Tempest Reach

Chapter 3: Husk

The acolytes arrived as the world of “Husk.” This was not their original destination. The Rogue Trader vessel “Dark Horizons” was headed for Sybilus, an affluent hive world with twenty-five-billion plus citizens and vast wealth and political influence. By setting up a base on Sybilus the acolytes and their master Oldavai Skane would be able to investigate heresy over the entire sub-sector.

But the Dark Horizon miss-jumped and instead found itself floating near a salt-desert world on the fringe of the Reach known as “Husk.” With three days needed to prepare for another jump Oldavai sent his most trusted team of acolytes down to the surface of the barren world to “Bring the light of the Emperor” to this desolate and forgotten place.

Desert world

The accolytes boarded a shuttle and headed to the surface along with a dozen missionaries who were going to spend the rest of their (probably short) lives on the miserable salt world preaching the word of the Emperor. As they descended a malfunction in the shuttle’s throttle controls caused the craft to accelerate to a 3G burn through a high velocity dust storm. As the accolytes prepared for the end the missionaires enthusiastically sang their praises to the Emperor and prayed for deliverance. Only by shutting off the engines and executing a few quick rolls to dislodge sand and dust from the engines was the pilot able to regain control of the craft and land at “Drop Zone City.”

In Drop Zone City the acolytes found that the planet was largely ungoverned. A single passenger with a fifty year old travel ticket tried to board the shuttle and was granted passage by the acolytes off world after he offered them what information he had about Husk. A single Sherriff presided over the town with a “citizen committee” to perform the basic types of government. Smugglers are the only remaining people to visit the world and the deal exclusively with slavers to get the best prices on salt-acids that the planet exports for industrial purposes.

The acolytes also discovered alien monoliths all over the planet and even inside human settlements. They were apparently left behind by a long dead alien civilization. The acolytes also found that there was a certain amount of acceptance of mutants as the towns mechanic “Urial” was a mutant and was not outcast as a result. The planet is also inhabited by an indigenous human tribe from an ancient colony called “mummies” by the locals.

After speaking with the townsfolk the acolytes learned that the Sherriff was missing and had been missing for several months. The acolytes then decided to break into the Sherriff’s office. Here they found that he kept meticulous notes and a log book which showed his last trip (over a year ago) took him to a place called “Far Town” where he said there was trouble with the mummies and people were disappearing. The Sherriff was obviously a loyal imperial servant though and had done his best for the people of his town as a lawman and protector.

Deciding that finding the Sherriff was a task they could accomplish in the two and a half days remaining to them on Husk the acolytes hired a hovercraft and Urial, the town mechanic, to drive them the few hours to Far Town. On the way the hovercraft was attacked and Urial was killed by the so called “Mummies” who ambushed the vehicle with a clever trap that tangled and disabled the hover-fan.

The acolytes killed the four ambushers but could learn nothing about their enemies. Only that their weapons were primitive and they were still human.

Traveling on the acolytes arrived at Far Town and met the Mayor and the Sergeant at Arms. Both told the same story that the Sherriff had passed through about a year ago but had moved on and had “probably been killed by the mummies.” The acolytes became suspicious of both and didn’t like either of them but couldn’t figure out what was going on or what might have happened to the Sherriff.

Investigating further the acolytes discovered that the Sergeant at Arms had a “Mummy” prisoner. They agreed to interrogate the prisoner for the Sergeant. They bribed the Sergeant with some alcohol to get rid of him so they could privately interrogate the prisoner.

They began with kindness and it almost cost Crasus his life. As he offered the prisoner water she moved quickly and grabbed a knife from his belt and put it to his throat. The acolytes quickly subdued the prisoner but not before Crasus lost a little blood.

The mummy told the acolytes that she and her people attacked Far Town to kill the “White Haired Devil” who was an inhabitant of the town. The White Haired Devil was “disturbing the stones” by which she meant the alien obelisks. She also venerated the “Star Father” which the acolytes took to mean the emperor. In the end they believed her but feared that if they released her it would cause a disturbance in the town. They manhandled the now drunk Sergeant back into the barracks and questioned him at gunpoint about the “White Haired Devil” and the location of the missing Sherriff.

The Sergeant claimed that the White Haired Devil was an archeologist called “Aegis” who had been living in the town for several years, but he was harmless. The Sherriff he still claimed came and left a year ago.

The acolytes went into town and found Aegis living in the nicest house the town had to offer. He was a the 6th son of a noble house of Sybilus. He claimed to be here at the far end of imperial civilization to study the alien artifacts and he claimed to have found nothing. But the acolytes caught him in several lies. He said he couldn’t wait to leave the planet but when offered a trip off he backed down. He claimed to be fascinated by the Xeno monoliths but then he claimed that after more than five years of continuous study he had learned nothing.

The acolytes agreed to spend the night but wanted to see Aegis’s notes. The acolytes hung around outside his study and talked with Aegis through his door as he was gathering his notes. Finally becoming convinced that Aegis was somehow up to no good they broke down the door only to find that Aegis had been using a high quality communication device to pretend to be in his study and he had already fled the building.

Searching his study the acolytes discovered that he Aegis knew a great deal about the Xeno Monoliths and had made some kind of enormous breakthrough in the last year and a half at “Site 3.” The aliens were ancient sea-creatures. They had destroyed Husk, turning it from an ocean world into a salt-desert in a great war they fought with one another. They had great powers and Aegis seemed to think he was on the verge of discovering alien secrets that would grant him power and possibly immortality.

Using a map of the area found in the study the acolytes pursued Aegis to Site 3.

Here they discovered a massive alien ruin filled with hundreds of pod-like sarcophagi. Inside Aegis, the Mayor, the Sergeant and another cultist were busy draining the blood of two slaves onto one of the sarcophagi. As the acolytes watched in horror the sarcophagi began to open and a dark purple-black tentacle began to snake out from inside, all while Aegis screamed with joy that “the secrets of the universe would soon be his.”

A firefight began as the acolytes attempted to purge the cult and the object of their worship, the alien that was now creeping from its ancient stasis-pod. In a desperate attempt to prevent the alien from leaving his sarcophagus Elli ran forward and tried to throw a grenade inside. But the will of the alien was too great and he just stood still with the grenade in his hand, unable to overcome the will of the Xenos. Nicademous charged forward, grabbed the grenade, pulled the pin and tossed it into the stasis-pod while pulling Eli to the ground.

There would be no escape. The alien was still trapped inside the tiny sarcophagus and despite it’s awesome psychic powers its body was shattered by the grenade.

The acolytes killed the rest of the cultists and captured to the Mayor who they took back to Far Town and executed in the street for all to see. As the acolytes returned to orbit and the Far Horizon they made their report to Oldavai who ordered an immediate lance-strike on the ancient temple and Far Town. Both were annihilated in a single flash of light.

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