Captain Pak gathers the men that he bought with him from the Rod Hant, sturdy space warriors all, whilst Admiral Black musters a group of his men including Oberlieutenant Joergen Borsch of the 1st fighter squadron (nicknamed the ‘Void Krakens’) who wears a flight suit, bolt pistol and power sword; the sound of warning klaxxons blares throughout on ship, as the noise continues the crew begin to head to their posts with practiced efficiency whilst the Captain Pak and Admiral Black’s partys head towards where the alert has been triggered, the central mess room of the ship, stopping only briefly for Pak to leave some of his trusted tech-adepts in the teleportarium, ordering them to keep a lock on the senior officers so that, if they needed to, they could attempt to ‘port the officers out.
“Maybe the demon will eat the food and die?” – Oberlieutenat Joergen Borsch
As they draw closer the smell of blood fills the corridors and a strange humid, oppresive heat hangs over the area, in the distance there is a sound like a cross between a bull lowing and a man screaming; Pak suggests sending in the servo-skull but Admiral Black brushes his suggestion aside, hefts his power sword and charges into the main mess hall. The walls and floors of the mess room are splattered with blood, causing the Admiral to doubt his footing as he enters the chamber; in the centre of the room a large, crimson skinned demonic figure stands astride a pile of bodies and upturned furniture, it grips an obsidian weapon in one of its gore splattered claws. Admiral Black and Navigator Benetec both have a strange sensation that the blade itself is a seperate, hungry entity that cries out for the lives and souls of its victims; whilst the demon is intent on butchering the dying crew at it’s feet Black storms in, vaulting across the table and swinging his power sword through the air, however the tough, demonic hide turns aside most of the blows force, sending sparks cascading through the air. York Benetec runs in after the Admiral, trying not to slide on the blood drenched floor, striking it squarely with his crackling thunder hammer and causing the beast to give rent to an ear-splitting roar.
Still slightly injured from his previous exploits Captain Pak marshals his men around him and leads a coordinated support effort, the clan warriors flooding around the demon and stabbing at it with crude weapons, with the support of Pak’s mechandrite arm lashing out, they swamp the creature hack and stabbing at it. Oberlieutenant Borsch slides into the room and with a deafening boom discharges his bolt pistol, unfortunately missing the head of the beast and blowing a small crater in the floor of the chamber; roaring the demon throws off its attackers and stabs at Captain Pak with it’s hissing hellblade, his men grab their captain and pull him back trying to avoid the strike but the hilt of the blade strikes Pak on the side of his head, shattering the cappilaries in his eye and causing a large contusion to begin forming. The demon swings it’s blade towards Admiral Black who takes the blow on his own power sword sending flaming sparks spiraling through the air (setting fire to some of the furniture), the force of the blow throws the Admiral to the floor, winding him; picking himself up the Admiral gulps a lungfull of recycled air and charges back into the combat, determined not to let this evil creature triumph, swinging his sword he scores a shallow cut down the side of the creature, vile, hissing ichor sprays from the wound.
York Benetec pushes through the debris towards the creature, screaming his defiance of it and bringing down the thunder hammer he inherited from Confessor Cornelius, caving in the rib-cage of the creature, it struggles to stand for a moment, warp fire and bloody ichor leaking from its wound, before exploding in a shower of blood and gore, its deathcry fading in the air.
“FOR THE EMPEROR!” – Navigator York Benetec
Pak checks that there is no further combat or incursions taking place on the Venerus before organising for the mess hall to be quarantined and cleaned up,
Benetec notices that the creatures sword remains, its blade embedded in the floor of the chamber, and sees that another crewman has also spotted it and is reached his hand out for it; mindful of the dangers of such warp tainted objects and with little time to react Benetec fires his pistol, shooting the crew member dead before his hand has chance to close around the handle of the tainted weapon. Admiral Black and York Benetec sense a distortian of the air around the blade as blood from the slain crew member splatters on the weapon, realising that it could still pose a significant threat Benetec says that he needs the area cleared so that he can banish the foul sword back into the immaterium.
Once the chamber is clear Benetec begins to drain the warp energies from the weapon, syphoning them through his warp eye and allowing them to disperse into the immaterium, as it flickers and fades the deformed Navigator feels a faint echo of the rage and thirst for blood once imbued in the blade; meanwhile Lady Decusis Black has contacted the Admiral from the bridge, she is relieved to hear that her husband is safe and tells him that she never doubted that he would triumph over the chaos creature, she also reports that Tulius is well on the road to recovery.
Oberlieutenant Borsch and Pak begin making plans to visit the, as yet unnamed clan ship, Pak suggests that perhaps Borsch could assume command, in the same manner that he himeself did on the Rod Hant.
“Are you kidding? Have you seen the turning circle of those things? It’s the size of a planet!” – Oberlieutenant Joergen Borsch
Sjomann Amelie is stood on the bridge as Admiral Black arrives there, guarded by an officer (presumably on the instructions of Lady Decusis-Black), he gives orders for the Sjomann to be taken to one of the vacant officers quarters. Two shuttles are prepared to approach the unnamed clan ship, the shuttle piloted by Objerlieutenant Borsch easily reaches the ship first and begins inspecting it for potential weaknesses; they both dock and use their vox systems to contact the ship and arrange to go aboard. The layout of the ship is very similar to the Rod Hant, one of the flanks of the ship is badly damaged but the crew has started to repair it; one of the Imperial troops that was left on the ship approaches looking concerned, he takes them through the ship to one of the weapons bays and they see that all of the crew are kneeling down as though in prayer all facing in the same direction, clasping a weapon to their breasts.
Borsch realises that the primitive clansmen appear to be facing towards where the Venerus is located; Sjomann Amelie says that although not part of this crew and thus not familiar with their rituals it is obviously one of their clan’s religious rites, the trooper points out that all crew members on the ship are doing the same thing, he has no idea what triggered it but it started with the Sjomann of the ship. Slightly worried, Pak contacts one of his servitors aboard the Rod Hant, the servitor in its monotone voice reports no change in activity aboard the vessel; Sjomann Amelie explains that, although her people try and remain above the clan warfare and their traditions, there are numerous deities that they worship and it may be any one of these that the crew are paying homage to. Pak contacts Admiral Black, as he is talking however the crew begin to return to their positions, the ceremony apparently concluded.
On the Venerus, York Benetec senses that the unnamed clan ship is attempting to enter the warp and stumbles into his sensorium chamber just in time to see a bright flash as the clan ship disappears into the warp, he immediately contacts Lord Admiral Black to inform him, the Admiral leaves Lady Decusis-Black, his wife, in charge of the Venerus before heading across to the Rod Hant with a contingent of tech-adepts, he plans to have both ships attempt to track and follow the unnamed ship (that still has Pak and Joergan onboard). Benetec warns that having a group of ships arriving simultaneously via the warp is unlikely, and he doubts the skill of the witch woman.
“There is a problem with this however, its already difficult enough for one navigator to follow a signal correctly, two is extremely difficult and I have no knowledge of the skills of this witch woman” – Navigator York Benetec
“Well, we’ll soon find out, wish me luck” – Lord Admiral Black
“I may see you in a few years Admiral” – York Benetec
Now on the Rod Hant, Admiral Black asks Sjomann Amelie whether she can follow the other ship through the warp, she says that with the appropriate rituals she will be able to follow the Solv Tann (apparently the name of the other ship) through what she calls the realm of the gods; watching the Sjomann begin her rituals, Admiral Black is struck by a strange, almost hypnotic pattern of bones and markings that she lays out around her as part of her ritual. Attempting to puzzle out the pattern the Admiral starts to see some sort of otherworldy pattern or connection between the objects, part of his mind seems to shy away from it, he can feel that the pattern is affecting his psyche and senses the opportunity for great power or destruction in the pattern. Steeling himself against all doubt and hungry for power, Admiral Black attempts to grasp the mind bending pattern laid out in front of him; unseen by the him his body begins a subtle serpentine change, retractable fangs and poison glands beginning to take shape below the skin of his jaw.
Admiral Black wakes up some moments later lying on the floor of the Sjomann’s chamber, from the humming of the engines around him it is obvious that during his convalescence the Rod Hant has entered the warp; both ships head for the Endeavour System but meet with resistance, a form of warp stasis around the system making it more hazardous to navigate there and lengthening the journey time; the Rod Hant and Venerus arrive almost simultaneously in the Endeavour System and quickly conduct scans, they don’t pick up any ships (besides themselves) in the vicinity, they assume that due to the vagaries of the warp that they have arrived before the other clan ship. Sjomann Amelie informs them that although many of the clans live on fleets of roving clan ships some of them live a more traditional planet-bound life on the large moon of Strive, she also explains that when the Sky Warrior returned, Clan Mord left their home amongst the asteroid belts (which they mined for minerals, competing with a clan of scavengers called Clan Kjempe) and went to join him; she explains that the main inhabitants of Strive are called Clan Drod and have a ship in orbit around the moon. Clan Drod are the only clan who refused to side outright with the Sky Warrior (although they didn’t openly rebel), she doesn’t know why but it was something to do with ancient writings preserved from their ancestors. The Sjomann cautions against approaching in ships belonging to another clan but says that they should be able to get hospitallity from them.
Admiral Black decides to visit the planet in a shuttle, taking the Sjomann and a small party with him, ordering the ships to wait for them, concealed in the asteroid fields of the system.
Oberlieutenant Borsch arrives on the bridge of the Solv Tann, he sees a hulking figure in the command chair barking orders in a growled primitive language; Borsch addresses him and is horrifed to see that the captain seems to have a twisted houndlike head, instinctively he fires his bolt pistol, punching a hole through the captain who is dead before his body hits the floor.
“Is there anyone else having a problem with surrendering?” – Oberlieutent Borsch
Borsch spots one other obvious mutant, a figure with ragged bat wings standing at one of the consoles, he kicks the Captains corpse out of the chair and sits down beckoning the winged figure over and asking him about their destination, the ragged figure replies “We return to our home system. Sjomann say it takes 35 Sjtel-links.” Captain Pak arrives on the bridge just as this is going on and, due to his greater knowledge of the clansmen, is able to estimate that 35 Sjtel-links is about 50 Imperial Days; frustrated Borsch puts another round in the old captains head for good measure.
On the moon of Strive, Admiral Blacks guncutter breaks through the slightly thin atmosphere of the massive moon; they locate a small valley amongst the monstly mountainous terrain, shielded by coniferous trees, about twenty miles away from a fairly large settlement. Landing they camouflage the guncutter whilst Admiral Black has the tech-adepts uncouple the Rhino APC from the ship and, with a churning of dirt, they begin heading toward the settlement.
“I wonder if this is where that Imperial Missionary went?” – Admiral Black
“Cornelius knew about that sort of thing and he’s dead, perhaps I should ask his thunder hammer?” – Navigator York Benetec
There is a permanent wooden city surrounded by a sea of hide tents, and the odd loose stonework building forming a strange melange of different building styles in the distance; as the APC approached one of the tech-adepts picks up an imperial power signature 50km to the west, Admiral Black orders them to head towards it and eventually they approach an old fashioned Imperial Shuttle, the outside of it bears the iconography of the Ecclesiarchy. Next to the shuttle are a couple of lean-tos that have been fabricated with materials of Imperial manufacture, as they approach a number of the primitive clans-folk start pointing excitedly and warily at the Rhino APC; as the Rhino pulls to a halt, an excited young native girl leads on old man wearing Imperial priest robes from one of the lean-tos, he’s a little doddery on his feet but he has a serene look to his face, he leans heavily on a gnarled walking stick with an iron skull and Imperial Aquila mounted atop it. The man introduces himself as Deacon Kiril.
“It’s good to see honest Imperial citizens in our little system” – Deacon Kiril
Admiral Black mentions Confessor Cornelius and Deacon Kiril is saddened to hear that Cornelius has died, the news hitting him heavily and forcing him to sit down on a cargo crate; in response to the Deacons queries the Admiral omits some of the details of Cornelius’ death but says that he died during a mutiny caused by the evil of a demon that penetrated the Venerus’ Gellar field. Deacon Kiril talks about the start that both he and his junior priests have begun bringing the clansmen back into the Emperor’s light, he says that it may even be possible that they are descendants of lost Imperial explorers.
“At my age, I believe it is possible I may never leave this world and our work may not be completed in my lifetime, but it is enough to know that we have started these people down the road to their own redemption” – Deacon Kiril
Kiril offers hospitallity to Admiral Black’s party, the Admiral accepts and explains that they are waiting for a ship that absconded into the warp with two of his crew, Sjomann Amelie explains that it was Clan Mord who absconded with the crew; the Deacon looks trouble and says that he’s heard some false religious figure has recently risen and has corrupted some of the tribes furthest from the Emperor. Although he hasn’t been off world to find out more of this, apparently a representative from this ‘Sky Warrior’ attempted to persuade the chief of Clan Drod to rally to their banner although the clan chief does not seem interested; apparently the more barbarous clans have flocked to the Sky Warriors banner.
Deacon Kiril shares a thick, hearty broth with the Admiral’s party, simple but nourishing fare and tells them that the planet is roamed by large mammoths that are hunted by the clansmen for their pelts, tusks and meat; there were once some great predators on the planet (including the dreaded Nak-tar) but the early clansmen hunted them to extinction either for food or as part of their barbaric coming of age rituals. Over the course of the next 20 days the Deacon explains that the clansmen build a lot of their ships in space, mostly in the asteroid belts and clusters throughout the system and that the chief of Clan Drod currently rules the planet, his clan being one of the few to maintain a permanent planetary presence; he believes that the religion of the clansmen is a primitive form of Emperor worship and agrees to arrange a meeting within the month between the clan chief and the Admiral.
Clan Drod have not come out in open opposition to the Sky Warrior (apparently because of some ancient writings that they have preserved from their ancestors) since if the other clans were to unite against Clan Drod (even though they are a large clan) they wouldn’t stand a chance; but he has made it clear that he is not interested.
“That Clan Drod has rejected this heresy speaks well of their reformation” – Navigator York Benetec
“It is my hopes that from the tiny acorns of this act the mighty oaks of righteousness my grow and that these people can be shepherded back to the Emperor, I fear the same may not be said of the other clans” – Deacon Kiril
One the Solv Tann, Borsch has discovered that Mikhil the winged is the first mate; Captain Pak asks him about the ceremony that they conducted shortly before entering the warp and the mutated crew member explains that the Sjomann had sensed the will of their patron deity Slaktin being made known in the world and they were offering him homage, he says that they faced the direction of where their God had entered the world and that his own wings were a blessing from the warrior God Slaktin, few aboard are worthy enough to carry such blessings. Oberlieutenant Borsch convinces Mikhil that he would like to assess the mightiest warriors and plans to gather all of those bearing the gifts of Slaktin in the cargo bay (actually he plans to slay the mutated crew).
Captain Pak begins to attempt to gain trust amongst the Clansmen onboard the Solv Tann, using his position as new Captain of the Rod Hant as leverage with the primitive crew; unlike the crew of the Rod Hant who accepted the leadership of Pak, the Oberlieutenant is forced to fight off challengers for his position as new Captain almost dailt, he is forced to kill about 15 members of the crew during the course of the challenges. As a method of trying to discourage this Borsch has the severed heads of his kills mounted on the back of the command chair.
During the journey his sleep is troubled by dreams of conquest and blood, but he turns away from the dreams since he feels himself in danger of corruption as he takes the power of these others; he needs no-one else’s power or approval, only his own.
Many days later, on the moon of Strive, York Benetec wakes with a start when he receives an astropathic vision of the Solv Tann from the psychics aboard the Venerus.
“The other vessel has arrived.” – York Benetec
Under orders from Admiral Black Benetec transmits a vision to the astropaths on the Venerus showing their Imperial soldiers storming the Solv Tann and detaining the crew; in response to this the Venerus moves towards the Solv Tann, reinforcing the position of Borsch and Pak. Borsch orders the Sjomann to be bought to the bridge so that he cannot attempt to take the ship into the warp again, when he arrives the Sjomann is revealed to be a hulking brute of a man covered in blue tattoos with a top-knot, he aggressively demands to know why he has been bought to the bridge. Mikhil introduces the huge figure as Sjomann Nikolai; allowing Nikolai to see the severed heads of the captaincy challengers Oberlieutenant Borsch orders the Sjomann not to take the ship back into the warp without his instructions and then dismisses him.
Pak and Borsch are contacted by Lady Decusis-Black (aboard the Venerus) who asks them to join her onboard the larger vessel where she tells them about the Admiral’s current whereabouts, the two men take a shuttle and a compliment of crew down to the moon of Strive to join Admiral Black and his party.