“You think man is the only race to dabble in the darkness of the warp? No my friend, there are creatures far older and evil than us out there among the cold stars- aliens whose worship of the warp makes humanity seem as naughty children screaming at the sky.”
–Interrogator Milos Helacania, Lost to the Warp 673M4
Several weeks have past since the slave rebellion in the Dark Eldar city the Nexus of Shadows. Escaping with Captain Shen and her crew aboard their ship the Hostile Transaction, the acolytes have joined thousands of other former prisoners seeking passage away from the wicked city. In an act of gratitude, or as a form of payment, many have dedicated themselves to the service of the captain, while others have elected to serve because they are seeking a new start. Two of the acolytes have decided to do this as well- Jak easily stepping into his role as Captain Shen’s first mate and Jez unsurprisingly joining her longtime companion as a senior member of the crew. Per an agreement negotiated by Bishop with Captain Shen, the rest of the acolytes, and their allies, eagerly await arrival at the port of Footfall so they can reestablish themselves back into their former lives.
Proceeding on the final leg of their journey, the Hostile Transaction is violently ripped out of the Warp and into real space by a mysterious force- the violent translation causing significant life-threatening damage throughout the ship that the crew and its passengers work hard to repair. While the ship and crew recovers from the event, Gunn, Luck and Doomonue are called to the bridge by Shen; the rest of the acolytes having been seriously injured by the translation, or helping the crew with repairs.
On the bridge, the acolytes find out from the Captain that the Hostile Transaction is located in orbit around an unnatural black sun in an uncharted region of space. The strange sun emits streaks of black energy to many small constructs that float in orbit around it while swarms of strange black crystalline-looking ships patrol the sun and its surrounding structures. Further away, locked in the same orbit as the Hostile Transaction, there appears to be a collection of ship debris, asteroids big and small, and a small moon with a shanty town-looking settlement made from various starship sections. Also locked in orbit is what appears to bit an armed transport ship intact and operational. Of more concern, Captain Shen tells them that a strange gravity field has locked their ship in orbit and something is keeping the plasma and warp drives from functioning pass the point of maintaining basic ship functions- they are trapped in orbit.
Immediately the vox of the Hostile Transaction begins to pick up vox traffic from the moon town and the transport ship, identified as the Penance of Iocanthos. The vox traffic from both sources appear to be requests for meetings to discuss the current predicament they all face and potential plans of escape. While Captain Shen attends to the repairs of her ship, she instructs some of the acolytes (as proven architects of the successful slave rebellion and escape) to take the ship’s only Arvus lighter and make contact with these two parties and facilitate talks.
Gunn, Luck and Doomonue depart for the moon colony first and make contact with its leader, a man named Martek- a simple but competent man who claims to have been miner. Leading a population of several thousand, half of which are mutants, Martek tells the acolytes that he and his people have been trapped by the black sun for decades and he does not think the populace will last more than two more generations. Directing the acolytes to the black sun, he says that augur scans show that it conceals a fortress-like construct that appears to be the source of power that arcs dark energy to the many surrounding small relays around the sun. Martek believes that this is the cause of the strange gravity field locking the ships in orbit, and if the fortress is destroyed then the field will no longer exist.
Martek and his people were able to salvage a vortex torpedo warhead from the orbiting debris field and jury-rig it to a large makeshift push cart. Their plan is to transport the warhead to the black sun fortress and detonate it, but they lack the means to get the torpedo to the fortress or to make it pass the swarms of patrolling crystalline ships, which he calls wasps. If the acolytes could provide this, then all could escape; Martek requesting that the moon’s population be allowed to serve as crew on board the acolytes’ ship. The only potential issue is the lack of firepower to deal with the Wasps as their lighter is unarmed and the Hostile Transaction is locked in a position where it’s guns cannot be brought to bear.
With assurances that they will return after they speak with their Captain, the acolytes depart and head to the Penance of Iocanthos where they find a population in direct contrast to Martek and his mostly mutant population. Meeting Father Palar, an Ecclessiarchy priest that is head of what he calls the Brotherhood- a group of several thousand highly devoted Puritan servants of the Emperor, the acolytes find it obvious that the Brotherhood and Martek’s group despise each other and the hopes of both of them working together will be very hard, and potentially impossible to arrange.
The acolytes learn, from the Penance of Iocanthos’ captain, Captain Lynara Cobolt, who is not as devoted as the Brotherhood, but held to support the wishes of Father Palar and his followers because they vastly outnumber her crew, that her ship is in a prime spot to provide fire support for a flight mission to the black sun, but she will not commit her ship unless a business partnership can be agreed on between her and Captain Shen, as well as convincing Father Palar to agree to the escape attempt. She tells them that the black sun is a construct of an ancient Warp-dabbling Xenos race called the Yu-vath that were destroyed over two thousand years ago by the Imperial Crusades led by Saint Drusus and now thought to be extinct.
With some shrewd wheeling and dealing between all the factions involved, including Captain Shen, the acolytes are able to convince all to work together, despite their differences, to escape the black sun’s hold. The cooperation of Martek and his followers is secured after an agreement is brokered to transfer the entire population of the moon colony onto the Hostile Transaction before the operation to blow-up the black sun’s fortress is even attempted. The fire support of Captain Cobolt’s ship is secured after the acolytes broker an agreement between her and Captain Shen to work in an extended business partnership. They win the support of Father Palar and the Brotherhood after deceiving him to believe that Captain Shen is working with the Ecclessiarchy to round up mutants (the ones on the moon colony) for transport and proper atonement and execution by official authorities (Father Palar is still suspicious of these claims, and while he does not want to scorn away a potential escape attempt for him and his followers, he vows to the acolytes that he intends to follow-up on their claims once back in the Calixis Sector). Captain Shen also expects some concessions for her participation in this endeavor and the acolytes agree to work through their Inquisition channels to petition to exonerate and expunge past and future transgressions that Captain Shen and her ship will undertake in the future.
After months of preparation and the transfer of the moon colony population complete, the day of the escape attempt finally arrives. The vortex warhead is loaded onto Shen’s Arvus lighter with Gunn as the pilot. He is joined by The rogue psyker Neija, Pullo, Luck, Doomonue, Kelson and five of Father Palar’s men (who are still not wholly trusting in the word of the acolytes). Everything goes as planned as Gunn expertly pilots the lighter though the swarms of Wasps and their exchange of ordinance with the Penance of Iocanthos. With Cobolt’s ship drawing the Wasps, and taking damage, the team with the warhead touches down on the strange alien fortress in the black sun and makes haste to deploy their payload before the Wasps destroy Cobolt’s ship.
With the intention of depositing the warhead in the heart of a central tower on the alien fortress, the team finds their destination surrounded by a strange maze constructed of durable crystal-like material that is black in color and lined with purple veins. The surface of the maze walls are covered in endless alien pictograms depicting strange horrific rituals and unnatural images. The psychological assault on the mind is too much for some of the Brotherhood and one runs away screaming to the lost depths of maze while another is restrained and left behind after he attempts to detonate the warhead.
Eventually the team finds their way out of the maze and into an alien forest filled with crystal trees and a crystal leaf-covered ground. The tower lies just on the other side of the crystal forest, and as the team makes their way with the sound of crunching glass underfoot, they are attacked by strange spider-like creatures that look like they are made of crystal. A desperate melee breaks out with sporadic weapons fire. Successful in destroying their enemies, many of the team are wounded and all of Father Palar’s men are killed. After reorganizing the muscle to carry the warhead, the remnants of the team enters the strange Xenos tower.
Inside they find a vaulted chamber that houses a central pedestal of crystal over which a large luminescent orb hovers and discharges dark energy to the roof high above. The floor of the chamber is littered with piles of bones and desiccated bodies of human and Xenos creatures alike. Neija tells the party that the raw presence of the Warp can be felt here.
With a plan to set the warhead on the pedestal next to the glowing orb, the group cautiously approach and are taken back when a vortex of wind and energy swirls and engulfs the piles of bones and dead on the ground, ribbons of dark energy animating the dead mass. Luck faints away at the sight while the others, unsure what to do fire into the thick mass of bodies. Shattering bones and corpses, the hail of fire seems to destabilize the power holding the animated mass together and the bones and bodies fall still to the floor. While Luck still recovers, and Kelson providing overwatch, the rest of the group pushes the warhead closer to the platform and are standing amongst the bones when the dark energy animates them again. Caught up wholly in the whirlwind of dead matter and energy, those inside are bludgeoned and serrated by the swirl of broken bones and dead matter. Gunn is nearly gutted by the assault and crawls onto the pedestal to rest while the rest of the team again brings the swirling mass down with concentrated fire. Against Gunn’s will, Neija uses her psychic powers to heal the more serious of his wounds- his flesh resealing before everyone’s eyes.
As the team works to getting the warhead on the pedestal, the security measures of the chamber change as the orb blasts dark energy at them to foil their efforts. Despite being wounded by the assaults, the team is able to get the warhead into position, and battered and burned, they flee from the tower, once again traversing the maze of madness and back to their lighter. Fleeing the black sun, Kelson triggers the warhead which explodes in a brilliant blast of energy that destroys the Wasps and surrounding relay constructs before imploding the fortress itself. A moment of silence passes before ragged cheers flood the vox network as reports flood in that the mysterious field that kept the ships locked in orbit has dissipated.
* GM’s Note: This mission was ran with modifications from the Rogue Trader adventure “Dark Frontier” by Owen Barnes. It can be found on the Fantasy Flight Games website “here.”