Skyfall

Fifty-Second Session

Twenty-Third through Thirtieth of Harvest
first through seventh day of the new moon (waxing crescent)

Session Notes

Countess Buhallin and her retinue left Green Rivers with an agreement from Connor Darry to receive Vikram al Gerez as soon as he could make it to the castle to discuss providing Novan support to the beleaguered Imperial Guard. As a gesture of goodwill, the Dyrmosemen left three trailers’ worth of lasguns, chain weapons, armor, and other supplies with the castle, which were quickly incorporated into Polynikes Callistos’ daily lasgun drill.

Though Connor and Philippa Darry worried about how deeply entangled their House would become with the Guard, Connor saw no chance of effective resistance if they could not meet the Guard on more equal terms militarily, which necessitated working together for the time being at least. In the meantime, messages were dispatched to every castle and surviving lords and knights in the territory, proclaiming Connor’s ascendance to the seat of House Darry and demanding fealty.

On the thirtieth day of the month, a herald arrived announcing the arrival of Philippa’s requested inquisition, to pass on the subject of whether or not Valon Sarqhardt was a witch or sorcerer. The cardinals – Lawrence Firenzi, Drusus Vita, and Rowan Dale – would arrive the following day.

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Fifty-First Session

Thirteenth through Twenty-Second of Harvest
twentieth through thirtieth day of the new moon (new moon)

Session Notes

Life at Green Rivers fell into a routine of training, fortification, and productively absorbing the Ashlance villagers who escorted Philippa Darry and Connor Darry to the castle. On the day of the new moon, Olive Mollin and Polynikes Callistos spotted riders approaching the castle: riders of the 99th Dyrmose Horse, a squad of ten splendidly attired knights attended by twice as many escorts and three Trojans.

The newcomers were led by Matthea Buhallin, whose rank Polynikes identified as placing her second in command of the entire Dyrmose regiment. They were received in the great hall of Rivers House, a feudal ceremony with which they seemed comparatively at ease. Countess Buhallin treated with Lord Darry like an equal, saying she was there to treat with House Darry on behalf of Vikram al Gerez for whatever assistance House Darry could provide.

Despite her lordly manner when received, at dinner that evening Countess Buhallin seemed uncomfortable, and ended up speaking primarily with Philippa. The war, she explained was going poorly, and the Imperial Guard needed as much as it could in the way of assistance: men, provisions, even just maps or local guides.

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Fiftieth Session

Eleventh and Twelfth of of Harvest
eighteenth and nineteenth days of the new moon (waning gibbous)

An agonized Polynikes Callistos made the decision to spare Olive Mollin, avoiding the topic of her possible corruption by Chaos after a few hesitant questions. The two dressed Olive’s wounds, and went back to bed.

The following morning, Philippa Darry and Connor Darry joined most of the castle garrison and not a few of the Ashlance villagers in basic lasgun drill, substituting sticks when their meager supply of lasguns was exhausted. Afterwards, Polynikes walked the walls alone, still visibly uncomfortable around Olive. Connor retired with Arlen Fraser and his staff to write official messages to new vassals, as well as requesting that the Ecclesiarchy convene a board of inquisition to determine Valon Sarqhardt’s fate.

Unable to eat the food he was brought, Valon asked his guards to be fed with raw fruits and vegetables. Philippa assented to this, and also permitted Theodosius Kirkland to visit him in his cell to counsel the prisoner. Valon and Preacher Theo had a long conversation, over the course of which Theo became increasingly convinced that Valon was in fact guilty of heresy. His attempts to get Valon to see the error of his ways failed, as did Valon’s attempts to get Theo to see that the sack of Jonbri was emblematic of the fundamental injustice of the feudal order. A shaken Theo informed Philippa that the prisoner was unrepentant, and recommended that he be isolated as much as possible lest his ideas spread.

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Forty-Ninth Session

Eleventh of Harvest
eighteenth day of the new moon (waning gibbous)

Philippa Darry and Olive Mollin enjoyed a sumptuous dinner at Hall. Connor Darry announced the disastrous results of the First Battle of Fairbanks, the invasion of the space orks, the Imperial Guard, and the coming of Vikram al Gerez. He also announced that, until such time as his brother returned from the Green Cape, he was assuming the lordship of House Darry, oaths of fealty to be sworn in two months’ time.

After Hall, Olive and Polynikes Callistos were invited to the West Drawing Room to discuss the defense of the castle. Polynikes had Olive present her plan for its defense, including training the garrison, Philippa, and Connor in the use of lasguns. Afterwards, back in Fawkes’ Tower, Olive nervously confessed to Polynikes that he was a girl, news that he found much less shocking than she had feared.

Valon Sarqhardt was unable to eat any of the food provided to him except for the water. He continued to read the story of St. Ahriman, pondering its lessons and his allegiance to Tzeentch. Afterwards, he had a conversation with someone in the cell next to him – possibly a daemon, as he had seen when he entered the dungeon that the cell was empty – in which he wondered what the point of following Tzeentch might be if even Ahriman could not save his brothers with the god’s power. The voice replied that Ahriman himself had not yet given up hope. He simply lacked sufficient knowledge to complete his quest – but he scoured the galaxy even still, searching for a “black library” held by the Eldar deep in the webway that contained the secrets he needed.

That evening, Connor and Philippa slept in their own bed for the first time in months, while Connor worried about all of the correspondence that would have to be sent in the morning, informing his younger brother Content Not Found: anders-darry of the succession, calling for Valon’s inquisition, and demanding fealty from his new vassal Houses.

At Interlude, Philippa awoke to Connor reading by candlelight, glad to be in the company of his beloved books once more. The two sat down by the window to read together.

Olive had a dream in which Cyrian Dylan accused her of abandoning him at Fairbanks, and choked her in anger and sorrow. She awoke to find that her sixth fingers had once more elongated into tentacles and were in fact choking her. She attempted to free herself by sawing through them with her belt knife, but one tentacle instead wrestled the knife from her hand and stabbed her in the head. Unable to free herself from her fingers, she stumbled to the other side of the tower to awake Polynikes before passing out from lack of oxygen.

Olive awoke bound to a chair, her fingers cut off, facing Polynikes in full panoply. He demanded to know how long this had been going on.

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Forty-Eighth Session

Eleventh of Harvest
eighteenth day of the new moon (waning gibbous)

The column arrived at Green Rivers to a happy welcome by the castle’s staff. Polynikes Callistos and Olive Mollin were given a suite of honor in the lavishly appointed Fawkes’ Tower, greatly impressing the younger members of the garrison. Connor Darry invited the entire castle staff to Hall that evening.

Meanwhile, Valon Sarqhardt was quietly taken to the castle motte and locked in the dungeon. In the pitch blackness of his cell, he asked Content Not Found: st-veronica for help to read his grimoire, which began to glow with a ghostly light. By the witchlight of his grimoire, Valon began to read the story of St. Ahriman.

In Fawkes’ Tower, Polynikes immediately began to help Olive analyze the castle’s layout with an eye to its defense, instructing her in the use of modern weaponry against fortifications and beginning to introduce her to armored warfare (with a particular injunction to fear ork walkers). For dinnertime, servants measured her for fine clothes of cotton and linen.

Philippa Darry and Connor enjoyed several hours of private time for the first time in weeks, including enjoying a hot bath. Connor said that he planned to recount the events of the First Battle of Fairbanks to the castle, as well as assume the lordship of House Darry at Hall. He and Philippa dressed for Hall, and descended to meet their castle staff.

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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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