game reports


I am made of stone
Walk the narrow line where nothing cuts you
Deeper than your own blade
I am the storm, my voice is the river
Take from me I fade into you
Fade the warriors, fade the black world into this fairytale
Fade, take to the sky

– Eilika Tribe meditational (Before the Battle, Psalm 4)

Hugo Tuya’s Guards have been attacked by bandits on the road to Ibara, but drove them off in a short and vicious battle. They now collect themselves, check their charges, and prepare to follow the surviving bandits to their camp. The roster for today’s adventure:

  • Bao Tap, human stormcaller
  • Calim “Ambros” Nefari, human rimewarden
  • Itzel, elven astrologer
  • Kyansei of the Eilika Tribe, wildling barbarian
  • Quangbae, human explorer with an interest in crafting and metalwork
  • Yoog, changeling scoundrel on the run from a job gone wrong

The guards think there is money in this, and perhaps some stolen treasures, so they quickly organized themselves. Calim tried his medicine skills on some of their wounds (thankfully light) and failed, and then they set off after the fleeing bandits, following their fresh tracks back along the road to a narrow trail they had not noticed on their journey. They cut into the woods and followed the trail up a gentle slope until they reached the bandits’ camp, nestled amongst maple and alder trees perhaps half an hour’s walk from the road.

The bandit camp

The camp was a ragged collection of wagons and tents arranged around a central fire and table. They had obviously been based here a while and were not planning to move on – it was not even clear how they had managed to move the wagons (no doubt stolen) into the small clearing in the first place. Hugo Tuya’s Guards approached carefully, but it was obvious that the camp was largely unoccupied. The two guards they had chased were hiding behind wagons near the entrance to the clearing, bows in hand, waiting for the inevitable.

They attacked. Their plan was simple: they fired their bows into the camp and then Kyansei charged forward into battle. Unfortunately they had underestimated the numbers and guile of the bandits. There were six more hidden in the forest, who opened fire as the battle started. Their leader was also lurking in the trees, firing his bow. Within moments Yoog and Quanbae were brought down by arrow fire, and the situation began to turn against the guards. Fortunately they had Kyansei, who tore into one group of archers and killed them very quickly, while Calim and Bao Tap tussled with the leader. Behind them Itzel cast shrouds of fire on the warriors, hoping to burn their enemies. It worked, and after a few more seconds of brutal hack and slash the battle was over. All but one of the bandits lay dead, and the camp was theirs. They took the final bandit captive and searched the wreckage.

The treasure box

They found little to justify their valiant attack: a few coins, a suit of leather armour and a healing potion. At the back of the tent they found a dead semi-naked man but with characteristic sense did not bother to investigate the cause of his death. On the table in the centre of the camp they also found a small, well-crafted box that appeared to be of dwarven make, and unopened. Yoog, just recovered from the battle, attempted to pick the lock on this box and opened it easily, but also was struck by a small needle trap. The poison began working immediately, and Yoog sickened horribly[1].

Inside the treasure box was a map and a letter. They read the letter:

 

Siladan the Elder

Sundered Cliffs

Third watch road, the red house

 

23rd of the Harvesting, 1011

Verbere of the Flame

Ibara

My dear Verbere

I confess to some trepidation in writing this letter, for I know how deeply you felt Ashen’s loss and you blame me for it. I hope you will read it with a milder heart than 20 years hence, and will accept this token of remembrance and restitution for my mistakes.

I hear you are living comfortably and quietly in Ibara, with a good wife and family, and plying your trade still though in quieter and humbler manner than during our fiery youth. I do not pretend to believe that you care about my current situation, given the manner of our parting, but I tell you briefly that you may sense whether to trust my information. I have taken a position as archaeologist in an Academy in Estona, where I teach a little and also do a little research. After our parting I gave up on harsh living on the road, overcame my anger at the academy, and finished my studies as an astrologer. Here then, you see I know something of what I speak.

I have learnt in my studies that near Ibara there is a small cache of deepfolk iron, pure in form, cast in ingots, that was left forgotten there some centuries ago. I stumbled on word of it in the footnotes of a scholar known only as Aveld the Foul. Why he left it there I do not know but Aveld the Foul was a famous coward and endowed with a sixth sense for danger, so it is unlikely he would have found it if there were any risk. Perhaps a raiding party stashed it and fled, then died before the knowledge could be passed on, and perhaps Aveld the Foul left it there because he had no strength to carry the load. In any case, whatever the reason, I know the land around Ibara is safe and little-traveled by deepfolk, and no rumours have come to me of walkers, so I give you this information freely and ask nothing of you in return – not even a response to this message – except to hold some kindness in your heart for me as you grow older, and remember me for the better things we did together, and not for that tragic last night in the hills. I hope this small token of my regret for those events will help you in your future, though I hold no hope that it will soften your hear to me.

I owe you at least this. The map is copied from the notes of Aveld the Foul, and I expect it will take no more than a day or two from Ibara to find the cache. From Aveld’s notes it is not so heavy that you will need a horse, but worth considerable amounts regardless. My best wishes to you and yours, and know that I remain ever,

Your comrade in arms

Siladan the Elder

 

So, there was a treasure buried outside Ibara, the very town they were heading to. All they needed was perhaps a day of spare time and they could liberate it. It appeared that this “Verbere”, whoever he was, had gone to find the treasure and been ambushed by these bandits – at first the guards assumed it was his body in the ditch, but their captive informed them that the body had been the bandit who first tried to open the box. Now all the bandits were dead no one knew about it – except perhaps Verbere’s wife and children, but what did they matter? The guards packed up what they had found, tied a rope around the sole survivor’s neck, and trooped back to the wagons. They were just a few days away from riches, and the glorious fame that awaited bandit hunters in Ibara!


fn1: I don’t know anything about poison rules in Genesys yet, so I just made it up. Basically you do a hard resilience check every hour and if you fail you take a crit. The first two crits Yoog took were pretty nasty, and I’m using this house rule that if the number of levels of your crits is greater than your wound threshold you die, so pretty much within 4-6 hours Yoog was going to be in big trouble

Hadun Bay from the shores of Inorat

This the first session of the new campaign I am running, set in the Archipelago. The campaign begins in the small town of Inorat, on the east coast of Hadun just north of the great forest that separates Hadun from Ariaki. The PCs as a group do not know each other, but all for their own reasons have joined a merchant’s caravan as guards. The PCs are:

  • Bao Tap, a human stormcaller who was raised by dwarves but abandoned by his dwarven farmer on the coast near Inorat with instructions to find his own way in life
  • Calim “Ambros” Nefari, a human rimewarden who is something of a playboy, possibly in need of urgent work to escape a tricky situation with a local man and his wife
  • Itzel, an elven astrologer who emerged from the great forest to explore human lands, and only discovered on arrival in Inorat that when in human towns elves need money just like humans
  • Kyansei of the Eilika Tribe, a wildling barbarian looking for clues to a strange blight afflicting her tribal lands, and seeking travel to the Spine to begin learning about deepfolk and deep magic, which she suspects are responsible
  • Quangbae, a human explorer with an interest in crafting and metalwork, who has attached himself to the merchant caravan because it is run by an iron trader
  • Yoog, a changeling scoundrel on the run for a job gone wrong, and looking for obscurity in the wilds of Hadun for a short time

The caravan the PCs are guarding is owned by a merchant named Hugo Tuya, and for the rest of the first chapter of this campaign our heroes will be known as Hugo Tuya’s Guards.

Hadun Bay from the verandah of the Simpering Maiden

Meeting Hugo Tuya

The campaign begins in Inorat. Inorat is a small fishing town of perhaps 15,000 people with a long beach, surrounded by cornfields and within view of the distant great forest. The characters were interviewed for their escort work on the last day of the Drying Season, each visiting Hugo Tuya separately in a small interview room in a hotel called the Simpering Maiden and receiving the same story:

I need a small group of guards to protect my caravan. I’m taking a shipment of iron from here to Estona on the far side of Hadun. I want to arrive before the Traveling season, when demand is high, so we set off immediately after The Harrowing. It’s a peaceful journey but we will pass through a small pass in the southern Spine called the Middlemarch. It’s a little known travel route but relatively safe and only a few days’ journey, but I need guards just in case. I have no upfront payment but you will get an installment before Middlemarch, when we arrive at the town of Estala. There will be three people in the caravan: me, my wagoneer, and a cook and assistant. I expect the journey to go smoothly but you will be my insurance should anything go wrong

All having their own separate reasons for needing an urgent job despite the lack of upfront payment, the PCs agreed to his terms, and spent the three days of prayer and fasting that followed in relative peace of mind. On the third evening of The Harrowing they met Hugo Tuya and each other for the first time at the Simpering Maiden to break their fast, introduce themselves and discuss details of their mission.

Hugo Toya was a relatively tall, thin and slightly out of shape middle aged man, with straggly white hair cut in the shoulder-length bowl typical of his merchant class. He wore a simple tunic and trousers of comfortable cotton, and held himself in the party with the comfortable and easy manner of a man used to being treated with respect and deference wherever he went. The meal itself was pleasant and enjoyable, a fine spread of small dishes including the steamed shellfish in which Inorat specialized. Though the storm season would officially start in the morning the sky over the sea was clear and the weather comfortable, so the verandah doors had been thrown open to allow them an uninterrupted view of the Hadun Bay. In the cool evening air they discussed the mission, and Toya again assured them that the Middlemarch was safe, obscure and relatively little traveled. He again pressed upon them the urgency of his mission: people usually did not travel in the Storm season, and by the time it ended there was often a need for iron trade on the west coast, where maritime trade almost completely stopped for the month. By arriving nearly at the end of the Storm season they would be the first on hand with iron for a depleted market, with rich pickings to be made before other merchants could arrive.

Doesn’t matter the weather, everyone needs horseshoes

Tuya observed, and they nodded at his business acumen. Minor discussion followed about itineraries and camping and who would take what role, but in truth it seemed easy, at least as far as Estala, and they soon relaxed to enjoy light conversation and the pleasures of the sea at dusk. With the last flash of evening light and the emergence of the Whalestar on the Eastern horizon they called it a night, and left the table to make ready for an early start.

A typical traveler’s hut

Storms and travails

They gathered at the west gate of the bailey early the next morning, to find two women sitting on the rear folding gate of Tuya’s wagon. They introduced themselves as Selena, Tuya’s niece, and Laeia her maidservant. He had not mentioned this and indeed when he emerged looking hungover and exhausted from the cart he seemed none too happy with their presence. Atta, too, Tuya’s likeable and well-mannered assistant, also seemed somewhat perturbed by their presence, though he was too circumspect to say anything. They took it in their stride and headed out, just an hour or two later than expected, to begin the journey. Their first waypoint was Ibara, a small town of some 2000 souls about 4-5 days’ travel inland.

The day’s travel was uneventful, with the guards taking turns on point duty, the girls riding on the back gate of the wagon, and Tuya nursing his hangover inside. They arrived at a small hostelry before sundown and settled in to rest. The hostelry was a typical country rest for this area, the main building cut slightly into the ground so that they had to walk down a few steps into a dark, cozy alehouse. The building was ringed with a low wall of stone fragments topped with broken glass, and the stables were a covered space next to the main building. They slept in semi-private rooms on a balcony overlooking the dining area, their rooms separated by thin walls of bamboo and hanging curtains on the doors. It was during that night’s rest that Kyansei discovered Selena was not Tuya’s niece, and judging from the sounds coming from their cubicle had a much closer relationship. She had seen his marriage tattoo on that first night at the Simpering Maiden but she guessed Selena could not be the beneficiary of that promise, judging by the age of the tattoo. Perhaps this was why Tuya had been so unhappy to see Selena at his staging point in the morning – had he been hoping to give her the slip? Was his wife waiting for them at one of the towns on the road?

The next morning, tired and dispirited, Kyansei tried to explain the situation to the rest of the guards, though her language skills were still weak. They let it slide, and continued the journey. What harm could it do, really, and what business was it of theirs?

By mid-afternoon they had lost sight of the sea, and the road was winding through rough terrain on the edge of the forest. Behind them the sky darkened and the first storm of the Storm season blew in. It gained on them rapidly, stealing the light and assailing them with strong winds, and by late afternoon Kyansei was sure it would reach them before dark. For this night their plan had been to sleep rough, so they broke their forward march and scoured the area for somewhere to hide from the storm. They soon found an old traveler’s hut, a little distance removed from the road and seemingly abandoned, nestled among some low hills that might provide shelter from the worst of the storm. They hastened their animals into the lee of the hut, someone gathered water, and they managed to retreat inside the hut just as the rain began to pound the broken ground of the wasteland around the road. The storm settled in an hour later, casting the land in darkness and raging over their hut, but snug inside they slept well, and woke refreshed in the morning to a clear day. They returned to the road.

The ambush

The road was joined by a stream after an hour or two of travel, and having wandered away from the verge of the great forest entered into an area of scattered copses of trees. Many of the trees had been damaged by the storm, and leaves and broken branches littered the road, so at first they did not think much when they found a fallen tree blocking the road  – it was storm season, after all. However, as they began to cut it apart to make way for the wagon one of them realized its base appeared cut with an axe of some kind, not lightning struck, and they realized they were in a trap. They began moving back to the wagon for their weapons, and the trap sprang shut.

Arrows flew from the trees on both sides of the road, some hitting Kyansei and some falling harmlessly around the wagon. They all scrambled back for weapons and cover and the fight began. There were archers in the trees up a small slope on the right side of the road, and more hidden in the trees across the stream on the left side. Kyansei charged the archers across the river and while Bao Tap, Quangbae and Callim moved to take on the ones on the near side. Yoog moved into a covered archery position while Itzel attempted to cast a fire armour spell on her allies, failing miserably. Those crossing the river failed, and stood trapped in its strong flow as arrows rained down on them; on the other side of the bank Quangbae found the archers and began to attack them with his club. Kyansei dragged herself out of the stream, catching sight of the archers as she flopped onto the bank, and made short work of them when she caught up to them. As the archers wilted under their attack four more men emerged at the far end of the road, charging for the wagon and the unarmed Tuya. Yoog fired on them, bringing them up short for a moment and giving Callim time to intercede. By the time the four men reached him Kyansei had dragged herself across the river and thrown herself into the fray, wreathed in fire from Itzel’s spell, and Quangbae had finished off the archers on his side. The four men were rapidly cut down to two and, seeing their fate written in the salt, turned to flee.

The guards watched them go, caught their breath, and prepared to follow. Bandits should be scourged, and where there are bandits there is always money. They gathered together and hurled themselves down the road after the fleeing fighters, rage in their fists and coin in their eyes …


Image notes

The seascapes are from the Instagram accounts of Christina Mittenmeier and Morgan Massen. The hut is from the instagram account of Alexey Gupolov. I recommend following all of them!

Distance  Separation
Leaving  Terra Firma

Darkness  Ringing empty
Lights out  Resurrection

Burn it down and start over
I want to leave this all behind
Abandon all the trepidation
Weighing heavy on my mind

 – Catechism of the Cult of the Dancer

Our heroes have ground their way through waves of soldiers defending the secret base of Samina’s Corsairs. Having destroyed more than 40 enemies, they stand in control of the elevator hall that leads to all levels of the remote star base, ready to descend to their final confrontation with Samina and her few remaining soldiers. The roster for this (last) session:

  • Clementine, technologist
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Al Hamra, captain and mystic
  • Adam, soldier and gunner
  • Saqr, pilot
  • Kaarlina, mystic and technologist

Oliver Greenstar remains on the Beast of Burden, ready to leave and warn the world of the corsairs’ location if the rest of the party are killed.

The PCs had been given floorplans for the corsair base, so they knew that the level above their current location was a public area, gardens and a few rest spaces. Immediately below them was the station’s main hangar, a space 100m long, 200m wide and 40m deep. Below that was a residential level, almost certainly mostly empty now they had killed nearly all the station’s guards, and below that the secret prison and medical level where Samina herself lived and worked. They needed to get down there, but only one elevator went all the way down and they could not fit their whole team into it. Two other elevators descended to the level below the hangar, and they could fit their whole squad into those two, then transfer to the elevator that went all the way down, and travel to the last level in two trips. They decided that Kaarlina would use her technomancy skills to control all the lifts, sending them down to the sub-level but sending signals to the central computer to indicate they were going up. They would skip the hangar and head down to surprise Samina in her lair while she thought they were heading up.

The monster in the hangar

Unfortunately their strategy failed, because Samina took control of all the elevators over Kaarlina’s mystic powers, and opened them all one level down, in the hangar. The doors opened into darkness, lit only by the faint red emergency lights in the elevators, and by one or two of the party’s suit lights. In the faint glow of these lights they saw a huge hall stretching out into darkness, scattered with crates and equipment in seemingly random piles around the elevator shafts. Somewhere nearby they could hear sounds of sniffling and desperate breathing, and the air of the room seemed to be faintly misty or suffused with a fine smoke.

This fine mist saved their lives. Adam saw it first, a beam of laser light questing towards them through the mist, and in the last moment realized there was a sniper about to target them. Since he was in overwatch he immediately opened fire, sending a wave of automatic fire in the direction of the laser. Clementine followed him but neither could hit their target, and a moment later a wave of thermal energy struck Adam in the head, almost shredding his remaining ear. Saqr, also in overwatch and carrying an accelerator rifle, fired along the line of the beam and killed the sniper with a single shot as the rest of the crew piled out of the elevator and into cover.

It was as the first of them began to emerge from the elevator that they saw it: a huge, hulking figure in the darkness just beyond their vision, charging towards them. It stopped and raised an arm and a moment later one of their entire teams of support marines died, cut down by a wave of thermal energy. Moments later the beast rushed into the light, and they saw what it was: an automaton constructed out of the twisted, still-bleeding and twitching bodies of Samina’s remaining soldiers. Two men in battle exos had been slaughtered and draggd into the mess of flesh, to be surrounded by the twisted bodies of 12 other men. It had misshapen, thick legs and arms wielding huge thermal rifles, with two more arms holding massive axes compiled from all the crew’s dura swords. Lights flickered inside the frame of its twisted flesh, and strange machine noises came from its joints and chest. It roared and stumbled forward.

Out of the elevator to meet it came Siladan, walking now in his own battle exo and eager to put its powers to the test. He surged forward and hit the thing in the chest, stopping it in its tracks, and the two began a monumental battle on the floor of the hangar. As they fought Adam, Clementine and Kaarlina poured rifle fire into the beast, seemingly doing nothing. Saqr could not join the battle, however, because moments after the marines in front of him were cooked to death by the beast’s weapons they reanimated as darkbound, undead humans bound by the Dark between the stars, and turned to attack him. Though they struck at him only with fists, they blocked his exit from the elevator and he was forced to deal with them before he could leave.

As the battle raged Al Hamra moved away from the elevator to the source of the sniffling, finding one of Samina’s soldiers crouched behind a crate, weapon at his side, panting heavily. Al Hamra wasted no time in conversation, going straight to mind reading using his mystic powers. The images that poured from the distressed soldier’s mind confirmed his suspicions: Samina had gathered all the soldiers in the hangar and enacted some horrific ritual that had slain them all and drawn them and their equipment together into the monster before them. Two of her soldiers, seeing the deaths begin and realizing they were betrayed by their own master, managed to break her mental control and flee, hopeless though this act was; now they crouched in the dark of the hangar, waiting to see which side would prevail in the battle and who would hunt them down and kill them.

Al Hamra saved this man the wait: he dominated his mind and sent him in to melee against the beast, in support of Siladan. The monster had been briefly stunned by Siladan’s first attack but soon recovered, unleashing some kind of mental blast that staggered Siladan and stunned him. It then smashed him once with one fist and marched past him to kill more marines. By the time Siladan could come back to melee the beast had beaten down the remaining marines and was in melee combat with Adam, smashing him with its fists as he tried to stab it with his dura knife. Fortunately Kaarlina had disabled its dura axes, so it could not cut through his armour the way it wanted. Adam had done furious damage on it with his machine gun, and in its rage it tried desperately to kill it as Siladan struck it with his dura halberd, Saqr fought off the darkbound that trapped him in the elevator, and the others poured fire into the beast’s heavily-armoured back. At the same time Samina poured healing magic into it from her remote location, somehow keeping it upright despite all the damage it endured.

Finally, however, Dr. Delekta was able to put a bullet into its back somewhere vulnerable. A battery pack from one of the absorbed battle exos exploded and the thing fell dead to the ground. They quickly killed the darkbound attacking Saqr, and the battle was done. All of Samina’s remaining soldiers lay in a rotting heap on the hangar floor, along with most of the party’s marines and almost all of their remaining sanity.

The Cadaver Clock

They rested briefly, Dr. Delekta providing medical care to the injured members and Saqr easing their wounds with his mystic powers. Al Hamra gathered the two corsairs who had escaped the ritual and gave them a choice: join their sole remaining marine in helping them clear out the base, or die. They took the better part of the choice, and once everyone had restocked and taken a breather they took the elevator down to the bottom level.

Following the marines’ instructions they passed a prison, where they found four starving victims of a past raid, who they released. They moved on to Samina’s personal quarters, at the back of which they found a tunnel leading down through the rock. They followed it, and at the bottom rushed into Samina’s lair.

Their three marines died as they entered the room, brought down by Samina’s mystic powers, but the rest of them were able to break into the room before she could act again. She stood in the centre of a terrifying construction of cogs and chains, arranged in a large rough-cut stone chamber. The cogs were ancient iron, embedded in the wall and connected with a complex network of heavy old chains. At points around the network of chains dead bodies were hung from the chains by meat hooks, slowly rotting and suppurating in the slightly stuffy air of the room. On one side of the room stood an ancient stone altar, covered in dried blood. In the middle of the room, under the dripping corpses, stood a collection of plinths of different heights. On two of these plinths stood the strange ugly statuettes of the dancer, and between them stood Samina. She was tall, impossibly skinny, obviously old but not worn or wrinkled. She wore simple silk robes, her hands empty and free, and looked at them from dark, deep-set eyes.

As they came to a halt in the room facing her, the collection of cogs and chains shuddered and the entire apparatus took a single, lurching movement according to some strange geometry. A loud tick! rang around the room as all the cogs turned over once, the bodies shuddered and jolted on their hooks, and a drop of rotting gore fell onto Samina’s cheek.

She ignored it, and said to them, “I am your only way out of this darkness.”

They ignored her, and opened fire.

The battle was short but almost deadly for them. At her waist Samina had a gravitic sink, which absorbed the first four shots from their weapons. She unleashed a dark mystical energy from her cadaver clock, which wracked their bodies with pain and, had she had a second chance to unleash it, would surely have killed them all[1]. Fortunately before she could do so her gravitic sink expired, and they slaughtered her where she stood.

Epilogue

They searched the base and found a huge stock of money and artifacts, which they stole. They should have rushed to escape before the portal out of the area degraded, but Al Hamra announced that since he had died twice and his soul was trapped inside a machine, he chose to end his time here. He would use the cadaver clock to hold the gate open until they all could flee, and then wait in the dark until his batteries powered down. He gave a stirring speech that convinced all the PCs that their captain would choose to die in this dark and lonely rock, but all the players knew that Al Hamra was going to use the cadaver clock to become the next Samina.

They left, having destroyed the corsairs that had plagued the Horizon for 30 years, and became fabulously rich and famous selling off their story and success across the Horizon. All that remained was to recapture the space station they had lost to an Efrit, and to establish their new Order, a movement committed to hunting down and killing evil mystics.

Here the Coriolis campaign ended, after 41 sessions. A challenging, bloody and sinister ending to an excellent 18 months of gaming!

 


fn1: The first wave of the attack did 7 damage I think, though I rolled very well, and it was pretty likely that the second one – due after three more actions – would finish the job. I rolled randomly for the gravitic sink’s charges and got 4. Had it held two more, things would have been dire, especially since her dancer’s talent guaranteed she could evade Siladan’s halberd. I did warn the group that I was happy to end the campaign on a TPK, but actually that was a lie: Oliver Greenstar was going to rescue them at the last if Samina prevailed.

 

 

Give yourself unto your god
Sacrifice yourself again
Burn your thoughts, erase your will
To gods of suffering and tears
Tie hallowed bonds around your hands
Kneel before this seat of shame
To gods as lost, gods as blind
Gods of suffering and pain

           – Catechism of the Dancer Cult

Our heroes have invaded the sanctum of Samina’s Corsairs, which is the home of an ancient, vile and long lost cult to a degraded form of the dancer. At its heart is Samina, a powerful mystic who possesses all the secrets of her long lost and abominable cult, and uses them to guide a vicious lair of pirates in raids across all of the Third Horizon, striking safe from within their asteroid base far outside of any star system. Our heroes have found this base and aim to kill Samina and tear down her cult; between them and her stand her last few score soldiers, their leaders and champions in battle exos. Dominated by Samina’s mystical powers, they feel no fear and throw themselves into the defense of their leader, which is why the PCs have already slaughtered 36 of them in a vicious battle at the docking station where they entered the station. Now they must move on, and begin to penetrate the base. There remain 32 soldiers, with 4 leader and 4 champions in battle exos. The roster for today’s mission:

  • Clementine, technologist
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Al Hamra, captain and mystic
  • Adam, soldier and gunner
  • Saqr, pilot
  • Kaarlina, mystic and technologist

In the docking station battle Al Hamra had taken control of the mind of two of the leaders, and used their voice to tell the station’s central command lies necessary to buy the team a little time. Now they stood among the ruins of the battle, in a smoking and bullet-scarred welcome area, injured and exhausted. On one side of the room Al Hamra’s droid body lay smoking and sparking, shattered beyond repair. They had perhaps one hour to transfer Al Hamra’s consciousness to their last remaining drone, attach a weapon to it, repair several jammed weapons, rest, and heal minor injuries.

They set about this task with resigned exhaustion, catching their breath as they cleaned up, reloaded, and repaired. Al Hamra successfully transferred to a new droid, to which Siladan attached a thermal cricket pistol, with a spare reload; further reloads would require someone to attend to the machine. Dr. Delekta provided medical care, and Saqr risked the Dark between the stars to heal a groin injury on Adam that threatened to wear him down before they had traveled too much further. They all rested, recovered their wind, and prepared to push on.

From the docking station a corridor ran perhaps 100m to a central elevator shaft. They guessed a large contingent of soldiers would be waiting for them there, and they were right: a brief scouting excursion by Al Hamra confirmed 8 soldiers, a leader and a champion in a battle exo. Kaarlina took control of the blast doors facing them using her mystic powers, they prepared their moves, and triggered the battle.

Al Hamra used his droid movements to trigger the door to open, and used his mystic powers to take control of the mind of the exo champion, forcing it to fire on the soldiers’ leader. Saqr threw in a grenade and Adam fired a rocket at the main team of soldiers.

At least that was the plan, except that everyone in the room was on overwatch, and as soon as Al Hamra triggred the door a nightmare storm of vulcan shells, thermal blast and accelerator slugs poured through the door. One of their teams of soldiers was eviscerated and several of them took damage before Adam could squeeze off his rocket, which eliminated several of the soldiers. They charged into the room to find cover where they could while Al Hamra dominated the champion in the exo suit, and the battle began. Reinforcements immediately began rising up one elevator, which Kaarlina stopped with her mystic powers, but they were not able to stop another elevator, which arrived after a short time bearing the Oracle, the old man they had fought in Hamurabi station. He dominated their other marine team and turned it on them, but fortunately the dominated exo champion was there, and was able to immediately melt the Oracle to slag with its thermal rifle.

By the time they had dealt with the remaining soldiers in the room more reinforcements had arrived in a third elevator, but by now they were ready. They set a careful cordon around the elevator and destroyed the entire team as it rushed to emerge. Within seconds the entire team lay smoking and bleeding on the floor, and by Siladan’s count they had slain another 16 soldiers, two champions in battle exos, and all but two remaining leaders. Very few of Samina’s fearsome corsairs remained.

They checked their weapons, tended to their wounds, and prepared to head down to the final showdown. They would burn this whole cult and destroy all its hideous ancient secrets, or die trying.

 

 

 

Inert flesh
A bloody tomb
A decorated splatter brightens the room
An execution, a sadist ritual
Mad intervals of mind residuals

Close your eyes
Look deep in your soul
Step outside yourself
And let your mind go

– Catechism of the Dancer cult

 

Our heroes have invaded a docking station of Samina’s Corsairs’ main base, and having broken through the inner door are about to begin their final assault. Inside the station are 60-something soldiers, a small number of leaders and some elite fighters in exo armour. Our roster for this session:

  • Clementine, technologist
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Al Hamra, captain and mystic
  • Adam, soldier and gunner
  • Saqr, pilot

They are accompanied by two teams of four mercenaries. As ever they burst into the station without a plan, hoping to prevail by superior grit and better weapons. They were, of course, right, though the battle was a close call[1].

Beyond the docking station was the standard entry chamber, perhaps 10m in diameter and interspersed with standing steel defensive barriers, behind which two teams of corsairs and a leader hid. Two of the PCs ran into the room to take cover behind the closest barrier and were immediately fired upon by all the teams in the room, to little avail. Behind them Saqr threw a thermal grenade over the barriers, failing to do much damage to the defenders, and their back-up mercenaries laid down covering fire as the rest of them moved slowly into the room. Adam used one of his only two rockets to clear the back of the room, and they soon overwhelmed the first defenders.

They had no chance at respite though, because no sooner had the first team died than a second entered the room, laying down a carpet of automatic fire as they came[2]: 8 more soldiers with their leader. Fortunately however, as soon as the group arrived Al Hamra used a dominate spell on their leader, forcing him to attack his own team, and the squad broken down into internecine combat as one team of soldiers traded fire with their own leader. The others, however, were in cover, and the PCs did not deal with the second wave as well – some were still barely alive when the third wave hit.

The third wave walked straight into the full fury of Adam’s machine gun, and were cut down viciously. As soon as the second wave’s leader had been put down by his own men Al Hamra dominated the third wave’s leader and forced him to attack his own men, and also to tell the station’s central command that the intruders had been killed. This strategy only partially worked; the fourth wave hit while they were cleaning up the remains of the third wave, and finally they were forced into a pitched battle with the remaining troops. By this time Siladan had been disarmed of his dura halberd and was fighting with his hand fan, several of the team’s weapons had overheated or malfunctioned (including Clementine’s meson pistol, which they needed intact to fight the exo armours), and finally Al Hamra took a hit from a vulcan carbine that completely destroyed his droid casing, killing his robot shell and forcing his consciousness back to the ship.

When the battle was over they had severely depleted their ammunition and reloads, taken several light criticals, lost their Firstcome battle droid and one mercenary, and ground out quite a few wounds across the party, but they had prevailed. A total of 36 men – 32 soldiers and 4 leaders – lay dead in the small room, which was coated with blood, smoke stains and bullet holes. Al Hamra’s domination of the leaders meant that for a short time the corsair’s central command believed they had been neutralized and their ship was being searched, so that they had bought themselves perhaps an hour of rest time. During this time they had much to do: restocking ammunition, repairing weapons, restoring Al Hamra’s consciousness to a floating camera drone (the only freely mobile drone remaining in their arsenal) and attaching a weapon to it, and some basic medical care.

And after that one hour of breathing space, on to the next charnel house …

 


fn1: In fact Al Hamra used his 10th life talent and then got a second 66 crit, so he has gone from storing his soul in a Firstcome defense droid to using a simple camera drone. How the mighty have fallen!

fn2: I set this up so that the number of successes on Saqr’s piloting roll to deceive the defenders determined the speed at which reinforcements arrived: Saqr got 1 success, so this meant that there would be 1 round of respite between new waves of 8 soldiers and 1 leader. Given that these teams of soldiers are all able to use automatic fire, and I have significantly beefed up the auto-fire rules for groups of minions, this is a pretty challenging battle.

Our heroes have jumped through a mystical portal into the vicinity of the hidden Corsair base, where they have immediately been attacked by a detachment of Corsair attack ships. The roster for this session:

  • Clementine, technologist
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Al Hamra, captain and mystic
  • Adam, soldier and gunner
  • Oliver Greenstar, colonist and roustabout
  • Saqr, pilot

The four ships arrived in sensor range together, captain Saqr’s attempts to manoeuvre away from them having proved unsuccessful. They swooped in to attack, and the Beast of Burden faced off against them in the cold Dark.

The destruction of the Corsair Fleet

The four corsair ships were small class II gunships, perhaps 30m long and designed purely for space battle around the corsair base. They moved in fast but disorderly, each trying to be the first to kill the intruder, so one rushed ahead and into the Beast of Burden‘s missile range. Using the ship’s advanced sensors Siladan was able to quickly lock onto it; they fired a torpedo while Adam opened fire, Saqr throwing the Beast of Burden into complex defensive manoeuvres just in case the incoming ships secured a lock.

They did not, and as the remaining three ships moved more cautiously into range they finished off the frontrunner, hitting it with data pulse and the energy weapon they had stolen from the First Horizon holdovers. Two more ships entered torpedo range but failed to secure locks, and before they could close into a better range Clementine and Siladan hit them with data pulses[1], cutting their systems and leaving them drifting helpless in space.

Now the battle had become easy. It is easy to imagine the corsair crew running around in their disabled ships, desperately trying to restart their reactors and sending djinn into the computer system to fight the data attack as torpedos streamed in and Adam picked away at the hull with the Beast of Burden‘s new energy weapons. Perhaps they were still fighting to regain control of their systems when the torpedo hit and blew away the entire bridge; maybe they were desperately repairing hull damage, praying loudly to the Dancer, as Adam carved their ship open from bow to stern with a single concentrated pulse of energy, and spilled them all into the Dark, still struggling and begging their disfigured Icon for aid. In any case, once the middle two ships were disabled the tide of battle turned quickly and they were soon left facing four disabled hulks. Three were breached and collapsed, mere salvage with perhaps a few dead crew left onboard who had not been sucked into the Dark when Adam burnt their hull away, but one was simply disabled, floating helpless as they moved into board, Siladan bombarding it with data pulses to keep its reactor quiescent as the rest of the crew suited up to move in for the kill.

Assault on the base

They boarded the remaining ship and captured the remaining surviving crew member easily, dragging him back to the Beast of Burden for interrogation. They were not gentle, but extreme measures were unnecessary – Al Hamra read his mind when they asked him questions, and they soon learnt all they needed to know about the Corsair base. It had no remaining defenses, Samina having assumed that sequestering her base in the Dark between the stars and hiding it behind a mystic portal, defended by four class 2 gunships, was a sufficient defense in itself. They could cruise in and take it at their leisure. Except that its remaining complement was formidable:

  • 64 soldiers, in teams of 4
  • 8 sergeants, each responsible for 2 teams
  • 4 champions, elite soldiers in battle exos
  • Samina
  • the Oracle
  • Whatever Darkbound Samina and the Oracle chose to summon

And of course, the Oracle could teleport between statues, so no doubt could appear behind them, perhaps to animate the dead they left in their wake.

They headed to the base. Sometimes you just need to take a risk. They had taken floor plans from the captive’s ship, so they knew that it had a large hangar section that their ship could not enter, and above that a level with four docking stations connected by wide corridors to a central elevator shaft. Each docking station was defended by two teams of soldiers and their leader. Saqr moved in fast and purposively to one of the docking stations, then diverted the ship and cut a rapid loop to a different station. Siladan hit the docking station fast and hacked its lock and they were through, into the first docking station, piling in to attack the soldiers on the other side before reinforcements could come from the other stations.

The final fight was on. It was five to one, but they would prevail. Right?


fn1: There is a lot wrong with the space combat rules in Coriolis, and in amongst them is the fact that the data pulse is massively overpowered. I suspect ion cannons are even worse.

 

Our heroes are trapped in a ransacked cultist sanctuary in Hamurabi station, facing off with a draconite hit squad that has surprised them. They were here to capture an Oracle and learn from him how to travel to the secret lair of Samina’s Corsairs, but he has teleported away using a large and ominous statue of the Dancer, their secondary objective; they cannot now move to take it, because they stand under the readied guns of a draconite hit team[4]. The roster for today’s adventure:

  • Clementine, technologist
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Al Hamra, captain and mystic
  • Adam, soldier and gunner
  • Oliver Greenstar, colonist and roustabout
  • Saqr, pilot

They decided that in this case discretion was better than bloody valour, especially considering they had had no time to recover from the many injuries they had incurred over the past week of frantic pursuit, and now even a light smattering of damage would likely go badly for them. Adam and Clementine eyed up that meson pistol, and considered the options for killing the draconites and taking it, but even though they both thought their team would prevail, likely one or more of them would die in the exchange. They decided to talk.

The draconites also seemed disinclined to fight, a good sign given that they had held the element of surprise. Al Hamra asked them what they wanted and they indicated that they had come for the statue. He suggested to them that he would happily hand it over if they helped him catch the Oracle, which offer the draconites declined: they did not care for the oracle, and would not waste their time helping the PCs. They wanted to get the statue and go.

Here the party had a small advantage over the draconites: Al Hamra could read minds. He asked a question and applied his mind-reading mystic power, learning quickly that the leader was in telepathic conversation with another, hidden draconite, presumably a mystic and definitely their leader[2]. From this little exchange Al Hamra also discovered that the draconites thought they could control Adam[5], and with that he realized that they really were going to need to talk their way out; but he also learnt that the draconites genuinely only cared about the statue. “Why do you need it?” He asked, and a moment later, against all expectations, the negotiator told them:

“It holds the soul of our founder.”

Well, that drew their attention. Realizing that this statue must be very valuable to them, Al Hamra decided to cut a deal: he offered to have Saqr bring it to them if they would hand over the leader’s meson pistol and leave in peace. It took the leader only a minute to accept this deal, and he even threw in the kind consideration of not killing dr. Delecta and taking back the draconite technology she carried. An agreement was reached, and Saqr walked over to pick up the statue.

As soon as he touched it Saqr was assaulted by a mystic wave of horror, fear and rage, an ancient and powerful force desperate not to be contained. He fought with all his will to resist the force possessing him, and resisted it long enough to hand the statue over to the draconite. Unable to tell anyone what he had experienced, he could only hope that the same force would not overwhelm the draconite. It appeared not to, and the draconite calmy took the statue, and handed the meson pistol over to Saqr. All five men then withdrew carefully, maintaining a cautious watch on the PCs until they were out of sight.

They had lost the statue, and for little prize. They retreated to the ship to nurse their pride and think about the next step in their mission against the Corsairs.

The legacy of the Dancer

Back at the Beast of Burden Saqr performed a mystic powers search, and located the Oracle in the Corsair base. They guessed then that he had teleported there to warn the Corsairs, who they could expect to be readying a welcome party. They guessed that the only way to get to the Corsair base was to travel to the coordinates they had found on the tabula, and there find some lost portal that would take them to the base. They guessed that they only had three days before the coordinates in the tabula expired, and they did not expect another message to arrive, so they had to act fast. However, they wanted to go in with some basic knowledge of what they were doing, and with a little recovery time. They took a full day to recover, during which time Al Hamra and Adam went in search of a weaponsmith to improve their weapons, and Siladan dug into his tomes of ancient knowledge to try and learn something about the connections between the corsairs and the cult of the Dancer that seemed to be so widespread throughout this part of the Horizon.

From fragments of text, stories and hints in the ancient histories of the Dabaran Circle, Siladan was able to piece together an outline of the story of the Dancer in this part of the Horizon. He learnt that when the Dabaran Shipbuilders came to the Third Horizon from the First Horizon they brought with them a dark cult, some kind of heretical nonsense connected with the original religion that they had believed in Al Ardha. This cult had survived for a while in the community those first shipbuilders formed around Atuta, the Unbroken, in Dabaran, but evnetually they were found and driven out, their terrible rites deemed despicable and evil. They fled to neighbouring systems, and in their flight they either discovered or were taken over by some power from the Dark between the Stars – or perhaps it had infected them in the long flight from the First Horizon and corrupted their religion that way. It was possible they laired in some ancient Portal Builder ruin, where they learnt dark secrets, but in any case somehow in this time of flight and conflict they mixed stories of some feminine energy called Lilith, from their original religion, with images and iconography of the Dancer. So their cult formed, hiding in the dark reaches of the lonely systems at the extreme edge of the Dabaran Circle, an area ignored by much of the rest of the Firstcome as they expanded into richer systems in the rest of the Third Horizon. Stories then told of a fresh assault on the cult by forces of the Nomad Federation, in allegiance with the Shipbuilders of Dabaran, in which a small militarist cult of the Messenger (or perhaps the Messenger himself; legends differed on the details) finally vanquished the emissaries of this twisted shadow of the Dancer. The cult was scattered, but over the succeeding centuries tales would arise hinting at the continued existence of fragments of the cult. Stories were also told about lost stars, dark stars, portal builder ruins far away from the portals themselves, wandering portals, and tears in the Dark itself which some creatures from the Dark between the Stars could use to travel between systems.

The PCs had been told before that the Corsairs were a kind of cult, and in the writings of the Collector at the space station in Algebar they had learnt of rumours that Samina herself was a powerful mystic in possession of a horrifying artifact that could boost her powers. Siladan surmised that the remnants of this ancient, corrupted cult of the Dancer had somehow formed Samina’s Corsairs and that Samina herself was the leader of this cult, perhaps taking on the form of the Dancer herself, or some twisted version thereof. This cult must have been twisted by exposure to the Dark between the Stars, and now dwelt in some lost Portal Builder ruin, from whence Samina used her strange powers to send ships to raid any system they chose. Perhaps the Corsairs’ plan to take over a small mining community in the Kua system, near Coriolis station itself, had been more sinister than a mere attempt to have a presence near Coriolis – perhaps she had known about the Cadaver Clock on Kua and aimed to take control of it or study it, with Rockhome 3 as a staging post for the mission. Or perhaps her plan had been to take over that community and slowly convert it to a cult, giving her a base of religious affairs from which she could easily touch Coriolis itself …

Whatever the reason, Siladan’s research confirmed for all the group that the Corsairs needed to be exterminated. Their mission was personal, religious, and essential. The next day they set off for the coordinates on the tabula, taking the Beast of Burden, the Grace of the Icons 7132, and the Shield of the Faceless. The Grace of the Icons 7132 had been reconfigured as a gunship at Dabaran, and the Shield of the Faceless, originally an Order of the Pariah troopship, had been reconfigured as a multipurpose attack ship with more weapons and a different signature. They hired 8 mercenaries, who took positions on the Beast of Burden, and left Hamura station in force.

The Corsair Base

They traveled for a day to reach the coordinates and when they arrived found themselves floating in empty space. They were an astronomical unit further away from the Hamura portals, far from any planet, and there was nothing to see but empty space. Unfazed, Al Hamra retired to the Beast of Burden’s observatory with a pair of spectacles of mystic vision, and under the glass dome lay back to stare into empty space through the spectacles. With their special power to see the Dark between the Stars the emptiness of space was transformed into a horrifying web of darkness, as if some hideous gigantic spider had stretched its lethal gossamers over an entire star system. Hanging in space in the midst of that web, some distance from their ship but visible through the lenses, was a ghostly portal wreathed in shadow. Their portal was a mystical gateway, and they would have to fly through it.

Using their two sets of glasses, Al Hamra and Saqr plotted a course through the portal. Everyone retired to their stasis pods, Saqr set a course, and the three ships entered the Dark Gate.

An hour later they awoke to the sound of proximity warnings, alarms ringing to warn them of incoming ships. They rushed to the bridge, activated sensors, and found themselves in uncharted space. The ship’s astrolabe told them they were in the centre of the Dabaran circle, equidistant from all of its stars, in a part of space with no star. Visual scanners showed them a stunning vista of stars, their sparkling light undiminished by any nearby star, and far away in the distance a single rock floating in space – the Corsair base. And from that rock had come four attack ships, which now bore down on them from four distant points. They had been warned, and had been waiting in orbit of the portal exit, and now they were incoming. Worse still, the Beast of Burden was alone: the Grace of the Icons 7132 and the Shield of the Faceless had not come through the portal, and were now lost in the Dark between the Stars, no doubt being torn apart by horrifying beasts of gigantic and terrible form. Only the Beast of Burden stood against four class 2 attack ships.

Saqr desperately manoeuvred to try and make space between some of the ships, so that they could fight at least one on its own before the whole squadron arrived, but he failed. All four ships came hurtling in, and the crew of the Beast of Burden turned their ship about, and prepared for the fight of their lives …

 


fn1: In game terms this means that all 5 of the draconites are in overwatch, and will get an automatic attack as soon as anyone tries to do anything aggressive. The leader is carrying a meson pistol, which ignores armour; as one player noted, Dr. Delekta is wearing an invisibility sphere stolen from the draconites, so it is likely that there are more scattered about, invisible, also in overwatch, possibly with meson rifles.

fn2: Just as that player predicted, I had a sixth draconite hidden, with another meson pistol, in overwatch, using telepathy. So there was a very good chance that in the first round of combat these two would eliminate two of the PCs, since their weapons can cut through armour, and then things would get very nasty very quickly[3]

fn3: This might seem like overkill but my party by now have accrued probably 80xp each, three attribute increases, a second group talent, and a shit-ton of high quality weaponry[4], and it is almost impossible to set them a challenge when they’re geared up; the draconites know this, because they aren’t stupid, and have acted accordingly.

fn4: We are a couple of sessions from the end of the campaign and they deserve every hard-earned point of advantage they have accrued so far; indeed, the denoument of this campaign is going to be a raid on their own space station to dislodge an ifrit they accidentally teleported in there. They still have a lot of work to do!

fn5: At the very beginning of the campaign Adam’s player chose “creature of the draconites” as his personal problem and, well, that’s really too luscious a peach not to pluck at a time like this isn’t it? Had the PCs decided to fight these guys, Adam – their machine gunner and most powerful combatant – was going to be forced to switch sides, or at least to make very difficult skill checks to resist commands.

Our heroes have defeated a squad of assassins sent by Samina’s Corsairs, though they do not know how they are being tracked, and are ready to move on to Hamura station. The roster for today’s session:

  • Clementine, technologist
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Al Hamra, captain and mystic
  • Adam, soldier and gunner

The trip to Hamura was easy enough, their whole fleet arriving with no mishaps in the Dark between the stars, and docking comfortably with the Hamurabi portal station. As they docked they noticed a small Draconite ship, the Elegy, sitting on one of the station’s landing platforms. Could it be a coincidence that this sleek and beautiful vessel from the Third Horizon’s most enigmatic faction was here at the same station as them? The Draconites were too dangerous a faction to meddle with, so they hoped they were not, and guessed that if the draconites shared their purpose they would discover soon enough, one way or another.

Hamura has only two planets, one a barren rock and one a water world, and a single gas giant that is mined extensively for ice and minerals. They arrived at Hamurabi station during a mining period, so the roughneck miners were not clogging its old and dusty corridors to spend their hard-earned money, and the station had an air of emptiness and decay about it. They were met by obsequious local officials who had heard much of their reputation on the Dabaran circle, and were eager to make their acquaintance and take their money. They found accommodation in Hamurabi station’s most expensive hotel, and set about searching for information on the Oracle, the strange mystic who was rumoured to hold the key to traveling to the Corsairs’ secret base.

Their first attempts to make conversation with local workers did not go well, with the off-duty station hands that Siladan approached being completely uninterested in sharing any of their precious downtime with a stranger. After this attempt failed, however, they were lucky: the local Colonial Agent, Yasintra Hur, invited them to dinner, and they were able to pass a comfortable time with her eating luxuriantly and discussing the problems of the station. From Yasintra they learnt of a strange cult that operated beneath an old water reclamation plant in the bowels of the station, that was run by an old man who claimed to his followers to have a direct insight into the soul of the universe. It was said that this cult had an obssession with the dancer, though Yasintra herself had not confirmed it.

This was enough for the characters: they set off to deal with the cult.

The Statuette of Souls

They learnt that the station had a fairly relaxed approach to weapons, and that the route to the water tower would take them mostly on deserted corridors linked by a service elevator, so they decided to risk traveling through the station fully armed and armoured. This was a good idea, because they soon discovered the cult was not a friendly operation. They found it where they had been told it would be, a small chapel with a couple of side rooms on the first floor, and a second floor they guessed held living quarters for the cultists. Its position under the water reclamation system made it hot and humid, and the environment around the cult entrance was squalid and foreboding. There were two entrances to the chapel, both surmounted by poor quality frescoes of the Dancer.

When they opened the doors they found a small room occupied by four skinny cultists in rough robes, praying before a small dais. A large black statuette, perhaps a meter high, stood on the dais: it was a carbon copy of the statuette they had found in Ahura, and lost on Coriolis, and their guess was that it was of similar age and provenance. The cultists seemed to be worshiping it. Dr. Delekta engaged her invisibility sphere and crept around the edge of the room to stand near it, just in case, as the cultists broke from their religious reverie and turned to face the PCs. At the same time an old man emerged from a side room and walked over to stand in front of the statue – apparently unaware of Delekta’s presence – where he began berating the characters for their impertinence.

The following discussion fell apart rapidly, and after a couple of seconds of poor negotiation the angry old man ordered his followers to attack the PCs. Another group of wretched cultists charged out of a side room to attack, and the PCs prepared to put them down like dogs. Delekta, seeing a chance to save lives, put her gun against the old man’s temple and ordered him to call off his followers or die. He merely looked at her and with a simple act of will forced her to turn and shoot her fellows. Fortunately she missed, and Al Hamra, realizing the oracle had mystic powers, used his own power of domination to force the old man to call off his followers. No sooner had he done so, however, than four horrible creatures came slinking out of another room and attacked Siladan. They were darkbound, bodies of dead humans that had been taken over by some power from the dark between the stars. These darkbound wore tattered cultists robes, and they guessed must be former members of the church. Was the oracle a necromancer!?

As Siladan, Clementine and Al Hamra dealt with the darkbound Adam and Dr. Delekta attempted to tackle the old man. They grabbed him successfully but he was able to reach out and touch the statue and a moment later he was gone, physically removed from the room. His followers fled, though Al Hamra was able to grab one as he passed, and the temple was theirs.

Old Friends

They searched the temple, finding nothing but the stinking rags of the cultists and a few worthless religious items. In the room that the darkbound had emerged from they found a set of spectacles, of the same kind used by Saqr, that enable the user to see mystic powers and the influence of the dark between the stars. They also found a tabula, which was completely blank except for a single message chain that consisted of messages arriving once per week containing a set of coordinates. The sender had no address or connection details, and the old man had never replied. They took the tabula and spectacles and interrogated their captured cultist.

The unfortunate man revealed that they all worshiped the dancer, and the statuette of the dancer. The oracle had told them that this statuette contained all the memories of anyone who had ever lived in the Third Horizon, and by worshiping it they could learn the secrets of all of history and humanity. Every time they attended rituals with him, the statuette would share a little glimpse into the soul of a long dead person, and they would gain a little insight into humanity. Once their insight was complete they would transcend the mortal realm and become like Icons themselves. There were four small empty plinths next to the large statuette, on which the cultist told them the old man would sometimes place a smaller statue. These plinths were just the right size for the smaller statuettes the PCs had seen in Coriolis station, and now possessed one of themselves.

This interview wound up prematurely, however, when they heard a cough from the door and turned to find themselves facing a draconite hit squad. Four men in full draconite armour and their leader, all carrying meson pistols, stood at the door looking in, with their weapons trained on the characters.

They had been found, and now they would have to reckon with the draconites.

The PCs have returned to Presidium station, and made preparations to travel to Taoan, the next system on the journey to Hamurabi. The roster for today’s adventure:

  • Clementine, technologist
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Saqr, pilot and mystic
  • Oliver Greenstar, colonist
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Kaarlina, mystic

Before they could leave for Taoan the PCs needed to gather their belongings from their luxury hotel. From their ship they crossed Presidium station to the small plaza where their hotel was located. The plaza was deserted, most of its shops closed. They were familiar now with its lonely air: a fountain bubbled in the middle of the square, flanked by two raised flowerbeds where no one ever sat, and two of the shops lining the plaza – a raw fish restaurant and a tailor – appeared to be permanently closed. The only places that were routinely open were a small coffee stand near the tunnel entering the plaza and a delapidated game centre, which seemed never to have any customers.

Ambushed

As they entered the plaza three of them were shot, hit by bullets from accelerator pistols. Oliver took a bullet to the heart, falling immediately, and everyone else retreated to cover. Saqr ran to the coffee stall and vaulted over the counter into cover, but the others continued to take fire as they retreated. They could not immediately see their attackers, who were in cover in shops around the plaza, shooting accelerator pistols that are deadly accurate and deadly silent. After a few moments of confusion Kaarlina ran out to the plaza to give first aid to Oliver, and Siladan dashed to the flowerbeds to take cover until he could see their attackers. Saqr saw one hiding in the raw fish restaurant and took a shot, but in return received sustained fire that burst open the second artery in his leg; he fell behind the counter, painting its decorated coffee pots crimson as he fell.

Finally Siladan saw two of their ambushers hiding behind counters in the gaming arcade and charged over to attack, barrelling into the attacker and trying to grapple him as the other shooter tried to find a good aim. Dr. Delecta vaulted the coffee counter and rushed to staunch Saqr’s wounds as Kaarlina helped Oliver back to the hallway under covering fire from Clementine. Now their two injured members were restored the tide of battle turned, and they began to pick off their attackers. They found a second one in the raw fish shop and laid down sustained fire on it, as Siladan disarmed and then proceeded to stab and mangle the two in the gaming arcade. Finally, after a few more seconds of desperate battle, they managed to kill all their attackers. This battle had been close – ambushed by silent assassins while not wearing their armour or carrying their heavy weapons, they had come close to a bad end. But who had attacked them?

Backlach the Feeder

They searched the bodies and found nothing to identify their assailants except room cards for a hotel. They also discovered that the assassins had killed two customers of the game arcade when they entered, presumably so as to eliminate witnesses. Realizing that someone would call for help soon they quickly retired to their hotel, where they packed up their gear quickly while Siladan jury-rigged a hotel room card reader from the readers in their hotel. From this he was able to learn that the assassins had stayed in room 12 of the Strontium Dog hotel, and had come into Presidium station from Taoan a day earlier. They had little else to go on so they left the hotel and sought out an old contact of Kaarlina’s, a data djinn known as Backlach[1].

They found Backlach in the water purification section of Presidium station, surrounded as always by a small squad/harem of immensely overweight young women, who he trained as data djinn and fed until they were enormously obese. He and Kaarlina had not parted on good terms after their last mission together, so their meeting was tense, but he Backlach agreed to do a little work for them, and with the information they gave him was able to track down surveillance video of some of their activities. They had arrived a day earlier from Taoan on a passenger ship called the Harrowing, which was now the subject of some legal dispute: apparently it had left Taoan two days ahead of schedule without warning, and a family of pilgrims were now suing its parent company for spiritual damages. They watched random video footage of the team disembarking, moving around and going to the hotel; it appeared that they had killed the entire team and no one was left over. Satisfied and with little time left to them, they thanked Backlach and left him to feeding his girls.

Back at the ship they guessed that this was an assassination team from Samina’s Corsairs. Somehow the Corsairs knew they were coming, probably because when Saqr fumbled his first attempt to scry on the Corsairs’ base he had been seen by some dark power and could now be tracked. This meant that from now they would need to be on the alert for assassins. They also needed to be on the alert for the police, so they abandoned Presidium station as quickly as possible and set off for Taoan.

The Taoan Blockade

They passed through the portals at Taoan without difficulty, but as soon as they arrived they found themselves confronted by a Legion fleet. The Legion Battleship Sister of Darkness hung in the Dark near the portals, and hailed them as soon as they arrived with a simple warning: Taoan was under a blockade and they were only allowed to visit the Taoan portal station, no one could travel into the system itself. The Sister of Darkness was nearly three times the size of the Beast of Burden, 700m long, 100m wide and 200m tall, packed with heavy weapons and accompanied by a crusier, the Tidebreaker, a 200m long class IV gunship that was easily a match for the PCs’ entire fleet. A cursory check of publicly available data on these ships soon informed them that the Sister of Darkness carried a class III gunship, the Emissary of the Gambler, and the Tidebreaker held four more class 1 gunships. Any attempt to break the blockade and enter the Taoan system to find out the truth of what was happening there would see them confronted by a fleet of vast destructive power. They meekly accepted the warning, and took their suddenly powerless ragtag fleet to dock at Taoan’s portal station. They would head straight to Hamura, and their looming confrontation with Samina’s Corsairs.

 


fn1: This is the “friend in every port” talent, which is way overpowered and very fun.

The PCs have learnt interesting information on the nature of Samina’s Corsairs, upgraded their ships, and are preparing for the final showdown with the Corsairs. They set off for Uharu, the last interesting system on their journey to Hamura. Today’s roster:

  • Clementine, technologist
  • Siladan Hatshepsut, archaeologist and data djinn
  • Saqr, pilot and mystic
  • Al Hamra, captain and droid (with mystic powers)
  • Dr. Banu Delecta, medic
  • Kaarlina, mystic[1]

From Dabaran they traveled without incident to the Uharu system, where they docked at Presidium station on the system’s second planet. Besides a cluster of moons around the system’s enormous brown dwarf, Uharu had only 3 planets: a barely-occupied planet, a sparsely-populated Emirate planet, and a third planet with only a small population living in a cult-like matriarchy with very harsh rules. The second planet, Presidium, was under a partial security emergency due to a low-grade insurgency by local anti-government forces, but it held the only significant spaceport in the system, so the PCs had to dock there.

Once they had docked and gathered some information they discovered that the entire system appeared to be somehow connected to the Dancer Icon. Every planet seemed to have either been colonized by a cult of the Dancer or to have a strong religious connection to the Dancer, and even the brown dwarf was named Nartaki, a local name for the Dancer. Presidium itself was ruled by an Emirate, the Latif Ascendancy, which had traditionally venerated the Dancer over other Icons, and was now brutally suppressing any form of Dancer-worship it considered “unorthodox”.

A day trip to a shabby palace

The PCs decided to explore the surface of Presidium a little, and after calling up a poor-quality and overly-eager djinn (AI) in their room they learned that the planet had a famous palace, the Palace of the Latif Ascendancy, that was fabled across the Dabaran Circle. They paid for an expensive luxury shuttle trip to the Palace, but experienced an incredibly disappointing and shabby tour. The “luxury shuttle” they booked had nothing more than a buffet, and the dancing girls for which they paid extra were simply a video recording of not-very-enticing girls from another era on another system. The journey to the Palace from the landing area was a bland little trip in a very standard transport through boring and uninspiring fields. The Palace itself was heavily guarded by Latif guards, with many security checks, and was neither splendid nor grand. After only an hour they had finished their tour and returned to the shuttle in disgust. They had seen better on the surface of Kua!

Irfan’s Request

When they returned to their lodgings they found a video message from a skinny, scared-looking boy who told them he wanted the help of some “combat archaeologists” to help him with a mission. He told them he had no money to pay them, but could give them the location of an artifact if they helped. Attached to the video message was a grainy photo, which looked like it had been taken surreptitiously on a tabula over someone’s shoulder, of a photo that was already low quality. It depicted a wall covered in old mosaic, with two alcoves in the wall. A trailing hand in the photo suggested each alcove was perhaps 25-30 cm high, and in one of them was an ugly, squat black statuette that looked exactly like the statuette that had been stolen from them in Coriolis nearly a year ago. Intriguing! Saqr used his powers of finding (which haven’t been so crash hot recently!) to locate the statuette in the picture, and confirmed it was on the planet of Sylph, in this system. He also sought out the statuette that had been stolen from them, and confirmed it was on a spaceship docked at Coriolis station. So there really was a second! Even though Saqr had found the statuette and the group did not really need to help him now they knew its location, they agreed to meet Irfan.

Irfan met them the following evening at a mining cantina on the surface of Presidium, where he was working as a labourer in a mine. He was a small, skinny, demure boy, a little under-nourished and not really the type who looked like he could dig in a mine. He told them he was from Sylph, where the matriarchs run a brutal and extremely unpleasant regime of slavery and oppression. He had escaped a year ago, and he wanted now to help his brother, Irfan 2, to escape from Sylph. He needed to do it now, because in 6 months Irfan 2 would be old enough to be sent to the breeding pits, after which he would be unreachable. He wanted the PCs to go to Sylph and rescue his brother, and in exchange he would tell them how to get the statuette, which he assured them was in an abandoned and depleted mine near the matriarchs’ settlement. He promised them the mine had been abandoned and the statuette must still be there.

They agreed, and set off for Sylph to rescue Irfan 2.

The scam and the fight

They set up a cover as investors interested in exploring a future potential investment and headed to Slyph. It was easy enough for Dr. Delekta to convince the matriarchs that their mission was genuine and to organize for them to be taken to the mine where Irfan 2 worked, but she accidentally revealed that she was a doctor, and they began asking her some very unsavoury questions about the “resources” (i.e. the men of their colony). Apparently some had been struck down with a lung disease that might require extensive treatment, and they wanted a doctor with more experience and better qualifications than their local doctor to give them an assessment of whether these resources could continue to work, or should “cease being utilized”. Seeing their chance, Dr. Delekta requested that the 10 resources in question be brought to her medlab, along with a sample of five control resources – amongst whom she selected Irfan 2. All 15 of these malnourished, exhausted and sickly men were dragged on board the Beast of Burden and put into the medlab, as the PCs gathered to figure out what to do.

Unfortunately four of the matriarchs had also come on board, and were loitering around the medlab waiting to hear about Delekta’s judgment. Soon after she got the men in the medlab this woman, Iwoe, entered the medlab without invitation and began examining the 15 men. It was painfully apparent to Siladan and Al Hamra as soon as this woman reached Irfan 2 that Irfan 2 was her secret sex toy, and she was not going to let him go. They managed to hustle Iwoe out of the room and started talking about what to do about this problem, but unfortunately one of the healthy men overheard them talking about rescuing Irfan 2 and, seeing his chance to improve his own situation with a judicious bit of treachery, ran to the door to alert Iwoe to the impending rescue. Siladan and Al Hamra chased him but were not fast enough, and he slid out the door with Siladan wrapped around his legs, yelling to Iwoe that an abduction was going to happen.

Things went bad very quickly at that moment. Iwoe and her three assistants drew accelerator pistols from the folds of their jackets and began shooting, and battle was on. Unfortunately the PCs were not wearing their armour and did not have their weapons, so they had to dash into melee or make the most of what they had. Fortunately Clementine was able to knock a mercurium sword out of Iwoe’s hand, and of course Al Hamra is a droid who is always armed, and after a few desperate seconds in which it looked like they might be outgunned they were able to beat the four intruders down. As the fight unfolded Oliver Greenstar, Adam and Kaarlin were able to lift the ship off, with Adam using the accelerator cannon to make short work of the matriarchs’ ground-based missile launcher. They spaced Iwoe and two of her assistants, kept one alive to interrogate, and then spaced her too.

They headed back to orbit to send the news of the successful extraction to Irfan, hoping that the people of Sylph had no decent starships to chase them with. From their prisoner they had learnt the reason that the statuette was in an abandoned mine: it was guarded by at least one Sentinel, the strange portal-builder guardians that they had learnt about in Kua. They had never fought those things, but the video they watched suggested it would not be easy. But the mystery of that statuette called, and what had they encountered yet that could harm them, really? They sent a message to Irfan, and swooped down to the surface of the planet Sylph to do some combat archaeology…

 


fn1: Dropped out after an hour or two due to incredibly bad technical issues

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