The Prince took us to the formation grounds to review the First Karlack Regiment on their way to ship out, and filled us in on their previous history. The original founding had been lost 20 years ago (along with General Achillus) when their ship vanished with all hands. The second muster had been annihilated by Tyranids, and the third had been all but wiped out on a deathworld of some description. I’m not sure whether the new recruits are fully educated on the First’s brief but glorious history; possibly better to skim over some of these episodes.
We’d only just stepped out into the muster square when things got interesting. A shuttle landed nearby, and three hooded men leapt out yelling “Death to the turncoat Prince!” and “Taeg is the true ruler of Karlack and his sons will avenge him!” or some such, running towards the aforementioned. I attempted to grab his Royal Highness and evacuate him via jet-pack, but he resisted (possibly for the best, he was rather elderly and I’m not sure his body would have survived the acceleration) so we interposed our body to shield him as best we could. They were firing guns, nothing powerful enough to breach our armour, but when Hrolfgar shot one he exploded and we realised they were wearing explosive vests that presented a greater threat.
I charged the second and connected with the augur, which made for an impressively gruesome mess. He’d been holding a deadman switch but his fingers spasmed in death and he didn’t trigger it (yet…)
Several more attackers emerged from among the Guard. Lamentably the loyalist Guardsmen were doing nothing to stop them (we learned afterwards that their weapons were only for display – possibly just as well, considering the mess that would’ve ensued with several hundred panicked Guardsmen shooting at one another) so we had to accept a certain degree of collateral damage among the bystanders. To be fair, if the First Karlack (v. 4) is as successful as the previous three foundings, the casualties didn’t lose much by it all. I threw a cryo grenade at one, hoping the cold might disable his detonators, but apparently not; the others engaged nearby, with similar results.
Since the headless one near me was still clutching his detonator, I thought it might be wise to disarm him (literally) but he exploded, driving shrapnel into my hand (nothing serious) and knocking me over. As I rolled over I saw their shuttle coming towards us, flying on three out of four engines after several well-aimed bursts of fire from my comrades. I was glad of the shotgun I’d requisitioned; I thumbed the selector to solid and put five slugs into a second engine, disabling it and bringing it to the ground without further incident.
The most competent Guardsman present appeared to be one Minka Thrace, a small and ferocious-looking woman who was in charge of their combat drills, and she took charge of the mop-up and filled us in. When the Imperium came to Karlack, the Prince was ruler of the northern continent but Taeg commanded Karthia in the south. The Imperium selected the Prince and appointed him “ruler” of the entire planet, and Taeg was executed. His supporters took this badly and have been resisting the Emperor’s will.
She also told us that the presumed Black Templars had arrived a week ago, poked around a bit, and then commandeered a shuttle to Karthia. Not clear why they didn’t use the Thunderhawk that brought them to the planet, but perhaps it had returned to the parent ship (of which, no sign, but it’s hardly surprising that they didn’t bother announcing themselves).
I applied my omophagea towards interrogating our dead attackers. This was a little difficult because they’d all exploded, but I managed to lick enough grey matter off my augur to get some information. Nothing too exciting; the lad had been brought up in a rural environment, trained in a cell and indoctrinated with loyalty to Taeg. Apparently the attack was one of opportunity; they’d been aiming to infiltrate the Prince’s tower later on, but when he unexpectedly came to review the troops they saw an opportunity and took it. No sign of xenos or Chaos influence, but we should keep the possibility in mind; there could have been somebody further back pulling the strings.
Hrolfgar checked in with Nihl’zie and confirmed that things were all right at his end (well, other than the Inquisitor being in a coma, but what can you do?)
Since all the evidence was pointing to Karthia we likewise commandeered a shuttle. Thrace volunteered to command the shuttle herself, which was a bit of a relief; while the servitor on Aurum was quite good as servitors go, I’d prefer a pilot with a little more mind. En route she mentioned that cult activity in Karthia was on the rise, led by a tech-cult calling themselves “The Reborn”.
Hrolfgar led us in a prayer to the Emperor and we vowed to ferret out the despicable secrets of the xenos and shine the light of the Emperor’s truth on them. Or something. Gather information as well as kill was the gist of it.
Hrolfgar seems to have appointed himself as leader, and nobody objected. After our previous mission I’m beginning to think it would be unduly harsh to require anybody but a Space Wolf to lead a team comprising Space Wolves – might as well attempt to herd cats.
…I am reminded of a conversation with the Techmarine who issued me with this armour prior to my posting to the Deathwatch. It seems the machine-spirits that power its auto-senses have a penchant for cutting off the audio when somebody attempts to issue orders of which they disapprove. I wouldn’t be surprised; it’s certainly temperamental enough.
We reached Karthia without incident. It is much less developed than the northern continent, and early attempts to establish an Imperial settlement seem to have petered out; the Administratum building is unfinished, and all in all it seems a dispirited sort of place. By far the most impressive structure is a huge obsidian monument to Lord-Militant Achillus. Perhaps a little too impressive for my liking. While elected by Imperial hands, both the style and the materials remind me unpleasantly of some old picts of xenos architecture. We were informed that the obsidian had been scavenged from an earlier Imperial cathedral – but might it have come from some other source before that?
Nearby was a large feudal manor, apparently the Taeg’s ancestral home.
We made enquiries at the market, gathering information through a mix of threats and money. Many of the merchants were selling “eternity charms”, black rocks patterned with gold.
Some of these were crude fakes made with gold paint, but others were beyond the skill of the locals to make: something that only superficially resembled obsidian, laced with gold circuitry laid out in regular patterns. Undoubtedly xenos work.
One fellow who may have had too much alcohol – or perhaps not – was ranting about the manor, telling us that Baron Taeg’s spirit still wandered it seeking vengeance. We made a note to investigate it later, but our first priority was the cenotaph, where the Templars had gone.
The doors had been broken open by something like a krak grenade (Templars are rarely subtle) and we made our way inside. It was very dark; the stone appeared to absorb the light very effectively. The main decoration in the cenotaph was a large statue that I assume to be of Lord-General Achillus; nearby was a hole blasted through the floor.
Looking down, we could see the remains of the Imperial cathedral over which the memorial had been built. We dropped down to find typical old Imperial construction, made of more of the same black ‘rock’. It held statues that looked to be Marines in Heresy-era armour, with Ultramarines chapter markings (or perhaps Legion markings?)
Besides our entrance there were three exits: small niches on either side of the pews, and a large hole blasted in the back wall. We chose to investigate the small ones first.
One side led to a small chapel. In the middle of the floor was a circular panel ringed with what looked like Necrontyr glyphs – we avoided standing on it. Around the sides, sarcophagi, weird geometric structures, and skeletal figures.
The other side led to a much larger space, with a big dark chamber dropping away below – although as we got closer, a faint light became visible and we heard voices. Down below we saw a group of humans gathered around a large metal statue, human in appearance, with a stark white human skull. Their leader was talking about something called “The Undying”, and rather than allow their heresies to continue we attacked with bolts, shot, and flame.
Most of them broke almost instantly, with a few managing to flee through exits below. Bolts of something like lightning arced at us from two alcoves to the side; I avoided it but Ogur took a painful hit. I rocketed up to the nearer of the alcoves, spotting a metallic sphere that appeared to be the source of the lightning. I demolished it with the augur, then flew over to take care of the other in a harmless burst of energy.
By that stage Hrolfgar and Guayuta were closing on the last remaining cultist, hiding behind the statue and apparently controlling the lightning-spheres. Hrolfgar called to take him alive, and Guayuta tried to render him harmless by slicing off his arm with a large set of bulkhead shears, but our tame scion of Mars had apparently forgotten the limitations of human flesh, and the cultist bled out in short order.