Bones, Cortez, Gallus
A Talk with Lorelii Dekanta
The Grav Car speeds away from the odd meeting with Karkalla and quickly finds an arterial roadway heading toward the governmental precinct of the city of Stokeland. Shouts and shots can be heard from the side streets and the ever present Hisswick County Enforcers are out in numbers that you didn’t know were capable. From in between the buildings looking in the direction the crowd outside the station fled you can see that they have increased in number by a great deal and are no longer running. This is going to be a long night for House Sophano on the Stokeland plateau.
The Acolytes are alone in the car with Explicator Dekanta, who informs them that she is taking them to an Electoran Guard Air Facility where a semi-orbital transport will take them to Hive Victoriana, the capital city of Sophano Prime. There they will be placed into the service of Inquisitor Marr and Explicator Dekanta will take over the assignment of investigating the Beast House on Sophano Prime. The matter has some urgency to it, and is with the full consent of Inquisitor al-Subaai.
Lorelii Dekanta offers to decrypt one of the data slates remaining from the Heretek lab, that Karkalla left behind. The one (#3) that Cortez gives her turn out to be a reference that grants an ability to use the advanced skill Forbidden Lore (Mechanicum). Lorelii also gives a few insights into Inquisitor Marr himself.
Lorelii Dekanta: “It is somewhat unusual for a request such as this to be made outside an Inquisitor’s circle of allies, let alone outside his Ordo. Marr’s repulationo is a mysterious one, and he is definately not one of al-Subaai’s allies. He seemed to already be aware of your presence and requested your aid specifically. Hasty arrangements were make to accomodate his request. Be on your guard, he has a sinister reputation and many are the Inquisitors that glance over their shoulders fearfully when they speak his name. He has been in the Chancellery Court on Solomon for as long as anyone can remember and it’s odd to find him here.”
The Planetary Administration Building
The first hour of the flight passes rapidly as the semi-orbital atmospheric transport craft goes up into low orbit then reenters, reaching Hive Victoriana. Once in the Hive, the flight speed decreases greatly as the craft passes between the smog and dust filled filled twilight skies, passing between the soaring jagged black metal architecture and the scourted gunmetal colored blade like peaks of its spires. After 30 minutes or so of this maneuvering, the craft sets down on a platform before a vast, hulking building of amazing proportions. It’s sheer, black volcanic basalt sides sit nearly a kilometer in width, stretching upwards into great towers that resemble gargantuan industrial smokestacks and would easily be mistaken for them if not for the few windows and lights hinting at activity within. The tops of the stacks, illuminated only by the sickly green of focused stab-lights, extend upwards into a mirky polluted fog. A monstrous mechanical amalgamation of gears and clockwork marks the 13 hour cycles of Sophano Prime, and also serves as the only ornamentation of the Planetary Administration building. As you exit the craft, the last rings of the impossibly large bell tolls its thirteenth ring, signaling the beginning of another cycle of night. The craft leaves the platform almost as soon as you depart taking Explicator Lorelii Dekanta with it.
Without much effort the Acolytes are able to find the entrace to the Planetary Administration building. A gated and heavily guarded Portico is manned by numerous Adepts and PDF troopers, who are insistent upon removing and individually tagging each and every weapon in your possession, keeping them for the duration of your stay within the hallowed confines of the Planetary Administration. The inside of the building is a labyrinthine tangle of cold, dim chambers, stairways, courtrooms, halls and archives all leading into a vast echoing central chamber. A crush of hundreds if not thousands of black robed clerks, somber advocates, flashy guilder representatives, exquisitely dressed nobles, hovering servo skulls and scurrying menials all conduct their business under the watchful eye of carapace armored guards with iron portcullis style helmets. Supplicants, claimants and petitioners of all origins and stations can be found waiting, walking, arguing and forming lines for various purposes, adding the only bits of liveliness to the drab, solemn environment.
A grey faced, silent clerk wearing black robes approaches you from out of the throng of people. With a simple “My master is expecting you.” He leads you away on an intolerably slow and meandering journey through mazes of hallways and staircases leading ever upwards. Finally you arrive on a particularly dilapidated and almost abandoned mezzanine level high up in the shadows of the great chamber. You are led to a non-descript and battered looking door with a small brass plate labeled “XIII”.
The door opens automatically, and you are ushered into a dark and dusty room, furnished in black wood and stacked from floor to ceiling with crack-spine books, roll upon roll of parchment, and heaps of yellowing documents. A feeble fire gutters in a hearth in one corner, and grimy glow-lamps set in recesses in the walls shed flickering light. A second grey-faced clerk appears soundlessly from a side door bearing a tarnished looking silver tray on which are piled wax-sealed parchment envelopes. He offers one to each of you before soundlessly retreating again.
A large set of doors concealed within one bookcase wall swings open and a hunched figure is brought in, carried in a dark sedan chair by two servitors and accompanied by a tall young woman in a heavy stiff backed dress with a gauzy mantle.
The sedan chair is lowered before you, and the servitors detach their carrying rigs and stand passively against the wall. The seated figure is that of a withered elderly man with long thinning hair and a narrow sharp face. He is wearing several layers of threadbare soiled clothing and a moth eaten fur shawl covers his shoulders. He is overcome by a fit of hacking coughs and has blood dabbed from his mouth afterward by the woman. Silently he examines you with intense amber eyes that seem to shine with a feverish light before addressing you in a bitter, rasping voice.
“I am Silas Marr,” he says, pointing at the letters in your hands, “and it would seem that you… are mine.”
Silas Marr: “I called upon your assistance because an unexpected matter has arisen, the action that al-Subaai spoke of in the writ. My own acolytes whom I would normally trust to carry this out have been delayed by the planet wide disruption of lifter traffic due to storms and earthquakes. Your arrival in the area has been fortuitous to say the least. The auction is to be held at a place called the House of Dust and Ash, a great crematoria and tomb complex set on an island some 900 kilometers from the southern edge of the hive, over the Cinemire Sea. The island is exempted from many laws by ancient right and from prying eyes by its isolation, and so a perfect place for renegades to gather.
I require you to undertake this task for me. You will be my agents at the auction, gathering intelligence about those who attend it, discerning their desires and true nature. See what rats are drawn to the stench of Sophano’s carrion feast. Unless you discover a heretic whose destruction warrants breaking your cover or a threat too dire to ignore, you need to nothing else but be my eyes and ears.
I will not mislead you, it is to a carnasaur infested pit to which i send you, and there may be those in attendance who would do you harm simply because you might be a rival. Indeed, such people would kill you if they knew your true allegiance. So I trust to your skill and judgment. You have not failed al-Subaai in the past, and I trust you will offer me the same measure of worth… Do this for me and you will find me a grateful master, however temporary, and such debts I do not forget…”
Inquisitor Marr provides the following materiels to the Acolytes:
- Identity Documents
- An Auction Invitation
- Corrosion and Abrasion Resistant Vapor Cloaks
- A Medi-Pack
- Formal clothes for the Auction
- A number of additional changes of clothes
- A data slate detailing numerous wanted heretics suspected to be in the sub-sector
- One Thousand Thrones each in petty cash
- A Credit Block drawn on the Chancellery Bank on Solomon valid for one million Thrones only accessed by code form a Chancellery authentication engine, such as the ones used at the auction.
All this gear and the Acolytes weapons have been delivered to a speeder that is waiting to take them to the Grav Train station, where the Overland Express has been chartered to take them and others to the auction by the Sophano Estate. Time is of the essense and the Acolytes should leave within the hour.
Other information provided by Silas Marr:
- The House of Dust and Ash is a giant Crematoria run by a quasi-religiour order known as the Sorrowful Guild. It is exempt from Sophano Prime’s usual Feudal government system. Being interred or cremated there is a great privledge and many of the planets Elites and Nobility use their facilities.
- Erasmus Sophano was an infamous Rogue Trader, the last of his line, that disappeared over a century ago and is presumed dead.
- Tonias Sophano’s father’s original family name was Faud, before he married into the powerful Sophano family and changed his name. His wife died early in their marriage and they had no children together. Tonias is a product of a later marriage.
- Marr has a man on the inside, Mayweather, who has done a cursory look over the items and says they are of no great threat, althrough some are proscribed and contraband. The Acolytes should take a particular interest in seeminly innocuous written matter as the Sophanos loved ciphers and trickery.
- The Acolytes are expected to watch those that attend the Auction and take notes.
The Silt Sea of Cinemire
The hours of the darkened night pass slowly in the servitor controlled speeder car as it takes you to the outskirts of Hive Victoriana. Globules of sand from a great upper atmospheric dervish mixed with corrosive pollutants hisses as it splatters on the resistant glass of the carriage and the air scrubbers work to remove the acrid tang and fine dust from the air. Dawn is rapidly approaching as the speeder touches down on the landing pad of the air dock. A dusty yellow haze of light is starting to creep across the horizon, illuminating the boxy shapes of the Grav Trains waiting by their elevated boarding platforms. The rolling sickly chartreuse dunes of the silt sea stretch out southward. The wind blowing from the sea is heavy with acrid vapor, and you can see twisted masses of corroded metal and the upper floors of decayed buildings jutting out from the dunes like the bones of titanic skeletons. The Overland Express is easily located and you can see that the crew is already preparing to depart with the dawn.
The Overland Express is a medium sized Grav Train, 10 cars long with each car roughly 13 meters long and 6 meters wide. It looks somewhat like a tarnished, gunmetal colored caterpillar with dual hornlike thrusters trailing backwards from the top corners of the engine car, an iris- like control dome on the command car and a cluster of arc lamps at the front. Two ridges of hair like lightning conduit spines run the length of the train along its back. The 3rd through 6th cars each have observation decks leading out onto open air balconies on either side of them. The last four cars are functional for carrying cargo or passengers but are otherwise not noteworthy. As you board you are welcomed by a man with hard eyes in brown coveralls you introduces himself as Captain Shadrack. He directs you to a single cabin with several bunks which has been assigned to you. Aside from the cabin and observation areas, he informs you that the first and last two cars of the Express are off-limits for the duration of the journey over the Cinemire Sea.
The three observation cars seem impossibly spacious, with high ceilings and wide windows fitted with retractable brass shutters on either side. Armored doors to either wide of each car lead to the train’s open balcony platforms. They are furnished with a number of chairs, tables, couches and a small bar area along with numerous railings, hand loops and strategically placed padding in case of dust storms. The decorations are not lavish, but an attempt has been made to cover the bare metal with whitewash and murals depicting the Angevin Crusade. Two crew members are present, guarding the entrance to the command car and serving drinks at the bar.
The Cinemire Sea over which the Overland Express travels is a constantly shifting mass of yellow green silt dunes, pierced by the occasional broken mining machine, grav train, and the wreckage of past mineral exploitation. Captain Shadrack warns you that the silt is impossible to stay on top of as well as highly corrosive and toxic. An unprotected human in it would last a few agonized seconds at best, not even having time to die of axphyxiation. The sand appears devoid of life expect for the occasional signs that something is moving just underneath the surface.
The Acolytes are assigned a Cabin in the car with an Observation deck, where Cortez immediately begins working on decrypting the data slates acquired from the Heretek’s laboratory. Bones and Gallus make their way through the rest of the car towards the Observation, Meal and Lounge cars.
The Observation Car
The only occupants of the Observation Car when you enter are a morbidly obese Ministorum Priest in opulent attire and his small retinue of four disheveled and somewhat feral looking “believers”. He is moving around the car with large sweeping movements preaching loudly to his small flock (seated around the edges of the car) about being chosen to return with the Holy Artifact and how blessed be they in the congregation that gave the generous donations so that he might be able to retrieve it. He pauses to catch his breath, wiping the blotchy skin of his brow with a soiled looking kerchief before putting it back into his sweat stained robe with his fat, writhing meat worm fingers. A stick thin “believer” with scabbed and bandaged hands notices you enter the car.
Arko: “What are you looking at chump?”
The Fat Priest flies into a rage before quickly regaining his composure.
Abbot Tamas: “ARKO!! HOLD YOUR TONGUE!! IF YOU RUIN THIS TRIP I’LL … Please, Brother Arko, be civil with the other esteemed guests. AND STAY OUT OF TROUBLE!! “
Arko: “Yes, Abbot Tamas.”
The Meal Car
Six crewmen of the Overland Express are breaking their fast when you enter the Meal Car. They are wasting very little time with pleasantries, eating a dish of potato cakes in synthesucrose. Outside, on the observation platform of the Meal Car are two middle aged, large but nondescript well armed men in rugged clothes. They are leaning slightly against the railing, and watching what is going on inside.
The Lounge Car
Two crewmembers are behind the bar of the lounge car, one cleaning glasses and wiping the table, and the other a bald potbellied paunchy man with a handcannon strapped to his side stocking bottles of amasec and wine. A well dressed late middle aged man sitting on a couch with a young assistant looks up at you from his glass of red wine as you enter, then goes back to examining a dataslate with his assistant. An attractive young woman in formal business attire is seated at the bar. She has two bodyguards in flak armor at her flanks and a hooded, robed Adept at her side. She looks up at you as you enter the car, smiles at you and gestures for you to come join her at the bar.
Octavia Nile: “Ah, more fellow auctioneers! Please, come sit and join me! Let me buy you a round of Grosh-Blue!”
Nahun Grist: “With an ass like that and 5 Thrones, anytime. “
Soon after entering the late middle aged man, who is recognized by Bones from somewhere, approaches the bar and orders another drink.
Benj Gilbert: “Ah, good sire, might I trouble you for another glass of this fine Cyrus-Red?”
Nahun Grist: “Yep. That’ll be 5 Thrones. “
Much small talk is had with Octavia Nile and her Adept before Bones and Gallus decide to get a table near to the late middle aged man and hear what he is talking about. Gallus recognizes the man as Benj Gilbert from the Sophano Gazetteer, and Bones quickly comes to the realization that this man and his scribe are talking about Rogue Traders like excited scholum progeny, going over notes and referencing stories and stats about them in an excited, giddy manner. [Brian described it accurately as being like preparing for a fantasy baseball draft]
Late Morning Bruch
As the day goes on and the sun approaches its daily zenith, a twingy bell signals the beginning of meal service. All guests are welcome and invited to join Captain Shadrack in the Meal Car for formal dining, complete with appetizers of fried giant water bugs, a first course of delectable vex worm larvae, a second course of a beautifully marbled Grox steak, and for desert nothing but the finest pickled hag fish. A smorgastboard of delicacies and fine imported food, all for the low price of 40 Thrones.
As the meal goes on, the two rough men, Vymer and Quill, order Amasec. Benj Gilbert, Whent his scribe and Bones each drink Cyrus Red. Steward Grist is serving another round of drinks when Benj declines the Cyrus Red, stating that he has already had enough to drink and needs to keep his composure in order to complete his studies this afternoon. Whent is about to take the drink instead when Bones snaps it up (expecting it to be poisoned) then makes an excuse to take it with him, along with his desert, back to the room where he hopes Cortez can analyze it. Cortez has requsted food be brought back to him.
Along the way, Bones and Gallus run into Vymer and Quill in the Cabin car, and Bones is able to detect a mint of a Malfi accent on them. He isn’t very subtle, however, and they most likely are able to detect the same hint in his speech.
A talk with Lord Gilbert
After the meal, Lord Gilbert and When retire to his cabin in the 7th car in order to continue their studies and preparation for the Auction. After delivering the meal and wine to Cortez, Bones and Gallus go to talk to Lord Gilbert, thinking to safeguard him from an expected assassination. Whent is sent to retrieve another bottle of wine to drink in the afternoon. He seems scared of everything and is a recent employee of Lord Gilberts, making Bones and Gallus suspect him. Gallus goes with him to the Lounge car to retrieve the drink.
While gone, Quill returns to Lord Gilberts Cabin and requests that somebody with some interrogation skills accompany him, it seems that the fat priests servant Arko has been causing problems and he needs to try to get some information out of him. Bones is extremely suspicous, and steadfastly refuses to go with Quill. He does not want to leave Lord Gilbert alone, nor does he want to go alone. Quill leaves disappointed.
Bones begins telling Lord Gilbert how he suspects that he is in danger on this trip, shocking Lord Gilbert when once again the door to Gilbert’s Cabin is opened. Vymer and Quill are within it before anyone can do something about it.
Vymer and Quill revealed
Quill begins the conversation with Bones’s real name, carefully concealed so far on the trip.
Quill: “Hello Attilus. It’s a shame that you didn’t come along nice and quiet like, now you’ve gone and gotten Lord Gilbert involved in your mess. Quite a shame really.”
Vymer and Quill are Malfian Bloodsworn, ruthless Bounty Hunters that will stop at nothing to get their prey. A shootout enesues, Quill emptying his Hand Cannon and Combat Shotgun while Vymer clubs Lord Gilbert with a Shock Maul. Bones is saved by unloading with his precious disc gun ammunition, eventually cutting Quill to ribbons. When Cortez, Whent and Gallus appear to reinforce Bones, Vymer draws a couple grenades, using a photon-flash and his shield visor to blind everyone and make his escape.
Vymer: “If you come looking for me I’ll be waiting for you! You hear me!”