“Hunters And Hunted”
Welcome back to our ongoing campaign and the misadventures of the crew of the Rogue Trader ship Seraph.
The slaying of the Dragon Hornet had given the Explorers chance to draw breath. Their ship was damaged and some of the crew were in need of medicae intervention, but they were well equipped and in sufficient numbers to attempt the journey to the mysterious ruins. Klous estimated the journey would take approximately four days to cover the hundred or so kilometers to the site, barring accident and impassable terrain. Now that some intermittent contact had been reestablished with the Seraph in high orbit, the Explorers had access to topographic information that would be invaluable on the journey. Buoyed somewhat by their survival agsinst the oddd so far, the party set off, leaving some of their number to repair the Guncutter and tend the wounded.
The first day was heavy going. The forests were dense and dark and the ground underfoot was wet and muddy. Trails of any description were impossible to find, even by the Catachan boys who were more than used to these conditions. The terrain, coupled with the native insect life which had to be cleared with flamers, made for very slow progress and, at camp that night, the party’s spirits were low.
Day two started better and the group made good time through the trackless fern jungle until midday, when they came abrubtly onto the banks of a mighty, and fast flowing river. With no apparent way to cross, the group turned to head east along the river bank.
A sudden flare of light from Lord Captain Stross’ previously unrevealed power field announced that the Explorers were under attack! Mardonius reeled, struck by a second shot by the unseen assailant. The landing party scattered into cover as more shots whined into their position. Mardonius dug even deeper into cover as a third shot struck him in the arm, only his armour protecting him from serious injury.
At the heart of the chaos, the eye of the storm, Seth calmly and methodically scanned the dense forest through his trusty sniper rifle scope. His keen eyes detected the slightest flicker of movement, the sight centering on the face of a cloaked and hooded sniper who was aiming straight at him.
The enemy sniper fired a split second before Seth, the shot plucking at his cloak as it slashed past him. Seths shot was better, taking the tip of the shooters ear and punching a hole in his hood for good measure. The sniper bolted, trying to quickly change position but, by now, the rest of the party had seen him move and were charging towards him to close the range.
Had he been able to escape Seths keen eyesight, the sniper may have stood a chance but, with Klous and Stross almost on him, he had no chance but to fight. Desperately engaging in a long range duel with Seth, the cornered warrior attempted to even the odds but to no avail. His deadly accuracy deserting him at the last minute, he was unable to kill his foe.
Leaping a fallen fern-tree, Klous fired his bolt pistol at close range. The enemy sniper was amazingly fast though and Klous hit only empty air, as his foe twisted expertly away… and straight into Stross’ first plasma shot. Head and chest vapourised, the snipers body simply fell where it stood, twitched briefly, then lay still.
Examining his body it was apparent to all that their tormentor was of the Eldar race, a Pathfinder, experts in infiltration and long range death. It seemed that they were not alone on the planet. How many more of the aliens had made planetfall?
Collecting the Pathfinders gear, which included a strangely glowing gem from the remains of his breastplate, the group moved on, much more wary now, aware every shadow could be a hidden enemy. That night, the Explorers set camp, exhausted after their battle and the dangerous river crossing that followed. Only luck and the strength of an armsman had saved Kiara and another crewman from being washed away to their deaths.
The third day in that green-lit hell passed uneventfully. That evening, at the prearranged time, the Explorers contacted the Seraph. The news was unsettling, the Seraphs augurs had detected another vessel entering orbit around Quppa Psi Alpha, an Imperial ship; Raider class, no doubt one of their rivals. Stross ordered the Seraph to remain on silent running, and gave the order that the crew should notify him if anything changed.
Day four and excitement was mounting, their goal was almost in reach. Quickening their pace, the landing party pushed on, through fern forests and an increasing number of alien ruins, all seemingly of Eldar construction. The buildings increased in number as they advanced until they stumbled into a wide clearing scattered with fallen masonry. Beyond the clearing towered a large structure, covered in vines, but still intact, obviously a temple of alien design. Only the keen eyes of the Lord Captain and his chief Enginseer noticed the groups of armed men skulking behind the masonry, guns trained on the Explorers. Stepping forward, Felkin Stross drew his plasma pistol (he has one) and pulled the trigger, dropping it rapidly as it overheated in his hand.
All hell broke loose as both sides opened up with everything they had. Despite being caught flat footed, the landing party reacted quickly, spreading out and returning fire. In the height of the chaos a finely dressed man, his face hidden by a rebreather, but clearly a rival Rogue Trader, opened fire on Stross, attempting to decapitate the Seraph’s command structure.
Seeing his beloved Lord Captain in danger, Klous drew his greatsword and charged, heedless of his own safety. The Trader and the Catachan were soon locked in a deadly duel, Klous forcing the man to dodge and parry expertly to prevent being gutted by the great blade. A dazzling riposte rang off Klous’ helmet, gouging a great slash across it but ensuring the Catachan wasnt blinded.
All around was mayhem. Autoguns and shotguns roared, searing lasbolts flashed across the clearing. A gutteral cry went up as some of the Seraph’s armsmen piled into the enemy with club and knife. Mardonius was struck by a single las shot, only his fine Mechanicum armour saving him from serious injury. His return fire was accurate but ineffective. Kiara was hit too, the injury only minor. Several bodies, from both sides, lay on the ground, their fight done.
Felkin Stross, his cape billowing behind him, leapt to Klous’ aid. Drawing his power sword, he piled into the melee and struck out at the dandily clad Captain before him. Occupied as he was, the rival Trader saw the blow too late, crying out in pain as Stross opened a long, but neatly cauterised slash along his arm. The swordsman stumbled away, his amused look fading as he realised his peril. Suddenly, the ground trembled violently. The fighting stopped as all eyes were drawn to the temple tower.
A bright flash of light, accompanied by a stunning blow of force, ripped through the clearing, blasting through the unprotected minds in combat there. Only a strong minded few resisted the blow and remained conscious, all the others were rendered insensible by the psychic blast.
All of those who had lost consciousness felt their minds ripped away into the empyrean and beheld strange visions. A great line of force, possibly one of those that binds the Universe together, swept across their vision, pulling them after it on its twisting route. Lead by the light, their minds were pulled to a verdant planet in the light of a blazing star. On the planet was a beautifully crafted rune. As they watched, the rune shattered, its pieces careening through space, coming to rest, each on the surface of a different world, were they lay, undiscovered for eons.
Those of strong will that had kept their feet, watched in horror as the temple shimmered and rippled, becoming almost insubstantial at times. At the structures top, arcane witchfire blazed, shadowy figures in tall, graceful helms moving within it. Kiara realised with horror, that the Eldar psykers, for that is what they were, were beginning a ritual that would remove the temple to “somewhere else” Shouting a warning to Stross, she began to hurry forward, intent on stopping the ritual before it was too late.
Stross turned to his opponent. The man held out both arms and spoke Stross’ thoughts aloud. “Which is more important Trader?” Klous stirred at his feet and the Lord Captain made his decision. As his opponent and his men headed for the jungle, Stross turned to the temple, his jaw set. “Get to the top! Stop the Eldar!
His crew did as he commanded, racing to the temple and beginning to climb, Kiara in the lead. As she climbed, the Navigator realised just how much the last few days had taken out of her. Her wounds and fatigue caught up with her and she slipped, hung for a moment, then fell, landing heavily but, thanks to her xenos armour, uninjured.
The rest of the party reached the platform that covered the top of the alien building, its surface covered with arcane sigils and runes. Almost hidden behind a vortex of witchfire stood six figures clad in robes and ornate helms, arms raised in invocation. As the crew watched, the figures began to fade, the temple beneath their feet fading too.
The Explorers were almost out of time!