Thirty-eighth of Bloom
fifth day of the new moon (waxing crescent)
Valon Sarqhardt and Olive Mollin found themselves in what appeared to be the vault of Fairbanks Cathedral, though Thaddeus Korteau and Grhaed Steelfist were both gone, and Valon was able to see normally. The two descended the newly-revealed stairs to the catacombs. At the foot of the stairs they discovered two dead soldiers who had died of wounds from behind, arms outstretched towards the stairs. The catacombs were unusually dry, and the dead men had dessicated flesh (a rarity on Nova, where the dead tend to decompose). Valon and Olive salvaged two barely-functional Lamp Packs from the dead, several packets of foil-wrapped rations, two combat knives, a larger than usual lasgun, and another large weapon spell similar to the one that Valon’s protective spell had warded six days ago.
Valon and Olive managed to coax their lamp packs to life, and by their dim and flickering light continued to explore the catacomb. They passed three shelves that held the honored dead in the Novan style, with Novan style coffins that had tumbled from their crumbled shelves. At the end of the catacomb additional stairs led even further underground – another architectural rarity, given the difficulty of subterranean construction in this part of Nova Primus. The stairs led to a great underground vault whose walls were lined with metal consoles covered in levers, dials, faintly glowing screens, and runes. The far end of the room was sealed by a monumental bronze door, covered in gears, cogs, and tubing. In a niche along one of the walls was a book containing what appeared to be mathematical formulae with the machina opus of the Mechanicus on its cover. Beside the book was a covered in metal spells, like Micah the Breslin witch. The skull bore the same columnar sigil as Korteau’s armor. It played a red light over both Valon and Olive, and then one of its spells appeared to die, and it began mindlessly bumping against the sealed door.
Valon discovered that his sorcery seemed to have granted him the power of true witchcraft, and he attempted to use his newfound power to force the door open, but it was too heavy for him to move. Eventually, Olive threw a variety of levers that seemed to have something to do with power, and Valon depressed a rune covered by a metal cover labeled “open” in High Gothic. The first time they attempted this procedure, spirits in the walls, floor, and ceiling began to chuff and whirr to life, but the gears on the door seemed to seize up and one of the cogs actually fell off the door, scything into one of the consoles. Olive threw her power levers the other way, which seemed to quite the spirits, and she climbed the door to examine the gears. She found them clogged with a faintly sticky dark brown dust, which she cleared out as best she could over the course of several hours with the help of her kirtle’s torn-off sleeve. Though she suspected the doors had been deliberately sealed against whatever lay within the catacombs, she and Valon repeated their earlier procedure. This time one leaf of the massive doors tore itself clear off its hinges, dragging the other open as well. The skull, its path clear, floated down the hallway beyond.
Wary of the traps Korteau and the eldar had warned of, Olive proceeded cautiously. They found the skull just before it was blasted into pieces by a red beam from a small hole in the wall. Several more dead – these decayed into skeletons in fabric so old it had lost all its color – lay about the area, including one whose skull seemed somewhat too long and narrow to be human – possibly a long-dead eldar, judging by the pictures in the Imperial Infantryman’s Uplifting Primer. Olive painstakingly negotiated the passage by scanning for telltale holes in the walls and ceiling, blasting them with her lasgun, and throwing the bones of the dead ahead to make sure the trap holes had in fact been neutralized. She missed one just before the door at the end of the hall, which shot her through the shoulder. After neutralizing that trap, Valon asked if he could use his spells to heal her. Instead, he had a vision of a beaked purple worm emerging from her wound attempting to gouge out his eye. He fended off the apparition with his right hand, and it dissolved in his grip, leaving an angry pink scar like a burn across his palm and fingers. Shaken, both agreed that he should not try again, and Valon used his knife to cut bandages from his vestments.
Olive opened the door and, after cautiously scanning the narrow hallway beyond, stepped through. A voice in the darkness intoned in their minds, “None shall pass.”