The journey to Lucin’s Breath was a slow one, but far more reliable than the members of the Hos Dynasty were used to. The Tau-style warp skimming kept their two vessels in reasonable tandem, and they arrived in Lucin’s Breath no worse for wear – though much, much hungrier. A vessel that would’ve taken them a few weeks in the Lumen – days with Maturinus – now took months to complete and stretched the on-board food supplies to the limit, but ultimately they did arrive at their destination successfully.
True to her word, Captain Shen had done some preliminary groundwork for them in finding information on crew, Navigators, and leaving behind a small amount of money that they could hopefully use to turn into something greater. Their resources were meager – a small cache of Dark Eldar weaponry, a pair of Tau battlesuits that people were unwilling to part with, a few stolen museum pieces of archeotech, and the location of an intact corvette that would be suitable for salvaging. Naturally, Captain Hos – now going by Captain Ironmine – would have none of it.
Once on the surface of Lucin’s Breath, the Dynasty split into tasks. Jian went around enquiring as to the events that had happened since they had been gone, confirming that their imprisonment, and warp journies to and from the Nexus of Shadows, added up to a little under two years of time. Since then, the Maw had been closed, Damaris had reasserted itself as an Imperial colony and closed its borders, several allies had not been seen since, and both Chaos and the Orks appeared to be in ascendency.
Shazzy Law patrolled the colony on his own, attempting to find examples of unusual human architecture or technology, but ended up disgusted by the shabby and ad-hoc nature of human construction and returned to the vessels to study the Dark Eldar modifications to their ships, though not before noticing that he seemed to be followed throughout the city. Hos, Eckhart and Caine collected bounties and rumours hoping to make some easy money, but found most of them were on the score of personal grudges or pirates, and without Navigators or contacts proved difficult to find information about.
Ultimately the group settled on attempting to track down information on Saint Cognatius based on the relics of his that were found from the Dark Eldar collection. The planet that they believed he had last visited was not in Imperial records, but that was hardly unusual given that the Saint’s journies in the Expanse pre-dated most serious exploration, and the systems were likely in a name known only to him and his disciples. Since his last location was unknown, the Dynasty decided to track down the relics of one of said disciples, in the hopes that could provide a clue to the Saint’s resting place. Settling on Nicodemus Keefe, said to rest in the system of Foulstone, they made ready to make a journey there, but now faced their largest task: Acquiring a Navigator.
According to Jian’s rumours, the Navigators had pooled their resources to buy a palatial fortress inside of each of the Lucin’s Breath colonies, and would only deal in strict, confidential agreements. Although initially negotiations were presented with a minimum of evidence to prevent the Navigators from simply taking the information for themselves, the Dynasty was eventually forced to present the Torch of the Saint, as well as the goal of their quest, though they kept the ultimate location a secret. This seemed to be enough to sway them, and Ironmine’s tongue was enough to convince them that one of the keys to the Saint’s arrival was stored on their absent Corvette. A bold lie, but one that the Navigators bought into and they agreed to salvage the vessel before providing them Navigators and crew for a trip to Foulstone and back.
This last point proved contentious, but for reasons echoed by Eckhart, this was to ensure that once a ship had left orbit the Navigators could not simply be taken and forced into slavery. Each would be provided a heavily armed escort, and none were to be permitted entry or to demand anything else of the Navigator. The trips to salvage the Cobra Kai were slightly offputting, especially to Law who was not used to the full Imperial warp jump, but quickly and easily done, and the Ironmine Syndicate set off for Foulstone and the legacy of Nicodemus Keefe.
They had twice been to the Foulstone system, each journey finding the system desolate and uninhabitable, but this time an in-depth scouting mission was to be done. Fortune favoured them though, as the first – and largest – planet they visited showed signs of an active void battle: An Imperial Frigate up against a small, wayfarer station. The Frigate identified itself as belong to a Captain LePonce, who was retrieving his stolen property from a band of pirates, while the station could not defend itself having had its communication systems damaged. Though there was no sign of deception from Captain LePonce, the group nonetheless decided that outnumbering it three-to-one would secure an easy victory, and potentially some allies or prisoners to interrogate about the whereabouts of Keefe.
This assumption was almost their undoing, for the Hos Dynasty was used to the power of the In Purgatio Lumen, and unused to fighting on more fragile Raiders and Frigates. The Black Adder and Black Mamba each soared ahead to try and score an early kill with their weapons, but were met by a counter volley of torpedoes and macrocannon fire. The Adder lost control of its thrusters, leaving it coasting through the void all-but-helpless, and the Mamba took a solid Macrocannon salvo knocking its lance weaponry offline. Though the raiders did manage to score some damage onto an already damaged frigate, it came down to a battle between the Kai and the LePonce ship.
The first pass by the Kai did little damage, as did the return volley from LePonce. Eckhart again employed his Psychic might to burn a good portion of the enemy vessel, but driven by fanaticism, desire for their wealth, or self-preservation, the fight persisted. LePonce unleashed another torpedo volley at the Cobra Kai, and were it not for the Emperor’s favour that might have been it, but only one torpedo hit, and but for a glancing blow, barely damaging the Corvette. The return salvo from Caine manning the lance struck true, and the enemy Frigate was destroyed.
The Adder managed to repair its thrusters, and the Mamba was restored to working order, but hundreds of Tau and Kroot aboard that vessel were lost to Law’s horror. Nonetheless, the Wayfarer station was saved, and revealed to be the Order of the Hammer, those that preserved the legacy of Nicodemus Keefe. Though most of their relics were stolen by LePonce, and subsequently lost in the destruction of his vessel, a few were salvaged and returned for which the Syndicate had their gratitude. With their station basically lost, most pilgrims were happy to join and return to Lucin’s Breath with the Syndicate for repairs, in exchange for the name of the true planet where Nicodemus Keefe was said to have failed and laid down his life – Vaporious.
With a new destination in hand, and Jian ready to avenge his prior wrongs, the only challenge now was to convince the Navigators on board how to take an impromptu detour…