For the first time since the liberation of Svard, the entire Inner Council of the Hos Dynasty had assembled together in order to determine their next course of action. With the founding of the Inti colony now well under way, the discussion turned to Captain Hos’ news that the Imperial colony world of Damaris had requested their assistance fighting an Orkish invaders. Captain Hos saw this as an opportunity to spread diplomatic and political influence throughout the Expanse, Navigator Maturinus saw this as his duty to cleanse Xenos filth from the stars, Arch-Militant Caine was practically vibrating with the chance to fight Orks for – what was him – the first time, Explorator Felicis was curious as to what new Xenotech he could study and learn from, and Astropath Eckhart thought this sounded like an unnecessarily dangerous waste of time, and that their interests would be better served attending to other matters. The Astropath yielded to the heretical ethers of democracy however, and the Dynasty decided to make one Hell of a statement.
Instead of simply bringing the In Purgatio Lumen, the Dynasty would arrive with their flagship as well as the In Obscurum Veritas headed by Explorator Felicis and the newly refurbished Emperor’s Bounty, commanded now by Antonio Cassis following his successful performance in battle against The Whisperer. The tactical situation from Rogue Trader Elizabeth Orleans indicated that the Orkish attacks had yet to penetrate Damaris’s blockade, and it was hoped that the three Cruisers would be more than sufficient to hold the line against any Orks, as well as being a powerful showing of their rising power inside of the Expanse. The Lumen, piloted through the warp by Maturinus would depart for Damaris first, while the Veritas and Bounty would arrive travel as a fleet presumably arriving sometime after the Lumen. The Vagaries of the Warp and the Wise Capitulation would both return to the Inti system for its defense, and Lindsay Garret would continue to oversee the Svard defenses, which were now viewed as being operational enough to be able to function without a larger capital ship during its defense for the time being.
The journey through the warp was as smooth as could be expected from the Navigator, with no Warp encounters nor damage to the vessel, but to the crew’s surprise upon entering the Damaris system they found that their time dilation was much greater than their fleet’s, and they were in fact the last to arrive. Explorator Felicis had been heralding the vessel’s arrival for almost seven days, and he was beginning to panic that he would have to take charge of the situation himself. En route into the system, the Dynasty was contacted by Jorun Alexander – chief aide to theplanetary governor and their liaison while on system. He exuberantly greeted the arrival of the Lumen, and the significant boost that it would provide to their in-system defenses. He provided a basic tactical summary of the situation, the Orkish attacks were growing in size and attacking with less time in between but the system defenses were holding strong.
In between matches of poker and research in the Dark Eldar Library, the tactical situation of the invasion was summarized thusly: Captain Sylvia Locke of Battlefleet Koronus was in nominal command of the System defense forces, coordinating with Rogue Traders Orleans and Jeremiah Blitz as to the dispensation of their forces. The actual Damaris SDF forces were still under the authority of Commander Orran Reynolds, out of their converted defense moon named The Bulwark. These forces were running a mix of impromptu scans for nearby attacks on the system, defending the actual orbital range of Damaris and scanning the Outer Reaches for the rumoured Rok Production facility thought to be therein. The ground forces had yet to see any actual combat, but the constant attacks were beginning to wear down the defenders and the bolstering from the Dynasty was more than welcome.
Landing on Damaris, Captain Hos brought his Inner Council, his Honour Guard in their best “dress” uniforms, and the newly rejoined Barnard Kroom as his representatives, and were let at the landing port by a procession of hover limos each opulently upholstered and well-supplied with liquor. Though there were a number of interesting places that members of the Dynasty wanted to visit, Alexander recommended that they made themselves known at the War Council beforehand. The members of the council consisted of Captain Locke, and Rogue Trader Orleans, as well as Planetary Governor Kapak and General Remi Dante. Rogue Trader Blitz also had an honourary seat on the council, but preferred not to involve himself in those details. Captain Hos asked if their success in the liberation of the world of Grace had been heard of, but Jorun mentioned that Rogue Trader Aspyce Chorda had taken credit for the rescue of citizenry from that world, and their own efforts had been minimized.
Arriving at the Gubernatorial Palace, the Council was escorted into the lower levels where the War Council was apparently in the middle of a fierce argument with all parties. Governor Kapak seized upon the arrival of Captain Hos to call for a brief recess to the council, leading to Locke and Orleans to quit the chamber and Dante to enter into strategy meetings with his assistants. Escorted to the Governor’s chambers, the Captain watched in mute surprise as Kapak immediately took out an Obscura pipe, filled it from his private supply and began openly smoking it in front of them. Weary and overwhelmed, he confessed that he was wholly unsuited to leadership but that the other members of his council were also incapable of leading a unified defense. General Dante was clearly bucking to seize control of the planet, Captain Locke was viewed as an outsider due to her association with the Imperium and Rogue Trader Orleans was forbidden from directly interfering with internal matters in the Damaris system due to a clause in her Warrant of Trade. The need for their assistance was real however, as the SDF vessels on extended patrol had detected another wave of Orkish vessels inbound, estimated to arrive mid-day tomorrow. The Dynasty’s last chance to influence people prior to that would be at a ball held in the Governor’s estate later that evening. Though it was thought to be crazy to hold such a lavish event on the eve of an invasion, the Governor told the Dynasty that the people of Damaris had yet to truly grasp the seriousness of the situation they faced, and the ball was presumably their reaction to their uncertainty for their future.
Jorun returned at this point to confirm that the War Council had disbanded for the day, and with a complicated trade agreement pledging lucrative trade contracts to the Dynasty that would be equivalent to their support in the defense of the planet. Eckhart was incensed at the lack of concrete rewards, and again advocated leaving the world wholesale. Deciding to stall for time, Captain Hos left Barnard Kroom to review the documents, and went for a meeting with General Dante. The General was in the middle of meeting with his subordinates, a situation which was dealt with by Captain Hos pushing his way through the crowd and launching into a conversation. Proving recalcitrant, the General was forced to answer the Captain’s questions as to the dispensation of Damaris’ defense forces and their general state of readiness. Though working his charm amazingly well, some aspect of the Rogue Trader’s arrogance appears to have been detected by Dante, and he did not end the meeting with a favourable impression of the captain.
Some time now presented themselves for the Dynasty to explore Damaris and make a final decision as to if they would pledge to its defense. Arch-Militant Caine and Navigator Maturinus chose to visit the Shrine of Saint Drusus, a cathedral almost a kilometer tall, with an equally impressive statue of Saint Drusus on each of its four walls calling to the people. Before every invasion Bishop Arnit would reveal their sacred relic – a stasis casket rumoured to hold the preserved hand of the Saint himself – in order to bolster the population. Though hundreds of thousands of the citizenry flocked to the Cathedral prior to the battle, the pair were able to secure a private viewing area open only to the wealthier members of the planet where they witnessed the ceremony. Those in attendance seemed particularly moved by the service, and the Bishop himself was fervent in extorting the righteousness of their cause, and how the Orks would soon meet their doom.
Captain Hos used this time as a Rogue Trader should, by visiting the influential nobility and merchants of the sector to purchase influence that could later be wielded on planet. He settled on the palatial estate of the nobleman Ibram Calgar, whose family traced itself back to the founding of the colony itself. Despite convincing flattery and charm, he was unable to allow his Honour Guard inside and met with the nobleman alone. A man obviously centuries old, Calgar now only kept himself alive through constant – and expensive – rejuvenat treatments. Captain Hos opened with a long and convincing speech about the situation they all faced and the importance of a united front, but despite his advancing age the noble’s mind remained sharp and on focus, and eventually Captain Hos admitted what he was here for was to purchase Calgar’s favour at the governor’s ball that evening. Finally able to agree on a commonality of purpose, a payment was arranged and the introduction would be made that evening.
Explorator Felicis used this time to visit the local Adeptus Mechanicus shrine, flanked by the highest-quality servitors he could locate aboard the Veritas. The Shrine was located on an island offshore of the capital, but still close enough that it was responsible for maintaining the power and infrastructure of the large city. Approaching the shrine, Felicis believed himself alone until being surprised by two Skitarii guards that had managed to close on him without his notice. Presenting his credentials, he was admitted inside to a solitary room bearing only a Mechanicus access terminal. After waiting and receiving no further instructions, he eventually accessed the terminal where he was mentally contacted by Magos Hadron Shard – Explorator in charge of this facility. Attempting to ingratiate himself with the Magos and garner political support presented a stumbling block when Shard inquired as to if Felicis was aware of his work, and what sort of assistance Felicis could offer. Desperately stalling for time, he presented a plan whereby they could collaborate using the Mechanicus cruiser currently under his power, which Shard agreed to consider if Felicis would transmit schematics of the vessel to his facility. The Explorator agreed, and Shard said he would contact Felicis at the Governor’s party later that evening.
The night of the Governor’s party had arrived, and as promised all the members of the war council were there, along with several notable personnel from Damaris. Captain Locke was in a small knot of Battlefleet personnel and some Administratum functionaries, Rogue Trader Orleans was similarly clustered with men and women in a uniform similar to hers – presumably her crew, General Dante was with an older gentleman in a modified Imperial Navy uniform identified as Commander Reynolds, and Governor Kapak was milling around in the crowd mingling and chatting as appropriate. Captain Hos seized upon this opportunity to once again talk with the General, and despite affecting his usual charming and roguish air, the biting and disdainful comments were once again noticed, and Dante icily informed the Lord-Captain that he was not prepared to kowtow to the Rogue Trader through continued threats of departure. It wasn’t until towards the end of the conversation that Dante realised the focus of the captain’s charm was Commander Reynolds, who was left with an extremely favourable opinion of the Rogue Trader.
Navigator Maturinus spotted Bishop Arnit among the crowd and went up to express his appreciation for the stirring oration earlier. Outside of preaching, the Bishop seemed quieter and less confident in himself, and it was difficult for Maturinus to associate the modest, slightly hesitant man in front of him with the fiery orator from before. Approaching him with the tales of the recovered tome penned by Saint Drusus, as well as the two crusade vessels currently in the possession of Rogue Trader Hos. This proclamation seemed to shake the Bishop greatly, and he asked the Navigator to depart with him to the reliquary in his shrine. There he revealed that he had a vision from Saint Drusus himself that the reliquary was to be sent with one connected to his crusade, which he was now convinced to be the Hos Dynasty. Without another word, he presented the stasis casket to the confused Navigator.
Explorator Felicis finally witnessed the arrival of Magos Shard, who informed him that he had calculated the socially optimal time for an entrance, and would only be remaining as long as was viewed to be socially acceptable. Holding a conversation entirely in Techna-Linguam, Magos Shard admitted that the facilities of the Veritas would be ideally suited for his experiments into distributed cognition. With that clue as to the Magos’ true aims, Felicis was able to bluff his way into convincing Magos Shard to download a copy of his research to his private database for perusal and “enhancement”.
As Captain Hos debated his next diplomatic move, he and Astropath Eckhart were approached by Astropath Greya Staysis, a member of Captain Locke’s delegation. She had detected the mindlink between Captain Hos and Astropath Eckhart, and felt uncomfortable with the open use of psychic powers in the presence of so many people. The captain sensed that there was a further nervousness behind the Astropath’s words, and took the initiative by inviting her to waltz with him. Deliberately ignoring the scandal of dancing a sanctioned astropath, the Captain’s charm and poise, along with a conversation about the importance of morality over duty led Astropath Staysis to confess the cause of her discomfort. Captain Locke had received orders from the Battlefleet ordering her to depart the system, and leave the system to face the Orks alone…