The Frozen Reaches

Part 1- Come, You Masters of War


Entry 1.1- The Opening Salvo

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[[Damaris, orbited by the Bulwark Station]]

The War Summit of Damaris had already devolved into shouting and taunts by the time the Tetrarchs arrived. In full finery beneath their battle attire, the Lazareen strode with purpose towards the dignitaries as they argued fiercely across whirring holographic displays. They returned to their childish rivalries and bickering, unaware that the men who would save or doom their planet had just arrived…

[A planet calls for aid]
Harlon and Xaver wore ragged cloaks and satisfied expressions as they emerged from the the Kasballica Mission. Ever careful against the attention of rival interests, the Seneschal and Voidmaster of the Lazarus had met with a buyer in disguise, secured a good price, and washed their hands of a somewhat dubitable load of salvage. Waving away the noospheric message-prompts of Baystar and Brother Ahmed, they returned to the Tetrach Council Chamber to share the good news.

Giger had news to share as well; an Astropathic mayday call had been received, broadcast on a shotgun spectrum into space. The unclassified world of Damaris described itself as a would-be Imperial subject, and called for help from the Battlefleet against the encroachment of an Ork Waaaagh. To the Councils surprise, the Librarium records revealed that the Lazarus had visited Damaris centuries before, carrying the technology, supplies and personnel that assisted the settling Rogue Trader Forsellis to transition it from a frontier backwater to one of the few truly stable and functional settlements in Koronus, with a population of nearly 3 billion. Marius grimly disclosed that any reinforcements from the Sector Calyx would take weeks to mobilise, and it was agreed that the new rulers of the Lazarus would go to the aid of their predecessor's colony.

The heavens conspired to make the journey difficult; loaded heavy with supplies and equipment to aid in the coming war, the frigate was plagued by impossible warp-shoals, unnatural fires and sudden empyreanic gales. The Explorers white-knuckled through each challenge, staunchly assured as each disaster struck, that their decision had been righteous. But it was a battered and demoralised Lazarus that surfaced into the Damaris system, hopeful of a safe berth to return to battle readiness.

[Planetary Data:]

The Council surveyed the sloppy and ill-prepared collection of vessels in orbit of the planet with disapproval. A handful of system-ships drifted lazily around a tattered moon-station, a mess of competing comms channels cluttered the airwaves, and the few truly capable starcraft were at a wary distance from one another. A frigate, merchant cruiser and an impressive warship were in nothing approaching formation, and none responded to the Lazarus' hails. Finally the ship was given docking instructions, and the officers departed for the surface by shuttle, raking over their many deep concerns.

A gubernatorial aide named Joron awaited them on the tarmac, offering a ride to the Manor Palace. The Councillors reviewed the data-packs he provided with a sense of worry, learning in short order of the considerable divisions between the power-groups on Damaris. Of particular concern was the rivalry between the hereditary heir to power, Governor Kapak, and the ambitious General Dante. Complicating matters was the arrival of Lord-Captain Locke, an Imperial Battlefleet officer who presumed to command the lot of them.

The arrival of the Tetrarchs interrupted a summit that had already fallen into bickering. With their Cog-and-Stag standards flying proudly, the Council marched in among the worthies and joined the negotiations with professional efficiency. It was revealed by the Imperials that the encroaching Waaagh would arrive in ten days, but each group contended for full command of all the forces that had arrived to defend Damaris. After learning the disposition of each attendee, the summit was convened and the Council dispersed to pursue possible allies. Xaver had spotted an old drinking buddy in Captain Jeremiah Blitz, and the pair quickly agreed on a Compact of Free Captains that would encompass the hard-bitten free-marketeer, Elizabeth Orleans. The Emissariats of the Mechanicus, Giger and Harlon, reached an understanding with the Governor over a pipe of obscura; delighted at the arrival of the Lazarus, he was greatly supportive of their plans for provisionally shared leadership under Tetrarch supervision. Locke and Dante were less receptive however, scowling as Marius pointed out the multitudinous flaws in the current defensive formation.

Over the following day, a formal approach was made to each of the War Councillors of Damaris. Only Locke and Dante refused. Support was confirmed from the Lady Orleans and her Star Weaver, while two detachments of Skitarii legionnaires from the local forge were offered up for command by the Tetrarchs. In exchange, the explorers were committed to upholding the survival of Facility XV- Shard and it's chief operator, and the tithe-free trading lanes through Damaris back to Footfall. That evening, the Explorers boarded a fresh-painted shuttle - accoutred in their formal regalia - to attend a most untimely gala.


Entry 1.2- Old Men Talk

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[[Damaris listening post 56.213.KL]]

The annual gala was a prestigious event and no expense was spared in its lavishness. Golden plated orchestral servitors played famous Imperial operatic scores and gilded cherubim flew between guests with platters of extravagant food and drink. The inhabitants of Damaris were arrayed in all their flamboyant finery for the event and chatted and laughed amongst themselves, so comfortable and naive. Damaris may be readying for war but it's highest classes were still politicking and manoeuvring as if it were peacetime. The war council would face an uphill battle to get the nobles of Damaris to put aside their petty squabbles…

[Negotiations]
The chamber was saccharine with baroque trappings, the mathematical melodies of a servo-orchestra echoing across the ballroom floor. The manifold dignitaries of Damaris were gathered; from cringing nobility and wary civil servants, to swaggering military men. But the crowd parted in a whispering wave around 10 individuals, stalking the crowd like wolves among sheep.

General Dante held court amid a sneering pack of aides and advisors, the biggest wolf of all. To his left, Commander Reynolds of the system fleet dispensed chuckling assurances to jittery noble ladies, his gaze duelling across the chamber with the steely Lord-Captain Locke. The Free Captains Jeremiah Blitz and Elizabeth Orleans endured the clumsy flattery of the locals, while reclining to enjoy the good wine and entertainment. The Governor - besieged in more ways than one – kept himself cloaked in a sea of bodyguards and sycophants. It was the latest and most curious arrivals that attracted the most attention however, clad in scandalously sober attire: the Tetrarch Councillors of the Lazarus.

The Council diligently circulated the crowd, with the Seneschal first engaging the world’s elderly Astropath. The psyker would reveal deep loyalties to the Tetrarchs’ ally the Governor, committing himself and his Choir in whatever way possible to the defence of the city and the gubernatorial palace. Harlon then warily approached the General, but his efforts were countered with a jeering taunt about the ‘qualities’ of Rogue Traders.Commander Reynolds’ bravado was rattled by a discussion with Xaver, whose frank, incisive demeanour challenged the toffish impression of Rogue Traders imparted to him by the General. The Voidmaster would also share a dance with the Lady Orleans, who revealed that an order had been sent that the Aegis abandon Damaris to its’ fate. Armed with this whispered disclosure, he urgently plied the Lord-Captain’s ear, but was rebuffed. It would not be until later that her senior advisor would propose a private meeting.

As the night drew to a close, the planet’s senior Cleric approached the Tetrarchs with a forceful war-priest in tow. He offered the warrior Artorias , descendent of a former officer of the Lazarus, to serve as protector of the treasured artefact he also bequeathed. Pleased with the initiative, the Lazarus agreed to take the Drusian Orb into protection, in exchange for command of the 500 Fraternis Militia controlled by the Church. They speculate with their new comrade about whether a further militia could be raised by arming loyal members of the Damaris population. As the seasonal meteor shower takes place outside, the Tetrarchs respectfully engage Governor Kapak as a group, a firm gesture of solidarity.

That same evening, the General’s vox wave reached the Explorers. He informed them that a communications relay station in the distant mountains had gone dark, and that that it was time for them to “prove themselves”. Fearing an early incursion of Orks - and alarmed at the General’s casual delegation of so crucial a mission – the Lazarus heaved anchor for the site. The Explorers and a group of House Armsmen set out by shuttle, performing careful scans and flyovers by Aquilla gunship seeing fires and bodies strewn below. But the enemy forces were carefully concealed and as they approached they were ambushed by Ork Kommandos, who leapt out of shadowed corners and from beneath piles of mud and leaves. Xaver was struck down by a sudden spray of Slugga shells, his shin severed by a smoke-belching chain-axe. As the House Guard scrambled to lay down a barrage of covering fire, the other Tetrarchs battled forward to recover his prone form. Giger reaped a worthy toll with his terrifying axe, its’ thunderous impacts booming out over the roar of Artorias’ flamer. As they fought, they spotted their comrade Marius, near death and slumped against the bullet-scarred side of his shuttle. Xaver limped to his aid, burning the engines hot to return him safely to the Medibay while Giger performed emergency first aid to staunch his gushing wounds. Only after his old friend’s life had been saved would Xaver finally collapse, pale-faced, to allow the ship’s chirurgeons to fit a temporary bionic foot.

The coming days were consumed with more bartering and negotiations. On learning of her history of putting the lives of civilians and her crew ahead of command-chain politics, Xaver ceded control of the space defences to a fresh ally in Lord-Captain Locke. Meanwhile Harlon, Giger and Artorias would return time and again to attempt to reach an agreement with the General. He demanded that the Council carry out an assassination of the Governor for him, his lingering threat to sabotage all that the dynasty had secured hanging over their heads. Leery of murdering their ally to benefit their blackmailer, the Explorers attempted to find a compromise that would satisfy him. But to no avail. Laughing in the face of their frustration, he promised the Tetrarchs that they would not see a cent of the return on their investment if he was not Governor by the end of the war. Exhausted by the endless, fruitless talks, the Council withdrew to consider what they might do.

Aboard the Lazarus the Tetrarch's receive a missive from Lord-Captain Locke containing all her scouting data for the approaching Ork horde, a pertinent reminder of the grave threat to come.

Ork Waagh Snokgritz Scouting Report
Ships: 2-4 'Kill Krooza' class vessels [Roughly cruiser sized]. 10-20 'Onslaught' class vessels [Roughly raider sized]. Unknown quantity of 'Roks' [Single use transports, often hollowed from asteroids].
Ground Forces: Estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Ork forces. Suspected support from armour and air units.


Entry 1.3- And Young Men Die

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[[Preparations for the invasion begin]]

Behind his flickering green console aboard the Bulwark's bridge warrant officer O'Leary stared blankly at the screen. The auger array traced it's consistent circle, scanning the nearby area for contacts. Amidst the chaos of burning Ork hulls, weapon discharge and engine flare, he noticed an absence. A ship that had been there moments before, now registered only as afterburn. He turned to his bridge officer and spoke with a shaky voice: "The Lazarus sir…she's gone".

[The invasion begins]
The officers and crew of the Lazarus walked on their tiptoes for days. Word had spread quickly to those who had not heard the shouts echoing from the Council chamber themselves; the Tetrarchs were on the warpath. Wily veterans and wide-eyed recruits speculated openly together, guessing at what the volatile combine of egos that governed the ship might do when faced with open defiance.

The Seneschal – who had been leading the negotiations with General Dante – was known to have stormed off the ship and absconded in a shuttle to Shard’s Forge. It was said that the fortification works there had redoubled in scale and intensity under his simmering scrutiny. The remaining worthies of Damaris would instead be visited by Xaver, Artorias and a hastily enlisted mind-reader named Godwyn. The enterprising Astropath had impressed the Tetrarchs by securing a deal with the Damaris master psyker Stasys, a simple guarantee of passage offworld in trade for full access to his Choir and other resources during the siege. The rugged trio presented a curious contrast to the polished presentation of Harlon, but they enjoyed some victories all the same. The Marshal-Enforcer Thrace agreed to mobilise her riot cadres in support of the war effort, in exchange for funds and other support in prosecuting the General for sedition after the war. Commander Reynolds also agreed that his air-forces and the Bulwark defences would coordinate with the growing consensus-leadership of the Tetrarchs, asking only that they remain neutral in the General’s plot to claim the Governorship in victory. Backed by the near-total endorsement of all the other power-groups, the Explorers returned a final time to Dante’s command bunker.

Their last-ditch offer was a massive investment of funds and personnel to fortify the most vital assets to the war. Though disgruntled by the compromise, the General finally proffered a hand to seal the arrangement, opening airspace for the immediate arrival of Lazarus delivery shuttles.

Though held together by handshakes and backroom agreements, a War Compact of Damaris was finally in place. The final deployments were shared and confirmed by noospheric conference, each party outlining plans which had been quietly vetted by Xaver at Marius’ sickbed. The days of preparation would sped by, a blur of repairs, construction work, tallying and ceaseless digging, all overseen from the bridge of the Lazarus.

In the end the Orks arrived on schedule but from an unexpected quarter, their frozen asteroid-ships groaning forth from the ice-fields trailing dust and smog and death. The Lazarus’ warning signal shot through the global noosphere like a firing synapse, and sirens blared across the planet. The thunder of cycling munitions boomed through the halls and chambers of the Lazarus as it lumbered forth to answer the long-anticipated threat. As the fleet mobilised around them, the ship advanced on two particularly massive asteroids. Vibrations rocked the deck as the order to ‘fire all’ was received, a blinding cascade of projectiles searing out across the starry blackness. Immense clouds of rock and ice were blasted off the surface of the ‘Rok’, chunks of junk-metal plating gouged free and pinwheeling in the monster’s wake.

Answering volleys spewed back from the carriers and their escort, the Lazarus’ voidshields and armour thrumming under the sporadic impacts. But the hulks rolled on, inexorable, soaking up the punishing torrent. In the near-distance, the Tetrarchs began to see pinprick blossoms of light as the Aegis and Free Captains unleashed fire on targets of their own. And at last, the grinding giga-cannon emplacements of the Bulwark went live as well. Forced to spiral their ship out of the enemies path, the Explorers clung to their seats as the savage cannonade began.

A heat-storm of detonating matter shuddered through the foremost Rok, the batteries carving the vessel to its’ bone-structure. Clouds of Ork bodies poured into the void, their flailing forms pulverised by the shockwaves as the bombardment intensified. Slaughter-mist slapped palpably against the hull of the Lazarus as it veered astern of the Rok; it burned up when the two vessels’ voidshields crackled together, and the frigate released a brutal close-range broadside. Artorias’ teleport-raids set a network of incomprehensible devices ablaze, while Godwyn reached out to guide the hungry flames with his mind. This monstrous effort, aided by the straining the Choir, sent the fires snaking down every corridor and warren-hole, until at last, with an earth-cracking boom, it reached and consumed the plasma drives. The sloughing mass of earth and iron scattered off course, casting the planet in midnight shadow as it rocketed past.

Within the Damaris control bunker, the shouts of triumph were short-lived. An Ork raider, badly damaged in the battle, careened towards the Lazarus; beneath angry return-fire, it began to disintegrate. Its’ warp drives belching, it’s ruined hull trailing clouds of purple light, it detonated with a blast that set all the skies of Damaris aflame. Aboard the ship, the rising groan of the superstructure drowned out all other sound, as the Voidmaster strained against bucking, sparking controls. A terrifying maw, filled with shrieking, infinite blackness, erupted across the heavens. The planet watched in horror as a riptide pull sucked at the Lazarus, a pinprick of silver silhouetted against the vast, malevolent glow. In a moment, the vessel was gone and the maw snapped shut. Through watering, flash-blind eyes, the citizens of Damaris watched a shadow fall across their city, as the surviving Rok descended.


Entry 1.4- Past Midnight

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[[The desolate halls of the Lazarus]]

The the Lazarus shuddered beneath the officers' feet as the vessel was swallowed by the Warp. The dark view-field was suddenly splashed with swirling eddies of colour that seemed to ooze and spasm as they danced an impossible pattern across the shieldglass. First Officer Casterly came to first and began giving orders: "Get those shutters down". The 2nd helmsmen turned away from the view-field, a mass of squirming maggots now filling his eye sockets. Opening his mouth as if to speak, he vomits a current of steaming blood and ichor. Nearby bridge officers simply faint dead away, many frothing at the mouth as madness instantly overcomes them. Casterly shouts again: "SHUTTERS. NOW!" But his Exo stares back blankly, his eyes glazed over and a slow trickle of excrement seeping from the bottom of his uniform. With a buzzing whirr his datafeed connections are severed at the point where metal meets flesh, as Giger's medicae mechandendrite slashes down. His interface cables rsnake down into the pulpit, inputting codes in rapid succession and engaging the bridge's view-field shutters. They close with a resounding slam. Calm falls over the bridge, until a low voice murmurs: "How long were we exposed?". Ashen faced, the Astropath Godwyn is the only one who dares to answer, an unnatural dark descending as the words leave his lips: "Too long…"

[The Warp]
Pitched into darkness, the command crew scramble to ignite mag-lamps and emergency generators. Desiccated forms slump over consoles all around them, dusty, drawn and faded with age. Wilted, white-haired corpses stare back at the Tetrarchs, their pale, papery lips drawn tight against greyish teeth. As Xaver makes to rush to Rosilda in dismay, Artorias gives a shout of warning. An eerie red sphere is drifting above the Voidmaster's once-youthful protégé, it's surface dully reflecting her dead, sightless expression. Xaver empties his pistol at the apparition, but the beams pass harmlessly through it and spark madly against the void-shutters. As Artorias' flamer roars to life, a burning curtain is drawn between the survivors and the phantasm. The Explorers break into a run, Xaver being dragged, and Giger storming towards the ailing Genatorum, his mechadendrites twitching in concern.

Their flight leads into the Med-Bay, and they quickly stock up on Stimm and Wideawake. Within the abandoned facility they also discover Alphonse, a young and terrified shipwright. Initially suspicious of this lone survivor, the Tetrarchs question him. Finally, Xaver offers to take responsibility for him, reassuring the lad. Nonetheless, Xaver's hand never strays far from his pistol-grip while 'the kid' remains close

The maze of corridors blur around them, every shadow seeming to conceal some new horror. Corpses lay in pools of blood, crushed by debris, aged into dust or otherwise slain by wicked misfortune. The machines that serve the Lazarus are gripped by madness, screaming, crashing or otherwise violently malfunctioning. The barren hallways themselves rebel, the steel forming ragged claws that screech and scrape against armour, or turning to liquid and dragging them down. Coughing up gobbets of mercuric fluid, the Explorers thrash and struggle through the slushing metal. Nightmarish visions assail the Explorers as they press on, images of impossible, blood-soaked battlefields and seas of corpses, the dead, accusing eyes of the Lazarus crew, the crumpled, fetal-forms of desecrated Stormtroopers and the smouldering ruins of Enforcer vehicles. Assaulted by these visions, the Explorers laboured, step-by-step to escape the torment.

Arriving at last in the Genatorum array, the Tetrachs urgently search for evidence of damage. Giger has informed them - his normally neutral tones distorting with rage - that something is draining power from the holy propulsion drives. More worrying still, Godwyn observes a fluttering of the Gellar Reactor, and a sickly skein of warp-radiation. Endless rows of plasma-coils blur past them as they run, until the stink of ozone and wet rust reach their nostrils. The Tetrarchs observe with horror that a slab of corroded ship-shrapnel priced the Lazarus hull, burying deep into a reactor and carrying across survivors. Bat-like Orkish mutants, warped and twisted by exposure to warp radiation, swarm around leaking plasma-drive, gorging themselves on the luminescent fluids. Guzzling like piglets at the teat, their beady eyes are drawn by Gigers roar of disgust, and they scuttle towards the noise with hoots and screeches.

Gunfire tears into the brood as it advances, bluefish ichor splattering across the ironwork. Exploding in wet clouds of gore, the horde is thinned by the Explorers' onslaught as they scurry forward. A sweeping wave of promethium gouts in reply, Artorias' flamer consuming dozens of the beasts. Alien limbs and blood pinwheel crazily as Giger reaps into the seething mass. Though vomiting caustic blue stomach-acid as they die, the Orks cannot prevail. Satiated by this slaughter, Giger tends to his colleagues wounds before turning his attention to the damaged Reactor.

With the Gellar Field and power source stabilised, the Tetrarchs heed Godwyn's concerns, making for the Navigators quarters to investigate the comms disturbance. Smashing his way past the security doors, Giger bursts into grotesque birthing suite. The monster that was once the Navigator is colossal, an oily slater-shell and thrashing millipede-limbs glistening in the gloom of the chamber. Chittering mandibles slaver and snap with satisfaction as a pale, hairless form bursts from her distended belly; this is the first of her grotesque mutant children. The Tetrarchs leap forward, but her Warp Eye snaps open and scours them with unbridled warp-force. The Explorers stagger into the chamber under an onslaught, as the recently-birthed humonculoids add their powers to the barrage. Xaver snaps off a few shots and Giger and Artorias break into a blind run. The Cleric carves his chainsword deeply into the monster's flanks, and is sprayed with milky bile. Slipping in the slime, he stumbles to one knee and is consumed in a single gulp by the massive warp-form. In horror, Giger, Xaver and Godwyn hack and slash their blades into the gristly forms of the birthlings, their eyes squeezed tight. But the assailment is too much, and an edge of madness begins to creep into their desperate swings. Just as hysterical laughter starts to bubble from their gore-splattered lips, the mother-beast begins to convulse, spewing a thin soup of purplish matter. Finally, with a great and shuddering roar, it's chest splits in half and the madly revving blade of Artorias' weapon emerges. Slithering free in a fountain of slime, the battle priest comes slowly to his feet, and the birthlings quail at his maddened expression.


Part 2- The Myth of Sacrifice


Entry 2.1- Winterwash

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[[Damaris Air units counter Orkish bombing runs ]]

The young man brought his father’s sword to war, as he thought of war as a thing to be fought with swords. The others had laughed at him, for their fathers sent them bearing guns. As he listened to the ripple of rich velvet banners overheard, the manes of proud Carnadons aflame in the wind, he thought with regret of the old man. He had come from the stars, and had always told his son of the great battles he had fought with the sword. But the others told him wars were fought with guns, so he left it behind, and held his gun as he had been taught. Perhaps his father - a frail and lonely man in the end – had simply lied. Perhaps he had never fought in a war at all.

The young man died beneath the Carnadon banner, cut down by a monster. It had not stopped, scarcely noticing him as he fell; he was one of many it would kill that morning. The young man died, and few would remember him, save for a young woman who remembered him very dearly. And as he lay dying, he knew it was because he had forsaken his father's sword.

[Rejoining the war-effort]
The reassertion of Tetrarch control of the Lazarus was decisive. With the repair of the reactors and the destruction of the Navigator brood, electricity and order was spread swiftly through the ship. The looped broadcast of Xaver's instructions soon reached the demoralised crewmen in their hiding places; by week's end, the ship was returned to readiness for retranslation. For a time, mutinous gangs had roamed the halls, preaching sedition against the Tetrarchs in the wake of the tragedy. These had been put down by Artorias and his coterie of the faithful, who preached, and if need be, fought to eradicated the malcontents. Giger and his servitors laboured hard to restore food, water and clean air production, while the Voidmaster gathered the fighting men and hunted the surviving Orks through the bowels of the ship.

The Lazarus breached from the Warp onto the field of battle.The Bulwark's frantic vox-officer called immediately for the Explorers' aid, as the beleaguered space-forces sought to repel a sudden ambush by Orkoid ships. The picket was under heavy pressure, but the aliens were unprepared for a surprise counter-attack. Coming into the wake-shadow of the Onslaught Raiders, the Lazarus crippled the spearhead with a furious broadside. Trailing blood and ironwork, the attack-ships bounced off the Bulwark's stonework and disintegrated in the rumbling retort of the station-guns.

The Explorers quickly joined an emergency summit of wartime leadership, convened by Captain Reynolds in his orbital bunker. The war had gone ill in the Tetrarch's absence, the mighty assault-force of jet fighters, tank divisions and special-forces smashed by an unforeseen surge of Ork heavy units. The Explorers grimly watched as an immense Squiggoth thundered through the wreckage of the Sphinx Heavy 1st, the aerial vid-capture footage ending abruptly in a flash of alien anti-air fire. Though the walls and defence hold elsewhere, the defenders are battered, and the hive's industries are turned over almost entirely to ammunition production. General Dante blames the Tetrarchs and storms out of the meeting. The Council meet with each of the remaining leaders to offer renewed support and assurances, and the business of defending the hive begins afresh.

With the Lazarus in dock for repairs, a recruitment campaign began to replenish the depleted crew. Extensive scouting was also undertaken by the planet's few remaining high-altitude surveillance craft, in the hope that the defenders could better prepare for the next wave of attacks. Under the direction of the Tetrarchs, the disposition of forces is recalibrated to match the estimated enemy strength, with an increased concentration of artillery and men to the hive walls and the bunker defence network. As the week's fighting begins, the rattled defenders have been steeled by the cool proficiency of the returned commanders. Joining Lord-Captain Locke on the bridge of the Aegis, Tetrarchs Giger and Xaver plot a devastating matrix of starship crossfire, through which the Ork forces are forced to plunge. Though still outnumbered, the fleet are able to use this aggressive formation to considerably cull the herd on it's approach to Damaris. Within the city walls, Artorias' decisive leadership and rousing battle-sermons sets a great fervour among the defenders, and Godwyn lends his considerable strength to the scrying rituals of the planet's Astropathic choir; it is they who forewarn that trouble will befall the city's outermost defences, the remote trench-works of Winterwash.

Sure enough, as a fresh snow falls, so too does a hail of new Ork dropships. A sea of bellowing troops and vehicles disgorge from the bowels of the smouldering Roks, visible from the city walls only as a smudge on the horizon. The Winterwash - a network of riverbed trenches created by a nearby dam - came alive with the rippling gunfire of Tarantula support emplacements. As the warning signal went up, the defenders were reporting that the alien's first foray had been comprehensively routed. Before long however, the cheers turned to screams of alarm, as the harrying force was encircled and brought under strafing fire by the canny Ork commander.

A menacing column of Chimera APCs roared towards the battlefield, flamers and heavy stubbers bristling at their gunports. Whipped up by his impassioned sermons, many defenders had been ready to answer Artorias' call for volunteers for the sudden rescue mission. The commanders could see the inexorable advance of the Ork war-machine, a foul, plodding tide advancing on the city walls. They knew the mission would have to be lighting fast, or risk being caught in the alien's murderous approach. Each loaded with a half-crew of Household or Levy troops, the transports blasted through the the ragged Ork encirclement at full pace, gouting fire and multilaser shots. The light smattering of frozen trees were smashed to splinters by the shuddering fire, and the few Orks who did not scatter were reduced to burning skeletons by the wash of promethium. Cambridge-blue contrails streaked across the sky, as Xaver's Aquila and a flight of Lazarus shuttles descended urgently from orbit. With sporadic return fire spanging off their hulls, the Chimeras formed up around the pinned troops, providing cover for the wounded to move to the shuttles. As they ran, the retreating Levy troops added lasfire to the fusillade, driving the Orks further back into the snow drifts. But it could not last.

From the cockpit of the Aquila, Xaver could see a mass of light vehicles thundering towards the landing site. Mud and snow churned in the blurring tracks of the encroaching machines, their hulking riders whooping and cavorting as they sighted the humans. Worst of all, several light artillery pieces were being towed on rattling trailers, the operators breaking off and disembarking on a raised embankment. As a rising shriek reached the ears of the defenders, several men leapt for cover.

The scream of displaced air echoed across the snowdrifts, as a molten teleportation circle was scorched into the landscape. From the column of steam, Giger and his red-armoured Skitarii stalked towards the Orkish artillerists, their weapons ablaze and bucking in their iron grips. They advanced in a merciless line, mist boiling and slain bodies smoking in their wake.The furious storm of automatic fire scythed into the unsupported tow-guns, and the war-tracks faltered in confusion. As the light-vehicles advanced on the landing area, disciplined fire tore into them, causing them to careen and explode against the armoured hulls of the Chimeras. A line of earth and blood was ripped into the air as Xaver squeezed the trigger of his autocannon far overhead. Within the circle, Godwyn and Artorias whirled and slashed, carving riders from their seats even as they ducked the frenzied drive-by blows. But the Orks were not truly broken until Giger - his robes billowing in the frosty wind - struck a command-bike effortlessly in two; the bisected halves of the alien leader spiralled apart as the molten-hot axe descended. When the explosion silhouetted his hulking form, the greenskins seemed to lose their nerve. Their retreat cleared the defenders to evacuate, and as the shuttles arose and the APCs loaded the last of the men, a fresh, snowy wind extinguished the flames. Only a blackened brushstroke of oil, afterburn and blood would remain to mark the site of the battle, and even that slowly vanished as a cold front grew in the wake of the distant, oncoming army.


Entry 2.2- Disquiet on the Western Front

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[[Ork ships encircle a beleaguered Damaris]]

After weeks of conflict, it only took seconds for the war to reach inner Damaris. The Governor, so enamoured with the arrogance of his apparent safety, stood above his people unarmoured and unprotected. As hundreds died scant miles away he spoke of the purity of purpose, of the noble sacrifices being made by the refugees gathered before him, and of the inevitable victory of the Damaris forces. He was still talking when the coughing bark of a hellgun went off within the crowd, and when the armoured form of the priest Artorias fell deadly still in front of him. As a dozen men with the eyes of killers pulled compact hellguns from beneath their refugee coats he was still making his address. But he could not stay ignorant forever, this day he would realise the true cost of war.

[At War]
The erratic boom-and-shriek of Vulcan Megabolters sends shudders through the honeycomb corridors of the station. As the war enters its’ second week, the citizens of the Bulwark have learned to anticipate a retaliatory rain of alien ordnance against the crackling shields overhead; they pause breathlessly with each report. Within the reinforced bridge, the Tetrarchs review streams of battlefield data. They have been restored to Supreme Command of the defences, and a constantly updating holomap of the various sites of conflict glows at the centre of the chamber. It is the nature of war against Orkoids that significant death rates must be accepted; despite alarming losses, they are satisfied that a huge toll has been reaped on the invaders' forces.

But the aliens continue to surprise and second-guess the defenders. News of a warp-rupture is reported shortly before weeks-end, the arrival of an unexpected Imperial battleship captained by a contemporary of LC Locke’s. Captain Algor’s greeting is interrupted by Ork war-chants, as a number of crude vessels vomit forth on his ship’s slip-stream. The defenders are frantically mobilised, with the Explorers joining the command crews of the system ships Avalon and Proximo. Under the barrage of shrapnel-cannons, the Adamant suffers cruel damage, but the Tetrarchs succeed in destroying the lead attacker and driving the rest into the asteroid clouds. Meeting with the fleet commanders aboard the Aegis, Algor explains that he has come to retrieve Commander Locke and return her to the Naval fold. Conscious of the weakness this would open in the defences, Xaver asserts that the outer reaches are too dense with Orks, and to flee would put the Aegis at intolerable risk. Locke and Artorias argue that the Aegis is now unavoidably mired in the conflict; though resisting calls to aid the defenders, Algor agrees to relay the Explorers’ words to the Imperium.

The Council returns to the surface to meet with Governor Kapak, noting that his efforts on behalf of the city’s many refugees has been well received by the population. He asks for their presence at a number of planned speeches, and though wary of the risk, they agree to accompany him. Over their firmest advice, the Governor insists on going without a security team. The Governor travels to each of the largest camps, dispensing provisions, supplies and rhetoric about the defence of the city. As the tour neared its’ end however, a piercing scream broke across the Governor’s speech; a hellgun bullet had taken Artorias high in the chest, and the crowd had wailed as the cleric toppled from the stage.

Tackling the Governor to the ground, Godwyn sent his mind questing out into the scattering mob, hounding after the would-be assassin. A cry of pain gave the man away as their minds connected, one of several grizzled figures pulling hellguns from beneath battered coats. Their bolts shred the podium and several civilians, burning through Xaver’s much-abused flak, and hurling him from his feet in a splatter of blood; staunching their wounds, the Cleric and Voidmaster limp forward to aid their comrades. A few errant bolts spark off Giger’s form as he stampedes forth, a slushing comet-tail of molten matter left in the arc of his axe. But the charge falters as return-fire intensifies. Artorias goes down in a concentrated barrage of gunfire, the insurgent’s projectiles punching into his face and torso. His ammunition canisters ignite, a gout of blueish flame engulfing and hideously charring his form. Shouting in dismay, the Explorers smashed and carved their way towards him, covering the Governor as they went. With a hailstorm of bolts still flashing overhead, Xaver keyed the homing beacon on his wrist and teleported them all to the safety of the Lazarus.

Their comrade’s life was in the hands of the Emperor, rushed to the med-bay and given emergency treatment. The surviving Councillors began sending out vox-hails, seeking to ease the panic left in the wake of the assassination attempt. Locke and Thrace report that morale has suffered, as concern spread like wildfire at the disappearance of the Governor. The Explorers learn that the General had seized control of the Governorship in the hour of chaos, and began a campaign to spread the lie of Kapak’s flight. Xaver contacts the General, making it clear that the Tetrarchs would accept the events without protest, though struggling to maintain his icy politeness The Council makes swift contact with each of the leaders, to ensure that the Defence Pact would not be compromised by the General’s coup.

At dusk on the final day, a storm breaks out over the city. A thunderous downpour lashes the spires of Damaris, an immense column of steam rising as the rain cooks off the reverberating shields. A fat-bellied Ork craft had jumped directly into atmosphere, the horrific surge in pressure scarring the skies with boiling clouds. Like a breaching whale, the beast emerges from the tempest, it’s bulk bleeding and shredding apart as the city’s defences unleash a massive onslaught at close range. Just as the vanquished wreckage begins to cascade down, the craft disgorges a salvo of torpedoes at point blank range. The projectiles puncture the powerful void-shields and punch deep into the city’s structures. One erupts in the midst of the Governor’s garden, carving an immense furrow in the earth and refugee settlements huddled there. Others smash gouges out of the palace and Temple walls, an avalanche of sundered steel, broken stone and statuary shattering as they crash to the ground. Amidst the flames, bloodied and cackling Ork troops pour from wreckage, the first alien boots to sully the bounds of the Hive. Shuttles roaring beneath their feet, the weary Council ready weapons to turn back this fresh assault.


Entry 2.3- In the Jaws of Defeat

The%20War.jpg
[[The defensive lines are overrun by the Ork onslaught]]

The blood froze overnight in the trenches of the Winterwash, the sheer quantity of it raising the trenches by a few inches every new day. The first order every morning was breaking this new ice and piling it atop the mounds of earth at the front of the trenches. Each day the Orks came through, a swarming mass of green and steel as their machines and frenzied bodies smashed against the defence lines of the humans. From their makeshift bunkers the troops could hear the characteristic thump of heavy bolters atop the walls, their tall impassible defences no solace for those fighting outside the walls. On the sixth day the men stopped removing the frozen blood. On the tenth the bodies of their slain began to be added to the makeshift barricade. On the twelfth ammunition ran short, and on the thirteenth food. On the fourteenth the men of the Winterwash repelled an Ork assault with knives and fists. And on the fifteenth they were withdrawn, assigned by generals far away to fight anew somewhere else. The Orks encircled the city, the posts bled and died for in the weeks previous abandoned.

[Hope is lost]
The excavation took hours, as tonnes of rock, mortar and iron were tortuously shifted to free those trapped beneath. Cyclops-Class Earthmovers strained throughout the night, finally uncovering the pulverised forms of Giger and Godwyn. The Tetrarchs victorious assault against the saboteurs had turned to disaster, when alien det-charges demolished the high walls and defences of the Temple and the Palace, burying the Explorers in rubble. Miraculously, the pair had survived, and were rushed to join Artorias in the Lazarus’ ER. The ruins smoked ominously for days, a symbol of the forlorn hope of a beleaguered populace.

As they returned to health, the Tetrarchs looked to the increasingly desperate war effort. With Giger’s cooperation, Xaver organised for large swathes of space to be seeded with implosion mines, a field into which Ork vessels continuously blundered as they sought to round the picket. Nevertheless, a surprise assault by Raiders, Roks and a Kill Kroozer smashed through the defences and targeted the Bulwark, with only hours of corridor-to corridor fighting and a harrowing space-duel sparing the station from destruction.

Though inflicting devastating casualties -and despite the return of the Lazarus to the blockade -the Orks were landed in unprecedented numbers. Godwyn and Artorias took up position within the city, offering inspiration and counsel to the defenders as a monstrous tide of enemies came forth. Artillery fire blunted and crippled the largest armoured offensive yet seen, but several positions were overrun when morbid Ork hellicarriers braved the cannonade, depositing Ork warsuits directly to the wall. To the East, the heavily fortified bunkers were overrun, as the Squiggoth continued its’ inexorable progress towards the city, collapsing tunnels and crushing the defenders under it's immense bulk.

At an emergency summit of wartime leadership, the Tetrarchs sombrely informed the Council that all positions exterior to the city walls had been destroyed or were in full retreat, in many cases hounded by alien warbikes. They carefully agreed on deployments for the coming week, noting that a last minute countermand from General Dante had recently cost hundreds of Levy troops their lives. Worst of all, a discomfited Captain Orleans disclosed to Xaver that she had intentionally let Orks through the blockade, in order to weaken the Ecclessiarchy on Damaris. Containing his rage, the Voidmaster boggled at the ongoing self-harm of the planet’s defenders.

At the height of the war’s fury, the city’s civilians began to revolt against the planetary leadership. While artillery pounded on the shields above, workers at the munitions factories and production hubs that fed the war effort walked away from their posts, complaining of pay delays and long hours of toil. Outside the ruined palace, administrative workers demanded a negotiated truce with the Orks, while the faithful howled for the artefact of Drusus to be brought forth to aid the defence. With her Suppressors fighting alongside the soldiers, Marshal Thrace called for the assistance of the Tetrarchs in dispelling the protests. The rebellion would prove a disastrous turning point in the war.

Artorias urged the flagellating mass at the Temple to turn their fury on the alien invaders. Displaying his many wounds to the crowd, he spoke of sacrifice in the name of the martyr-saint Drusus and held aloft the artefact he had been charged to protect. But the agitator - his eyes aflame with covetousness - plunged a chainsword into the wounded priest's back; pandemonium broke out as the demagogue vanished into the crowd, the faithful weeping and fighting in helpless confusion. Across the city, Giger and Godwyn argued with the ranting overseer of the ironworks. Godwyn counselled patience, pointing out that the war had taxed all the citizens of Damris, and that firm resolve now would spare the people greater horrors later. Giger growled that the employees were replaceable, spreading threats of lobotomy and ‘reconditioning’ among the workers. But their leader would not be swayed, raising a chant and driving the Explorers back to their shuttles in a mob. Outside the Palace, a credulous physician lectured Xaver on the need for a parley with the Orks. A veteran of many battles with greenkins, the Voidmaster brought up a chained Ork captive, displaying the mindless, murderous evil so common to the Orks. But the crowd were deaf to his words. Shaking his head, he returned to the shock news of Artorias’ fate.

Sitting in mute disbelief around the crumpled figure of Artorias, the Explorers seriously considered abandoning the planet and its’ insane inhabitants. As the words hung unspoken in the air, a flutter of panic went through the augur network. Alien signals were being received, unlike the crude broadcasts of the Orks. The source was revealed as an Eldar vessel, Corsairs of Craftworld Kaelor which had destroyed a Rogue Trader fleet a century hence. The Tetrarchs warily agreed to meet, taking a small contingent of armsmen to carve a path through the jungle to the alien’s preferred location. There the Eldar revealed a prophecy, warning that the Ork leader could only be slain by the Tetrarch’s hands. Knowing the attacks would otherwise carry on forever, the aliens revealed the location of the mysterious gas giant Skadi, from which the Orks were staging Rok production. The Tetrarchs left in the company of Khrane, an Eldar pilot to guide the Lazarus through the impossible asteroid field around Skadi. Thanking the Farseer for his intervention and aid, the Council returned to the ship with a kindling fire of hope in their hearts.

Entry 2.4- Skadi

Lazarus.png
[[The Lazarus plies the Frozen Reaches]]

.

[Last ditch effort]
The ghostly vessel The Crimson Thorn awaited the Lazarus at deep anchor. A silver splinter against the void, the Eldar ship would guide the Tetrarchs in the final assault of the war. The Lords and Captains of Damaris had been forewarned, bunkering down against the growing momentum of the Orks on the surface. They knew that if the Explorers failed, the city would be gradually extinguished.

Long hours of travel on silent running led deep into the spiralling ice-field of the Frozen Reaches, the near-mythical Skadi emerging slowly from the glittering clouds. Its lone satellite was scarred and riddled with mines, tunnels and industrial facilities, revealing at last the source of the endless Ork attacks. Many new assault-craft awaited launch, shepherded by what at first appeared to be a colossal space-hulk. The Ork Battlecruiser was the largest ever seen by the Council, and as they edged closer, they observed a further, sharper vessel in its shadow. The Reaver Class attack-ship, marked with the chaos sigils of Karad Vall, surely harboured the true mastermind of the Damaris campaign.

Kroozer.png

Launching what they knew could be a suicidal attack, the Council speared free from the asteroid belt and unleashed guns against the battleship. The Eldar swept down upon the Reaver, a duel of lance-batteries filling the inventing void with a hailstorm of crossfire. The battleship lumbered around, trying to dislodge the harrying Lazarus from its blind-spot. Even the vessels close-range turrets exchanged fire, so narrow did the parallel between the two vessels become. As the Lazarus fired wildly, furiously, bombarding a single location with sustained attacks, the void shields cracked and the last-ditch attack on the warlord began.

Murky, knee-deep water was vaporised in a sizzling crack, as the teleportation-teams materialised in the dank alien warrens. The Lazarus’ commanders and their loyal warriors moved through the rough tunnels, burning a path towards the armoured bridge. The resistance was vicious but disjointed, and when they finally broke through the doors of the throne-room, they found the Warlord and his retinue still at hard at work to catch the slippery Eldar vessel. With an outraged bellow at the interruption, the aliens stampeded into a torrent of lasfire and promethium. Godwyn disappeared before the party’s eyes, and his blurring phantom slipped into the scrum. As Artorias and Xaver carved into the crowd, Giger made a run at the command throne. Barrelling over and curb-stomping an Ork lieutenant, Giger raised his axe in triumph, but was immediately smote by the warlord’s growling chain-cutlass. To the creature’s confusion, his retinue began turning on him one by one, victims of Godwyn’s psychic influence. He roared in frustration when Xaver jumped into his throne and began wrestling the ship onto a collision course with the facility-moon. As the Tetrarchs piled in to destroy the warlord, his last view was the pock-marked surface swelling ever-closer in the viewports.

Smoke-stained and bleeding, the Tetrarchs bore the severed head of the Ork warlord back to the Bulwark station. To the astonishment of Reynolds and Dante, the word was spread by the Tetrarchs, Rogue Traders, Astropaths and Enforcers that the Governor Kapak had been the mastermind behind the victory. As posters, leaflets and public-appearances focused on the Governor spread, General Dante’s rise as the heir apparent inexorably slowed. As community leaders were invited into the Governor’s fold, whispers began to spread that the General had been the one behind the high-tech attacks on Kapak at wartime. A star prosecutor from Solomon came forward to take up the case, and within months the General was stripped of his rank, only spared the indignity of prison due to his wartime record. Their business otherwise concluded and reconstruction well underway, the Tetrarchs had lingered on Damaris to collect the small satisfaction of smiling and waving from the public gallery as the disgraced general shuffled out of the courtroom. Some months after the war came to a close, making their way down a Promenade lined with Redwynn colours, the Tetrarchs departed Damaris in a storm of celebration and fanfare, the thrum of the Lazarus’ decks beneath their feet as warm and welcome as a homecoming embrace.


Epilogue

The State of the Nation:
Damaris was beaten and wounded by the Ork attack, but not broken. The system defence ships Avalon, Proximo, Merkava and Ravana had been destroyed, selling their lives dearly to stall the Ork Rok assaults. Damaris elite tank unit, the Sphinx Guard, were lost early in the war, as well as her airforce and most of the cities Enforcers, dead guarding the civilians from line breaking Ork vanguards. Thousands of troops from both Damaris itself and those supplied by their Rogue Trader allies were killed, and hundreds of civilians in the Ork bombardments of the city proper. The industrial and agricultural facilities outside of Damaris City had been ransacked or destroyed and the Shrine of Drusus and Governors Palace both all by demolished by Ork infiltrators. There would be heavy fighting for weeks to come, and the planet would never shake it's Ork infestation, but as the sun rose on the 20th day of the War victory had been achieved.

Aftermath:
With Snokgritz defeated the remaining Orks fell back into clans and were picked off piecemeal by the defenders of Damaris. Landed Roks were destroyed by the Orbital bombardments of the Lazarus and Ordained Destiny, while bands of Damaris PDF were organised to hunt down and disperse larger gatherings of the greenskins. Governor Kapak is reinstated and a victory parade is held.
In the weeks following the Victory the saviours of Damaris departed. The Rogue Traders Blitz and Orleans took their rewards in pure wealth, in ores, agriculture and thrones gelt, and departed, not interested in the wellbeing of the world beyond their share of the loot. The Aegis returned to the Battlefleet Koronus, Lord-Captain Locke to face her superiors for her dissent. Only The Lazarus remained, assisting the investigation into General Dante and taking their profit in the form of trade alliances and deals rebuilding the damaged planet.
Although eager to depart the crew of the Lazarus find themselves tied to Damaris for the rest of 948.M41. The mysterious Eldar Khrane leaves the ship early on, to explore the Eldar ruins on Damaris. Despite their best efforts neither him nor these ruins are found again. Early in the piece a contingent of Mechanicus ships arrive, bearing with them the facilities to start arms production on the planet as well as a small group of ex-Lazarus crew members, eager to rejoin the ship after hearing of her testing in the battle of Damaris. The council spends most of it's time overseeing the Mechanicus contracts to rebuild the city as set down by Factorum Tavius before the conflict even began, or simply waiting in comfort for their contracts with Damaris to end. The blood and fire of Damaris a fading, if traumatic, memory…

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Appendixes:


Dramatis Persona

  • The Crew of the Lazarus: Brought to Damaris aboard The Lazarus to assist the planet in defending against the Ork threat.

Notable Persons of Damaris:

  • Joron Alexander Tall, slim, blonde, and well-spoken. Seneschal to the Governor, 'The Lazarus' liason with the authority of Damaris.
  • General Remi Dante: A native of Damaris; Bald, moustachioed, stubborn, and impressive in his Grey-and-red uniform. Commander of Damaris’ defences.
  • Lord Governor Belkin Kapak: The very model of middling Imperial functionary with delusions of grandeur. He is not without a heart and soul, and cares deeply for his people although is unused to the facts of war.
  • Hadron Shard: Leader of the Mechanicus contingent on Damaris. Leader of research facility 'Shard's Forge', doing study into agricultural efficiency.
  • Biship Mikael Arint: A gaunt older man currently stationed at the shrine to Saint Drusus; his charge is to protect the ancient artefact which resides within.
  • Marshall Solaria Thrace: Chief of law enforcement, a compact, wiry woman considered by many to be a consummate professional.
  • Astropath Kevil Stasys: Master of Voices on Damaris and loyal to House Kapak. Ancient - even by human standards. His family line has served the Kapak lineage for generations.

Ship Captains:

  • Lady Elizabeth Orleans: Ostentatious Rogue Trader from a dynasty currently undergoing a resurgence of power. Captains the 'Star Weaver', a tempest class frigate.
  • Jeremiah Blitz: Flamboyant Rogue Trader in charge of the cruiser 'Ordained Destiny'. Fancies himself a swashbuckler and ladies man. Recent endeavours (see: The Dread Pearl) has left him somewhat skint on Thrones and crew. Extremely old but kept young by expensive rejuvenat treatments.
  • Lord-Captain Sylvia Locke: Commander of the cruiser 'Aegis', an Imperial naval vessel on detached duties at Damaris. Initial impression: a hard woman with something to prove and very few friends.

Enemies of the Dynasty:

  • Warboss Snokgritz: Rumoured to be the leader of the attack on Damaris.

Maps

Forsellis System:

Forsellis%20System.jpg

Damaris City:

Damaris%20City.jpg

Troop Deployments

Week 1:

  • Space Assets:
    • Starweaver, Rogue Trader Tempest-class Frigate
    • Ordained Destiny, Rogue Trader Cruiser
    • Aegis, Imperial Navy Dauntless Light Cruiser
    • Avalon, Proximo, Merkava, Ravana, Damaris system defence ships
    • The Bulwark, Orbital defence installation
    • The Lazarus, Rogue Trader Tempest-class Frigate
  • Ground Assets:
Week%201.png

Week 2:

  • Space Assets:
    • Starweaver, Rogue Trader Tempest-class Frigate
    • Ordained Destiny, Rogue Trader Cruiser
    • Aegis, Imperial Navy Dauntless Light Cruiser
    • Avalon, Proximo, Merkava, Ravana, Damaris system defence ships
    • The Bulwark, Orbital defence installation
    • The Lazarus, Rogue Trader Tempest-class Frigate
  • Ground Assets:
Week%202.png

Week 3:

  • Space Assets:
    • Starweaver, Rogue Trader Tempest-class Frigate
    • Ordained Destiny, Rogue Trader Cruiser
    • Aegis, Imperial Navy Dauntless Light Cruiser
    • Avalon, Proximo, Merkava, Ravana, Damaris system defence ships
    • The Bulwark, Orbital defence installation
    • The Lazarus, Rogue Trader Tempest-class Frigate
  • Ground Assets:
War%203.png
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