Ilk Temas

Prologue

By the time the sun sank behind the asteroids that evening, the gossip-dens and taverns of Footfall were buzzing with rumour. It was rare enough to see the colours of House Redwynn in the teeming port, let alone two towering voidships each bearing the cog and buck-skull sigil. Most on the station knew that crest as the product of the sudden alliance with the Adeptus Mechanicus, struck to salvage the House's ailing finances. Fewer were familiar with the rearing stag and river-of-stars, a mark which had largely vanished in a great hurry of seasfoam paint some years before. But when a shuttle bearing old Redwynn heraldry crossed the skies from Forward Shrine to Great Anchorage, there were folk on Footfall to take notice. In the ensuing days, a small army of agents, solicitors and adepts descended on the Tetrarch command-chamber, and the halls of the vessel echoed with booming debate. Scurrying clerks were bullied back and forth, their overburdened arms trailing scraps of parchment. Demands were made, struck down and countered, as the labyrinthine Compact was raked over again and again. At last, a handful of weary figures emerged from the scrap-strewn chamber. It was said that a distant scion of Redwynn would be elevated to Tetrarch, taking his seat alongside a scarred Classiarii. The balance of the Compact was preserved, as they joined the sightless Templar and dread Magos as high commanders of the Dynasty. Yet the gossip was focused on the so-called "Great Favour", the mysterious concession extracted by the Adeptus Mechanicus during the negotiations. As the muster began and the glitter of stars was blotted out by supply-barge traffic, it was clear to those who who knew of such things that a grand undertaking was afoot.


Part 1- Deep Void Run


Entry 1.1- East to West

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[[Kain's Abyss]]

Within the adamantine hallways of the 'Lazarus' crew cowered and muttered prayers to the Emperor. Priests strode the halls bearing censors and incense, atoning the Prayer of Sanctioning and Protection. Far above the broiling Warp smashed against the Gellar Field, sparks shoring off as daemons and other entities clash against the thin line between reality and chaos. Step by brutal step the 'Lazarus' bore its way through the Warp.

[False start]
It was an obscure and minor clause, to create such consternation. Intended as only a bureaucratic tool, s168(c) had been enacted in a fashion that, in practice, formally obliged the Tetrarchs to undertake a particular endeavour. Only in the context of the major leadership turmoil that was unfolding, would the House have ever tolerated such a bold step by the Mechanicus. But ultimately it was agreed, just the latest stroke in the ongoing clash of wills within the Dynasty. When the Council was called to session that evening, it was not two, but five Tetrarch Councillors who attended. Standing beside the hulking Magos was the slender metal form of Prefectus Antissa, ready to take up a temporary seat as Giger withdrew on urgent research. Anissa outlined her intention to travel far to Spinward, to the vanishing systems between Accursed Demesne and the Heathen Stars. There she would lay claim to a garden-world, lost to all records save a guttering pre-Scism probe. Such a journey would take many months and require extensive planning and supplies, but promised to reveal unguessable treasures along the way. Only in the infamous legends of Thule, Xarn or Haarlock were men thought to have travelled so far afield. None of them had ever returned. As the Holds were made ready, and the first, careful enquiries laid, each Tetrarch quashed their private doubts; though the risks were terrible, and the challenges extreme, no voidfarer born could resist the promise of such a reward.

Having once travelled nearly as far as chartless Cobalt, the Lazarus led the way. The great Cartofex mapped a long but safer path through Warp, riding secret tides known only to her. A few weeks journey took the Tetrarchs to Damaris, where fresh fuel and supplies awaited at dock. From here, she would scout the darkness for a foothold in the wilderness space of Cinerus Maleficum. The weeks at Warp were difficult, with rationing and frequent disciplinary action necessary. None of the hoped-for oases proved true, and the crew grew restless as drop after drop ended in disappointment. When Cobalt itself, reached after long hungry months, was also revealed as barren, new Tetrarch Torius went personally into the Clankins to challenge the growing number of dissenters. He returned bloody from duelling and informed the others of the unrest. Though it gives them a moment's pause, the Explorers have no choice but to persevere, striving on for the second leg of their journey.

As they skirt the great warp-cloud known as Kain's Abyss, the Council are wakened by the screech of breach alarms. Warning sirens howled down the corridors, and armsmen leapt to their stations as the screams of the dying began to sound. A nightmarish column of turmoil had lashed out towards them, devouring the distance between the Abyss and the Tetrarch ships. The freak Warp-Wave had crashed against their hulls, causing Gellar-Fields to flutter in shock. Creatures with hairy, gore-slick flesh stalked the Augustine, gorging themselves as crewmen tried fruitlessly to bar their path, until their rampage ran afoul of the Tetrarchs. Hulking daemon-hounds carved in among the Skitarii, flinging aside broken augmetics and devouring the atrophied flesh. But the crackling retort of Victrus' plasma-fire burned great craters in their flanks, and the rabid beasts were dismissed by Godwyn, his blazing sword Talon carving their hell forged collar's asunder. Aboard the Lazarus an engorged beast of muscle and putrid, drizzling blood, squeezed itself down the halls, splattering those who stood in it's way and bathing in the soup of organs. As the monster advanced hungrily on the ship's supply-vault, irksome las-burns began scoring it's flesh; weaving through it's retaliatory swipes, Rook and Torious fired, struck and cut at the mountainous brute, until nought remained but a noxious ruin. Yet even as the Explorers recovered, unexplained madness afflicted the vessels in the following days. Hysteria spread, when unexplained murders broke out, and each turn of the corridor could reveal some new scene of gristly butchery. Finally, crimson-skinned valkyries manifested in the Rookery, feasting on inert psykers as they sought the hated Lord-Astropath. When they broke Warp, the Tetrarchs discovered to their dismay that they were bleeding time, having covered scarcely a few days' distance in nearly two weeks at sea. Assailed by difficulties, the Tetrarchs reluctantly turn back for port, their momentum spent.

Brooding at high anchor over Damaris, the Explorers renewed their resolve. In their absence, rumours of deviancy had been spread, causing key allies and financiers to withdraw their support from the Dynasty. The Saintly Man, Magos Shard, Bishop Arint and House Quinn all expressed their regret that dealings with the Tetrarchs would not be possible while the unfortunate rumours continued to circulate. Stripped of funds, shorn of allies and fresh from a false start to their campaign, the Council laid aggressive plans to recover lost ground, starting with a contract for the services of the powerful Navis Nobilite, Magisterial House Yergar. Now knowing better the demands of uncharted space, they also hired a supply-ship, finding Chartist House Misericord sympathetic to their undeserved plight. As preparations were laid for the Tireless to join the fleet, the Council made a secret visit to the edge of the heliosphere. There they sought out the nomadic caravans of the Stryxis, shadowy aliens known for their ability to source any product. Each Tetrarch bargained for rare but vital stock, and were asked for a peculiar payment. Now bearing ancient sarcophagi, xenotech Servo-wardens and mysterious bio-implants, the Council returned to the Bulwark, more determined than ever to clinch rewards worthy of the cost they had paid.


Entry 1.2- False Piety

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[[A stock-barge supplies the Augustine]]

'Ilk Temas'- An ancient Terran phrase from a long forgotten dialect. Now used as a muttered and meaningless statement by veteran void-farers when pushing into the unknown. Rough translation is "first contact", but the implication is that the contact is both violent and fuelled by ignorance. Lexograph of Imperial Idioms, Book 543, Volume III

[Consolidation]
In implementing their aggressive plan, the Tetrarchs split up and seek out old allies and contacts. Remaining on Damaris, Victrus arranges to meet Bishop Arint of the ruined Ministorum temple. With the consent of General Reynolds, Victrus undertakes to cleanse one of the troublesome Ork warrens remaining in the mountainous wilderness in search of pillaged holy items. Much diminished by looting and the loss of their treasures, the churchmen welcome the offer. High up above in the Manor-City Spires, Godwyn is able to strike a bargain with Navigator House Oscilla, maps in exchange for carrying a Navis Nobilite cartographer. But he soon learns that Captain Orleans' agents remain active in the corridors of power, dissuading the Governor and Adeptus Mechanicus from providing open support to the Tetrarchs. The Lazarus makes sail for Bethany, where Torius enters the Ministorum Chapter House of the dominant Drusian faction. The fiery clergymen are pleased to accept his offer to carry pilgrims, gathering hundreds of the faithful to seed a new settlement in the unknown reaches of space. Over the following days, a rough-hewn priestess named Lysette Guile oversees the transfer of supplies and material for a fully fledged colony, to be launched from the Lazarus on whatever site seems most holy to her. By the time the holds are loaded and checked, Rook has returned from a stay at the Golden Mask, having reopened contact with the Saintly Man and laid the foundation for a Cold-Trade with the underworld. Upon their return to Damaris, the Councillors are summoned urgently to a remote, icy field. Leaving the city they fly over the shattered craterscape of the Ork War, crossing mile after mile of sundered fortifications, burned-out tank-shells, plundered factorums and decimated cities. Passing North of the famed battlesite of Winterwash, they arrive at a mountain command post where vulcanised med-tents hold the chill of the wind at bay. Within, the Tetrarchs discover their comrade Victrus, a flayed ruin of glistening muscle, his face a lipless rictus of horror. Though his campaign against the Orks had succeeded, his troops had reported a counter-insurgency as the last of the warrens were burned. Hounded through tunnels by an unseen foe, his Skitarii had been butchered one by one before his capture. Cruelly flayed alive by Loxatl hunters, the Tribune was barely preserved by the arcane medical machines of the Chirurgeons. His torturous recovery took place over long weeks at warp, as the ships departed for distant Cobalt.

Though displeased by the presence of the Oscilla lineage, the new Yergar Navigator guides the Tetrarchs unerringly to Cobalt, where the Misericord ship Tireless awaits to join the fleet. Forewarned of the region's turbulence, Rook pilots effortlessly though the many straits, tides and hazards of the Maleficum and Accursed Demense. At last, after many months of travel, the growing armada breaches on the outskirts of the mysterious system.

Taking their bearings, the fleet spreads out and scan the surrounding phenomena. Veiled by a vibrant nebula, the system's planets and asteroids are large and rich with minerals, illuminated by a dull orange star. Prefectus Antissa is impatient to reach the central planet, but the Council are drawn to the faint radioactivity beneath the frozen surface of the outermost world. Tentatively named 'Mariana' for it's tectonic ice-trenches, the planet and it's moon reveal miles and miles of buried archeotech structures, a discovery which is toasted aboard the ship's bridge. While laying plans to exploit the equally rich ruins visible on the planet's moon, the fleet heads into the nebula to drop the anxious Antissa and her research equipment.

Upon entering the cloud, alarm claxons begin to blare. Though no energy signatures have been registered, boarding craft have begun pounding into the outer hull of the Lazarus and Augustine, disgorging strange, vicious creatures into the arterials. Over the panicked sounds of armsmen and the crack of gunfire, proximity alerts warn of three immense shapes encroaching on the fleet. The ribbed, ichthyic shapes give off almost no energy readings, leading the Council to the almost impossible conclusion that they are biological. Unable to trust their instruments, the Tetrarchs fire blindly in reply to the attack. The Lazarus soars forward, drawing a heavy bombardment from the alien weapons. Unleashing a broadside salvo in combination with the Augustine, one of the smaller shapes - dubbed a Reaver - is heavily damaged and driven off into the cloud. Godwyn's sorcerous flames reach out across the void, but no sooner have they touched the husk of the wounded thing, that a nightmare lance of light-sucking antimatter struck the Augustine amidships, stopping her in her tracks. A truly monstrous creature had loomed forth from the cloudy nebula. Smote with a molten, 200 meter gash, bleeding oxygen and frozen human debris, the raider spat harmlessly in the face of the colossal attacker. The Tireless thundered through the centre of the field, burning it's engines at maximum thrust, as the Lazarus arced out wide; they were seeking to draw the attackers away from the limping Augustine. As the bio-ship lumbered around for another assault, the lightning-arc struck out again, leaving an after-image burned through the planetary dust. In horror and disbelief at the terrible weapon, the Council fleet abandon the battle, setting ionised gases aflame in their wake.

Sheltering in the uncertain harbour of Mariana's orbit, the Explorers regroup. They agree that only through a combined and overwhelming attack on the largest bio-ship - the tyrant - will the fleet stand a chance of survival. While Rook enacts the emergency repairs, Victrus, Godwyn and Torius lay plans for the attack, scry for signs of pursuit and examine the fleshy, insectoid bodies of the slain attack-creatures. They speculate that the creatures inhabiting the system may be gene-engineers, proto-humans long given over to apostasy and the heresy of science. As the days turn to weeks, the Explorers grow curious about the world below, and seeking answers about their attackers, decide to seek clues amid the buried cities. Donning heat-robes, glow-lamps and blizzard-masks, they prepare to delve a tectonic crack, using it to access a forgotten elbow of the long-frozen civilisation.


Part 2- Brave New World


Entry 2.1- Mariana

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[[Exploring Shattersea]]

A blast of cold air fills the vehicle as the back hatch is lowered, and a heavily robed form takes a seat. The four passengers are dressed identically at first glance; long fur-lined coats held close over armoured forms. But small expressions of individuality were evident, from the fine cut of a heat-gown, a Telepathica icon or the cog badges adorning another; here sat the command council of the Redwynn Dynasty. Huddled in the back of a troop transport vehicle far below the ice of Mariana, they had come from far afield to observe the object the scouts had discovered. From the back of the Chimera they could see where the frozen crevasse ended, bisecting a massive wall of solid white steel, seemingly built into the ice itself. Reading from a data-slate on his arm the newcomer begins to make his report: "Extensive structures. Early 20th Millennium … human design. Apparently unoccupied. Shall we venture inside?"…

[Scouting the Archeotech city]
Like an angry storm overhead, the clash of distant ice-flows boomed in the still air of the meltway. A spiderweb of cracks formed by ancient tectonic movements had enabled the Tetrarchs to forge glacial roads into the planet's crust - with picket tools and lasers when vehicles failed. The walls of the buried city awaited, many miles below the surface.

Boring through the unknown alloy, a pale, echoing chamber was revealed full of graceful machines. The silence within is broken by the drizzle of meltwater, as the facility's comfortable internal temperature breathes onto the ice. Examining the svelte devices, the Tetrarchs puzzle out their function as genetorum towers, supplying at least 6 other archeotech deposits nearby. Breaking down the door to a transit hub, the Explorers moved decisively to claim the valuable sites. Cast in eerie blue by the ice and pure glass above, a quintuple-helix of suspended steps wound up to the top of an agoraphobic dome. At the apex, a glossy sphere hung from the ceiling. With their footsteps echoing across the chamber, the Council trigger the dormant security settings and the sphere disgorges a sinister cloud of drones. The buzzing swarms of servo-zoans swept the Council with electro-whips, which hung from their bodies like sea-jelly tentacles. Though dodging and slashing fiercely, several Tetrarchs are struck low by sheer numbers, collapsing on a pile of broken drone-parts. When the seemingly-endless flock is finally exhausted, only Rook remains unharmed, having retreated to summon reinforcements and medics. In the hopes of repairing his savaged armour, Torius supplies drone-parts to Antissa, before submitting himself to the chirurgeons. While his companions are nursed aboard the Lazarus, Rook oversees the widening of access to the city and the fortification of the Explorer's foothold there.

In the ensuing days the Council reconvenes, re-activating the power matrix and discovering an emplacement of ancient railguns and attendant hab-blocks. Eager to capture this prize, the Tetrarchs travel by a still-functioning magrail system to the nearby hub. As they explore the strange, immaculate structures, an armsman evaporates in a white-hot blast of antimatter; coming suddenly under fire on several fronts, the Redwynn force scatters into cover and comb for enemies. Only catching glimpses of blurred movement, the Council seek to corner the attackers, but soon discern that they face just one fast-moving assailant. Hounded from streets to archways to rooftops, the hulking figure is porcelain-white, it's internal circuitry sparking as lasfire, psychic bolts and plasma buffet it's form. As the gruelling duel is clinched, it becomes clear that the archo-assassin is teleporting to evade the Council's traps; in a daring predictive gambit, Godwyn stands poised for the enemy's appearance, unleashing his powers upon it's materialisation. Little is recoverable from the smouldering wreckage, the Council keeping weather eyes on the pale, unnerving towers as they complete their sweep.


Entry 2.2- The Drone Men

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[[Tetrarchs seize the Data-Loom]]

Blinding bolts of light spear towards the automaton, refracting wildly off it's thrumming shield. Hard ammo, plasma bursts and las rounds alike fizzle and burn harmlessly against the anti-matter field, flaring again and again as the Redwynn troops sustain their devastating volley. Misshapen servitors lumber towards the target, combining heavy-weapons fire with the Councillors and armsmen as they advance. Blade bared, impervious at the heart of the lightstorm, the creature stands its ground…

[Assault]
Having found much of the mag-system severed by restless ice-plates, the Tetrarchs consolidate their hold on the sites they have claimed so far. Shuttling armsmen through cutting sleetstorms miles above, the Council mans and fortifies strategic positions at the direction of Victrus, while Rook and the Kin scout the holdings for hidden archeotech caches. Subsumed by the numbing silence far underground, the Redwynn men run invasion drills in preparation for the seizure of the largest metropolis yet discovered. Mariana City is subject to extensive scans while sappers work to open a causeway to it's outer boundary. High in orbit, Torius plies Sister Guile to accept deployment to the moon. The satellite's barren asceticism appeals to the pilgrim leader, though she remains concerned about supplies and security. Agreeing to see off the threat in the Nebula and open access to the air-conditioned vaults below, the Tetrarchs assist Captain Misericord in lancing through the outermost layer of ice. Though the imprecise volleys scars much of the surface - secondary explosions creating an immense crater - suitable purchase for the colony is nonetheless achieved. It is dubbed 'Shattersea' after the mighty cracks that span out through the frozen surface in all directions.

As the Lazarus and Augustine near the completion of their repairs, the sappers reach Mariana City. The initial defence is sluggish, with security slowly cycling to readiness as the Redwynn forces take control of outlying hubs. Servo-zoans are funnelled into waiting gunlines as 'Warmaster' Victrus' meticulous invasion plan progresses, and Torius leads a close assault on the wakening Drone-Man stasis-hubs. In short order, the enemy's strong-point, a central broadcast location for the Drone-Men's control orders, is brought to siege.

At the head of a small army, the Councillors blast through the final bulwark, making for the enemy Data-Loom. Cracks in the armoured ceiling bleeds drizzling sea-fog into the upper-chamber reaches, while gunfire reverberates weirdly in the cavernous space. Godywn glides confidently onto the field, his servitors laying thunderous covering-fire overhead. Flanking around the Drone-Men's defences, the Skitarii and House Guard entrap the servo-warriors in a pincer which Torius and Victris savagely clinch. But pinned down by antimatter rifles, the assault soon slows and the grunt-work begins. Inching towards the command centre, the invaders catch glimpses of a cumbrous servo-commander. The gleaming white hulk wields a crackling light-halberd and shield, demolishing his surroundings as he scythes out at Rook's whirling form. The Manhunter rains sledgehammer blows upon the 'Paladin's' refractor, the pulsating shield creaking in it's ironclad grip. Finally rooting out the last, tenacious Drone lieutenants, the attackers draw line-of-sight and focus fire on the lumbering machine. Barely visible beneath the onslaught of detonations, psy-bleed and ionising matter, the Paladin is hurled from it's feet again and again, it's shield drummed unrelentingly. As it lurches from place to place, each Councillor lashes out with attacks, scoring a mounting tally of damage as the field gutters, refracts and fails. The sparking, stubborn wreck -somehow still standing- swings sluggishly at it's attackers; Godwyn finishes the fight with a leaping blow from his overcharged psychic blade.

Under Victrus' ministrations, the seized Data-Loom revealed the origins of Mariana as a weapons research facility, with unclaimed archeotech shipyards awaiting far beneath the frost. In the long-vanished past, the combined firepower of world and moon had been directed against an unknown target within the nebula. Increasingly wary of whatever might lurk beyond the cloud, the Tetrarchs secure the city and return to the fleet, priming weapons to re-try their assault on the hideous Bioship skulking there.


Entry 2.3- Without Number

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[[Structures on the surface of Temas Prime]]

Thrusters burning as they fire through to heavy atmosphere of Temas Prime the forest below is within view at last. The swaying forms assumed to be vegatation resolve as millions upon millions of bio-engineered beasts, standing upright and motionless. Six legged and standing taller than a man, they stretch out as far as the eye can see, their ranks broken only by the massive forms of larger beasts, each easily the size of a city block. Each stands in ankle high mud which pulses with a faint light and sways lifeless in the chemical breeze. The Redwynn ships circle above, waiting for the Tetrarch's lander to secure itself. As they descend onto the world the faces of the Tetrarch's show something they had not shown for many years. Hidden behind rebreather masks and helmets they show a most primal emotion: Fear.

[The Engineer Homeworld]
The gossamer skein of the nebula glitters as the ships advance, stirring up clouds of irradiated dust. The shields spark and sizzle as the reflective matter is velocity-burned, a continuous, multi-coloured blur filling portholes and viewscreens across the fleet. White-knuckled at the helm, the Tetrarchs gaze eagerly into the veiled middle-distance, seeking after their foul quarry. Many hours of searching pass before the Lazarus catches the scent of a primitive vox-wave, and linking with their ships, the Tetrarchs confront a strange visage together. Uncannily humanoid in shape and appearance, the disturbing creature introduces itself as Yaman of the Cagatay Dynasty. It is a middling commander of the Engineers military, and apologises for it's comrade's aggression; it explains that sonic communication is disused among his species and that broadcasts on both sides had not been understood. Learning that their captured voidsmen had been subject to living autopsy and other horrors, the Tetrarchs struggle to bridge the cultural and linguistic divide. Swallowing their distaste, they soon reach an understanding with the creature. Yaman's faction would urge the ruling 'Factorum' of Temas Prime to open a dialogue with the Redwynn Fleet. In exchange, the Council would destroy Temas' remaining voidships, crippling Yaman's chief rival, whom he addresses simple as "Amiral". Seeking out the Engineers' homeworld, the Council strove deeper into the nebula, ready for what Victrus cheerfully dubbed "an honest bit of gunship diplomacy."

Though jumped unexpectedly, the Tetrarchs were not unprepared. When the surviving Reavership launched out of the cloud and hammered upon the shields of the Augustine, the fleet wheeled about to meet it. Forewarned of the Engineers' ability to repair by 'matter-transfer', Victrus and Godwyn blunted the attack with a powerful counter-volley and bolts of psychic fire. Harrying the rear, the bioship had expected to pick off a straggler, but hungry for the kill, the Lazarus' aggression caught the foe by surprise. The combined cannonade pierced the misting missile-chaff and quickly broke the foe into burning pieces. The fleet rode its' momentum into grips with the lurking Tyrantship, whose countermeasures floundered in the face of the onslaught. After their stinging, disorderly defeat, the Tetrarchs were taking no chances. Seemingly at the height of their powers, they moved in perfect, masterful harmony, executing pinpoint turns, graceful evasions and devastating volleys of fire that hemmed in the foe and drove him upon the prongs of their attack. Rocked from every angle by the barrage, the bioship lashed out blindly, it's mounting wounds imbuing it with desperate cunning. Seeking to clinch the brutal battle, the fleet scythed the Tyrantship with a forked and deadly crossfire; in it's death-throes, it's lightning-arcs savaged the Lazarus, mauling its foe as a final, spiteful insult.

With meticulous care, the Council supervised the sustained bombardment of the ruined hulks, rendering them down to unsalvageable slag. Having adsorbed the brunt of the final attack, the Lazarus was barely voidworthy, it's hull and crew depleted to breaking point. Though debating and regretting the need, Torius and Rook take the Lazarus limping out of the cloud for repairs, unwilling to risk the homeworld's defences in it's fragile state. Godwyn and Victrus remain to await the call of the turncoat. After three days of scanning, contact with Yeman is established. Convening again for the last step of the voyage, the Tetrarchs reunite on the bridge of the Augustine and behold Temas Prime.

An endless sea of chittering bodies engulf the surface of the Engineer homeworld, trillions of flesh-wrought constructs mewling and wriggling in chemical birth-pools. The planet's twin moons are enclosed by monumental conveyor-systems, gulping and pulsating like a thirsty throat. Under the cloying heat and gravity, biotitans lumber back and forth with wriggling 'engrams' clinging to their backs and bellies. Crossing the syrupy skies as they descend, the Explorers bank their shuttles uncertainly before settling in a circular clearing. Eschewing the usual fanfare and escort, the Tetrarchs go alone through the parting crowds, rebreathers labouring in the foul, dioxide-rich atmosphere. Mounting the stairs to a flesh-coloured structure, they are met on the skyway by their apparent ally, a long-limbed, spidery creature with a rictus grin. Muscles quivering beneath translucent skin, Yaman bids the Council welcome to the Factorum's tower.


Entry 2.4- Hubris

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[[The Augustine and the Tireless make their attack run]]

"Attack," purred the Warmaster, the word echoing harshly through his vox-grille. Gesturing in frustration at the seething trillions of lifeforms displayed by the augur, Torius demurred. "Better to cut our loses." "Our enemy is weakened…" reasoned Godwyn, surveying the roil of agitation stirred on the surface. "Caution," rasped Rook. "For this, we are not prepared." The debate continued long into the evening, as the Augustine drifted silently on the shimmering sea of dust.

[Abandon Ship]
Burdened by oppressive heat and gravity, the Council drew laboured breaths as they advanced through the Factorum's halls. The chambers were open-aired, with soaring archways to admit large swarms of Engrams and lumbering Biotitans alike. Within, it was much akin to an insect's warren, with rough walls and functional, unworked chambers, apparently shaped from some kind of featureless bio-cement. The spindly Yaman paced easily alongside them, explaining that the 100 or so 'Engineers' were each slaved to specific tasks in society. Constrained by global information control, Engineers had almost no understanding of each other's capabilities, nor even of the nature of their leader. Revealed as a huge humanoid creature, the "Factorum" is entombed in a device seeming part command-throne, and part armour. It rumbled it's displeasure at their arrival, surprising the Council with the revelation that it had long ago struck a bargain with humankind to ensure the peaceful isolation of it's 'empire'. Now considering the bargain 'sundered', the Factorum dismissed the Explorers, directing them to deal instead with it's 'children'. As they depart, it remarks that their apparent aggression towards Temas would pose little more than an "interesting test" for its creations.

Seeking counsel over ensuing days with Yaman and Antissa, the Tetrarchs review their discoveries. The journeyman Magos begrudgingly admits that fragments of an Expansion Age "contract" were indeed what had drawn her to Temas. Though aggrieved by the delays, she accepts simple Engram samples provided by Yaman, and confirms the ability of Engineers to transfer conciousness between constructs when threatened. Yaman points out that significant loss of Engrams and other constructs will commensurately damage the hosting consciousness, inviting the Council to further weaken the Amrial and offering a trade-pact if he is able to assume his rival's mantle. Wary of the mounting cost, complexity and risk of the venture, Torius prefers to seek fresh opportunity elsewhere. Hoping to neutralise the threat of the Amiral once and for all, Victrus favours an attack on his moon-fortress holdings. Rook counsels regrouping to defend Mariana, conscious of dwindling resources and the absence of the Lazarus to aid in the fight. Uneasy at a wounded but living foe being left so close to their hard-won foothold, Godwyn's deciding vote is ultimately swayed.

Swooping in as daylight breaks over the horizon, the Augustine tears into the lunar-fort's planetary anchor. Blotting out the sunlight in a rapid-fire flicker, streaking macrocannon shells impact against the mass conveyor, showering fragments of bio-cement into the burning atmosphere below. Confident of victory, the Explorers sidle up for the final salvo, but are caught off guard by the Amiral’s answer. Dozens of superheavy construct creatures rouse from oily pools on the moon's surface, spitting gouts of bioplasma into the stratosphere. Accelerated by the overhanging planet’s gravity, the cannonade smashes the Augustine asunder, carving massive wounds in her hull. Deafened by the sudden scream of claxons, the Council watch in disbelief as internal detonations begin to rock the ship. With the hungry void sucking thousands of souls to their deaths, the Tetrarchs are swept into body-choked corridors by the terrified press of humanity. Gripped with horror as the ship disintegrates around them, they struggle into one of the few remaining escape pods. Spurred by the familiar, rising drone of an overcharging warp-drive, they are forced to bat aside weeping ratings who seek to fight their way aboard the overcrowded vessel. With a whistling snap, the pod is spat into open space, the cacophony cut off. Silent but for the sound of breathing, the Tetrarchs huddle around the porthole, watching as the Augustine and thousands of loyal souls wink out in a flash of violet light.


Part 3- On The Ropes


Entry 3.1- The Large Council

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[[The Warp Anomaly consumes Temas Prime]]

The multi-coloured broiling cloud threatened to engulf Temas Prime, the last shards and remnants of the 'Augustine' drifting on vast waves of warp energy. Amongst the energy swooped hideous creatures the size of a lander vehicle, skeletal wings and tails propelling them through the atmosphere. The multi-hued cloud pulsed and disgorged more creatures, accompanied by waves of energy that boiled seas and cast down ancient structures. And even as the skies burnt the creatures of Temas Prime came alive, their empty minds now filled with the chaos and hunger of the warp. Amongst them fought small pockets of resistance, crew of the 'Augustine' who had managed to eject in time. They fought for their lives, looking to the skies for a rescue that might not come…

[Rescue]
The Council Chamber seemed smaller, somehow quiet despite the mass of arguing figures. Absent the defining stature of the Tetrarch Council, the multifarious authority figures and would-be leaders of the Lazarus felt safe in raising their heads to gauge the wind. Though strictly the next-in-command, First Officer Marcella Cymbry had only wrested unequivocal control of the ship by forging an unlikely alliance with Halion of the Telepathica and Leyonhjelm of the Mechanicus. The challenge, by an unlikely conclave of other Large Council members, had only finally ended with the stroke of Mister Argyle's blade, marking the pearly tiles with the blood of the pretender's leader. With the news of the Augustines destruction, consideration was given to leaving the command throne and it's titular occupant on Shattersea. With some regret, it is decided that the complex process would cost the new Council time they did not have. If the Lady's flagship was fated to fall, then let it spell a final end to the House of Redwynn as well.

Temas Prime was haloed by the deep violet glow of the rift, a snarling chasm in timespace sustained by the ten-thousand sacrifices of the Augustine's crew. Grotesque, bat-winged creatures flocked through the void, and whole cities were aflame, balefires scarring the moon and planet below. Slipping silently into orbit, the Blackbird and two shuttles bearing the Councillors made for the surface, Halion sweating as he scried the maelstrom for Godwyn's mind. Even weakened by the daemon attack, the Engineers would pose too great of a risk in an open fight; taking care to avoid fighter-flights and other signs of occupation, the Explorers were soon drawn to the wind-blasted peaks of the northern pole. Following the trail from the downed salvation pods, the Council donned their wargear and began delving a howling network of fracture-caves. At it's heart, they beheld the swollen bulk of an Engineer Breeder, enthroned in a research and cloning facility. Suspended in an energy field before it, Godwyn's form was affixed on biopsy needles and hideous spinal probes. Leaping to his rescue, the Council hurtled into the chamber, slashing and blasting aside the creatures attendants. As it lashed out with waves of liquid darkness, Marcella's inferno pistol finally strikes through it's shields, reducing it to a twitching, writhing puddle. Though barely conscious, Godwyn is able to direct the Explorers to his comrades, maintaining a weak and guttering connection to their minds. The closest target is Victrus, who is staging a guerrilla campaign against stalking foes. As they land amid the ruins of a biocement complex, the Councillor's hails are immediately shouted down by a warning: "they can read radio-waves!" Erupting from it's hiding place among the wreckage, a building-sized creature with a gnarled shell comes shouldering towards them. Tackled out of the way by Victrus and his men, the Explorers are spared only by the sacrifice of Leinholm. Transfixed by mandibles, the dying Explorator is drawn into the monsters gullet as he sets off the last of his grenades, blasting a great smoking crater in it's face. Mewling, it staggers into the Warmaster's waiting traps, but not before managing to impale Victrus upon a styling talon. His arm severed and losing blood Victrus struggled back to the Blackbird with the surviving Councillors, as the rest of the land-mines are triggered beneath the faltering titan.

Foul-smelling steam rose in immense columns from the eastern continent's spawning pools, between which the Council's vessels were forced to weave to maintain visibility. Far below, a living carpet of Engrams was swarming, a steady tide washing unmistakably in one direction. On the horizon, a great structure rose above the flatlands, from which the flash of las-weapons was dimly visible. Making a streaking pass overhead, the Council could make out the press of figures against the defences, at the centre of which stood the bellowing figure of Torius. His last gallant defenders arrayed around him, he waves down the aircraft for support, but the craft cannot find space to land. Strapping on a grave-chute, Argyle leaps down to retrieve his charge. Shouting over the thunder of bolterfire, Torius sharply resists the call to retreat, refusing to abandon his men. But despite the gallant defence, the daemon-engrams press ever harder against the defences and he finally heeds to Argyle's insistent urging. Hollow-eyed at the Blackbird's open door, Torius watches as his defenders are finally slain, vanishing behind an oily cloud as they broke away west. As evening fell, the clouds of the encroaching rainstorm turned a sickly violet, bleached by the Rift in the stratosphere. Following a dim sense of hunter's satisfaction, Godwyn pointed the way towards the last of the forsaken planet's stranded Tetrarchs.


Entry 3.2- Things Fall Apart

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[[An ancient forest on Temas Prime]]

The 'Blackbird' bucked and shook as it was buffeted by the monsoonal winds. The atmosphere of Temas Prime was in flux, acid rain and massive storms manifesting all over the globe due to the stellar phenomenon in its high atmosphere. Hail ricochets off the armoured plates of the lander as it enters a particularly foul part of the storm and the vessel shudders. Strapped into their seats Victrus and Godwyn are looked over by a medic, while at the helm Argyle struggles against the storm outside under the watchful eye of his master, Torius. The planet was falling apart, but they would not leave without their final council member. Somewhere on the Emperor forsaken world below was Rook, and they would not leave him to his fate…

[Failed Venture]

The steady downpour, psychic noise and dense forest below made scanning nigh on impossible, forcing the Blackbird to skim low over the chalky canopy of the petrified trees. As the gale intensified, the Explorers ziplined down from the hovering craft to search on foot, igniting lanterns and handheld augurs in pursuit of the final missing Tetrarch. Having quietened his mind for the hunt, Rook proved elusive even to two Astropaths, forcing the Council to wander for hours as the weather fouled. A weary Godwyn finally spied the tell-tale flicker of an insectoid mind at the edge of his perception, and dropping out of view, the Council watched the approach of three enormous mantids through the treetops. Once harvester-engrams, the creatures had been rendered monstrous by the radiating rift, sprouting elongated jaws and rippling natural camouflage. Knowing the beasts were closing in on Rook, the Council jump to their feet and open fire. Flakshot raises angry welts on their rubbery skins, and the scorching wave of Godwyn's force-bolts drives the beasts out of the canopy. As they charge, Halion steps forward to unleash a psychic shout, but the creatures are warded by the Blood God; feedback rips through his body, and catches Mediace Hargave in the shockwave. The Mantid's stampede is only halted by the emergence of Rook, who vaults down from overhead and slams one of the creatures bodily aside. Whirling miraculously through a hailstorm of slashes, the Manhunter puts two heavy, decisive blows to it's throat, while Godwyn hurls his ensorcelled blade deep into the final creature's torso. Carrying the prone forms of Hargrave and Halion, the two Tetrarchs break for the pickup zone, silhouetted by the raging thunderstorm as the world breaks apart around them.

Even at a safe distance, the crew of the Lazarus watch in dismay as Temas Prime sinks slowly into the putrid rift. With the full Large Council assembled, the decision is taken by the bloodied leadership to abandon the accursed system and it's horrors. Leaving the pilgrim outpost as the lone testament of the Dynasty's presence, the Lazarus and Tireless slip into the darkness and vanish, stung for their efforts and empty handed as they withdraw for the final time.

------


Appendixes:


Dramatis Persona

  • Officers of the Redwynn Dynasty: Called upon by their benefactors in the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Dynastic Officers are to journey far across the expanse.

Notable Persons:

  • Magos-Prefectus Antissa: Adeptus Mechanicus academic interested in researching aliens. Acting Tetrarch aboard the Lazarus as it plies the expanse.
  • Captain Misericord: Chartist of the well-known shipping lineage. His vessel the Tireless is carrying supplies for the Dynasty's deep void run.
  • Co'Amiral Yaman: ['Engineer'] Member of the Cagatay Dynasty on Temas Prime. Tentative alliance with Redwynn Dynasty.
  • "The Factorum": [Believed 'Engineer'] Overlord of Temas Prime, heavily controls information on the planet. Referred to as a "Sapien".

Librarium

The Engineers: Thought to be evolved, Technology-Era proto-humans. Advanced science and technology, including the ability to 'broadcast' stored intelligences into bio-engineered avatars. Adept matter-manipulators. Void capable, biological ships and bio-titans, advanced lance and anti-matter weaponry. [Pictured]
alien%20face.jpg
Engrams: Genetically engineered worker/warrior race composed of artificial biological tissue. Insectoid biology, remotely operated by Engineer pilot-intelligences. [Pictured]
Species%20II.jpg
The Drone-Men [Affiliation Unknown] Advanced, remote-operated mechanical race. Highly resilient, possessing powerful archeotech weaponry. [Pictured]
relentless%20progress%281%29.jpg
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