++Segment 730, year 990, 41st Millenium (Sub-corroboration – Port Wander Administratum beacon, sync Lethe sync Rhanna sync Holy Terra)
++The Emperor Protects
We’ve translated into real space approximately 50 years late. Our ship, the Reach of Terra, is under the command of Lord-Captain Cornelius Vendigroth, son of Lord-Trader Vos Kolar Vendigroth. Our fleet was supposed to arrive together at Port Wander before departing through The Maw and into the Koronus Expanse in search of a world suitable for colonization, pursuant to the terms of the Warrant of Trade issued to House Vendigroth in 940.M41.
The Administratum and Imperial Navy records of Part Wander show that the rest of the fleet did indeed arrive as expected. After waiting for some time for his son, Lord-Captain Cornelius Vendigorth, it seems that the Lord-Trader elected to lead the fleet onwards into The Maw to proceed with the endeavor.
Unfortunately, it seems that Lord-Trader Vendigroth met with misfortune. Upon arriving at Port Wander, we were informed that he has not been heard from since his departure, nor has any ship returning from the Expanse reported seeing the Lord-Trader, the fleet, or the Vendigroth flagship, the Blessed Tear – with one exception.
One Orbest Dray, who served as a junior Void Master on the Blessed Tear, begged an audience with the Lord-Captain upon hearing of our arrival.
Port Wander is, if you will, a wonder. The last bastion of formal Imperial rule at the edge of the Calixis sector, it is “home” to a population of travelers, explorers, pilgrims and other vagrants. Most have either come from or are seeking passage through the Koronus Passage (inevitably, others have come to feed off the ambitions of these two groups).
The Passage (affectionately known to locals as “The Maw”) is a deadly calm between the Void Dancer’s Roil and the Screaming Vortex (two Warp Storms so violent that they often break rifts into real space), leading to the largely untamed Halo Star region known as the Koronus Expanse.
We observed Port Wander through one of the observation windows as the Reach of Terra approached for docking. A cityscape floating in the void, spires and cathedral towers arch upwards and a huge aquila marks the station for the Emperor’s own. Numerous long piers grasp outwards into the void, spider-like docking fixtures ready to bring a ship in to dock.
The station shows clear signs of ad-hoc expansion over the years. The remains of partial hulls grafted onto the superstructure are common. The scope of ongoing maintenance and expansion is clear from the number of servitors crawling over areas of damage or expansion like flies over a bloated metal beast.
Port Wander sits on the outskirts of the Rubycon II system – an angry crimson star a thousand times larger than Blessed Sol. It is a dead system of two enormous gas giants whose pale surfaces flow with great typhoons that spread and die like bruises on flesh. Between the “Ruby Brothers”, as they are known, is a wide asteroid field that may be the remains of a third sibling. My research into the system before our fleet’s departure suggests the belt is a common hideaway for those wishing to avoid Imperial notice, and a meeting place for those of ill-repute who seek a more unmarked stopping point before braving The Maw to seek their fortunes beyond.
A more sparse, secondary asteroid belt sits beyond the Ruby Brothers and it is here Port Wander sits, amongst other large rocks converted to ship yards, housing units, research stations, repair docks, and storage facilities.
We met Orbest Dray in the Court of the Dead, one of the huge marketplaces aboard Port Wander. The Court of the Dead, I learned from talking up some of the locals, was once a pilgrim’s square. Statues of Saint Drusus and figures significant to both the Calixis sector and the wider Imperium surround the square; many are touched lightly with neglect. Additionally, the combination of squatters, “street” food, long overcrowding, and overworked air purification components of the station life-sustainers have another inevitable consequence – the stench is quite unbearable. Overhead Rubycon II glowed angrily through an armored glass dome. While it’s no death-world, I would neither wish to visit nor live in this place.
Dray looked horrid. I met him once, before the departure of the fleet – he wasn’t what the ladies would call “handsome” then, and nearly five decades stranded on this rock have taken their toll. Regardless, he tells a worrisome story.
After the fleet departed, they made it through The Maw and, after a brief stop in the void colony of Footfall, they continued their journey into the Expanse. After, a violent warp-storm threw them off-course and came to rest in a strange, uncharted star system. They found a habitable planet that seemed a fine target for survey and potential colonization – a tremendous piece of luck. The Lord-Trader tasked the fleet with surveying the system in its entirety. But there was more. The senior astropath aboard the Blessed Tear then heard a faint message – a cry for salvation from a lost Imperial vessel. At first, they believed it was from another vessel in the fleet, but they quickly realized it was an old message; the astropath called it, “an echo in the warp”. It was hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years old. After much discussion, they concluded that they had found something incredible: an astropathic marker for the fabled treasure ship, the Righteous Path.
Orbest Dray related that the Lord-Trader, recognizing the potential wealth, decided to take his flagship to follow the marker. The rest of the fleet, he tasked with continuing surveying the other planets in the system and to initiate colonization of the habitable planet to meet the mandates of his dynasty’s Warrant of Trade. Additionally, he sent one vessel, captained by Dray, back to Port Wander to look out for the hopeful eventual arrival of Lord-Captain Cornelius Vendigroth. As a safety measure, he had his astropath imprint a mnemolith with a vision of the system and had it packaged in a genelocked security container. If Lord-Captain Cornelius did not return within a year’s time, Drey was to carry information on the system chosen for colonization back to the Vendigroth dynasty’s main estate.
On the next point, Orbest Dray was clearly ashamed. Shortly before docking at Port Wander, he related that his crew affected a mutiny, forcing Dray to depart upon an escape shuttle, and taking charge of the vessel for unknown purposes.
Since that time, Dray has been stranded at Port Wander, waiting for the return of the Lord-Trader or the arrival of his son.
At this point, Dray had revealed to us a gene-sealed tube which contained the mnemolith relaying the supposed location of the Righteous Path. When the Lord-Captain took hold of the tube, it immediately unsealed, and the mnemolith – a small, black rock – was revealed.
Suddenly, chaos erupted. A black form streamed out of the crowed and snatched the rock from the Lord-Captain’s hand. Apparently, it was too heavy for the bird – the rock was dropped into the milling crowd some distance away.
Suddenly, uncouth villeins with unknown goals revealed themselves. Armed with autopistols, they began firing into the air and into the crowed; few shots were directed at the Lord-Captain’s party, but as I am ever prudent, I chose to ensconce myself beneath the stand Orbest Dray had established in the Court to try and make a living while awaiting his rescue. Dray – a coward without the bravery of the Lord-Captain’s band, or my own prudence – chose to hide away under a table.
The fight, such as it was, ended quickly. Holy Brother Holt lit one of our assailants, as well as several (no doubt sinful) members of the crowd alight with his cleansing flame. Lord-Captain Vendigroth charged and dispatched another of the scum. Another was vaporized by the gentle thunder of Sergeant Thornhollow’s bolter – and two others fled. Meanwhile, Brother Mecharius and his servitor sought out the mnemolith which the raven had not been strong enough to carry far before dropping it into the crowd nearby.
In the aftermath, an Adeptus Arbites patrol, led by one Arbitrator-Sergeant Targos, came upon the scene. Appropriately deferential to the Lord-Captain, he offered his assistance in identifying our assailants back at the Arbites Precinct Complex. The Lord-Captain agreed.
At Precinct Complex we met one Precept-Marshall Kyra Valkyran. Her lackadaisical demeanor told us much. It seems public disagreements, including brawling and even firefights, are not uncommon upon Port Wander. She reviewed the feed of the event with the Lord-Captain’s companions. The skull-headed servitor of Holy Brother Mecharius helped us detect something which we would have otherwise missed. The raven which attempted thievery of the mnemolith was launched from the arm of one Lady Ash – a companion of a well-known Lord-Trader at Port Wander – Hadarak Fel.
Learning this, the Precept-Marshall informed us that there was little she could do in the matter, as intervention in a dispute between two powerful Trader dynasties was not something the local Arbites were prepared to get involved with.
In parting, Sergeant Thornhollow asked for information on Trader Fel’s location. After a brief inquiry into her vox, the Precept-Marshall noted that Fel’s ship, the Fell Hand, had already set course under plasma drives towards the edge of the system in preparation for entering the warp.
Frustrated and demoralized, we returned to the Reach of Terra in the hopes that our astropath might gain a similar revelation to what Lady Ash had presumably received through what we believed to be her familiar. We were in luck – Astropath Transcendent Grolan Vir was able to access the imprint on the mnemolith.
“I see a flickering star. I see a nebula. I see vast stretches of void. The star is circled by a dust world, and a frozen halo.”
Unfortunately, our crew’s unfamiliarity with the Expanse prevented us from making much of this. Looking for solutions, the Lord-Captain paid a visit to the local offices of the Imperial Navy and, using his considerable influence and powers of persuasion, convinced the authorities to search the office’s star charts and attempt to find a match.
The destination known, we returned to the Reach. We will pursue our new nemesis – as well as the hopeful location of the Blessed Tear, and that famed treasure vessel, the Righteous Path.
As we dined that evening aboard the Reach, Orbest Dray revealed additional troubles for us to add to our growing collection: Lord-Trader Vos Kolar had been declared lost some time ago – meaning that Lord-Captain Cornelius Vendigroth was now Lord-Trader Cornlius Vendigorth. Unfortunately, as the expedition had not fulfilled the mandate of the Vendigroth Warrant of Trade to colonize a system beyond The Maw, the Warrant was now in danger of being revoked at any time – depriving the new Lord-Trader of his advanced rank just after he had attained it…