flinders with our plasma broadsides… and good riddance.

We then raised the transport ship from the planet’s surface with no further incident. We are currently strapping it and the frigate, both of Regency design and named, respectively, the Star of Caedicius and the Angel of Tria, to the Forgehammer in preparation for a return through the warp to Port Aguirre to begin the slow but potentially vastly profitable ship reconstruction endeavor.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

View
Only Business
Port Constance / Port Echo

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

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: Old Fashioned Profit
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “The Emperor Rewards The Righteous”

I hadn’t expected to be back here in Port Echo, and neither did anyone else for that matter, but the vagaries of the warp made a stopover here more efficient than going directly to Licenia from the wreck of Port Constance, and so here we are. It’s probably well that we did so, however, as this gave Cousin Roland an opportunity to make an extremely high-value purchase from the Lin Dynasty that will, Emperor willing, lead to the significant advancement of our own Dynasty.

First, though, I should probably record the unpleasant business surrounding the boarding and securing of Port Constance. Lady-Captain Antigone was understandably preoccupied with re-asserting her command over her two remaining ships after they were forced to fire on and destroy the Red Star, consigning so many righteous men and women to death. Even so, she was able to to launch a fairly well-organized action to seize the docks and hangar bays of Port Constance to ensure that none could escape. Our Master of Etherics noted signs of energy weapon fire from deep within the station matching the alien energies of the cloud-weapon, and so it was determined that there were still likely xenos factions active on board. Cousin Roland and a few of his senior officers utilized our teleportarium to transport themselves, along with ten murder servitors, to the command and control center of the station in order to secure it.

Upon arrival they discovered that the station had been woefully neglected for seven centuries. Lit only by the dull red glow of emergency lighting, with consoles and systems barely functional, a few score dirty, starving, debased people lived in terror of the “Great Worm” and its servants. They apparently worshiped this Worm as their deity, and were in despair over its abandonment. Roland, Svenya, Astropath Darrius, and Navigator Primaris Soteris, along with the aforementioned murder servitors, fought off an attempt by abominable xenos constructs to seize the C&C. These constructs were, apparently, blasphemous fusions of metal and flesh utilizing living construct weapons that could disintegrate those struck. Fortunately they were put down, and Cousin Roland and his retainers ascertained the awful truth of Port Constance.

It would appear that there were no more than about 500 people on board a station that could hold up to a million. The men were all descended distantly from the original naval crew, and knew nothing other than service to the Great Worm. The women, however, were mostly imported via means of xenos teleportation technology from the nearby world of Ymir-3. Every woman on the station was in some stage of pregnancy. It was all a terribly efficient breeding farm to provide food for the “Worm”, namely the xenos Slaugth who sat at the center of the station manipulating everything. The humans themselves never met the Slaugth, but were herded by its constructs, and led by one of their own, chosen periodically to be the “Oculos”, a sort of seer, who led the community with seemingly prescient insight, but was always deposed to “ascend” to the Great Worm.

Cousin Roland’s retainers managed to get some damage control systems working, and salvaged about 2/3 of the station, and then investigated the Oculos. It was apparently an artifact from a different xenos species, something called a Brass Prism, a sort of helmet that apparently supercharges cognition. Those who plug into the item are able to think with a degree of logic and focus impossible to most minds, putting together seemingly disparate and unremembered facts to make amazing leaps of deduction. Darrius had heard of such things before, and knew that the Adeptus Mechanicus will pay incredible sums for a working example. Svenya also realized that Inquisitor Steendahl would find such a device incredibly useful. After carefully experimenting with the helmet upon a debased local volunteer, they determined that it had no immediately harmful side-effects, and so opted to take it with them.

They found the Slaugth’s lair and destroyed the two teleportation receivers that apparently connected the station to Ymir-3, and then left Port Constance to Lady-Captain Antigone’s task force to hold after evacuating the wretched inhabitants. Before departing, however, they raided what half-corrupted files the station had. They learned why Port Constance seemed to recognize us on our last appearance. It would seem that some four months before our initial arrival, another ship of the Imperium had stopped by Port Constance. The “Etheric Light” captained by Lady Elizabeth Starling had stopped by, offloaded some “supplies” and departed. This ship was the one that informed the “Oculos” that Dynasty Aguirre, along with agents of the Amaranthine Syndicate, and Dynasty Flamel, were potential allies. Cousin Roland and his people found it odd that a Starling dynasty vessel would have come to Port Constance so quickly after the warp storms had abated, and had only stopped by once, already apparently having the desired cargo.

We discussed what to do next. The Forgehammer had taken damage in the battle, but not so much that a shipyard was immediately necessary. Cousin Roland felt that we could not afford to neglect our investment in the Throne of the Sky Father for too much longer, but recognized we needed to put certain mercantile ducks in a row before we could begin our scheme to create our own secret shipyard. We needed two things above all. First, we needed a means to pull wrecked vessels out of a planetary gravity well. Second, we needed skilled Adeptus Mechanicus labor to staff the asteroid shipyard.

For the first, we recalled Lady-Captain Evelyn Lin’s similar efforts to pull the “Angevin’s Fire” from the surface of the Hedge. Since she had already done so, theoretically she might be willing to part with her graviton grapnels. For the second, Darrius consulted our new Enginseer Prime, who suggested that we inquire of the local Licenian Adeptus Mechanicus who are eager to prove their reintegration into the Imperium. Darrius sent word in an attempt to contact the Mechanicus, as well as a solicitation to Lady-Captain Lin.

Meanwhile, Lady-Captain Antigone hosted a private dinner for herself and Cousin Roland where she expressed her appreciation for our aid in the battle. This appreciation was very tangible and came in the form of a military requisition for trained interceptor pilots, as well as a note to her wealthy family, House Zenobia of Rashan, for preferential trade agreements which significantly improved our potential wealth.

We prepared to travel to Licenia, where the fleet is headquartered, for the purposes of getting those pilots, as well as some repairs, but our Navigator Primaris determined that the route between Port Constance and Licenia was unduly long and obscured. She calculated that she could rapidly get us to Port Echo, however, and find a much shorter route from there. Upon arriving, we noticed that Port Echo had a decidedly more martial air. Military supply ships were passing through, and the place looked much more the naval port of prior centuries than the pirate haven of more recent ones. Angevin’s Fire was in the shipyard, with Lady-Captain Lin’s own vessel, the Star Heron, in the vicinity. This fortunate coincidence permitted Cousin Roland to engage in negotiations to purchase Dynasty Lin’s grapnels. They are, of course, exotic tech from the Dark Age of Technology, and so not only would she sell the grapnels, but also the services of the highly specialized tech priests who can install and operate them. Needless to say, the financial gains we received from Lady-Captain Antigone were wiped away, and more so, by this purchase, but the theory is that they will reap for us a much greater profit in the long run after we start hauling wrecks off the Throne of the Sky Father for rehabilitation or salvage.

Lord Captain Roland also met with Lady-Captain Surma, who continues to look fondly on us for our role in elevating her to her current position. She has made great strides in cementing her legitimacy as a naval port captain and not as a pirate queen. She apparently even drove the renegade Navigator House Virth from the station after they kidnapped her daughter as leverage. Svenya’s skulking about the criminal underworld of the station revealed that the “Council of Nine”, which was apparently the organization that once ran the entire sector’s cold trade from Port Echo, had been shattered, and that the Port was now, as far as could be ascertained, as upstanding and Emperor-fearing a place as any. She did reveal, however, a prior knowledge of the Slaugth, and made no secret of her disgust that Dynasty Starling’s sponsors, the shadowy and immensely wealth Amaranthine Syndicate, appears to have been at least partially infiltrated by the vile xenos. It would seem that the Syndicate sent Elizabeth Starling to Port Constance. Lady-Captain Surma made it clear that while she didn’t have the authority to handle a Rogue Trader captain like Starling and his sister, she could certainly let us handle him.

Svenya just returned from a private conversation with Lord-Captain Lazar Starling, and he looks rather smug. I can only presume he’s taken care of the matter.

And now we’re off to Licenia for repair and to receive our new pilots. A representative of the subsector’s Lord-Fabricator, formerly of the Regency Council, will be meeting us there to negotiate the services of his priests. The plan to make the Aguirre Dynasty more than a one-ship dynasty appears to be well on track.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

View
Engaging the Enemy
Delta 676 Asteroid Belt / Port Constance

(600 + GE)
(All Present)

Personal Cipher Engaged

Subject: The Emperor’s Righteous Fury
Cipher-Lock: Sister Minerva de Liire – Ordo Famulous
Thought for the Day: “No Sacrifice is Too Great for the Emperor’s Service”

It took us only about a standard month to get the Forgehammer up to minimum capability. Considering the logistical nightmare involved, this is nothing short of a divine miracle. As we are taught, however, the Emperor moves through the efforts of his children, and I do not diminish the skill and capabilities of Cousin Roland’s trusted officers and retainers.

Moving 90,000 people out of the ship that many of them have served for generations onto an entirely new vessel, with entirely new systems and mechanisms, with nothing but eccentric tech-priests lost to the Imperium for 7 centuries to instruct them, knowing they’ll have to pull double duty because we’re now about 44,000 people short from optimal crew capacity, was never going to be easy. Not to mention the fact that many of the armaments of the Forgehammer are actively dangerous to the ship and crew if misfired or misused.

Fortunately, between Svenya, who is widely known as an authority-figure among the crew, and Darrius whose particular talents lend his mind to logistical problems of this complexity, the details were hashed out fairly quickly. Cousin Roland demonstrated his remarkable capacity to lead, orchestrating the move in a manner minimally disruptive to the crew-clans, while Steihr managed to mediate a doctrinal schism between the Tech-priests we brought with us and the ones that came with the ship. Missionary Tyrian called upon the faith of the crew to set aside their fears and misgivings in such a life-altering move, rotating the clan-leaders and lay priesthood through services in the half-restored Temple-Shrine, while our Navigator Primaris ensured her family was properly settled, and that the eccentric and ancient navigation systems were operational.

The machine spirits of this vast warship were brought ponderously to wakefulness. We have a lovely ceremony where command and ownership of the Sovereign of the Void was formally handed to the Julius Zora, the Consul, while he likewise granted formal command and ownership of the Forgehammer to Lord-Captain Roland de Carvajal. And with that, the Consul and his fleet vanished into the warp, leaving this asteroid-base empty and powered down. There was some discussion about appropriating it for our use, as apparently the Consul no longer needs it, but we simply didn’t have the manpower to leave any behind to man a small ship-repair and resupply station, and so we marked the location on our charts, and left it for now.

I invited the various senior officers and agents to a formal dinner commemorating the consecration of this new vessel. Missionary Tyrian, along with Cousin Roland, consecrated this vessel of war with the Lord-Captain’s blood, and invoked the Emperor’s blessing. Finally the truculent spirits of the vessel seemed to recognize their new master, and we gathered to celebrate. Over the main course, I asked Cousin Roland where he intended to go next, and gave him the benefit of the various correspondence I had spent the month engaged in via our Astropathic choir.

I informed him that the Imperial pacification efforts of the old Licenian Regency were well under way, but three of the seven core planets were still in upheaval. Vitruvia, Caedicius, and Galer had not yet succumbed to Imperial governance, and a warship of our new size and stature could be a significant aid in such efforts. There was also the concern of where to get more crew, and the idea was floated of press-ganging parts of the population of Galer. I also mentioned the loose-end of the Throne of the Sky Father, which Dynasty Haram was theoretically still watching over (and salvaging their 20%). Steihr suggested the idea that, with enough time and the right personnel, we could convert this secret asteroid base into a small shipyard and actually rehabilitate some of the wrecks from that ravaged planet and, over time, rebuild our fleet. It was definitely an idea worth pursuing as a long-term engine of profit and power. I somewhat casually suggested a third option, not seriously anticipating that Cousin Roland would find it appealing. I had learned through my contacts in Battlefleet Ixaniad that a task force under Lady-Captain Antigone Zenobia had been assigned to assault Port Constance and destroy it. I had presumed, what with our previous aborted visit to that benighted place, that while we may have been to originators of this naval action, that Roland would not wish to risk our under-manned ship on a full-on naval engagement.

I underestimated his ingenuity. We set course for the planet of Ymir-3 where we rendezvoused with the Lady-Captain. Cousin Roland turned up the charm during the tour he gave her of our new ship, and by the end of it, had managed to arrange for the Forgehammer to be brought up to full manpower via a combination of conscripts from the newly-reintegrated planet below, as well as trained naval personnel familiar with plasma weaponry. He even secured a few pilots to begin the training regimen to bring our small attack craft up to speed, although that would be a process taking a bit longer than we had before the planned engagement.

We accompanied the Lady-Captain’s flagship, the Starburst, and two raider-class vessels, the Demeter and the Red Star, to the location of Port Constance. Lady-Captain Antigone commanded the overall fleet from our bridge, as it is optimized for such activity. Upon detecting the mysterious xenos-tech cloud obscuring the station, we began the engagement with a shell from our nova cannon, and the battle was engaged. Although the first nova cannon shell flew a bit far, it did clear some of the cloud, and Steihr, having changed position to become our new Master of Ordinance, honed in his aim and in subsequent volleys cleared much of the cloud and did significant damage to the station. The station did not prove defenseless, however. The cloud itself was the most terrifying weapon, becoming charged with unnatural energies which lashed out like arcs of lightning, slashing through void shields and armor alike, and plucking the souls of all within, causing crew riots and serious moral problems. Fortunately, the station’s guns seemed as stymied by the cloud as ours were.

While Lady-Captain Antigone ordered her vessels to encircle the station to find a place in the cloud we had cleared enough with nova cannon fire to attack the station directly, we held back at long range with the nova cannon and sought to guide the overall battle. The xenos cloud-weapon was truly awful, but between Missionary Tyrian and Cousin Roland exhorting our crew, they were able to put the terror behind them. Astropath Darrius utilized his own skills to increase the aim and efficiency of our efforts, while Navigator Primaris Soteris utilized the unique sight of her kind to monitor the situation. Svenya at the helm made a ship of this size veritably dance.

Ultimately we did enough damage to the station that the cloud ceased its lightning and sudden communication from human-sounding voices entreated us to cease fire, claiming innocent families and imperial servants aboard. Darrius determined that the alien presence he sensed aboard the station had moved, through some mysterious means, into the holds of the Red Star, our allied vessel. Lady-Captain Antigone, hearing this, recognizing that swift action needed to be taken with firm resolve, jammed the Red Star’s communications and ordered all ships to fire upon her own vessel and destroy it. This we did, sending 20,000 souls to the Emperor, including loyal naval officers. I admit to being impressed. I’m not sure I could have acted to quickly and with such grim purpose on the word of a single astropath, but Svenya asserted inquisitorial authority and commended the officers and crews of the other vessels who had just turned their guns on one of their own, mitigating the consequences for the Lady-Captain.

We have a few moments while order is restored once more to shaken crews before preparing a boarding action onto Port Constance. I dread to learn what my intrepid comrades might find over there.

Cipher Lock Disengaged.

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