The House of Dust and Ash
Second adventure in the Haarlock Legacy campaign.
- Following the debacle on Quaddis, the unfortunate group of survivors are taken into custody by the Inquisition. They suffer harrowing interrogations as part of the investigation, during which time they are all brought to Solomon. There the broken survivors are all sentence to death for their exposure (innocence proves nothing). However, while waiting for their sentence to be carried out the group are dragged out of their cells and presented for an audience with Inquisitor Silas Marr.
- Silas Marr introduces himself as an Inquisitor who has taken note of the groups’ exploits, and for their part in the Quaddis incident has ‘taken custody’ of them and offers them a stay of execution. Their involvement in Haarlock matters has drawn his interest, and he wishes to task them with a mission that also has ties to the very same notorious bloodline.
- The group are to act as the acolytes of Silas Marr and go undercover to investigate matters at an auction of several artifacts belonging to the estate of Erasmus Haarlock. The auction is to be held at the House of Dust and Ash, a huge and acient crematoria and tomb complex that dominates a volcanic promotory set amid Solomon’s toxic Balemire Sea known as the Burning Isle.
- A great many items belonging to the late Erasmus Haarlock are being auctioned off there, and all sorts of groups are hungry for the items in this collection. The group is to look into this affair, and see whether they can uncover anybody with unwholesome intentions. Silas Marr’s other acolytes are “otherwise indisposed” and cannot easily be re-routed for this task.
- Accepting the task (preferable to a death sentence, after all) the group designs a cover as a Rogue Trader (Atellus) and his retinue, and the Inquisitions helps equip them for their role. The majority of the group are to take quarters aboard the Cygnus Martyr for transportation to the House of Dust and Ash. It is decided that Jericus accompanies another acolyte of Marr’s, the Lorelii Dekanta (one of the few nearby and available, according to Marr); traveling to the House of Dust and Ash by a different airship.
- When Atellus, Tybalt, Constantine and Cromwell board the airship, Cromwell recognizes the captain of the airship from his time serving in the Margin Crusade (remembering him as an officer from a regiment Cromwell served alongside). Apart from Captain Elias Shadrack, the group are introduced to Nahun Grist (the First Mate) and the crew of fifteen. Apart from the crew, there are four other parties traveling with the Cygnan Martyr: Abbot Tamas of Shale and a selection of his congregation, Lanus Cisten and his assistant Whent, Octavia Nile and her bodyguards, and the mercenary-looking Vymer and Quill.
- As the passage gets underway, the group begin to subtly investigate their company. Atellus makes a great impression on Lanus Cisten, a minor scion of one of Solomon’s guilder families who has devoted himself to a life of academia and lore. Cisten seems to see this auction as a once in a lifetime chance to own a piece of the things he has dreamt of and studied for years. Whent, Lanus’s junior scribe, seems like a somewhat feckless and stolid young man, mutely terrified of absolutely everything.
- Constantine approached the Abott, a heaving, sweat-stained cleric with blotchy skin and fingers like writhing meat-worms. Tamas is a loud, highly-strung missionary who repeats loudly and at length that he has received a divine vision that has led him to here to bid on a holy saint’s relic. Whilst he has no definite proof, he believes the relic is included in the auction. His journey has been founded by his congregation, who have all given generously so that Tamas can secure the holy artifact. However, Constantine detects a faint warp stench on the man, and is suspicious of the Abott’s true motives.
- Cromwell manages to make a connection with the Captain, although Shadrock doesn’t recognize him until the guardsmen subtly brings up their common past. At fist, teh Captain is highly suspicious of Cromwell’s motives (it strikes the guardsmen that the Captain is happy to keep his past somewhat quiet). However, Cromwell’s good-natured socializing and discretion warms the Captain’s attitude a bit. The Captain seems genuine enough, and runs a tight, but fair ship.
- After extracting himself from Lanus’s excited dialogue, Atellus also manages to make contact with the Lady Octavia Nile. Octavia is an attractive young woman dressed in formal business attire, with fine manners and a cool, easy charm. She claims to be working for an undisclosed guild cartel, and despite her smooth manner Atellus gets the impressions that she is engaging the other passengers to find our who they are and their business at the auction. She strikes Atellus as a sharp woman on a mission, although that itself sin’t necessarily any suspicious.
- Well into the second day of the voyage, sudden, violent storms of squalling winds and heavy, corrosive rain force the ship to slow to have its speed in order to keep altitude, which makes for a very bumpy ride. The skyship passes close to the rusted skeletal ruins of what looks to have once been a great hive spire jutting from the black waters. These ruins are used as a navigational marker, known locally as the southern shard. Shortly after passing the Shard, the Cygnan Martyr comes under attack from violent raiders. Their lighter vessels catches up with the Martyr and harpoons her with multiple grappling catapults.
- As the two vessels join for boarding actions, the crew of the Martyr prepare to repel invaders. Fortunately, Atellus, Cromwell and Constantine fight bravely and slay a great many number of invaders, while at the same time managing to cut some of the harpoon lines. Down below, Tybalt works the ship, cutting anchor chains wherever he found them fixed to a boarding harpoon. The character successfully managed to defend the Martyr and ward off the attackers, destroying their wrecker ship in the process. Hailed for their actions, the Captain and the crew treat them with utmost respect the rest of the tour. However, teh battle was not without losses: Quill has been wounded in the attack, and one of Octavia’s bodyguards was killed, as well as six slain deckhands.
- In accordance with their plan, Jericus is separated from the other party of acolytes in order to pose as Lorelii Dekanta’s bodyguard – the thought being that two parties on each their skyship being able to gather more intelligence pre-arrival. Their skyship also comes under attack near the Shard, but unlike the Cygnan Martyr it is eventually overwhelmed. However, Jericus and a fellow passenger Tech-priest manage to sabotage their ship before they evacuate to the pirate vessel. There they fight ferociously to kill the remaining raiders, the encounter accumulating in a violent clash between the Tech-priest and the rogue tech-heretik piloting the pirate craft. The loyalist tech-priest wins, but at the expense of his life. He last act is to eject a tech-relic that he implores Jericus to return to an Adeptus Mechanicus temple.
- Atellus, Cromwell, Constantine and Tybalt arrive at the Burning Isle, are greeted by the head provost Hiram Bland, and get themselves settled in at the House of Dust and Ash. Their quarters are spartan, but practical (and near each other). They make contact with Marr’s inside man, Locutor Mayweather. Locutor is on the verge of a nervous break-down, and reports of grim happenings, adepts and PDFs vanishing and bodies turning up in strange place – all which Provost Hiram Bland does his best to cover up and carry on as if its business as usual. It takes quite some effort to reassure Locutor and motivate him to keep on doing the Emperor’s work.
- That evening, a formal reception is held in the Garden of Lost Saints. There are about 40-60 various parties present to bid in the auctions, each a prominent person and many their own entourage of servants, bodyguards, retainers. Provost Bland introduces the rules of the auction, and Head Mourner Greel blesses the proceedings with a prayer ending with “He who held stars and wonders in the palm of his hand”. The ceremony is followed by a somewhat surreal and sinister social gathering with drinks where the group manages to get a broader overview of the public in attendance.
- Meanwhile Jericus is steering his stolen wrecker skyship towards the Burning Isle, using prayers as much as the late Mechanicus prist’s blessings to keep the craft alight until it reached shore. As the stripped down priate craft crashes onto the shore, Jericus escapes alive only to watch the wreck crumble back off the cliff and into the toxic sea. A lone survivor, Jericus takes his weapons and the tech-relic entrusted him and heads to the House of Dust and Ash, noting a town laying by the coast in the distance.
- At the reception, amongst the many guests, the characters present take particular note of another four. The group engages in dialogue with a Master Nonesuch, a very calm and pleasant man that nevertheless sets Constantine’s nerves on edge (he believes there is something horribly wrong with that man). Master Nonesuch claims to be a dilettante collector who is looking for something unusual.
- Cromwell finds himself taking pleasant note of a stern, professional man who names himself Magyar Marshrek. Magyar introduces himself as a Rogue Trader looking to invest the profits from a recently fortuitous deal. Another character the group speaks to is Captain Yúchün, a noble and vessel master seemingly intent on simply enjoying life’s many adventures and experiences. Captain Yúchün’s style is dramatic even amongst this extravagant crowd, and is accompanied by a rather large retinue of servants, guards, and other various sycophants.
- Finally, there is Rogue Trader Rubio – a exaggerated flop who is looking for something worthy of his weapons collection. Rubio attempts to lay his charms on Octavia Nile, who is obviously annoyed with the young upstart. However, when Atellus attempts to intervene on Octavia’s behalf he provokes the young Rogue Trader and the two end up in a social stand-off. Violent confrontation is avoided by Octavia “flirting the man away” as well as the dramatic arrival of of a rather roughly-appearing Jericus.
- Finally convened, the group updates each other with their recent adventures in a quiet corner of The Garden of Lost Saints. Jericus tells the other acolytes of the town he spotted in the distance where he came ashore and the group decides that it is worth investigating the location. Cromwell and Tybalt are eager to volunteer in order to get away from the oppressive social context of the formal reception, and join Jericus on a journey to the town they will come to know as Deadtown.
- The three make their way directly to the only feature that is open and active at this late hour, a no-name watering hole at the center of Downtown. They enter separately, each looking to establish some connection. Jericus fails abysmally to ingratiate himself with a couple of Mourners but sensing his lethal edge, Chanshen the barkeeper makes contact with the Deathcult Assassin in order to investigate his presence.
- Tybalt and Cromwell end up helping two local farmers with their old, worn-down vehicle – or Tybalt works on the vehicle while Cromwell talks to the two young vat farmers – and discover rumors of cave systems northeast of the House of Dust and Ash that may lead in and out of the citadel. Meanwhile, Jeriucus and Chanhen come to an understanding that if Jericus can help acquire some new arms for the barkeeper, Chanshen will do what he can to gather intelligence on the killings up at the citadel. The party decides to split in two.
- Tybalt and Cromwall head northeast and explore the tunnel system, the veteran guardsman’s survival skills seeing them through some light cave exploration (assisted by Tybalt’s sensor and memory systems). Although they don’t find a way into the House of Dust and Ash, Tybalt is quite sure that if he manages to unlock their map, he could superimpose it over their cave survey and find likely points of intersection.
- Jericus approaches a PDF patrol and manages to bribe them into taking them to their duty officer, whom Jericus in turn threatens to supply him with arms vs. payment of suffer a far more unfortunate fate as another “missing” victim. The terrified Sergeant on duty wisely decides to accept the payment and supplies the Deathcult Assassin with three combat shotguns that the Sergeant claims he can “make disappear” from the armory.
- Jericus meets Cromwell and Tybalt as they are all traveling back to Deadtown. The shotguns are handed over to Chenshaw, who tells the group to come back later that day (it is now early, early morning), and he will relay what information he manages to gather. Fatigue catching up to the three acolytes, they return to the House of Dust and Ash, where Jericus reports the lost skyship and eventually gets a room. The three agree to get up late and continue their investigations.
- The next day the group gathers early afternoon to make a plan, and quickly decide to task Jericus with trailing Master Nonesuch. The rest set out to visit the Alter of Fire, where they find Provost Hiram Bland meditating. After a pleasant chat with the Adept, they all return to the grand hall to see a body being carried away by some PDF troopers. The body is of a man whose head has been torn open, and brain missing. Dowsing attempts by Constantine indicates the brain is missing, probably either burned or devoured.
- Jericus spends a few hours looking for Master Nonesuch and his entourage, and eventually comes across the female that accompanies the “dilettante collector”, not far from where this evening’s viewing will be held. He quietly tracks her back to where the party has rooms. Finding a clever vantage point where he can look into the abode, Jericus confirms the whereabouts of Master Nonesuch and takes note of the strange behavior of the entourage – cold and practically void of any personality.
- Meanwhile, the rest of the group freshens up and has some food before meeting up with Lady Octavia Nile to attend the viewing ceremony. The viewing area is heavily guarded by PDF troopers and gun servitors, and all weapons must be checked before entering the area. There is minimal fuss in these proceedings, apart from some arguments from Tybalt, and soon everybody is viewing the astonishing collections.
- Jericus watches his mark until they leave the apartment. Shadowing safely behind, he follows them to the viewing. Master Nonesuch displays perfect behavior, but Jericus is surprised not to see any interest in the items. Master Nonesuch seems pleased to socialize and watch the spectacle “as a whole”.
- The other characters are attentive to the people and items that catch their interest. Lady Octavia Nile is her usual charming self, but seems drawn to the Greyskin Psalter (a book in gibberish High Gothic). Abbot Tamas is there with his entourage, acting very unstable. He is confused and angry for not finding what he is looking for, and his cover is cracking under the slightest scrutiny. Vymer and Quill are quietly and professionally surveying the items (Quill seeming to recover nicely from his wounds), and so is Magyar Marshrek – neither giving anything away. Lanus Cisten is his usual excited, naive self; but assists Tybalt in cataloging the items on display. Rubio parades around (although out of Atellus’s vicinity), mostly paying attention to flamboyantly ornamented weapons. Captain Yúchün is simply making a drama out of the whole viewing, loudly boasting his appreciation to members of his extravagant entourage.
- The items that draw the character’s attention are consistent with the items that were delivered late, most of which also give Constantine some form of background reading as warp-tainted:
|Artifacts of note|
|A Book Unbound||An apparently leather folio filled with loose parchment pages|
|Constatine believes the leather the folio is bound in is humans skin|
|Bloody Seal||Gilt seal, the width of a human palm, showing the symbol of the aquila clasping keys in its claws|
|Silver Key||Large and ornate key made of tarnished silver, inscribed with archaic human symbols|
|Greyskin Psalter||A battered but sizable prayer book of achaic style and design|
|Octavia Nile tries not to show it, but she seems nonetheless particularly interested in this piece|
|A Shattered Pauldron||An Adeptus Astartes shoulder plate, torn and badly damaged|
|It is crimson in color with the symbol of a black, fanged skull blazoned on it|
|A Xenoflesh Mask||A vile looking hood-like mask of withered grey-green flesh, featureless but for a wide, circular, lamprey-like mouth.|
|An Onyx Statue||A beautiful carved statue of a three-eyed, bat-winged fiend|
|Tybalt is disturbed by this, and tries to discover what it reminds him of – but to no avail|
|An Unknown Portrait||Blurred-looking portrait with the inscription The Mirror of my Blood|
|A Primitive Doll in a Glass Jar||A small rag and stick doll, trapped in a dusty, stoppered bell jar|
|Constantine recognizes that a tormented and particularly vicious Astral Spectre is trapped within the jar|
|The Guilded Widow||One of three large items not on display until the actual auction|
|This item garnishes a lot of attention, and is reported to be some type of fortune-telling servitor|
- The group finish off their part in the viewing and convene for a short discussion. During this move Cromwell manages to covertly rendezvous with Jericus and is told that although seemingly clean Master Nonesuch and his entourage simply are too perfect in their behavior to be written off as “harmless”. After having observed them for some time, Jericus is skeptical to the fact that their facade never slips.
- After the viewing, Jericus attempts to shadow Master Nonesuch back to the apartment, but looses the party. After some careful reconnaissance, Jericus finds one of Master Nonesuch’s entourage hiding in the shadows, as if to set up an ambush. Jericus attempts to approach non-chalantly, in order to see if the bodyguard will let him pass – but finds himself brutally attacked instead! It is a hard-fought match, and it takes a lot of effort to slay the bodyguard. The man feels no pain, sheds little blood, and his flesh seems dry and almost unliving – but when Jericus ultimately wins he is truly revolted to discover a large insect-like creature imbedded where the bodyguard’s brain should be.
- Elsewhere, Atellus and Cromwell make contact with some PDF troopers and ingratiate themselves to some good intelligence: The bodies of these mysterious deaths began turning up three days ago, and have consisted of other PDF troopers and visitors. Yet even though none of the Mourners have been killed, they seem unsettled by these deaths. Additionally earlier that evening, in a moment of fatigue Bland admitted to Tybalt that he should conclude the business of the auction as soon as possible and get out as soon as he could.
- Atellus and Cromwell arrange a meeting with Bland, and reveal their status as agents of the Inquisition. Bland is relieved, but can’t help the characters as much as they’d like. He provides a list of names of people arriving on the island the same day the killings started, and otherwise provide some casual background information. He describes the relationship with the Mourners as strenuous that he can’t wait to finish up his duties here., As Inquisitorial agents, Bland is happy to defer authority to the characters, but that doesn’t help them with the Mourners. Greel, the Head Mourner, holds all the cards in terms of running the auction. Nonetheless, Bland promises the characters the use of the PDF when and if the time comes for open conflict.
- Meanwhile, Jericus has hidden the body of the bodyguard and picked up on finding the rest of the suspicious party. Some time later he find the lady and another bodyguard leaving their abode (he has lost track of the last bodyguard and Master Nonesuch himself), and so he continues to follow them, even though they leave the central areas of the House of Dust and Ash quickly behind, moving deeper into the vast complex.
- Working on deciphering the map of that complex, Tybalt and Constantine devise a way to send out Constantine as a beacon in order for Tybalt to get some fresh data to work with. During his movements, Constantine notices someone is following him. Advancing to open ground as cautiously as possible, Constantine counts four pursuers. He finds a place up top with a vantage point and waits. As the first two are about to come into view, they retreat beneath and fade from his senses. he other two have split up – one seemingly attempting to outflank Constantine to the left. While Constantine attempts to counter-maneuver, he discovers that it is Jericus trailing the first two that disappeared. The presence outflanking also pulls back and vanishes – and Jericus confirms that he was tracking two of Master Nonesuch’s entourage.
- Jericus continues tracking the strange party, while Constantine returns to the other members of the group. However, as Jericus is unable to pick up the trail he returns to the rest of the group shortly thereafter as well. They collaborate their experiences and findings and return to their quarters to rest. It seems the following day will be worth being rested for. Discussions in the group reveal that although they have plenty of information to rapport to the inquisition, it is the greater plot unfolding that concerns them. The group suspects that Haarlock has arranged the entire gathering, using his items to draw in visitors to flush out potential relations, and killing them – or that whatever is to come will somehow drive some plot or ritual to fuel Haarlock schemes. The focus, apart from unraveling events, is to devise an exit strategy – hopefully by breaking the cypher on the map.
- Jericus gets some intell from Deadtown
- Auction of the lesser Items, Cromwell and Jericus on overwatch while Atellus, Tybalt and Constatine do some shopping.
- Lunch, Atellus tries to get Bland away from Graal.’
- Auction of the greater items, the Guilded Widow, the trap is sprung!
- The escape from the Garden! Saving Lanus, while both Atellus and Cromwell see something…
- The Tomb of Solomon
- Encountering Master Nonesuch “feeding” on Vymer and Quill
- Sneaking to the Garden for Dataslates
- Finding Octavia Nile while looking for the Psalter
- Meeting up with Captain Yuchun, then being chased
- The Stand against the Children of the Kingdom
- The survivors move one, and the map is revealed!
- Ambushed by the Abott
- Escape, then the show-off at the Cygnan Martyr
- The debrief with Silan and Achiel