‘The Mind’s Eye’
Welcome to the last instalment in the current series of our ongoing Rogue Trader campaign. It’s time to pass the GMing torch for a while and so we’ll be taking a break while other campaigns are run. I’d like to thank my players who have made it so much fun.
Full night came to Sabrine but Stross was not idle. Blocking out the strange and bizarre night noises of the Mirelands as only a seasoned explorer could, Stross had been in lengthy communication with the Seraph, high in orbit.
The news from the bridge was mixed. Mardonius, ranking officer on duty spoke with Stross in hushed tones, he had found the source of the strange power outages and system fluctuations that had plagued Seraph for weeks. The news was not good and he and his Captain spoke long and in secret, but, with other matters more immediately pressing, they were unable to reach a conclusion.
Instead Stross made a decision and, after consulting with Jeremiah Blitz, a plan was formulated. It wasn’t long before a single Arvus Lighter appeared in the sky over their hiding place and carrying the Explorers back to their guncutter. There the two groups parted ways, Stross to the Seraph and the medical bay for treatment for his irritating fever and cough, and Blitz to the Ordained Destiny, to make their preparations.
The inhabitants of Sanctuary were just beginning their day when the roar of the Guncutter’s engine rudely shattered the early morning stillness. All eyes turned skyward as the Cutter dropped from the murky- shrouded sky and expertly circled the ramshackle town. As the aircraft turned towards the city gate, another shuttle, in the livery of Jeremiah Blitz, dropped from the sky and followed the sleek black craft.
A large crowd quickly gathered outside the gates to the settlement as both craft put down in a blast of dust and mud. Stross and his entourage strode down the landing ramp, resplendent in full regalia. He waited at the foot of the ramp and was soon joined by Blitz and his companions. Both Rogue Traders turned to face the crowd and the shabby, lasgun armed group of men who pushed through the throng towards them.
Their spokesman, an unshaven, bald headed brute demanded to know their business at Sanctuary, sneering when Stross informed him he wished to see King Kommitzar immediately. His attitude swiftly changed when the Lord Captain pointed to the sky and informed the man of the twin cruisers, each with enough firepower to level Sanctuary completely, in orbit above. With obvious fear in his eyes he led the Explorers through the town and up to the fortress of King Kommitzar himself.
Allowing each Rogue Trader only one guard each, the sergeant insisted that all should leave their weapons before approaching the King. He didn’t put up much of an argument when he was refused, or when Mardonius stepped forward and took hold of Stross’ cape, feigning a role of ceremonial cloak bearer. Leaving Kiara, Seth, J’zent and Karnoban (who looked distinctly unwell) in a ground floor room under guard, he led the others to the King ‘s roof garden high above.
* * * * * *
As they waited, Klous Bergman, shotgun in hand, took in his surroundings. All in all, in the garden and the towers above the roof,were ten guards, all armoured, all bearing worn looking lasguns. Suddenly, the door at the base of the tower opened and out strode King Kommitzar, flanked by two robed men, Expiditees by the look of their fetish covered robes, and the twisted staves they bore. Before them came five women, scantily clad and feral looking, bound to each other and the King by a single iron chain.
Kommitzar was a big man, thick through the chest, corded muscle knotting his arms and legs. Heavily armoured, he carried a shotgun on his back and a well maintained chainsword at his side. He was festooned in gaudy jewellery and gold and, around his neck, hung a chain bearing a scintillating blue gem…
It is surprising how easy it can be for things to spiral out of control during negotiations. One second Stross, speaking from a position of obvious strength, was demanding that Kommitzar hand over the jewel, the next Kommitzar was ordering his men to “Teach ’em lesson in who’s the boss ‘ere.” The guard’s weapons came up and all chance to salvage the negotiation was lost.
As quick as the guards were to react to their kings order, Klous Bergman was faster. A blast from his shotgun sent a guard falling from the platform onto the stairs that led down to the rest of the building, his left arm severed at the shoulder. A second shot tore the leg from another man who plunged off the roof entirely, his screams lost in the sudden roar of gunfire that erupted.
Stross raised his plasma pistols and fired wildly at Kommitzar, the twin balls of superheated energy blasting holes in the wall of the palace tower. A guardsmen leapt forward only to be punched onto his back by accurate shots from Blitz’ hellpistols. Kommitzar, moving fast for a big man, stepped forward, sweeping his chainsword from its scabbard and thumbing the ignition in one fluid movement. For a split second Stross had forgotten that this man, the self styled king of Sabrine, was a dangerous criminal, well used to, and skilled in, deadly combat. That split second lapse almost cost him his life.
Kommitzar’s blade struck Stross on the side of his head, it’s whirring blade screeching as it sliced through his helmet and gouged his cheek. He staggered back, his blood pattering on the gardens roughly hewn paving. Stross flinched as a lasgun fired in close proximity, Mardonius was engaging one of the robed Expiditees at close range, and flinched again as a flash of chrome passed by at speed, Mardonius’ cyberskull, designated Unit CRN-1E, struck the psyker a glancing blow before sinking, unpowered, to the ground.
Mardonius frowned at the result, he had calculated a 57% chance of success, affected by range and environmental factors, and had missed entirely with his lasgun. Perhaps his idea of to have his organic opticals replaced with blessed machine systems was overdue implementation? He frowned again as he saw Jeremiah Blitz swing towards him, blank eyed and weapons raised. He was about to ask him what he thought he was doing when Blitz fired. Mardonius’ world went black.
* * * * * *
Down below, in the towers bare reception room, the atmosphere was tense. Two guards barred the way into the main body of the tower whilst three more prevented exit back into the open air and the main sprawl of Sanctuary. Suddenly, from somewhere above them came the sound of a single shotgun blast.
Everyone froze, an instant of hyper-alertness were time slowed to a crawl. All of them started as another shotgun blast, this time very close, painted the far wall with a Kingsman’s blood. Always at the point of reacting with violence, Seth Bergman had brought his shotgun up instantly and fired before anyone else could react.
Suddenly the very air seemed to come alive as the other guardsmen reacted, spraying the room with las fire. Miraculously they hit nothing, punching holes and scorching the walls, but little else. Kiara Delmorva, heart in her mouth, pulled her las pistol and fired, winging a guard. J’zent Reyanor, Blitz’s chief navigator and Kiara’s chief rival, swung around, pulling her bandana from her third eye and opening it wide, staring right at Seth.
For a split second Seth caught a glimpse of the twisted reality beyond, the merest sight of the warp. His mind reeled and he fought to stay conscious, managing somehow to keep his feet. Two of the three guards behind him were not so lucky and stood, rooted to the spot in abject horror. Seth opened his eyes and raised his shotgun.
* * * * * *
Stross glanced desperately around. In the roof garden, all was chaos. Lasguns flared, Winter Ghent was firing her bolt pistol wildly, Klous grunted as a flurry of las bolts struck him, his armour protecting him from the worst of the hits and his shotgun ending the life of the man who’d fired them. Mardonius was down and Blitz seemed confused somehow. Things were beginning to look bleak.
Desperate times called for desperate measures. Stross centered himself, opening himself to the strands of fate, frantically searching for an outcome, any outcome, that could help. And there it was, distant but possible, a single gleaming moment in time. Stretching his mind’s eye to its utmost Stross reached out. And the world fell into madness…
* * * * *
“NO!” Kiara screamed, but the shotgun blast drowned out her cry. J’zent reeled backwards, her left arm shredded by the shot but she stayed upright, her xenomesh armour saving her from critical injury. Grabbing the manacles that Seth always carried on his belt, Kiara moved between her rival and her bloodlust filled comrade. The Catachan hesitated for the briefest second. It was all the time J’zent needed. Her third eye opened again as she unleashed the raw destructive power of the Immaterium straight into Seth’s unprotected mind.
Someone in the building above began screaming, quickly followed by a chorus of others. It saved Seths life. Distracted for a second, J’zents eye closed before the warriors mind could be blasted away. The sniper fell to the ground, insensible.
Kiara jumped forward, attempting to snap the manacles closed on J’zents wrist but the tall navigator shoved her away. Pushing past Kiara, Reyanor staggered outside over the bodies of the hapless guards who’s minds she had burned out. Kiara went to go after her but the sound of a heavy, metallic object falling to the ground brought her up short. She turned in time to see Karnoban, forgotten in the sudden violence, convulse and wretch, his skin turning a sickly green as the illness that had afflicted him finally consumed him. He stumbled forward, arms reaching for her, a low moan escaping his throat.
* * * * *
The roof garden had become a scene of complete horror. Strange colours, unidentifiable to Stross swirled around them in all directions. A terrible, insidious whispering, punctuated by screams, susserated in every ear and everywhere were shimmering phantoms and half seen horrors stalking the living.
Using all of his will, Felkin Stross closed his mind to the horrors around him, focusing only on Kommitzar. The self styled king was backing away from him, eyes wide, his mouth moving, forming disbelieving curses. Beside him, kneeling on the blood slick paving knelt Jeremiah Blitz, the once proud Rogue Trader screaming aloud and clawing at the visions before him in abject terror. Ghent and Klous were staring around dumbly whilst the kings men howled and scratched at their own eyes and faces in their maddening fear. Of them all, only Stross and the Expiditees seemed immune to the horrors raging around the rooftop.
It was now or never.
Stross raised his twin pistols and fired, striking Kommitzar in the face and exploding his head in a fiery convocation. As his headless corpse flopped, twitching to the ground, a shining necklace tumbled to the stones. The Lord Captain swept it up, training a pistol on one of the robed psykers. The man glanced at his companion, at the body of his former king and then knelt, bowing his head to Stross. His companion quickly followed suit. Stross nodded and turned to face the garden.
Mardonius, mercifully unconscious during the perilous warp visions, was climbing to his feet. Blood flowed from a serious head wound and he seemed unsteady, but he gripped his lasgun with a purpose. The tech priest staggered over to Blitz, who seemed totally unmanned, and placed his rifle to the Traders head. Blitz looked up, terror showing even through his optics. “Please…” He said.
Across the garden, Ghent fell, hit in the back by a single well placed shot from Stross. “Time to go!” The Captain yelled, summoning Mardonius and the visibly shaken Klous to his side. As they hurried down the steps that led down from the roof curls of smoke rose to meet them. Sanctuary was burning…
THE CREW OF THE SERAPH.
Felkin Stross: Ryan Atherton
Synna Lucaris: Stephanie Cox
Mardonius Artabanes: Johnathan Robson
Seth Bergman: Isaac Wright
Klous Bergman: Simon Wright
Kiara Delmorva: Pippa Leuchars
Caz: Neil Gorman
Duke: Craig Carlton
Venator Argentum: Andy Holcroft