“Paths Into Nightmare”
Welcome to the next instalment of our ongoing Rogue Trader campaign, in which we follow the crew of the Seraph as they seek adventure and fortune in the fabled Koronus Expanse!
Following the events of the foretelling, the redoubtable crew of The Seraph were desperate to begin their search for The Dread Pearl. However, their ship still needed supplies and to recall those members of its crew granted shore leave, and so the mighty cruiser was forced to spend three more days preparing for its journey into the unknown. As the ship prepared to slip its moorings, the bridge crew gathered in the rarefied atmosphere of the Navigator dome to meditate and pass on the details of their vision to Kiara, the ships Navigator, who would guide their ship on its way through the Empyrean.
As the ritual began, all concentration was broken as the ship suddenly lurched and emergency klaxons wailed. Urgent ransmissions from the bridge informed the ships master, Felkin Stross, that they were under attack from the stations defence turrets! A transmission from the ship revealed the culprits; the Adeptus Oeconomica!! It seemed they were willing to make good on their promise of vengeance! Stross refused to be intimidated by this naked act of aggression and wouldn’t allow the gun crews to return fire. After a few minutes of mostly inneffective fire, Seraph was far enough from the station to activate her void shields. Instantly the fire became totally useless and the turrets fell silent. Without another word, Stross ordered best speed to the systems jump point.
Over the next few hours, Kiara, her warp eye open and her mind elsewhere, guided those of the crew who had witnessed the visions of the foretelling through a meditation on the nature of the warp itself. Each of the crew members perceived their vision: Seth was stalked by viscious beasts in a steaming, alien jungle, Synna floated down a silver river of emotion and Klous saw all manner of colours and shapes. Mardonious was nowhere to be found…
At last Kiara had it! Quickly dismissing the others she headed to the astrographic archives to begin plotting the Seraphs course.
Two days later, the Seraph approached the jump point, its course plotted and its crew readying for the translation onto the nightmare path through the empyrean. Ahead of them,flickering lights lit the void and an augur sweep brought an imperial ship into sharp focus, its weapons flickering and its void shield flaring. Of an enemy there was no sign. Kiara recognised the ship and augur scans confirmed that the vessel was ‘The Grace of Sopha’, an armed transport captained by Lady Charlabelle Armalan, a fellow trader and rival in the hunt for The Pearl. Stross ordered the beat to quarters and the crew hurried to their battle stations. As they powered forward, weapons primed and void shields ready, a group of strangely graceful ships appeared beyond the transport, plasma batteries firing on the Imperial vessel. It quickly became apparent that there was only one raider, its alien technology causing multiple images to ghost around the void. Eldar!
A brief debate took place, should the Seraph leave Armalan to her fate? Or should the crew engage the enemy vessel? Felkin Stross, decisive as always, ordered a haling frequency opened to the alien ship, he had no intention of fighting when it wasn’t required. His courteous hail was, surprisingly, answered, the image of a graceful Eldar captain appearing in the holosphere of the bridge.
If Stross had hoped for his courtesy to be returned, he was to be disappointed. The Eldar captain’s message was curt. “Any of the Mon-Keigh seeking The Dread Pearl will be destroyed. This is your one and only warning!” Communications were suddenly severed. Reluctantly, Stross ordered his crew to engage the alien vessel and save Armalan.
The Eldar raider was startlingly fast and agile. Though the Seraph outgunned the sleek craft it was totally unable to bring its weapons to bear on the vessel. Multiple images ghosted across the cruisers augurs, shots from its mighty macro batteries hit only empty void. All the while the Eldar ship danced rings around both Imperial craft. The only saving grace seemed to be that the Eldar tactics were making their own fire just as ineffective as the Imperials.
It was only a matter of time though before the Eldar accuracy improved. Realising this, Lord Captain Stross came to a decision. Opening a channel to Lady Armalan he explained his plan; flight was their only option. Armalan agreed and, at a prearranged signal, both Imperial ships attempted to disengage, blasting away in random directions and shutting down as many systems as possible. It was risky, but the hand was played.
And for The Seraph it paid off. However, as the cruiser ran for the jump point, distant weapons fire registered on the long range augurs. Armalan had not been as successful. With a heavy heart, Stross ordered the translation into the Immaterium…
Warp travel can grate on the nerves of the most experinced voidsman. Whispers from the shadows, figures at the edge of perception and unsettling noises can disturb the hardiest of explorers. The Seraph had always had a reputation among its crew and, for the most part, they were accustomed to odd occurrences. This voyage felt different however, the increase in unnatural events, some of them witnessed by the senior officers, and the haste that they had left Footfall, had unsettled the crew and the strain was already showing after just a few days.
Reports of unrest quickly reached Synna Lucaris’ ear, her web of informants meant that the Mistress of Whispers was always aware of happenings on The Seraph and she quickly brought the mood of the crew to the captains attention. Wisely and even handedly, Stross soothed the crews worries and trouble was averted before it even began, before Seth, the bosun, became aware of it anyway…
At the same time, Kaz, the ships confessor had been approached by the crew chiefs of several departments asking for the blessings of the Emperor on their staff and departments. Everyone was still unsettled and it was beginning to affect the running of the ship. With nothing but his pure faith and the power of his fiery oratory, the Missionary whipped the flagging departments into religious zeal, any problems within them swept away by their new found faith in the Emperor!
Not all things went as smoothly, however. After reprimands from his Lord Captain, bosun Bergman had cracked down on the crew, an approach that was to backfire with terrible consequences. A miscreant named Krooker had been whipping up resentment in the plasma conduit crew sections since leaving Footfall and, despite the promises of the Lord Captain, that resentment boiled over in an argument with his crew chief. Krooker murdered the man and, along with his accomplices, broke into an arms locker and captured a tech-priest. Soon the entire section was in open mutiny and the senior officers met in an emergency session to decide a course of action.
The meeting was heated, some, the bosun included, thought that the mutineers should face the most severe punishment, others, that the mutineers should be given a chance to stand down. All agreed that the tech-priest must be saved, they could not afford to lose the support of the Adeptus Mechanicus!
Eventually a plan was formulated; Stross would give the mutineers a choice, surrender and be pardoned or refuse and die. In the meantime Seth, eager to regain his captains good graces, would lead suppression teams into the area and contain the mutineers, acting as a diversion while the other senior officers looked for concealed paths through the ships superstructure in an attempt to reach Krooker and the imprisoned tech-priest.
The plan worked like chronowork. Stross’ ultimatum caused the vast majority of the rebels to lay down their arms as Seth led the suppresion teams into the beleaguered ship sections. No matter anyones opinion of him, his knowledge of tactics was formidable, and the area was quickly locked down. All the while Stross, Synna, Kiara and Klous moved through forgotten corridors and chambers, finally penetrating to the heart of the rebels stronghold, the central plasma convergence chamber.
Leaving his watertight cordon in place, Seth made his way to the convergence chambers upper gantries to find a suitable spot to snipe from. Despite his skill and the sights of his newly acquired sniper rifle, he was unable to locate either the tech-priest or Krooker. Realising that they couldnt succeed without securing both targets, Synna crept forward through the enemy lines and located both. Quickly she relayed the information to Seth, his skills making him virtually invisible as he changed location and readied himself for a shot. On the prearranged signal Seth fired…
As Krooker collapsed screaming and minus his right leg, which had been attached only moments before, all hell broke loose. Synna, Felkin and Kaz hurled flashbang grenades into the confused rebels while Klous rushed the stairs to the main level. Covering his advance Kiara opened her warp eye, flaying the souls of all those who met her gaze while Kaz burned the taint of rebellion out of the mutineers with gouts of holy fire.
A rebel hurried towards the tech-priest, scooping up Krookers fallen chainsword as he did so. It was the last thing he ever did as a shot from Seth shattered his skull. Klous reached the top of the stairs, cleaving a mutineer in half and coating the entire area, and himself, in gore. As the rebel fell in two halves Felkin Stross made the top of the stairs, his plasma pistol flaring with energy as another crewman died, turned to fire by the shot.
Suddenly it was over. In a few bloody seconds the heart had been torn from the mutiny and the survivors threw down their weapons rather than face the Explorers wrath. Their fate, however, may be little different than had they fought on, the Lord Captain and his officers don’t seem to be in a forgiving mood…