(700 + GE)
From the Archives of Archibald Fanning, Vanem Umbrae
Although learning the ancient history behind the Yu’vath was of great interest, Inquisitor Promethea and her throne agents could not allow it to distract them from their most pressing concern, namely the enigma of the Slaugth and their allied (or, perhaps, controlled) human syndicate. They knew that the Starling Rogue Trader Dynasty was deep in the Amaranthine Syndicate’s pocket, and that Elizabeth Starling had visited Port Constance, that nest of Slaugth filth, and transported mysterious cargo to the Yu’vath controlled Promethium refinery known as Installation 23. What was the connection between these two vile xenos enemies of humanity? How much does Elizabeth Starling know? Why would the Slaugth, a deeply anti-psychic species, have any interest in the Yu’vath, a species that is nothing BUT a psychic gestalt-mind?
The current theory posited by the Agents was that in the era of the Yu’vath empire, before the coming of the Angevin Crusade, the Slaugth found easy hunting. The enslaved human populations that served the Yu’vath were excellent sources of ready food for an extra-planar species that was effectively invisible to the Yu’vath themselves. The Inquisitor and her agents decided at last to return to Ymir-3 to procure the only piece of extant Slaugth technology they knew about, the Royal Sceptre of Praxia, in hopes that studying it might permit Magos Attilan to develop the means to detect such devices in the future.
They traveled to Ymir-3 where they discovered that the unification of the planet under the new Imperial Governor, Lady Nadir of the House of Fera, was progressing well. As a culture that fetishizes their political leaders as religious figures, converting the populace was reasonably easy after rival houses, kings, mayors, and whatnot were eliminated either politically or by force. With the might of the Imperium backing her, only a single Kingdom on the continent of Abraxus was still holding out.
Governor Nadir met the Inquisitor and her Agents, remembering them merely as a band of Imperial witch-hunters under the leadership of Sister Castita. Still, she remembered them well, as potent friends who avenged her mother’s death and set her on her current path to rulership of her entire planet, and so did them the honor of meeting them informally in her chambers. It was clear that notwithstanding a certain discomfort at the pomp and stage-management of leadership, she was doing quite well, and she demonstrated effective Imperial etiquette due, no doubt, to Sister Lyra, a member of the Ordo Famulous who rapidly became acquainted with Sister Castita, promising to maintain ongoing correspondence. Governor Nadir was presented with a facsimile of the royal sceptre created by Magos Attilan, but she politely refused it. Apparently she had retired that symbol of office, not wishing to contaminate her new role as the Emperor’s servant by continuing to utilize a piece of xenos technology. She would have destroyed it had her Prime Minister not cautioned her to, instead, store it in a vault against future need.
The Agents recollected that the Prime Minister, Trice, had been a somewhat shady fellow when last they were there, and it may well be his motives in this were also somewhat shady, but they were useful, and so they said nothing as the Prime Minister was summoned to fetch the sceptre from the vaults. Guardsman Davos ensured no funny business. For once, a seemingly innocuous errand proved to be just that, and the Inquisitor and her agents departed with the Slaugth object.
Careful study by Adept Dido, the Inquisitor, and Magos Attilan revealed some astounding details. The sceptre had no internal mechanisms or apparent power source, being instead a rod of solid matter incorporating seemingly incompatible base elements bound together by a mysterious energy that did not seem to originate from any particular source. Activating the object apparently required contact with bare, living flesh, and drew somewhat from a body’s natural bioelectrical field to activate the yellowish energy blast that seemingly disintegrates all it touches. They developed a darker theory that the matter is not disintegrated, but rather transported to whatever alien reality the Slaugth inhabit. Magos Attilan began the long process of learning how best to use this knowledge to detect more and greater Slaugth technologies.
The Agents opted to return to Port Echo to check in with their Acolyte cell and other assorted matters. Their acolytes reported progress with the Pale Throng, having successfully recruited two of the Throng’s rogue psykers away with the promise of legitimate training, and having organized and armed the poor, destitute, and criminal who live in the Gray Holds to stand firm against an enemy that the acolyte’s propaganda painted as a horde of subhumans who hate all legitimate humanity. Their plan was wait as support for the Pale Throng eroded, and the strength and resolve of their rag-tag force increased. They also hoped to successfully assassinate either of the Throng’s leaders, the rogue psyker Annabelle, or the hulking mutant Mog.
The agents also opted to procure, using their various contacts and resources, some upgrades for their ship, Cromwell’s Fury. They build and installed a glorious Temple Shrine to the God Emperor, featuring small shrines to Saint Serena the Conscripted, Saint Castor the Obviate, and various others. They also procured, via an assortment of means, the mechanisms and forbidden information necessary to make an in-depth study of esoteric artifacts such as the Slaugth sceptre. Guardsman Davos bought a higher-quality cyber-arm.
The Inquisitor’s agent aboard Lord-Captain Lazar Starling’s ship, known to her only by reputation and the name Sparrow, managed to contact her via clandestine means. It would seem he had attempted to file a number of reports, but the Astropaths aboard the Starling vessel may well not have sent them. He managed to smuggle a datapad into the Inquisitor’s hands which detailed Starling activity. He had found no overt cold-trade or Slaugth related activity. Both Lazar and his rather more mysterious sister Elizabeth seemed to alternate stays at Port Echo with the exploitation of the distant planet of Phyrr. It would seem the Starling Dynasty had laid some claim to that world, using derelict Adeptus Mechanicus satellites and equipment to attempt the safe exploitation of this extremely deadly world. After some discussion, the Inquisitor and her Agents decided that the time had come to act decisively to plumb the mystery of Dynasty Starling once and for all.
They waited for the limited window when both siblings’ ships were in port at the same time. Adept Dido once again utilized her feminine wiles and contacted Elizabeth Starling for another romantic and intimate evening while Inquisitor Promethea and the others waited silently in the other room. They arranged for Lady-Captain Surma to confound any attempted departure of either Starling vessel, and took all manner of precautions against the potential for exotic poisons procured from Phyrr.
Lady-Captain Elizabeth Starling arrived to what she clearly expected to be another session of initimate carnality with her noble and decadent acquaintance, whom she expected her subtle perfume of xenos substances might continue to place under her influence. Adept Dido did not disappoint her in the intimate arts, however in the aftermath, as Starling attempted conversation, the Adept utilized the exotic implants and talents trained in her by the Data Redacted to attempt to plumb the very depths of Starling’s mind.
At this point, Elizabeth Starling revealed a stunning display of acrobatic prowess, nimbly crossing the room unclothed to retrieve her power-rapier to defend herself. The Inquisitor and her other agents burst into the room and an altercation ensued. Starling revealed herself to be a consummate swordswoman, as well as the recipient of many top-quality biological augmentations. Ultimately, however, a ruse by Magos Attilan, mimicking Lazar Starling’s voice, coupled with Inquisitor Promethea taking his physical form, prompted Elizabeth Starling to surrender herself to the custody of the Inquisition.
Adept Dido’s mental interrogation, confirmed by verbal interrogation, discovered that nearly a century ago, a member of a distant branch of the Aguirre Dynasty named Dorothea made dark bargains with the Children of Thorns to recover the lost Warrant of Trade of the Starling Dynasty, wiped out by those self-same aliens. Dorothea changed her name to Dorothy Starling and embarked on a very long-con to resurrect the Starling Dynasty and ensure the wealth and power of her descendants. Her daughter, Elizabeth, became the instrument of Dorothy’s intentions, studying all manner of exotic arts of warfare and commerce, working with her mother to cement alliances and funding so that when the Dynasty made its comeback it would have the ships and resources to defend itself. Elizabeth Starling was 83 years old, preserved via arts chemical, biological, and xenos in her current youthful form and figure. Lazar Starling was not her brother, but rather her son, taking on the face of the “head” of the Dynasty while Elizabeth, and behind her the even more shadowy figure of Dorothy, continued to plot and manipulate.
They learned that the Amaranthine Syndicate has long supported and funded the rise and return of the Starling Dynasty, and that neither Elizabeth or Lazar had any inkling of any links to the horrific xenos Slaugth until the Syndicate asked Elizabeth to sail into what was thought at the time to be impassable warp storms to the lost Port Constance. The storms had, of course, abated, and Elizabeth’s ship was perhaps the first to discover this fact. It was aboard the derelict Port Constance where she came face to face with the horrors of the Slaugth, and realized the potential error of her path, and the danger into which her fledgling dynasty was plummeting. Nevertheless, she knew that she could not disobey or she and her son would be destroyed. She transported the mysterious cargo for the Slaugth to Installation 23, where it was expected, implying an active alliance between Slaugth and Yu’vath that the Inquisitor had hitherto not expected. Elizabeth Starling then claimed, and her memories supported her, that she had no further direct contact with the xenos. She did, however, continue to aid the Amaranthine Syndicate in their expansion into the Ixaniad Sector, but simultaneously began forging alliances and contracts with other, more upstanding Imperial organizations, in the hope that she may someday be able to extricate herself and her Dynasty from Syndicate control.
No amount of ignorance or good intentions can fully excuse collaboration with xenos like the Slaugth, nevertheless, Inquisitor Promethea offered Elizabeth Starling her life, and her continued operations involving Phyrr, which were apparently a legitimate attempt to exploit a resource and sell the product to the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Imperial Guard. The secret of her false lineage would also be maintained. In exchange, however, Elizabeth Starling was to provide all information about the Amaranthine Syndicate that she possessed, and continue to provide more as it became available. Starling seemed genuinely grateful for the leniency and the opportunity to preserve her son and the future of her family. She accepted the deal and promised the first encrypted data-drop with a few days.