Sunday, 23 May 2010

Rogue Trader Session 14: Death by Pointy Stick

Characters:

Aphesius Alesaunder, zealous yet charming missionary of the Imperial Cult. (Manoj A)
Mordecai the Cautious, twin-hellpistol wielding weapons monkey, sent to the newly-acquired Thunderhammer to make sure all is shipshape, since David was off buying a car or something. (David)
Maximillius XVIII, tough-as-nails tech-priest from a death world. (Ben F)
Octavius Sol, seneschal and quartermaster. (Stuart F)
Triptych, mutant navigator and his harem. (Ric R)


This is quite a long one. We played for an extra hour, but barely any of it was scripted, as the players spent most of their time pursuing their own schemes. They're also a cautious lot who like to cover every eventuality before they take action, so there's always lots of planning and dealing going on at the table, and I don't have to do anything except listen. This game has been easy, and a lot of fun, to GM for that reason.

The duel of honour between Octavius Sol and Imperial Commander Ernst Kruger would begin at 06:00 hours, and already there was a palpable buzz aboard the ragtag fleet of refugee vessels surrounding the Risen-infested void station of Jameson's Hollow. While Sol busied himself with practising his mêlée skills, the rest of the gang set about stacking the odds in favour of their seneschal. Maximillius created a small hidden poison dispenser which would attach to Sol's spear; the hope was that since it was a weapon of xeno design, such an addition would be difficult to spot. He also met up with some of the Banshee's underdeck scum and purchased a cheap home-made version of the combat drug Frenzon, just to give Sol a further edge in the fight.

Meanwhile, the priest studied the rules of a formal duel and also tried to uncover any particular weaknesses Kruger might have, and which they could exploit. It was discovered that the Commander was a solid, even boring, man, devoted to military service, but with a strong sense of honour; it was this stability which led to him being assigned to the frontier outpost in the first place. He was also discovered to be an orphan, adopted into the Kruger family, but Alesaunder did not have the time to turn up any more on this line of enquiry. As one last action, the priest made it clear to Kruger's men that any attempt to interfere in the duel would not be appreciated, and that he had two starships bristling with weapons with which to make the point, if necessary.

The hour of the duel arrived, and the explorers arrived at the makeshift arena constructed within one of Moullierre's vessel's cargo holds to discover a sizeable crowd. A twenty metre square area at the centre was roped off, and the audience sat around this on barrels, cargo crates and anything else they could find. Another area was roped off for the assembled dignitaries and nobles; present was their own Trader Locke, Aurelie Moullierre the host, and Kruger's second-in-command, Augustus Schtolnik. Zarak was not present, and Triptych discovered that the suspected Inquisitor had been found dead in his room on Moullierre's vessel earlier that morning, a victim of poison.

(This poison was created by the explorator and administered by the seneschal, at the very same dinner at which Sol and Kruger had the argument which led to the duel. Triptych was not aware of this plan, however, and Ric played his reaction as genuine shock and surprise.)

Alesaunder accompanied his cousin Sol to the ring, and used his considerable social skills to not only whip Sol up into a frenzy, but to also distract and demoralise Kruger; Sol was already under the effects of Frenzon as well as the still-unknown influence of the alien spear, so the players hoped that they'd done enough, as the odds were very much in favour of the military man. Alas, Kruger fumbled his roll to resist the taunting, which changed everything.



Sol, in a murderous rage charged the Commander, who seemed to just stand there with a look of confusion on his face. The first blow was but a scratch, shaving off a slice of Kruger's ear, but a second pierced his thigh, blood welling from the savage wound. Watching from behind the rope barrier, Alesaunder was surprised to discover one of the red-robed figures from his dream standing beside him, apparently enjoying the duel; a discussion followed, in which the figure made another offer of power and immortality to the priest, mentioning that Aphesius was of particular interest to them, as the explorator and navigator were barely human, and that Sol "belonged to another".

Meanwhile, Triptych was scanning the crowd with his Warp eye, on the look out for baleful energies, and spotted the hooded figure talking to the priest. Recognising the figure from the description Aphesius had given him of the dream, Triptych pushed his way through the crowd to tell Moullierre that there was a Warp entity on her vessel.

Sol jabbed again at Kruger, who again failed to put up a solid defence, and this time the alien weapon sunk into the muscles at the Commander's shoulder, rendering his left arm useless. Sol felt some force empowering him, something other than the combat drugs, something which seemed to fill him with energy and in a blur of speed he made a second attack, once more to Kruger's leg, this time shearing the limb completely. The crowd gasped in surprise as the military man fell to the ground and blood gushed all over the deck. Triptych shuddered as he saw his seneschal surrounded by blasphemous xeno energies no one else could see.

The red-robed figure was overjoyed by this display of violence, which perhaps contributed to Alesaunder once more rejecting the offer. With a shrug, the figure claimed that he had "other options", walked into the middle of the expanding pool of Kruger's blood, and with a salute to the priest, sank into the pool as if it had real depth. Meanwhile, the Commander had begun twitching, but before anything could be done to prevent his rise from the dead, Sol screamed that same unnatural scream the explorers had heard on the bridge of the Thunderhammer and brought the spear down through Kruger's chest and into the deck plating underneath, with a shower of eldritch red sparks. Those who were present at the spear's discovery couldn't help but note the similarities.

Shocked by this series of events, the crowd dispersed, and the explorers warily approached the howling seneschal with an eye to calming him down. Many minutes later, Sol came to his senses, with little memory of the duel, but a feeling of elation flooding through every fibre of his being.

After a brief detour to see for themselves whether Zarak was indeed dead, the explorers returned to their ongoing plan to turn the situation at Jameson's Hollow to their advantage, offering to clear the station of the Risen in exchange for exclusive access to the station's facilities. Kruger had not been keen on this suggestion, seeing it as dishonourable at best and blackmail at worst, but with him out of the way, the team hoped that Schtolnik would prove more open to the plan. He did, although it seemed more through weariness than anything else, and so the explorers moved forward with the next stage, which was to find out more about the Risen before they attempted to rescue the survivors still on the station.

To do this, they met again with the Eldar held captive in a secret part of Moullierre's vessel. He again repeated his offer to go to his people and ask for assistance, in return for his freedom from his prison. Although they still did not trust the alien, the explorers felt that he was their only option to find out a way to stop the undead plague, and so tentatively agreed, on the grounds that they would accompany him to his destination. They also convinced Moullierre to allow her husband's freedom, although she too insisted on accompanying them, albeit in their vessel, as she wasn't keen on her "in-laws" discovering her. With the bare bones of an agreement in place, the team decided to first rescue the survivors on the void station, and returned to their ship to formulate a plan.

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