Skyfall

Thirty-First Session

Thirty-sixth of Bloom
third day of the new moon (waxing crescent)

Session Notes

Olive Mollin told Valon Sarqhardt what she had overheard at breakfast about Philippa Darry‘s imminent departure. Valon counseled her that Philippa’s departure was to be welcomed, as her lack of faith in him was a divisive influence in the camp.

Vhetin Cooper and Philippa prepared to leave for Green Rivers with Philippa’s immediate followers, leaving Connor Darry, Owen Selerius and the Fairbanks refugees in the care of John Turomot. Philippa informed the justicar of her plans, giving him instructions to stay close and watch for Hubert Darry’s return.

Olive took Falcus Dylan to practice shooting her crossbow. Though Falcus is too small and too young to be able to properly hold and draw the bow, he showed some promise and thoroughly enjoyed the exercise.

Valon continued to study the Sacramentarium of Saint Veronica, and performed the Rite to Know the Truth of the Present. Though disorienting in the extreme, it allowed him to perceive some of what was occurring at Fairbanks, as through a small window. He could see the burned and mutilated bodies on the gibbets that Olive had mentioned (though not seen), buzzing with flies and carrion crows.

At lunch, Justicar Turomot ate with Olive, Cyrian, Falcus, and Valla. He asked Olive if she would help him with his attempts to understand the rites of the spells that they had salvaged from the dead Departmento Munitorum soldiers. Somewhat flummoxed, Olive agreed, and the five passed the remainder of lunch in social awkwardness.

Following lunch, Kate Fraser approached Olive to share the fact that as a younger man, Turomot’s life had been saved in battle by a foot soldier with six fingers on his left hand. Mulling this revelation, Olive visited Reyna Mollin with the wounded. Though still fearful of Valon’s power and demeanor, Reyna admitted that all of the wounded’s fevers had broken. The two had a short, not unfriendly conversation in which Reyna admitted that she was very hungry. Olive left to find her something to eat in the jungle after Reyna made her promise to share some of anything she found with the camp. Olive found a partially eaten banana bunch with sixteen untouched fruits, as well as tracks that matched those found at Jonbri. In the soft jungle floor, however, Olive was able to discern that the cruciform footprints were several days older than the off-world horse tracks. She returned to Jonbri with her prize.

Valon, meanwhile, sought out Vhetin to inform her of his plan: to return to Fairbanks and seek justice from her rapist. He questioned her closely for any details about the man she could recall: he was slightly taller than average, with close-cropped sandy-blond hair, freckles, powerful forearms, and had an R in the nametag on his clothes. Before leaving, Valon attempted to scry the truth of the present at Ashlance, knowing that Philippa would be passing by it, and received a vision of metallic oils, shouting, and rumbling clanking noises similar to those of a Trojan but much deeper. He found Philippa saddling her horse, and warned her not to go to Ashlance as the village was taken. Though he told Philippa that he supported her decision to leave, the two got into another argument over who was acting with the refugees’ best interests at heart, and Valon again stormed off to return to his shrine.

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Thirtieth Session

Thirty-fifth and Thirty-sixth of Bloom
third day of the new moon (waxing crescent)

Session Notes

After an hour’s agonized study in the presence of a corpse and a sobbing Olive Mollin, Valon Sarqhardt performed the Rite to Enliven the Dead on Cyrian Dylan. Cyrian’s ruptured intestines began to writhe, and then the edges of his wounds exuded a sticky black substance that resolved into questing cilia and tentacles. These met each other and drew his wounds closed as the liquid filth in his abdominal cavity flowed out of his body of its own accord. When Cyrian’s wounds had thus been healed, he sat bolt upright with a panicked look in his eye, vomited a gout of black fluid, and met Olive’s eyes. The two barely had time for a relieved embrace before Cyrian announced that he was tired, and fell almost instantly asleep.

Recalling St. Veronica Invicta’s injunction to further his knowledge by reading, Valon spent the remaining hours of daylight immersed in his sacramentarium. He had the novel idea of reading the book from the beginning, and discovered that the first rite he had deciphered was in fact part of a larger chapter of rites, and that the majority of the book was taken up by six other chapters. Though his progress was slow in the fading light, Valon found the tone of the sacramentarium refreshingly hopeful for a religious work, whose tone most often is that circumstances can neither improve nor worsen.

Vhetin Cooper, having acquired a comb from somewhere, was relieved to return to her nightly routine of untangling Philippa Darry‘s hair. The two women conversed as Vhetin worked on her mistress’ hair, as was their habit. Vhetin asked whether Philippa had a plan, and Philippa replied that Connor Darry had recommended that they make for Green Rivers. Her plan, she said, was to take a small party of retainers and make for the castle straight through the jungle, leaving the refugees under the protection of Justicar Turomot. At this, Vhetin became angry and upset, accusing Philippa of abandoning the refugees just as she had abandoned Vhetin after her rape. Vhetin angrily told Philippa that Connor had promised Timeon Cooper vengeance, implying that he was willing to protect his vassal while she was not. Philippa replied that she fully intended to avenge Vhetin, but she could not do so without an army. Vhetin stiffly asked to be excused and left Philippa’s hovel, bursting into tears outside. Philippa asked that Owen Selerius check in on her ladies-in-waiting, and he gratefully accepted the chance to leave the situation.

Olive was startled awake by Cyrian curling up with her in the middle of the night. Deeply disturbed, he haltingly told her that he could feel the resurrection rite as it happened. He related the sensation of excruciating pain, as if he were being turned inside out, and the sense that he had a choice whether to accept what was happening to him or not (a choice he accepted, he said, because he could not bear to leave her). Yet the most disturbing thing, he said, was the contrast between the pain of the rite and the warm familiar feelings of his best religious memories – the first time he understood faith in the Emperor, and winter memories of Sanguinala. Olive related that she had a similar experience earlier that evening, and that Valon’s holy powers did seem very different from what she was used to – but assured Cyrian that he was one of the kindest, best-intentioned men she had ever met, and if they were uncomfortable in his presence, the fault must surely lie with them. A wistful Olive told Cyrian that she was actually nostalgic for the sewer tunnel in Fairbanks, which made him laugh. Regardless of their misgivings, the two were glad to be together again. Olive sternly informed Cyrian that he was not allowed to die anymore, and he told her that things had to change for the better now, as they could hardly get worse.

Jonbri awoke on the morning of the thirty-sixth to a strange and thunderous report, which repeated itself several times as Philippa, Owen Selerius, Kate Fraser, Olive, and Valon cautiously approached the site of the sound on the part of the village bordering the jungle. They found John Turomot on the edge of the treeline, cheerfully engaged in what he called “morning arms practice.” The aged knight was experimenting with the ork spell he had taken from the site of the skirmish between the Departmento Munitorum soldiers and the strangely equipped ork. Under the circumstances, he said, and in the absence of a red priest, it seemed prudent to see what could be divined of the strange magics they had acquired. So far, he had managed to cause the spell to emit a small cloud of gray smoke, make an ear-splitting bang, and project a small piece of metal to the side, but that was it. The rites for hitting his target – the bole of a tree some fifty feet away – still eluded him. Philippa tried once, but had no more success than Turomot.

Having concluded that the village was not under attack, the party left Turomot to his experiments and dragged themselves to breakfast. Olive and Cyrian were joined by his sister Valla and Falcus Dylan, who was excited to learn that Olive knew how to use a crossbow. With Cyrian’s blessing, Olive promised to show Falcus how to shoot. A nervous Owen dragged Kate to Philippa to ask about the plan, and she reiterated what she had told Vhetin last night. A nervous Vhetin came after breakfast and begged Philippa’s pardon for her behavior. The two women tentatively made up, and began planning to announce Philippa’s decision and depart later that day. A sharp-eared Olive overheard their conversation from some distance away.

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Twenty-Ninth Session

Thirty-fifth of Bloom
second day of the new moon (waxing crescent)

Session Notes

Valon Sarqhardt performed the Rite to Restore Bodily Vitality on Olive Mollin, believing that doing so would purge her of the spiritual corruption they both suspected had infected her. The first attempt failed, Valon not yet being fully in control of his mysterious powers. He was visited once again by the apparition of St. Veronica Invicta, who admonished him to increase his knowledge, and above all to read more. During the visitation, he knelt. Olive experienced the visitation in an instant; the world seemed to warp and twist as Valon was standing one moment and kneeling the next. He rose and attempted to perform the rite again.

As he did so, he abjured her accept the light of the Emperor and St. Veronica into her for her own redemption. Olive experienced the rite as a horrific vision of Valon’s shell as a translucent blue membrane, filled with raging pink fire. The rite caused her excruciating pain, and she was conscious of a moment of choice: to accept whatever force was working on her, or to reject it. Reasoning that it was more likely that she was corrupted than that Valon was, Olive accepted.

Philippa Darry summoned Kate Fraser to ask her about Connor Darry‘s comment about her wearing a sword. Kate explained that if Philippa took up her shield again as an axe maiden, she might well be the lord of House Darry in her own right; on the other hand, if she remained a legal female, she would have no authority to bind the House in her own right – meaning that even if she did make it to Orkhold to call a new army, she would not be able to do so. As a legal woman, her authority would necessarily flow from her husband – a dubious claim, given that her husband was unconscious. Philippa ultimately decided to remain Philippa Darry, and instructed Kate to stop holding her out as Lady Darry. The decision to take the House, she decided, must ultimately be Connor’s.

Back at the shrine, Valon attempted to perform the same rite on Cyrian Dylan, still wounded from his fight with the orks. In response, Cyrian’s belly wound split open, spilling blood and liquid feces over the shrine floor. Cyrian collapsed, and a hysterical Olive flung herself over the corpse while Valon frantically attempted to recall the Rite to Enliven the Dead. Unable to recall the precise form of the rite, he had no choice but to painstakingly study his sacramentarium as Olive continued to sob over Cyrian’s dead body.

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Twenty-Eighth Session

Thirty-fifth of Bloom
second day of the new moon (waxing crescent)

Session Notes

Philippa Darry and Olive Mollin returned to where they had last seen Kirin Masters. They found Valon Sarqhardt alone, still scanning the river. Valon related his altercation with Kirin, and stated his conviction that she was still alive somewhere. During the conversation, Valon referred to “healing” Kirin, and when Philippa asked what that meant, he revealed that he had learned and used a healing rite from the Sacramentarium of Saint Veronica. With nothing more to do, the three returned to Jonbri.

At the village, Valon demanded to be taken to the infirmary, where he performed the rite while saying the Prayer for the Wounded. Each of the wounded in the house, including Olive, twitched – Olive felt an instant of searing heat in her burn wound and shoulder scar, followed by the strong sensation of crawling flesh under her scar. Reyna Mollin, attending the wounded, fearfully demanded to know what Valon had done. He responded that he had attempted to heal the wounded – and indeed, when Reyna examined those in the room, their wounds did appear somewhat improved. Olive declined to help Reyna examine the wounded, saying she should not touch anybody at the moment – a response that clearly piqued Reyna’s curiosity for later.

Despite the evidence of the wounded’s improved states, Reyna told Valon to leave the infirmary. He did so, but not before taking the Brass Mortar with him, with Olive’s permission. Philippa then returned with Olive and Reyna to her own hovel, where Connor Darry lay. Owen Selerius was standing guard outside, while Timeon Cooper had an audience of some sort with his overlord. Upon hearing that Connor was awake, Philippa entered the hovel alone, and Timeon quickly excused himself. Olive managed to hear about half of the conversation that followed.

Still very weak, Connor asked where they were and what was happening. Philippa filled him in on the events since he lost consciousness returning from the Darry Army, including the fall of Fairbanks, the arrival of the Imperial Guard and Departmento Munitorum, the dire straits of their food supply and uncertain intelligence as to the surrounding threats, and the recent problems with Valon’s possible sorcery. Connor seemed somewhat dismayed to learn that Philippa had taken the House for them, as well as at the fact that she had done so wearing a sword, but with his concentration failing, he told her to ask Kate Fraser about the implications.

Connor urged Philippa not to make for Orkhold, as she had told Yeth Scaran and his compatriots that it was the seat of House Darry, and there was no way to be sure that the ancient citadel would be secure against the might of the extra-terrestrials. Instead, he said, she should make for Green Rivers – but whether it was best to travel west to Borrin and then swing north and east, around the Umbran Jungle, or take their chances driving past Ashlance and its mysterious danger, he was too weak and confused to say. Before lapsing into unconsciousness again, he urged her again to do what she had to – specifically, warning her that she would not be able to feed all of the Fairbanks refugees at this time of year without robbing others of needed food. She would have to do things that she did not want to, he said; such was the nature of war.

When Connor lapsed into unconsciousness, Philippa fell upon him, sobbing. Hearing this, Olive ran to fetch Valon at the village shrine. Valon’s examination of the brass mortar yielded no insight as to its possible daemonic properties; as far as he could tell, it was a simple but finely crafted apothecarial tool, without mark. When Olive arrived and told him that Sir Connor appeared to be dying, Valon rushed to the hovel. Twice he attempted to heal Connor without accompanying himself with the Prayer for the Wounded, which caused Connor to arch his back in agony, expectorate against the far wall of the hovel, and then curl tightly into a fetal position while moaning, “No, no, no, no, no” to himself. While Philippa demanded that Valon explain himself, he knelt by Connor’s head and took it in his hands, telling him that the light of the Emperor and St. Veronica Invicta could save him if he accepted it into himself. Valon tried to heal Connor a third time, this time praying the Prayer for the Wounded aloud. As he did so, Olive perceived pink fire gathering around Valon’s hands and creeping up his arms to engulf him. At the end of the prayer, a silent force flung both Valon and Olive several feet through the air away from Connor, and he relaxed into a peaceful slumber.

Philippa again demanded to know what Valon had done. When he said that he had done what he did for the wounded at the infirmary, she ordered him to leave. Valon angrily refused, saying he was tired of being treated as a heretic when he was all that was standing between the refugees and the threat of the daemon, and attempting to save Connor’s life besides. Owen drew his sword when Valon refused ‘his sister’s’ order, but Valon stalked out of the hovel once he had had his say.

Valon took Olive with him and demanded that she bring Cyrian Dylan to him, saying he was tired of simply reacting. Olive replied that she was not sure whether she was corrupting people. Valon replied that whatever had happened, she bore no blame – at worst, she was an unwitting conduit for whatever evil had infected the refugees (a shockingly radical, nearly heretical view). Either way, Olive said that she did not know exactly where Cyrian was, but she would look for him. Valon again retired to the shrine, telling her to bring him.

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Twenty-Seventh Session

Thirty-fifth of Bloom

Session Notes

Philippa Darry led the assembled refugees in the Prayer in the Time of Tumult and sent them to their shelters. She armored with the help of Cameron Traver and Kate Fraser, then had Cammy fetch Deacon Edward. The deacon said that he was not sure whether to believe Valon or not – on the one hand, as he said, wisdom dictates wariness in the face of that which makes a faithful servant of the Emperor profoundly uncomfortable. On the other, he said, Valon’s actual actions did not seem those of a sorcerer; moreover, it was theoretically possible that a sufficiently holy man could cause enormous discomfort to ordinary sinners. Philippa thanked the deacon for his counsel and followed Valon Sarqhardt to the Fairbanks shrine.

At the shrine, Valon had discovered his old broom, forgotten in a corner and covered in cobwebs. He was drawing a welcome sign in the dirt when Philippa approached. The two retired within the shrine to discuss. Valon said that he understood Philippa’s mistrust, but asked her to consider that his actions have consistently been to protect the people of Nova. He pledged to continue doing so, as well as to submit to an inquisition when they had made contact with sufficient religious authority. Philippa agreed, under those conditions, to permit him to travel with the refugees.

Olive Mollin arrived at Fairbanks with Valerica Daroline, Timeon Cooper, and the remaining wounded. She approached the shrine on the outskirts of the village just as Philippa and Valon were finishing their conversation. Valon appeared to her immolated in pink flame, while he in turn smelled a foul stench from Kirin Masters. As the shrine was an obvious place to shelter the wounded, Valon volunteered to leave it rather than force another confrontation. Connor Darry, still unconscious but less feverish, was moved to Philippa’s own house. A nervous Olive confessed to Philippa her fear that something was profoundly wrong either with her or with Valon, explaining about the pink flames.

Just prior to sundown, Olive went to the Thread to gather more herbs. Kirin approached her unheard, still able-bodied but breathing with a deathly rattle, suggesting that Olive was picking herbs at the wrong time of day. When Olive expressed her surprise at Kirin’s knowledge, she smiled sadly and asked if Olive could keep a secret, calling her “sister.” Olive cautiously assented, and Kirin told her of a vision she had while wounded of a great putrid forest, which her dream self knew to be cultivated like a garden. In the center of the forest was an old man covered in wounds, boils, and other marks of disease, stirring a cauldron full of stew. The old man offered Kirin some of the stew and, being thirsty, she accepted. As she ate, she said she could feel Olive packing her wound with St. Sanguinus’ wort. In the aftermath of the stew, Kirin said her eyes were opened, and she understood that the exterior appearance of the old man did not matter – what was important was that the two of them were together. The old man asked her if she wished to learn more, and Kirin affirmed that she did.

Kirin told Olive that she was sad for Valon, because he had lied to Olive all unwittingly – he was not honest enough, she said, to lie deliberately, but nevertheless his entire life was a lie that came painfully close to the truth. His fault, Kirin said, was that he mistook the true name of God. When Olive asked her what that name was, she pronounced the dread name of Nurgle. The very sound of the word caused Olive to feel as though she were about to explode in all parts of her being at once, from her soul to her fingertips. It seemed to be both name and question: would Olive choose to stay?

Olive chose not to stay. She screamed and ran blindly downriver, her scream attracting both Philippa and Valon. Arriving first on her destrier, Philippa found Kirin and asked her what had happened. A sad Kirin said that Olive screamed and ran downriver, but she did not care to discuss why. Philippa warned her that she had best reconsider her answer, then galloped after Olive.

Valon arrived second. Perceiving Kirin’s clothes soaked in old blood, he warned her that she was corrupted, perhaps possessed by a daemon. Kirin said that she pitied him, but did not wish to fight. Resolute, Valon said that he intended to burn the corruption out of her for her own good. Kirin asked him to tell Philippa good-bye for her, and turned towards the river.

Drawing on his recent study of the Sacramentarium of Saint Veronica, Valon performed a rite to heal Kirin’s body. The result was both immediate and startling. Kirin’s chest wound closed into a shiny pink scar, and she whirled on him with a look of undisguised hatred upon her face, then sprinted for the waters of the Thread. Valon attempted to catch her, but his wound caused him to stumble and Kirin made it into the river. She was swimming away, definitively beyond Valon’s ability to reach, when an unseen force appeared to tackle her and drive her beneath the waters. Valon attempted to use another of the Sacramentarium’s rites to dredge the river, but finding it too much weight to bear, all he could produce was a great wave that rushed downriver.

Meanwhile, Philippa caught up with Olive, sobbing uncontrollably after a headlong flight haunted by visions of great black corpse flies trying to force their way inside her. Olive told Philippa what had happened, and that she feared Kirin had somehow been corrupted after the fight with the orks, and that if that were so, she feared that she too might be corrupted. The two began to walk upriver, careful not to touch.

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Twenty-Sixth Session

Thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth of Bloom

Session Notes

By a fortuitous coincidence, Valon Sarqhardt’s display of apparent sorcery was witnessed by Olive Mollin alone. She and he had a quiet, tense conversation that ended with Valon placing the old woman on her stretcher before Owen Selerius came back into view. Valon led his string of horses to Jonbri.

Olive, Cyrian Dylan, Owen, Kirin Masters, and Reyna Mollin spent the night with their meager remaining rations, hoping for one more night of rest before setting off for Jonbri themselves. Though Kirin’s chest wound appeared to be worsening, and her breathing acquired a phlegmy rattle, she insisted that she felt much recovered and engaged in able-bodied activity without apparent distress.

At Jonbri, Philippa Darry and Vhetin Cooper disposed of the refugees in the ruins of the town and organized work details. Valon arrived with his injured on the morning of the thirty-fifth, having struggled with horse stretchers in the jungle all night. While the wounded were given place in ruins that still had roofs, Valerica Daroline unexpectedly volunteered to lead a small party back to the jungle camp to retrieve Olive and the remaining wounded. Philippa showed Valon the horse-and-cruciform tracks in the village. More accustomed to reading trail signs in the jungle than Philippa, Valon was able to determine that the tracks led west – most likely toward Borrin.

A triumphant Valerica arrived at the jungle camp with bread and water, and the entire party set off for Jonbri.

At lunchtime, Valon’s meat and knife leapt off his trencher of their own accord, hovering in mid-air near his mouth. At the same time, the tattoo on his cheek burned the eyes of all present when viewed directly. Valon staved off a mob scene with a quick sermon that forcefully proclaimed this disturbing omen a sign of St. Veronica Invicta’s favor, and warning that all true manifestations of divinity are discomforting. Nevertheless, a wary Philippa all but ordered him to leave the assembled refugees; Valon retired to his old shrine.

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Twenty-fifth Session

Thirty-fourth of Bloom

Session Notes

Philippa Darry and Vhetin Cooper organized the refugees of Fairbanks as they fell upon the Departmento Munitorum Loot. By allowing the refugees to eat and drink their fill, and discarding those items the two women determined to be inedible, they were able to distribute the remaining items among the refugees. John Turomot took the burden of carrying the orkish claw gauntlet and orkish gun spell, as trophies to bluff with if nothing else.

Olive Mollin arrived at the jungle camp to discover Valon Sarqhardt poring over the Sacramentarium of Saint Veronica, which appeared to glow with an eye-searing light. She also found herself unable to look upon the mark on his face. Valon in his turn found Olive’s Brass Mortar, which Reyna Mollin had been using to compound new poultices for the wounded, difficult to look at. Though deeply disturbed by the similarities between her reaction to Valon and the Woman in Rags, Olive shared the events of the previous night. Though Valon expressed faith in some of the star men, Olive was increasingly sure that it was best to have nothing to do with any of them.

More pressing was the fact that without any food from Fairbanks, several of the wounded who had lost a lot of blood would soon die of starvation or thirst. In addition, Olive suspected that the forces in Fairbanks might be looking for her. With a heavy heart, Valon recommended that Olive and Reyna decide who could be moved, and that the rest be killed before the Bresliners could take them.

Olive and Cyrian Dylan had a tender reunion some distance away from the others, during which Cyrian related his dreams of flies, mushrooms, and being gnawed on from the inside while wounded. In his dreams, he said, he felt a presence inviting him to stay in the miasma of decay – an invitation he rejected to stay with Olive. He also confided that he found Valon difficult to look upon, and that his touch during the previous night had burned and caused him to vomit blood. Reyna found the two, worried that Valon’s recommendation to kill the wounded who could not be moved portended something more than heavy-hearted mercy. Olive changed Cyrian’s bandages and applied more of St. Sanguinus’ paste.

Upon returning to the wounded’s clearing and seeing Valon again, Cyrian was seized with a round of vomiting. Valon found the vomit to shine with a terrible light, and Olive quickly separated the two. She then sent Reyna to find more of St. Sanguinus’ wort, while Valon retired from the clearing. Some distance away, he read a devotional prayer to St. Veronica Invicta that he had discovered in the sacramentarium, asking the saint to make up for his own inability to save the wounded. He then read out a rite that he hoped would help him move the wounded, asking the saint to supply the deficit of his lack of the proper ritual materials.

When Valon returned to the clearing, Reyna screamed, claiming that he briefly seemed to be immolated in pink fire. Valon in turn could smell a foul stench emanating from the herbs that she had gathered, and the brass mortar appeared to him to be covered in a thick layer of rancid grease.

Deeply disturbed at the differing portents that only some could perceive, all present agreed that Valon should go search for A’den. While he was gone, Kirin Masters awoke, and though hoarse, told the others that everything would be all right so long as they stuck together. Owen Selerius quietly told the others that he would not allow Valon to kill any of the wounded, if it came to that.

Meanwhile, Valon discovered A’den’s body in the rowboat, caught in the weeds on the banks of the Thread. He had been savagely torn apart, though by what Valon could not say for sure. He suspected an ork attack, particularly as the food A’den and Olive had gathered was still in the boat. Valon did his best to bury A’den in the Thread, and drunk his fill at the river. A wave splashed upstream as he did so, filling his cup. Valon then took the food back to the camp.

With the newly arrived supplies, it was decided that Valon would take the most grievously wounded on horse stretchers forward to Jonbri, where it was hoped that food would be more plentiful. The others would remain behind with the food from Fairbanks, in the hopes that Olive and Reyna could nurse them at least to the point of being able to make the journey on foot. As Valon bent to help lift one of the old women onto a stretcher, she floated off the ground of her own accord before him.

Meanwhile, Philippa and the refugees reached Jonbri, which showed signs of recent occupation by a moderate to large force of men on horses. Mixed with the horse tracks they also discovered a large cruciform footprint, such as Olive had described at the ford.

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Twenty-fourth Session

Thirty-third and thirty-fourth of Bloom

Session Notes

Sister Marybella finished treating Olive Mollin‘s wound, vacuuming out the pus to store in a vial on her armor. Another armored sister, bearing a chainsword, then began to question Olive regarding local stories of St. Veronica Invicta. Olive reluctantly shared Veronica’s legend, without identifying her as a saint. The armored sister was particularly interested in the whereabouts of the Fragment of St. Veronica’s Sword, about which Olive professed to have no knowledge. The sister warned Olive that the “Adepta Sororitas” exist to bring the Emperor’s mercy to His faithful and fire to His foes, and if Olive was lying the whole of Nova would not be big enough to hide her.

Sister Katharine invited Olive to eat, and she, Olive, and Marybella began walking down the cathedral hill toward the east market. Katharine fetched a light spell from the back of her wagon, so that Olive (though not, apparently, Katharine or Marybella) could see better in the dark. Katharine explained that about seven hundred years ago, the Order of the Argent Shroud had a mission on Nova to guard sacred sites of the Ecclesiarchy and the relics contained therein, and the current mission of the sisters was to discover the fate of those relics and the lost sisters. She expressed surprise that “Sister Veronica” had come to Fairbanks, as it was not on the original list of guarded sites. Katharine also expressed surprise that the legends were so definite that Veronica had fought with a sword, as a sister of her rank would not have had one – and thus, if Veronica had a sword at Fairbanks, she must have been wielding the blade of her presumably-deceased sister superior. When Olive wondered why the sisters were so concerned about the fate of their long-dead sisters, Katharine said that to the Adepta Sororitas, the manner of a sister’s death was much more important than the fact.

As the party’s destination became clear, Olive asked if Lt. Eush was still in town. Katharine said that of course he was, and naturally the kitchens had been set up near his bivouac. Olive said that she really should get some sleep, and Marybella pointed out that the gibbets were still in the east market – with the corpses that Katharine and her sisters had burned. She offered to bring Olive food at the cathedral, an offer that Olive readily accepted.

Back at the cathedral, Katharine resumed her midnight duties, mopping the floor of the cathedral. At length, Marybella brought back a tray of tan meat slabs and green beans, apologizing for the “poor” fare. The two sisters then began a strange but comforting and beautiful service, during which Olive began to sneak out of the cathedral. An armored Katharine spotted her leaving, and asked where she was going. Olive said that she needed to visit the privy. A suspicious Katharine said she was she was trusting Olive, and resumed her service. Olive slipped out of the cathedral and hurried for the sewer pipe. A’den and the rowboat were nowhere to be seen, so Olive swam across the Thread and found shelter in the forest. The following day, she began working her way back towards the jungle camp, finding some disturbingly large cruciform tracks at the ford where she re-crossed the Thread.

At the jungle camp, a delirious Connor implored Philippa Darry to “do what she had to” before lapsing back into unconsciousness. When morning dawned and neither Olive nor A’den had returned, Philippa and Valon Sarqhardt made preparations to depart for Jonbri. Valon and Cyrian Dylan resolved to stay behind with the wounded who could not be moved, as well as to wait for Olive.

Nearing the Thread, Philippa encountered evidence of battle, and eventually discovered nine dead and one severely wounded Departmento Munitorum soldiers, a dead ork, and a Trojan with trailer. One soldier, white with blood loss, cursed Philippa and her followers for looting the scene before expiring. The starving refugees fell to the food in the Trojan’s trailer even as Vhetin Cooper began to catalogue their bounty.

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Twenty-third Session

Thirty-third of Bloom

Session Notes

Though the 8th Breslin Infantry seemed to have manned the watchtowers of Fairbanks, Olive Mollin and A’den successfully liberated a small rowboat from the Fairbanks docks undetected and moored it by the sewer pipe. Olive then entered the town and liberated several woolen sacks’ worth of bread and vegetables, a half-carved chicken, and a bucket of wine from an inn in Smiths’ Street. This inn had trenchers of food left in the common room with the remains of stew in them, and bore every sign of having been hastily evacuated. Another inn in the same district yielded only a bucket and some freshly caught fish, and had been recently cleaned. Olive did not explore its upper stories.

Olive then snuck to the cathedral, in front of which was parked a strange ornate silver-and-red wagon. The side door through which the refugees escaped was closed but unlocked; it may have been that Edward Tilley absconded with the keys to the lock spells. The sanctuary within bore signs of recent occupation; new votive candles had been lit before the alcove shrines and the main altar. In search of beeswax candles, olive oil, and linen for Valon Sarqhardt‘s resurrection canticle, Olive explored the back rooms of the cathedral. She liberated one of Xanders Darren’ set of vestments, several common tallow candles from a small study or library, and a second bucket from a supply closet. Approaching heavy footsteps caused her to hide in the supply closet, but a helmeted figure in the armor of St. Veronica Invicta carrying a humble ceramic hand lamp opened the closet to fetch a mop, and Olive was discovered.

Removing her helmet, the newcomer identified herself as Sister Katharine, and asked what Olive was doing in the cathedral. Olive said that she was hungry, and that she lived in the town. Katharine invited Olive to accompany her on her midnight duties and pray with her. Instead of praying, she drew water from the cathedral well and began to mop the sanctuary floor, inviting Olive to pray or sing hymns in the front pews while she worked. The cathedral, she said to Olive, had been long neglected.

Olive and Katharine engaged in wary conversation while Katharine mopped. The latter claimed that Lt. Eush and his soldiers were still in the town, and had informed Katharine and her sisters that a confessor had admitted to Patrek Bellows that he was in league with the Ruinous Powers and seduced an unknown number of townsfolk into his heresy. This heretic confessor and some of his presumed followers then murdered Preacher Patrek and escaped into the jungle. With no way to determine which of the remaining townsfolk had been corrupted, Katharine said sorrowfully, “we” had no choice but to burn them all.

At this point Katharine smelled Olive’s infected wound, and donned her helmet again to examine it. With no visible signal from Katharine, four additional armored sisters – these more heavily armed than she – arrived, as well as Sister Marybella of the Order of Serenity. Despite Olive’s protests that her wound was not serious, Marybella gently insisted on treating her, and upbraided Katharine for not informing her that Olive was a mutant. This produced an instantly hostile reaction from the other women, who appeared to be on the verge of using their magic to kill Olive. She quickly identified herself as sanctioned by the pontifex, at which Marybella continued as if nothing had happened. She “injected” Olive with some sort of medicine (an evil-looking green liquid), and lanced her wound with a curiously painless scalpel after spraying it with some sort of mist. Olive reluctantly answered Marybella’s questions as to how she sustained the wound, at which a stricken Katharine said that she was the one who slew the orks but abandoned Olive because her wound appeared mortal. When asked how she survived, let alone reattached her arm, Olive said they wouldn’t believe her. Katharine said that the sisters of the Order of the Argent Shroud might surprise her as to how much they would believe.

Back at the jungle camp, Cyrian Dylan awoke suddenly, sitting rigidly upright and screaming. Valon and Philippa Darry were unable to calm him; at Valon’s touch, Cyrian began to scream, “No, no, no” and tremble uncontrollably. Cyrian stopped screaming as abruptly as he began, saying that he had the most terrible dreams about mites gnawing his intestines and mushrooms. He projectile vomited on Valon twice, and complained of thirst and dizziness. Reyna Mollin‘s examination, conducted by touch in the jungle darkness, revealed that Cyrian’s wounds had not been healed. When he heard what Olive was trying to do, he asked to pray with Valon.

During the prayer meeting, towards the end of Interlude, Connor Darry awoke and asked for Philippa.

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Twenty-second Session

Thirty-third of Bloom

Session Notes

Philippa Darry, Valon Sarqhardt, Olive Mollin, and John Turomot departed for the Thread to investigate the two soldiers. They left Turomot and Olive in the trees, armed with bows, while Philippa and Valon approached from the northeast so as to disguise the camp’s location.

The two soldiers were engaged in fishing, and Valon hailed them in a friendly manner. The soldiers were also friendly, and invited them to sit by them. In the conversation that followed with Yeth Scaran, Valon and Philippa pretended to have come from a battle in the north where they encountered a dying Bresliner. Scaran and his companion claimed to be soldiers of the Departmento Munitorum, though their duties seemed to consist of no more than tending their Trojan vehicle and cooking food out of a kitchen trailer. Unlike the various regiments of the Imperial Guard, they explained, their job was not to fight.

The Guard itself, according to Scaran, was surprised to find that about 70% of the landmass of Nova was held by orks – a claim that also astonished Philippa and Valon. Indeed, the soldiers from the stars claimed not to have come to fight the ork at all, but to install Lord General Vikram al Gerez as the Imperial governor, or king, of Nova. Scaran explained that every world of the Imperium was responsible for paying a tithe for the general good, whose delivery was the responsibility of that world’s governor. He speculated that Nova’s ancient kings were likely its governors – a curious claim, as the kings were known to be native Novans – and that if Nova had been without a king for some three hundred years, it was likely three hundred years or more in arrears. This lapse, he explained, likely made the entire world heretics, but Scaran seemed to view this as a mere technicality.

Philippa and Valon shared the story of the comet, which Scaran said was likely orks arriving from space, as it was seen a few days too early for the human soldiers to have made planetfall. Even now in the jungle, he said, the Imperial Guard was engaged with ork forces. He also warned that, as the army had not arrived prepared to fight orks (let alone orks in such numbers), their supplies would not last. Although he did not know when shortages would begin, he predicted that they would – and that when they did, the desperate soldiers would do what they had to for food. At this, Philippa offered, in her assumed capacity as Lady Darry, to issue a decree to the lords and people of the south to assist the Emperor’s soldiers. This offer intrigued Scaran, who brought the two of them back to his commander, idling in the woods with the Trojan.

Scaran’s “sergeant” instructed one of his soldiers to use the vox caster in the Trojan to communicate Philippa’s offer to his “lieutenant,” but they received orders to move their kitchen to a new location northeast. Mindful of the refugees and Olive’s planned infiltration of Fairbanks, both Valon and Philippa regretfully declined to accompany the kitchen soldiers. These left them with the advice to repeat their offer of assistance to the next soldiers they encountered, and to ask to see Marshall Tallaz. They also advised them that although the medics of the Imperial Guard would likely be too busy to help any refugees, the sisters of the Order of Serenity would likely offer aid if they could be found.

Scaran and his companion each gave Philippa and Valon a dense bar of a curious substance they claimed was food, which they saved for the camp. Upon their return, Vhetin Cooper warned that if they did not find food soon they would begin to lose the very young and very old among the refugees.

Olive departed for Fairbanks with a thirteen-year old companion named A’den that evening.

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