We found one of the cultists who wasn’t quite dead and interrogated him. He told us his name was Barsum. Above him was “Uldreg” (apparently not among the dead and dying), and above Uldreg someone whose name he didn’t know.
At that point Barsum died of his wounds, and I continued the interrogation via omophagea. We confirmed that the cult was named “The Reborn”, worshipping one called the Undying. I saw a vision of Uldreg talking to a cloaked figure – tall, and by the look of him not a local – and that was about as much as I got.
We searched the dead and found obsidian trinkets and feeble local weapons. The lightning orbs were of more interest; according to those who know such things, they were somewhere over two thousand years old, although we couldn’t tell how much older.
We took the cultists’ exit route, hoping to catch up with some of the escapees, but they’d had enough time to scatter. We emerged in a tannery. The two boys working there were very cooperative (the sight of five Astartes will do that) and told us that it was owned by Uldreg – apparently an influential figure in the town.
Searching his office, we found some alien-looking items that Guylot diagnosed as some sort of power conduits, and a bookcase. It contained a range of pulp horror fiction (including “Stalked By Tyranids”, “Holiday in Cadia”, “Carry On Up The Catachan”, and a rare pop-up edition of “Savage Lusts of the Ratlings”) and some hand-bound, handwritten volumes with references to Karthia and the islands. It also had letters relating to the Reborn (nothing too useful) and some from one ‘Alexi Drahj’, who appeared to be supplying Uldreg with xenos artifacts.
The shelves of the bookcase were rather thicker than they needed to be, and we broke them open to find some hidden letters inside. These were from one ‘Feynyr Surbryte’ to Uldreg, thanking him for keeping a watch on Inquisitor V. The last of them indicated that Feynyr was coming, in response to a message that V. had entered the cenotaph.
We returned to our shuttle and talked with Thrace. She told us that Drahj was a Rogue Trader, whose ship the ‘Frozen Tear’ was currently in orbit. We considered paying him a visit, but approaching a hostile Rogue Trader’s ship in a shuttle seemed like a poor choice, so we decided to explore other options first.
Since it was getting dark, we decided to investigate the reported lights in the old Taeg mansion. I left my Battle-Brothers in waiting and infiltrated the building, seeing candlelight on the ground floor. Walking quietly, I found an hooded man hunched over candles and documents, and was able to grab him by the scruff of the neck before he noticed my presence. My old Scout trainer would have approved.
As I grabbed him I felt metallic parts, and looking at his face, I realised we’d found Dyne, Vincent’s cogboy. I let him go and called the others in, and we compared notes.
He told us that Vincent took the rest of the cadre to investigate ruins under the sea near the island chain, leaving Dyne to look for the source of the xenos artifacts going offworld. He’d found out that Drahj was coming to Karthia to meet Uldreg at the incomplete Basilicum in two days. He’d also met the “Templars”, who were brusque and ignored him, heading straight from the cenotaph.
He told us some of the artifacts were found locally, some washed up from the sea, and some came from another source. We asked him what had been in the puzzle box, and he told us it was a three-dimensional glyph. (Since removed and replaced with a booby trap, apparently – by whom?)
He was unaware that Vincent had gone into the Cenotaph; if Feynyr did show up, it doesn’t seem to have been noted.
We agreed to ambush Drahj, but since we had two days to kill, we headed back to the cenotaph and investigated the last passageway. It was quite damaged, apparently by the effects of construction above, and half-blocked with debris.
Although there were footprints consistent with Astartes power armour, we found only three locals digging for scraps and filling a wheelbarrow with xenos salvage. We interrogated them (after using a nova grenade to discourage one from fleeing) and they told us Uldreg had sent them to look for xenos tech.
We relieved them of a green orb and some sort of bladed staff, and suggested that they should stay there for a while.
Having completed that business, we set up an ambush at the Basilicum. Although my Battle-Brothers have all the stealth of an Orkish concert troupe, we arrived early enough to take positions without being noticed in the tangle of structural girders.
After nightfall we spotted a small shuttle coming down, around the same time that Uldreg walked in at ground level. The shuttle landed on the top-floor girders (near where I lay in wait) and six men rappelled down to take positions on the mid-floors. They weren’t heavily armed – just lasrifles and monoblades – and apparently not perceptive either, for Drahj soon followed them down. Although we hadn’t seen him, his power armour made it clear who was the leader
As he came down the rope, a firefight broke out. I dropped a nova grenade near Uldreg so we could take him alive, and jumped up into the shuttle to knock out their pilot and so cut off their escape before rejoining the fight.
The guards proved to be little threat; while their shooting and their blades were accurate enough, they weren’t powerful enough to deliver more than pinpricks to an armoured Astarte, and my brothers wiped them out quickly, Guylot incinerating them one by one with his flamer while Ogur took them on hand-to-hand. At some point a mob of the local cultists showed up, but Guylot gestured with his flamer and they thought better of it.
Drahj was another matter. He shot at one of my brothers (Hrolfgar?) with an excessively powerful plasma pistol (determined afterwards to be of Tau manufacture) and it’s a good thing he missed, because it was enough to destroy most of a steel girder. As we closed he followed up with a grenade, probably of Eldar make, which released a cloud of viciously sharp monowire. My brothers dodged that and we came to close quarters. Initially we sought to disarm him, hoping to capture him alive, but it soon became clear that wasn’t an option. He was moving inhumanly fast, difficult to hit or to parry, and in addition to the plasma pistol he had a formidable power sword (Eldar make again?) Realising he wasn’t getting away in the ship, he triggered a remote that detonated it, raining down chunks of metal around us, although nobody was hit (except the pilot, I presume).
Although he wounded me badly with the sword, Hrolfgar and I eventually managed to hit him in both arms, knocking the pistol and sword from his grip. At that point he leapt up and dropped another monowire grenade that cut me up pretty badly, but his move gave Thorhammer a clear shot, and before I’d wiped the blood from my eyes Drahj disintegrated in a burst of bolter fire.
Examining what was left of the body, Ogur found evidence of xenos and chaos taint – at least that explains why he was able to put up so much of a fight. Hrolfgar impounded the sword, pistol, and a third monofilament grenade from his body. In his sack we found more: some sort of staff, a field projector, the broken stock of a xenos rifle, and a Tau pulse rifle, also impounded by Hrolfgar.
We interrogated Uldreg (I didn’t fancy eating Drahj, even if we’d been able to scrape up enough of his remains) and he told us Vincent had last been seen going to the island chain. We managed to resolve one point of confusion: his report of the Inquisitor entering the cenotaph had been a mistake, referring instead to the “Templars”.
He told us he was trading with Drahj, but Drahj was “not a believer”. At this stage I’m still unsure whether Drahj had a major role in events here, or was just an opportunist who picked a bad time to get mixed up with the locals.
Having done about all that could be done locally, we sent him back for imprisonment in the capital, and headed for the Kardane Archipelago. According to our briefing there were four islands of note:
[name?] – a small Imperial bulwark with fancy augur arrays (maybe useful for picking up xenos power sources?)
Kaldir – another bulwark, currently under assault by rebels (suspected xenos cultists?)
Kalvex – a larger bulwark
Kaltran – watercraft docks, including submersibles.
We agreed to go to Kaldir first and deal with the insurrection, in the hopes of getting on with our investigation without leaving a threat at our backs.