The Licenian Heresy

Introduction
The Cell Gathers

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Encryption-Pattern Zeta
Cipher-Lock Engaged
To: Hans Steendahl, Inquisitor
From: Marigold, Interrogator, Temple Vanus
Thought for the Day: “The Emperor Blesses all Righteous Beginnings”

Sir,

The Void Star will shortly be departing Ichabarr en route to Port Echo. I have assembled two cells of acolytes aboard this vessel who shall be kept isolated from one another as required by protocol. Cell Sigma was gathered primarily as support staff for my own efforts while Cell Epsilon will the the primary field cell. Sigma is, unsurprisingly, primarily ex-military while Epsilon is a much more… diverse group of individuals.

That quaint little death cult you insist on cultivating came through. It would appear that Callidon, of House Rees, will be an effective agent, mixing social savoir faire with a talent for bladed weapons. His noble pedigree will be most useful in cementing the cell’s cover once we reach port. He and Promethea, the sanctioned Psyker you bargained for, made an excellent team in the initial investigations of cold trade connections in the hives of the capitol.

The adept Dido from Caudexa is a… strange woman, but one whose particular eccentricities are well known to me. My own order cultivates the sort of mindset she appears to naturally possess. She has yet to develop the necessary focus to drive out distracting details to efficiently track threads of causation, but I anticipate she will be an excellent information resource in the field. Her pre-existing sense of gratitude to House Rees may aid her in working alongside Callidon, but nobles are notoriously fractious, so we shall see.

The burned Arbiter, Novus Cromwell, will provide the necessary age, experience, and practical seasoning to a group of relatively young, green recruits. His experiences have jaded him, but not so much, I hope, that he will be useless. It is my expectation that he will provide necessary perspective, and I anticipate he may rise to a natural leadership position amongst his new cell mates.

The one thing notably lacking was solid military support. To that end I took the liberty of requisitioning a Guardsman from the jails of the Adeptus Arbites, a Catachan of all things. He’s far from home indeed. I arranged for him to be cleared of the charges against him and remanded to our service. He should be waking from sedation shortly.

I have yet to decide on the final member of Epsilon. A few candidates vie for primacy in my considerations. I will enter the probability trance to calculate variables as soon as I conclude this report.

In Service,

Marigold
Vanem Umbrae

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The Cold Trade
Port Echo

(600 + GE)
(All Present)

Encryption-Pattern Zeta
Cipher-Lock Engaged
To: Hans Steendahl, Inquisitor
From: Marigold, Interrogator, Temple Vanus
Thought for the Day: “Use the Weapon of the enemy, but do not become the Enemy’s weapon”

Sir,

I compile this report and send it according to the usual protocols after having borne witness to a demonstration of xenos technology that has thrown my probability calculations into disarray.

First, some framing details. I opted to append Tech-Priest Bastion Attilan to Epsilon cell to effectively complement their existing investigation skillsets. I felt he would lend more to their efforts than the smuggler Jamus, who I retained to aid me in my infiltration into the underbelly of Port Echo.

I briefed Epsilon cell on the details of Port Echo’s political situation and on their duty once aboard. I gave them a viable cover story drawing strongly from fact, as few of them show much skill in prevarication. I let them off the ship to prove themselves.

They threw themselves into their duties with gusto. Lord Callidon Rees, his noble cousin Dido, and their retinue entered into the seething morass of humanity that is Port Echo with the intention of exploring the Cold Trade for decadent noble purposes. The Rees name brought the attention of the Mistress of Commerce, one Surma, who personally greeted the acolytes, but they were mostly left to their own devices. Acolyte Bastion and Acolyte Dido managed to infiltrate Port Echo’s archival cogitator-stacks through the surprisingly simple method of sheer bribery where their combined talents managed to access a surprising wealth of data. This information has proved quite useful as my own methods will take some additional time before I can fully infiltrate those particular data stacks. Most of the data is irrelevant to this report, but immensely relevant to my probability calculations. I will let it suffice to say that they got a fairly detailed picture of the various factions and movers and shakers on Port Echo, as well as some notion of who the major players in the Cold Trade are.

Unsurprisingly, they discovered House Aguirre’s dark dealings with the Children of of Thorns. They learned little that you do not already know about that troubled House. I determined it was best to enlighten them on some further details on that particular front. They decided, wisely in my opinion, to focus their efforts on the enigmatic Mr. Li, the current “Thorn Broker” for the Children on the station.

They did confirm, however, our suspicions that Port Echo lies at the heart of the organized Cold Trade throughout the entire Ixaniad sector. They confirmed the existence of Lord-Captain Finn’s secret fleet of warp-capable ships, his extensive connections with Rogue Trader houses and mercantile consortiums as well as dozens of minor pirate organizations. We’ve long known that Port Echo was a center for illicit trade, but it would appear that the “Council of Nine”, the organization whispered of in other parts of the Sector, is based on Port Echo, and there is some indication that Finn himself may be the “Primus” of the Council.

While the Council of Nine is clearly the larger and more pervasive organization that your acolytes will be investigating, we would be remiss if we did not follow the thread of House Aguirre to its conclusion. Epsilon cell met with Mr. Li and procured a set of a half-dozen xenos artifacts that Li claimed had the capacity to instantaneously murder anyone from any distance requiring only a drop of blood or similar genetic material from the intended victim. He sold these artifacts to the acolytes for the “limited time” low price of 2,000 thrones apiece, a price so low as to be suggestive. You and I both know what the Children of Thorns are capable of, and we both know that they care little for money. This pricing, as well as the actual, physical presence of a psychically concealed Child of Thorns at the negotiation (detected by acolyte Promethea and acolyte Bastion) confirms that the Children are now acting directly through a human puppet rather than more indirectly through the Aguirre organization as they once did. All pretense of profit has left their dealings, now they sow pain and chaos as cheaply and efficiently as possible.

The demonstration I mentioned at the beginning of this report was a demonstration of one of these devices. I include a psi-print image of the device in this report. You can see that the artifacts seem purposefully designed to make it difficult to use without inadvertently making the user the target of the device. Your acolytes, however, exercised extreme care and used the blood of a simian creature purchased in the market to activate. Acolyte Promethea reported that the broken thorn seemed to utilize the blood to create a tunnel skirting the edges of the warp, bypassing real space, to materialize inside the heart of the victim.

If these devices use the singular quasi-warp realm the Children inhabit as a means of murder, their claims of “instantaneous death over any distance” are a bit of an exaggeration, but certainly death would ensue within days if the target were on another planet or system, certainly the effect would be practically instantaneous if the victim were on the same planet. I have had the acolytes return these items to Void Star for safekeeping and eventual study. It may well be that medical devices to heal or revive the heart could help someone survive the use of such a device. It is also possible that psychic shielding could be adapted to stymie these devices, as they use the warp as a means of transport.

A defense will need to be formulated, however, as otherwise the release into sector society of even a small number of these devices could result in unassailable murder and societal dysfunction. I will need to enter the probability trance to re-calculate more distant effects based on the variable of how many of these devices might be in circulation at any given time.

I will compile another report soon as new information becomes available.

In Service,
Marigold
Vanem Umbrae

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Parties and Blood
Port Echo

(600 + GE)
(Brian, Jane, Peg, Randy, Sean)

Encryption-Pattern Zeta
Cipher-Lock Engaged
To: Hans Steendahl, Inquisitor
From: Marigold, Interrogator, Temple Vanus
Thought for the Day: “Beware the Poison of Honeyed Words”

Sir,

Events proceed almost faster than the probability-trance can calculate. First, you should know that Lord-Captain Finn was, so far as the station is concerned, assassinated and his Mistress of Commerce grievously wounded. Matters between Finn’s subjects here on the station, Reynard’s xenos-allied faction of Dynasty Aguirre, and the ever-looming presence of Naval Task Force Litany, as well as the countless personal agendas of the various Rogue Traders and mercantile consortiums, have become complicated.

In an effort to learn more about probable movers and shakers in the cold trade, Epsilon Cell arranged, under their noble-hedonist cover, to send invitations to a list of suspects garnered through their own investigation as well as through the use of an information broker known as Gant who operated out of a shrine to St. Vidicus the Forlorn. Gant also offered valuable information on a proscribed xenos artifact, but the asking price was rather steep. While I worked on undermining Gant into a better bargaining position, Epsilon Cell prepared for a party in true decadent noble style. The attention to detail demonstrated by Acolyte Hiberna was impressive in this regard.

Before the party, however, Lord-Captain Finn made his move. As you’re aware, Lord-Captain Roland Carvajal y Corazon Aguirre recently departed for the Licenian Subsector. He made it clear to Finn that he considered Reynard and his faction of House Aguirre to be outcastes, to be dealt with however Finn desired. Finn re-opened his old feud with Reynard and orchestrated hostilities against his foe. This feud apparently resulted in Finn’s assassination via xenos weaponry akin to the devices Epsilon cell recovered earlier. Between this and Surma’s wounds, the assault force fell back to regroup. Sporadic violence broke out over the station, but had died down by the time of the party. I opted to place Sigma Cell under Epsilon Cell’s authority for enforcement for the party in the troubled political climate.

As expected, the various invitees made a point of attending House Rees’ party, mostly to demonstrate their unflappability. Even Surma arrived, outfitted with her new cybernetic arm and eye. I append here the list of notable invitees in general descending order by title and personal authority:

  1. Lord-Captain Finn (Did not attend on account of assassination)
  2. Mistress of Commerce Surma (Present, albeit recovering from recent wounds)
  3. Master of Administration Angelo (Did not attend on account of over-work, promised to send representation, who did not arrive)
  4. Lady-Captain Antigone (Present, representing Commodore Tyrian of Task Force Litany, with four junior officers)
  5. Lord-Captain Lazar Starling (Present, Bearer of the Starling Warrant of Trade, with one attendant)
  6. Demetrious Starbourne (Present, representing Rogue Trader Dynasty Starbourne, with twelve guards)
  7. Tanya Vir (Present, representing Rogue Trader Dynasty Flamel, with three guards)
  8. Kalyani Jax (Present, representing Rogue Trader Dynasty Lin, with one unsanctioned psyker bodyguard)
  9. Ferro (Present, representing Rogue Trader Dynasty Haram)
  10. Mr. Li (Present, representing Reynard’s Faction of House Aguirre, with two psychically invisible Children of Thorns)
  11. Mother Katalina of the Abbey of St. Elena the Unshaken (Present with three acolytes)
  12. Jeremiah White (Present, representing the Lys Consortium)
  13. Hiram Vain (Present, representing his own mercantile organization, with four attendants)
  14. Gant (Present, in guise of “Mr. Roan”, his price for certain information, with one attendant)

Mr. Li arrived fashionably late. Prior to his arrival and the subsequent aftermath, Epsilon Cell made inroads with a number of factions and made particular note of the arrival of Lady-Captain Antigone of the Heavy Cruiser Starburst who was present as Commodore Tyrian’s representative. She and Surma had business together along unsurprising lines. Antigone was there to ascertain Surma’s capability and to provide Commodore Tyrian’s official recognition of authority should Surma prove capable and worthy. Acolyte Rees was able to capitalize on the pressure I had been covertly placing on Gant to get him to sell his information at a significant discount. I will append that report at the end.

Mr. Li arrived, however, and the party became tense. Acolytes Promethea and Attilan once more confirmed the presence of concealed xenos bodyguards. He faced off with the wounded Surma and declared before all that he had documents proving Reynard’s legitimacy, and that the late Lord-Captain Finn had overstepped his authority in attacking legitimate agents of Dynasty Aguirre. He presented his documents and proposed an end to hostilities. Surma called on Lady-Captain Antigone to formally declare her elevation to Lady-Captain of Port Echo, whereupon on behalf of the station she accepted Mr. Li’s proposal… on one condition. She demanded that Li’s bodyguards become visible, whereupon she further stated that Li was to leave the party while the attendees and their amassed firepower destroyed the alien in their midst. Li’s response was to hurriedly accept and flee whereupon the party erupted into violence. The two Children of Thorns were incapable of mounting much of a defense against the amassed attendees and their guards, let alone Epsilon and Sigma cells. There was some indication that Surma had provoked this confrontation primarily to gauge how rapidly the various other attendees would leap to her defense or seek to act against the Children of Thorns. Whatever the case, her ploy was a success. The station is buzzing with rumours about her ascendancy to Lady-Captain and the unusual circumstances of it. Not all the rumours are positive, and she will need to engage in significant damage-control to consolidate her power and authority.

The party continued with various developments I won’t tire you with. Of significant importance, however, is the discounted information Epsilon Cell gathered from Gant. First, they learned Mr. Li’s secret bolt-hole location for future use should he need to be apprehended. Second, they learned of a potent xenos artifact uncovered on the Wraith worlds by Callista Flamel. The effect the artifact has on psykers is identical to that of a Halo Device. Flamel brought it to Port Echo and sold it to Lord-Captain Finn for enough money to buy a heavy cruiser. As we both know, Halo Devices are threat-level extremis, and grant the person to whom they are bonded effective immortality, albeit in a monstrous form.

I calculate, based on the timing of these events and the specific data garnered by Epsilon Cell that there is a 79.65% chance that Finn bonded with this device shortly before initiating hostilities with Reynard’s faction of House Aguirre, knowing full well the effect of the Children’s assassination devices, and knowing that the artifact would revive him. If this has, indeed, occurred, Finn is alive, unrecognizable as himself, and may still be in control of the Council of Nine and his extensive Cold Trade network. Epsilon Cell intends to focus on Lady-Captain Surma to ascertain her degree of complicity in this scheme.

Cipher Lock Disengaged

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Children of Thorns
Port Echo

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Encryption-Pattern Zeta
Cipher-Lock Engaged
To: Hans Steendahl, Inquisitor
From: Marigold, Interrogator, Temple Vanus
Thought for the Day: “The Soul of the Alien is Darkness”

Sir,

In the aftermath of Epsilon cell’s party, they engaged in extensive information gathering so as to better navigate the shifting factions. They discovered that, mere days after their arrival, an agent of now-Lady-Captain Surma had infiltrated their rooms and planted a dermal transmitter on one of Callidon Rees’ servants. It is likely that the Lady-Captain, at least, is aware that Epsilon Cell is affiliated with the Inquisition, a suspicion confirmed by subsequent interactions between her and Rees. Epsilon Cell opted to leave the transmitter in place so as to feed Surma information, both false and true, at need.

Surma’s consolidation of power and authority has not been seamless. There is a rumor spreading rampant throughout the station that she was conspiring with Rogue Trader Dynasty Aguirre to murder her predecessor. Although the balance of analysis indicates this rumor is false, circumstantial evidence certainly supports the rumor and it has been tenacious. Epsilon heard this rumor, as well as the competing narrative being spread by Surma’s people and the naval officers of Task Force Litany that Surma is the brave scion of the famed Admiral Solas, and that she will bring Port Echo once more into the light of the Emperor. Now that Dynasty Aguirre has concluded their internal housecleaning, perhaps the latter rumor will gain more traction. Acolyte Davos and Acolyte Cromwell found a station spy dressed as a naval officer and are considering how best to utilize him.

In the tension following Surma’s rise to power and the events at Epsilon Cell’s party, Hiram Vain of Vain Chartist Enterprises began significant movement of materiel and men to positions within the station that, analysis suggests, indicates a forward posture rather than a desire to retreat. This matter of mercantile tactics would not normally require mention in my report except that many of the crates being moved appeared to have XTS1800 Cryogenics ports, subtly concealed, that indicated Vain is transporting cryogenically frozen individuals of unknown purpose.

Much of Epsilon Cell’s activity in the last day or so has been preparation for Dynasty Aguirre’s housecleaning. Lady-Captain Surma told Callidon Rees in confidence that Lord-Captain Roland de Carvajal y Corazon Aguirre was back on the station and planning on attacking Reynard, theoretically of his own Dynasty, along with his Children of Thorns allies and rooting them out of their fortified position on the station. Epsilon cell accurately judged that this would drive Mr. Li to his pre-prepared bolt-hole, and made preparations to await him in ambuscade there. They procured espionage equipment and made their way through the maintenance infrastructure to the sealed intersection where Mr. Li had stored his emergency supplies. They set up an ambush and Mr. Li and ten Children of Thorns walked into it.

Epsilon Cell was nearly over-run, but Acolyte Rees and Acolyte Hiberna managed to close one of the bulkheads cutting the attacking force in half. Your Acolytes managed to eliminate the five Children of Thorns although Callidon Rees suffered significant injury. They captured Mr. Li alive, and as per prior strategizing with myself, arranged to deliver him to Lord-Captain Lazar Starling, along with a collection of xenos weaponry scavenged from their victims, and a crate with eight bolts of nightweave silk. The fact that Mr. Li’s chosen lightweight luxury good for emergency barter was nightweave silk does seem to confirm certain suspicions as to the origin of this popular textile. Epsilon Cell retained one bolt of the silk which I hope to be able to investigate further. If the Children of Thorns are, indeed, the origin of this substance, one of the more popular trends in noble fashion on Ichabarr has suddenly become quite sinister indeed.

Epsilon Cell reports that during their delivery they were shadowed by commandos geared with exotic, high-technology weapons and armour. These commandos avoided contact, seeming interested only in trailing the cell. During their return to their rooms they encountered the wreck of a Talos-class Children of Thorns pain engine. It would appear that Acolyte Promethea’s psychic ability to dull pain severed the engine’s occupant to its power source, killing the occupant, and deactivating the engine. This is useful intelligence for future encounters with such potent machines of destruction. According to reports from the station security force, the Talos was destroyed by a mysterious group of commandos in strange high-technology armour and weapons. Acolyte Attilan theorizes that they represent the Logician cult.

If Acolyte Attilan is correct, Port Echo is more than just a hotbed of xenos heresy. It is interesting. By all accounts, the Logicians hate the alien just as much as anyone, and in fact their actions during these events would seem to confirm this intelligence. It will be worth calculating the possibility of setting the Logicians against the Council of Nine. I will send a new report as more information can be processed.

Marigold
Vanem Umbrae

Cipher Lock Disengaged

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New Alignments
Port Echo

(600 + GE)
(All Present)

Encryption-Pattern Zeta
Cipher-Lock Engaged
To: Hans Steendahl, Inquisitor
From: Marigold, Interrogator, Temple Vanus
Thought for the Day: “Fire the Hive and Watch the Storm”

My Lord,

In the aftermath of House Aguirre’s… housecleaning, Epsilon Cell spent a week deepening their cover by throwing themselves into preparations to open a casino for House Rees. They have a much better overall lay of the land, I think, including a fairly thorough understanding of the station’s criminal elements, including the fact that the mutants of the Black and Gray holds have organized under the banner of the Pale Throng. This is a detail that I myself am ashamed to have missed, but as these mutants do not utilize any of the station’s technology it has revealed a blind spot in my preparations that is currently being repaired. These mutants have taken into their care those psyker who have manifested on this station far from Imperial care for the last two centuries, and so there are a handful of rogue witches who sell prognostications to other criminal elements for much-needed supplies. Epsilon cell has also gained a slightly more thorough understanding of the sorts of Cold Trade items available in Port Echo’s markets. Dynasty Flamel seems to have a number of drugs fashioned from xenos substances available, including Zamarkand Rose petal extract, night dust, diluvial tincture, etc. and have also been marketing xenos artworks recovered from the Wraith worlds. They discovered that the “Gentle Fleet”, a Stryxis organization, holds regular temporary markets in the gray holds. It would also appear that the Children of Thorns have actually been driven out, as Thorn-brokered objects have skyrocketed in price, and there have been no sightings since the Aguirre purge.

In light of new developments, Epsilon Cell threw another party, this time in the space they’re planning on setting up as the new House Rees casino. They invited the same group as before (minus, of course, Finn and Mr. Li) as well as a number of others including a local factor for the Amaranthine Syndicate, a young female spy from an as-yet ascertained faction that they encountered in a military bar the week before, and an assortment of local mercantile and shipping interests. At my suggestion, they invited Battle-Brother Jonathan of the Iron Templars, who made quite a splash at their party. This cemented Epsilon Cell’s reputation as a group with unusually extensive information sources, as none of the other invitees (aside from, of course, Commodore Tyrian / Captain Zenobia) was aware he even existed. I suspect this display of unusual connections solidified the decision of the Council of Nine to approach Epsilon Cell with an invitation for a membership interview.

Hiram Vain of Vain Chartist Enterprises continues to be an interesting and enigmatic subject. Gamma Cell discovered one of the empty cryo-stasis crates which appeared to have held three humanoid-sized creatures. Rumor and half-seen surveillance shows some form of highly augmented combat servitors operating in the Black and Gray decks for purposes unknown. I have Gamma Cell seeking to secure one of these creatures for my study, and Epsilon Cell volunteered to do the same. Acolyte Attilan may be able to significantly augment my own investigation of Vain’s handiwork. There is a statistically significant chance that Vain is affiliated with the Logician cult, and ascertaining his purpose here is a secondary priority to the Council of Nine.

In Service,
Marigold
Vanem Umbrae

Cipher lock disengaged

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Servitor Search
Port Echo

(600 + GE)
(Brian, Jane, Peg, Randy, Sean)

Encryption-Pattern Zeta
Cipher-Lock Engaged
To: Hans Steendahl, Inquisitor
From: Marigold, Interrogator, Temple Vanus
Thought for the Day: “The Unctuous Tongue Will Lead You Astray”

My Lord,

In an effort to further familiarize themselves with the factions on Port Echo and to deepen their cover, Epsilon Cell descended to the Gray Holds, the areas of the station where official control has failed, where the indigent and abject, the criminal and the mutant, lair. These holds contain not only human criminals, but mutants allied with the Pale Throng, unsanctioned Psykers, aliens and their ilk.

At the Stryxis market of the Gentle Fleet they engaged in mercantile negotiations with that notoriously mercantile species. They were shown objects of art (one of which they purchased to ensure further interest from the Stryxis). They discovered the sorts of rare and exotic weaponry the Stryxis are known for as well as other unusual items. Seeking to impress upon the xenos that they were willing to engage in repeated Cold Trade activities, they opened negotiations for some of these weapons. The items the Stryxis merchant listed as possible payment were: A dozen healthy human slaves, 2) The full name of Lady-Captain Surma’s daughter, 3) A mostly intact specimen of the high-technology combat servitors that have recently begun attacking Stryxis in the Gray Holds.

Of these items, number two and number three stood out. They hadn’t known Surma had a daughter, and indeed this fact is a closely-held secret by the Lady-Captain herself. Epsilon Cell solidified their reputation with the Lady-Captain by immediately returning to inform her that the Stryxis know that she has offspring. Surma implied that this was a particularly cunning tactic in certain “lease negotiations” that were occurring, and surmised that the Stryxis had somehow ascertained the Cell’s own access to the Lady-Captain. As for number three, they had already heard rumor of strange servitors with unusual weaponry, and were seeking them out.

While searching the Gray Holds for such a servitor, they encountered two mutants and a unsanctioned psyker calling herself Annabelle. In conversation it was ascertained that these combat servitors represent a faction currently in negotiation with the Pale Throng as part of an anti-xenos pogrom in the Gray Holds. The Pale Throng, as you know, are mutant supremacists, and so have no particular love for non-human xenos. Our suppositions deepen that this is a play by the Logicians, although what their ultimate aim is we have not yet ascertained.

Epsilon Cell rightly determined that they were stuck. They could not pursue potential efforts to ally with the Logicians against the xenos if they were simultaneously to maintain their cover as Cold Traders. I instructed them to deepen their cover and try to satisfy the Stryxis. I will pull Acolyte Serenity from communication duty and delegate her to infiltrating the Pale Throng / Logician alliance.

After some effort, Epsilon Cell discovered one of these combat servitors surrounded by mutants and a single psyker. After some conversation and banter, discussions collapsed as the combat servitor attacked. In the melee, the unsanctioned psyker proved firsthand the danger that comes from a lack of training and was pulled bodily into the warp by what has been described as “claws dripping green ichor.” Epsilon Cell disabled the servitor and delivered it to the Gentle Fleet market in exchange for the alien weapons, and a promise of ongoing positive relations.

Epsilon Cell now binds their wounds and prepares for their meeting with not only agents of the Council of Nine, but also a mysterious “Vargas” who Acolyte Attilan and I have ascertained is a new arrival to the station.

I had a chance to examine the servitor before it was delivered to the Stryxis. The technology, especially in the gun-arm, is truly unique. I do not believe any such pattern exists among the forge worlds of the Great Mechanism. This would seem to confirm Logician ties.

I will keep you informed.

In Service,

Marigold
Temple Vanus
Vanem Umbrae

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The Nine Unmasked
Port Echo

(700 + GE)
(+1 Permanent Fate Point)
(Brian, Jane, Peg, Randy, Sean)

Encryption-Pattern Zeta
Cipher-Lock Engaged
To: Hans Steendahl, Inquisitor
From: Marigold, Interrogator, Temple Vanus
Thought for the Day: “The Emperor’s Work is Never Done”

My Lord,

Epsilon Cell went to their meeting with the Council of Nine. They were met in a darkened room by 9 individuals shrouded in dark gray robes with black porcelain masks denoting numbers between one and nine. Number 2 was the spokesman. Initial questioning appeared to be to discover how invested “House Rees” was in involving itself in the Cold Trade, perhaps to gauge the repercussions of merely killing Epsilon Cell to rid themselves of new rivals. After being assured that House Rees was committed, the Nine debated amongst themselves whether or not to supplant Number 6 with Callidon Rees.

It appears that the Nine are rather fractured. There were 8 humans and 1 Stryxis in the room, but it was clear that a number of the humans were non-voting stand-ins for other interests. Number 6 appeared to represent Hiram Vain, and when the Stryxis member (Number 8) brought up Vain’s new aggression against its species, some dirty laundry was aired. The Nine voted, and ousted Vain from their number, inducting Callidon Rees as the new Number 6. Number 2, acting as spokesman, offered to brief Callidon on his new responsibilities. The others departed with their half-hidden entourages.

Once Epsilon Cell was alone with Councilor Number 2, he removed his mask, negated the Biomantic power that Acolyte Promethea had detected, and transformed into Lady Captain Surma.

Surma then, quite frankly, revealed pretty much all the information on the Council we could require, clearly angling to create a new faction within the Council that could transform it under her control, or destroy it entirely so she could pursue a career as a legitimate naval station Captain. Acolyte Rees assured her that either way he would be her ally in this matter, and she spilled the proverbial beans.

The Council of Nine is less a single organization as a confederation of individual organizations who collude to minimize conflict, minimize competition, and maximize profit.

Number 1 on the Council is a non-voting stand-in for Lord-Captain Finn, who while assumed dead, still has a significant Cold Trade network of more than a half-dozen raider-class warp-capable vessels, a private Navigator House, and other resources that Lady-Captain Surma has yet to control. She expressed some concern that the ship captains have not reported to her, and the Navigator House Virth has been stalling her. Her theory is that Finn had a second lieutenant in charge of his Cold Trade network of pirates and smugglers, and when she inherited the station, this other lieutenant inherited the network. She doesn’t know why this other lieutenant has not yet contacted her, and she is considering drawing a hard line on letting Finn’s ships continue to use Port Echo’s facilities. Acolyte Rees did not see fit to yet inform her of our suspicions that Finn himself may still be alive and controlling these resources.

Number 3 has only been on the Council for a week or so. He holds a non-voting advisory position. He is the mysterious Vargas who has already reached out to Epsilon Cell. He apparently represents the Calixian Cold Guild, the Calixis Sector’s counterpart to the Council of Nine. He is here to discuss increasing the cooperation between Sectors, which is deeply disturbing.

Number 4 was quite a surprise, and I encourage you to take additional action on this. He is Mr. Jeremiah White of the Lys Syndicate, an organization that has long had a contract with you to provide cover registration for your ships, including the Void Star upon which I and the other Acolytes arrived here. While White may not have known we are Inquisition, exactly, he could very well have suspected it, and represented a powerful leak. You may note that I used the past tense. I’ll get to that momentarily. The fact that the Lys Syndicate could conceal their cold trade activities from us for this long is of great concern, however, and I encourage you to unearth the matter elsewhere in the sector.

Number 5 is Tanya Vir of Rogue Trader Dynasty Flamel.

Number 6 was Hiram Vain, a surprising revelation if he is truly allied with the Logicians. He has, however, effectively declared war against the rest of the Council and has been replaced by Acolyte Rees.

Number 7 is Lord-Captain Lazar Starling of Rogue Trader Dynasty Starling.

Number 8 is a Stryxis named Ty’Na, representing the Gentle Fleet

Number 9 is Livia, the representative of the Amaranthine Syndicate, and another relative newcomer, having joined just prior to Vargas.

In conversation with Lady-Captain Surma, a number of important details emerged:

The Amaranthine Syndicate is powerful within the Calixis sector, but relatively new to the Ixaniad sector. It seems clear that Vargas arrived in the Sector at about the same time the Syndicate made a strong push to move some operations here, as well as their recruitment of Lord-Captain Starling. If the Amaranthine Syndicate is allied or a part of the Calixian Cold Guild, there is a voting block of 3 votes on the Council of Nine.

Each member of the Council has widely varying investment and contribution. Some, such as the two Rogue Trader houses, deal in small volume due to not having many ships, but can open up new sources of supply. The two mercantile syndicates have vast buyers’ markets and well as the ability to transport significant amounts of material. Surma provides the station, but appears to have no other actual hand in the trade. Acolyte Rees attained position 6 based on the presumption that House Rees represents a significant smuggling and criminal underworld element looking for suppliers.

Lady-Captain Surma suggested that Hiram Vain sought to overthrow the Council to take the profits for himself. I suspect he has other, more mysterious motives connected to his Logician connections. Whatever the case, conflict between him and the Council is inevitable, and I instructed Epsilon Cell to move to “phase 2”, namely the destabilization and eventual destruction of the Council of Nine. While individual components of the Council will doubtless escape to continue business, particularly the Rogue Trader houses, we can destroy this alliance, keeping the Cold Trade in the sector scattered and warring with one another. I also discussed with Epsilon cell taking care of the problem that was Mr. White.

Epsilon cell enacted a plan to execute White while making it look like Hiram Vain’s forces had attacked a business negotiation. They “leased” back the gun arm of Vain’s combat servitor they had sold to the Stryxis and called White to a business meeting at Epsilon Cell’s half-constructed casino. White had access to a teleportarium and a handful of murder servitors, but Epsilon cell had brought Gamma cell to the ambush, and they were able to kill White and his servitors. They then used the borrowed gun arm to hose down the bodies with distinctive projectiles implicating Vain. They then stormed onto Lady-Captain Surma’s command center complaining loudly about having been attacked. They reported White’s death, and conveyed to Surma that this was part of their plan. She played along, conciliating Acolyte Rees’ wounded pride and promising to investigate thoroughly. Epsilon cell then confronted White’s lieutenant, Mr. Cyrus DeLeon, informing him that Mr. White had negotiated a favorable contract between the Lys Syndicate and Gallus Rees, Callidon’s uncle. When the surprised Mr. DeLeon looked in his records, he found just such a contract (which I took the liberty of planting, along with other incriminating evidence against White). DeLeon was shaken, but acknowledged that he and his organization would honor this contract with House Rees. This effectively places the local branch of the Lys Syndicate under our influence, and adds White’s replacement (probably Mr. DeLeon) on the Council of Nine to Surma’s faction.

In all, Epsilon cell performed most admirably, unmasking the Council, and taking the first steps toward destabilizing and destroying it. I have put into motion the deaths of those fifteen members of the Lys Syndicate throughout the Sector most likely to have information about your contracts with their organization. These deaths should effectively preserve Epsilon Cell’s gains thus far.

In Faith,

Marigold
Vanem Umbrae
Temple Vanus

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Port Echo Endgame
Port Echo

(600 + GE)
(All Present)

Encryption-Pattern Zeta
Cipher-Lock Engaged
To: Hans Steendahl, Inquisitor
From: Marigold, Interrogator, Temple Vanus
Thought for the Day: “The Emperor has Many Hands”

My Lord,

Now that Epsilon Cell has successfully infiltrated the Council of Nine, things have become more complicated. The logistics and variables of sowing dissent and discord between the Council such that, when it is purged, it will not simply re-arise in a new place under new leadership is well within my ability to calculate, and Epsilon Cell’s ability to execute. There are other variables, however, that not even one of my training could adequately foresee. The attack and victory of “High Admiral Silas Starbourne” of the “Licenian Regency” is a matter of which you have doubtless already been made aware.

To begin, Epsilon Cell debated various theories and methodologies to sow discord. The initial idea of using Hiram Vain as a convenient villain seems a good one, but risks unifying the councilors against a common foe. Nevertheless, they spent the good part of a week tracking down Vain’s cipher-signals through which he controls his combat servitors and communicates with his logician-commandos with an eye toward subverting those systems and using Vain’s forces for their own purposes. They explored ideas of creating triangles of mistrust between factions, but realized they had insufficient data, and that their ally upon the Council, Lady-Captain Surma, could provide the necessary information.

When they sought her, however, they discovered that she was unavailable and hadn’t been seen for nearly nine hours, having uncharacteristically left the station in the hands of her unprepared Master of Administration. Epsilon Cell tracked her to the station-spire of the renegade Navigator House Virth. Acolyte Attilan and Acolyte Cromwell infiltrated the spire via the maintenance shafts. They located Surma and clandestinely communicated with her. It would appear that her daughter had been abducted and was being held as leverage over her by former Lord-Captain Finn, and his House Virth allies. Surma was placed in the position of once more being under Finn’s control, but this time leaving him in the shadows. She opted not to be blackmailed, and had set in motion a means by which to call Finn’s bluff.

Acolyte Rees and the rest were contacted by “Roan” (formerly Gant), Surma’s new Master of Commerce. She had apparently instructed him to clandestinely bring a few hundred security forces to bear on the House Virth spire. The plan was, when they were all in place, to storm the spire. Surma herself would seek to rescue her daughter or die in the attempt. Epsilon Cell inserted themselves into this plan, utilizing Acolyte Attilan’s knowledge of maintenance ductways to get rather higher in the spire than might otherwise have been possible. As they moved toward the observatory-dome at the apex, where Acolyte Promethea’s psychic abilities indicated the child and two minders were holed up, they were forced to fight off and slay a House Virth Navigator along with a small squad of soldiers. Before they could reach the top of the spire, however, the entire station went on battle-alert.

The Licenian Regency’s High Admiral assaulted Task Force Litany from surprise. I’ll leave the tactical analysis to others. I will let it suffice to say that the Regency drove Task Force Litany off, seeming to seek their crippling or flight rather than destruction. During the mayhem, Roan’s people cut power and gravity to the Navigator spire. Epsilon Cell proceeded in zero-g.

It would appear that, what with the surprise attack by the Regency raging in the heavens above them, and Surma’s people shooting their way into the spire, the House Virth navigators decided that their loyalty to Finn was not sufficient to justify their deaths. They recognized that the girl, Aletheia, was their only bargaining chip, and so they negotiated with Epsilon Cell to return the girl in exchange for permitting them to depart from the spire onto one of their ships. Epsilon Cell, in consultation with Surma, permitted this. They recovered the girl and House Virth evacuated the station. Their raider-class vessel continues to lurk, undocked, amidst the spires of the station, unable to actually depart because of the Licenian blockade.

Reuniting Surma with her daughter purchased Epsilon Cell with even more goodwill with the Lady Captain, who expressed a believable shock and outrage at the fact that Finn was not only still alive, but now bonded to a Halo device. She put her daughter’s safety and care in Epsilon Cell’s hands. They have esconced her on the Void Star. I have looked into the girl’s mind to see Finn, who spoke to her briefly and touched her with a crude, xenos sort of telepathy. It would appear that the Halo device he possesses is particularly potent and fast-acting. I have instructed Epsilon Cell that should it be possible, temporarily slaying Finn and placing him in stasis aboard the Void Star would permit his delivery to the Solemn Hall on Ichabarr.

The Licenian blockade changed many calculations. Lady Captain Surma asked Acolyte Rees point blank if he was affiliated with the Inquisition, and he made the tactical decision to reveal himself. She threw herself wholeheartedly behind the plan to expunge the Council of Nine, and to throw all formal cold trading off her station. She has thrown herself on the mercy and forgiveness of the Inquisition. I calculate that her desire to become a legitimate naval station captain is genuine with a reasonably small margin for error.

She provided Epsilon cell with a strategic view for sowing dissent amongst the two remaining factions of significance within the Council, namely Dynasty Flamel, and the Amaranthine-backed Dynasty Starling. Epsilon Cell will be giving some thought to enacting such a plan, but more urgent matters arose. They were aware of a skilled operative upon the station named “Celine” who had crossed their path on multiple occasions. Acolyte Attilan’s surveillance indicated she likely worked on behalf of Port Echo, monitoring Task Force Litany’s naval officers. Lady-Captain Surma, however, expressed that this Celine has not been thoroughly reporting to her. This caused Epsilon cell to suspect that perhaps this Celine might be an agent of Finn. They tracked her to her quarters and coerced her into accompanying them. Unfortunately she was able to covertly alert a naval lieutenant and an Imperial Commissar, both of whom had enjoyed time in her company recently, to come to her aid. The Lieutenant was aggressive, perhaps due in part to the fact that his ship had recently been attacked and driven from the vicinity and he was stranded there. He was convinced not to fight to free her from custody, but rather to accompany them. The Commissar more directly sought to accompany them and seemed less concerned with defending her honor so much as making sure that nothing fishy or anti-Imperial was going on.

In the privacy of Epsilon Cell’s quarters, things got out of hand. The Commissar, one Wilhelm Richter, while clearly interested in Celine’s fate, seemed more interested in why House Rees was making private arrests on behalf of the Lady-Captain Surma instead of her using her own forces. Acolyte Rees prevaricated by claiming he had evidence that she was involved in the assassination attempt on them in their casino (see my last report). Commissar Richter then demonstrated his Imperial fidelity by interrogating the woman himself. While she truthfully averred no knowledge of the assassination attempt (which, since it was arranged by Epsilon Cell themselves, is not surprising), the Commissar’s gaze eventually wrung from her that, in addition to reporting to Roan, she also sells information to “Lord Captain Finn’s old Cold Trade network.” Celine did not appear to know that Finn was still alive, but she was aware that his criminal network and fleet were still operational. Her contact was an under-decks skum named Rennik… a gang lord that Epsilon Cell had already encountered once before.

Upon admitting that she was a knowing informant for Cold Traders, the Commissar immediately demanded to take her, interrogate her, and execute her. Acolyte Rees was required to show the Rosarius I had just provided them. The Commissar, aware now that they are affiliated with you, left her in their hands and departed. Acolyte Rees subsequently recruited her with the promise of new employment on Axinite, and she is now a willing asset.

Epsilon Cell now prepares to return to the Gray Holds for a dual mission: find Rennik and try to track down Finn, and purchase a xenos device from the Stryxis that could blank out Astropathic communication, something that would be devastating to this station now that it is effectively under siege. It was deemed adviseable to have that artifact in our custody so it could not be used against the station.

If my reports cease, you will know it is because of that device. Hopefully we can procure it in time however.

In Faith,

Marigold
Temple Vanus
Vanem Umbrae

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Under Siege
Port Echo

(500 + GE)
(Brian, Jane, Peg, Randy)

Encryption-Pattern Zeta
Cipher-Lock Engaged
To: Hans Steendahl, Inquisitor
From: Marigold, Interrogator, Temple Vanus
Thought for the Day: “The Emperor’s Enemies Flourish in Darkness”

My Lord,

In the aftermath of the actions by renegade Navigator House Virth to blackmail Lady-Captain Surma on behalf of the presumed deceased Lord-Captain Finn, Surma decided to confront her fellows on the Council of Nine on the subject of Finn’s continued existence, Flamel’s knowledge of it, Finn’s aggression against Surma, and other matters that, when voiced in Council, could not help but sow distrust and dissent. As this is all to our goal and benefit, Acolyte Rees, supported by Acolyte Attilan, attended the Council meeting leaving the rest of Epsilon cell to head to the Grey Decks in an attempt to purchase the Warp Disrupter ship-borne device that the Stryxis had on offer, and to make inquiries into Finn’s hidden whereabouts.

The siege and blockage of Port Echo by the navy of the “Licenian Regency” has made the station rather unstable at the moment. Although not enough time has passed to cause serious inconvenience, the fear of starvation has struck the station and riots over food supplies have already broken out. They are fairly well-contained thus far, but this station has not had to suffer such deprivation in living memory, and was clearly unprepared for a naval blockade. The Acolytes descended to the Gray Decks where they discovered the denizens of those slums taking a far greater interest in them and their movements than previously, including a small group of what they surmised were probably Vain’s commandos in disguise.

Epsilon cell arrived at the Stryxis market, which was much more heavily guarded by the xenos and their “meat” servants. There was evidence of recent violence, and Acolyte Dido noted intact suits of Vain’s commando armor for sale. The Stryxis informed them that the Warp Disruptor had already been purchased. The acolytes entered trade negotiations for information on who bought it and where they might be found, as well as seeking to buy the scavenged commando armor, and the salvaged implants the inhabitants of the armor needed to effectively use it. The Acolytes learned that the Warp Disrupter had been purchased by Rennic, who the acolytes knew from Celine’s testimony was an agent of Finn. The Stryxis also revealed that Finn had secret ship-docks on the underside of the station amidst the “Black Holds”, the industrial parts of the station where the plasma reactors, corpse-starch vats, and other necessary but unpleasant parts of the station lay. Many sections of the black holds were without gravity, air, or even power, and navigating them to find Finn’s secret docks was dangerous, but the Stryxis provided a map, as these self-same docks were the ones they were permitted to use when boarding the station. The acolytes gave to the Stryxis the information they had gathered on the location in the Gray Decks where Hiram Vain’s transmissions were originating for the direction of his soldiers and servitors, as well as the signal-cipher being used. They also encouraged the Stryxis to consider abandoning Port Echo once the blockade was lifted, as the business climate for aliens here was likely to sour rapidly.

The Acolytes investigated Vain’s technology and discovered highly sophisticated carapace armour with many interesting built-in systems. The weapons also had some advantages. They delivered these items to me. I am continuing to investigate their fabrication. The acolytes and I discussed possible routes into the Black Holds that didn’t require the Stryxis map. Since the Black Holds are mostly the domain of the Adeptus Mechanicus, I posited that they could have Acolyte Attilan utilize his contacts to get them access if they did not wish to trust entirely to the map. Either way, hunting Finn in his lair would require a team at full strength, so they intended to wait until the Council of Nine’s extended negotiations came to a close.

The Acolytes went on a meeting with Rogue Trader Dynasty Starling. As their Lord-Captain was in the Council of Nine meeting, Acolyte Dido met with Elizabeth Starling, the Lord-Captain’s sister. Apparently the Aguirre Dynasty managed to negotiate with the Licenian Regency Admiral on behalf of Lord-Captain Starling permitting him to transport food through the blockade. Armed with this new monopoly on imported food, Lazar Starling contacted “House Rees” to discuss a distribution deal. Starling anticipates making a significant profit, and seeks House Rees’ superior connections to the station’s Lady-Captain, as well as their influence over the Lys Syndicate to arrange distribution of food throughout the station for Starling warehouses, as well as protection for the food as it’s distributed. Acolyte Dido effectively agreed while leaving it open to be paid in information on the Amaranthine Syndicate, or some other, non-monetary form if necessary.

The Acolytes returned to their rooms to await the conclusion of the Council of Nine’s meeting.

I know you are in transit. Hopefully the Lord-Captain Aguirre, guided by your agent aboard his ship, can negotiate an end to this blockade before you arrive.

In Faith,

Marigold
Vanem Umbrae

View
The Shattering of the Council
Port Echo

(800 + GE)
(All present)

Encryption-Pattern Zeta
Cipher-Lock Engaged
To: Hans Steendahl, Inquisitor
From: Marigold, Interrogator, Temple Vanus
Thought for the Day: “…A Light in the Darkness”

My Lord. Epsilon and Gamma cells have, I believe, effectively concluded all that they can accomplish on Port Echo at this time. I know that your own arrival is imminent, and that I will be making a… more complete report at that time, I send you this report so as to give you some time to digest the information.

Acolytes Rees and Attilan successfully sowed discontent and distrust alongside Lady-Captain Surma within the Council of Nine. Epsilon Cell then coordinated with Gamma cell and the local Adeptus Mechanicus to gain access to Finn’s hidden port facilities on the underside of the station. He had, apparently, sealed off this part of the station, effectively cutting the Stryxis off from their ships. While Gamma cell fought their way through the Pale Throng in the Gray Holds on their way to the Black Holds, pulling attention or other resources away, Epsilon cell infiltrated Finn’s stronghold and boarded his Raider-class vessel, the Void Kraken. Along the way, Epsilon cell encountered a curious lack of people, and a disconcerting number of wide-spread if low-powered psychic effects. The local warp had been flooded with psychic static making attempts by psychic powers or even technological surveillance devices more difficult, and the veil between worlds was, itself, dangerously thin.

As the Acolytes approached the ship, they started to hear Finn’s voice in their heads alternating between incomprehensible alien babbling and sly entreaties to join him and reap all the wealth and power they could desire. Epsilon cell held firm to their faith in the Emperor and boarded the vessel. They encountered disturbing carnage, but were more immediately threatened by a Navigator who appeared to have been driven mad in some fashion. Attacking her caused her to split in half as her warp eye tore open a hole into the warp. The subsequent manifestation of daemonic presences caused many of the acolytes to be shaken in their resolve, but Acolyte Promethea dispatched the daemonic manifestation. They then made greater haste to the bridge.

They encountered Finn there. He appeared to be a human in the prime of his youth but with white points of light burning in his eyes. They assaulted him. I have taken from the mind of Acolyte Attilan a complete account of the battle, and will likewise be providing it to you so that the details of this Halo Device manifestation can be analyzed. In brief, he appeared preternaturally quick, unnaturally strong, and superbly resistant to any source of damage they could deliver. What minor wounds they did inflict bled with an eerie blue blood, and slowly appeared to knit before their eyes. Aside from incredible resilience, however, he did not appear to be much of a physical threat, opting instead to assail their minds, drawing mental schisms to the surface. Once he had successfully done so, he seemed capable of using those schism to insinuate an echo of his own alien intelligence into their minds.

Acolyte Cromwell was the first to fall to this possession. He engaged his fellow Acolyte, Promethea, in close combat, which effectively removed her from the greater conflict. Finn attempted but failed to similarly subvert Acolyte Davos, but succeeded on Acolyte Attilan. Before Acolyte Attilan could similarly turn on his companions, however, Acolyte Rees revealed possession of a “Blood Thorn” artifact, which he used to deal the death blow to Finn, who had already been pretty well battered by grenades and other assaults.

As we both know, however, one who has bonded with a Halo Device cannot die in any conventional sense. Acolyte Attilan found the alien presence leave his mind, but it was to permit Finn to focus his attempts at full possession of Acolyte Cromwell, who telepathically taunted his companions, daring them to strike him down.

I am pleased to report that the did not hesitate to do so. Acolyte Cromwell, however, was a singularly tough individual even before the possession. Fortunately Acolyte Attilan was able to entreat him successfully to fight against possession. Acolyte Cromwell was able to suppress Finn’s mind long enough to successfully kill himself with a krak grenade to the head.

I have attached to this report the formal amendment of an Inquisitorial commendation post-mortem for Acolyte Cromwell, formerly of the Adeptus Arbites.

In the course of the conflict, Acolyte Hiberna managed to somehow shut down the Void Kraken’s plasma drives. Epsilon cell, taking the bodies of Finn and Cromwell with them, accompanied by the newly arrived Gamma cell, escaped the dying ship, sealing the maddened crewmembers inside as gravity, air, and everything else failed. They escaped here to the Void Star where I have received their report. They have some loose ends to tie up on the station, but I intend to keep them out of sight until you and your entourage can arrive and effect arrests and purges.

In Faith,

Marigold
Vanem Umbrae

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