Rogue Trader S2 Ep 27: Drusus Ascendant!
The dark times of the Vengeance Of Saint Drusus, the time Lord Captain Xanatov stalked the decks, alone, a broken man. The only man to share his burden is Stern, the man who brought him bottles to drown his sorrows. Stern, the survivor of that ruinous battle, Scourges men paid with every step they took, with deadfall and gunshot ending their lives. There were few enough survivors of that day, The Xathians, proud warriors used to endless skirmishes in claustrophobic corridors managed better than most.
More men had been needed though, and incognito the captain walked amongst them, training with them and training them, walking the footsteps of Footfall and seeking lost truths. Some have even been found, the Xenos of the decks, the Orks that joined in that conflict is a Sanction Xenos as suspected – dispensation for its presence granted by the inquisition itself. It seems the original owner of this craft had quite the menagerie of oddities in its golden days. The original ork vanished one day whilst creating some strange artefact, if this be the same one, none can tell.
That was the broken days, the days of dark glooms that unsettle the spirit. Today Xanatov stands before his crew once more. The captainless Sword Of Scintilla, previously known as the Measured Response flies by the Vengeances’ side, The Penance Of Ionasus covers its other flank. The dynasty flies through the void resplendent. Knowing the Sword Of Scintilla to be a craft rigged for stealth and subtlety he orders it to lead their advance, to set off any trap that may await.
The talk is where to hunt next, for more clues to the Dread Pearl. Able and Charabelle are hunting for the lethal gas giant known as Dross, the location auctioned to them. Remaining options for the dynasty are Vaporeos, a planet that has not heard of the name of the God Emperor and for that reason is the choice of Pandareos and Lucius who views it as the shortest journey. Aviner and Xanatov wish for a unknown star in an unexplored sector, the wish for lost technology and the wish to explore merging as one. The Lord Captain decides, the unknown sector it is.
Pandareos kicks back on the table and speaks up “Ey, if your sending Sword Of Scintilla out first, requesting permission to take my crew over. If things go wrong I can drag it out of trouble”. “You wish to Captain a ship?” Xanatov asks in surprise “Not Captain, but they need someone who knows what the heck they are doin’”. Xanatov looks over at Stern, who shrugs and swigs amsec “Who knows, could do the lad some good” Xanatov nods “Ok Pandareos, it’s yours temporarily, don’t make me change my mind” Stern says “If he does anything wrong, he will be dead anyway” Xanatov grins wryly “Yes but I don’t want to lose a valuable ship. Ok everyone, get ready for some more fighting”. Kaustic stands suddenly and says “The emperors gaze ends, where the light of terra stops” he stares at Xanatov then storms from the room with righteousness in his eyes.
As the ship prepares to jump to the warp Xanatov arranges for Kaustic to hold a ceremony in memory of the fallen, Aviner toils to ensure the unreliable Geller field will hold fast. Victrix stalks the ship, Provost Achillus by her side, the corridors around her stink of madness and hunger. Somewhere in its dark cavernous wakes the deamonic book that has cursed the ship lies in wait. From behind approaches a nervous Pandareos. Without looking around the sightless Astropath greets him “Hello Pandareos”. Throanin’ hell!” Pandareos jumps” Listen, I heard you saved my pair of boys back when Saynay was looking to use em for the choppin’ board. Now I figure you won’t accept a favour from them, which mean on their behalf, I owe ya. Ok, Thanks, now don’t make me say it again”. Victrix smiles, taking obvious pleasure in Pandareos’ discomfort in being in her proximity “I could make you say it again” She says. “Aye, you could, then you would have used up your favour on me not drawing on ya the instant ya do it”. Victrix laughs lightly as Pandareos exits as quickly as he can, then returns to her hunt.
Lucius meets with Estiban, changing the charts to meet the new plan. Very little information is available on this new system. With such unsure void waters, they even consult with the Penance of Iocansus’ reviled Void Abacus to confirm their findings. The caution pays off, as they enter the sea of souls, the astranomicon blazes like a supernova in the distance, guiding them on the flames of hundreds of thousands dead. In ten days they make what should be a seventy day journey and the crew is jubilant.
Out into real space one more Xanatov brings the fleet up to battle stations and scans the system for any hint of danger. The scans show but one planet, a huge ringed gas giant, an asteroid belt around it’s one star. Around the planet the Eldar structure floats, a tiny item compared to the vastness of space around it. Lucius shivers, the strands of fate and fortune tightening once more around them.
Pandareos scouts off ahead, swooping out on the gravity well around the planet. Suddenly the augers go wild, something massive is out there. Pulling the ship away from a collision the view panel looms full with a Mars class derelict Imperial Battle Cruiser. A massive sight that could carry an armada of war craft. Upon its prow a legend scrawled “The Light Of Terra”. Throwing open the vox he says, “Well Lord Captain, I found where the emperors gaze ends. I’ve found “The Light Of Terra”. Instantly Aviner starts accessing databases for information, “The Light Of Terra” is a legend, a craft despatched to reclaim the west rim, the first great expansion across the stars. The mightiest Battle Cruiser ever seen. Many have heard tales of its captain, Jacob Roth, a master tactician favoured by Drusus himself. It was whispered he could only die with the craft itself. It was lost in a warp storm, in an encounter with the yuvath, a storm that did what no battle could. In awe Aviner requests permission to be on the boarding party for the craft. Colonel Stern drops to his knees as he is ordered to lead the boarding party .”The emperor meant s to find this, it’s a sign – Thy will be done lord captain”. Opening the vox Xanatov orders Pandareos to hold radio silence on his ship and watch in case of an ambush from the yuvath. In the radio silent craft Pandareos mutters to the air “Nah, nah, nah, here’s how to suck eggs Pandareos. I have done this before”
It takes hours to ready the troops, Stern and his men, Aviner, Sente and the Tech Priests. Victrix ready in case of demonic presence. Meanwhile Luicus and Xanatov prepare to enter the Xenos structure with Gabriel. Xanatov smiles, “The light of terra will shine again. Ok, for the Eldar structure we’re going to bring explosive with us. No need to leave clues for others to find” Seeing the vast warheads brought onto the craft Gabriel says “Oh good, the fifth time flying on a giant bomb”. “Xanatov says “Oh come on, it wouldn’t be fun otherwise”. Gabriel frowns “We will have to talk about your definition of fun sometime”
The Penance Of Iocansus is used to board the “The Light Of Terra”. It’s not a manoeuvrable craft and needs to use weapon fire to clear ice chunks that threaten to gouge its hull. The bridge is packed with tithing matrixes, cargo managing tools and has little room for its crew. Nervous, Linara Cobalt orders her Servitor Tristan flushed out of the airlock if it does not get its act together. Humming soothing binary harmonies, Aviner synchronizes the Servitors, easing their passage. In response Linara Cobalt says “I can’t believe it Tristan got it right, did you do that?” Aviner just says “I merely ensure they were harmonized correctly”. While Colonel Stern prepares the men to board Victrix and Cobalt link arms and pass time in the ships extensive wardrobe, relaxing away from the worries of battle and profit.
Back at The Vengeance of Saint Drusus the lander heads out for the Eldar Structure. The structure is completely symmetrical, flat but for curved arches of wraithbone. This close Lucius can feel the clues burning within in, the promises of fate foretold. Crushing his lou stick and donning the power armour helmet Xanatov zip lines in after Lucius. Lucius is already examining the structure, feeling strangely at peace despite its xenos aura “This is good, ill get to work, you set the charges” Lucius says. The image is becoming so clear to him now, the skein of fate is vibrant. It will need but one more of these and he will know the path, the mystery will snap into place. “The way becomes clear, I need the information from Vaporius and the path should be revealed. Lets set the timer and make a move“ he says. As they depart the structure ruptures under the explosion, The Saint Drusus puts in macro cannon fire into the remains. “I think its dead already” Lucius quips. Xanatov frowns “Don’t ever assume anything with the Eldar”
At the few point of the “The Light Of Terra” that boarding is feasible, the crew work with las torches and heavy plasma cutters, slowly making their entrance points. The work is interrupted as the “Light Of Terra” flares to life, a vox coming from within “strangers, fellow void farers, by all the lights of the emperor. I command you to attend me, so many of mine have fallen to the abyss. I would see the stars once more. Attend me, attend me”. Xanatov says ”To whom am I speaking.” Silence answers ”This is Xanatov we are coming” he says. Finished Xanatov orders the Teleportarium to ready, they will enter at the bridge as the two groups breech. “Think it’s a trap?” Lucius says. “I do” Xanatov answers, “But I think we can surprise them by splitting the attack”. Lucius nods “I’ll bring the bolt pistol, you bring something to hide behind”
The bulkheads blow, Sterns men swarming the first, Aviner at the head of his tech priests at the second as they enter the darkened confines. The teleportarium flares, and the Lord Captain is gone, sent through the immaterium.
Deep in the bowels of the Vengeance of Saint Drusus, the ork “Wartsnagger” tinkers with his device, unaware that the grot has been tinkering with it causing it to be caught in the teleportarium’s wake. Looking around it finds itself in an unfamiliar corridor, its beer crate by it. “What appened. Where dis?” it says. The grot, with a guilty look on its face says be “Errr, I dunno boss, maybe it was those umies”. Wartsnagger smashes the device against the wall “Ahh, can’t work right”. In the distance the banging of drums and laughing catcalls rise. Lights slowly come on around the deck ” Boss, I think we just broke into someone’s home, they think we grunts and umies” The grot says. “Lets go ‘ave a look”
Meanwhile Xanatov and his men find themselves standing on the vast bridge of “The Light of Terra” Wondrous lost technology adorn every surface, golden symbols of imperial rule. Thousand of conquest banners hang from above, the personal banners of Saint Drusus amongst them. In awe Gabriel drops to one knee, bowing his head down low and tears fill his eyes at its majesty. By his side, Lucius is on his knees already, but from the pain of the teleporting. Unaware of what is around him he mutters his hatred of teleporting. As he slowly takes in the room around him, his anger turns to wonder.
In a stasis bubble hangs a floating hand, a relic of General Angavin, founder of the crusades. Everything is the room in unspeakably sacred no matter where their eyes turn. At the command pulpit a wizened figure is slumped within, and despite the life support running through him he is unmistakably dead. Approaching with awe, Xanatov placed his armoured fingers upon its shoulders, recognising it as the Lord Comander Roth. At this touch the figure rises ”ah fellow travelers in the void, you came to set me free”. Instantly Xanatov drops to one knee. Roth continues “Arise. You have come to free me. I should bow before you. Free me to go once more into the void. Ah Drusus, young Drusus, how is the boy?” Xanatov pauses then says “A lot has happened since then, I do not know where to begin”. Have the Xenos been eradicated?” Roth asks. ”There is always work to be done” Xanatov says. ”Then set me free to ruin the xenos!” Roth says.
Xanatov thinks then says “I too am empowered to go beyond his gaze, I have a writ of trade.” Lost in memories Roth looks at Xanatov and says ”Ah yes Drusus, I serve you I will crush them. Why do you look at me Drusus, why do you look at me so?” Xanatov mumbled “It seems the emperor and fate has decided what my task will be”.
Back on the lower decks Aviner strides through the bowels of the ship, past crude remnants of civilization. Tribal markings and crude glyphs litter the walls. A cemetery, and bowls filled with strange offerings also are found. None step in his way, the rite of fear he intones keeps all occupants from his journey as he steps through hard radiation and navigates past burning plasma conduits.
Also on the lower decks Stern moves unmolested through the ship. Most survivors step out of him way, some throw down their weapons to worship him as a god. Some resist. They are executed. A few men are dressed as Guardsmen and response with rusty salutes. The vox crackles as Xanatov explains what he has found. On hearing this Stern chokes back tears ”The master of this vessel is one of the greatest heroes the imperium has seen. He still bears that warriors spirit in him, after all that time in the dark. He must be a saint, he is mad, but touched by the emperor. I know not what to do”. Xanatov answers “Nor I. He referred to me as Little Drusus”. Stern drops to his knees “He fought alongside Drusus, for a main like that to proclaim….My arm is yours, I will do as you command. If you call a crusade now they I would fight to my last breath, my lord, I am not worthy”. Xanatov merely answers “Continue securing this ship. We shall return to Footfall with it as my flagship”. Rising Stern bellows “THE LORD CAPTAIN HIS ORDERED WE SECURE THIS VESSEL , IT IS RIGHTFULLY HIS AS THE HEIR OF SAINT DRUSUS”. As he speaks the image of Roth calling Xanatov Drusus is beamed around the ship. Cheers rise for a living saint.
The ork is unaware of this news, caught up in a mess of human bodies that fall upon it howling and screaming, tossing spear after spear into his green form. “Ohhhh, someone wants a fight” Wartsnagger says. Standing bleeding green ooze it looks as the last spear slams into his shoulder “right, MY TURN” it booms charging forwards with a deafening “WAAAAAAAAAUUURGH”, with two swipes of its giant axe it tears apart the front rank. Mowing down nearly half of them. Faced with such viciousness the rest turn and flee “Umies go squish” the ork says, happy with the distraction. It is this carnage that Aviner hears as he approaches the enginarium. Screams, the raucous bellowing of something colossal. Men flee into his fear inducing sonic discordia collapsing in terror as it overwhelms them. The greenskin brute and grot run from prone body to prone body shanking them. Hearing the noise the grot looks around “Eh what’s that horrid noise, why don’t we shoot it in the face”. Seeing Aviner standing on a walkway above the ork says “Ohh, a big un.”. the grot titters ”Ere boss, that funny noise is making easy to kill those stinking umies, maybe he want us to”
Hearing this Aviner floats down before the grot, picking it up and tossing it back to the ork, as his rite ends he says “I request you cease murdering these individuals”. The grot look suspicious “why, you want to murder them yourselves?” “I want them not to die” Aviner says. The ork looks unhappy ”But I was having such a good fight” The grot looks at Aviner like he is insane. ”There are more important things” Aviner says. ”Yeah like where am I and where has my shooter gone” Wartsnagger says. Seeing something odd about the situation Aviner asks ”Are you a native of this craft” after seeing their confused stares he says “Do you live here? This is the Light of Terra, I am Aviner of the Vengeance of Saint Drusus”. The grot says “ere, boss, are we from where he’s from. Were not from ‘ere”. Nodding Aviner says the “Are you the sanctioned xenos of the Vengeance of Saint Drusus? I need you to accompany me”. “Will there be a fight?” the ork asks. Wearily Aviner answers “I find if I travel far enough eventually something tries to kill me”
Reporting into Xanatov Aviner confirms he has found the ork, on hearing this Xanatov demands that it leaves the holy site of the ship. Aviner nods “Xenos, do you have a name?” “Wartsnagger” “Well Mr Wartsnagger, these servitors shall accompany you back to your workbench. If you interfere with them in any way then I shall not inform you when I meet a creature to fight” the grot sniggers as the word interfere.
On the bridge Xanatov removes his helmet, lighting lou stick. Overwhelmed by his newfound position he mutters “It feels like I’m standing In a museum of war and have become its curator”. A heavy burden weighs on him as he wonders at this great fortune, how he shall step forwards in Drusus name?