Skyfall

Forty-Seventh Session

Fifth through Eleventh of Harvest
twelfth through eighteenth days of the new moon (waning gibbous)

After burning Ibram Halsteen’s remains, the column continued on towards Green Rivers, eventually emerging from the jungle on the eighth of Harvest to a late thunderstorm. Despite the inclement weather, the column’s rate of progress increased considerably.

The column quickly came across signs of orks beyond the jungle, sighting their “death helicopters”, as well as vehicles with Content Not Found: warbike and four wheels, only kilometers distant. They also encountered the site of a battle between orkish and Imperial Guard vehicles, which Polynikes Callistos judged the orks likely won from the “doughnut” tracks left on the savannah.

The column encountered three Salamander Scouts from the 894th Revenier Mechanized Reconnaissance, apparently acting as scouts. The scouts were courteous, offering to share their rations (which offer Connor Darry politely declined), and warning the column that the Guard had decided to abandon the Umbran Jungle for lack of manpower. Polynikes asked if their lord commander had determined to arm the natives of Nova. The scouts did not know, though expressed their fervent hope that he would. Connor seemed interested by this possibility, but declined to give the scouts directions to Green Rivers even so. Instead, Polynikes instructed them how to contact him through his magic armor.

On the eleventh of Harvest, the column at last sighted the high walls of Green Rivers.

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Forty-Sixth Session

First through Fifth of Harvest
eighth through twelfth days of the new moon (waxing gibbous)

Session Notes

In light of Polynikes Callistos’ warning, the column pushed on towards Green Rivers until the night grew so dark that navigation through the jungle was impossible. That evening, Olive Mollin and Polynikes kept watch over the camp. Olive spotted two soldiers approaching the camp, and stalled them long enough for Polynikes to arrive. THe soldiers treated him with immediate deference, referring to him as “lord.” With Polynikes to watch the newcomers, Olive woke Cameron Traver, who brought Philippa Darry and Connor Darry.

The soldiers were survivors of a squad (five in all) from the 176th Breslin Infantry, who claimed to have been out of communication with their company for several days following a lost battle with orks. Connor offered them food in exchange for information. The soldiers said that the starship destroyed earlier in the day almost certainly contained the 111th Krieg Siege Regiment, corroborating Polynikes’ suspicion that Lord General al-Gerez had just lost a significant portion of his combat power in a single blow. The soldiers said that the Imperial Navy had encountered Tau warships in orbit around Nova when they arrived – and, although the Navy had driven off the aliens, their best guess was that either some Tau warships had escaped and returned to destroy the Krieg regiment’s transport, or that new Tau ships had arrived. From their perspective, the campaign against the orks was going poorly owing to a lack of manpower – a problem likely to be exacerbated by the catastrophic loss of the Krieg infantry. Without the Kriegers, the Imperial Guard on Nova was reduced to five regiments: the 8th Breslin Infantry, the 176th Breslin Infantry, the 99th Dyrmose Horse, Caspar’s Thunder, and the 894th Revenier Mechanized Reconnaissance.

The soldiers said that the Lord General had engaged the orks in the Umbran Jungle in hopes of preventing them from making contact with the “feral” or native orks, but had only recently escaped off-world ork “commandos” hunting using squiggly beasts in the manner of hounds, a Novan practice. This suggests that the two populations have already begun to mix. Polynikes explained later that all ork tribes seem to have an innate knowledge of how to manufacture the weapons, vehicles and armor used by the off-world orks, but that in some populations this knowledge remains dormant. Contact with suitable examples seems to unlock the knowledge hidden within the orks’ psyche – and thus, if the orkish populations were not quarantined, the off-world orks’ “inspiration” would spread to all the orks on Nova, leaving its human population hopelessly outclassed. He warned that, in light of the intelligence gained from the 176th, it was likely already too late, and cleansing Nova of its orkish scourge would likely require a massive effort by the Imperial Guard involving many millions of guardsmen – if the Inquisition did not decide that it was more efficient to simply render the planet uninhabitable for any kind of life whatsoever. Finally, he made a point of telling Connor and Philippa that the lost and desperate soldiers would almost certainly have robbed the column had Olive not spotted them.

The column continued to press on for several days through jungle that bore obvious signs of fighting, until it reached the border zone of the jungle where the canopy was thinner and ground cover consequently thicker. On the fifth of Harvest, the column was stopped when the villagers from Ashlance stumbled upon a dying soldier from the 8th Breslin Infantry, concealed by his camouflaged uniform under a bush at the base of the tree. Philippa sent Valerica Daroline to investigate the disturbance, and Olive followed.

They discovered the dying soldier threatening the villagers with a captured ork pistol, demanding that they bring him water. When Valerica stepped forward to take charge of the situation, he began threatening her, and Olive moved to protect the lady-in-waiting. This transferred the soldier’s threats to Olive. Valerica managed to summon Polynikes under the guise of sending a villager for water, but the soldier – Patrick Kelly, he said – was undaunted by the angel’s arrival, continuing to demand water and now food. Olive attempted to trade water for his knowledge of the ongoing fighting, but this caused Kelly to become even more abusive.

Valerica started to demand that Olive do something to punish Kelly for threatening a member of the Brotherhood, but Olive was reluctant. When she appealed to Polynikes, he simply asked Olive what she thought should be done. Olive suggested summoning Connor to pass judgment. When Polynikes asked Valerica the same question, she reluctantly agreed.

As Connor and Philippa approached, Olive considered how to disarm Kelly. She ordered him to lay down his arms, but he continued to threaten all and sundry until he seemed to slump into unconsciousness. Not wanting to get close enough to take the spell away from him, she attempted to shoot him in the hand and missed. The shot woke the soldier, who returned fire. A startled Olive attempted to separate herself from the crowd, trading fire with Kelly as she ran. Olive’s second shot penetrated Kelly’s helmet and killed him instantly. Kelly’s second shot missed Olive, but struck a man of the village, Ibram Halsteen. The ork weapon passed clean through Halsteen’s chest, causing him to begin to drown in his own blood. Olive tried to stop the bleeding, but it quickly became unclear that she would be unable to save him. In the absence of a priest, Polynikes granted Halsteen “the Emperor’s Peace,” solemnly informing the older man that at last, in death, his duty was ended, before quickly decapitating him.

In the shocked aftermath, Polynikes asked Olive why Halsteen was dead. She replied that she hadn’t been fast enough to separate herself from the crowd. Seemingly unsatisfied with this answer, he put the same question to Valerica, who had no answer. The correct answer, he said, was that Olive had hesitated when Kelly first showed himself to be a threat. As he stripped the dead man’s gear, he warned Olive not to hesitate the next time an enemy let down his guard.

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Forty-Fifth Session

First of Harvest
eighth day of the new moon (waxing gibbous)

Session Notes

Philippa Darry and Connor Darry’s escort continued towards Green Rivers. Connor confided to his wife that he was coming to the conclusion that it would be necessary for him to become Lord Darry in order to provide a unified front in the face of the orkish threat and Imperial Guard. He did not, however, assume the title then and there.

Valon Sarqhardt discovered that he was able to stomach water, but not beer, leading him to suspect that his condition was simply the inability to eat foods that had been processed in any way.

Valon and Olive Mollin explained their adventures in the catacombs below Fairbanks, and their strong suspicion that the Inquisition, like the Guard and the Mechanicus, was a heretical organization. Thaddeus Korteau himself was clearly a witch, as was Sarah Owens, his henchwoman. Connor and Philippa were less convinced. Valon himself was a self-confessed heretic, Korteau took a personal interest in Connor’s recovery, and Owens took it upon herself to find and execute Vhetin Cooper’s rapist.

Polynikes Callistos continued Olive’s instruction on the march, during which he discussed the seemingly widespread use of witches by offworlder organizations. Polynikes claimed a distinction between a “witch” and a “psyker,” or more specifically a sanctioned psyker. While both were witches in the sense of being able to draw power from the Empyrean with their minds, he claimed that the Imperium sanctions psykers not unlike the way a mutant can be sanctioned. Sanctioned psykers are, he claimed, rigorously disciplined and in some cases even brought before the literal Golden Throne on Holy Terra to be soul-bound to the Emperor himself. Without them, he said, the Imperium would fall apart, as among the services that only they can provide is the transmission of messages between stars, and ships would become lost in the trackless depths of space.

Connor and Philippa sent Kate Fraser to request Polynikes’ attendance at the head of the column, but he was absorbed with his instruction of Olive, and said that he would come later. In the afternoon, however, the sky was lit by a great bright flash. Polynikes said that only an exploding starship in orbit could create such a flash, and based on his last knowledge of the Imperial Guard’s disposition, it was probably a transport of some kind holding some significant portion of Vikram al Gerez’s reserves or war materiel. He immediately went to Connor and Philippa, warning them that if he was correct, two new dangers had just presented themselves. First, the Imperial Guard would likely become even more desperate, and thus more dangerous and unpredictable. Second, a new force must have arrived at Nova, one whose identity he could not guess at, but which was likely to be hostile to humans. He recommended that the party increase its pace as much as possible, to clear the danger zone of the Umbran Jungle as fast as possible.

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Forty-Fourth Session

Fortieth of Bloom
seventh day of the new moon (waxing crescent)

Session Notes

Reunited with his magic armor, Polynikes Callistos attempted to communicate with his missing companions via the armor’s apparently magical gorget. His hails went unanswered, though he seemed unsure if that was because they were dead or some manner of eldar trickery.

The convoy continued through the jungle towards Green Rivers. Polynikes seemed interested in Olive Mollin’s arsenal of scavenged weapons, and took it upon himself to instruct her in the rituals of their care and operation, beginning with her Astor L Lasgun – a weapon he seemed to view as more amusing than threatening. When the convoy stopped to make camp for the evening, he took her beyond the camp perimeter to practice shooting in the jungle, an activity that went on for many hours.

Ereen Almoner and her husband offered to share their food with Valon Sarqhardt, but he could stomach neither bread nor salted meat, nor beer. In desperation, he invoked St. Veronica Invicta. The daemon unfolded herself out of a bush that had not been there previously, then folded the bush into a small packet that she ate. Valon asked her whether his apparent inability to eat or drink was a condition of his soul or his body, and Veronica answered that it was his body. Valon attempted to bargain with her to heal whatever malady afflicted him, going so far as to offer his body to her. This surprised and delighted the daemon, and Valon said that he was willing to give up his soul if the resulting power would help his flock. A disappointed Veronica admonished him that this was not a negotiation, and if that was all he had to say on the matter, she would leave him to his own devices. She fished the folded-up bush out of her breastplate and unfolded it into the shape of a swan. Finding this apparently unsuitable for some reason, she waved a hand to cause the swan to vanish, and then widened a bole in a nearby tree with her tongue until she could step into it.

The bole snapped shut behind her, and a moment later a squirrel climbed partially down the tree to chitter at Valon. Seized with a sudden desperate hunger, he pounced on the squirrel and wrung its neck. A tentacle then extruded itself from the scar where he had been shot in the catacombs, flayed the squirrel, and offered one of its limbs to Valon. He ate the limb and, finding it not only palatable but delicious, proceeded to consume the entire animal including its fur, vomiting up the contents of its bowels a moment later. Sated for the first time in days, Valon fell into a peaceful sleep.

Philippa Darry and Connor Darry shared a small tent to sleep in. Connor asked why Philippa had accepted Valon back into the convoy if she was so certain that he was a heretic. She replied that she wanted to believe that he could be saved, and so did not want to execute him outright, even if there was no way to turn him over to Ecclesiarchy authorities at the moment. Moreover, she said, she wanted to take care of Olive, and did not feel she could take one and not the other. Connor accepted this reasoning for now, and the two fell asleep. Philippa woke at Interval to find Connor curled up against her, drooling in his sleep on her neck, and spent the hour holding her sleeping husband.

Meanwhile, Polynikes continued to drill Olive into the night, long after the jungle was plunged into darkness. He seemed oblivious to her hunger or fatigue, until at last Olive worked up the courage to suggest that perhaps they should stop for the night. Polynikes seemed surprised by that, saying that he had been training much more strenuously at age 11. When Olive pointed out that she was only human, he said that at age 11, he had been too. He hesitated, and then, seeming to want somebody to confide in, told Olive about the process by which men become angels. During this conversation, Olive learned to her surprise that Polynikes was only 17 years old.

Polynikes began to patrol around the camp, asking Olive to walk with him. He asked her about those she had lost, his mind seemingly on his own missing companions. The discussion of the war wandered into broader topics, including Polynikes’ speculations on the kings of Nova.

Before Olive returned to the camp for sleep, Polynikes asked that, if he fell, she preserve his body at least until it began to rot. He said it was possible that others would come for him, and that “the chapter must have its due,” though he declined to explain what that meant beyond saying that his body would be useless once it began to rot. A slightly mystified Olive agreed.

At last she stumbled into camp to sleep on the bare ground. Polynikes woke her when it was still dark for more instruction, telling her that he had let her sleep in.

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Forty-Third Session

Fortieth of Bloom
seventh day of the new moon (waxing crescent)

Session Notes

Olive Mollin, Valon Sarqhardt and Polynikes Callistos continued to search for Polynikes’ “lost” armor. In reality, Olive was attempting to prevent Polynikes from recovering his gear. As they rested, the three were ambushed by orks wearing Night Vision Goggles and armed with large weapon spells. Though naked and armed only with his knife, Polynikes attempted to protect Olive and Valon. The second ork prevented them from fleeing, while conversing with them in heavily accented but fluent Gothic and tried to engage them in betting on whether Polynikes or the other ork would prevail.

Philippa Darry and Connor Darry set out for Green Rivers with the entire population of Ashlance, leaving the injured Gol Traben in the care of his men. They heard Polynikes’ struggle with the ork, and husband and wife set out to investigate.

Polynikes put up a terrific fight against the first ork, but was not as skilled in hand-to-hand as the alien. Philippa and Connor arrived just in time, slaying both with their Hunting Lances in a surprise charge from the jungle. Philippa recognized both “Gaius” and “Orville” while Connor assisted Polynikes. Despite his many grievous wounds, the angel seemed confident that he would recover, and indeed his bleeding was already slowing. He ransacked the contents of the orks’ rucksacks, and the five returned to the convoy.

Polynikes reiterated his desire to locate his “wargear,” and Olive reluctantly volunteered to look for it while he rested. She returned with the panoply and her other scavenged weapons.

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Forty-Second Session

Thirty-ninth and Fortieth of Bloom
sixth and seventh days of the new moon (waxing crescent)

Session Notes

In the aftermath of the eldar attack, Inquisitor Korteau’s agents, the sisters of Serenity and the Argent Shroud, and the Dyrmosemen tended to their slain and wounded. Gol Traben survived his wounds, though his injuries were too grave for him to accompany Philippa Darry to Green Rivers as he had intended. The sergeant karbaron thanked Philippa for riding to his aid, and expressed his regret that he would be unable to escort her to her seat.

Connor Darry and Philippa had a reunion in which Philippa shared with Connor the many events of the prior week. Connor reiterated his determination to reach Green Rivers, but admitted that he was unsure whether to back or oppose Vikram al Gerez in his bid for rule of Nova. Either way, he admitted that it seemed likely he would have to take House Darry, if only to provide unified leadership in the face of the ork threat and the Imperial Guard. He was particularly aware of the fact that multiple sources have claimed that the Guard is unprepared to fight orks on the scale it is currently doing, and likely to lose without the assistance of House Darry.

The villagers of Ashlance eventually halted in the woods, and Olive Mollin and Aaron Loyalar ventured back to the village to see if the fighting was over. Upon discovering that it was, the villagers returned while Olive and Valon Sarqhardt waited in the jungle, with plans to rejoin them once they were underway for Green Rivers and well quit of the Inquisition. Korteau’s agents left with the Valkyrie, leaving the Dyrmosemen. The villagers organized parties to collect supplies for the journey from the outlying farms, with escorts of Dyrmose troopers organized by Gol Traben.

With nothing to do until the convoy left Ashlance and starving for food, Valon found shelter and Olive foraged in the jungle. She made a highly unusual discovery: at the foot of a tree was a heavy sword and a large gun spell, and suspended in the branches of the tree was a complete suit of armor in unusual colors, complete with arming clothes, boots, and pouches full of sundries – including a translucent blue waterskin and outlander ration bars. Olive emptied the pouches, finding a small silver aquila devotional icon and a smooth gray pebble amongst them, and dislodging the suit from the tree in the process. She brought the weapons and supplies back to Valon.

Though Olive found the ration bars as filling (if unappealingly bland) as ever, Valon was utterly incapable of eating them, violently retching each time he tried. In the end he gave up on them, and spent a hungry night in the jungle.

The following morning, the villagers continued to bring in food from the outlying farms. Valon went in search of other food, finding a bunch of bananas. He gorged himself on these, and on the way back discovered a naked giant of a man, bound hand and foot and dangling upside down from a tree over sixty feet from the jungle floor. The giant identified himself as Polynikes, an angel of the Emperor, and asked for Valon’s aid in cutting him down from the tree. He had, he said, been hunting eldar when the aliens ambushed him, took his clothes, and hung him naked from the tree. Valon brought Olive to help, despite her misgivings, and she made the climb to cut him down. Polynikes was bound with a thin metallic cord, almost like wire, which seemed harder than the steel of her belt knife. Polynikes asked whether Olive had perhaps found his knife nearby, and Olive began to climb down while Valon went to fetch the “knife.” Polynikes, meanwhile, bent at the waist and commenced attempting to chew through his bonds.

Olive slipped as she was climbing down the tree, and began to crash through the branches. Her fall was arrested, to her horror, by her boneless sixth fingers – which had burst through her gloves of their own accord, elongating and wrapping around a branch like a prehensile tail. She frantically climbed the rest of the way down and hid her hands before either Valon or Polynikes could notice, although it took her fingers some time to stop wriggling as if they wanted to touch each other. When Valon returned with the “knife,” Olive again made the climb up the tree and was able to cut through the eldar cord. Polynikes crashed through the tree, bending to land on his back, and hit the ground with a thud like many hundreds of pounds. Apparently none the worse for wear, he asked whether Olive and Valon had found his armor. When Olive said she had not, he suggested that they find shelter lest the eldar still be watching. With a surprising degree of stealth, he led them through the jungle to a sheltered hollow.

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Forty-First Session

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

Session Notes

The deliberations at Ashlance were interrupted by the arrival of Philippa Darry, in the company of Gol Traben and his riders. Olive Mollin and Valon Sarqhardt, newly disguised as Gaius Masters and Orville Reeveson, hid in the village shrine. Philippa secured oaths from both the villagers and the Dyrmosemen to keep the peace of the village. Traben disposed of one of his squads around the village as a guard, while his remaining men and Philippa’s party settled down to the wary hospitality of the villagers. According to Traben, Connor Darry would soon be arriving by Valkyrie.

The Valkyrie arrived in due course, settling in the village commons. It carried a sister of the Order of Serenity, a squad of sisters of the Order of the Argent Shroud, Sarah Owens, Grhaed Steelfist, Lars Raith, as well as Sir Connor. Connor exited the vehicle under his own power, limping with a cane, and quickly rejoined Philippa. Owens, meanwhile, delivered a severed cock and balls to Vhetin Cooper, informing her with grim satisfaction that they had found her attacker and dealt with him. Before leaving, the normally hard-faced Owens added softly that Vhetin was not the only woman to have been raped.

As the Inquisition party turned to go, a spell of Raith’s seemed to detect the presence of the artifact from the Fairbanks cathedral catacombs. Valon cast a spell of bodily vitality upon himself and Olive, preparing to flee. Owens was on the verge of leading a house-by-house search of the village with the sisters of the Argent Shroud when eldar warriors set upon them from within those houses, having somehow infiltrated the village unseen and unheard. The eldar fell upon the Dyrmose knights and sisters with terrible violence. One of them entered the shrine with one of its cloaked companions (what the Imperial Infantryman’s Uplifting Primer seemed to call a “ranger”), who demanded that Olive and Valon hand over the artifact. Meanwhile, Raith had reached the shrine with two sisters. While the eldar within the shrine traded fire with Raith and his companions without, Raith likewise demanded that the fugitives hand over the artifact to the Inquisition. Valon attempted to ask what each side would do with it, to which Raith responded by hurling some manner of spell into the shrine that exploded with a great flash of light that blinded and deafened both Olive and Valon. Olive’s senses returned to her first, as the eldar ranger crossed the shrine to physically take the artifact from her. Olive relented, and the eldar quickly fled the shrine through a back window, disappearing into the jungle to the south.

Meanwhile, the villagers of Ashlance had begun to flee the fighting to the northeast. Olive and Valon, fearing to be found in the village in the aftermath, stole two picketed Dyrmose coursers and attempted to follow the villagers. Valon’s horse bucked him, and he was forced to follow on foot while Olive rode for the jungle. Philippa and her party made for their horses to follow, but she halted when she saw Gol Traben bleeding locked in combat with a particularly skillful eldar warrior, bleeding heavily from beneath his plate. Philippa mounted her destrier, seized the hunting lance Traben had given her as a gesture of goodwill, and rode to his aid. The eldar was able to evade the simultaneous attacks of Philippa, Traben, and Owens, but disengaged and retreated into the jungle. His warriors soon followed, leaving behind several dead sisters and Dyrmosemen. No villagers were harmed during the raid.

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Fortieth Session

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

Session Notes

Valon Sarqhardt and Olive Mollin made their way to Ashlance. Olive attempted to sneak into the village, but was quickly discovered by Aaron Loyalar, the village butcher and principal townsman. He took Olive to the village commons, where the population of the village was already gathered. Olive gave her name as Carol Ivers, and spun a story about fleeing Borrin after Imperial Guardsmen razed the village. Ashlance, she learned, had been recently visited by men of the 99th Dyrmose Horse to ask for the village’s help against the orks in the jungle and fealty to Vikram al Gerez. When Ashlance refused, on the grounds that their lord had not sworn fealty to al-Gerez, the Dyrmosemen left.

The villagers had assembled to decide what to do in response. After a public debate, they decided to remain in the village, but to gather what they could from their farms in preparation for the possible return of the Guard, or an attack by orks. The villagers feared that too many hazards could befall them on the way to Besgenet, the nearest castle. Olive attempted to persuade them to flee, but to no avail. She did show them her captured Astor L Lasgun, demonstrating it against a nearby tree.

At the sound of the weapon’s discharge, Valon entered the village, and was identified by Ereen Almoner. Olive continued to play along with Olive’s deception, calling Olive a mutant he had sanctioned at Borrin, and telling her sadly that Olive Mollin had been killed at Fairbanks. He told an abbreviated version of their tale, including the fact that Philippa Darry had ridden for Green Rivers a few days ago. The villagers reported that Philippa had not passed their way, but calculated that she might still be headed their way. When Loyalar heard how small Philippa’s party was, he declared that this news made it clear that their duty was to escort her to Green Rivers, chancing the hazards of the journey and the consequences to their crops. Staunch Darry loyalists, the villagers agreed, and began to organize parties to bring as much useful materiel from the farms as possible.

Valon explained to Ereen that he and “Carol” were wanted by the outworlders, and that it would be dangerous for the entire village if word got out that he had visited them. He assumed the identity of Orson Reeveson, an eccentric but harmless local hermit, shaving his head and beard to disguise himself. He then helped Olive to cut her hair so that she could pass for a boy (Nolan Ivers), and gave he. The villagers provided nondescript clothes for them.

Valon currently holds the artifact from the Fairbanks catacombs. Olive’s extra fingers, despite having no bones, wiggled of their own volition during her encounter with the villagers. Nobody but Olive noticed.

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Thirty-Ninth Session

Thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth of Bloom
fifth and sixth days of the new moon (waxing crescent)

Session Notes.

Philippa Darry, after looting the battle that Olive had heard and narrowly escaping a party of orks that arrived to loot the same battlefield, continued through the jungle towards Ashlance. While hunting for fresh game, Philippa encountered a mounted company of outlanders with the arms and demeanor of a lance of knights with mounted retainers. The sergeant in charge of the detachment, one Karbaron [[:gol traben]], had clearly made an effort to familiarize himself with Novan etiquette and treated Philippa as a high noblewoman once he learned her name.

The karbaron sergeant offered to share their “meager” rations (these consisting of preserved but relatively tasty meat and wine) with Philippa and her party. Philippa learned that Traben was a younger son of an ancient and wealthy family on a world called Dyrmose, and that he considered his service in the Imperial Guard to be a great honor both for himself and for his lineage. He also filled Philippa in on some of the strategic situation in the jungle. According to Traben, orks had landed on Nova from space shortly before the Guard’s arrival, literally arriving in a mountain that fell from the heavens somewhere in or near the Umbran Jungle. Should the outworld orks achieve dominance over their local cousins, they would teach the Novan orks their destructive magics, and given the sheer number of greenskins on the planet, such an event would almost assuredly result in total ork dominance of Nova. The Imperial Guard was currently engaged in a costly campaign in the jungle, accepting the cost of fighting the outworld orks at close quarters in order to keep them contained in the difficult terrain. Nevertheless, Traben said, the Guard was outmatched: Vikram al Gerez had brought only six regiments with him (Traben did not elaborate on how many men that translated to) as an honor guard, unable to anticipate that orks would arrive on Nova by random chance shortly before his own arrival. As a result, he had dispatched the Dyrmose horse to treat with the Novans in the jungle, appealing for their aid against the alien. The men of Ashlance had only recently rejected Traben’s diplomatic overtures, declaring themselves loyal vassals of House Darry and not the outlander so-called king.

For this reason, Traben was keenly interested in Philippa’s story. When he heard that Connor Darry had been left behind in Jonbri on death’s door, he became quite concerned, and declared that it was plainly of the utmost importance that Connor be saved. He had one of his troopers use his Vox Caster to pass the word that Connor must be found, and given the best medical care available.

Olive Mollin and Valon Sarqhardt found themselves somewhere in the Umbran Jungle. Lost and without supplies, they began to wander, hoping that Valon would be able to orient himself after his many travels through the jungle.

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Thirty-Eighth Session
Cathedral Catacombs: Part Two

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

Session Notes

Valon Sarqhardt and Olive Mollin encountered a living statue in the catacombs, animated by the confused and tortured spirit of a dead eldar warrior. The ghost warrior was willing to speak with them so long as they did not attempt to pass through the room. It seemed to be part of an eldar strike team that attempted to retrieve the artifact from the catacombs in ages past. During the attempt the ghost warrior became “corrupted,” which the confused ghost described as causing rage to overpower its hatred. Due to this corruption, the warrior was left behind by its comrades to guard the approach to the artifact against all but other eldar.

Olive produced the ranger pendant she had been given, which caused the ghost warrior to mistake her for an eldar and allow her to pass. When Valon attempted to follow, the ghost warrior attacked and wounded him immediately, and Valon was barely able to retreat out of range. When Olive’s attempts to persuade the ghost warrior to let Valon pass too failed, she destroyed it with a point-blank shot from behind. Her weapon melted a great hole in the statue’s chest, and caused the entire construct to explode in a shower of superheated alien material an instant later. Olive retrieved a large, smooth opal-like gem from the remains of its head.

The following room appeared to be another construct of the red priests, a great vaulted chamber whose floor was separated into tiles with numbers on them. A glass-encased parchment by the door bade those who would pass to follow the “sacred sequence.” A wrong step caused the tile to fall away, plunging the unworthy trespasser into what appeared to be a roiling lake of fire hundreds of feet below the unsupported floor. Olive and Valon had several close calls as they slowly worked their way across the floor, working out the sequence (a rising and falling Fibonacci sequence) through guesswork. After Olive was injured following one such near plunge to her death, Valon attempted to heal her using his sorcery. Her injuries were instantly and painlessly healed, but the bones in her extra fingers vanished as well – a development that caused her no small amount of consternation. Valon’s attempt to heal himself was physically successful but far more painful, causing a searing pain in one of his chest laser wounds.

With the sequence room successfully navigated at last, Valon and Olive found themselves in yet another chamber. The exit to this room was barred, and it was full of several glass-sided wooden barrels containing a noxious green gas. Several barrels had been broken, and the room contained several eldar and human corpses. The two eventually worked out that the door would open when the room filled with the gas. Valon surrounded himself with a sorcerous shield while Olive stepped into the sequence chamber. Valon’s shield held the poison at bay long enough for him to survive until the room was full and the exit opened, and Olive ran through as the gas faded into the stones, removed by some unseen magic, escaping just before the door shut again.

The door to the next room was piled high with eldar corpses, cut down by sharp-bladed metal throwing stars in attitudes that suggested they were trying to get into the room when they were killed. Inside, four glyphs glowed in the floor with an unearthly light. One, three annulets adamant in pile, caused a violent reaction when either looked upon it. Stepping onto that which corresponded to the mark of the Chaos ward in the cathedral’s vault, Olive and Valon were transported in visions to what they later surmised were tests. Valon was approached by Olive’s parents just before the ork attack on Jonbri, asking him what they were going to do. Valon reassured them that they could not lose hope, and found himself back in the catacombs on the other side of the next door. Olive found herself back in the jungle with a despondent Cyrian Dylan, who tried to convince her that they should enter into a suicide pact. Olive refused despite Cyrian’s pronouncements that their situation was hopeless, eventually telling him that they could not give up hope. At this, she joined Valon on the other side of the door.

The chamber in which they found themselves was clearly another Mechanicus chamber of some sort. Monumental statues of monstrous fusions of man and machine cloaked in the robes of the red priests dominated the far end of the chamber. Another servo skull rose from the gloom and attempted to scan them, then screeched a discordant call into the shadows at the far end of the room. A desiccated corpse approached them, to which had been grafted sundry metal parts, including a large vise claw or wrench. The creature attempted to strike Olive and Valon, its metal parts shrugging off the fire from her lasgun. Valon smote it with his sorcery, breathing a plume of eldritch flame that engulfed his body, the automaton, and the skull, leaving only smoking metal parts behind. As they examined the remains, Olive and Valon realized that the creature’s claw seemed to be built more for heavy lifting than combat, and speculated that they had just slain the caretaker of this ancient place.

The door between the two monstrous statues led to a narrow passageway, in which metal torches guttered to life. The passageway led to a final chamber in the shape of a coffin, which itself held a larger-than-life-sized coffin wrought of a strange bronze-colored material whose surface felt like satin, but with the strength of metal. The entire chamber was papered in what appeared to be sacred scrolls of the Mechanicus. The sarcophagus opened at their touch, revealing a fist-sized iron-colored pyramid with the same odd characteristics as the sarcophagus. Assuming they had found the artifact, Olive took the pyramid. This caused a pentagram to glow to life in the floor at the head of the sarcophagus. Valon stepped onto the pentagram and vanished in a flash of pink light; after a moment’s consternation, Olive followed.

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