Having concluded matters in the Granithor System, the acolytes return to The Brazen Sky and continue their journey to Iocanthus. Once they make the warp transit, the entire cell starts sleeping poorly. Only Constantine remembers his dreams, however; the reoccurring theme being the escape from the House of Dust and Ash, when Abbot Tamas of Shale attempted to ambush the cell. But instead of being executed by Achiel the Abbot’s congregation falls upon the entire party and savagely tears their eyes out. Throughout the voyage this theme of the Abbot’s congregation attacking and tearing out the eyes of acolytes, or just Constantine, or even Inquisitor Gedeliah, is reoccurring.
Feeling a little stir-crazy, Atellus and Tybalt defy the wishes of the ship’s purser and go explore nearby areas of the ship. After some failed attempts to engage with conversation with the ship’s crew, they come across a foreman who speaks reasonably good Low Gothic. He is of a friendly disposition, but very uncomfortable with the characters’ presence. They learn very little from talking to him, and after some further exploration return to their lodgings. In the meanwhile Metalus has managed to distract Sebek from a visit, covering the absence of his colleagues.
During his talks with Sebek, Metalus questions the purser about Iocanthus, and Sebek conspiratorially informs Metalus that Iocanthus is not a friendly place to visit. The planet is a war-torn planet, forced by its own dependance on imports to host a never-ending battle over supplies of the world’s only worthy resource, Ghostfire pollen. The natives are hostile, lawless, and – in some cases – godless. He warns the characters that “nobody… nobody goes to Iocanthus, unless they have hard business”. Sebek knows nothing about the events the characters are sent to investigate, but shrugs and says “when bad things get worse, they are still bad, no?”
During one of the night cycles, Constantine, Tybalt and Atellus are woken by an unusual noise in the spaces above the passenger module. Constantine risks some psychic use, sensing the presence of an adult-sized humanoid in the crawl-spaces above his berthing. Unfortunately, the presence is alerted to their scrutiny, and manages to scurry off before the characters trap him/her/it. Metalus investigates the scene, and concludes that it was most probably a human of impressive agility that was moving about the ventilation ducts. While Tybalt sealed the relevant access hatches to the ventilation system, the incident is reported to Sebek. He apologizes, but simultaneously admonishes the characters for advertizing their presence amongst the common crew. There is no further attempt of entry, and the stalker’s motivation is never discovered.
The cell re-enters real space after 9 ship-cycles of warp travel, entering Iocanthus orbit just within four weeks of their departure from Solomon. The lighter that takes the characters to Port Suffering is a former military craft, and the acolytes are warned about the drop. Atellus and Constantine accept offers for sedatives, but only Atellus actually swallows the blue lozenge before the orbital drop. The result is messy as Constantine empties the contents of his stomach out on everybody but Cromwell, who wisely picked a seat out of range from the suspicious psyker.
Landing in Port Suffering, the cell is met by Under-council Kerred Smyk and two shotgun-armed enforces. Atellus and Metalus try their best to accommodate the bureaucrat, despite his nosy and overbearing manner. However, before they manage to twist the situation to their advantage Tybalt grows weary of their behavior and intimidates them into leaving. While the cell gather their thoughts in the dust of the bureaucrat’s departure, a Cherubim arrives and in a childish voice greets the characters and requests that they follow it to Aristarchus the Seer, who is waiting at their intended lodgings.
While the characters follow the hovering Cherubim, hauling their luggage as best they can, they take in the sights and sounds of the city. The mix of people and cultures is a bit surprising, but the number of native Ashleen is not, nor is their curious, almost hostile nature. Atellus and Metalus notice Ashleen individuals in the distance who seem to be watching them intently, however. Meanwhile, Constantine is struggling with flash visions of Ashleen in the surrounding crowd that reminds him of various persons in the Abbot Tamas of Shale’s “congregation”.
As the characters move through an allyway, they come across a raving native man who is running up to people and shouting chaotic phrases of mad and incoherent prophesy. Despite the mumbling screams, the characters pick up a number of chilling phrases: “He’s here, he’s here again, the Crow Father come to drown us in lies!”, “False, flase, the two faces he has. First of three has two!”, “His hill shall run with blood!”, and “They have grasped a serpent to their hearts, fools! Pity the damned fools!”
The last phrase is screamed by the madman into Atellus’s face, but when Atellus and Metalus try to calm the raving man, his angered anxiety turns to subdued, almost childish fear and he sags between the two characters. Suddenly a number of younger, temperamental Ashleen surround the characters , angrily shouting “Begone off-worlder! We don’t need your kind!” and ordering them to release the old man. Atellus and Metalus try to calm the angry mob, and so does Constantine. The mob pauses, unsure; but when their alpha orders a few young braves to move against Atellus and Metalus, Tybalt once again grows impatient. Following a Feedback Screech he intimidatingly orders the mob to disperse, which they do in a hurry.
Constantine examines the now-unconscious madman, and once they ascertain he seems okay they take him with them. They only manage a couple blocks, however; before they now find themselves surrounded by an adult warrior, perhaps a warlord, and s number of his fighters. Without any regard for conversation or negotiation, the warlord orders the characters to release the old man. Finding themselves acutely outgunned and outnumbered, the characters acquiesce. The Ashleen warriors take the unconscious man with them and leave the acolytes alone without further ado.
The acolytes move on, finally arriving at a sturdy building adorned with an Imperial eagle. Inside they are meet by a surprisingly warm and friendly man, who presents himself as Aristarchus the Seer. The man is impressively considerate, ensuring that he takes each acolyte by the hand and praises their reputation, while inquiring personally about their trip, their well being, and what he can do to make them comfortable. His concern seems quite genuine, and it doesn’t take long for the characters to enter into a pleasant discussion about their assignment.
While the group awaits a good meal, Aristarchus quickly describes the important framework of their assignment. A cathedral dedicated to St. Drusus, the first cathedral upon Iocanthus (!) is to be consecrated in just five days! Mentioning that he himself is a distant descendant of St. Drusus, Aristarchus admits that he takes this assignment very personally! “A consecration of a cathedral upon Iocanthus will mark one of the most important events in this world’s history, it is a most sacred event that the Holy Ordos fully support! We must not underestimate the importance of our task here!”.
The acolytes are to depart Port Suffering early the next morning, and Aristarchus has already arranged a ground vehicle and the necessary camping gear. The drive to Stern Hope should take two days, which will leave the characters with a full day to investigate events there, and prepare to protect the consecration. Once again, Aristarchus impresses upon the characters the holy importance of their duty, before inviting them to discuss details over a full meal.
The group is treated to a very pleasant meal as they all discuss their assignment. Aristarchus, sharing that he has the great honor of being distant kin to St. Drusus, begins by explaining the significance of that saint upon Iocanthus. The cathedral is to be consecrated to St. Drusus, and so Aristarchus sees it as a personal calling to ensure nothing sabotages that event.
While discussing their mission, Aristarchus tells about some of the unusual phenomena that has occurred in Stern Hope. “_Bleeding statues, manifestations, haunting noises, sounds of scratching from the walls…” are some of the reported occurrences. As far as what is causing this, Aristarchus’s suspects a rogue psyker – Iocanthus does produces a slightly higher number of psykers than average in Calixus.
After their meal the group disperse to explore Port Suffering and make inquiries. Aristarchus has his own preparations to make, so he bids the characters good day and agrees to meet in the morning. Tybalt and Cromwell go to prepare the flatbed truck and ensure all their gear is properly stowed.
Atellus and Constantine make their way to the town’s chapel where they find Preacher Goudt. Like most peeple stationed on Iocanthus for some time, he is a stern and venomous old man. Although he is open to help the Imperial agents, he is exasperated over their inquires, in particular questions about any myths regarding the “Crow Father”. He explains the nature of the “Shale Crows” that populate much of the great continents of Iocanthus – foul scavangers, more reptile than avian – and says they feature heavily in local iconography and symbolism. The closest he can recall to a “Crow Father” is a tale of a dark “Vai” or prince/warlord, that was defeated by Drusus during the taking of this world for the Imperium.
Further inquiry into Missionary-Abbott Skae and the cathedral of Stern Hope reveals that although grudgingly respectful of his achievements, Preacher Goudt has little love for the Abbott – “a self-righteous noble flop from Scintilla here to save the heathens”. The site of the cathedral is chosen because myth would have it that it is where St. Drusus won the final battle to secure Iocanthus in the God-Emperor’s name.
In the meanwhile, Metalus visits the Arbitrator precinct-command, where is unusual status as a Verispex grants him an audience with Proctor-Laureate Lestano Dietz. The two men quickly take a liking to each other, and engage in a fruitful discussion about Iocanthus, Stern Hope, and the reported occurrences at the cathedral. Metalus is introduced to Suffering Marshal Valeria, who visited Stern Hope not long ago. As expected, the relationship between the Adeptus Arbites and the Ecclesiarchy remain formal, but Valeria reveals that establishing a good relationship with Brother Lemark will help the characters with valuable insights.
Constantine and Atellus make their way to the Alm’s House, where Atellus has a meeting with Sister Xanthe of the Sisters Hospitallier. In the meanwhile, Constantine folds up his sleeves and helps the medical staff where he can. Atellus learns that the acerbic Sister Xanthe is even less impressed with Abbott Skae than Preacher Goudt, and although building a cathedral upon Iocanthus is an impressive feat, she seems to believe it smacks of hubris. There is no doubt in Atellus mind that Sister Xanthe believes such efforts could be better spent elsewhere to spread the good work of the God-Emperor. Meanwhile Constantine learns some more about the Ghostfire flower, and how it seems to thrive – quite literally – on death an misery. It is practically impossible to cultivate, and the bloom migrates along areas of warfare and strife.
Metalus meets up with Tybalt and Crom, and together they head to the Pits, where they spend a few hours navigating the shanty town in search of various goods. While dealing with various black market arms dealers, the group picks up some rumors about how the Asleen have been unusually restful of late. This supports observations from Marshall Valeria, Preacher Goudt and the staff of the Alm’s House, who have all heard stories of strange occurrences up north. Clans are clashing over unknown reasons, natives of speaking of “evil spirits”, and more and more Ashleen are gathering in the shadow of the aquila at Stern Hope.
Eventually the entire group gather and share their findings, before retiring for the day. Early the next morning they gather to set off, together with Aristachus. He is his usual friendly self, but it is obvious he hasn’t slept well. In the truck, Constantine and Aristarchus come to discuss a rather fine deck of the Emperor’s Tarot the Seer has. Artistarchus reveals it is a “rare and generous gift” from the Abbott, and goes on to reflect upon his fascination with the man and what he has achieved. To give up his comfortable and successful life in Scintilla and come to Iocanthus, and succeed at such a monumental task as gathering support for a cathedral – and to have the strength of faith to place in in such a remote location of such symbolic significance. Aristarchus reveals he is quite humbled by the man.
That night, after everybody has turned in and Metalus is sitting watch; the Verispex notices a figure out in the darkness approaching. The figure stops when being hailed, and Metalus rouses the camp. Despite multiple attempts to hail the figure, it simply stands there, unresponsive, right at the edge of darkness. Eventually, they approach under cover of Crom, only to find a long-dead Ashleen standing. Obviously, wounded in a battle some time ago, the body collapses to the ground at the first touch. Metalus finds tracks that indicate the corpse somehow walked to the camp, but neither Constantine nor Aristarchus can detect any psychic disturbance. Atellus holds a short sermon and the corpse is burned, and a rather disturbed Aristarchus retreats to the truck to consult the tarot.
The next morning the group set off again, and Aristarchus obviously hasn’t slept. He spends most of the day sleeping while they drive north, and Crom observes that the presence of Shale Crows seems to be increasingly common the further north they travel.
Late afternoon Cromwell spots something off to the side of the trail, and everybody notices a figure standing upon a rocky outcropping, indistinct in the haze sun glaze. The group pulls over, but by the then the figure is gone. Suspecting another corpse, Aristarchus orders them to investigate. Crom and Constantine climb the outcropping, but find nobody. However, they both find a pictograph of a bird grasping a skull in its talons burned into a flat sheet of rock. Based on their descriptions, Atellus recognizes the bird as a falcon, and Metalus recalls that the image is strikingly similar to the iconography of General Drusus’s 2nd army group. Although Constantine clearly senses that the skein is this in this area, and that something terrible once happened here, Aristarcus simply states that this is “indeed an age of miracles”.
The group journey on, and late that day well after sundown, they arrive at the rough walls and haphazard gates of Stern Hope. A man of obvious authority amongst the armed guards standing watch on the walls approaches and carefully scrutinizes the group before welcoming them as servants of the Emperor.
Once inside the gates, the characters make their way to the Crying Clota, the only place that passes for an inn and a guesthouse in Stern Hope (as well as a scrap trader’s yard and livery stable). There they are greeted by Churchman Brother Lamark. Brother Lamark apologizes on behalf of the Abbot, who isn’t able to greet the party in person; and helps them get settled in to their rooms.
Once settled in, Brother Lamark takes his leave and Aristarchus retires to his room. The group make their way to the priory, which they identify as a pre-manufactured Imperial bunker that has been converted to the Abbot’s priory. Thereafter they make their way to the Cathedral, which is bathed in darkness up on the central hill. While the rest of the group inspect the perimeter, Constantine searches the aether for clues, finding that there is some old taint upon this place.
After inspecting the grounds of the Cathedral, the acolytes inspect the rest of Stern Hope. People all around them stare, smile, and whisper greetings as they pass, obviously in awe of the Emperor’s Servants that have come to protect them. Idle inquiry confirms the belief in the strange and unusual phenomena that has been reported, and reveals other strange incidents as well – in particular a glow of a light that is often witnessed up in the surrounding hills.
Cromwell also meets the man who let them into Stern Hope, Brother Sevarus; and discusses the state of Stern Hope’s security with him. Crom learns that the security is good enough to keep out bandits and roaming predators, but any concentrated attack by a warband would easily overrun the parameter.
Other discussions with natives and visitors in Stern Hope give the group some other clues. Some bands of Ashleen consider this location cursed ground, but there are not all who welcome the presence of the God-Emperor on Iocanthus. Furthermore, it is mentioned that amongst those opposed to the good Abbot’s work is Seth the Voice. However, the curious thing is that until Abbot Skae decided to build the Cathedral it is said that Seth and Skae enjoyed a good relationship.
The characters also learn that Warchief Kos’ke will be visiting Stern Hope for the consecration. The Warchief is an ally of the Abbott, a man whose support has provided some measure of safety to Stern Hope. Accompanying will be a Window of the Asheel, Death Singer Eshra Raine. There are mixed feelings about the visit of a Death Singer, and it is obvious the Asheel attribute a lot of myth and superstition to these mysterious women.
After the group returns to the Crying Clota, Tybalt and Metalus decide to go back to the Cathedral after the others have turned in. After some time, as they are about to leave, theys pot eerie lights in the nearby mountains. Tybalt’s analysis reveals it is no natural light phenomenon, and while they study it Metalus notices that one of the statues is crying blood. Feeling ill at ease with their surroundings, the two acolytes decide to call it a night and consider their experiences in the morning.
The next morning Aristarchus is looking even more fatigued, but his spirits are still high as he assimilates the information the group has gathered and discusses possibilities. His main suspect is still a rogue psyker, but he takes note of several other interesting pieces of information – in particular that concerning Seth the Voice. Aristarchus seems to share the Abbott’s sentiment on allowing the Ashleen to practise their own ceremony of blessing before the consecration, but agrees with Skae’s handling of the political matter.
After breakfast, Brother Lemark turns up to lead the group to the Abbot. Abbot Skae greets the acolytes with a sincere apology for missing their arrival the night before, but assures them that the young girl whose illness needed his attention is feeling better. The group talk for some time, and the Abbot’s passion for consecrating a Cathedral is evident. He shares with them the story of how he came to Iocanthus and devouted himself to this project, and reveals that it is in large part due to his connections amongst noble bloodlines on Solomon that he has managed to fund this enterprise. However, the Abbot fears that the phenomena are signs of a moral threat in Stern Hope, and he is adamant that it must be extinguished before the Cathedral is consecrated.
Brother Lemark is tasked with aiding the characters, and so after the meeting they decide to investigate a few questions, such as the crying statue and the lights in the mountains. Although there is no sign of any blood, Atellus identifies the statue as one of St. Drusus, and it stands stirring into the mountains where Tybalt and Metalus witnessed the lights.
Led my Brother Lemark, the acolytes make the trek into the nearby mountains, up upon the ridge line where the unnatural lights have been sighted. Having reached the top of the spur, the party is ambushed by three predatory Hexalids. The beasts prove no match for the group, but after the battle Metalus discovers that the Hexalids are long dead, old wounds rotten and full of pus and eyes pecked out. Constantine senses warp taint, and the confirms that entire area shows signs of corruption in the aether. Above, a murder of Shale Crows circle the party in an unnatural formation.
On their way back to Stern Hope, having made no further discoveries on the ridge; Atellus strikes up a conversation with Brother Lemark. They discuss the Abbot, and Brother Lemark shares that the Abbot is feeling a lot of pressure as they near the consecration. He is not happy about his reliance on the Warlord Kos’ke, and sees the plainsong ritual that the Asleen have arrange prior to the consecration ceremony as somewhat insulting, especially as the Warlord has invited the mystic Death Singe Eshra Raine to the ritual. However, behind the worldly frustration Brother Lamark believes Skae is a pious man, driven in his faith in St. Drusus and the God-Emperor.
It is late when the party returns to Stern Hope, but they arrange to get another look at the cathedral with Brother Lemark’s help. On their way there, they come across a sudden commotion. After some inquiries they discover that an Ashleen men, standing amongst his peers around a barrel-fire, suddenly dove in; burning himself to death face-first. While looking into the tragic indecent, speaking to shocked comrades who cannot explain the apparent suicide, Matelus asks about death rituals and mourning amongst the Ashleen. He learns, amongst other things; that Death Singers are revered Ashleen widows who sing to protect the spirits of the dead from harm.
Once they finally make their way up to the Cathedral, they witness Brother Lamark stop as he sees another Ashleen (a familiar worker who resides in Stern Hope), standing deathly still before the Cathedrals’ side entrance. Closer inspection reveals the man to be another dead, similar to the occurrence in the desert. They learn nothing more from inspecting the body that before, unfortunately.
The inside of the Cathedral is dark, and covered up to protect the furniture and decoration from dust prior to tomorrow’s ritual. Constantine attempts to do a reading, but suffers a sharp migraine as a result, leaving him disturbed and unable to get a proper sense of the place. Atellus is not comfortable with the empty feeling of this building, either; as it arises none of even his usual sense of warmth associated with places of the God.Emperor.
The group’s dislike of the circumstance convince them to pull back and get some sleep. Aristarchus has already gone to bed, and listening beyond his room tells them he is sleeping poorly. The next morning Aristarchus doesn’t come down for breakfast, and when Tybalt goes to wake him he is told that Aristarchus will be down shortly. Once present it is obvious from his haggard appearance that the Seer is not getting much rest. He admits the Tarot is a harsh master, and tells the acolytes that he will return to rest during the plainsong ritual, in order to be fresh for the consecration of the cathedral. However, first he will share some words with the Abott.
A great commotion has sprung up during this time, heralding the arrival of the Warlord Kos’ke and his accompanying warriors. The population of Stern Hope has flocked to the main avenue, and the acolytes join them to witness the warlord and 6 bodyguards ride into Stern Hope on large, menacing dustdog mounts. Amongst the bodyguards rides a venerable lady who strikes an impressive pose, and the Ashleen amongst the Stern Hope population reverently whisper her praise as she passes by.
The warlord and his group presents themselves to the Abbot, who frowns at his introduction to the Death Singer much the same way as Warlord Kos’ke frowns at his introduction to Aristarchus, who happens to catch up to the scene just in time. Once the Ashleen warriors have moved on to prepare, the characters returned to their lodgings in order to prepare.
Once the ceremony begins, it begins with a procession from the priory up to the cathedral. It is done with all the pomp and ceremony that Stern Hope can muster, and Atellus walks at the Abott’s side as a respected member of the Ecclesiarchy. Tybalt and Cromwell hang back, watching things from a distance and content to wait outside the cathedral. Once the congregation is seated, the Abbot introduces the events and is just about to let the plainsong commence when alarms are sounded.
Attention drawn to the gates of Stern Hope, Cromwell and Tybalt see that a large host of fanatical warriors have come to Stern Hope and are making a swift, concentrated attack on the main gate. Their numbers are such that even the warlord’s men cannot hope to stop them from battering down the front gates, and so the acolytes prepare for the inevitable defense of the Cathedral. Incensed at this heretical interruption, the Abbot orders for a price in blood to be sought for this sacrilege.
The main gates fall as Atellus takes control of the town-wide vox network and starts chanting his commands for the people of Stern Hope to find their strength, not give in to fear, and organize a proper defense. Constantine uses his abilities to provide an inspiring presence to the heart of the gathering, lending people faith and courage to set up the core of the defense, where the Abbot boldly strides amongst his flock, helping them erect barricades and firing positions as well. Metalus and Tybalt both head down to the city, to help rally the population and send then up to the cathedral. Cromwell sets up a firing position at the top of the hill, covering the road up to the cathedral.
As the attackers flow into Stern Hope, Warlord Kos’ke and his bodyguards mount up and charge into the fray. The main route becomes a scene of fierce and savage conflict, but a group of attacks manage to outflank the main conflict and set up the hill towards the cathedral. Cromwell catching an eye on the satchel they are carrying, and suspecting demolition charges he and Constantine try to suppress their advance. Eventually, as the suicide bombers draw dangerously near the cathedral, Cromwell launched a grenade at the group, which in turn detonates the improvised bomb they were carrying. The blast takes out a number of people nearby, and stuns both Cromwell and Constantine in the process.
Meanwhile, as Atellus continues to fortify the hearts and minds of the people, Metalus and Tybalt rush to the inn to get to Aristarchus and lead him to safety. They dodge a Dustdog stampede as they enter their lodgings, rendezvousing with the Seer and rapidly updating him on the situation. As they head back Tybalt attempts to “guide” the stampede into the heart of the conflict, breaking up the organization of the main thrust to the cathedral.
Simultaneously, Metalus spots another group of attacks trying to outflank the main fight, this one lead by an obvious champion that is passing orders. Warning Tybalt, they all charge into the small group of attackers and dispatch them with violent prejudice. After a short but fierce combat, Tybalt and Metalus slay the enemy champion and disperse his immediate bodyguards.
Robbed of their momentum, the sum of these events disperse the attack and the Warlord’s band and the population of Stern Hope slowly get the upper hand, slaying and driving off the attacking horde. The party of acolytes find themselves rallying in front of the cathedral, checking that everybody is alright. The view of the town shows the horrendous damages done by the attack, despite the fact that the battle was won.
As the characters rally before the Cathedral in the aftermath of the battle, they are witness to a fierce confrontation between the Abbot and the Death Singer. Standing over a wounded attacker, Eshra is claiming that there is something horribly wrong here, that the attackers were maddened and that there is something amiss upon the hill of Stern Hope. Before the Abbot can answer, Aristarchus steps up and executes the attacker and calls the Death SInger a heretic. “We await a holy miracle here, woman. A miracle that has been revealed to me by the Emperor’s Grace, and all those who would stand against it are heretics! Do you stand against it?”
The confrontation nearly results in violence, before Eshra cries out that there has been enough bloodshed. Calling the area cursed, and claiming the “crow sits on their shoulders, whispering lies” she rallies Kos’ke and his men and leaves, vowing not to return.
In the aftermath of the shock Aristarchus and the Abbot confer with the acolytes, and they make a plan on how to secure the town in order to continue the ritual. Atellus and Constantine tend to the wounded, both of body and spirit, while Tybalt and Cromwell fortify the gate. Metalus investigates the scene, and discovers that a kill-team under Brother Severus has moved through the battle ground dispatching wounded attackers.
After an hour, there is a sudden commotion at the Cathedral. Abbot Skae stumbles out of his chambers, stabbed and bleeding, claiming to have been attacked by a woman in black with mysterious powers. Aristarchus gathers the acolytes and demands that they find Eshra Raine and bring her before them for questioning. If she resists, the acolytes are to execute her.
As the Acolytes approach Eshra’s steading, they witness Kos’ke and a number of his bodyguards emerge from the central hut and take up a defensive position. The group parks their truck, and all but Cromwell (who has found a concealed sniping position) and Tybalt (who waits in the vehicle) approach the hut on foot. Kos’ke bids them halt at a safe distance, and Eshra emerges to ask their purpose. Atellus replies, calling for her to join the Acolytes back to Stern Hope, but she denies this. After some testing negotiations, Atellus agrees to sit down and talk to her, but as he moves carefully towards he dark swarms of Shale Crows attack from above.
Each Acolyte finds himself battling against the swarming carrion birds, including Tybalt whose vehicle is assaulted, and Crow, whose position is discovered by the swarming creatures. Holy flame erupts, and Atellus begins to drive back the creatures as his comrades slowly gain the upper hand as well, battering the blind monsters with melee weapons and spraying the swarm with full automatic fire. Eventually the swarm is driven off, scores of dead Shale Crows littering the ground. Eshra, Kos’keand his bodyguards have also survived, aided by the Acolytes, and Eshra begins a chant a blessing in wake of the attack.
The characters are brought into Eshra’s hut, where they speak of legends surrounding the hill of Stern Hope. There a foul spirit known as the Crow Father was defeated by the St. Drusus, but has haunted the grounds ever since. She believes that the foul spirit has somehow corrupted the proud Abbot and his companion, Aristarchus the Seer; and that something foul will take place upon Stern Hope soon. Against Kos’ke’s wishes, she presents the Acolytes with an ancient bound leather book that gives some insights into the nature of the foul spirit known as the Crow Father.
Studying the texts, the Acolytes learn that events leading up to the consecration, including the attack upon Stern Hope, all follow the pattern associated with of the warp-creature. Fearing that it all will culminate this night, the group decides to rush back to the town. There is some disagreement as to Eshra’s fate, but eventually her promise to remain in her home – and to return with the Acolytes later should their suspicions prove untrue, persuades the characters to leave her and rush back to the cathedral.
Hours later, once the characters approach Stern Hope, they immediately know something is wrong. The town is cast in darkness, and the damaged gates are stand wide open and unguarded. There is nobody about within the gates either, and the characters find nobody as they search their way to the Crying Clota. The guesthouse is in disarray, and Aristarchus is gone. However, they find a damaged dataslate that belongs to him, and Tybalt accessed his journals – revealing the belief that a miracle was about to happen this night, the holy return of St. Drusus himself!
Swiftly realizing what is happening, the characters rush back towards the cathedral, only stopping to investigate the priory on the way, as it shows signs of battle. Search the small bunker, they find Brother Lemark wounded, lying near death in the hall. Clinging to consciousness, he begs the acolytes to save the flock – all of whom the Abbot has gathered in the cathedral “Emperor save their souls”. Constantine quickly stabilizes the man, but he has fallen into unconsciousness.
Defiant, the group rushes to the cathedral, entering to fins a horrifying scene of betrayal and damnation. Aristarchus floats in the air, under a otherworldly whirlpool of aether burning in the unnatural heights of the cathedral. The cards of his Tarot circle him in mystic patterns, and he is enraptured in a hypnotic trance. At the main dais, the Abbot is in the middle of a horrifying transformation, his flesh distended and visage one of foul corruption. The people of Stern Hope are all transfixed, standing along the pews with terror frozen on their faces. Noticing the acolytes, the Skae-thing laughs and taunts them, and the acolytes find their willpower straining to keep them from embracing the damnation beckoning them.
Breaking the spell at last, the characters attack, firing at Aristarchus and the Skae-thing. The Tarot prove to be a near-impenetrable ward that deflects the character’s attacks, while the Skae-thing regenerates as fast as the characters manage to hurt it. While Tybalt and Atellus take on the Skae-thing, Metalus begins to shout at Aristarchus, trying to reason with the distant man. As the scene grows more and more desperate, Tybalt bravely fending off the worst of the warp-spawn’s attacks, more at more of the acolytes start to shout at Aristarchus – seeing their words are slowly having an effect on the man.
As Metalus, Atellus, and Constantine call for Aristarchus’s reason, Tybalt finds himself fought further and further back, the Skea-thing beginning to break through the Techpriest’s defenses. Eventually the horrible truth of the his surroundings dawns upon Aristarchus, and in a moment of panic and desperation the seer hurls himself into his own cards, his body instantly being shredded by the violent ritual, but in the process disrupting the psychic energy that was being channeled through the seer and collapsing the warp portal.
The portal collapses, and with it the Skae-thing is torn asunder and sucked into the closing gate. The people erupt into a screaming frenzy as they are released from their torment, but Atellus and Constantine soothe their souls with words of faith and psychic becalming. Aristarchus is dead, the Abbot torn asunder and his soul damned for all eternity, and the cathedral is heavily damaged, but the majority of the town’s people have survived, and the acolytes have averted the rebirth of an ancient daemon-creature of Iocanthus’s dark past.