Emperor Preserve

Finding Adorjin
Possibly the first time anyone's ever ran TOWARDS a Black Ship

From: Odessa; Adeptus Administratum & Acolyte of the Holy Inquisition, Ordo Hereticus

Blue_Spirit_-_old_lady.jpg Acolyte Odessa reporting in on the cell’s progress through the Adorjin Space Hulk. It was an unnerving segment of our mission to say the least. Our resolve was tested and obviously found very plentiful. The encounter with the “Blue spirit” continued with my companions floundering around with the bizarre rose-smelling doll and fruitlessly shooting the spirit. Meanwhile, despite my grievous injuries from the unearthly beasts, I was dealing with the spirit most adroitly, setting it on psychic fire and mercilessly pounding it with blasts of bio lightning! Eventually it fled from me but not before making some attempt to become one with my mind. I was far too much for it of course, but it’s presence seemed to linger with me for some time after, providing me with visions of dubious value, most likely related to my usual(empire approved) daymares.

After defeating it, we carried on towards the presumed direction of the black ship. In a gigantic cavern seemingly constructed of rock and ships, we encountered a ghostly child which I bravely confronted with the help of the brother sergeant. Luckily it was not hostile and warned us of some unknown horror, at which time I sensed a warp related braying and crying in the distance. We chose to move along swiftly to reduce the likelihood of horror.

We moved on through airless corridors lined with metal collars attached to the walls. We weren’t sure of their purpose but decided that they were no good, and the brother sergeant removed them from the walls. Nearby the only way for us to continue was through a small hatch. Arion led the way and swiftly discovered a Dark Eldar lurking in the room beyond. It hurled some disturbing item which caused Intios and I to be incapacitated, myself briefly, Intios for a good long while. After recovering I assisted Arion with dispatching the xenos which seemed to be a subject of intense hatred on the part of Arion. Once I was helping with my powers of psychic shutdown Arion had no difficulty stabbing it to death. My compatriots were excited but clueless about the pistol it had been wielding.

Carrying on, we were assaulted in a corridor by two more of the horrible warp beasts which had wounded me earlier. Being quite important in dealingCalculus-Logi_Trempan.jpg with these creatures, I made sure I was not further injured and successfully provided psychic weakening so that my companions could deal with them and overall we had no great difficulty dispatching the monstrous things. Not so easily did we deal with the horrifying wave of beasts to come. From the other end of the corridor an indescribable mass of the things was coming towards us. We realized we had no chance of fighting them but only the brother sergeant acted with the needed conviction. He guided the rest of us down a side corridor then gave his life for us and the emperor by slowing the tide.

We scurried away from the issue so as to not waste the sacrifice of our companion. After passing through several more chambers we finally reached a cavern which contained the black ship we had been seeking in the distance. The horde of warp beasts were at our heels the entire way so we continued swiftly down a stone corridor which seemed to lead to the ship. Astoundingly we encountered another group of acolytes who had seemingly been sent on the same mission. The lack of confidence in our abilities by our Inquisitors was quite surprising to me. Our groups were able to convince each other that were not a threat and agreed to join forces for the time being.

We entered the black ship just as the horde reached us but strange sigils carved on to the black ship appeared to push them back and we were finally Sergeant_Forden.jpgsafe for the time being. I noticed that the psychic suppression sigils on the ship had however been defaced and were inactive. We carried on into the ship, hoping that we were near to discovering the fate of Adorjin. We encountered the ghostly girl again on the ship, she seemed excited to introduce us to some “others”, though seemed worried that we were Inquisitors. We did not reveal our association with the inquisition in order to first gather more information.

Shortly after that we came upon the others she was referring to, a large collection of ghostly people we deduced to be the spirits of the psychers-in-training who had died on the ship. One of them appeared to be the leader and called himself Crovus. He began indifferent towards us but slowly became more convinced we were associated with the inquisition which he took quite poorly. We were concerned some kind of confrontation was about to begin which we had no interest in engaging with, when another spirit interrupted Crovus, telling him to not bother the living. We hope this is Enginseer_Molochan.jpgsuccessful, the spirits should be put to rest, there but for the grace of the Emperor go I.

Determine Inquisitor Adorjin's Fate & Retrieve the Luminous Reproach
"We're not alone"

Dominator-Class Cruiser Magnus EcthelionShip_-_Imperial_Navy_battleships.jpg The members of our Ordo Hereticus Cell, transiently seconded to Inquisitor Nazauth Karkalla of Ordo Xenos – but now on a Ordo Hereticus Investigation, answerable to Inquisitor Vownus Kaede – had just lifted off the roof of Tricorn Palace in an Imperial Navy orbital shuttle . Ensign Vermian greets them, having recognized the acolytes from when he was shuttling Inquisitorial forces off of Ambulon.

Upon their arrival to the Dominator-Class Cruiser, Magnus Ecthelion, the Cell is hustled to a well-appointed ready-room; it’s obvious from the frenetic activity level that the ship is on high alert. In short order, Captain Sepheyr greets them via hologram; he has a bionic filter over his mouth, his skin in covered in fine circuitry that extends into an elegant augmetic skullcap that flares behind him…presumably leading to mechanisms off-screen. A large wallDeathwatch_Pauldron.jpg of the room flickers to show a view of the space hulk and the Captain introduces Brother-Sergeant Agamorr, who briefs them on their mission.

Approximately three days prior, a cadre of sanctioned Inquisitorial psykers registered an unusually strong disturbance of the aethyr about the Golgenna Reach. They were unable to verify what their senses were detecting until naval telemetry confirmed the emergence of a space hulk which they code-named Twilight. The Twilight had entered realspace on a trajectory that would take it directly into Scintilla’s upper atmosphere. The recommended course of action when dealing with a hulk that is too near a planetary system is to eliminate it, which the Navy prepared to do. However, soon after detection, a transponder signal emerged from the heart of of this hulk, an encoded signal that the codifiers of the Inquisition identified as carrying the call sign of Inquisitor Adorjin, whom had been missing for over six centuries…her fate unknown. The dense material of the Twilight in conjunction with the unusual spatial anomalies made an exact sensor reading of the interior of the hulk impossible. The Inquisition ordered the Battlefleet to give their agents as much time as possible to determine Adorjin’s fate and retrieve the holy weapon that she once carried, the Luminous Reproach. They had just over fifteen hours to determine the source of the signal, secure the blade if possible and depart before the Navy destroys the hulk.

The Brother-Sergeant led them to the enormous shuttle bay where their transportation was, the assault Boat Helios. It was a small vessel capable of latching onto the side of the space hulk with a series of magnetic clamps, then blasting through its hull with melta charges. There they afforded themselves of the ships armory, equipment locker and, since none of them had experience with voidsuits, were given a Map_-_Golgenna_Reach_map.jpgcrash course in their operation. They all donned either a Selenite Voidsuit or Navy Boarding Armor, with a voidsuit built-in. They were given a Vox-Caster modified by Naval enginseers, who hoped it would allow them communicate to the fleet from inside the hulk. Finally, they were given a scan of what little the fleet’s sensors was able to discern about the inside layout of the hulk, and the path that seemed most likely to get them to the location they believed Adorjin’s signal was coming from. After Tech-Priest Volwyr of the Adeptus Mechanicus completed an elaborate unfamiliar chanted blessing of the group & the Helios, they lifted off. Since the acolytes had no one with particular skill in piloting the craft, the Brother-Sergeant took the controls.

It would be about 45 minutes to get to the Twilight and they talked a bit with the space marine about his background & even any knowledge he might have had about the heretical outfit the Cell was just investigating, the Serrated Query. During this ride, with time to gaze at the hulk through the viewfinder, they noticed with concern that portions of the hulk in your peripheral vision would appear to move and even go translucent at times. Intios claimed to the others that for a moment he thought he saw another small ship also in the vicinity of the Twilight.

Twilight_Space_Hulk.pngSeveral thousand kilometers from their destination, moments after receiving a vox transmission from the fleet about a new energy reading from the hulk, a battery from one of the ships making up the hulk opened fire on them. The acolytes were able to strap in without mishap as the Brother-Sergeant successfully evaded the fire and aimed the boat full-throttle at the Twilight. The Emperor was with them & they clamped to the hulk and breached its hull with the melta charges.

They stepped through to find the familiar look of an Imperial ship’s corridor, an absence of gravity, their sealed suits’ instruments indicating there was breathable atmosphere & a light frost covering everything from floor to ceiling. The latter was perhaps most disturbing to the assassin of the group, as he heard the light crunch of his magnetic boots. They successfully tested the modified Vox-Caster & quickly set off.

They made their way through 90 minutes of hallways & corridors before entering a 15-10 meter room with two other doors & several curious items. At the last possible second, Brother-Sergeant Agamorr, Intios & Odessa all spotted the burning eyes of whatever leaped out at the group an instant later. The creature that leapt at Arion was nothing but bones & sinew. The one that charged the Brother-Sergeant resembled a Mastiff canine with its skin peeled off. The one that clawed at the psyker resembled a panther made of flickering flames.

Their claws & fangs were incorporeal, penetrating armor without impediment. The space marine was bitten in the leg but then smashed his skinless foe into the middle of the room, where it lay motionless. Arion took claws across his chest, causing red globules of blood to float away, before slowing his opponent with a couple of well placed sword strikes. The Brother-Sergeant finished it off with a crackling strike of his thunderhammer. Odessa fared the worst, sustaining deep fang wounds to the midsection before dispatching her hellion. Red blood & blue ichor globules floated throughout the room, as the group caught its breath at the conclusion.

First aid was administered to all who needed it – everyone but Intios tried out the new advanced medi-kits they acquired from the Magnus Ecthelion’s equipment locker. Next they investigated the objects in the room. Arion called over the Adept to see what he could make of a metal platform. The Emperor’s sage figured out it was a hover cart, of sorts. Arion then pried open a wood carton that had unintelligible block writing on its side. All were flooded by the olfactory fragrance of roses – most eerie since they were all in sealed void-suits! The only contents was a small jar with a stick-doll of a girl holding a small rose. The jar was transparent, though the sides appeared dirty or tinted.Doll_in_Jar.jpg

Arion determined to open the jar. Exhibiting proper professional paranoia, the group took cover and assumed lines of fire. The blademaster opened the jar, set it on the floor and stepped back. After about ten seconds the previously dirty looking jar was completely clear. Then standing there was a bluish spirit of an older angry woman. The control console in the middle of the room suddenly uprooted from the floor and hurled at Arion, who barely flung himself out of the way in time. Intios dropped to his hands and knees and sobbed with terror at the sight of this unnatural apparition. The psyker, easily the worst injured of the group, passed out cold. The Brother-Sergeant promptly put two Astartes bolter shells on target, which seemingly passed right through the spirit and took a sizable chunk out of the wall. Arion’s sword passed right through it, as well. Odessa came to & opening just one eye, set alight a warpish flame inside the spirit…which then turned from bluish to a flickering orange hue. The psyker felt the spirit looking at her through the warpish plane. Brother-Sergeant charged with a mighty swing of his huge powered mallet, taking out another chunk out of the wall as his weapon passed through the target. At the assassin’s urging, he then smashed the jar, which seemingly had no effect. The massive space marine then scooped up the pulverized remains of the jar.

The Ambulon Temple is Now CLOSED
Who knew the Inquisition had happy hours


From: Intios; Adeptus Administratum & Acolyte of the Holy Inquisition, Ordo Hereticus

My Investigation Notes
Theodosia was able to call in reinforcements into the church. Our team trades las, autogun and grenade fire with the newly arrived Joyous_Choir_Temple_Battle.jpgreinforcements. Odessa and I take cover from Theodosia’s power sword. Arion was able to defeat the cargo servitor with the clamp claw. The Cell’s assassin engaged Theodosia in extended melee combat, while the rest of us continued to battle his minions. Finally, the large augmented heretic wounded Arion with his crackling sword. As the reinforcements pour out from the basement, we hear a series of explosions coming from below. Theodosia and his band of mercenaries quickly move to egress the temple. In the waning moments of the foes’ presence, the already wounded Arion turns a corner & is riddled by autogun fire, dropping him with grievous injuries to his leg.

As we are in no condition to pursue, Odessa and I decide to investigate the basement. We quickly find a multitude of servitors attending to Ambulon_JC_Temple_-_basement.jpga makeshift assembly line. Upon closer review, we can see that brains are being extracted from humans while the remaining body parts are being used to build more servitors. Odessa quickly discerns that the bodies are those of psykers. Close examination of the servitors shows that one was formerly Saia Strophes, Laurent’s niece that we have been looking for.

We are soon beset by a group of Magistratum officers. We identify ourselves as Inquisition and ask for their assistance. We gave them, Raneiro Bassi, as our contact in Hive Sibellus. With a quick blood test, they confirmed our identities and proceeded to help us search the temple. Of interest were the rooms upstairs. The last room upstairs had more security measures than the others. Once the doors were open, we found an office that was later identified as Theodosia’s. His main desk was booby trapped. We dismissed the Magistratum & contacted Acolyte Bassi to bring in Inquisitorial assistance. They disarmed two traps, one that poisoned & another wired to a large promethium bomb.

What we found in Theodosia’s desk was a plethora of information regarding the overall organization of the Serrated Query. We found files related to a major client of the Serrated Query. They had entered into a contract with the SQ to obtain technology from an Adranti planet, that they provided the location of (however, that location wasn’t mentioned in the file) There was a document called Defense of the Future: A Logical Discourse. It talked about how technology progress is essential if man is to progress. I recognized it as the core treatise for the Logicians, a heretical cult long hunted by the Inquisition & arch-enemies of the Adeptus Mechanicus. The file also detailed that the Harmony Meters used by the Joyous Choir were created using Adranti technology.

Within a sealed file of Theodosia’s, there was mention of another unnamed client. This new unnamed client had discovered Hesiod’s Wake’s peculiar absence of Imperial contact and had used this to blackmail the Serrated Query – silence about Hesiod’s Wake in exchange for information on the technology being acquired for the Serrated Query’s other client. The Serrated Query had planted their operative by the name of Azeth Hartok onto Hesiod’s Wake many years prior. We knew him as Jaleb Samtoll. There were details of how Martein Kathrinka was blackmailed to have Samtoll be Chief Counselor; the Serrated Query had learned that Viceroy Martein had an affair with Ignis. There was also mention of a previous agent on Hesiod’s Wake even before Hartok/Samtoll. This unnamed client had later further demanded that a provided Tarot deck be delivered to Administratum Adept Smyk that, as we know, eventually corrupted the Inquisitorial diviner Aristarchus. Lastly, the file mentioned how this Adept Smyk has unexpectedly turned up on Hesiod’s Wake seeking sanctuary from pursuit.

With this information, we returned to Sibellus and passed our information onto Septimus Dexter, Laurent Strophes and Inquisitor Karkalla. We were given some downtime in order to let Arion convalesce from his critical injuries and for the Inquisition to process all of the collected data. Several weeks later, we were called to Tricorn Palace by Inquisitor Karkalla.
The gathering of Inquisitors was arranged by Inquisitor Artanyan. Artanyan is the Inquisitor that Acolyte Bassi works for. We also met Inquisitor Glavius Wroth. In various conversations as we wandered the room, we heard curious mention of a renegade Inquisitor Felroth Gelt, that the Inquisition had apparently issued a warrant for. Inquisitor Wroth seemed frustrated by the name, commenting that Gelt “was a ghost”. Artanyan had congratulated us on our discovery of the Xothic Blood Locusts, expressing surprise that our cell had not lost anyone in our contact with the xenos. Apparently this Gelt, before going renegade had lost more than one of his retinue to the winged monsters upon their first discovery.

We had a conversation with Acolyte Bassi, who explained that these causal Inquisitorial gatherings were very unusual, but his boss Inquisitor Artanyan was of the opinion that they were worthwhile. There was some overheard talk about a dangerous heretic referred to as the Burning Princess and a noted Witch Hunter named Fhendahl. Finally, we heard the name of Inquisitor Silas Marr, and how he’d been invited but didn’t come to no one’s surprise.

After hearing these bits and pieces of conversations amongst the Inquisitors and their retinue, a new figure walks in and gets the attention of Wroth and Karkalla. After a brief exchange, Inquisitor Wroth motions to our team to join their conversation. The new figure, who we heard addressed as Whitlock, continued to talk about a space hulk within the planet capitol’s space. From their comments, there apparently was no precedent for this – but, naturally, the Imperial Navy quickly moved to destroy the space hulk before it entered the atmosphere of Scintilla. However, Ordo Hereticus had given the temporary order to stand down.

Whitlock explained that he had serendipitously been in a Tricorn communications room when Inquisitor Vownus Kaede, Ordo Hereticus, had ordered the Navy to stand down. From what Whitlock could ascertain, the curious order had been given because of the presence of a Black Ship in the space hulk. The Black Ships being part of Ordo Hereticus, it appeared that Hereticus was taking point on an investigation of it. However, for reasons unknown it became apparent that Ordo Malleus thought they might be leading the investigation. Whitlock said that Hereticus was scrambling to field a team to leave immediately, given the intense time restriction, with the space hulk hurtling towards Scintilla.

Inquisitor Wroth, having just learned about our Cell from Karkalla, suggested to the group of Inquisitors that perhaps Ordo Xenos could send their “own” team, meaning us, since we are actually Ordo Hereticus on loan to Inquisitor Karkalla. He also pointed out, seemingly thinking it couldn’t hurt, that Kaede was a member of Order Xenos before moving to Ordo Hereticus.

We (and seemingly Inquisitor Karkalla) were certainly surprised at this turn of events, but suddenly Inquisitor Karkalla was leading us to the shuttle bay at the top of Tricorn Palace at a dead sprint to meet Inquisitor Vownus Kaede. After confirming our association with Ordo Hereticus, Inquisitor Kaede ordered us aboard a nearby Navy shuttle…the firing up as soon as we were aboard.Ship_4_-_shuttle.jpg

Divine Disagreement Settled with Blades & LasGuns
Inquisitor Karkalla might call it "aggressive negotiation"


From: Intios; Adeptus Administratum & Acolyte of the Holy Inquisition, Ordo Hereticus

My Investigation Notes
The three of us made our way to the rearward part of Ambulon. We found the Joyous Choir facility fairly easily. A quick scan of the area showed that the Joyous Choir building was not attached to the other structures like everywhere else. There was a fairly open courtyard with some Magistratum type personnel walking through. We did notice that there were a few people walking about the courtyard that never left.

It was decided that I would approach the temple and one of the people walking about the courtyard. In order to be more discreet, Arion and Odessa left and found a nearby café where they would follow my progress via vox. As I approach three gentlemen standing about 10 meters from the temple, two of them walk off. The one remaining identified himself as Nathaniel and confirmed that this was the Joyous Choir temple. He told me to feel free and use the main hall or meditation rooms for quiet contemplation on becoming True.

I walked around the front and side of the temple and could not find any way of getting in through the top of the structure. Inside the temple I find a few locals in the main hall in quiet prayer. There is a balcony facing the main hall where I caught glimpses of someone watching me. One side of the main hall has a stained glass window that stretches over two stories. The other side lead to the meditation rooms. There were a few doors that were locked which lead me to believe that there was either a sub-level or another level up which I could not get into.

I join Arion and Odessa at the café and we decide to look for tall structures that have a view of the temple. We found a library which had a direct view. We see a small patch panel above the second floor of the temple. We decide to return after midnight to enter. Our climb up and into the temple was uneventful. We enter the panel door and find ourselves in one of the side rooms on the second floor. This is the balcony floor which I saw earlier in the day. Inside the last room on this floor, Arion could hear two voices and what sounded like the handling of weapons. We decide to go down to the main floor.

I tell the others of the meditation rooms and the main hall. There was one door in the end of the hall that I could not open. The use of the Auspex sensor showed two people inside the last room. We open the door and quickly dispatch the two people, who seemed to be dressed like the Pressure Point mercenaries that attacked House Strophes. We quickly search the room and soon hear the sounds of multiple footsteps coming towards us. Doors slam open and grenades start flying from both sides.

It is Arion who first exits the room and comes face to face with Theodosia. The same person we encountered in the Hustle and in the Alabaster Court. Grenade volleys are once again exchanged. I step out of the room into the main hall and see one person running away. I hit him with my lasgun but he is still able to run and call for possible reinforcements.

At this very moment, I hear the sound of a power sword and then a blow that nearly knocks the breath out of me. Theodosia managed to flank us and get into our room. I see Odessa light Theodosia up with her bio-lighting directly in the chest. Theodosia takes the hits and shrugs them right off. I fire a semi-auto burst that he is able to dodge. At this point, we all know. It’s either him or us.


Storage Lockers & Oracles
Be quick about your looting

We rejoin the Cell in the middlehive of Hive Sibellus on Scintilla. They are performing reconnaissance on a storage locker facility traced from a number found in a bag sitting on the bed of the room presumed to be Theodosia’s in The Alabaster Court in the Spire of Hive Sibellus. Finding nothing amiss, they proceeded to the specific locker that the number led them to. The Mech-Wright of Acolyte Raneiro Bassi, Bautistum de Cespedum, had cut the power to the facility as planned. Odessa sensed the faintest of warp traces somewhere in the vicinity while Arion, using the lock-pick set he was given by Septimus Dexter, defeated the mechanical lock holding the door fast & rolled the metal articulated door up into the ceiling. The assassin identified a box just inside the door that was almost surely a communication node capable of sending messages – probably that the door was open. It was dark now from the lack of power, but he worked at permanently disabling it.

The psyker examined the wall of metal shelves just inside the ~2m wide opening – it was lined with what the sanctioned warp maven immediately recognized as Witch Cages. It was an item she had only been told about & seeing one for the first time caused a shudder & chill throughout her.

Tripwire.jpgIntios, mesmerized by what knowledge & wealth the small storage room of the heretic might contain, stepped inside forthwith. A few feet within, however, he felt the lightest of touches on his leg lasting only an instant. He looked down to discover his fears realized, the thinnest of filament wire laying on the ground…tripwire.

To their relief, finding themselves all still alive a moment later, Arion investigated what turned out to be some type of Promethium incendiary device that had a keypad and timer that now read three and a fraction minutes. The acolyte wasn’t versed in explosives, but it looked like a lot of the highly volatile substance in gel form. The others quickly stripped the room of all contents, while Arion worked at quickly disabling the explosive that would soon have more than the room encased in burning hot flames. Not having enough time, he told them they only had a couple minutes left. Odessa found a metal box that later tests would reveal to be the charred remains of Apollyon Matum, a retired physician on Hesiod’s Wake, one of the individuals that security footage had shown boarding the Dark Heart with Jaleb Samtoll. Odessa immediately realized the body was the source of the warp trace.

Taking it all, they hurried towards the gate, drawing stares from storage locker owners – the assassin yelled an obscure warning over his shoulder as they passed through the fence opening. The expected explosion occurred and, glancing back, saw a surprising amount of the roof already covered in Scene_-_The_City_of_Ambulon.jpgintense flames. They fled into an alley to regroup and take inventory of the room’s contents. They holed up there for the night.

In the morning, Intios made the journey back into the Spire and to Acolyte Dexter’s office at the University of Sibellus. A quiet pickup of the body and some other goods was arranged. After receiving word on the identity of the body they’d found, they returned to House Strophes and had Laurent begin preparations for their visit to the ever-walking city of Ambulon.

Lord Strophes prepared their Ambulon papers, providing them the cover as his commercial agents & arranged for their ornithopter ride there. Many hours later they were treated to a site that no description can fully prepare one for – a giant walking city. After arriving & being approved by Ambulon’s watchful Magistratum, they set out to find the renowned gem cutter by the name of Kronis Estrun in the Red-Gold Quadrant on the spine and “headward”.

Due to Lord Strophes’ trust in Estrun, the acolytes confided in him hoping he would be able to provide them information pertaining to this strange city and the quarry they sought. While not personally knowing much of value, besides the general whereabouts of The Joyous Choir Temple, he pointed them to a strange purveyor of information indeed, the Ocular Oracle.

Estrun’s grandson led the Cell to a courtyard, rare in the packed city, rarer still for being empty – and a hole in the ground big enough for them to walk down into. They were immediately hit with heat, humidity, smell of lubricant & sound of machinery. Deep inside the tunnel they came to a room filled with thousands of hanging silver chains, whose seemingly random tinkling contact with one another was somehow playing the familiar refrain from an Imperial hymn. Pushing past these chains was a doorway, behind which was a strangely shaped room filled with clusters of devices, the majority of which appeared to be in various states of disrepair or completely broken. The remains of once sophisticated cogitators lay among data-slates and dozens of other unrecognisable machines. In the center of the room, on a slung chair made of intricately braided electrical wires, sat a man of indeterminable age. Ocular_Oracle_1.jpgAn augmentic servo harness encased his body and a series of bionic data-jacks were connected to several of the machines about the room by long cables plugged into his skull and along his entire spine.
The ensuing “conversation” left them with far more questions than answers about the Ocular Oracle himself…but the Oracle had a number of interesting responses to their varied questions. There was mention of a human people called the Adranti, that the Oracle claimed was responsible for the xeno tech found in the broken taro card. The hooked sickle, a question mark formed from a blade, was the symbol of an ancient group of cut-throat black marketers known as the Serrated Query. Their master he referred to as the Faceless One, whose location he did not know. He offered that The Joyous Choir was simply a front for “the questioning mark that cuts”. The acolytes eyebrows raised when the Oracle told them that this xeno tech was used to destroy a diviner…an Inquisitorial diviner named Aristarchus the Seer. Adding a final stroke to this already extremely unique experience, the Ocular Oracle pointed them to the bottom of a pile in the corner of the room, where they found a decorative plate with the symbol of the Serrated Query on the back.

The Oracle having gone silent, the Cell emerged from the tunnel to find Estrun’s grandson waiting for them. He led them to a student’s inn near the Magnopticon, the University of Ambulon that the grandson had pointed out to them earlier, where Estrun had arranged accommodations for them & where they stayed the night.

In the morning they set out for the Joyous Choirs’ temple, which they had been told was at the rearward end of the Spine, on the other side of the city. It was a slog, for the city was so short on space that all travel that they’d so far seen was over the top of the mishmash of abodes that its citizens lived in. Near the end of daylight they grew close to their destination and started to ask around. They were told of an inn they could get a room at and that the temple was just a couple of rows down. They proceeded just far enough to be able to see the small courtyard in front of the temple & the frontage of the temple itself. They weren’t impressed, though it was notable that, unlike the vast majority of structures they’d seen so far, the buildings nearby didn’t press in on it. A bit of reconnaissance revealed that a few of the seemingly passers-by outside the front of the temple never really left the courtyard.Joyous_Choir_Temple.jpg

The Beating of Tiny Wings
Nature's exterminatus

The lone remaining figure in the room, besides the assassin, had just blasted away a panel of the tank nearest the open doorway…and the buzzing was now nearly deafening. Sensing that what had just been freed were not the honey bees of Holy Terra, Arion without hesitation bolted for the other door in the room, which was on the opposite side of the damaged tank. Close on his heals the figure followed. Relieved to find the door unlocked, the acolyte rushed through and his shadow Xothic_Blood_locusts_3.jpgunsuccessfully tried to push past him. Arion efficiently cleaved down his unwanted companion. He then closed the door & pushed the body against the door, in order to delay the ingress of the small uncaged creatures.

He found himself in a corridor with three doors, only one of them open. The first door on the right he noted was different, like a laboratory door that looked possibly capable of being sealed. Inside were multiple humanoid skeletons, long picked clean. The next door on the left was a normal interior door but had a crude wooden guard nailed to the bottom of it, as if to perhaps reinforce the lowest one foot of it. Inside the 10×6 meter room were multiple large mounds of branches, bramble, leaves & dirt…of far more interest though, was these mounds were moving. Actually, they were more trembling, as if something – perhaps many somethings – were moving inside them. The acolyte closed the door and quickly moved on.

At this point, he noted that a few handfuls of the small creatures were attached to the body pressed against the door, presumably feeding on it. They Xothic_Blood_Locusts.jpgwere Arion’s first clear view of the creatures. One of them was perhaps about 2-3 inches long & had teeth, as well as fangs, on their hairy many eyed face. Their fangs were embedded & the body already appeared slightly smaller somehow. He also noted three large bags, of some composite plastic material, hanging on the wall in the hallway.

He checked the last room on the right, the only door that was already open. It was another laboratory-like door with more bones inside. Noting the buzzing was getting louder & more stray creatures were starting to appear in the hallway, Arion stuffed the first two of the hanging bags into the third and then climbed into it himself and zipped it closed. Near the zipper was a micro mesh that thankfully allowed air into the bag, but did not afford seeing out of it. He could feel the small creatures alight on the bag and began rolling around to at least dislodge them, with hopes of perhaps smashing a few…though it was impossible to be sure of anything outside of his body bag.

Back outside, Odessa & Intios were battling a fresh wave of foes that had come in through the building’s main doors. They were taking fire from the large anteroom in the direction of the street outside. The warrior adept let fly with a grenade that landed true and freed the pair of acolytes from the shotgun fire from the large room’s nearest corner. Intios was ignored minor injuries, and the two advanced to that corner themselves trading fire with more human Underhive vermin that was using the rubble in that room for cover. Intios was lighting up the room with lasfire & the Emperor’s warpish maven creating flares of bio-lightening…forcing their foes back. Forty seconds, gunfire & a few grenades later and the foes were driven back out of the office main doors.

Back in the feeding zoo, Arion had struggled to his feet, still inside the bag and was awkwardly hopping/waddling his way in the direction of his compatriots. He somehow managed to make it to the closed door with the body against it. Unzipping his bag a few inches, however, he saw that it was now just loose skin draped over bones. He reached his arm out of the bag enough to open the door and it was attacked by a dozen tiny fangs. They failed to find purchase, however, through his armored bodysuit and he flung open the door. He brushed off the fanged pestilence, zipped his bag back up and waddled back into the room with the tanks – the creatures in the other still intact containers seemingly quite agitated. Arion updated his colleagues on his position & situation. Intios & Odessa together grabbed a body from their handiwork in the hallway & carried it to the closed door that separated them from the assassin. Odessa quickly opened the door & they heaved the body inside as far as they could & reclosed it. Their toss wasn’t everything they dreamed of but it did the trick. The creatures descended on the fresh meat enmass. Arion, knowing he didn’t have long, artlessly lurched inside his bag towards that door to freedom. There was just enough time, as they drained every drop of liquid from the body, for Arion to leap out of his now unzipped bag, out the door and slam it closed.

Knowing the small creatures could make their way under the door, they all sprinted for the truck, where Terlian was keeping an eye on it. In the truck, they managed to lure the swarm out of the town so they could go back and inspect the lair more carefully. Arion found papers in the desk with the tanks that confirmed that the man he’d cut down there was Rolando, as well as an encrypted dataslate. They were also rewarded with a dead sample or two of them on the floor inside, which they scooped into bags.

Now having gotten several looks at the buzzing creatures, though at somewhat of a distance, Intios shares with the group that he believes them to be Xothic Blood Locusts. They’re a proscribed xenos species accidentally discovered by a Rogue Trader named Xothic, who unknowingly spread them to several planets, which were subsequently consumed completely after they quickly bred into the millions. After the Inquisition executed Xothic these planets were purged of the buzzing curse from orbit & it was hoped all were accounted for. Intios had heard rumors that there was black market trading in them, since they were essentially bio-weapons…nature’s exterminatus…and from what he understood, the Cell was enjoying the Emperor’s blessing to have come away virtually unscathed by their encounter with them. He suggested that Rolando seemed to be breeding them.

The Cell made their way out of the Underhive, dropping off their local “friends” on the way. They returned the truck, but were taken into custody by the Magistratum at the portal after a mandatory search turned up the dead xenos samples. The Cell maintained their cover claiming they’d driven through a swarm without incident and had picked up a couple dead ones off the windshield. The Magistratum was dubious of Arion’s story and contacted the Inquisition.

Shortly thereafter, Acolyte Raneiro Bassi of the Ordo Xenos arrived at their Magistratum with his clerk Valentijn. The Cell, without yet revealing themselves, insisted on a private conversation away from the Magistratum. Bassi warned them that if they were wasting his time, he would have them interrogated & summarily executed – but arranged for their transport to an Arbitrator’s precinct in the Middlehive. There they revealed their true identity to Acolyte Bassi & told him their Underhive story including the now confirmed Xothic Blood Locusts. He thanked them for the information & released The_Barking_Saint_-_frontage.jpgthem.

The Cell next went back to their favorite Middlehive watering hole, The Barking Saint, Arion looking for his contact Mergildo. They didn’t find him but received a message left there by him for the Cell, acknowledging their success with Rolando’s demise, informing them that Theodosia was a “holy man” on Ambulon & that they should definitely stay in touch, listing a contact #.

Acolyte Bassi quietly sent them a message that he’s learned that they’re associated with Inquisitor Karkalla & to let Bassi know if he can be of assistance in the future.

The Cell went to Septimus Dexter’s university office to report in, where they recounted their tale, all of them sifted through the information, new and old, and they asked him to look into some of the information they’d brought back. Something about Mergildo’s name obviously had him in thought.

Not long after, he contacted them with results of some quick inquiries:

  • Mergildo is an anagram for Odlegrim, the name of an Inquisitorial Acolyte that was believed killed in action; he didn’t have any more information about him than that at this point.
  • The Golden Hand accounts they obtained from Orday’s body had been drained of all funds, so Dexter has closed them.
  • Likewise for the bank account #s that had been found in Theodosia’s bag.
  • The contact # that Mergildo had left with the message was simply a place to leave messages that could be checked from anywhere on the planet.
  • Rolando’s encrypted dataslate – still working on it; found evidence Rolando doing business with unnamed organization & it includes the ship name The Profitable Chance
  • There was one number from Theodosia’s bag that traced back to a rented commercial storage room in a somewhat down & out neighborhood in the Hive Sibellus middlehive. The bill was paid up on it.

The Cell brainstormed on how to access this storage room while not revealing that the Inquisition had been involved. They decided to take up Acolyte Raneiro Bassi on his offer of assitance and contacted him from Dexter’s office. Bassi’s given them the technical services of one of his staff, a Tech-Priest named Bautistum de Cespedum. The Cell instructed Cespedum to shut down the power to the storage unit at a precise time.

Hunting in the Underhive
What's that buzzing

Magistratum_office_roof.jpgMembers of the Cell had just swept the Magistratum office roof of opponents and, finding the roof door now unlocked, proceeded down the stairs forthwith. As they descended, the buzzing began anew.

In the dull enhanced lighting provided by his light enhancing goggles, the Adept noticed aged pictographic scrawl on the walls of the stairway. Having some familiarity with such writing from his exposure to the Valoda Akadēmija, where he was first stationed with the Administratum, he offered the group what he thought it meant. This was being claimed by someone by the name of “Diris”, one of the only actual words on the wall. What “this” was, was anyone’s guess – the building perhaps, but there was no further definition of what was meant. There seemed to be there the story, probably quite dramaticized, of how Diris came about possessing it. There was also a “Coretta” involved – girlfriend perhaps? Mother?

Finding an ajar door the only available path at the bottom of the stairs, the Assassin ventured through to scout ahead. He explored an empty hallway, which featured one direction closed doors & open doorways – while the other, towards the street, opened up into a room that was the entry hall of the Magistratum office. Arion listened at doors that wouldn’t open & viewed prisoner intake rooms, some with cells and others with showers. Then he spied several inhabitants sitting at desks & beckoned his colleagues to quietly join him. One of those in the office, unaware of his presence, exited the room, where Arion waylaid him with his blade. The man cried out in his final moment, alerting his comrades, who grabbed their shotguns & took immediate cover behind desks.

Intios, not one to miss many opportunities to employ anti-personnel ordinance, hurled two grenades inside. One got away from him, landing harmlessly in the middle of the room. The other, however, dropped just behind the desk that appeared to be the cover for more than one of those inside – and exploded right where he wished.

Around this time, the door at the end of the hallway slammed open & the buzzing sound filled the air.

Inside from their angle, they could see it was a room containing a table, chairs & the far wall seemed to be a window. Arion, judging that the Cell’s flank was now exposed, ran for the door. From his new vantage point, just before slamming the door closed, a glance revealed the room’s wall on the right, which had a large tank of some kind against it. The side was too opaque from there to see what was inside…but it was reconfirmed that the noise, now quite loud, was coming from that room. He slammed the door.

About that time a shotgun blast rang out, taking out a piece of the wall near Intios. Odessa darted out from her cover to engage this new foe in a nearby doorway. She promptly lit him up with warp-derived strands of bio-lightning, leaving him smoking but still standing. This was more thanOdessa_Smiting.jpg he bargained for – he bolted into the hallway & sprinted towards the exit into the street outside. However, Intios dropped the fleeing foe from behind with a loud crack from the las weapon he wielded.

That same door at the end of the hallway slammed open again…and Arion fleetly dashed down the hall to it once more. Odessa ran down to join him and then stretched out her fingers to fire warp-lightning at any foolish enough to show themselves. As if on cue, the Cell witnessed a robed figure dart right-to-left across their viewpoint through the door. The bolts lanced out from Odessa’s fingertips but instead scorched the table the figure ran behind. Arion charged into the room & was hit from automatic ballistic rounds fired by someone crouched behind the same desk where the robed figure had taken cover. Intios joined his fellow acolytes at the doorway. Wounded but undaunted, Arion continued his charge. He saw the robed figure, now seeing she was female, saying something and raising her hands towards him. The assassin chopped her down with his sword. Intios fired his las pistol at the man still crouched behind the desk, striking the wall behind; he then ran back down the hallway to retrieve his dropped Lasgun.

Somewhere in this brief window, the Cell took notice that the walls of this room was lined with these large tanks that were packed with highly agitated slightly oversized insectoid creatures. They also became aware that this was obviously the source of the overwhelming buzzing sound…and that there was something frighteningly unsettling about them.

The man behind the desk adjusted the aim of his longarm & fired a burst at the tank nearest the doorway, shattering one of its panels…the buzzing was now near deafening….

Assault in the Underhive
Not much hospitality down here

From: Intios; Adeptus Administratum & Acolyte of the Holy Inquisition, Ordo Hereticus

My Investigation Notes
With Terlian behind the wheel of the truck, Odessa and I were on the back with one of the vagabonds. Arion told us through the vox that he had spotted multiple figures within the ruins but could not pinpoint who was shooting at the truck.

Another sound of gunfire rings out from the ruins and hits the truck’s windshield once again. This time we hear Terlian say, “I’ve been hit!” At that very moment the truck speeds up once again and Odessa and I both fall off the flatbed. We pick ourselves up and I noticed that the vagabond has also fallen off a few meters behind. We start walking forward and tell Terlian to stop and pick us up once again.

When we get to the truck, I get behind the wheel and tell Terlian and Odessa that I will drive slowly towards the bonfires and stop right about 40 meters from the towers. As we get closer, I tell Odessa to light up whoever she sees. From my vantage point, I see multiple lightning blasts fly out from the back of the truck towards the first tower behind the bonfires. Afterwards, we do not hear anymore gunfire. We decided to drive up to the first tower and investigate on foot.
As we were in the truck, Arion was able to sneak up on a rooftop combatant and ascertain that we are in Rolando’s territory and that there are approximately 15 people total. That interrogation did not end well for the combatant because the next time we saw him, he had fallen off the roof with a large sword wound in his back.

With Terlian at the roof the truck watching the street, Odessa and I go and investigate the interior of the tower. I immediately spot someone within and opened fire with my laspistol. Before this combatant could react, I see his eyes go wide and he starts running the opposite direction. From my previous experiences with Odessa, I can accurately assume that one of her warp powers has gone awry and was affecting everyone within sight. It takes all my willpower and experience to not look in Odessa’s direction. Since I did not feel any warp like powers tugging at me, I start running after the combatant I shot.

My target runs into a larger room and then jumps through a large hole in the wall, which leads outside the building. By the time I get outside, he has a bit of distance on us. I pull out my lasgun and score a direct hit to the same arm I hit before. At this point, he climbs on top of a large pipe and stumbles off the other side. As I am approaching the fallen combatant, I can hear who I believe is Odessa following me a couple of meters behind. Without looking at her, I say, “Are you ok, Odessa?” Her simple response, “Yes, I’m going to flank him on the left.” Odessa, who seems to be back to normal now, and I see the lifeless body of a combatant on the other side of the large pipe.

Arion checks in and tells us that he is shadowing two more combatants that are heading towards to towers. Odessa and I get back to the first tower and climb the stairs to the top. We discover a body that seemed to have three ears on his head. He is badly charred by what looks like lightning blasts and the solid projectile weapon he was using was rendered useless from Odessa’s attacks.

We signal Arion to return to the rooftop because he wanted to record evidence of our team’s handwork via his pic recorder. He told us that he discovered a locked dwelling with people inside. Since he was alone and did not have a lock pick, he decided it would be more prudent to have backup. Knowing that Arion had also spotted people around the old Magistratum building, we decided infiltrate that building first before hitting the dwelling.

With Terlian guarding the truck and looking out for anyone on the street, Odessa climbed back up the first tower to get a higher vantage point of the town. It would be up to me and Arion to get into the Magistratum building. I was originally going to climb the wire ladder up the building but we discovered that whoever was on the roof pulled the ladder up. So we had to infiltrate through the adjacent building and slowly climb up the near crumbling stairway. I gave Arion one of my grenades and the plan was to have Odessa suppress the rooftop combatants while Arion and I snuck in from behind.

As soon as Odessa’s lasgun roared, Arion was up the stairs. I heard a grenade blast and climbed up the stairs after Arion. It looked like the grenade was on target because when I got to the roof, Arion was disposing two combatants at once. I saw a third combatant by the end of the roof towards my left. I quickly grab cover and open fire with a semi auto burst from my lasgun. By this time, Arion had snuck behind the rooftop stair way and was going to flank the last combatant from the right side. He quickly made work of the last combatant. With no one left on the roof, we started to tally our body count and take inventory of any equipment

Underhive Roadtrip
They need more road signs

Scene_-_Headlights_in_the_dark.jpgThe Cell drove past the military-like checkpoint down into the near darkness of the Underhive. These lowest reaches of the hive are notoriously difficult to navigate, typically lacking reliable geographic landmarks. It wasn’t long before the Emperor’s hunters felt unsure as to their whereabouts. Multiple lights in the distance were elusive, sometimes two appearing & sometimes three.

They came across half-eaten bodies & what appeared to be large swarms of what might have been some kind of rodent-like creature…onwards they drove. The acolytes came across a couple of wanderers, who spoke what seemed to be some primitive and guttural version of Low Gothic. Fortunately, Intios’ familiarity with languages enabled him to usually decipher what they were trying to communicate. The Cell “hired” the duo as guides promising them food in return. Terlian established a rapport with the one, who quickly felt like he was part of the team.

At times their new geographic counselors seemed as confused as their employers. Arion seemed attuned to the semi-rancid smell of the stale water of the nearby marshes. They found this wet sodden land they had been smelling and followed its edge, remembering that their desired destination was near it. After a short detour avoiding what appeared to be a thick opaque mist, and traversing quite a ways westward and then south by their reckoning at least, they started ascending a large bluff. One of their guides seemed to recognize it, repeatedly stating, “Esmer. Esmer.

They saw fires in the distance & reached a wall of stacked stones that the fires were atop. Arion negotiated with someone behind the wall for directions…but they couldn’t come to terms.

On the way around the bluff they ran into a man on foot, who tried to run from them, but whom they chased down in the truck. They came to terms withScene_-_man_in_headlights.jpg this man & he told them what he knew of the surrounding area. He told them he’d never heard of “Noma”. The marshes they’d been smelling were the Althea Marshes. The Crumbling Tower lay on the other side of it some 15km North of the Midhive portal. At the top of the bluff lay the Esmer ruins. The settlement the acolytes had run into on the bluff didn’t have a name, that he was aware of, but he traded goods with them from time to time. There were some ruins located near the marshes to the Northeast. There was a good sized settlement near the marshes to the SouthEast that went by the name of Holt, which was also the name of the guy in charge there. If you kept going East around the Marshes there was a narrow valley that would take you between the marshes and an area known as “The Hole” – literally a deep cavernous hole that spanned for kilometers to the South.

The Cell decided to first check out the ruins to the Northeast. From a distance they could see two lights there. Upon approach the light turned out to be two fires, seemingly maintained at the mouth of the only road still identifiable of the ruins there. They stopped the truck some three hundred yards from the Scene_-_bonfire_in_distance.jpgfires, figuring they’d been obvious spotted due to their headlights. Arion determined to scout ahead, creeping around from West to see who was watching to those watchfires. Terlian & one of their locals stayed in the cab, while Intios, Odessa & the other local were on the flatbed.

The structures had been razed on both sides but the one street had standing structures – though in terrible shape with no visible walls intact. Taking his time, Arion carefully snuck up to the structure at the end of the road from the West and made his way into a hole in the wall on that side. He spotted a small pinprick of light through some buiilding wreckage near the corner nearest the fire. oh so quietly snuck towards the pinprick of light…but just as he was one interior building corner away from it his foot errantly stepped on a sliver of wood, which audibly cracked under foot. With that, he crept back the way he’d come, waited & listened. His trained assassin ears detected someone walking from his right to left, farther into the town probably on the street. He again snuck in the same way he had & this time viewed where he’d seen that pinprick of light. There was nothing there now but a small pile of discarded Lho-sticks.

Peering out a gap in the ruined building he saw the back of an individual, some distance away now, hugging the walls of the building going away from Arion farther into the ruins. Arion trailed him, seeing the figure duck into what turned out to be an alley. Adjoining this alley was the most intact building of the ruins and it looked to be an old Magistratum office. Arion, seeing no sign of who he was following, checked the two doors in the alley and then proceeded past the front of the building to the next one. There he egressed in the hole in the wall and climbed up the delipidated structure to its roof. He jumped to the roof of the Magistratum building which was half intact and half somewhat ruins. He tried a door he found there on the intact side, but it was locked.

Further search turned up a crawl hole with a light at the end. Exploring it, he found himself looking into a crack in the ceiling above a corridor in the Magistratum building. No one was visible but there was a strange low-level steady humming noise he couldn’t identify. Just then he could see through the crack two individuals run down the corridor. He noted they weren’t wearing uniforms. It wasn’t possible to go farther in the crawl space & there was the crackling of initial interference in his microbead, probably from the structure. So he crawled back out and reported in everything he’d see to his comrades.

Terlian scooted behind the steering wheel, honked the horn and blinked the headlights – so as to make absolutely certain he didn’t startle anyone with his approach. Then he started the truck forward towards the fires. A shot rang out and a bullet pierced the windshield but hit no one. None of the acolytes Bullethole_in_windshield.jpgsaw exactly where it had come from among the ruins. Terlian punched it and the truck suddenly lurched towards the mouth of the street some 250-300 yards ahead…but he quickly lost control of the truck as it pitched violently going across the deep ruts of the on the broken choppy dirt. Fortunately, he was able to get the car back under control and he brought the speed down to ensure that would continue to be the case…but another shot was directed at them. From the back, Intios couldn’t identify the shooter.

From the ruined part of the Magistrate roof Arion witnessed a figure, armed with a longarm, climb up over the lip of the roof on the South side, go to the edge overlooking the roof and start to keep watch. The Inquisitorial swordsman left his cover and sloowly crept towards this lookout, who was fully alert but whose back was to him….

Finding the Rolando Trail
The one where everyone became a cyborg at the same time

The 12-month survival of a campaign is nothing to sniff at – an atta’boy to all acolytes of the Emperor, past & current!

From: Terlian Cascius; Adeptus Arbites & Acolyte of the Holy Inquisition, Ordo Hereticus

My Investigation Notes
Scene_-_reloading_shotgun.jpgTaking a defensive position in the room of Inquisitor Karkalla’s group, I reloaded my shotgun. I was bleeding heavily from grenade shrapnel, but the will of the Emperor drove me forward. Blessedly, the lights had returned in House Strophes just in time for us to make a stand. The door crashed open, and Arion quickly ran into the hallway, weapon in hand, and the sound of the striking blade echoed in the room. Trantor lay dying in the corner, as two intruders edged around the doorway, exchanging gunfire with Intios, Odessa and myself. At some point in the melee, Odessa was struck down by a shot to the chest, and I ran out of shotgun shells. I ran toward Trantor and grabbed the autopistol off his seemingly lifeless body, but never had time to use it. My last recollection was seeing a grenade land in the room as I covered my eyes with my arm. While Odessa, Intios and I were mortally wounded, Arion dispatched the remaining intruders with his quick blade.
I awakened in a hospital room, with my right arm replaced by a seemingly well-crafted mechanical substitute. I soon learned that Odessa and Intios had received similar accoutrements. While we were recovering from surgery in the hospital, Arion recovered more information to plan our next move. He learned that the intruders were likely from a mercenary group known as Pressure Point, but we were unlikely to find out who had hired them or for what purpose. He had also learned that Laurent Strophes would likely be able to provide us cover stories as facilities inspectors should we choose to pursue our lead to Ambulon.
Rather than make the arduous journey to Ambulon, we chose to follow a closer lead that Arion had investigated. He had a contact with additional information on the black-robed figure, Theodocia, but who wouldn’t provide the information until we’d dispatched a figure named Rolando, who was down in the underhive. We traveled to the underhive, with me traveling separately so as to arouse minimal suspicion as to my connection to them.

In the middlehive, we procured a flat-bed vehicle by promising to return it in good condition, with only a little bit of coercion on my part. We also procured a weeks worth of provisions, including food, water, batteries and ammunition. We knew that our target was in the Noma quarter, 50 miles west of a location called the crumbling tower, and began our journey through the darkness.
I couldn’t find a warp daemon blowing out the cake for Emperor’s Preserve