Thursday, 26 June 2014

Dark Heresy Episode 1.2

I'm a week behind in the write-ups, as we've just finished playing episode 1.3. Just before we started last session, Stuart realised that he had already played the original Call of Cthulu campaign on which this Dark Heresy campaign is based. Before the start of the session, we briefly discussed our options as a group (carry on with the campaign, play a different published campaign with the same characters, or switch to Legend of the Five Rings). For the time being, we decided to continue playing and decide what we would do next week.

The Acolytes:
  • Cadence: A Tech Priest CyberHound handler. Played by Ali.
  • Grimoire: Potent Void-Born Psyker. Played by John.
  • Gunner: Down-Hive Gun-Slinging Scum. Played by Fiona
  • Ishtari: Novice Sister of Battle. Played by Caroline. 
  • Lemantz: Penumbrae Hive Enforcer. Played by Niall.
  • Zane: "Squat" Flamer-wielding Cleric. Played by Stuart.

Outside the door of Chamber 401, the Acolytes begin a hurried discussion, first determining (after a brief word with the ship's captain) that they are standing outside the only exit. The immediately instruct the captain to withdraw to the next bulkhead and seal both it and the one on the other side of the room.

Once "safely" locked in to a very confined space with an unknown foe on the other side of the door, Cadence easily bypasses the lock.

Inside, the once-stateroom is in disarray. Three naked human figures, "clad" only in bloody war-paint stand around a small, metallic letter bin (the sort you might find next to any scribe's work-space) throwing in documents, books and other artifacts. An odourless, colourless steam rises from the bin. Meanwhile, on the bed, lies a headless, mutilated corpse. The three intruders reach for their weapons while the door hisses open: each carries a sharpened human thighbone, carved with strange runes and already stained with (presumed) human blood.

The Acolytes gun them down before they can even move.

Entering the cabin, the Acolytes quickly begin an investigation. Cadence and Ishtari immediately move to rescue what documents they can, particularly those already consigned to the bin. Inside the small metal receptacle, they find not flames, but a strange, purple goog that appears to be slowly dissolving any non-metal objects placed within. 

They rescue a number of documents from the flames, including a hard copy of an astropathic transmission, a formal "chop" of the sort used by Rogue Trader and noble houses in the Crone Sector to announce themselves, a metal jho-stick lighter (on the carpet next to the bin), a trade receipt and (rescued from the bin itself) a partially dissolved, grainy pictograph of a star-ship.

[Handouts 1-5 from the previous post]

Meanwhile, Grimoire reaches out with his less natural senses. The temperature in the room immediately drops slightly, but no-one seems to notice. Grimoire's senses detect a dispersing warp nimbus, with a similar "taste" to the one he experienced in the Surgeon' lair [Episode 0.4] immediately following their quarries escape. It's only similar though. Not identical.

Meanwhile, Zane examines the dead "painted men". He can find no clue as to their identity as individuals, but notes that the war-paint is indeed blood (very fresh blood) that has been painted atop a pattern of swirls and jagged lines carved into their flesh and long since scarred over. He also gets a closer look at each of the three thigh-bone clubs and confirms that they did indeed once come from a human being. He can make out a number of runes carved into each, but they mean nothing to him personally (or, indeed, to any of the Acolytes). Each painted man wears an identical white mask, seemingly carved from a large piece of ivory (a shoulder bone perhaps?). The masks are worked into a rough oval, featureless except for two triangular vision holes and a long "mouth" from which protrudes a long, bloody (and somewhat rotten) animal tongue of some kind. Similar to that of a grox.

Gunner looks around the rest of the room, carefully checking for anything the painted men might have dropped or missed in their search. He finds a hand-written letter on the carpet beneath a dresser [Handout 6] and a small hard-bound book beneath the bed [Handout 7]

Meanwhile, Lementz, the most forensically-aware member of the group, examines the corpse on the bed. It's a man, with an appearance anywhere between mid-to-late thirties, although it's hard to be sure for two reasons: the relative availability of rejuv treatments in the Crone Sector and, most significantly, the fact that the body has been horribly mutilated. Lementz can tell that the marks carved into the body were made while the victim was still alive, all the more horrible given the extremity of the mutilation. The head has been severed from the body by a number of down-word strokes from a crude, sharp object, leaving a ragged wounded and a series of puncture wounds to either side of the point of separation. An especially large rune [Hand-Out 8] stands out among the smaller wounds on the body.

The group briefly confers after their sweep. They briefly discuss the various clues they have found. The central issue for the group seems to be whether or not the corpse on the bed is Jeremiah Elias. After all, they have no-way of identifying the body as yet. After a brief discussion, they step out of room 401 and close it behind them. They they summon the captain.

Prudently, the captain returns with a fair-sized Securitor team at his back. The ship-board guards are wearing full flak armour and carrying boarding shotguns. The captain, looking relieved, leaves his escort at the bulkhead and approaches the party alone. The relieved look soon vanishes from his face (replaced with near-panic) when Cadence, who's understanding of Geller fields is somewhat sketchy, instructs the Captain that he will need to have the ones onboard ship checked immediately. The Captain (assuming that the occupant of room 401 was killed by Daemons who boarded the ship while it was at warp) immediately orders a full sanitation sweep of the ship and an inspection of it's Geller Fields.

Although the Captain clearly wishes to return to the bridge to coordinate these efforts, the acolytes use their authority as Throne Agents to keep him where he is. They escort him into the room and ask him to confirm if he recognises any of the corpses. As it transpires, he claims he can't. He never met Jeremiah Elias in person and does not recognise the three painted men as being among his crew. But then, given that there are around 1400 crew onboard, that's not surprising. 

"It's difficult to give an exact figure," the Captain admits, "We regularly conscript fresh bilge-scum from the prisons at every stop we make. In-fighting and disease amidst the lower deck crew insures a high-turnaround. We don't even bother to keep track of who lives and who dies anymore. Haven't for centuries, in fact."

The other acolytes are not pleased (nor especially convinced) by this, but settle down a bit once the void-born acolytes, Grimoire and Zane, confirm that this is fairly common practice among warp-capable vessels of all kinds. Even a luxury transport such as this.

The Captain is them grilled about possible ways for an outsider to come onboard. Grimoire in particular is convinced that warp-craft or teleportation was used but Cadence argues that without the protections of the Blessed Omnisiah and possession of certain powerful machine spirits, the painted men would have been destroyed by the denizens of the warp mid-transport.

At this point the captain is dismissed with instructions not to leave Penumbrae Space Dock until released by Inquisitorial Authority and with even stricter orders to permit no-one save the Inquisitional Forensor teams the Acolytes will be summoning to access this chamber.

Meanwhile, the Acolytes wait for a number of the "Zorias'" to arrive to retrieve the bodies and begin a more in-depth investigation of the scene. In the meantime, they again discuss whether or not the corpse on the bed could be Jeremiah Elias or just some dupe. After a time, they realise that speculation is pointless and instead decide to attend the planned rendezvous at the Irridium Guesthouse. Partly in the hope that they will find Jeremiah there alive and well. Partly to see who else might turn up to the planned meeting.

They thereafter turn back to the other clues and identify some leads that they can pursue without having to leave Penumbrae:
  • The Trading House
  • The Hand-Bill for the Lecture
  • The Librarian
  • Lady Eika Coriolanus herself.
They are still debating long after troupe of  stitched-face Zarius serfs arrive to take custody of the bodies and chamber 401.

[In fact, they won't decide which lead to follow up after the Iridium Guest-House until well towards the end of he next session.]


thekelvingreen said...

Oh that's a shame about Stuart. I hope you find some way to continue the campaign.

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