Making their way into the foothills they saw a flare go up behind them. It had come from a large military-looking jeep with two symbols on the side; the one the Acolytes recognized being the Imperial Aquila. The Acolytes stopped and it was two Battle Sisters of the Adepta Sororitas looking for Phaedros. The Inquisition had contacted their fortress on Iocanthos, The Abbey of the Dawn, asking them to try and get a message to Acolyte Phaedros Drenn. The message was that his mother had gone mysteriously missing in the neighborhood in which she lived on Scintilla and that Drenn was to report back to Tricorn Palace immediately. The Battle Sisters offered to give him a lift back to Port Suffering & he departed the party.
Soon after arriving at Stern Hope the party was greeted by Brother Lamark. He apologized on behalf of Prelate Orland Skaethat the Abbot was not there to greet them himself & Lamark showed them where they were staying at the Crying Clota. Aristarchus unexpectedly retired early for the night instructing the Acolytes to mingle with the natives. They went about the camp & interviewed a number of settlers picking up some scattered information.
Their Prime Aristarchus called a meeting in his room in the morning to discuss what the Acolytes might have learned the night before & to formulate a plan for their investigation with the limited time they had.
They interviewed Prelate Orland Skae. He introduced them to his two “right-hand men”, Brother Lamark & Brother Severus. The Abbott briefly touched upon his personal background. He emphasized to the players how much work the people of the settlement had put into this settlement & the cathedral itself – and especially stressed to them how he was unwilling to let any prevent the consecration of the cathedral to St. Drusus. He asked and demanded that they get to the bottom of what was going on & gave them a run down of the odd occurrences that had plagued the community the last few months. He offered them Brother Lamark to help them that day with whatever they might need. Aristarchus excused himself yet again, his mental acuity seemed to be continuing to deteriorate.
Speaking of odd occurrences, that very afternoon a Stern Hope settler, using an axe, butchered a woman for no apparent reason in her tent. The Acolytes’ interrogation only got out of him, “I could not kill her” before in front of their very eyes, he bled from all cranial orifices, his jaw broke & his neck fatally snapped. They noted Shale Crows watching nearby & Eugertes killed a few until the crows settled father away.
Eugertes inspected the integrity of the wall while Lexxicon interviewed some herders in the “Warrior’s Camp”, the area of Stern Hope where passers-by stayed. Crucius Magnus & Intios sought out information at the bar in the Crying Clota, but didn’t have a lot of luck.
Brother Lamark led them to an area above the settlement where strange laughter was heard, baleful lights were seen & bodies had been found. There they were stalked & attacked by a local beast that Brother Lamark subsequently told them was known as a Hexalid. The large six-legged hog-like beast’s ambush was thwarted by the party’s alertness but it injured an Acolyte before they dispatched it. Upon examination, they found that the beast showed obvious signs of having been dead for days, being covered in suppurating wounds & it’s eyes notably missing. They discovered the dead bodies that had been reported to be there and witnessed a Shale Crow crawling out of one of the bodies; again, all of their eyes had been removed. There also they found the wreck of a car that possibly had belonged to the corpses; they searched it but found nothing. Lexxicon headed off into the thick forest near those bodies & found another corpse – one that apparently had lived long enough to crawl some distance before perishing.
The day of consecration for Saint Drusus’ Cathedral finally arrived the next day with settlement folk dressed in what passed for their finery & what passed for local dignitaries arrived from nearby areas. That included the Warchief of this region, WarChief Kos’ke and a local Wisewoman, Esha Raine whose tribal title was “DeathSinger”. The entire settlement & all dignitaries were in attendance with the Acolytes given a place of honor as Abbott Skae began a rousing pre-consecration Plainsong ceremony sermon.
In the middle of the Abbott’s sermon a loud crash was heard as a truck smashed open the settlement gate and Stern Hope was attacked by disheveled looking warriors with yellow ribbons tied somewhere on their body. The Acolytes, from the cathedral’s hill, witnessed multiple packs of attackers advancing on different parts of the settlement. The Emperor’s holy servants split up, with Lydia running around to the back of the cathedral to the right. Eugertes did the same but to the left. Intios ran to the vantage point & cover of the Priory. Crucius & Lexxicon remained on the hill on the entry portico of the cathedral.
These last two focused on the pack of the Emperor’s enemies that were dashing straight up the main straight at them and the cathedral, seeing that one of their foul number looked to be carrying a sizable bomb. Crucius dropped this sapper at 75 meters with the first semi-auto burst from his lasgun and the bomb dropped to the ground where the sapper fell. Lexxicon & Crucius continued to exchange fire with these charging warriors dropping more as they progressed. Then the Sanctioned Psyker dipped her mind into the chaos of the Warp willing her appearance to change into one that might strike fear into even the most hearty. The steeled Imperial Guardsman Acolyte next to her was startled by her Warp induced manifestation…but held strong. However, one of their approaching foes was not as dauntless and fled screaming back out the settlement’s main gate. Crucius continued to exchange gunfire dropping a shotgun-toting invader at twenty paces. The last enemy warrior with cleaver raised over head raced up the hill & took a mighty chop down on Lexxicon. However, Lexxicon once again tapped the ethereal corruption of the Warp to make her physical location ambiguous and as a result her enemies’ cleaver found only air. Confused at Lexxicon’s sudden disappearance, he had no such problems finding Crucius nearby and charged, swinging & striking Crucius in the mid-section. Lexxicon & Crucius surrounded & dispatched this last foe hand-to-hand.
Lydia made the long run to the back of the settlement to find that the loud commotion there was from the wild frenzy of the Dustdogs, who were reacting to the attack. She continued her way all the way around the cathedral to the supply/workshop/storage/generator buildings on the other side, which she found fully ablaze.
Eugertes & Intios, down the hills & off to the front/left of the cathedral entrance, engaged the enemy firebomb crew whose target were those supply/storage/generator buildings. Intios laid down fire from the corner of the Priory and Eugertes soon found himself chasing them from behind when he set out to go around the cathedral to the left. One of the firebombers stopped his dash, having neared the buildings upon which he planned to hurl his payload. This allowed Eugertes to finally close within fighting distance & so he yelled a taunt at his prey, letting him know he was being pursued by Acolytes of the Emperor. This heathen, as a result, turned & hurled his firebomb at Eugertes, missing long causing the bloom of hot burning liquid to splash inches short of the assassin’s heels. The concentrated fire from Intios & Eugertes then put down this faithless fire-hurling foe. Another member of this firebombing crew standing near but just beyond the first opened fire with a full-auto burst from his AutoPistol, catching the Emperor’s assassin full in the chest, leaving him teetering from the blast and desperately seeking cover though finding none. Fortunately, Intios promptly laid this blasphemer low with a shot from his Stub Revolver before he could spray another broadside in Eugertes’ direction. They both then turned their attention to the only obvious enemy activity in sight across the main road & near the settlement wall opposite of where they now were.
Lydia went around the outside of the blazing inferno of these buildings, clearing them just in time to see the small assassin take multiple rounds in the chest & then watch Intios dispatch Eugertes’ attacker with critical timeliness. She therefore continued her sprint around towards the main road looking for targets.
It was at just this time that these three Imperial stalwarts noticed a lone yellow-ribboned invader come running through the gate & start up the main road. However, no sooner had they recognized this fresh target but the already lit fuse reached its destination on the waylaid cathedral bomb. This large improvised device exploded, rattling the teeth of all in the area & shattering every bone in this lone invaders body, hurling him in an instant back out the front gate that he had just entered.
The last invaders were slayed by the town’s militia that had finally egressed the cathedral & equipped themselves in enough numbers to fully engage the enemy.
The Acolytes helped fight off the desperate suicidal raid & prevented the cathedral from being damaged, managing to defeat a sapper team tasked to the bombing of it. However, there’ll be no victory celebration. Substantial amounts of the settlement went up in flames & casualties were tragically high, including quite a few of the settlement’s children hacked to pieces not far inside the main gate.
As the smoke rose from the various fires around the settlement and the stench of burnt flesh permeated everyone’s nose, WarChief Kos’ke clearly vexed, asked the Acolytes what possible reason Seth the Voice had for such a suicidal attack. Eugertes Doson responded that Warlord Seth had likely been confused & unnaturally prompted by the same evil that the Acolytes had been sent to investigate.