Rogue Trader - Orthesian Legacy

Curious Encounters Log 1
Not exactly what I signed up for, but…

I could never have guessed what would happen to me while I have worked these short weeks with the Orthesians. I have met so many interesting people, along with many terrifying creatures and cultists! Although the Ecclesiarchy considers me as a heretic, my faith in the God-Emperor has yet to be shaken, even with what horrors my eyes have beheld.

I have worked as a void-master, which is no easy task, especially travelling through the Warp. From hallucinating about a blood-god, to waking up to find dead rats in a circle around me, I pray that we put off going through the Warp as much as we can.

Only recently have I made my cooking talents known, which I should have done sooner: the food they serve aboard is terrible! I shall remedy that soon.

The crew aboard the Prometheus are enthralling! I can’t begin to describe the people that work for Captain Cornelius. Hitomi Shiganori, the Astopath, is a very kind but serious woman who has saved me several times from the clutches of demons, including one which impaled me several times. It was a very unpleasant situation.

The navigator, Nebula Ilioneyse, is a brilliant one at that, though she struggled in our last engagement in combat, and lost one of her dark but intriguing eyes. But, for some reason, she has kept the question of whether I have known her before joining the Orthesians running through my head. She seems familiar somehow.

Our explorator, Lumi Victors, is one of the most interesting characters I’ve met within the time I have been with this crew. Things wouldn’t be nearly as exciting without her. She, also, in our latest fight with demons ended with her losing an eye. I don’t dare say it aloud with them around, but I have dubbed Lumi and Nebula the “Cyclops twins”! …Now that I think it… I pray they do not find this log.

There are many more members of this crew which I wish to recount, but after this past battle, I only wish to eat some decently-cooked food and rest.

End Log 1

Navigator's Log 2.04

As we entered the Nephael system, we were greeted by a call from a woman who made us welcome and told us that the planet was expecting us. Moments after ending the call with her, we received another call, from none other than Lord Admiral Bastille. After determining that he’d essentially abandoned our partnership because the battle was “too messy” and he showed up late, got anxious, then turned and ran like Lumi at a dinner party, he requested our help with something odd.

Apparently the other half of the planet Nephael, the “Far Side,” was under attack by Orcs. He asked for our assistance in turning the tide, mentioning the possibility of hefty profits from the natural resources there. We told him we’d consider it.

On the way, we examined the planets and stars in the system. Once we landed, we were greeted by a certain Delan Min, the planet’s ambassador to the Imperium. He answered our questions about the planet’s history, including some questions about the cult that used to control it. He then took us on a tour of the city, which was absolutely gorgeous. I don’t think I’ve felt quite so uncomfortably at home since last time I was on Terra.

Years ago, now.

Two buildings made of the center of the city – the Librarium-Vault, and the Sanctophant’s palace. The Librarium had a psykic resonance, and Hitomi gathered that it was the source of the planet’s guard against chaos. She asked if we could go and study it, and Delan obliged. We only got as far as the front door when we were stopped by a stunning woman, Battle-Sister Lysara Vade, who looked as though she could kill me. She told us we could not go in, and seemed suspicious of our purpose. We informed her that we were here to follow the path of Cognatius, and told her some of the things we knew of him. Hitomi had a rather overwhelming wealth of information to dump.

Satisfied, she allowed Hitomi to inspect the markings on the outside of the Librarium.

After the tour, we retired to the rooms prepared for us – finally, lavish comfort and style, something the Orthesian Dynasty seems to severely lack.

The following night, we attended the welcome banquet, where we were approached by several individuals – Chayne Rastrak, a man from the Far Side, reiterating Bastille’s request for assistance. A man who served the merchant king Diago de Dastarra, who offered to set up a meeting so we could discuss tunnels underneath the city and perhaps learn of Yu’Vath ruins on the planet. A man who simply offered to become a chef on our vessel. Tyrus Moulde, the High Judge of Ma’ene, who seemed nervous and wished us to come to his city-state so he could tell us something.

We were certainly the popular bunch that night. I got drunk and made some friends.

The following morning, we visited the merchant Diago, who gave me a map of the extensive underground ruins, which, he said, labrynthed the entire planet. Then we went on our way to Ma’ene, to the home of Moulde.

We found him dead, his house filled with blood and people torn to shreds, and demons in his room. The battle was bloody and horrific – Hitomi took a near-fatal blow to her chest, and both Lumi and I lost an eye. In the midst of the fighting, I noticed a demon take a token out of Moulde’s pocket and throw it into the warp. The token had the star symbol on it. The cult symbol.

Once the demons were dispatched, the two cultists in the room slit their own throats, but not before parroting that “The Zandaran will rise again!”

The High Judge must have been affiliated with the cult, had second thoughts, and been taken out. What had he wanted to tell us? What was going on here?

The Book of Skorn - 2
Wretched Xenos, Cultists, and Sibling Rivalry

Have I properly expressed my dislike for the Xenos filth that resides on the Nexus of Shadows? Probably not. One can never express enough dislike for Xenos scum. Allow me to elaborate.

We found ourselves in audience with the one called Ravyr Dysk. The rotten xenos put on a pleasant enough facade…. but I could smell the foul stench of deceit in its every word. Regardless, I did my best to turn its deviant nature into a weapon we could wield — stoking the fires of hatred in this xenos, against the current master of the Nexus of Shadows, Zaergarn Kul. I’m afraid it was not enough; the wretch sidestepped my argument, instead citing his dislike for our current employer, Salaine Morne.

Eventually we came to a different arrangement — an opportunity to infiltrate Zaergarn’s ziggurat in a grand party of some sort. Not my idea of a pleasant evening, but it should prove effective.

Meanwhile, we returned to that stinking mire they called a tavern, to check on the heretics we were leading along as pawns. They had mostly assembled, but were all piss drunk. Worthless. They’ll be waiting for us, tomorrow night, in the shadow arteries, ready to lend assistance once we infiltrate Zargarn’s ziggurat. I expect it to go poorly, but at least a lot of heretics should die from it.

Before we’d left that tavern, some profane phenomena occurred, as we were all hefted into the air then dropped flat on our backs. I hate this place, and I’m certain the God-Emperor hates it, too.

We managed to find a better room to stay in, at some xenos hotel — though, despite its supposed grandeur, the place still stunk of foul xenos.

When we arrived, however, everyone got all tense, all of a sudden. I didn’t think much of it, until Strang suggested I punch him. Not sure why, but I was happy to oblige. Laid him out cold. I guess it was all part of some ruse, to trick another Rogue Trader what happened to be there. Nadya Vendigroth — sister to Inessa. I guess they’ve got some sort of sibling rivalry going on.

Must be quite the rivalry, as the lengths we went to protect Inessa were rather extreme. Perhaps too extreme, if you ask me. Inquisitor Vesper had Nadya convinced that Inessa was in her custody, for suspicion of heresy. Not something I’d wish on anyone.

Anyhow, at the end of the day, I’d yet to sink the teeth of my chainswords into any xenos flesh. Ah well. Tomorrow, maybe.

Then I’ll be able to let you know how I really feel about the xenos.

Navigator's Log 2.03
Merchants and Stabbings and Demons, Oh My!

Once we had calmed Lumi, we discovered that she had panicked because the pillar had said, “Thank you. I didn’t want to be here when the world drowned.” Turns out, the poor girl has a fear of open water, though I fear the statement may not be as literal as it sounds.

Either way, we had to decide what to do about House Corthari, who were clearly going under the table selling valuable Yu’Vath artifacts – and not giving us a cut. A threat or two and a good bargain cut us into the deal, and we informed them that the Inquisitor would no longer be coming to the planet. A win-win for everyone, although… mostly for us. Just how we like it.

As we were packing to leave, Risa discovered a crime scene. After following it, she found a woman, dead, with precise stab wounds and the starchart symbol carved into her forehead. We immediately conducted a search, which included Hitomi trying to find out if anything had been stolen and me conducting a boot inspection to see if any of the miners’ people had the lady’s blood on their soles. The boot inspection was a little disorganized, which is hardly my fault; all I did was sit on a cot and issue orders. The fool who was helping me couldn’t keep the workers in line.

Regardless, we discovered someone had not shown up. Not a few minutes later, an unauthorized ship took off nearby. We took our shuttle and one of the miners’ shuttles and cornered the escapee on a small asteroid.

We attempted to contact him, but before any meaningful interrogation could pass, he said, “The Zandaran will rise again!” and there was a gurgling sound as he slit his own throat.

Hitomi recalled some information about the cult – that Cognatius had destroyed them long ago, ridding a small star system of their foul influence and returning the people there to the light of the God-Emperor.

Unable to divine the meaning behind all this, we simply set course for the planet marked by the symbol. Navigation was not as smooth this time; our new navigator took the wheel and – though I assisted – we had some minor issues. Namely, a daemonic incursion. Leaving the other navigator to man the helm, I followed Hitomi, Lumi, and Risa down to the deck where the demon was. We managed to make fairly short work of it. Hitomi banished it halfway through the battle, and that was that.

We approach Nephael. God-Emperor knows what awaits us there.

The Book of Skorn - 1
The journey into the Nexus of Shadows begins.

What a foul journey we have embarked upon.

The Orthesians have agreed to assist in the endeavors of the wretched xenos corsair, Salaine Morn. She seeks to reclaim her hold over a place she calls the Nexus of Shadows — some terrible stronghold in a place she calls the ‘webway’ — which was stolen from her by another wretched xenos corsair, Zaergarn Kul. The Orthesians are going to accomplish this by stealing, from Kul, a voidship known as the Soul Reaver, which is powering Kul’s ziggurat. Splendid.

My loyalties remain, first, with the Missionarus Galaxia, and the Imperial Creed — not the Orthesians. However, it is also my duty, as the ship’s Confessor, to see to the well-being of the Orthesian souls. Ergo, here I am, striding into the heart of wretched hive of xenos scum and villainy, doing my best to keep the Orthesians away from the seductive path of Chaos.

And — God-Emperor bless their souls — it’s a good thing I’ve come along.

Not long after our arrival at the Nexus of Shadow, we were approached by a man — human — wearing the regalia of the Calixian nobility. Introduced himself as Henaris Tinis, and immediately inquired as to what the Orthesian Dynasty was doing here.

Now, we were trying to be quiet about this whole endeavor, not wanting to reveal to everyone just who we were. As such, I was a little bit disgruntled when this man recognized us and, furthermore, expressed an interest in what we were doing here. Worse, though, was when he announced to us his allegiance to the False Dawn.

A Chaos Cult.

I was displeased, and had to take a moment to clear my mind, as the righteous fury of the Emperor’s faithful was urging me to tear through that heretic’s flesh with my chainsword, right then and there.

I let the others handle the most of the conversation with the heretic, but it seems he wanted us to help his cult gain access to the Soul Reaver so that they could harvest a vast collection of souls to make as an offering to their dark god, Slaanesh. Blasphemy — I’d never let such a thing happen. However, as I’ve learned in the past, it is better to wield Chaos as a weapon against Chaos, than to let Chaos wield the God-Emperor’s faithful as a weapon against the God-Emperor’s faithful. We will go along with the Heretic’s plan, but only so far as it helps us accomplish our goals — and then he will suffer the full wrath of the God-Emperor.

The Heretic send word off for his wretched friends to gather at a nearby tavern — though not a tavern like one might find in the Imperium — in preparation for our infiltration of the Soul Reaver.

While we sat at this tavern, listening to the strange and twisted sounds that the xenos called music, we were approached by another individual, a xenos that referred to themselves as Iyssyr. Seems we were quite the popular ones, in the Nexus of Shadows, as this xenos informed us that its patron, one Ravyr Dysk, wanted to meet with us.

And here we are, on our way to speak with a member of the xenos nobility.

God-Emperor protect us.

Navigator's Log 2.02
The Yu'Vath Ruins

After what was quite possibly the smoothest warp travel I have ever conducted, we arrived at the planet Mynov. The first thing we noticed were two ships in the system – the Disciples of Thule, and what appeared to be a group of miners. They both contacted us, and after a few initial issues, we told the miners that they needed to leave while we conducted a preliminary investigation for the Inquisition – dropping Vesper’s name so as to throw some weight around.

Of course, the Inquisition wasn’t really coming. We just needed the miners to leave so the Disciples of Thule could study their thing and get out.

With the miners gone, we flew down to the surface, where the Disciples led us into the mountains and through an intricate cave system. Our Kroot mercenary Kct’chaka (? Is there even a human spelling for their names?) noticed we were following the path of people, dozens of people, who had passed through recently and often.

Shortly thereafter, we were startled by a shadow passing by. There was some gunfire, and I backed down a hole. Our psyker (what was her name again? Big hat. Big attitude) tried to grab me as I fell, but I was just out of reach, and slid away, screaming. I flew down the right of a fork, then tumbled into a large cavern filled with bioluminescent mushrooms. The lighting screwed with my eyes. Normally I can see fairly well in the dark, due to my eye mutations, but it was exactly wrong in the cavern. When I hit the bottom and paused to take in my surroundings (and a breath), I heard a soft rattling. Panicked, I yelled up the hole for them to come get me, though I was sure I’d fallen so far they’d barely be able to hear me.

A minute passed. Maybe more. The rattling was quiet, yet deafening in the space. I grew silent, slowly realizing my error. If they weren’t coming to get me, all my yelling was doing was alerting whatever it was out there to my presence. I grew still, watching the mushrooms and moss, gripping my pistol.

Something moved in the darkness. A call came from above – Risa, asking which way to go at the fork. A sigh of relief escaped me – they were coming. But I had to yell back to tell her which way to go. I hesitated, then called. The rattling grew louder suddenly and it – whatever it was – lunged towards me, and I shot it point-blank in the face with surprising accuracy, considering I was screaming again. Not a moment later, Risa dropped beside me and we clambered back out of the hole.

The shadow that had startled me into backing down the hole turned out to be a young man, apparently affiliated with the miners, who was with a group gathering artifacts from the Yu’Vath ruins. We tried to have him lead us, since the Disciples had lost their signal on their tracking device, but we quickly became lost again.

Annoyed, I asked Kct’chaka to find the path again. He informed us we’d wandered off it a few turns back, then led us directly to the ruin.

Most of it was stripped bare, with only base structures remaining. The miners were thorough. At the far end of the cavern was a massive door with a circle in the center, carved to appear shattered, and nine slots around it. I clearly detected a psychic presence behind it which could be interacted with, but not by me. I’m not that kind of psyker. I turned to our choir directer and asked her to do it, but she was having incredible difficulty detecting the presence at all, much less interacting with it.

I turned around, glanced around the cavern, and told Lumi not to wander off, then returned to helping the psyker.

It didn’t take long, as it never does, for disaster to strike. A massive beast, thirty feet long with massive pincers, crashed through the door. I recognized it immediately as the beast who had nearly eaten me in the tunnels. The Disciples of Thule leapt to action, other than their leader, who chose to cower behind a rock.

We can’t all be heroes, I suppose.

It didn’t take too long to take the beast down, considering we kept dropping rocks on it. When it was dead, we gathered the carcass, and I took one of its long, bladelike pincers to create a sword from it. I’m really only good with the Eldar Mirror Swords, but perhaps Reymalon could use it, or I could decorate my room with it, as a trophy.

This is when we discovered Lumi standing in a doorway, clutching a bizzare crystal pillar.

When questioned, she led us through a secret tunnel that opened into a room behind the massive door. There were several such pillars within the room, which I arranged into a neat hexagon – there were spots on the floor to set them. Lumi kept trying to escape with one, and muttering about how they wanted to leave, but I managed to complete the task eventually.

Once set, they lit up a symbol on the floor. I didn’t recognize it, but Risa did. Apparently it was a symbol from a starchart. Not a starchart I have used, apparently, despite all my time spent studying any and all charts of space.

Either way, I was suddenly overcome with the insatiable desire for a sandwich.

We took the crystal pillars out and explained the situation to the Disciples. One of them, in response to my complaining, produced a sandwich from one of his pockets. We exchanged the pillars for him. His name is Lenses, he’s covered in cameras, and he makes a mean bologna sandwich. We got the better end of that deal.

The Disciples packed up their work and we beat a hasty retreat, moving to get away from the Yu’Vath ruins quickly. The xenos were evil, and worshiped the warp, and their energies still hung about the place like a malign presence.

When we exited the tunnels, Lumi began screaming.

Navigator's Log 2.01
Another Day, Another Adventure

A year has passed – an uneventful, quiet year, filled with study, leisure, and the occasional ship inspection. But the Prometheus was recently declared repaired by the Disciples of Thule. With our flagship ready to depart, we sent the Argent Blade through the warp storms to seek out more people to hire and goods to stock up with, while our motley group discussed how best to proceed. It was decided that perhaps our best course of action was to head for Ilisk, the small, dead planet near the edges of the Hecaton Rifts. That was our best lead on Caiaphus Orthesian.

When the Argent Blade returned, we met several new and interesting recruits with potential – a new leader for our psyker choir, among others.

Once we were prepped to go, I prepared by painting the auguries, which ended up involving… some spaghetti.

The psychic tunes baffled me, and though I detected a great deal of profitable possibilities in our future, I simply could not tell what the mood of the Warp was. Nevertheless, we prepared to enter the warp, pulling up the Gellar Field and starting the warp engines. However, before we were fully ready, the ship was wrenched into the warp by some unseen force. Across the ship, systems went wild, servitors ceased their tasks and began screaming, and hallucinations abounded. Our systems proved unresponsive. Navigational and piloting powers were locked. Inessa managed to decieve half of the crew into believing that, and I quote, “Everything is fine!” Despite this, chaos still ran rampant, and I think a large portion of people were having hallucinations of Khorne.

While I remained on the bridge, snapping orders and trying to restore some semblance of sanity, the rest of our group worked to find the source of the issue. Apparently our new psyker, whose name escapes me, sensed an issue with the warp drives themselves – something locked on, controlling the drives. I hear they found some sort of warp maggot, which Lumi chose to grab with her bare hands and rip from the warp engines, so furious was she that the beast was hurting the Prometheus. It’s rather cute how she treats the ship like her child.

Either way, the shaking and screaming servitors eventually ceased, causing a calm to fall over the ship. When the crew returned, it was discovered that our instruments were still down, and that we were locked in a gravity field, unable to fly or warp away. At the center of this gravity field was a construct of what appeared to be Yu’Vath origin, and around it were some dozen ships – maybe still functioning, maybe not – and an asteroid, or small moon. Shortly after some peace was reinstated, we were contacted by a group of Eldar, also apparently stuck.

“We need your help,” the messenger on the screen informed us. “We have a way to get out, but we cannot achieve it. There are two civilizations here with components that we can use to infiltrate and destroy the structure causing this gravity field, but we cannot obtain them because… the people do not trust us. Because we are Eldar.”

“Dark Eldar,” I mutter.

The main portion of the crew is instantly suspicious, against helping the xenos. The Dark Eldar had never been anything but trouble to us before, so I understand, but still. Not even a little curious? Eldar have powerful technology, and they were stuck by a simple gravity field?

After some discussion with the Dark Eldar messenger, they decided to go to these two civilizations and find these items that may help in our escape, though the crew still wasn’t particularly interested in working with the xenos. I opted to stay behind, and jumped over to the Argent Blade to visit Josephine and make sure she was okay after what happened in the warp.

Later I heard that while the group that went to the Brotherhood civilization had virtually no issues, and basically went in and out, the other group accidentally summoned a demon, nearly died, and almost killed the man they were supposed to be bargaining with.

It seems that space grants us no kindnesses in our travels.

The Dark Eldar had offered us assistance in navigation the Yu’Vath Fortress and finding the thing to blow up, but it seemed the group who had gone to the Brotherhood ship had different plans – in order to obtain help from the God-Emperor fearing monks, they had promised to launch the asteroid into the Fortress, effectively killing off the entire civilization there. Apparently these monks hold a hefty grudge.

With little argument about the ethical implications of such a maneuver, we completed it, only bothering to save two people from the asteroid first – a woman who had apparently been helpful, and the leader of the civilization who had nearly burnt to death in the demon fight. Sometimes I question the choices my crew makes, but I’m here, I’m alive, and I’m out of my family’s reach, so I can’t be too upset, I suppose.

The destruction of the construct sent out a wave of psychic energy, revealing to us the Fortress’s past, from when it was destroyed backwards. Of great importance, it showed us a time when Caiaphus Orthesian got caught here and used some artifact to escape. Then, at the very beginning of the Fortress’s existence, it was shown to have housed an impossibly powerful artifact. The name resonated in our minds: Shattersphere. It was clear that the artifact was the fully constructed version of the pieces Caiaphus had later used to escape this same gravity field.

After the vision passed, we received a message from our other ship that the Prometheus had left without a trace, or a message. Simply vanished into the warp. This upset us all, especially Lumi, and the immediate consensus was that we had to track it down.

When the Eldar contacted us again, they didn’t seem bothered by our change of plans at all. This time, instead of the messenger, the captain of the ship greeted us.

“My name is Salaine Morne. And you,” she said, leveling her finger at the camera, “the Orthesian Dynasty, owe me a favour.”

“What’s that?” someone, maybe Inessa, asked.

“Long ago, when your ancestor… Clancy? Cognacious? Caiaphus! When Caiaphus Orthesian passed through the twin warp storms, he stopped on my Nexus of Shadows and stole something of great value from me: a piece of the Shattersphere.”

Shock rippled through the group. Feigning ignorance, Inessa asked what the Shattersphere was.

“It is of no importance. Suffice it to say that it is valuable, and meant a great deal to me. However, I will let bygones be bygones if you will assist me in taking back the Nexus of Shadows.”

After some deliberation, and realizing that we couldn’t possibly escape the Eldar ship in the Argent Blade, we decided to strike a deal – they help us find the Prometheus, and we help Salaine take back the Nexus of Shadows. She explained that if we took back the Nexus first, she’d have access to an enormous network of spies and allies to help us find our ship, and we begrudgingly agreed to her terms – Nexus first, then Prometheus. She accepted these terms, then left with an armada of ships – far more than had been around the Fortress earlier. We must not have noticed their arrival.

One small transport ship stayed behind, and Charlabelle hailed us, stating that once we had made arrangements and decided which ship to take, she would take us to Salaine’s location. Baffled, we asked what she was doing working with the Xenos, and she simply said, “Desperate times, desperate measures.”

Directly after, we were approached by a Disciple of Thule, who explained that he was responsible for the warp worm, and that his group had wanted to bring us to this Yu’Vath Fortress so he could discover clues about the Shattersphere. The artifact itself wasn’t on the Fortress, he explained, but there was a lead to another planet near the twin warp storms that has more Yu’Vath artifacts and ruins on it. This is a trail that could lead us closer to Caiaphus, and the increasingly twisted past of the Orthesian Dynasty.

We have decided to split up into two groups, each taking a ship to the two destinations, to try and cover more ground at once. I will be going to look for the Yu’Vath ruins – despite my interest in the Eldar, I do not think the Nexus will be a good place to find what I’m looking for. Besides, these Yu’Vath seem absolutely fascinating.

The Knight-Errant of Spectoris
An incoming message from a servant of the Orthesian Dynasty.

//Incoming Astropathic Transmission//

//Source = House Janus, Coronacht Hold, Spectoris Secundus, Spectoris System, Calixis Sector, Segmentum Obscurus//

Noble Lord-Captain Cornelius Orthesian, allow me to express my great enthusiasm at the return of you and your Dynasty. I am Ophelia, of House Janus, Knight-Errant of Spectoris.

For over two-thousand years, the Knights-Errant of House Janus have served the Orthesian Dynasty, our primary duty being that of the defense of the Agri-World, Spectoris Secundus — a world long ago founded by the Lord-Captain Caiaphas Orthesian, at the close of the Angevin Crusade. Under the vigilant watch of House Janus, the Dynasty’s holdings on Spectoris Secundus have withstood the predations of the Imperium of Man for thousands of years.

Alas, it is with great regret that I admit to you that I have failed as your servant, and the protector of Spectoris.

Two years ago, Spectoris was preyed upon by a fleet of Chaos Reavers — bloodthirsty heretics who rained fire onto our world, from the skies above. Though I fought valiantly, forcing the heretics to flee, the damage had been done.

Something in the ordnance that they bombarded the planet with — vivid blue flames — has left the land barren. Vast swathes of land have been corrupted to the point that they won’t produce a single crop. An Agri-World that cannot produce crops is all but worthless.

I have failed in my duty, as Spectoris is no longer an asset to either the Imperium or to the Orthesian Dynasty.

And, despite my failure to the Dynasty, I would have the audacity to ask an immense favor of my Lord-Captain Orthesian.
The Planetary Governor of Spectoris, Governor Grimmis Vard, has publicly denounced the name of House Janus, citing our failure to defend Spectoris. I would be stripped of rank, and the Imperial Knight, Winter Sentinel, would be taken from my family’s care, transferred

The only hope for House Janus lies in the Koronus Expanse, in the service of the Orthesian Dynasty.

If you were to call upon my services, invoking your right as the bearer of the Orthesian Warrant of Trade, I could rightfully be transferred to serve in your endeavors in the Koronus Expanse. If not, the Imperial Knight would be pulled from Spectoris, and out of the service of the Orthesians.

Though it is brazen of me to request such a favor — when it is I who failed the Orthesian Dynasty by letting Spectoris be rendered useless — your only other option is to lose the advantage that an Imperial Knight provides to your Dynasty.

The choice is yours — leave me to suffer the consequences of my failure, or seize the opportunity to have the advantage of an Imperial Knight in your direct service.

— Lady Ophelia Janus

//End Transmission//

Twisted Flesh
Nebula studies the Haemonculi tome

The writings in the arcane tome were grotesque.

Stretching, twisting and stitching flesh. Injections of unguents and strange humours. Metamorphosis from the natural to the unnatural. Abominations of sinew and bone and ichor. Drained of blood, drenched in preservative chemicals, a perverse mockery of the living. The art of the Haemonculi was abhorrent.

Nebula was fascinated.

She had read the flesh-bound book of Haemonculi secrets, front to back, several times. In her studies of the Stryxis, she had seen bizarre and unnatural methods of crafting flesh, in the form of their vat-grown laborers — yet they paled in comparison to the aberrations of the Haemonculi Covens.

What interested her more, though, was the writing in the margins, the notes written by one Krezriel Srak — perhaps the Haemonculus who had entrusted her with the book in the first place. He — or perhaps she, as one could not tell, so twisted was its flesh — had a number of criticisms of the flesh-crafting techniques outlined in the book. Krezriel regarded it as mundane, simplistic, and juvenile.

The mark of a novice; these stitches wouldn’t hold under the strains my own creations are subjected to. They’d have to be reinforced from within, stretched over a mantle of bone, fused with additional tissues. Hardly a technique worthy of praise among the greater Covens

There were many such notes, condescending comments about better practices. Nebula was taken aback by this. This twisted art was unlike anything practiced within the Imperium, and yet Krezriel regarded it with disdain.

The reason for Krezriel’s mockery came as a shock to Nebula, when she found it.

I grow weary of such methods as this. A hack here, a stitch there — butchery better suited to the arenas of the Wych Cults.

Where is the patience? The art? We are gifted with the longevity to scheme for eons — can we not exercise such patience in our research… in our craft?

For all the mastery we claim to have over the crafting of flesh, our experience pales in comparison to that of Navis Nobilite — the Navigator’s of the Imperium. They do not cut, tear, or stitch the flesh; they do not engage in the swift butchery that we Haemonculi revel in. Their craft is a meticulous, slow process, artfully manipulating the very essence of organic life — genes.

Generation after generation, they carefully guide the evolution of their own genes, through selective breeding, careful mutation, and other methods yet unknown to me. They have created a gene so rare, so precious — the third eye.

Though it is a slow process, for their insignificant lifespans, we Haemonculi are above death — surely, we can exercise such patience.

Nebula shuddered at the thought — the Dark Eldar Haemonculi were envious of the Navis Nobilite.

Near the end of the book, however, she found an entry that made her blood chill. Those pages seemed to be outlining a technique for creating a creature that was resistant to the chaotic energies of the warp. Scrawled in a sickly green-black ink, Krezriel had written —

This technique has proven inadequate for our designs. Commissioned by the Coven of Twisted Bones, I have begun investigating an improved method. Currently sending agents to House Ilioneyse of the Navis Nobilite to uncover the secrets of their craft.

There it was — her family’s own name. How long had the Dark Eldar been watching her house?

And why did that fill her more with excitement, than with horror?

Whispers from the Skull
Inessa hears a voice that had remained quiet for a long time

“I’m concerned about Cognatius,” said the skull, as it drifted through the air alongside Inessa, causing her to jump. “His crusade, it wears him thin.”

Inessa grabbed hold of her servo-skull, drawing it close to her body and ducking around a corner into an empty corridor. A quick glance around told her that she was alone — she worried what could happen if these words fell on any ears but her own.

Her servo-skull had spoken before — but only once — the day her brother had died. As her brother died, bleeding out from wounds inflicted by their own sister, Nadya.

Inessa couldn’t help but to think back to that day, that moment, as her brother uttered his last words —

“Almost found it….” her brother had said, voice weak, tinged with the delirium of the dying. “The tomb. The skull. I followed the skull and I almost found the tomb.” He laughed, then coughed, flecks of blood spattering his face. He groaned, “I’m not going to finish it. I’m dying here, and I’ll never find the tomb…” Suddenly, he reached out and gripped Inessa’s arm with a strength born of desperation. His eyes wide, he spoke to her, “You need to finish it… you need to finish what I started. Find the tomb. The truth lies within the Tomb of St. Cognatius. They’re going to try to stop you — the Ecclesiarchy will do anything to preserve the legacy of St. Drusus; your sister will do anything to protect the Vendigroth name — but you need to find it. Find the tomb. Follow the skull. Follow the skull and find the tomb… ”

Then he died.

Inessa had then looked up at the servo-skull, hovering over the corpse of her brother, hollow eye sockets meeting her gaze.

The skull tilted to the side, as though it were still alive, still attached to a body, and still capable of expression.

“Orthesian,” came the hollow, digitized voice of the servo-skull, before drifting off.

Follow the skull and find the tomb….

And here she was, two years later, having followed the skull, and it’s singular utterance, bringing her across the stars and into the service of an enemy to her own blood. And in all that time, the servo-skull hadn’t said another word…. Until this moment.

“I’m concerned about Cognatius; his crusade, it wears him thin.” the skull repeated. “I’m concerned about Cognatius; his crusade, it wears him thin.” The way it was said… each time without variance, not in pitch nor tone nor pacing. It was a recording.

“I’m concerned with Cognatius…”

Inessa slumped to the ground, listening to the skull repeat it’s sentence, again and again.


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