Greetings and welcome to the penultimate episode of our ongoing Rogue Trader campaign. In it we chart the adventures and misadventures of our Rogue Trader ship, Seraph, and her vagabond crew in their quest for profit and renown.
No sooner had the landing party boarded the Seraph, than Lord Captain Stross gave orders to head for the system jump point at best speed. As he strode from the landing bay, medicae crew swarmed around the injured explorers, spiriting the worst of them away to sick bay, the Catachan Seth, still hovering on the brink of death, chief among them.
Kiara Delmorva, Chief Navigator, hurried quickly to the navigation spire of the ship. There, in its engram encoded vaults, lay the tools of her trade, the Seraphs astrographic charts. Her mind buzzed with the strange symbols and sigils of the Eldar star map and she was eager to unlock its secrets.
The bridge was abuzz with activity as Stross entered. His brother, Xander, stood on the command deck, giving the orders that would see the Seraph run to the jump point that lay several days away, before the other ships could react. It was also to ensure that the Seraph was not embroiled in the developing combat between the cruiser Nihontu and The Fel Hand, the sleek frigate of Hadarack Fel. Both ships had left orbit and were manoeuvring for advantage, the flicker of weapons fire leaping between them. Stross had no intention of waiting to see the result and, with her plasma drives roaring, the Seraph left orbit.
Kiara’s meditations had revealed that six systems were tied to the Dread Pearl by the mysterious strands of fate and her calculations showed that a system, known only as Sabrine, had the best available warp route at the present time. She was certain that they could reach it in just over two weeks and passed her recommendations to the Lord Captain. The first piece of the puzzle would soon be in their hands…
The sixty four day journey through the warp came as a surprise to everyone, Kiara most of all. Surprise turned to dismay as the explorers realised that one of their rivals had reached the green-brown orb of Sabrine before them. Worse, the ship was no frigate or raider, but the great, gilded hull of The Ordained Destiny, a Lunar Class cruiser and flagship of the infamous Jeremiah Blitz!
The Explorers reviewed their options rapidly. The newly recovered Seth Bergman, flaunting his newly attached cyber-arm, advocated a rapid, surprise attack, using the Seraphs speed and manoeverability against the larger, slower cruiser. A head on encounter with the vessel would only end badly for the Seraph and Stross dismissed the option, choosing instead to go on silent running, in an attempt to avoid dealing with the ship entirely.
His plan might have worked, save for the sporadic and unforeseeable faults with the Seraphs command and power systems that had afflicted the ship for several weeks now. Whether it was a rogue transmission or the merest flare of the ship’s plasma drive Stross knew his gambit had failed when the Master of Vox received a hail from the Destiny itself…
The visage of Jeremiah Blitz, shaven headed and with his signature optics whirring, flickered into view across the Lambent green holodisplay of the Seraph’s bridge. Although he greeted his fellow captain graciously, the conversation between Blitz and Stross was strained. Blitz made it clear that he had landing parties on the surface of Sabrine and that they were engaged in ‘surveys’ that were so sensitive, it wasn’t possible to allow the Seraph to land parties of their own. When Stross questioned what Blitz would do if he deployed a party anyway, Blitz merely smiled and held out his arms, taking in the enormity of his own vessel as an implicit threat.
While the conversation between her captain and Blitz went back and forth, Kiara had been opening her minds eye, trying to sense anything that may guide them to the ‘Nexus Point’, that location on the planet that would reveal the information they sought. Warp eye wide, she could clearly sense a psychic imprint in the northern hemisphere, and realised too that, if Blitz had a Navigator worth their salt, they would have easily located the Nexus by now. But she knew that Blitz didn’t have a Navigator of that calibre, for she knew who his Chief Navigator was; J’zent Reyanor of House Reyanor, a shrouded navigator house and arch rivals of the Delmorva family!
Kiara smiled and passed the information to her Captain. Stross realised that he now had a bargaining chip and, through his uncanny gift of extrapolating the twists of fate, knew that he could manipulate Blitz into a deal that would see both vessels profit. He smiled to himself…
A few hours later saw the Seraph’s guncutter, closely followed by Blitz’ sleek and ornate shuttle, touching down in the noxious mirelands, huge impact craters filled with reeking swamps and mists, that covered the surface of Sabrine. The Explorers disembarked and waited nervously for Blitz and his team to do the same.
The hatch of the shuttle hissed open and out strode the Rogue Trader, resplendent in his tastefully made captain’s uniform, his paired hellpistols holstered at his side. Next came the white bodygloved form of Winter Ghent, a look of intense boredom on her beautiful, but cold, features. Towering over all came Karnoban Dusk, flak armoured, save for his huge bare arms, and hefting his signature greathammer. Last came the tall, withered form of J’zent Reyanor, her wide, black eyes focused on Kiara as she moved down the ramp, ungainly in her void suit.
Without preamble, Stross gave the word for Kiara to lead the way, the Catachan brothers fanning out on either side, accompanied by Karnoban, who seemed intent on goading Klous as they walked. Although it was only a few kilometres to the Nexus site, the going was slow through the miasmic muck of the Mirelands. Insects buzzed incessantly, the mud sucked at their boots and legs and the air smelled foul and diseased. Only the rebreathers worn by the explorers made the air anywhere near breathable and only the two void suited navigators seemed immune to the smell.
It was as they drew near to their destination that Klous first saw her. She stood head down and stock still at the edge of his sight, the brown-green mists hiding her from the view of the others. Calling a halt he hailed her. She gave no response, no movement. Seth moved up along side him and raised his rifle, sighting her through his scope. As she came into view she seemed to sense his scrutiny and raised her head. He swore as he saw that the face, if once human, was human no longer, merely a rotting parody of life.
His first shot took off her arm as she started to shamble towards them, his second tore through her torso. She kept coming. His third shot blew out her spine and the woman dropped, finally laying still.
The Explorers drew cautiously around the corpse, weapons ready. Although badly decomposed she was clearly human, the rags of an imperial uniform, much patched with scraps of hide and leather, still clung to her form. Who was she? The Seraphs records showed that this planet was uninhabited, scanned briefly by a passing Mechanicus fleet but never settled. Unnerved, the group continued on.
It didn’t take Kiara long to realise that there was something wrong with the nexus point. It’s form, similar to the temple site of Quppa-Psi 12, was damaged, as if something had been removed. She could feel it’s absence in the psi impression of the place. There were no clues to what that something was save a small hole in the sites design.
Suddenly, from the mists around came a low moaning and the sounds of dozens of feet splashing through the murk towards them. The Explorers readied their weapons as first one or two, but then dozens of figures emerged from the ghastly mists, rotting, cadaverous forms given animation by some dread force.
The first creatures went down in a hail of gunfire but, for every one slain another two seemed to take its place. Soon the mirelands echoed to the roar of bolters, the sizzle of lasbolts and the dull roar of grenade detonations. Mud and body parts fountained into the air, covering the explorers in water and filth, as they fell back into a defensive circle. Blitz exploded a creatures head with accurate shots from his hell pistols, Seth calmly fired and reloaded, hitting with every shot he took, Klous sliced his greatsword right and left, dropping the foul corpse creatures all around him.
But they came on, growing in number with every minute. Karnoban roared and leapt forward, swinging his hammer in wide arcs, pulping all in its path. Klous leapt forward to join him but he slipped in the mud. Trying desperately to keep his feet, he brought his blade up as two of the creatures struck out at him with rotting arms and claws. One lost its fingers to the swords edge but the other tore the blade from his grip, dropping it into the dark muck at his feet. They were out of time…
Suddenly, the air was split by a piercing, keening note. The creatures halted, swaying uncertainty until a second note caused them to shuffle aside, a gap appearing in the attack. Kiara’s skin tingled with the trace of psychic power in the air.
A wizened figure, stooped and clad in rags adorned with all manner of fetishes appeared, beckoning frantically with his staff. “Hurry! I cannot distract them for long!” Needing no second bidding, the Explorers rapidly followed their saviour, not taking their attention from the creatures for a second.
For an hour the man led them through the swamps until they reached an area of higher ground, concealed in a thorny thicket of native trees. Here the man stopped and allowed them to rest. The Explorers were brimming with questions and the man, known as Papa Yoke explained all he could.
Many years before, an Imperial Guard penal unit, the 37th Kommitzar, had mutinied and taken over their transport vessel. Evading the remaining ships in the fleet, the regiment headed for an unexplored system, Sabrine. Crash-landing their ship in the swamps, they salvaged what they could and looked for somewhere to build a settlement.
Many died over the weeks that followed, most to disease and some of those who died reanimated, claiming yet more lives. Eventually a suitable place was found on the rim of one of the largest craters. There the survivors built Sanctuary, a ramshackle hovel of a place, ruled by the most violent and cruel of their number, a man who called himself King Kommitzar.
This self styled king had an uncanny ability to command those of weak mind, an ability that seemed to come from the odd gem he wore around his neck. Nearly all of the inhabitants fell under his spell, with only a few, Papa Yoke among them, being strong willed enough to resist. Yoke described himself as one of the Expiditees, a cabal of battle psykers attached to the Penal Regiment to add to their effectiveness in battle. Most had thrown in with the king, but a few resisted his rule to this day, scattered and isolated.
It seemed more than coincidental to the Explorers that the gem worn by the King could well have come from the Nexus site in the Mirelands. However there was only one way to find out the truth; relieve the King of the precious jewel, something they assumed, he would be unwilling to allow.
As night fell the crew realised they had three options; negotiate with Kommitzar, which they thought unlikely to succeed, directly assault Sanctuary, likely to end in a bloodbath or mount a stealth mission to enter the rickety town. With these plans buzzing around their heads, the weary adventurers set guards and settled down to rest.
Tomorrow would see them decide King Kommitzars fate…