Rogue Trader S2: Ep 35: Where Dynasties Go To Die.
There it is. The dread pearl. Warp storm lash around its edges, half formed images that hunger for souls, but still at the centre it is unmistakable. Compared to the perfect sapphire gem of a planet the” Vengeance Of Saint Drusus” has seen better days. Power sluggish, superstructure damaged. It limps through real space.
There are more Rogue Traders here, a multitude, and one who is not a Rogue Trader. The Bishop Of Xothos has arrived, and with it comes psychic shockwave through the mind of all who have the third eye of navigation. Whilst the bishop can claim his purity all he wants, there will be none here fooled by such bluster after the visions and nightmares they have just seen. The Bishop puts out an invite, all should come to his vessel so he can bless them in the name of the “True God” notably, the emperors name is absent in the statement.
The rogue trader’s crafts are in initial manoeuvres. Krawkin moves on an elliptic manoeuvre away from the system. It seems he is taking the long game. On The Drusus Lucius sees the warp storm , visualizing it as a livid purple bruise on reality. The warp storm will weaken in a week, but for now it is fury. Running the Drusus from his hospital bed Xanatov consults with Victrix on the coming tidings. Knowing it is time, he drags his weary form up for one last run.
No one yet wishes to risk the warp storm to head for the dread pearl, it would be the desperate move of a madman. Therefore on the Sword of Scintilla it is the first thing that Pandareos suggest, requesting the “Three eyes” is sent over from the Drusus to help him make the run.
In the depths of the Drusus Aviner looks up from working on reclaiming the fallen crew members as glorious servitors. A burst vox suggest to Lord Captain Xanatov that he could engineer dissent between scourge and Basteel by forging false messages with his ability to mimic voices.
Xanatov breaks off from his communiqués with Able and Chrabelle to consider the idea. Basteels forces are vast. A Firestorm frigates, three wolfpack raiders and his main ship, the “Colossus”. Within moments Xanatov has the plan for the message to be sent, a seeming message between Scourge and the Bishop of Xothos asking for assistance against Basteel for leaving him out to dry back at Footfall.
Scourge blusters his innocence, but his reliance on threats does little but make him seem more suspicious. Within moments Basteel and Scourges craft are readying for war. A vox message croons on the Drusus private channels, it seems the Bishop is pleased “Oh well played Lord Captain, how very well played. Setting the crude beasts at the others throats. Oh my darling boy I’ve trained you well” Xanatov stays quiet, he shall not play his hand against the bishop too soon.
Basteel screams “I will crush you Scourge. I will show you the true might of the emperor’s hammer” as his fleets moves around for the kill. Tirades of abuse come in return. Meanwhile Pandareos keeps the Sword Of Scintilla’s sensors on Krawkin, sure that he is up to something. On the outskirts “The Vengeance of Saint Drusus” and “Penance Of Iocansus” move in long elliptic arcs, avoiding getting caught in the fray. Charabelle and Able follow Xanatov’s example, avoiding conflict where possible.
On the Sword Of Scintilla a flare of teleportarium light marks the arrival of Xanatov and Victrix. Lucius has already moved over, and the craft is ready to make a run for the warp storm if need be. To land first on the Dread Pearl and lay claim.
Xantov’s disapproval at the crafts condition is immediately visible. The sword of scintilla is filled with ruffians of ill matched uniform and drug addled eyes. One crew member flicks dirt from beneath his fingernails with a knife, sitting on an openly visible cache of alcohol. Another injects stims and combat drugs into his neck.
Ignoring this, Xanatov walks towards the bridge, hands clasped behind his back. A wad of spittle and tobacco splat on the ground, splattering over the Lord Captains boots. Xanatov stares from mechanical eyes at the spitter who says “Yeah, what ya gunna do about it bruv”. Thirteen inches of steel, the lord captains baton is the immediate answer as Xanatov pummels the wretch to the ground. Immediately Xanatov’s guard set up perimeter around him. The gangers around draw blades and shock batons, circling the perimeter hoping to get a strike in. The tension is broken by a light strumming upon a guitar. The Player sits and whistles for everyone’s attention “Eh vatos, this is the boss man. Leave him be, or you answer to me” As the suddenly pale crowd shift back into the darkness the man known as “The Player” bows. “Ah Lord Captain, ese, its been so long. How are you doing my friend?”. Xanatov looks then answers ”I don’t know, a few more scars”. “Ah Lord Captain, what is life without wounds”
The Player leads Xanatov to a cramped bridge that can barely accommodate the garish command throne within in. Lucius is already present, working hard to find a safe route through the warp storm, unlike the lord Captain Lucius is known here now. A mutant, but their mutant, one who has saved their lives many times over. Onna sits beside him, the thin woman an unlikely bodyguard. She twists a human finger bone through her hair. “Hello. I’m braiding my hair. Don’t you think it makes me look pretty” Xanatov tilts his head “I have no doubt it does”. Onna frowns “You think it’s pretty for someone to braid a finger bone into their hair? Are you a bit strange?”. “There are stranger things “Xanatov says. Onna straightens suddenly, her voice clear “Yes there are stranger out there Xanatov. You have to beware and be careful” With no explanation she shuffles to the corner where she huddles. The crew move with frantic haste out of her way as she does so.
Pandareos shouts over “Will you stop bothering the Lord Captain., Bloody hell Xanatov, ya would think ya don’t trust me or summat”. Xanatov answers “I need to be on this ship. The Rogue Trader needs to land on this captain, and unless you want a writ of trade?” Pandareos laughs “Ya want to give me one?” “NO” comes the emphatic reply. “Drat” Pandareos says with a theatrical click of his fingers. Xanato returns to looking around the ragged ship, wondering what the hell ahs happened to it under Pandareos’ command.
Lucius confirms, any run of the warp storm will need the geller field up to stand a chance, and he has plotted a route of maximum likelihood. The auspex scanner chirps, Krawkin‘s craft seems to moving in a maneuver around a nearby asteroid. “What the hells he doing” Pandareos mutters “He’s going to slingshot into the warp storm” Lucius replies. “Throne”. Outside, Able Garret and Madam Charabelle’s ships are moving to try the warp run as well. “Well lets go then” Xanatov commands. Pandareos wraps a speedball of drugs and shoves it into the neck of his amsec bottle before taking a neck full of the lot. After a moment of copious vomit later the Void Master stands once more “Ok, I’m ready to go”
The Sword of Scintilla descends into the screaming fury of the warp storm. Screaming horrors batter themselves against the geller field and inside the ship the crew shiver with terror. On the bridge three officers pull weapons and turn them on the rogue traders retinue “We’re not going in there. Take us out”. A moment later the three officers are staggering blind. Victrix has stolen their vision with her warp ways. Lucius considers drawing his pistol to help but as Victrix stands he decides “nah, not needed” and returns to his work. Xanatov lights a single lohstick and prepares to watch the show. Victrix stands amongst the mutineers as they flail wildly, her force weapon burning with her psychic power. With a single thrust she plunges the weapon into the nearest target. The poor officers body runs with electricity, burns with psychic power. Desiccates as his life leeches, and finally explodes in a shower of gore. Their sight restored the remaining mutineers collapse back in terror “Does anyone else have problem with their orders?” Victrix demands. Despite not being the one addresses a shocked Pandareos still mutters ”Throne no”.
Recovering slightly Pandareos says “Aight, I’m trying to drive through a warp storm, anyone else want to distract me?”. The crew has a renewed sense of purpose, the ship burns with pink flame as its buffeted by the storm. Servitors explode, suicides rise. The ship continues on, the pearl growing larger and larger in front of it. Just as thing seem to ease the warp storm shifts once more, forming a whip tendril of screaming faces and obscene copulation. Desperately reprogramming the response mechanisms Pandareos manages to shift the craft out of the way of its lashes. Then the alerts hit. Thousands of proximity alerts as one. There are vessels here, Ships lost to the warp, thousands of them, all coming straight for the Sword of Scintilla.
Lucius knows that they cannot all be real. There are vessels of designations never made. Pyramid vessels and tentacle ridden monstrosities. All still diving. In their midst a single craft. The Vengeance Of Saint Druses, no, it’s the vessel before it went by that name, when it was still known as “The Bismarck”. Corroded and broken, its crew screaming in damnation. It is the craft that fell and rose once more as the Saint Drusus. Maniacal laughter fills the vox, the original Lord Captain Sigmund “I’ve come for you Xanatov. You thought you could deny me, but they are here. All those crew you failed to save. I took them to hell and now they are back for you.”. Taking the vox Pandareos answers” You’ll have to catch me first, and no-ones that good”
As the Sword of Scintilla swing through evasions Lucius shouts out which crews are real and which he has identified as illusions. Gravity pulls hard at the Sword of Scintilla it passes under the Bismarck. The psychic death pains of the crew evident to any psychic sensitive present. “You will not escape me Xanatov” Sigmund screams “You will not escape meeeeeeeeee”. I flushed you out into space one time and I will do it again” Xanatov says as they ride to freedom. Then it is over. Sigmund still suffers never ending in the vortex ravaged planet. He was never here. The warp nightmare that bore his hatred screams now powerless in eternity as well.
The dread pearl is before them, a fade and sapphire world of immeasurable beauty, vibrant beyond measure. Islands pock it’s seas, artificial lands that’s shape correspond to Eldar runic symbols. The entire land created molecule by molecule, designed as a maiden world to be the jewel in the Eldar’s crown. Victrix can feel something watching, a force protects this planet. Feelings of anguish and betray, more complex than any emotion mankind can express, float across her senses. Contempt and sorry beyond description. Vengeance will come soon.
An aquilla lander, Victrix and Xanatov inside travels down to the planet surface, soaring over delicate structures and vibrant jungles. The planet is designed to extend and heal all life within it. Below them what look like people travel in canoes. Crude huts dot the island, and people shield their eyes as they look up at the craft above. Finally to land on the planet, Lord Captain steps forth and plunges a skull flag into the ground “In the name of my dynasty I claim this planet”. The message is broadcast by Victix powerful abilities, alerting all this land has been claimed. Reported back is the situation as it stands in the heavens above. Scourge has fled for the warp storm, Basteel hot on his heels. The claim done Xanatov steps back into the lander, to leave the planet and its too perfect, almost elfine humans within.
There is not long before the others arrive and war will commence for the claimed planet. Rapid negotiation between Xanatov Able and Charabelle results in the promise of aid in the coming battle. The two rival rogue traders feel they have done well, demanding a 60/40 split. They little know that once all the set clauses have gone into play they will have a bare 10% each.
A hulked craft breaks from the warp as negotiations cease. Scourge will not be joining this battle it seems. The rest are luckier and soon the void brims with starships and battleships. Finally the barely space worthy “Vengeance Of Saint Drusus” joins them. Confident with his small armada of craft, Basteel sets into position around the planet. Identifying population masses and commencing bombardment upon the. “Stand down” Xanatov warns “Stand down or face the consequences, the world is claimed”. Hearing this Basteel answers “What do you mean man. This is standard Imperial protocol. You find a new cult, then you bombard them. I don’t recognize your claim to this planet”. “Very well” says Xanatov “You were warned”. “So were you” Basteel answers “and by my accounts we have more guns than you” resting upon his throne pulpit, one hand on his chin Basteel declares “Cry Havoc and let loose the dogs of war”
The teleportarium flares upon the Saint Drusus, welcoming Pandareos back to its holds. Beside him sits a looted device. A readied Atomic. All they need is to drop Basteels shields and the teleportarium will carry them deep into the heart of his ship to loose its atomic wrath.
Woken Wartsnagger shambles to the gunnery turrets of the drusus ready to fire. Meanwhile the Sword of Scintilla engages with one of basteels wolf pack raiders, cutting a swath across it with macro battery and lance cannon. The wolfpack raiders cannon touch the speedy vessel in return.. Charabelle’s craft does less well as the firestorm frigate pocks the vessel and tears a shot through her crew quarters, loosing an inferno across the craft. Able attempts to strike down the frigate for its insult but cannot lock upon its bows. Finally ready on the Saint Drusus the ork lets loose with the ships weapons. All hold their breath as the armament flies through the void. The specks of explosion across the empty void tell the terrible news. The shots have missed
The colossus, Basteel’s flagship intends no such failure. First the void shields of the Drusus drop, the vessel shaking from the force of impact. Then the follow up strike detonates the craft from stem to stem. Inside the ruined ship the few survivors run wild, mutiny has taken the cursed vessel once more, and it falls towards the planets surface.
The battle does not last much longer. Under the fire of wolfpack, frigate and flagship Able and Charabelle can barely stand. Engine detonate, ships rupture and craft cleved in twain. Soon both ships are ruined and gone. Their crew dead.
Alone Xanatov tries to run the Sword of Scintilla towards the ruined Saint Drusus, to recover any loyal who may still live, and Basteel is gleeful to see him flee. “This world is mine” Basteel says, a glass of brandy raised above his head “To Charabelle, Gerret and Xanatov, may they find rest, for they had none in life” the cup turns and the brandy contents fall to the floor.
Fleeing for the planet, Xanatov, still alive upon the Sword of Scintilla seeks to find some way to turn the situation to his advantage, for it seems none is found here.