Dark Pursuits

Desoleum, Day Indeterminate
Auto-didact engaged

+++VOCAL STRESSORS DETECTED+++
+++AUTO-DIDACT ENGAGED+++
+++SCRIBE-TINES EXTENDED+++
+++PENNED ON BEHALF OF LOXILIANA TIEL VI’ORTEGA+++

MALE VOICE: “…I must stress this mamsel, if you would only give me two weeks for the necessary surgeries we could retain almost full function. This truly isn’t necessa-”
LOXILIANA: “There is no time for that. Cut. It. Off. NOW, sawbones.”
MALE VOICE: “Please, even a week would allow time for me to prevent gangrene from setting in to enable later medical treatments-”
[[ENVIRONMENTAL SOUNDS: High-range motor revving, sounds of fighting]]
MALE VOICE:“No, what are you doing!?”
[[ENVIRONMENTAL SOUNDS: Scream as from torture victim, sound of chain-weapon engaging with flesh]]
LOXILIANA: “The… arm… is… gone. Fix. It. NOW.”

+++AUTO-DIDACT DISENGAGED+++
+++MANUAL MODE RESUMES+++

[[The vellum of the following entry bares little of the practiced precision of previous entries; small blotches separate each line, as though the author were unsure of how to phrase the next sentence.]]

It has been two days since my last entry. We were ambushed in the Mortuarium. More of the cultists that tried to steal the relic, apparently. Came well prepared, had us penned up in a control room with long-range arms. Training psalms admonish clinging to cover, but despite the gratifying warmth of the Emperor’s Shield above my heart deflecting blow after blow, I…

I am no longer whole. The chirugeon responsible for the installation, apparently the former apprentice of a local Magos Biologis, informs me that a .65 calibre round pierced the major nerve cluster of my left arm, severing it almost completely. The time needed for recovery was… untenable. There is, after all, work to be done in the lower hive still. Velada informs me that she and the Arbites investigated the cogitator core, revealing that the Red Walk gang has been purchasing(!) bodies from the Faynes, sending them down to an underhive town known as Gantry, and from there on to the temple of our red-robed cultists, apparently known as the Blessed Flesh. Whatever they need the bodies for, it’s apparently something to do with a ‘grand test’ and assault: the cogitator indicates that the assault itself would easily dwarf the numbers available to the local Arbites and their Sancturite allies. Absent of any other option, it seems to fall to us to once again save Desoleum from a threat far beyond what any others could handle.

We three walk the path You have set us upon.
We will surrender whatever is necessary for accomplish Your Will.
We shall not falter.

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Desoleum, Day Eight
Case Two: Charnel-House Massacres

Thought for the day: A confident smile and a sure stride go a long way—especially if you’re not.

I’ll say this for working with the Inquisition; it’s a career that builds upon itself. Expose one conspiracy and you can be sure that you’ve just displaced five others as well. As we spent several days recovering from our exertions in the underhive, Jocasta apparently finally deigned to read the reports that Vel has been so secretively scribing, which led to shifting us into a rather more pleasant hotel known locally as ‘Upmidhos 53’, authorising the use of some of her contact network to bolster our false identities, and handing us another assignment. According to the rather sparse briefing notes we were given, a brutal murder-scene had just been uncovered in the underhive by the local enforcers of the law; it was marked out for our attention by the apparent signs of malefic influence, and with the Arbites now aware of our actions on Desoleum thus far we made the obvious investigators.

In order to aid in our investigations, a local Arbite by the name of Katyarin was assigned to us, along with oath-cogs that matched our supposed identities. At the very least they allowed us to freely board the lift-train down into the sub-depths where the murders had occured, then breeze past the security below. After perhaps an hour of travel we arrived at Charnel-House 37 amidst a torrential downpour from above. I truly wish Katyarin hadn’t sounded so smug when describing the source of that water…

Charnel-House 37 lived up to its name in both function and contents. The people on this level apparently make the bulk of their living by finding creative uses for the assorted bones, viscera and flesh of the dead from levels above. An inventive new use of which apparently proved to be murdering the entire membership of the household, then stacking the bodies like cordwood in the middle of the room, topped by a frenzied looking youth with an obsidian-black crystal tied up into a necklace with rough twine. Though as dead as the rest, his features were drawn back into a rictus grin as of someone who suffered great trauma in their last moments.

Katyarin begged our indulgence for a moment and ducked out to avoid looking at the scene while the rest of us got swiftly to our business; I quickly verified that the artifact bore no similarity to what we’d captured from Three Stakes’ Rest, while investigations by Vel and Stavros seemed to suggest that a number of the corpses had actually been involved in the bloodbath somehow – new lacerations on corpses that had clearly died some weeks earlier and such – though others wore low-hive clothing and oath-cogs indicating their affiliation with the Fayne household. Vel scrounged yet another damaged oath-cog from under a couch or somesuch, finding that it was owned by Darnis Fayne, head of the household.

Canvassing the rest of the local area gave us some ominous statements from a madman, hallucinatory meals from a madwoman, and a tenuous lead linking the Faynes to the Scrap Market, where a gang believed to be stealing Fayne’s corpses is known to reside. It’s not the most reliable lead I’ve ever followed up on but instinct’s gotten us this far with little the lesser for it.

The Scrap Market itself is one of the more ‘affluent’ parts of this area, trading in relics pulled up from the sump in exchange for life-giving food and medical supplies. A rather corpulent trader going by the name of ‘Cog’ Lostok demanded mercenary aid before giving us information, forcing us to kill a local gang member called Face-Eater or Skull-Biter or something equally infantile. Why these people insist on nick-names is beyond me. Just own up to being Reginald already, in my opinion. So we found and dispatched whatever-his-name-is, trudged back to Lostok and learned remarkably little of note. The Fayne Tormus has left Desoleum, while his brother Ferrue acts as a merchant between the Faynes and the Red Walk; rather than stealing the corpses, they’re actually buying the damned things. What could someone living in a hive need with bodies sufficient that they have to buy more?

We left the trader’s hovel in a rather dejected mood; with one brother dead, another off-planet entirely and another apparently ‘somewhere’ in the underhive, our last clue had more or less evaporated into thin air. At that point the Emperor decided to bless us with an opportunity for action, as a red-robed figure boldly attempted to steal the reliquary I had sealed away back in the Fayne residence; despite his attempt to flee into the torrential downpour of the so-called Drains Stavros and I were able to reacquire the item after a long pursuit, finding ourselves even deeper within the blighted underhive. Before he died under Stavros’s tender ministrations the red-robed cultist muttered something about the Mortuarium, which according to the scribe’s surprisingly encyclopedic knowledge is the workplace of the last of our three Fayne brothers. Emperor willing, this will be the last stop in our hellish trip down here, but I cannot help but doubt darker powers aim to cloud His intent…

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Warband's Second Mission: Desoleum continued
Extension Days 2, 3, 4 and 5

If you are reading this then you have acquired and decrypted a dataslate intended for an Inquisitor, the dangers of which, if they are not already apparent to you, are incredibly dire.

What follows is the first report entry for an extended Inquisitorial mission on the planet of Desoleum in the Askellon Sector.

Updated Mission brief: Continue investigation into xenos or archeo technology located at scene of high body count skirmish in a charnel house of Desoleum’s lower hive. Safety of population at risk is an auxilliary concern to the discovery and extraction of technology, as well as the destruction of any further dispersal of the material in question, and cleansing of all associated with it.

Need for anonymity by acolytes: Escalated

Report begins after apprehension and extermination of muggers (appear to be cultists):
After almost an hour’s worth of chasing, Lox asks for directions from a passing worker, who is able to direct the party to the Fayne Morturarium. The warband meet no resistance when entering the gorified manufactorum, passing from the piled body racks and conveyor belts of the atrium, through the waist high viscera of the Bloodwash drainage facility, spying a brief glimpse of a cultist in the acrid spray and dangerous gantries of the Flensing Pits and finally into the white, choking air of the Bonegrinder. Suspended at the top of the dome is the offices, behind a locked door.

A gunfight ensues, with Vel’s talent with security systems providing cover for the warband and refuge from their exposed position. The conflict draws out, with both Vel and Stav struggling to shoot through the clouds of bonedust and being consistently pinned by hails of fire. Stav survives the encounter shaken but unharmed, Vel recieves a shallow flesh wound. Lox, collecting unrelenting fire to her left arm, sees it taken clean off in a bloody spray, her life clearly spared by the grace of the Emperor.

The office reveals documents describing the Red Walk gang delivering bodies to the town of Gantry further into the underhive, and references to a Temple further still. This temple is the home of the cultists referred to as The Blessed Flesh, who are enacting a grand test to wipe someone out and prepare for a great attack. Details also point to a trader in Gantry providing weapons and artefacts for Ferrue Fayne. An encrypted cogitator refuses to relinquish data to an unprepared Vel.

The warband departs the Mortuarium to debrief Oath Captain Kaytian Nils of their findings, before returning to the Apex of the hive, for Lox’s extensive medical needs, cybernetic limb replacement and general laundering of filth.

Returning to Captain Nils at the Purity Gates, she explains that Sanctuary and Arbite investigations reveal all staff within the Mortuarium were complicit and have been appropriately cleansed. The cogitator in more skilled hands revealed extensive plans of Gallow’s Way, including force numbers far beyond the arbite and sanctuary forces available. The trader Ferrue dealt with may likely be one Omar Endish. The warband decides that direct targetting of The Blessed Flesh’s leadership is the only approach that does not lead to mass cleansing of the lower hive. The warband must proceed into the lawless Gantry where the Red Walk have control.

The entry gate to the hanging city of Gantry is guarded by Red Walk gang members, who demand all guns be relinquished, even reluctantly, by the warband. The guard and city signs point to the Sanctuary Gallows as a drinking establishment, where Lox is able to identify the highest level of city leadership as one Vornus Crimson, leader of the Red Walk from his Red Skyship palace. Omar Endish, of Endish Manor, seems genuine in his explanatiom that he has only provided storage for the corpses the Red Walk have been bringing down, strictly under pressure by Crimson and sharing no loyalty to him, nor supplies to any of the Fayne family.

The Red Skyship is the next point of interest.

Vel’s notes are printed in miniscule handwriting on scrap meant to be used as coasters from the Sanctuary Gallows:
- Never could I have imagined facilities as truly disgusting as those I have seen these past few days.
- I do not like the taste of bone dust, but i hate missing more.
- Lox’s Left Arm. A lost footnote in the annals of history.
- Our money is no good anywhere.

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Warband's Second Mission
Extension Day 1

If you are reading this then you have acquired and decrypted a dataslate intended for an Inquisitor, the dangers of which, if they are not already apparent to you, are incredibly dire.

What follows is the first report entry for an extended Inquisitorial mission on the planet of Desoleum in the Askellon Sector.

Updated Mission brief: Continue investigation into xenos or archeo technology located at scene of high body count skirmish in a charnel house of Desoleum’s lower hive. Safety of population at risk is an auxilliary concern to the discovery and extraction of technology, as well as the destruction of any further dispersal of the material in question, and cleansing of all associated with it.

Need for anonymity by acolytes: Escalated

Report begins after the successful extermination of great heresy in the Port Gyre underport:
Lox, Stav and Vel, satisfied with the cleansing of exposure already enacted in the underport, returned to the main Desoleum hive.

Intercepted by local Adeptus Arbites before returning to lodgings, a situational report revealed that all sites had been secured by arbites and overseen by inquisition bodies. The Warband themselves are escorted to other accommodation before being contacted with new orders.

Acolyte Wol (Full name withdrawn) delivers instructions regarding the mission stated above via dataslate. Support of investigation includes forged oathcogs for identification and access to the areas around the scene and coordination with Arbites Oat Captain Kaytian Nils.

Sector of incident, Gallow’s Way mortuary processing. Specific site, Fayne Charnel house.

Scene is 6 hours cold. Multiple mutilated bodies, some stripped, others wearing workers’ clothing and oathcogs of the house. Vel assess the stripped corpses as being much older, potentially reanimated for the attack.

Central to the close-quarters carnage, a clothed body, propped up and adorned with a pendant instead of an oath cog (on further scrutiny, identified as a shard of unknown origin looped on twine). Lox once again braves exposure to the unknown, carefully taking and storing the artefact.

No witnesses of event ongoing, Sanctuaries who found and secured the site provide little information beyond rumours of the dead attacking the living. A damaged oath cog is found beneath furniture nearby, reading identification of Darnis Fayne, high position holder in the house according to Captain Nils. Position of employment unknown at time.

Upon suggestion by Sanctuaties and Captain Nils, the warband opt to canvas three dominant charnel houses, Vlador (38), Keth (9) and Gyas (5), in that order.

Eris Vlador, elderly stewardess of house Vlador, provides information as follows: Darnis Fayne has two brothers, are all suspicious, rarely at their house and perhaps operating outside of Gallow’s Way.

Eris provides the warband food and, despite desperate negotiations by Lox, food consumption is the price for information. The hallucinatory effect of the food convinces Vel of crawling danger from the walls, Lox of the need to protect her ally at sword’s edge and Stav of his ability to fly. Captain Nils, after apparent risk of choking, is confused but unaffected. Eris shows minor response to the influence before disappearing.

Pursuing more information, the fearful doorman at House Keth knows nothing of the brothers Fayne, provides a belated warning of Eris Vlador’s culinary provisions and otherwise rambles, the only noteworthy statements being: “Down below where the bodies go” and “It’s in the marrow where the matter lies”.

The final house, Gyas, is far more affluent, and Jayir Gyas is knowledgable and forthcoming, revealing that Gangers are believed to be stealing bodies from the Mortuarius, where Darius Fayne worked. Post-inquiry Captain Nils shares that Jayir Gyas used to be a Sanctuary and is not above suspicion as a conspirator.

The warband follows a remaining, albeit weak, lead at the Scrap Market, one of the busy trade hubs for the charnel houses of the area. Brief inquiries direct the warband to Cog Lostok, the most influential trader of the market and recipient of extensive cybernetics.

Lostok, disatisfied with the warband’s inventory for trade, proposes his knowledge in exchange for a favour. Within the nearby Drains a ganger lieutenant by the name of Facebiter.

Members of The Red Walk gang are quickly found within the Drains but peaceful negotiations rapidly break down. The warband suffers minimal injury and clues suggest one of the dispatched gangers is Facebiter. Presenting to Lostok a butcher’s blade engraved with the initials of the ganger’s assumed name, he is satisfied with the decreased competition to his business and acquiesces his half of the agreement.

One of the brothers, Tormus Fayne, has left Desoleum alive. The other, Ferrue Fayne, is embroiled in illicit dealings, facilitating a corpse trade with the Red Walk gang through his records position at the Mortuarius Offices.

Upon leaving Lostok’s establishment, Lox is assaulted by an armed mugger, who is able to relieve Lox of the shard artefact. Numbering four assailants in total, the busy foot traffic of the encounter makes attack difficult, and while Stav claims a target and Lox takes the upper hand in the struggle, her hold breaks and three of the cloaked attackers abscond with the artefact into the labrynthine Drains. The cluttered, soaked conditions prove too much for Lox’s ability to pursue the fleeing attackers and Stav takes the lead, both deftly and indomitably charging through all obstacles. His quick reflexes lead to opportunities for Vel to take down the foes at range. The warband is able to reacquire the artefact but is lost within the Drains, hopefully near their only lead. The Mortuarium.

Vel’s Notes, on loose wet paper:
- Ate some awesome food. Could have killed me.
- Gangers are pushovers.
- Stav is much better at running than we are.

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Desoleum, Day Four

Thought for the day: Always strive for success. Even if you fail, the memory of your deed may inspire another to achieve victory where you could not.

Veleda Kalmar, of Ruc. Stavros, of worlds unknown.

By their deeds they honour Him on Earth; with silvered blade and steadied rifle, the pair managed to fell not only a daemonhost – the ‘most critical delivery of his career’ that Holthane spoke of in the tunnels yesterday – but nearly brought an end to the corrupted techpriest who sought to wield control over it, Halbrel. In counterpart the relics I bear in proof of the Trade Sable on Desoleum slow my hand and distract my eye, but there is no other to entrust them to, so I shall endure…

Anyway. With Anteshern suitably intimidated, we made our way to the landing pad at which 341 Beta-Sky would arrive within several hours. As our mission solely entailed putting an end to the current situation on Desoleum I elected to simply have the port’s defensive weapons blow the ship out of the sky, thus ending our mission and allowing us to leave. While Stavros and Veleda Kalmar bellowed about wanting to retrieve the vessel intact and muck about with shipping containers, the decision was made for us by a third party: as the vessel slew around for a landing on the pad, the port wing and most of the hull was torn apart in an explosion and promptly crashed. I endured minor injuries, while the bickering soldiers were able to shrug the blows off thanks to their reinforced armour, staring in bovine horror at the ruins of the lighter.

It emerged from the wreckage with a grace that belied its disgusting form; festooned with markings of the Ruinous Powers and alien charms, the foul creature that had surely been Holthane’s cargo casually disembowelled a gibbering figure lying prostrate on the ground before it, and then floated downwards through the landing pad, as though sinking into a warm bath. I shudder even now to imagine how a creature like this can exist in a universe blessed by the Presence of the Emperor, but I steeled myself for the battle to come, knowing that to flee now would be to abandon Desoleum itself.

Stavros proved an able tracker of the beast through the landing pad’s undercroft, rapidly leading us deeper and deeper into the catacombs and service tunnels that fill the underside of any hive; I daresay the creature would not have been hard to find even without his aid though, as the creature seemed to tarry regularly and vivisect anyone it came across, save for a half-crazed band of scavs that attempted to waylay us for our belongings. Their luck in evading the daemonhost did not hold out, rapidly falling under our retaliatory onslaught. A momentary pause in the cistern-like Underport and benedictions to the faithful left us with a map, a destination, and a cloying stench that sticks to your robes no matter how many times you send it away to be cleaned.

I find I am weary more often than not, of late. I must finish this entry swiftly, less the nightmares come again and rob me of the will to pen these notes. The daemonhost was found and felled. The Heretek that laid claim to it was nearly slain, but used some form of teleportation techno-arcana to escape.

Veleda Kalmar, of Ruc. Stavros, of worlds unknown.

By their deeds they honour Him on Earth.

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Warband's First Mission: Desoleum 3
Day 4 continued

If you are reading this then you have acquired and decrypted a dataslate intended for an Inquisitor, the dangers of which, if they are not already apparent to you, are incredibly dire.

What follows is the third report entry for an Inquisitorial mission on the planet of Desoleum in the Askellon Sector.

Paraphrased Mission brief: Investigate potential links between xenos or archeo technology and a series of deaths in Desoluem Prime’s nobility. Safety of population at risk is an auxilliary concern to the discovery and extraction of this technology, as well as the destruction of any further dispersal of the material in question, and cleansing of all associated with it.

Need for anonymity by acolytes: Indeterminate (Assumed: reasonable)

Continuation of fourth day events. Events occur as follows:

Satisfied with the threatening of Adeptus Administratum scribe Gaius Anteshern, and recieving a vague, unfamiliar name of Zax’s accomplice (“Helbrel”), the warband acted on the shipment information, proceeding to Landing Pad Tertius 9.

Quickly assessing the location, the group identified the most likely tragectory of arrival by the transport lighter 341 Beta Sky. With little options for hidden observation on other landing pads, and a freight elevator determined to be far too slow, Vel utilised the platform’s crane to arrange shipping crates for ideal tactical potential and obscuration.

While Lox had suggested a ballistic intercept of the craft in earnest, the warband was surprised to see the arriving shuttle experience an internal detonation and controlled crash on landing pad Tertius 9. The blast wave incapacitated the party for a few moments.

Vel and Stav, each coming to, attempted to assess the situation. Stav was deeply shaken at the sight of the crashed craft, brutally disassembled psykers and a hovering daemonhost slowly descending through the elevator floor.

A brief search of the craft identified the shuttle’s departure point of the Orbital Station Kapex, that the butchered psykers were likely not sanctioned and that the craft itself was rigged for detonation deliberately. Also amongst the wreckage was a rune inscribed crate, filled with chains, likely once home to the daemonhost. After brief discussion the warband realised their duty to destroy this volatile source of heresy, utilising a firebomb and another undetonated explosive, to do further significant damage to the craft and daemonhost cage.

As is their duty under the Emperor, the party would not spare the demon, using the freight elevator to escape the blast, call the Adeptus Arbites to the scene, and pursue the daemonhost in the Underport.

The Underport, a dark and inhospitable labyrinth of industry and decay greeted the party with native dwellers, both hostile and societal. With Lox’s oratory skills the latter kind of natives led to a map of the underport which Vel used to continue the Warband’s pursuit of the Daemonhost to a pumping station.

Here the warband caught up to their quarry, using its inexplicable stillness to wait out Lox’s temporary loss of faculty and ready weapons. Vel and Stav, each equipped with a weapon suitable at range, coordinated a combined shot, with Vel’s carefully taken shot appearing to do significant damage and Stav’s demonstrating the Daemonhost’s significant psychic power.

Volleys of fire between warband and Daemonhost were soon joined by lasgun and heavy stubber fire from another unknown party. The warband was unclear of this new group’s affiliations until they began to focus fire on the acolytes. The Daemonhost, splitting its attention between warband and unknown gunmen, was drawn to a ritualistic chanting, later identified to be sourced from a formidable heretek.

Lox, defiant in the face of great physical danger, Stav, ambitiously combative beyond his abilities and Vel, lethally focussed under constant gunfire, saw to the end of the daemonhost and all the Heretek’s followers. The Heretek himself survived with devastating abdominal injuries, arrogantly identifying himself as Helbrel, before disappearing through profane technologies.

Mission Status assessment:
- Trade lane for dangerous, heretical artefacts severely crippled through the loss of enforcers, bureaucratic conspirators and shipping craft.
- Acquisition of two artefacts of appropriate import: Orb and xenos hand
- Key participants in heresy still uncleansed: Zax Holthane and Helbrel

Mission completion statement: Incomplete, ongoing.

Vel’s notes are scrawled on slightly bloodied paper scraps, in an excited scrawl:
-Killed a daemonhost, haven’t seen one since the Fount.
-Patience is a virtue but not attempting to avoid injury has few merits.
-Lox is in desperate need of the kind of technological luxuries her puritanical upbringing neglected to provide.
-Stav can be relied upon to charge into the maw of death without hesitation. Cover him.
-Helbrel will not escape a second time, nor will Zax.

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Desoleum, Day Two

Thought for the day: Knowing fear is human; denying it, divine.

Back at the schola we were given assigned reading materials, in what I have come to personally believe was either a random lottery or a carefully-calculated attempt to find the human limits of boredom. One of the tracts I was given was a logistical treatise that promised that an opponent’s disposition could be discerned by investigating a single supply crate. A crate of solid ammunition promised a foe that could easily be defeated for example, ‘as the use of solid projectile weaponry in place of the far superior las in any of its variants can indicate solely that a commander is lacking in experience on the battlefield.’ After the recent events in Three Stakes’ Rest, I have come almost to believe in that author’s prattling conviction in one specific regard: las-bolts HURT.

As the administratum clerk apparently takes the view of shooting first and sending a tax invoice later and the swordsman’s tactical understanding ends the moment the last enemy falls, we were left without a prisoner to properly interrogate. The only clue we had to lead us on was the identity of the Babyfaces’ supplier and his base of operations in one of the lower hive domes, Zax Holthane and Three Stakes’ Rest, respectively. After retreating once more to the relative safety of my rooms to rest and plan our next move, Vel insisted on attempting to find information about Zax through ‘appropriate’ channels in the local Bureau while I followed the more expedient route of using my native charm and the occasional threat of violence from my other assistant to retrieve more detail about the hab-dome. I made time to visit the local Imperial shrine and was given a benediction to aid my travels through the darkened underside of this world.

Collecting the clerk from the bowels of a Bureau librarium we made our way back down into the bowels of the hive, filtration plugs snugly back in my nose. Three Stakes’ Rest proved to be a disused promethium refinery, bulbous storage tanks latched to the side of the dome like limpets. Like all enemies of the Emperor Zax was paranoid about justice coming for him, and had taken precautions in the form of a screamer buried in the rubble outside the building. Putting on my merchant face did little to convince the guards inside the building that we could be trusted, and I took a bolt high in the chest, narrowly missing my vitals.

I fear to write this even now, but something… seems to be taking over my senses. I found myself lost in a vast and barren landscape, the line of the horizon broken only by colossal structures that defy description. A titanic ripple of energy lit the sky ablaze and I found I was back in the hab-dome, propped up against a shipping container, though I know I had fallen to the ground at least half a dozen metres away from it. I have only to hope that some other thing did not take control of my body while I was trapped in that other place… My chrono indicated I had been unconscious to the real world for perhaps thirty seconds, during which time the others managed to handily take out half-a-dozen mercenaries without my aid, though I was able to set one aflame with a gratifying cleansing flame. Watching the merc’s flesh char and blacken did little to lighten the chill I now feel in my soul, despite the comforting scent of blessing unguents adorning my temples.

The shipping containers filling up the dome’s floor-space all bore the wax seal and trade-warrants of Port Gyre’s Auctoriate, apparently one of the voidports servicing Hive Desoleum and its sister-spires. For some reason I dare not name I pried up a grate in a darkened corner of the storehouse, finding a blackened metal box containing a mummified alien hand; I swear by the Emperor and the white light of Sol that the hand’s three clawed fingers twitched as though grasping for something in my pack. It was all I could do not to fill the box with promethium and leave nothing in it but ash. I will not mention to the others; for a leader to show their weakness allows followers to act on theirs.

While said followers bickered about whether to set the building aflame, I uncovered a large hallway out back that had seemingly been used as a firing range. An executive decision to leave the building intact for further evidence gathering and proceed down the hallway allowed us to run quite unceremoniously into the ‘legitimate personhood of business’ Zax Holthane himself, as the clerk’s bounteous research insisted on titling him. I did my best to both prevent Zax’s guards from murdering us out of hand and acquire information about Holthane’s operations, but a distracting rustling in my pack meant I could not direct the conversation to flow as adequately as I would have liked. Despite this distraction on my part Zax let slip that his ‘most vital delivery to date’ would be arriving shortly at Port Gyre; one of his bodyguards apparently paid attention during his religious lessons at an early age, and was rather discomforted by my insistence that the Emperor guides us all on His Righteous Path and that to fall from it is to disappoint all mankind. At least, I think that’s what I said. What else would I say in a moment like that? Why can’t I remember it? Regardless. Negotiations decayed rather rapidly at this point, necessitating the use of a frag grenade to bring things to a rather more final end. Holthane appears to have a decent turn of speed to him, escaping the blast with no sign of harm. We pursued him deeper into the complex, though given a choice between diverting to investigate his offices and chase him into the blackened depths of a mag-lev tunnel, I decided that more could be learned from dataslates than from attempting to interrogate him again.

The offices contained little of immediate use; a servitor, easily disarmed with the use of oath-cogs from the fallen bodyguards; the names of various nobles known to be purchasing from Zax’s Babyface intermediaries; proof that the shipping manifests had been altered, revealing at least some level of infiltration into the port authority. Critically however, we learned of a deadline until Zax’s ‘most vital shipment’: sixteen hours.

The next morning we stormed into Port Gyre; the quicker we are done here, the earlier I can cease carrying the sins I currently bear and cede them into Jocasta’s eager mittens. The port authority’s guards, overwhelmed dealing with a tech-priest’s retinue and a throng of mendicants pronouncing every rivet and cog of the port as holy for some reason, had little time for my attempted ruse and forced me to reveal our position as agents of the Inquisition. Deciding that investigating the Bureau might well be useful for once I led the charge into the Officio Auctoriate Porteus and the tiny offices of Gaius Anteshern, the witless clerk who had been suborned by Holthane’s criminal enterprise. A little appropriate intimidation did wonders for loosening his tongue, enabling us to quickly learn the location of the landing pad and the ident-code of the shipment itself, 341 Beta-Sky.

I haven’t slept well since I arrived on this planet; there’s something in the air, I swear. Emperor guide my steps, for I would that this is the last day I spend on this benighted world.

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Warband's First Mission: Desoleum 2
Days 3 & 4

If you are reading this then you have acquired and decrypted a dataslate intended for an Inquisitor, the dangers of which, if they are not already apparent to you, are incredibly dire.

What follows is the second report entry for an Inquisitorial mission on the planet of Desoleum in the Askellon Sector.

Paraphrased Mission brief: Investigate potential links between xenos or archeo technology and a series of deaths in Desoluem Prime’s nobility. Safety of population at risk is an auxilliary concern to the discovery and extraction of this technology, as well as the destruction of any further dispersal of the material in question, and cleansing of all associated with it.

Need for anonymity by acolytes: Indeterminate (Assumed: reasonable)

Events occur as follows: The third day of investigation began with the following of the two major leads related to the heretical smuggling: The name Zax Holthane and “Three Stakes Rest”. Lox and Stav followed channels of gossip to get location data on Three Stakes Rest, while Vel scrutinised familiar territory by searching Adeptus Administratum complexes for informaton on Zax himself.

Lox and Stav were able to acquire exact location information for Three Stakes Rest in the Lower Hive, including its shadowed reputation for dangerous business dealings. Vel was less successful, finding limited data that suggested Zax had only been on Desoleum officially for 6 planetary months. Residence records were limited to “Upper Hive”.

Rested and equipped, the Warband quickly acted on the more precise data, travelling to Three Stakes Rest. Their approach would be forewarned by a screamer, with the Warband unable to find it. The first clear component of Three Stakes Rest was a large manufactorum complex, run down and threatening total collapse.

Within the manufactorum, the screamer’s warning had led to a prepared ambush of the Warband. Six mercenaries would resist and ultimately fall to the warband, with Stav and Vel each ending three lives by sword and sniper rifle respectively, while Lox was stricken by powerful visions once again but was able to alight one target with her hand flamer.

The Warband would find largely benign xenos artefacts, nothing of identifiable danger save a xenos hand with functioning nerves attracted to the orb artefact. Oath cogs on each of the bodies confirmed employ with Holthane while manifests on shipping containers containing xenos artefacts were evidence of official (or forged) authority from the Port Gyre Auctoriate.

After brief deliberation the warband opted for subtlety over cleansing fire and let the manufactorum stand, before proceeding further into the complex. Beyond they would discover a firing range, weapons and a hostile Holthane, with a retinue of 4 guards. Caught off guard, Lox attempted to manipulate the situation to the Warband’s needs and was able to extract an approximate time for the next artefact shipment. Conditioned speech pathology led to inconsistency with Lox’s deception and conflict ensued. Timely use of a grenade by Stav ended the altercation quickly and decisively, with all four guards killed but Holthane unaccounted for.

Opting to enter Holthane’s office hab rather than attempt to chase him down, the warband used newly acquired oath cogs to bypass the security servitor for the office. Documents found connected victims, including Guljian, with Holthane and his trade. Included evidence of falsification of shipping manifests, but with the Port Authority member identity left unknown. The time until expected arrival of shipment confirmed at 16 hours.

Warband returns to lodgings and trade district for further requisitioning and recovery. Vel organises low-key transportation to Port Gyre.

Warband makes uneventful journey to Port Gyre. Lox stubbornly attempts to keep Inquisitorial authority a secret even when dealing with lawful access guards. Warband eventually gains access to Port proper, follow port worker directions to the Officio building. Vel uses prior knowledge of Administratum bureaucracy to acquire information. Identifies Port authority official responsible for falsification of shipping documents: Gaius Anteshern. Vel instructs a scribe to lead warband to official’s office. Anteshern is apprehended before he can escape, interrogration leads to exact shipment arrival time, location and craft name. Stav and Vel discuss arranging Anteshern’s apparent suicide, Lox uses opportunity to motivate Anteshern to act lawfully and cease interaction with Holthane.

[Veleda’s personal notes are carefully written on a folded sheet of paper, serving as a bookmark amongst the evidence documentation:
- A quiet, dark spot to shoot from can mean the difference between dealing death and meeting it.
- Firing at cover can lead to collateral. Collateral can be terrifying.
- Stav can blow up four foes with one grenade. Lox can blow up a situation with one sentence.
- When in doubt, remember the Administratum. Bark orders at scribes.
- For all her spoilt demands, Lox is much closer to the grace of her Emperor than we are.]

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Warband's First Mission: Desoleum
Days 1 & 2

If you are reading this then you have acquired and decrypted a dataslate intended for an Inquisitor, the dangers of which, if they are not already apparent to you, are incredibly dire.

What follows is the first report entry for an Inquisitorial mission on the planet of Desoleum in the Askellon Sector.

Paraphrased Mission brief: Investigate potential links between xenos or archeo technology and a series of deaths in Desoluem Prime’s nobility. Safety of population at risk is an auxilliary concern to the discovery and extraction of this technology, as well as the destruction of any further dispersal of the material in question, and cleansing of all associated with it.

Need for anonymity by acolytes: Indeterminate (Assumed: reasonable)

Events occur as follows: The investigating Acolyte Warband arrive at the Transfer Station of Desoluem by independent means. Warband consists of three members, henceforth referred to as Stav, Lox and Vel respectively.

Acting on leads provided by mission brief, warband agrees to travel to the lowest levels of “The Apex”; the bordering hive layers joining rich habs and exotic bazaars.

Lox, assuming the role of a motivated but reasonable debt collector to justify the liberal sharing of key lead: The name Lans Guljian, a noble reported to be showing the same erratic behaviour as previous victims.

Lox’s approach produced results, with a residence for Guljian and more current information on his behaviour: reclusive, spending excessively and leaving his residence strictly to visit far lower hive levels.

The residence, Hesenstanz Manor, showed extensive external disrepair in contrast to all other residences in the area. The warband opted to immediately approach and enter the home, with Lox utilising the tried debt collector persona to mixed effect. Ultimately the warband was granted an audience with Guljian at his next availability.

Accomodated waiting proved unproductive, but conflict with Guljian’s bodyguard (assumed, later confirmed) would not be necessary. Loud cries from the floor above created appropriate panic amongst the manor staff to allow Stav and Lox easy access to Guljian’s location in the upstairs study. Vel would remain downstairs to cover the main entry, but only for a moment as her medical skills would be required upstairs.

In the study, clearly under great distress, Guljian had inflicted grievous injuries to his eyes with a letter opener. Lox, having taken the room in, quickly identified an active and highly suspect device on a desk nearby, quickly acting to obscure its potential influence with a flung cloth.

With Stav barely holding the thrashing, delirious Guljian to the ground, another quick idea came to Lox. Suggesting the use of the desk as a high, stable place to provide medical assistance, Lox seized the opportunity to steal away the unidentified artefact while clearing the desk. It would take Stav, some manor staff and a sedative from Vel’s medkit to successfully move Guljian to the desk.

Despite effective field treatment from Vel, Guljian did not survive, though cause of death was indeterminable as the visible injuries were not lethal and pain suppression had been administered. Between Guljian’s fevered ramblings, accounts of travel from his bodyguard and largely incoherent entries in Guljian’s personal journal, leads were identified for a Spyrers gang called The Babyfaces and a regular visitation of the group called The Screaming Wheel, in the depths of the main hive.
Further searching before departure found the warband a damaged oath cog, obscuring the names associated beyond the Guljian family, but still being within Vel’s abilities to repair back to functionality as a key.

In anticipation of escalating circumstances, the Warband moved to requisition microbeads and weapon modifications, the latter of which were installed by Vel during the night. Stav and Lox reported visions during the their sleep, with Lox being particularly affected by the experience, despite having familiarly lavish accommodations.

The second day took the investigation to the main hive. General directions became exact ones when Stav intimidated a passerby into describing the Screaming Wheel’s exact location. After brief discussion the warband chose not to enter the Screaming Wheel altogether, but with Vel a reasonable moment behind Stav and Lox. This was largely unnecessary as the target Babyfaces, while present, were distracted while assaulting a hive citizen. Acting quickly, as if to spare the citizen further abuse, Lox approached under another persona, one of a noble, sent at Guljian’s recommendation, to acquire what the Babyfaces have to trade.

Negotiations were proceeding well until Lox, likely affected by the unidentified artefact still in the warband’s posession, fled from the bar, visibly shaken. Stav attempted to proceed with the interaction but it descended into combat. Vel and Stav each took injuries and successfully inflicted some before Lox returned. Two of the three targets were killed, the last, also the leader, instead being severely maimed. Resigning to defeat, the leader provided new leads: Zax Hothane and Three Stakes Rest. Vel vengefully executed the last Babyface, administered field aid to herself and Sta and stowed away dropped munitions before the warband returned to the market district and their lodgings.

[Veleda’s personal notes are efficiently printed on papers beneath the dataslate:
- Let Lox do the lying. Never call her Loxley. She likes it too much.
- Let Stav do the killing. He can actually hit things that are a metre in front of him. Just be ready to sew his pieces back together.
- Never be the one to touch artefacts. Unless you can attach them to a gun.
- Don’t try to help strangers. They just die on you.]

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Desoleum, Day One
From the personal journals of Loxiliana Tiel vi'Ortega

There’s a particular stench to hive worlds. It’s similar to the constant lived-in aroma of a starship’s centuries-recycled air, but with a sense of despair to it that steals past any kind of rebreather, sacred censer or filter; I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

The almighty =I= has deigned to send us to Desoleum, in search of artifacts of a possible malefic or xeno origin. Neither is exactly the bailiwick of our benefactor’s cabal of course but the rumours indicate that the artifact has had a profound affect on those using it, which does bring it somewhere within our lines. Or so I’m led to understand, it’s not as though I’ll ever be given a straight answer in this line of work. I have been given a pair of acolytes to work with though; a slip of a girl encumbered by ill-fitting militarum tempestus carapace and a rather intimidating rifle, and a brute of an armoured savage that appears to have been caught quite literally red-handed at something or other.

As expected of me. I took charge of the situation and led us up into the apex of the hive, seeking out rumours of a noble believed to be corrupted by one of these artifacts, one ‘Lans Guljian’. Not a line I’m familiar with, but hives to tend to leave minor breeding like rabbits and splitting their dynasties in internecine little conflicts… Anyway, we made our way up to the hive’s upper levels. To my surprise the air was actually somewhat tolerable. I’ve had good luck posing as a debt collector when trying to find out about the goings-on of nobility; everyone loves gossip about their betters, and where better to get it from than the agrieved shylock who just wants to collect her pound of flesh? The walking armory and the slouching armour made for useful props in this regard, quickly gaining me the knowledge of the Guljian demesne, one Hesenstanz Manor. He had apparently become something of a recluse in recent months, refusing guests and emerging from within the residence only to scurry down to the lower levels. In my experience that indicates either an infatuation with some low-born joygirl or a crippling addiction to something that the up-hive drug peddlers wouldn’t touch: neither of which ever bodes well.

We made our way up to the Hesenstanz Manor, using the shylock cover to browbeat the house’s doyen into allowing us to meet his master inside the dishevelled manor, though an armoured figure watching us from the balcony with all the pomp and grace of an Imperial Navy captain made clear that despite appearances, he was still a nobleman of at least some power and wealth enough to maintain a household. A bare few moments after arriving inside, the silence within was rent by the frantic screams of a man in pain; the entire household began charging up and down staircases to enter a library on the second floor, allowing us to follow along behind without hassle. The ink-stained girl elected to remain in the guest room, while the large brute charged along after me, the shifting metal plates of his armour making a furious clanging noise. We burst into the librarium together, just in time to see the lord of the manor screaming on the floor, a brass letter opener clutched tightly in one hand and the pulped remains of his eyes on the floor before him. Inured to such sights I took no note of it, but a scullery maid began to make an utter mess of her work on the floors, heaving and dry retching quite horribly. A fist-sized orb rested malevolently on the writing desk behind him.

In my experience, if someone’s just clawed out their eyes there’s generally something they didn’t want to see anymore; acting on a hunch, I covered the orb with a cloth to prevent anyone else gazing on it, and ordered the red-handed warrior to prevent Lans from injuring himself further; the ink-swiller looked like a hypochondriac and seemed likely to have a medkit, so I rushed back down the stairs to collect her, cursing myself for not ensuring that the team was equipped with microbeads…

If it’s best not to let the unwary look at a potentially deadly relic, it’s better still not to allow them to touch it. While the brute struggled to subdue a civilian several decades his elder, I dramatically swept his table clear of possessions, taking advantage of the chaos to pocket the orb in its (hopefully) protective cloth, tucking it away in my backpack for later investigation.

The tax collector’s deft fingers proved to be at least moderately skilled at the medical arts with my oversight, and we quickly patched up the worst of the lordling’s self-inflicted wounds.
Under the influence of a sedative he returned to something approaching sensibility, babbling about a pale child from wailing wheels before having the poor taste to die. Our efforts to save him for further questioning proved fruitless, though the extent of his wounds should not have slain him. Worryingly, it was almost as though his brain had simply shut down. I despise relics like this orb, they have nothing of the Emperor’s munificence in them, only dark and twisted powers….

Rather than have to explain ourselves to the local Arbites, we elected to make discretion the better part of valour and retreat outside, after a quick perusal of the room revealed a broken oath-cog (A form of identity wand used locally as both a signifier of contracts and identity and for access to secure chambers, according to the mousy girl) and the lord’s personal journal. With a shrug to the bodyguard we departed the manse and I started looking through the journal, discovering raving entries about ‘towers of bone’, forgotten gods, and lost palaces. Showing the entries to the purse-watcher didn’t reveal anything, so I delicately passed the stone over the brute to look at, reasoning that the worst that could happen is he carves his own eyes out. He found the orb itself to be perfectly smooth, heavy and cold to the touch, with a strange tendency to slide rather than roll if placed on an inclined surface. Clearly an odd bauble, but not showing any immediate danger, I shrugged and stowed it back in my pack.

After demanding that we travel back to the mercantile district to acquire micro-beads (And ensuring their machine sprites were paired to the correct vox-channels) and some items for modification of gear, I found an appropriately pleasant hotel and booked it out for several days. Feeling suddenly quite overcome with fatigue, I bid the others a good night and turned in after a short read through the devotional psalms stored in my personal dataslate.

I don’t typically remember my dreams, but this one I believe will stay with me for years to come. Vast barren landscapes stretched before me, dotted with vast alien structures unlike any I had known. Despite the knowledge that I was dreaming, I felt a dread certainty that to remain there too long would cause me permanent harm. No matter the direction I traveled, the scenery refused to change, filling me with an overpowering fear that I could never escape! Clawing my way back up from the dreams hours later, I found myself covered in sweat, an Imperial rosary’s pointed wingtips digging harshly into the flesh of my palm where I had clutched it all night.

Pushing the fear back down into the tiny cage where it belongs, I reconvened with my acolytes to discuss our next move. Absent of any other leads, we chose to pursue the only one open to us, a gang of local noble toughs calling themselves the Babyfaces, known to ply a cantina in the Main Hive known as the Screaming Wheel as their place of ‘business’.

I will not speak of the happenings in the cantina, save that I believe the orb is doing something to infest my mind with visions, and one of the spyrers revealed that he had been acting as a middle-man in the trade of artefacts between the slain Lans and a trader going by the name of Zax Holthane, operating out of a decrepit section of the hive known as Three Stakes’ Rest.

I have a power-sword though, so that’s something.

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