Another Orkish invasion had come to Damaris, and all void scouts indicated that this would be a highly concentrated thrust to attempt to pierce their void defenses. With the In Purgatio Lumen still requiring extensive repair work at The Bulwark, the Inner Council of Lord Captain Jequin Hos decided to leave their ship docked to complete repairs, and trust the fleet to Captain Sylvia Locke and the Aegis.
The Emperor’s Bounty under the command of Antonio Cassis and the In Obscurum Veritas were dispatched to provide their support, but strangely Explorator Artifex Felicis was not aboard the Veritas, having departed to the surface to deal with the fallout from the death of Magos Hadron Shard at the hands of himself and Navigator Maturinus. With the Explorator out of communication, the only information available to the group was from the Navigator’s account of how the hand of Saint Drusus struck down the heretical Magos. The council decided not to reveal this information on the eve of battle for fear that it would cause a panic that could spell disaster during the coming battle.
With their vessel still under repairs, the Explorers decided to accept the invitation of Commander Orran Reynolds to monitor the void battle in the command centre of The Bulwark. The Commander was far more confident than at the Governor’s ball, easily coordinating the dozen or so officers bringing him reports and interpreting the data transmissions as they came in. The preliminary information appeared correct, and the massive Ork fleet was attempting to breach Damaris in a single location, but the assembled defense forces were prepared and ready to meet them. Reynolds was completely confident that this would be met by the Imperial forces, and despite the misgivings of both Astropath Eckhart and Arch-Militant Caine at openly expressing such sentiments, the battle did indeed appear to be going in the defender’s favour. After two hours the Orks had failed to make any progress, and the fleet was holding strong.
At this point in the battle, Captain Hos received an invitation from General Remi Dante to meet with him on the surface of the planet. Dante had recently managed to finish cleansing the major encampments of surviving Orks and was providing relief to the outer farmland of the planet. His intentions were to improve the relationship existing between himself and the crew, a statement that everyone found dubious but agreed to attend the meeting anyway. Their trip down to the planet took them far beyond the safety of Damaris City, and over megameters of farmland, most of which was now burnt or destroyed during the press of an Ork invasion. En route to their meeting with Dante they passed at least one convoy where a group of beleaguered refugees were treated to a rousing broadcast of Men of Hos, before the Explorers’ Aquila jetted off to the meeting.
Dante himself was overseeing operations in the North-west area of the planet, and was on the outskirts of a massive battlefield, where thousands of men and Orks lay slain – the casualties appearing to mostly be on the Orkish side. As his men gathered the Orkish corpses into bonfires and retrieved the bodies of their fallen, Dante greeted the Explorers, and invited them to travel with him to the last human settlement they had come to relieve before returning to the city in anticipation of any potential breaches in the void defenses. Traveling in the General’s personal command Chimera, the Rogue Trader was accompanied only by his Inner Council and a few members of his Honour Guard, with the remainder following in the convoy. The opening of the journey had Dante recounting the battle that had so far been unseen by most people, the frantic attempts to rescue civilians and supplies from the outskirts of Damaris who had not retreated to the city following the invasion. Dante was incensed that Governor Kapak had not ordered a mass evacuation, instead deciding to allow the farmers to make their own decision – a decision that cost those who remained their lives.
Drawn into the conversation, the Explorers recognised that the General was talking about implementing a military coup to seize control – but Arch-Militant Caine realised that the General had perhaps already implemented his plans, and was seeking the Explorers approval. The Council accused Dante of seizing control of the capital only for his own ambitions, to which he exited the convoy to bring once more into view the endless expanse of burned farmland and the thousands of civilians who were not evacuated in time. Dante’s goal was to take centralized control of the planet to coordinate defenses, and at the conclusion of which allow the people to choose between him and a return to rule under Governor Kapak. Though Captain Hos inquired about implementing free elections this was routinely mocked by everyone – his own council included. Dante hoped that the Rogue Trader would support him in this coup, which he had indeed already implemented. If they would not support him then they would be free to return to their ship, and as long as they kept defending Damaris all existing contracts would be honoured, but further support from the planet would not be forthcoming. Although the General promised they would be allowed to go free, it was not lost on the Explorers that the convoy far out-numbered them, and if it came down to violence it could take them a long time to murder everyone.
Captain Hos’s first instinct was to vox his Aquila pilot to contact Barnard Kroon and ascertain what was going on in the capital, and to come and prepare to extract them. Second, he agreed to Dante’s request to send out a broadcast to the planet acknowledging the change in leadership. Suspicious, but pleased with the outcome, Dante and his men quickly set up a number of long-range broadcasts amplified by his command gear to make a proclamation to the citizenry. With Jequin Hos in the background, General Dante reflected on the failure of Governor Dante, the support pledged by Rogue Traders Blitz and Hos, and the necessity for change in planetary leadership – a leader who would be Rogue Trader Jequin Hos.
His men understandably surprised, the captain then modestly accepted the need for a change in leadership and that he would humbly take command for at least the immediate crisis, before restoring control to the next in secession from Governor Kapak. Dante’s troops were baffled as to why their leader was not reacting to this change in plans – notably because they were unable to detect Astropath Eckhart having telepathically subverted the General’s mind for the purpose of this discussion. Archimedes Clement arrived in the Aquila, and relayed word that Kroon had confirmed Kapak had publically stepped aside, and though there were no soldiers in the capital there had not been any actual violence. Though Dante’s soldiers were ready to resort to violence, Eckhart-as-Dante convinced them to stand down, and that he was returning to the Lumen to answer for his attempted treason.
This broadcast reached the Bulwark and the waiting orbital fleet, and certainly a number of messages were waiting for the Rogue Trader when they returned. For the moment refusing all requests, Dante was escorted to the brig where he was locked in, and the mental domination released – whereupon he began violently cursing and pounding on the walls before the privacy field could be completed. Commander Reynolds continued his urgent messages to reach the party, as although he recognised that whatever had just happened on the surface was important, it could probably be dealt with after the battle – however Jeremiah Blitz and his three vessels were leaving the battle, and that had to be dealt with now. Attempts to persuade the Rogue Trader to stay were not immediately successful, so Captain Hos had to pledge a portion of his personal proceeds to compensate Blitz for staying as well as granting his ships prefered status when refuelling at Svard. Although the terms would cost the Captain – potentially dearly if Blitz’s ships were badly damaged – he agreed to the terms as this opened up the possibilities of increased revenues and trading for his colony world.
In the fullness of time, the battle was won without surrendering any ground to the Orkish menace. The Inner Council – still surprisingly without Felicis who had not finished his “important matters” – now had to explain to Rogue Traders Blitz and Orleans, Captain Locke, Commander Reynolds and an assortment of dignitaries from Damaris what their plans were now that they had been declared Governor and their General was in prison for attempted crimes against the planet. Seeking a brief reprieve, the quartet secreted themselves away to a conference room to discuss their plans. They had a lot on their agenda – what to do about the troop distributions of the planet, whether or not they would appoint Calgar Ibram as the next Governor of Damaris or try to hold onto power, how to find the origin of the Orkish invasion, what the Mechanicus might do with the death of the Magos and a host of other smaller, political matters. Unsure of where to begin, the choice was taken out of their hands when their conference room was suddenly ambushed by a group of Eldar that abruptly teleported into the room and began attacking.
Navigator Maturinus’ attunement to the Warp detected their approach, and the warning he shouted out just barely allowed Captain Hos and Arch-Militant Caine to dodge attacks by the bizarre Eldar attacks, which seemed to shred the furniture and walls with nigh-invisible lines of force. Astropath Eckhart brought his mighty telekinetic forces to bear on one of the attacking aliens, pinning it with invisible force. Two other attackers reacted to this by levelling grenades at the Astropath, giving their companion a chance to teleport away, though the force knocked them out. Though the Astropath dodged the attacks, the Captain was unfortunately caught in the blast radius and thrown to the ground, badly injured. Navigator Maturinus responded by opening the full force of his third eye at one of the attackers reducing him to ash, while Arch-Militant Caine’s integrated plasma blaster all-but-disintegrated another. The fourth Eldar was again pinned by Eckhart, but before he could be questioned, his head was neatly removed by the Arch-Militant, feeling no chance should be taken with the Xenos.
Probing the mind of the only surviving Eldar, the Astropath learned that the Eldar was part of a massive worldship of Eldar, and had been dispatched weeks ago with orders to kill everyone in this room, at this exact time. He had been unaware prior to attacking as to who would be present, and didn’t know what the importance of the mission was, only that it was necessary. There was also an indication that somewhere in system was an Eldar vessel that had ferried him here, and a small ship hidden from the Bulwark’s sensors hidden nearby to ferry him back. to his vessel. The Eldar was also deeply concerned about a strange gem on the only-intact body of the survivors, but he was regaining consciousness, so the Astropath switched to restraining him with his mind. The Captain summoned Daila Gour and some of his Honour Guard to restrain the Eldar, and keep the Bulwark personnel at bay while the Astropath compelled the Eldar to remove his armour and cease activity. Questioning proved pointless, and the Captain decided to let the Eldar go – without his weapons but with his armour – in order to carry a message back to his people that the Rogue Trader meant no harm to them. Despite this message, as the Eldar retrieved the gem from his fallen companion and redonned his armour, he informed the party that they had to die, and vanished from the room…