The Fifth Crusade – Session 1 – Part 1 – On the Hunt

On the road to the Azlac capital of Tzimtchina, our party of advenutrers finds itself tasked with hunting down a band of deserters…

Hydriatus as the DM
Epicwargod as Tatsuya, elven druid.
Pontus Lidekill as Gregor Redsword, half-orc paladin.
Target Practice as Mimi, haemonculus ninja.
Chemical Infantry as Fequette, human rogue.
Smoothie as Veisha Valstat, half-elven necromancer.

And introducing:
ChronoZephyr as Corvo Nacht, human gunslinger.

The system is Pathfinder by Paizo Publishing.
Played via and Skype.
The setting is my own.

Team Armchair General Plays Board Game Online

Team Armchair General tries their hand at Board Game Online – one of the strangest free-to-play online games we have encountered yet…

Featuring saboteurs, lawyers, Stalin, Targaryens, summoned demons, Rick Astley, exploding sheep, time travel and the ACME corporation!

Pontus Lidekill
Target Practice
Chemical Infantry

The Fifth Crusade – Session 0 – Part 2 – Stay Awhile and Listen

Part 2 of our introductory session, in which much backstory is shared, and attrition takes it’s toll on our players…

Hydriatus as the DM
Epicwargod as Tatsuya, elven druid.
Pontus Lidekill as Gregor Redsword, half-orc paladin.
Target Practice as Mimi, haemonculus ninja.
Chemical Infantry as Fekkit, human rogue.
Smoothie as Veisha Valstat, half-elven necromancer.

The system is Pathfinder by Paizo Publishing.
The setting is my own.

The Fifth Crusade – Session 0 – Part 1 – Urban Adventure

A new series begins…

Follow the bi-monthly tabletop adventures of the motliest bunch of crusaders this side of the fantasy genre.

Our first session deals with the group getting to know each other and arriving at the Free City of Talhua, where the Fifth Crusade is gathering.

Hydriatus as the DM
Epicwargod as Tatsuya, elven druid.
Pontus Lidekill as Gregor Redsword, half-orc paladin.
Target Practice as Mimi, haemonculus ninja.
Chemical Infantry as Fequette, human rogue.
Smoothie as Veisha Valstat, half-elven necromancer.

The system is Pathfinder by Paizo Publishing.
The setting is my own.

The Cobra’s Bite

“Until the snake is dead, do not drop the stick.”
-Proverb of the Gyptus tribes, M1.

All that mattered was their survival.

The words of Chapter Master Askook had been fresh in his mind as he had boarded the drop pod with half of his squad. The other half would have been boarding theirs at the same time, on the other side of the ship. The Chapter was dying. Slowly, but surely. They were trapped, cornered, and it would only be a matter of time before they were wiped out. It would take the Imperium time, time and blood, to finally root them out from their bunkers, but it would do so in the end. They had nowhere else to go.

The majority of the fleet had been crashed into the planet to escape the crusade, leaving the Steel Cobras with but a handful of frigates. And those dared not fly for fear of being shot down by the stations the Imperium had constructed in orbit around Tukaroe VII. They were little more than animals in a cage now, awaiting their executioners. It was not an end any of them deserved.

Cheveyo felt the heavy harness drop into position, clamping around his shoulders and holding him in place. He could hear his hearts beating, their tempo slowly building as adrenaline was released into his system. There was going to be a fight soon, and his body was preparing for it. He took deep, measured breaths as the drop pod’s ramps raised up, enclosing him and four of his brothers within layers of metal and ceramic.

“Brothers,” he said over the squad vox link, their signals glowing green on his display. He paused, unsure of what to say. This was not something they had ever prepared for. This was not something they had ever believed necessary. What could he say? They were Astartes. They would achieve their objective or die trying. No other result was possible. “May the Spirits watch over you,” he said finally. A chorus of replies answered him, and he closed his eyes and waited.

Deep below them, in a part of the battle barge that had once been the auxiliary command bridge, sat steelspeaker Sicheii. It had taken over a year to prepare everything for this one moment. Months of work repositioning the battle barge to have it aiming at the sky. Endless hours trapped in submersibles, surrounded by liquid ammonia. It had been a task worthy of legend, all for this one brief moment. All to give the chapter hope. They deserved that much.

Steelspeaker Sicheii was old. Far older than some of his brothers knew. There was precious little of him even left. His limbs had all been replaced with cybernetics, along with his right eye and spine. The legacy of a lifetime of service. Far more than a lifetime, as unaugmented humans measured such things. He remembered serving the Great Eagle alongside his brothers for well over five centuries before their fall from grace. He remembered watching the inductions of many of those who would rise to become company captains in the chapter. He remembered forging the Chapter Master’s armour to honor his appointment, his predecessor’s armour lost along with his body during the war on Garran V.

He was sat in the command throne, directly wired into the Navayo’s systems. He could feel the displeasure of the machine spirit, outraged over its treatment. It was a war ship, it deserved to die in fire, and not be sunken beneath the frigid oceans, hiding like some prey animal. Sicheii soothed it, singing the hymn he had been taught by the red priests in the cant of the steel spirits. They were such lonely things, not at all like the spirits his chapter was used to. Those were wild, free and full of vitality. Those like the spirit of the Navajo…they were cold, distant. Very much like the steel they inhabited.

That is why so few of his brothers heard their call, Sicheii supposed. They were too used to the wisdom of the Fox, or the creativity of the Spider, to truly have a sense for the cold logic of the Steel. Maybe because it was so alien to them – animals had minds, wants and fears. They could be related to, at least on an instinctual level. The Steel though…few could associate themselves with a cold, mindless form. But there were spirits in the Steel nonetheless, and they deserved no less respect than their kin.

He felt the anger of the Navayo fade, replaced by anticipation as the spirit heard his song. It would get to fulfill its purpose once more. It would get to strike at the enemies of the Chapter. If he’d had a mouth left, Sicheii would have smiled. Though the spirits of Steel were much harder to understand and grasp, they did actually have something approximating to emotions. Deep within the ship, he could feel the rumble of machinery, the grinding of gears as ancient system flared to life, drawing power from the reactivated generators.

Sicheii could see the great crane arms moving, stirred into action once more. He could see them swinging down to pick up the drop pods in the loading bays, carefully lifting them and setting them into the chambers of the battle barge’s main guns. Where once there had been engines and turbines, there were now charges. The drop pods had been converted into massive shells, all for this moment. Sicheii could see through a hundred eyes, his augmented mind filtering the information and preventing it from overwhelming him.

“Spirits, guide my hand,” he intoned, his voice nearly silent. There was no one else on the bridge but his servitors, his brothers having departed long ago. He knew none of them expected him to survive. The minute the great guns of Navayo spoke, the Imperial stations would retaliate, raining fire down upon it until it was no longer a threat. A fitting end for such a proud ship. The Steel spirit sensed this, and had accepted it. No…it wanted it. It had lain dormant for too long at the bottom of the sea, slowly being eaten away by the ammonia. A quick death was always more welcome than a lingering one. They were alike in that regard.

His hands flexed as he saw the station, far above. It was like a hawk, endlessly hunting. The ship seemed to hold its breath for a moment. And then Sicheii fired the guns.

The seas of Tukaroe VII roiled and steamed. The great guns jutting above the waves boomed as they fired, the heat they generated boiling the ammonia swirling around them. The barrels glowed in the freezing atmosphere, cracking the rust that had formed from having rested beneath the ammonia seas.

Heavy shells were spat from the guns, ancient munitions stored in the battle barge’s armory. Each one still bore the Imperial Aquila, the gilded emblems flashing as they briefly caught the weak sunlight as they screeched skywards. The thunder of the first salvo had barely faded before the guns roared again. This time however, there were no shells. This time, the guns fired drop pods marked with the hooded serpent insignia of the Steel Cobras.

Station Beta-32 hung in orbit, glittering with a million lights. Another thousand blossomed into life as alarms rang throughout its halls. Cannons moved into position, though they would be of little use against the incoming barrage. There was a flash of energy, and lightning seemed to dance through space as the station’s void shields were struck. They held for fourteen seconds before overloading with a flash as bright as the sun. The lightning faded as the shield generators rapidly bled their excess energy, preparing to repower the shields. The station’s cannons had begun to fire back onto the planet, locking onto the glaring heat signature of the guns below even as they launched another salvo of shells skywards.

Soaring through the exchange, the drop pods crashed into the metal skin of the station.

He felt the impact judder up through his legs into his spine. It felt like any other drop pod landing. An alarm rang as the pod opened; its doors falling outwards like the petals of a blooming flower. Instantly the alarm fell silent, though Cheveyo knew it was still ringing. All he could hear was his own breath as he slapped the harness’ release button, freeing himself from the drop pod’s clutches and stepping out onto the surface of the space station. His breathing was joined by the heavy thud of his footsteps, the magnetic soles of his power armour keeping him anchored to the station’s skin. The rest was silence.

The planet loomed above their heads, a foul cloud already forming over the ocean where the Navayo rested. Cheveyo could see the station’s cannons firing in the distance, belching clouds of gas and flame with each shot. He hoped that SIcheii had managed to evacuate or find shelter, though he knew that practically the steelspeaker would have had little time to do either before the retaliatory shelling began. He still muttered a quick prayer to the Great Spirits to watch over the old man.

“Kagan, can you hear me?” he voxed, hoping his second would hear him. No luck. It seemed like their drop pods had landed to far apart to communicate. Or perhaps Kagan’s pod had been shot down during the exchange of fire. Maybe it had disintegrated against the station’s void shields. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Cheveyo hated not knowing, but there was little helping it. As briefed, he would have to continue on as if his squad had been the only one to make it. He turned to the four other space marines who had been in the drop pod, wrestling free of their own harnesses and grabbing their weapons. “Nawat. Start cutting,” he ordered.

Nawat was their youngest, having served for less than two centuries. He had only recently been promoted from the scout company when the crusade had struck and driven the Steel Cobras from their home world. He carried a bulky lascutter, his other weapons clamped to his hips, out of the way. Nodding to the sergeant, he stepped up and aimed just in front of his heat. A blindingly bright beam sprung to life as he triggered the device, holding it close to the metal to speed up the process. Lascutteres weren’t quick tools, but they were reliable. Besides, the thickness of the stations hull would work against them. Cheveyo wished that he had Kagan and the rest of the squad with him. They would have had two lascutters then.

They stood in a rough circle around Nawat as he worked, staring outwards at the void of space. There was little to no cover for them to take in case of attack, so their best defense was early detection and pre-emptive assault. At least the drop pod provided some support in the form of its automated bolters, endlessly rotating and hunting for targets. Time went on as Nawat continued to cut through. It would take a while due to the thickness of the outer hull, but they would at least be able to breach into the access corridors soon, which would offer greater protection than their current location.

Cheveyo hated waiting. It left him alone with his thoughts, making it more likely his mind would wander. In combat, there was no time to truly think. It was mostly instinct and trained responses coming in flashes in between bouts of considering immediate concerns. “Squad,” he voxed. His eyes darted about, trying to cover the wide stretch of grey metal before him. He couldn’t see any access hatches for defenders to sally forth from, or any automated defenses coming their way. His combat squad’s responses came in one by one.

“Lonato, ai.” Lonato had been an assault marine before being assigned to Cheveyo’s squad, roughly a century and a half ago. He had been part of the Stormfront offensive against Cardinal Richelieu’s crusade against the Steel Cobras, from which but one frigate returned with the devastated remains of Clans Huala and Topo. Though the loss of two clans was a grievous blow to the chapter, their sacrifice had stalled the Imperial forces long enough for the rest of the Chapter to escape into the warp. Lonato still carried a hatchet with the emblem of Clan Topo in place of the combat blades Clan Kabib favored.

“Maska, ai,” said Cheveyo’s designated sharpshooter. Even before becoming a marine, Maska had been a talented hunter with the eyes of a bird. He had been chosen and trained by Clan Kabib, Cheveyo’s own clan, and had excelled as a Scout. Cheveyo had personally requested Maska to join his brotherhood upon his elevation to full marine. Maska had agreed, and Cheveyo had never regretted the choice. The steelspeakers had even provided him with a custom stalker pattern bolter, a variant of the standard space marine firearm often utilized by sharpshooters, with an enhanced range and scope.

“Nawat, ai. We are nearly through sergeant,” reported the squad’s youngling.

“Igasho, ai. Squad is ai brother-sergeant,” finished the acting lieutenant. Though usually Kagan was Cheveyo’s second in command, whenever the marine was unavailable it usually fell to Igasho to act as his replacement. In time, Kagan would have been promoted to the rank of sergeant and granted his own squad, at which point Igasho would have become Cheveyo’s second. It had not been a day Cheveyo had been looking forward to. Though glad for the recognition Kagan would have received, Igasho was too reckless to make an effective second. He was too much of a glory seeker. Another few decades of service would have knocked that out of him, or so Cheveyo had hoped.

“Check weapons and prepare for breach,” Cheveyo ordered, double checking the magazine in his bolter. It was full. Of course it was full. They hadn’t engaged at all yet. He glanced behind him, where Nawat was finishing his task. The marine leaned back as he finished cutting, the rough circle of metal shooting off as the compartment below vented its atmosphere.

“No contacts brother-sergeant,” Nawat reported, stowing the lascutter away and drawing his bolt pistol. Cheveyo nodded at him and he hopped into the hole. His signal continued to glow green within Cheveyo’s visor. He hadn’t been attacked. Perhaps their landing had been successfully masked by the bombardment after all? Sicheii had mentioned how it was likely that the drop pods would be assumed to be unexploded munitions by the defenders, giving the marines on board time to breach into the station itself and get to their objectives. Only direct visual contact would reveal the drop pods for what they actually were.

“Move in. Breach and clear every compartment as necessary,” the sergeant ordered, and one by one, his combat squad followed Nawat in. They had made it. Now came the hard part.

The ship was dying. Corridors were being flooded by freezing ammonia, and the superstructure was buckling under the onslaught of fire. Normally, a battle barge would have been capable of withstanding such an attack, but without it’s shields and with its hull partially corroded, the Navayo was only barely holding together.

Sicheii would have liked to have fired further salvos at the station, but he knew that any further attack was more likely to kill the marines he had sent up than inflict any actual damage to the Imperials. He had unplugged himself from the command throne and headed for the launch bays, the point at which they had boarded the Navayo. He had left his servitors behind, since they would have only slowed him down. Still, he had made sure to plug on into the Navayo’s communications array, acting as a relay through which the steelspeaker could communicate with the rest of the chapter.

“Delivery complete,” he communicated, his servo arms tearing through any debris blocking his path. He could hear the ship groaning as explosions rocked it. He wouldn’t have minded dying here, along with the indomitable Navayo. But the Chapter Master had been very specific. They could not afford any losses. The main objective of all Steel Cobras was to survive. That was all that mattered anymore.

“Understood,” replied Shipmaster Otetian through the vox. “What is your status, steelspeaker?”

“Withdrawing from the Navayo,” replied Sicheii.

“Do you require assistance?”

“No. Just be ready to move when you get an opening.”

“Understood steelspeaker. May the Spirits watch over you,” replied Otetian before cutting the link. It was best that way. Though the Sekani could have offered some aid, Sicheii knew it was more important for it to be ready and focused on breaking through the cordon the Imperium had established around Tukaroe VII. That was why half a company of marines had been launched into space. To create an opening. And If the Sekani made it through, then it could try to find a way to completely break the Imperial siege before another chapter of Astartes cleared out the remnants of the Steel Cobras.

It wasn’t much of a hope, but it was better than nothing. He felt a tremor pass through the corridor as something gave way in another part of the ship. He could hear gushing liquid somewhere in the distance. He was running out of time. Sicheii ran through the hallways and chambers of the Navayo, his heavy footfalls lost amidst the myriad of sounds now plaguing the ship. Then he heard a screech and skid to a halt. He knew that sound. It was of metal shearing. The entire ship suddenly lurched as the sound became so loud his armor’s autosenses kicked to protect his hearing from the sound. Even so the screeching was deafening.

Sicheii’s servo arms darted out; anchoring him in position as his world suddenly shifted and began to fall.

“Clear!” called Maska.

They had made sure to seal the corridor they had breached to prevent the entire atmosphere in the station slowly being vented. It would have all too easily given them away. But what worried Cheveyo was how the corridors riddling the outer hull of the space station had been devoid of any threats. Apart from the occasional sump rat or automated maintenance servitor, there was nothing in them but the marines. The combat squad had made their way deeper, moving from corridor to abandoned room to corridor, always alert for any potential threats. So far, nothing had presented itself, and they would soon spill into the station proper.

The squad moved into the latest room along their path, scanning for anything Maska may have missed. Traditionally, the least patrolled sections of a starship or space station would be either booby-trapped or have packs of murder servitors endlessly roaming around. And not having run into either had set Cheveyo on edge.

“Brother-sergeant,” said Lonato, indicating one of the walls. Cheveyo focused on it, his helmet’s autosenses scanning and analyzing it. Nothing. He cycled through the various senses available to him before he caught it. Noise. There was noise coming from the other side of the wall. He nodded at Lonato and turned to Nawat.

The marine nodded and hefted his lascutter. The rest of them gathered just behind him, their bolters aimed at the spot he was cutting. The interior walls of the station were much thinner than the thick steel and ceramic hull, so it only took Nawat a minute to cut through, as opposed to the hour it had taken previously. As soon as he finished cutting a large circle in the wall, he stepped back, letting Maska step up, glancing at Cheveyo.

The brother-sergeant nodded, and Maska kicked the circle, sending it flying into the room beyond as he spun out of the way. Cheveyo noticed a million details beyond in a single moment. Red lights flashing. Alarms ringing. Men and women in voidsuits, carrying lasguns. The comfortingly familiar décor of an Imperial installation. And then all those details vanished as his squad opened fire. His own bolter roared in his hands, all of them emptying their magazines into the corridor beyond.

“Maska, frag!” he voxed, feeling adrenaline flood his system.

The marine nodded and unclipped a pair of grenades from his belt and primed them. “Ready.”

“Frag out!” called Cheveyo, and they all stopped firing, taking up positions as Maska pitched his grenades through the hole. It was an impressive throw, both grenades bouncing off the opposite wall and bouncing down either ends of the corridor. Both exploded simultaneously, filling the area with shrapnel. “Move in!”

Maska was the first one through, his bolter sweeping one end of the corridor as Lonato followed. “No contacts,” the former assault marine reported. “Which way do we go?”

Cheveyo closed his eyes, recalling the projected map they had been shown during their briefing aboard the Dogrib. “That way,” he said, pointing to his left. Maska nodded and set off, Lonato covering the squad as they piled into the corridor and moved on towards their objective. They moved swiftly, barely stopping.

Sometimes they would come across a group of armsmen mobilised to stop them, but the marines barely slowed, advancing on the humans with a hail of gunfire before crashing through their ranks. Lonato had moved up to act as Maska’s support, leaving Igasho to act as the group’s rear-guard. Whilst Maska would smash his way through the soldiers in his way, Lonato would engage them, his hatchet in one hand and combat blade in the other.

They repeated the process a dozen times, slaughtering their way deeper into the station. Lonato’s armour slowly became caked in gore, its noble brass hidden beneath layers of crimson. Their progress only slowed once they began penetrating the engineering levels, the thick bulkheads requiring Nawat’s lascutter to penetrate.

“Brother-sergeant,” voxed Igasho, his bolter trained on the corridor they had just run through, ready to suppress any enemies that presented themselves. “How much further?”

Cheveyo glanced away from where Nawat was finishing cutting through the latest impediment to their advance. They had yet to encounter any organised resistance, which meant that the other squads must have managed to make it to the station. Or they armsmen could have begun holding back and gathering all their strength for a single overwhelming assault. The marines had only so much ammunition left. Maska had already salvaged a shotgun from the fallen, snapping the finger guard to let him grip the trigger. “Not far. We’ll know we’re close when-” he managed to say before a crack of ionized air drowned him.

A thick beam of light had shot through the door Nawat had just breached, slicing right through him and leaving a gaping cauterized hole where his chest had been. The remaining marines scattered as more beams of light stabbed out from the breach.

Cheveyo knew what weapon could create such an effect. Lascannons.

“By order of High Cardinal Richelieu, you are to stand down and face judgement!”

The voices swam in and out of his memory, distant and faded.

“The Cardinal has forwarded some very interesting reports, Chapter Master. Is it true that the inhabitants of your home world venerate the Emperor as an…animal totem?”

He remembered the voices, remembered the rage they spurred in him.

“Purge the heretics, or face judgement yourself.”

Sicheii snarled and roared as he awoke, fists lashing out to beat against metal. He blinked, lost in time before his memory focused. He was on the Navayo. The ship was lost. He had been evacuating. Then that sound…he had no frame of reference for it, but guessed a major structural collapse had occurred.

His hearts were tagging in his chest as he shoved the memory from his mind. Even after all those years, the memory of that betrayal burned. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, running a full diagnostic on himself. Numbers flashed past his vision. He was pinned beneath some debris. One of his servo arms was non-functioning. His right leg had been speared by a shard of ceramite. He was still alive.

Sicheii groaned as he considered his options. He still had another three servo arms. His legs were cybernetic, so he was spared the sensation of pain. With a detached calm he hauled himself up until he was in a sitting position. The mechanical limbs sprouting from his back hissed as they moved. One gripped the damaged servo arm, securing it. Another spluttered as it ignited it’s plasma cutter and set to work severing the non-functioning appendage. It would just be dead weight. The third swung forwards and gripped the fallen beam lying across the steelspeaker’s legs and groaned as it tried to lift it.

It was surprisingly heavy. Nearly as heavy as Rhino APC. Sicheii could hear other groans deep in the ship, and the rising roar of liquid flooding the corridors. A small part of him felt worry at the prospect of being submerged in the freezing ammonia and slowly dying as his armour froze and broke, suffocating him inside. He forced the emotions down and focused on what he had to do. The broken servo arm was neatly sliced off and discarded, freeing the two other servo arms to begin work on lifting and cutting apart the beam that kept him pinned. It took all of a minute before he was once again on his feet and limping down the corridor.

The shard of ceramite had seriously damaged his right leg, and Sicheii was forced to rely on one of his servo arms to support him. His mind raced as he cross-referenced multiple maps of the Navayo with the data he was collecting. The ship had experienced great stresses, and was most likely falling apart in its death throes. It was getting more and more difficulty to escape. The steelspeaker racked his mind for a way out. The launch bays were too far.

That left him with just one option. He just hoped there was enough energy left in the Navayo to pull it off.

“So what are we looking at?” asked Cheveyo, hunched down in a crouch by the slagged door. Now and again a crack of ionized air reverberated in his ears as a lascannon discharged in response to the blind firing of his squad.

“Rapier. Setup at the end of the corridor in a T-section,” reported Maska, having dropped to the floor just out of the heavy weapon’s sight. He held his scope in his hands, carefully having perched it up on Nawat’s smoking body, its link to his helmet letting him see the enemy without having to expose himself.

Cheveyo nodded. “Can you see the operators?” he asked, glancing at where Igasho had taken shelter, deep in the shadows of an alcove.

“Yes, but they’re with a group of armsmen. Any I shoot will be swiftly replaced,” Maska replied. “Too far for grenades too.”

The brother-sergeant shook his head. “Very well. Snipe the operator. In the time it takes them to replace him, we should be able to close in,” he ordered. They had no choice. They were too close to backtrack now. And although charging an emplaced weapon was often a bloody affair, there was no alternative. He glanced at Maska, who had reattached his scope to his bolter, having anticipated Cheveyo’s next order. “Do it.”

The sharpshooter nodded and took careful aim. Then he gently squeezed the trigger on his bolter and a single gunshot rang out. Cheveyo was already running down the corridor. He could see Maska and Lonato just behind him on his scanner, Igasho far behind. He saw the group. There were twenty enemies. Two teams which had converged on a heavy weapon set up just in case of assault. A lascannon seemed somewhat like overkill, until he remembered what was held in the vaults of the Dogrib.

The Imperials must have been expecting a teleporter assault. It would have been the best way to deliver troops to the station, but with the void shields scrambling their sensors, such an attempt had been deemed too risky. The shields would have had to be taken down completely for any such attack to be successful. So they had settled on Sicheii’s idea of a reverse drop pod assault.

Those thoughts flashed by in the seconds it took for Cheveyo to charge through the surprised humans, lowering his shoulder and slamming it directly into the Rapier. The weapons platform skidded along the floor on its treads. The operator yelped as he was thrown off the machine. Cheveyo’s armour was screaming at him as it was showered with las bolts and shotgun pellets.

He could feel blood running down his side before clotting. He swung out with his fist, pulping an armsman’s head as he jammed his bolter into the rapier’s working and pulled the trigger. The hefty gun bucked in his hands as mass reactive shells chewed up the cabling. The fire raining down on him slackened, Lonato and Maska having joined the brawl as well. His armour was ringing, multiple minor breaches detected. Nothing had managed to get through yet, but the amount of damage it had taken was beginning to show. He could feel it in the way his movements had slowed, the way his armour no longer quite felt like a second skin.

Maska’s knife slashed in all directions. Quick and precise. Next to him, Lonato was a bloody mess, spinning, hacking, slashing and stabbing like a frenzied beast. Igasho was holding back, keeping out of the melee and gunning down any of the warriors who tried to flee. Like a vicious machine, the four marines slaughtered their enemies until they were the only ones standing.

“Tell me we’re nearly done,” growled Igasho, checking his bolter. “I’m down to one magazine,” he stated, eying the wrecked rapier. “And I’m sure they have more of those things somewhere.”

Cheveyo nodded. “True words brother, but we’re where we need to be,” he said, looking about. Mechanicum emblems surrounded them, stamped into the walls and stitched into banners. The door to their left bore the mark of Mars, and he knew they had finally reached their objective – the engineerium. “Come brothers. Prepare yourselves. Our goal is at hand.”

Lonato, now completely covered in dried blood, sliced through the door with Nawat’s lascutter before barging through the whole he had made. He didn’t bother turning the device off, taking it to the nearest piece of machinery he could find as the others followed. The chamber they found themselves in was massive. Easily the size of one of the Navayo’s holds. Esoteric machinery surrounded them, and they could hear the high pitched garbling of tech-priests and their automata.

“Slash and burn,” commanded Cheveyo, drawing his krak grenades as the other marines swept past him, deeper into the engineerium. They would each cause as much damage as possible in their own way. There was no more need to stick together. They had reached their target. Now they would shatter apart inside, each piece inflicting as much harm as possible before being excised.

He scuttled like a spider along the hallway, his servo arms leaving deep dents in the surfaces they gripped to haul him forwards. Sicheii burst into one of the most sacred rooms in the battle barge, looking about as he interfaced with the Navayo. There was still some energy coursing through its system, like the last lifeblood in a dying animal.

It would have to be enough. Frost had already formed over the surfaces in the room, and he hauled himself over to a console to begin inputting commands. His hands fluttered over the keys, data scrolling past the screen at impossible speeds. The steelspeaker blinked, coming back to reality. The data was inputted, and the power was building. He could feel the crackle of electricity in the air, coursing through the ice.

Sicheii moved to the centre of the room, onto a raised dais that could have held ten of his brothers. Ammonia was already beginning to pour in through the doorway, its foul stench detectable even through the filters in his armour. He closed his eyes and began to hum another hymn. This one was not of the red planet. Rather, it was of the home world. The planet they had left behind to face the wrath of the Imperial Crusade.

It was an old hymn, asking the Spirits for aid. To watch over and guide someone. It had been a song that had lain dormant in the deepest pits of his memory, brought out when he underwent the trials to become a steelspeaker. It had been sung to him by his mother. It was so long ago…another lifetime entirely.

His hymn was joined by the rising crescendo of power. Snaps of lightning and the running liquid completed the orchestra. The sounds continued to build until arcs of power played between the metal spheres set into the ceiling and the hissing ammonia below. Sicheii closed his eyes as his voice faded into silence.

“Spirits watch over me.”

Cheveyo was alone. His helmet had taken a stray bolt shell as he had made his way deeper into the engineerium. He knew Lonato was still fighting – he could see sparks and explosions ripping through the cabling sprouting from the generators, along with the unmistakeable flash of the lascutter.

Maska was dead. He had seen a techpriest decapitate him with a deft swing of his power axe on a catwalk far above. Igasho had just vanished. There were alarms blaring everywhere. They had gone on a complete wrecking spree, and it showed. Cheveyo couldn’t help but grin. They had achieved their objectives, he was sure of it. The entire station was in an uproar.

He had lost his helmet at some point. His mohawk was splashed with oil and blood. The brother-sergeant laughed as he pitched his last krak grenade. It arced through the air and bounced down a vent before detonating. Cheveyo was shrouded in smoke and flame as he leveled his bolter and pulled the trigger. Nothing. He cast the weapon aside and drew his combat blade. Now he would just have to try to kill as many techpriests as possible.
“Spirits guide my blade,” he whispered, leaping off the walkway onto the chaos below. Techpriests buzzed in panic and surprise as he spun and slashed, stabbed and stepped. Armsmen fired at him, but he didn’t care. The Chapter would have their hope.

Station Beta hung in orbit, glittering with a million lights. A million more were flashing across it’s surface, alarms blaring into the void. Other stations were correcting their orbits, moving in to cover the sudden gap in the net that had opened up. They wouldn’t be fast enough.

Like a thief in the night, the Sekani tore free of the planet’s gravity and shot into the void. It passed by Station Beta with barely kilometers to spare, the wake of its engines rocking the installation. Deep inside, the bodies of the fallen Steel Cobras shook along with the halls, almost as if laughing at their victory. Small patrol ships would chase the frigate all the way to the edge of the system before it would make it’s escape into the warp. They would do little more than scratch the paintwork.

Over a hundred marines of the Steel Cobras managed to make it off the planet that day – the majority of Clan Yawa. They had each sworn before the Chapter Master himself to seek out a way to aid their trapped brothers, and to return as soon as they could to shatter the blockade for good. Only twelve would live long enough to see that oath fulfilled.

A Game of Shadows – Port Vladovar (Episode 07 – Matters of Faith)

And so our story speeds along, swiftly approaching the end of it’s first story arc – The Claw! But before that, our intrepid heroes of questionable morals try to earn some favor with the religious factions in the city…


Whilst the party was busy busting grave robbers and throwing the Burnt District into a mad panic on their 6th evening in Port Vladovar, Genpi headed to the Merchant’s Docks with Larina to meet with Overseer Oleg at the Tonkov Slaughterhouse. The plan was for the Burning Lead to “inherit” whatever agreement the Cranemen had had with Tonkov, but Genpi’s attention was almost immediately split between his mission and the fact that a cargo ship had docked with the slaughterhouse.

Normally this would be unsurprising, but as far a Genpi was aware, no cargo ships had a Khadoran Navy Ironclad escort. Making sure not too appear to inquisitive, he led Larina into the slaughterhouse, the guards recognizing them both from their separate dealings with Oleg. Upon reaching Oleg’s office, the pair heard an argument occurring inside before they were permitted entry. Inside, they found Oleg in the company of a member of the Greylord’s Covenant, the Khadoran Empire’s magic assembly. They were also akin to a secret police force, and the man’s presence made Genpi seriously worried. However, he masked his unease thanks to his experiences as a member of the CRS, and got down to business.

Overseer Oleg saw no reason to deny the Burning Lead the agreement that had originally belonged to the Cranemen, especially with the leader of the Cranemen being present there as well. The agreement was simple – bring the Claw to justice so the Burnt District would become more secure, allowing the slaughterhouse to continue operations without having to worry about paranoid workers. Genpi agreed to the task set to him, and excused himself along with Larina. They headed back to The Captain’s Daughter in silence, lost in their own thoughts. There, they went to sleep, though their rest was interrupted by the ringing of Church bells and panicked cries of townsfolk later in the evening…

The next morning the group convened at the tavern to plan their activities. The urchins were out gathering scrap for the scrapyard, and the tavern had been tidied. It was still missing an upper floor, and the few folks who came wanted nothing more than to drown their sorrows and fears. Eliminating the Claw and making the streets safer would surely boost business, Genpi realized. But that would have to wait, as Olliver and Raksha suggested the group deal with the haunted house that Father Erin had mentioned to them the previous day. The Church of Morrow Ascendant was proving to be a useful ally, though Raksha wished to get her weapon blessed before engaging a potential spirit – otherwise, she would be unable to harm it, and the mere though rankled her.

Remembering the words of Father Erin, and how he was currently preoccupied with dealing with the dead bodies of the Burnt District, the group reluctantly headed to the Menite shrine in the city. The shrine turned out to be a tall tower, built in the Sul style, with a wall around it guarded by Temple Flameguard. The shrine was situated in what had once been a market square, now walled off to make it impossible to access the tower without passing through the main gate. Approaching the open gate, the party managed to pass without difficulty until it was Genpi’s turn, who found his way barred by the spears of the two guards flanking the entrance onto the shrine’s grounds. Dog was also forbidden entry, so Genpi proposed he wait outside and watch Dog, whilst the human members of the party went inside to deal with the Menites.

Larkin agreed with this idea, and the trio of humans entered the shrine grounds, which were all landscaped into a beautiful garden, with various acolytes meditating despite the chill air. Paying the surroundings no mind, Olliver, Larkin and Raksha entered the shrine itself, finding it to be a prayer space flanked by two staircases leading to the next floor of the circular tower. Moving to the altar, they passed a Paladin of the Wall, standing silently and watching them, paying careful attention to the mechanika items carried by Olliver and Larkin. The Hierophant of the shrine, a man named Amon Alhara, was polite but cool with the party, recognizing them as mercenaries and thugs. Upon explaining their purpose (hunting spirits and needing divine help), Hierophant Alhara agreed to bless Raksha’s hammer in exchange for her aid in hunting down someone alongside the shrine’s reclaimer – whose quarters were in the basement beneath the tower.

Raksha saw no issue with making such an agreement since she was a bounty hunter – tracking down people for others is what she did. And so she shook hands with the Hierophant. As soon as she did she felt a strange sensation, as if something had tugged at her soul. This immediately put her on the defensive as she demanded to know what just happened. The Hierophant, amused, informed her that she had just made a contract in the shrine of the Lawgiver. She was now mystically bound to complete her contract, which infuriated the wild woman no end, though she managed to control her temper and Hierophant Alhara proceeded to bless her hammer as they had agreed.

With that done, the party swiftly left the shrine and headed to where the Merchant’s District gave way to the Burnt District. There they swiftly located the supposedly haunted house, which used to belong to an alchemist. Now it was sealed shut by orders of the Winter Guard. Genpi laid out a swift plan of action – he would go in through a window, whilst the humans would enter through the door. This would force any entity inside to chose which group to go for. Olliver saw no issue with using Genpi as bait for a potentially murderous specter.

The door to the house.

Genpi leaped in through a window into what appeared to be a storage room filled with crates and boxes. All were packed with straw and had vials – some empty, some cracked, a few full. Meanwhile, the others entered the house through the main door and headed down a long corridor before the door leading outside snapped shut behind them and locked itself, leaving Dog outside. The group pressed onwards, and discovered that the room beyond the corridor was filled with a cloud of gas. Olliver, being an alchemist, merely shrugged, put on his mask, and walked through. Larkin, seeking to follow him but not having the benefits of a mask, and not knowing what the gas was, pressed himself up against the wall and carefully tried to move around the cloud.

Meanwhile, a disembodied voice had begun accusing Genpi of disturbing it’s work, and the gobber found himself begin attacked by thrown glass vials. He wisely chose to jump inside a crate for protection, pistols drawn as he sought out a target. Olliver meanwhile stepped back out of the cloud to communicate to the party that they were clearly in an alchemical lab, and that they needed to loot this place once they were done.All of a sudden, Larkin leveled his pistol and shot Raksha, alarming Olliver enough to aim his weapon at her too, demanding what was going on. Larkin, stammering, explained he had no idea what was going on, making Olliver glare at him accusingly. At that point, Raksha exclaimed in shock as she was compelled to smash her hammer into Olliver’s head, staggering the man.

Realizing the ghost was possessing them, Raksha set to trying to tear down the door leading outside, whilst Larkin had Dog help from the other side. Meanwhile, Olliver pushed on deeper into the building, making it to a small room with a crucible, where the ghost materialized, accusing him of trying to steal his formulas. Olliver was not in the mood to trade words with a dead man, and shot the ghost, to no effect. By this point, the door leading outside had been torn off it’s hinges by Dog, and the gas cloud began to be sucked outside. Raksha headed out and jumped in through the window Genpi used to enter the building, whilst Larkin dashed around the diminishing gas cloud, clambering onto an alchemical workbench in the process to get a good line of sight to the ghost. This resulted in him running across some acidic vials and taking damage whilst taking aim.

Realizing that the group was in trouble, Genpi scuttled into the main room and hid under a table, keeping himself out of the ghost’s sights. Raksha set to smashing the various crates in the storage room to prevent the ghost having things to throw at them. Of course, taking a hammer to volatile chemicals ended badly, and one of the crates exploded in her face. Hearing the explosion, the ghost phased into the storage room, and influenced her to drop her blessed hammer and draw her crossbow. Olliver chased after it, and ran to Raksha, dropping his slug gun in the process and tearing the crossbow from the bounty hunter’s hands and hurling it to one side, disarming her before she could attack the party again.

Regaining her senses, the wild woman picked up her hammer and prepared to attack the ghost, which phased behind her and continued to hurl abuse and chemicals at her and Olliver. Fed up with the spiritual shenanigans by this point, Genpi popped out from beneath the table with Final Word, and gunned the ghost down, ending the fight. Battered and weary, the party set to looting the alchemical lab under Olliver’s guidance. They realize that someone had been in the house before them and taken some books and vials, but they are too weary to do anything about it, and merely chalked it up to regular looters before making their way back to the Church of Morrow Ascendant.

Father Erin welcomed them back, glad to see them still alive, even if badly beaten. He listened to their story whilst preparing to heal Raksha, and was not happy to learn that the woman had made an agreement with the Hierophant in the shrine. Her word was now bound by divine law to be fulfilled. Still, he made sure to reward the group as much as he was able. In addition to being magically healed, Raksha was offered Voychek’s aid in studying medicine, whilst Genpi received a cash reward and access to the Church’s library. Olliver and Larkin also requested permission to access the library, so as to better study the arcane arts. And so they began to learn how to read magical runes.

As evening came, the group thanked Father Erin for his aid and set off for home, eager to get some rest before heading to the Orphanage of Ascendant Gordenn the following day…


Join us next time for the thrilling two-part finale to Act 1 of Port Vladovar: Game of Shadows – The Claw that Rocked the Cradle.

A Game of Shadows – Port Vladovar (Episode 06 – Thieves in the Night)

Welcome back to our steampunk tale of foreigners battling the Russian mafia and Jack the Ripper! With their territory secured from their nearest rivals, the players set to building up more goodwill with the locals. The Church of Morrow Ascendant was particularly high on their list of desired allies.


It was the evening of the group’s sixth day in Port Vladovar. Genpi and Larina headed to the slaughterhouse to alert Oleg and Tonkov of the shift in power, to strike up a deal between the Kayazy and the Burning Lead to replace the deal Tonkov had with the Cranemen. In the meantime, Raksha studied the dossier she had received from Overseer Oleg regarding the Claw whilst Olliver and Larkin relaxed in The Captain’s Daughter. Whilst there they learned that Father Erin had sent a message to them requesting their aid in some matters. The dynamic duo immediately set out to see the priest, stopping by their hideout to fetch Raksha before heading onto the Church of Morrow Ascendant.

On the way, Raksha filled the other two gang members in on what she had learned from reading the Claw’s dossier. Being an obviously trained medical professional, it stood to reason that clues regarding his identity could be found in the place he earned his training. Tonkov’s agents had already checked the hospitals in Port Vladovar for missing practitioners, but all have been accounted for. Which meant the man known as the Claw was either a foreigner, or he had something to do with the one place not even Tonkov’s agents dared enter – a burned down insane asylum. Fearing the building to be haunted, Raksha suggested having Father Erin aid them in investigating the building, a suggestion Olliver and Larkin agreed with, whilst Dog just followed them as always.

They arrived at the Church as the sun was setting, the building now somewhat renovated with scaffolding and a large tarp over the damaged roof. Entering the building, they found the interior cleaned up of broken pews and bodies. Heading straight to the office, the characters met with Father Erin again, the elderly priest glad to see them again. He quickly informed them of two matters that had been brought to his attention – his congregation had informed him of some graves being disturbed in a par of local cemeteries flanking the church to the north and the south, whilst the local Winter Guard Watchpost had asked for his aid in clearing out a potentially haunted house. Not exactly eager to deal with ghosts with night approaching, the group agreed to deal with the grave-robbers first. Olliver and Larkin set about planning the operation as Raksha spoke to the priest about the Claw and their leads, asking for his assistance dealing with the insane asylum.

Father Erin expressed surprise, not having known of an asylum in the Port at all. He looked for his maps whilst Raksha was sent back to The Captain’s Daughter to round up the urchins to act as lookouts at both graveyards as per Olliver’s instructions. One group was sent to the north cemetery whilst another was sent to the south one, both groups having a unit of alchemical waste and a phial of vitriolic fire to use as signals for the party who would stay in the Church in between both cemeteries. Each had a tiny amount of alchemical waste that would be added to a fire burning in the fireplace of the an abandoned house opposite the graveyard, making its smoke turn a certain color (green for the north, blue for the south).

This signal would be sent each hour, unless grave-robbers were sighted, at which point the vitriolic fire would be thrown in, making red smoke. Olliver and Larkin settled in to wait, whilst Raksha conferred with the priest about the asylum’s location. It turned out that the priest knew the building as the Orphanage of Ascendant Gordenn, though the copies of the map of Port Vladovar the Church had were a hundred years out of date. But the Morrowan Church had not been informed of one of their orphanages being turned into an insane asylum. Filing this away as a mystery for another time, Raksha asked for the priest’s aid in cleansing the asylum of any supernatural activity. Father Erin sadly pointed out he was too busy dealing with the rebuilding of the church and caring for the local community, making sure the dead had their rites to stop them rising again.

Reluctantly, he informed the group of a Menite Shrine in the city they could turn to for help. Satisfied, Raksha climbed up the ruined bell tower (slipping once and nearly falling to her death), before settling in on the roof, making sure the signals were sent each hour. Five hours into the night, just after midnight, the northern signal turned red, prompting Raksha to abseil down the interior of the bell tower on the bell rope, ringing the church bells as she shouted “NORTH!” to her compatriots. As the party ran out of the building, they noticed that the entire neighborhood was in an uproar, panicking over the ringing bells. Some people were shouting about the Cryx having returned, with clearly magical fires being spotted in the district as they ran for the sanctuary of the church.

It took the party about fifteen minutes at full sprint through the darkened streets of Port Vladovar to reach the small graveyard, and the came across a band of thugs trying to pry open a mausoleum whilst a female trollkin stood guard. Raksha wasted no time, yelling out a war cry as she charged in and felled a thug, binding him as he went down. The trollkin immediately shot at her with her scattergun, wounding two thugs who had strayed too close to the bounty hunter. Olliver took cover by the mausoleum and threw a stun grenade, which the trollkin managed to resist. Dog lumbered into the graveyard whilst Larkin took cover behind a statue of an Ascendant, and shot one of the thugs. The remaining lackeys took cover and shot back at the heroes, to little effect.

Raksha charged the trollkin, who immediately struck back with the butt of her gun, missing the wild woman as she smashed her summer into the trollkin”s shoulder. With an angry cry, it drew a heavy pry bar and smashed it into Raksha’s ribs, sending the bounty hunter crashing to the ground spitting blood. Olliver meanwhile shot the two thugs taking cover on the other side of the mausoleum, grievously wounding both before Larkin finished them off. The gunmage then shot the trollkin in the head, the bullet embedding itself deep in her helmet, giving the grave-robber a concussion. Dog ran in to menace the remaining thugs, who attempted to flee. only one made it. Larkin provided Olliver with a stabilizing brew he used on Raksha to stop her spitting up her own blood.

Larkin had Dog pick up the trollkin and follow Olliver, whilst he and Raksha headed back to the church with the dead bodies and the captured thug to report to Father Erin. Back at the church, the two found the place packed with panicking citizens, whispering of a new Cryx attack, the walking dead and so forth. Bullying her way to the front where Father Erin was leading the worried people in prayer, she declared there was no threat now that the grave-robbers had been dealt with, and that everyone could go home. Her faintly threatening voice promising nothing but violence convinced the people to start heading out.

Larkin stood guard by the bodies with Dog whilst Raksha asked for Father Erin’s aid in healing her injuries. He offered her the services of the apothecary who had taken up residence in the morgue, aiding the priest in dealing with all the dead bodies that needed to be prepared for burial. Unwilling to trust the apothecary, she asked the priest to heal her with magic, and in gratitude for stopping the theft of bodies, he did so. Though it was tiring and hurt, Raksha suffered no lasting ill effects from the magic. During all this, a patrol of Winter Guard with the district Kapitan arrived, demanding to know what the disturbance was. Larkin nervously explained what had happened, and the Kapitan, a man by the name of Boris Tvardovski, let him off with a warning, taking possession of the prisoner in exchange.

Having read the dossier on the Claw, and how it was clear he was a medical professional, Raksha asked for the priest’s permission to speak to the apothecary. He granted it as the Kapitan entered the office, demanding to talk to the priest. Raksha headed for the morgue as a shouting match between the Winter Guard and Father Erin began. Larkin headed off to meet back up with Olliver at the Winter Guard Watchpost, now empty since the whole patrol group had gone to the church. It turned out that Olliver had taken the trollkin prisoner back to his personal laboratory, strapped her to a table and attached a drip feeding her knockout drugs to keep her too dazed to try to escape. The other character’s remained oblivious to this.

Descending into the morgue, Raksha came face to face with the apothecary, a man named Voychek, who was fond of always wearing his beaked plague mask. Suffering from stimulant overdose and sleep deprivation, the man was somewhat…off as she spoke to him regarding his tools and duties. His manner completely threw the bounty hunter into confusion, though she managed to wrangle some information from him as he continued his work, cleaning and preparing bodies for burial. It turned out he had not been sleeping due to dealing with the sheer volume of bodies for burial, and new ones were still coming in, including what Raksha realized was the latest Claw victim from the night before, this one missing his entire head.

The morgue in the Church of Morrow Ascendant

Voychek mentioned that the Winter Guard figured a Gator had bitten it off, not noticing the sharp slash below where the ragged stump of the neck was – possibly a mark of one of the Claw’s blades, since the killer’s MO was to slash the throat. Raksha disagreed with the Gator theory, to which the apothecary expressed an interest in dissecting one of the beasts. That of course caught the bounty hunter’s attention and she asked how much he would pay for a body – and learned she could earn 25gc, a better deal than the 15gc the Winter Guard was paying for each gator killed. Voychek also wanted a head for the headless body, a mission Raksha also agreed to in order to keep the apothecary cooperative. He promised to inform the group of any new Claw victims if they came into his morgue. Satisfied, Raksha set off back to the lair as the barest hints of dawn began to form in the sky.


And here the subplots continue to develop towards a resolution. Who is the Claw? Why is he murdering people? What did the graverobber want? Will the Menite Church aid our heroes?

A Game of Shadows – Port Vladovar (Episode 05 – The End of the Cranemen)

Here’s episode 05 to make up for the long delay!


Two days passed since the clash with the sewer gators, during which Olliver and Larkin made good on sorting through their loot, upgrading Dog and brewing more potions. Genpi had returned from his business and was resting when Raksha came out of the sewers, angered by the presence of Winter Guard patrols in what she claimed were her sewers. Olliver was quick to point out that Empress Ayn Vanar would probably dispute that before Genpi asked for clarification of what had happened. At this point, Olliver and Larkin informed the rest of the group of what had transpired whilst they were busy.

Genpi had heard of Rurik Tonkov before – a relatively lowly Kayazy who had recently risen to prominence thanks to his whaling operations. He owned a slaughterhouse in the Merchant’s Docks, and controlled a small whaling fleet of no mean skill – many of the sailors also worked for the Khadoran navy. In addition to this, his income was steadily booming in a way that suggested other schemes in the works. Raksha also knew him as a man who was advertising a bounty for the Claw, worth 250 gold. Genpi considered hunting down the Claw to earn favor with Tonkov, which Olliver was firmly against, reasoning it could be a waste of time and resources. After a brief quarrel during which Larkin and Genpi let slip they had done a mission of their own (but without revealing they were behind the assassination of the Greylord), it was decided that Raksha would enter the slaughterhouse of Tonkov under the pretense of learning more about the bounty, whilst the party would wait outside in an alley, just in case she required aid.

The Tonkov Slaughterhouse

Two Winter Guard were posted at the entrance onto the slaughterhouse grounds, and they let Raksha in after a quick look over and her declaration she was there to be employed by Tonkov. Crossing the forecourt, she noticed there were no Winter Guard on the grounds, and order seemed to be kept by local thugs. Stopping a worker on his break, she learned that to gain access to the slaughterhouse she would need a punch-card issued from the security office, which proved barely troublesome. Upon entering the slaughterhouse proper, Raksha noticed that everyone was armed in some manner, mostly with flensing blades. She also noted the small amount of light and heavy labor-jacks as she made her way to the Overseer’s office.

The Overseer, a man named Oleg Mishin, identified himself as Tonkov’s favored lieutenant, and his proxy in all dealings. He provided Raksha with a file on the Claw, and wished her luck, his clerk making a note of the meeting. Raksha left peacefully and reported on the defenses of the slaughterhouse to the group, and they started planning. Ideas were voiced ranging from working for Tonkov to killing the Overseer via lead to send a message that the Burning Lead were not to be taken lightly. Ultimately, the gang elected to hunt down the remains of the Cranemen and learn what they could of Tonkov from them.

Returning to the Cranemen’s territory, the party set a fire at one of the cranes to bring the remnants of the gang to them, hiding around the pier behind barrels and crates (Genpi hiding WITHIN a crate for variety), and Raksha hiding on the rooftops of the buildings facing the pier to hopefully catch their prey in a pincer attack. Large crowds came to investigate the blaze, and Larkin managed to recognize the leader of the Cranemen, the woman who had led the attack at the tavern. He signaled to Olliver, who peeked over his cover to confirm. The woman, Larina, noticed him and opened fire. Olliver countered by throwing knockout bombs at her and her compatriot, but they managed to withstand the effects. Genpi popped out of his crate and shot Larina’s primary arm as Larkin one-shotted the mage who had come along with her.

And then Raksha swung into action, charging down the roof and swinging upon a rope she had used to climb up there in the first place, smashing her warhammer into the gang leader and immediately making her spit blood before binding her. Whilst Genpi looted the mage, the rest of the group fled with their captive as the Winter Guard approached. Managing to sneak away whilst the patrol dealt with the blaze, Genpi encountered a disturbing sight on his way back – a man tearing out the soul of an ogrun restrained by his two lackeys. He noticed the gobber looking at him in horror, smirked, and wandered off, leaving behind the dead ogrun laborer for Genpi to inspect. Meanwhile, back at the hideout, the rest of the group began interrogating Larina in earnest, settling on ripping off her toes with pliers to make her talk.

The first thing they learned was that upon losing Final Word (the mechanika handcannon that had been planted on the party in the first session), a thamarite sorcerer had come to the Cranemen and wiped the rest of them out. Accusations of theft were answered by increasing brutality from the party. Larina also revealed all of her dealings with Tonkov had also been done via the Overseer of the slaughterhouse. The Burning Lead offered the last Craneman a choice – join them or die, using the example of the ogrun already in their employ to prove they could be merciful. Having lost two of her toes already, she agreed in resignation, and Larkin cauterized her wounds with the molten lead they had prepared just in case.

As another night approached, the party was left with a particularly larger territory than before, and a new lackey for their gang. All that was left now was to find a way to meet Tonkov himself…

Current territory of the Burning Lead


And so the Burning Lead grows more influential. Though moving up the hierarchy of the underworld comes with it’s own dangers…especially when Kayazy are involved.

A Game of Shadows – Port Vladovar (Episode 04 – Urban Adventures)

My apologies for the delay. New job, new place…anyways, here is episode 4 of the tale of the Enfield Eviscerator’s adventure in the Iron Kingdoms. Following the shenanigans of the volunteer-run session last time, I decided the party could do with a filler episode, which would also foreshadow various side-quest plot lines. Sadly, Raksha and Genpi were unavailable for this session too.


With Raksha still missing in the sewers and Genpi working on keeping information pertaining to his assassination attempt suppressed, Larkin and Olliver awoke early and set out to the Captain’s Daughter for some breakfast. Along the way, they came across a crowd of people clustered around the entrance to an alley. With such gatherings being rare this early in the morning, both men chose to investigate. They discovered the body of a young boy, one of the urchins who had been with them at the Church.

The top of skull had been removed, and his body had been slashed. A pair of Winter Guard kept the crowd at bay as an apothecary investigated the body before declaring it as another victim of the Claw. Olliver saw this as a potential threat, and wished to conduct his own forensic study. Using the Morrowan pendant he had relieved earlier in the week, he convinced the Winter Guard that he was with the local church, and for them to let him take the body there for it’s final rites. One of the Winter Guard was tasked with escorting him. Meanwhile Larkin asked one of the urchins in the crowd if they knew the dead boy. The little girl revealed the boy was named Petar and had a history of hearing voices no one else could.

The scene of the crime

Olliver wandered the streets towards the direction of the Church, Winter Guard in tow, and he pretended to stop in one of the alleys out of breath. Larkin had shadowed the pair as security when they left the crime scene. Olliver swiftly drew and dropped one of his knockout bombs, but to avoid suspicion he had not donned his gas-mask. As the Winter Guard coughed violently but stayed on his feet, Olliver lost consciousness. With a sigh of exasperation, Larkin put a rune bullet in the Guard’s head. After waiting for the smoke to disperse he smacked Olliver awake, looted the Guard, and the duo fled back to their hideout with the body.

Back in the hideout, Larking and Olliver investigated the body, and Olliver was the one who managed to learn much from it. The top of the skull had been removed with a bone-saw, and part of the frontal lobe of the brain removed. That part of the brain was commonly associated with madness by medical professionals. The slashes to the body were too clean and regular to be claws, leading Olliver to assume that a weapon that resembled a claw was used. With this information, the pair began theorizing why the Claw would remove the part of the brain responsible for madness. Whilst Larkin assumed it could have something to do with the Spark (trying to ignite it via eating the part of the brain potentially responsible for triggering it), Olliver suspected some bloodthirsty religious reason behind the removal of the frontal lobe – possible to induce insanity to communicate with a god.

Wishing more information, they went back to their tavern, and sent out their urchin gang (now understandably nervous) to find out what they could whilst the party interrogated the tavern keeper. From him they learned that the Claw – as the killer had been supposedly active in Port Vladovar for some time now, and earned himself quite a reputation – targeted the homeless and insane, and that fifteen deaths had occurred so far in the past year, starting just after the Cryxian assault. Whilst some assumed the Claw to be some kind of Cryxian monster, there has been no evidence to support this theory. With no way to predict the Claw’s movements, and no way to know if he would trouble their district further, Olliver declared it a problem for another time.

It was at this point that a thud was heard at the door. After investigating, Larkin discovered a letter addressed to the Burning Lead, telling them to take responsibility for their actions, signed by a Kayazy named Rurik Tonkov. This raised a fair few questions from the pair, but the party once more decided it was a problem to be dealt with later, once Genpi returned from his business. Heading off back to their lair (now the size of two basements, one of which was taken over by Olliver for his laboratory), the duo discovered the body of the urchin missing, the trail of blood leading to a large sewer grate that acted as the hideout’s escape route.

Intrigued, they set out into the sewers in pursuit of their quarry, eventually stumbling upon a pack of albino gatormen. Following a brief and vicious battle, they dragged the corpses of the gatormen and dumped them outside a Winter Guard outpost near the docks to alert them of the danger. And with that, the duo returned to their hideout, barricaded the sewer entrance, and went to sleep as dawn came, and the gatormen were discovered. Suitably alarmed, the Winter Guard were now made to patrol the sewers as well…


Another quick session, run mostly using the Urban Adventures supplement. Nothing groundbreaking, but it did give me a good starting point of what later turned out to be the main quest!

A Game of Shadows – Port Vladovar (Episode 03 – A Shot in the Dark)

Welcome back, dear reader, to the third installment in my chronicle detailing the bloody path of infamy the Enfield Eviscerator’s are carving through the Iron Kingdoms! This time, I was unable to attend due to stuff, so Olliver’s player stepped forward to run a quick adventure for Genpi and Larkin, fleshing out the CIS spy side of our story…


With the rebuilding of Port Vladovar on schedule, it finds itself hosting many notable figures – Kayazy, Military Officers, and members of the Greylords Covenant. Each one of these is a tempting target for an Operative of the CRS, and so the next morning, whilst enjoying a warm breakfast in the Captain’s Daughter, Alexander received a coded message from his CRS contact. A scarred old man entered the tavern, and after greeting a few of the regulars (mostly the staff as well as the urchins), and hanging his coat by the door, he hobbled to the bar and ordered a glass of Caspian Red. The bartender responded that their shipment still hadn’t arrived, and offered him an alternative that he grudgingly accepted before leaving.

That was the signal that the dead drop had been made, and Genpi had orders (hidden in the man’s coat which he left behind). The message read as follows:

“odedcay esmayagesay ebayinsgay opstay anay impayortantay adkhayoranay ilimayarytay igurefay isay enayertayingay advlayovayaray opstay artayetgay ashay eenbay ospayitayivayelyay idayenayiftayieday asay eygrayordlay ovkayiknay agmayievzay mitdayiiray ihmayaylovay opstay mitdayiiray illway ebay inspayectayingay ethay ogprayessray inay arvauiousay ilimayarytay’s and infayastrayuctrayureray ojprayectsay oughthrayoutay ethay itycay opstay ommcayanday ashay issayueday ayay iprayorityay ivefay exeayutioncay ordayeray opstay eprayortay otay ierpay eightayeenay ofay ethay Eastayernay ockday atay idmayayday omtayorayowray orfay urfayerthay insayuctraytionay opstay odedcay esmayagesay endsay”

Note this is note the “true” cypher the CRS uses but how we do it to let Genpi’s player puzzle it out (this was agreed beforehand when Olliver’s player conferred with me to make sure the mission fit in the campaign I am running). For those of you not wishing to waste time translating the above, the mission was to assassinate a member of the Greylord Covenant – Kovnik Magziev Dmitiri Mihaylov. He was running a tour of inspection of not only the new military docks, but also the Naval Academy being founded in Port Vladovar. Three approaches to the mission were highlighted to the party – sniping him from a ruined lighthouse whilst he inspected the docks, arranging an “accident” at the Academy construction site, or just ambushing him on the streets.

With Rahksha still off hunting some bounty or other, and Olliver having already left to work at the scrapyard, Larkin convinces Genpi to let him take the lighthouse approach, and the spy agreed partially due to the CRS providing a rifle for the shot, hidden in the location for them to make use of. The due make it to the lighthouse, and find a group of workers (a mix of humans and gobbers) working on repairing it. When the foreman demanded to know why they were there, the pair lied and said they were delivering scrap from Jozef’s Scrapyard to aid in repairs. The foreman believed them and told them to dump it outside the lighthouse and be on their way. Realizing they had failed to gain access, Larkin’s brash nature took over, his Sinclaire blood calling to him as he drew his pistols and opened fire.

The Lighthouse

After a brief fight in which Alexander took a sledgehammer to the chest and had to be stabilized by Larkin, the gunmage ascended to the top of the lighthouse, found the rifle and setup the shot. Not knowing the nature of the weapon he cast a rune shot, shorting out the runeplate in the mechanika rifle (which had accurate, blessed and SILENCED). Unsurprisingly, the shot is extremely loud, and though the Greylord goes down, his retinue pretty much immediately know where the shot came from. As Larkin hesitated, pondering taking more shots to thin the ranks of the officers gathered, the whistling of shells convinced him to make a run for it. He took the time to take the scope and runeplate from the rifle before leaving though.

As he made it out of the lighthouse to Genpi, a shell struck the top, annihilating the upper section of the building. The duo head for the city before running into a group of winter guard, who demand ID and their purpose there (a city patrol which heard the shelling). Larkin uses the same lie as before, of delivering scrap metal, and offers his work card as proof (with the day’s work being punched through by his coat button in a quick display of sleight of hand). The officer leading the patrol was satisfied and let them go before moving on to investigate the lighthouse, leaving Larkin and Alexander to vanish back into the city.

But killing a Greylord has consequences, as they would soon find out…


Not much to say about this session except for Genpi’s and Larkin’s bumbling! From all accounts it was a successful and fun session, and I will make sure to tie things back into it in the future. After all, Greylords tend to work in threes…