Emperor Preserve

Confronting Stern Hope's Evil

The Acolyte Cell learns its limitations

The boy that Eugertes Doson had told to keep him informed of anything out of the ordinary comes running over to where the Acolytes are talking with WarChief Kos’ke. The boy yells that something is happening at the front door of the cathedral & to come quick.

The Acolytes & Kos’ke arrive to see one of the wounded attackers lying bleeding on the ground. On one side are Prelate Orland Skae & the Acolytes’ Prime Aristarchus and on the other are the DeathSinger Esha RaineDeathSinger Esha Raine & Kos’ke’s men. As they walk up the Abbot is saying that nothing has changed & the consecration must go on. The DeathSinger replies that this wounded man seems unaware of where he is, who he’s just fought & is muttering the name of unclean spirits – how can the Abbot not see that something is very wrong? With that, Aristarchus steps over and executes the wounded attacker with his laspistol & screams, “Heretic!” at him. He then accuses Raine in a threatening manner of impeding the consecration and tension spikes. Raine declares that she sees now that “the crow is sitting whispering on the shoulder” of Aristarchus & Skae, that she’ll be no part of what they’re doing and is never coming back. Lexxicon speaks briefly with Raine before she gallops off with Kos’ke and company.

The Acolytes are interested in speaking with her more & shortly get their wish. Lydia Ya & Crucius Magnus were looking to get into the cathedral when the door opened and a bloodied Abbott fell into the arms of his guards. Aristarchus arrives to hear Skae say he thought his attacker was the dark form of a woman and is clearly incensed by the holy man’s words. He orders the Acolytes to go to the DeathSinger’s steading, arrest her and bring her back to be questioned about the matter. He tells them if she resists to kill her and all with her.

The Acolytes take their off-road flatbed truck up into the hills with Intios narrowly avoiding trouble at the wheel as they fight a severe dust storm. They arrive at the side gorge, dismount and head to the clearly visible steading. They have no intention of arresting Raine. The Dustdogs alert Raine to their presence and she comes out of her dwelling. The Acolytes tell her they just want to talk, she agrees and invites them inside. Suddenly the sky darkens, the dust storm begins again in earnest, baleful unholy lights are visible and a dark maniacal laughter erupts from the skies. A large flock of shale crows attacks from the clouds. Raine, Kos’ke & Crucius dash inside the dwelling but some of the crows follow them in attacking. Eugertes is shocked from the obvious evil. The crows strike again and again at both those in the dwelling and those outside. Kos’ke’s men chop down quite a few of the birds in the exchange of metal blows and sharp tearing beaks. Lexxicon looks into the warp & changes to an appearance to give her opponents pause – however, in doing so she accidentally causes a thick storm of blood to rain down all around the steading. Soon everyone outside is drenched in the crimson liquid & Eugertes thinks he’s living a nightmare. The crows appear unaffected by Lexxicon’s appearance. The pitched battle continues and eventually the wings of the crows outside get drenched with the blood & do not fly as well. Eventually the flock is fought off.

DeathSinger Raine pulls an ancient book from hiding telling the Emperor’s servants it could have information that could help them. Her people record their history verbally but some is too dangerous to tell so maybe it could be in the book – though she herself cannot read it. The Acolytes are unable to read it, as well. Lexxicon asks if she can take the book & the DeathSinger relents as long as it is returned. The party discusses at length what to do. Some want to find Warlord Seth the Voicer to question him; they ask Kos’ke if he’ll lend them one of their men as a guide to find him. Kos’ke demurs saying Seth is an enemy and will attack them all on sight. Some of the Inquisitorial servants want to make the journey back to Port Suffering to find someone that can translate the book; but it’s decided they should return to the settlement to at least be there for the consecration, in case it still occurs. Crucius discusses possibly bringing the DeathSinger with them back to the settlement by force, since she won’t go voluntarily and all of Kos’ke’s men draw their weapons & take fighting stances. The Acolytes decide to depart at that point and head back to Stern Hope. Before they go, Raine tells them that it was always said that the only thing that this evil fears is the same agony it likes to inflict on others – to remember that.

The Acolytes decide not to contact anyone in the settlement on their vox-beads as they return. They notice fresh smoke plumes coming from the settlement as they descend from the hills. 1-2 hours later night is falling & as they’re approaching the gate they notice that no one is manning the gate or walls and the watchfires aren’t lit. There are notably few people visible walking around the camp. The makeshift gate that was put there after the gate was battered open in the attack is still in place & they move it aside and drive in. The settlers that they do see are in complete shock and are non-responsive to their questions. They come upon a score of settlers that committed suicide. They make their way to the Crying Clota finding it trashed. There are several dead bodies downstairs & their rooms have all been ransacked. Intios searches Aristarchus’ room and turns up his damaged but operating data-slate…but none of the Acolytes have the knowledge to get it working.

They go to the Priory to find Brother Severus and a few junior clerics killed at the foot of the stairs, with all of their eyes removed. Brother Lamark is hanging onto life halfway up the stairs & manages to say how he knew the Acolytes would not desert them. His last words was that they had to save his flock from “him” who was waiting to be free and to feed.

The Acolytes then notice an eerie glow coming from the cathedral. They enter it to find every member of the settlement in the pews, standing at attention, tears running down their faces & chanting words that are clearly not their own. Aristarchus the Seer is standing spread eagle in a pile of ghostfire flowers and some extremely bright objects, almost too bright to look at, rotating around his body. They proceed farther in, determine that Aristarchus is either casting a spell or is performing a ritual and must be killed. They determine to simultaneously shoot him – they all hit their target but all shots deflect off what appears to be a shield projected by the rotating objects. Lexxicon peers into the warp & uses it to inflict pain on Aristarchus, but there is no reaction.

At that point, the man who is clearly no longer Abbot Skae quickly runs up behind the altar and Aristarchus. “Skae’s” head is larger than it should be, the face is corrupted and the limbs move spasmodically & yet it have an unnatural quickness to them. It addresses them saying it was glad they could come, that there was a “miracle” underway. It says that is was so easy to blind these two men & was wondering in what way it would blind the rest of them.

At the point almost everyone in the party reacted to this most foul Daemonic presence that had manifested itself in Abbot Skae – only Lydia was unaffected. Above them were these wretched sounds of someone or something trying to get through – knocking and scratching coming from inside the dome above them portending pure evil. Intios was overcome with it and ran as fast as he could out the front doors of the cathedral. Crucius & Lexxicon backed away in mortal fear of this raw visage of warp vileness.

Lexxicon, shaken & too fearful to approach, worked her way around the right side but keeping her distance from whatever it was that was in the Abbot. The “Skae-Thing” raced forward around the altar and charged the Acolytes. Crucius fired a laser bolt from his lasgun directly into the chest of it, but still it came & the Acolytes enjoined it in combat. Crucius hurled a grenade at Aristarchus, but the concussion & shrapnel could be seen to be stopped by the afore seen supernatural shield.

Lexxicon reached into the warp & using its power manifested the infliction of pain in both the “Skae-Thing” & Aristarcus. When she looks into the warp, however, it sees her and looks back – suddenly in a large area around her gravity seems to reverse and she begins floating off the ground. About 20-30 of the settlers near her begin floating off the ground as well, though eerily, their chanting continued. The “Skae-Thing” floated up as well – all of them three meters off the ground. Several seconds later Lexxicon finds herself six meters off the ground and realizes she needs to control her ascent. She fires her AutoPistol trying to direct her body with the recoil – but controlling her facing is very difficult and she’s unable to move in the direction she wants. She tries grabbing the closest column but it’s too wide to get a grip onto. Still she and the rest continue to rise…5 meters, 10 meters, 15 meters…20 meters and she was then approaching the swirling writhing darkness in the dome.

In the meantime Intios was still outside near the Priory shell-shocked and unable to reenter the cathedral. A number of the other Acolytes were taking this opportunity to fire on the “Skae-Thing” that appeared unable to attack them in its current floating upwards state. They hit it a few times but could not ascertain the extent of its wounds. Eugertes Doson was certain that he’d shot it more than once & was ready to keep doing so when his hunting rifle misfired, fouling the last couple of rounds he had left for it. Lydia determined to toss a grenade up at it, trying to time the detonation of it with the height of the “Skae-Thing”. She miscalculated & the grenade exploded beneath it but still close enough that it appeared to be struck. Several settlers were hit by the blast in the head & collapsed. Lexxicon, from her high vantage point, notices that the swirling darkness in the dome moves to the sound of the ever present loud knocking and scratching that’s reverberated throughout the cathedral since they’ve been here. Something in the darkness was clearly trying to beat and claw it’s way to…Aristarchus! It was making its way to Aristarchus below!

Lexxicon disappeared into the thick darkness of the dome & became too disoriented to act. Intios snapped out of his shock & reentered the cathedral. Crucius dashed off for the party’s rope in the truck parked about 35 meters from the front of the cathedral. He gave it to Eugertes, who tried to take it to Lexxicon but, when Eugertes got close, started floating up himself. Ten seconds later gravity reverted to normal & everyone floating fell to Earth. By now, Eugertes was almost 20 feet off the ground but everyone else fell closer to 75 feet! The “Skae-Thing” landed with a thump on the stone floor & lay unmoving. All the settlers came down hard on the cathedral floor and died with a skeletal crack. Lexxicon plunged down and, only by the holy grace of the Emperor, landed directly on a pile of settlers that had landed before her. Thereby breaking her fall & saving her life. She was in terrible shape with egregious internal injuries…but she was alive. Intios dashed to her to drag her out. But the unholy nightmare renewed again as the “Skae-Thing” stumbled to its feet and charged another Acolyte. The Emperor’s warriors, having wounded it time and again – and seeing it fall from a terrific height – wondered what it would take to bring the vile thing down…or even if felling it was possible! Many of the Acolytes had suffered multiple blows from the warp spawn at this point and some were reeling. It was only by the Emperor’s will that a number of his warriors had not already expired from the mighty blows they’d taken. It had oversized fists and arms and took mighty swings with them with crushing force. It attacked with alarming speed despite the disjointed spasmodic movements of its limbs.

Eugertes ran to the altar deciding to see if he could have more luck with killing Aristarchus. Lydia ran behind the altar to see if Aristarchus was any more vulnerable from behind. Eugertes attempted to strike Aristarchus with melee weapons & his fists. His blows fell harmlessly on the invisible shield that he now could see was from brightly glowing tarot cards rotating around the body of Aristarchus. To Eugertes surprise, however, Aristarchus engaged him in conversation – addressing him by name and asking him how great was it that the Saint had returned? Lydia tried attacking Aristarchus from behind but to no avail, as it appeared the shield surrounded him. Eugertes continued speaking briefly to Aristarchus, trying to get him to stop what was happening. It appeared that Aristarchus was listening but would just repeat how wonderful it was that the saint was here & how helpful Abbot Skae had been.

Crucius was battling the “Skae-Thing” near the entrance of the cathedral & taking mighty blows. At that point, the DeathSinger Esha Raine, put in a surprising visit with several of Kos’ke’s men. She was obviously thunderstruck by what the saw and screamed to the Acolytes to remember that the only thing it feared was the agony it liked to inflict on others. Crucius quickly retreated and maneuvered behind Kos’ke’s men to get away from the “Skae-Thing”, leading it right to Kos’ke’s warriors, whom the “Skae-Thing” began felling quickly. The DeathSinger retreated out the door and stood by the Acolytes’ truck.

Most of this time Intios had been dragging Lexxicon around the cathedral, at first thinking to lay her near the wall but then deciding to risk dragging her to the front doors, where their enemy was. Intios carefully dragged Lexxicon over the prone bodies of Kos’ke’s men.

Crucius tied one end of the rope to the truck’s bumper outside and tossed the other end of the rope through the cathedral doorway. Lydia ran to grab that end but was fatefully set upon by the “Skae-Thing”. With a mighty swing of its unnaturally long strong arms it slammed her in the chest, hitting so hard as to knock all the air out of her lungs. Then with eerie speed it grabbed one of her arms with such force that it ripped it from her body. Lydia shuddered with the terrible shock to entire system, blood gushed out of her wound & she collapsed to the ground. It must’ve been that brief prayer to the Emperor before going unconscious because miraculously Eugertes found her alive. Outside, Crucius leaned out the truck window and looking backwards, on a hunch from the DeathSinger’s wail, tried to shoot at the eye of the Skae-Thing but missed.

While Crucius gunned the engine of the truck outside, Eugertes grabbed Lydia’s ankle and grabbed the end of the rope and braced himself. Crucius floored it and when the slack of the rope was gone it nearly jerked Eugertes shoulder out of his socket. By all accounts he let go of the rope…but only by the Emperor’s strength it turns out he somehow held on!

Intios & the unconscious and barely alive Lexxicon are on the entrance portico of the cathedral. Crucius is driving the truck, which is pulling Eugertes & the near-death and mercifully unconscious Lydia down the steps of the cathedral at breakneck speed.

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