In its time, the Hos Dynasty had accomplished great things: It had liberated entire systems from Xenos and the Forces of Chaos, it had made alliances and it had colonized new systems to serve its purposes and, in time, the Imperium at large. Their deeds were becoming the things of legend, but as with all things in the Galaxy that they lived each victory came at the cost of a terrible price of blood. The simple truth was coming out: The Dynasty could not continue to lose tens of thousands of people in battles at this rate, not without changing Captain Hos’s plan towards press-ganging as Svard and Damaris had both been taxed to the limit, Inti was being used as a research centre and already accounted for most of the volunteers from Footfall, and Bannack had just been put to the lance of the Lumen in order to combat a daemonic threat.
Delving into the ancient records of Silence, the Captain discovered mention of several feral worlds that, to his knowledge, had not been claimed by other Rogue Traders – at least not publically. Deciding to follow these leads, he set course for a star system known in his records as “Hemelshot”, in order to investigate the rumours of a potential lost colony of humanity occupying that world. The route to this system was already mostly charted, as it was relatively close to the Labrek system. Setting course, Maturinus’s flawless journey through their charted expanse brought them back to the system of the cooperative Xenos so recently visited by the Dynasty, and one whose fate at the hands of the Dark Eldar was still unknown.
Though most of his senior crew were against the idea, the Captain insisted on once more making tentative approaches into the syst3m, and seeing if there were any survivors, or at least things that he could salvage. Opening the vox in search of survivors, the first few days were greeted with silence, and when they reached the outpost where they were previously welcomed they found only a ruined hulk for them to moor at. As they considered turning around, a pair of Labrek transport vessels desperately hailed them calling for aide, while a Dark Eldar Cruiser appeared on long-range scans closing the distance.
The Captain attempted to parlay with the capricious Xenos, despite the urging of Caine and Eckhart to flee the system immediately. Their intuition was regrettably correct, as not only were the Eldar unwilling to negotiate with the Dynasty, the two Labrek vessels dropped whatever Xenos-based illusion they were using to reveal that they were a pair of Dark Eldar Raiders rapidly closing on the Lumen’s position. Calling for a full battle alarm, standard battle procedures were adopted, but the pincer maneuver coupled with the superior firepower of the Dark Eldar quickly devastated the Lumen, and left their ship on the verge of hulking. With no alternative possible, Navigator Maturinus frantically threw the ship into the Warp in a desperate effort to escape their imminent destruction, and the Labrek system was hastily abandoned.
The warp journey was violent and dangerous of its own, and the need for replacement crew was never made more dire as over two-thirds of the ship had been heavily damaged in the attack, and coupled with residual fire damage almost half the crew lay dead. Emerging from the warp in a dead sysetm, the Navigator re-calculated his position and got the Lumen back on course for Hemelshot, the need for replacement crew now more dire than ever. Fortunately his peerless skill was up to the task, and despite the difficulties faced by the ship, they did indeed arrive in orbit safely.
The system of Hemelshot was indeed what the notes they had retrieved had indicated: A verdant world, that seemed to be able to sustain a large human population that had massed on a single, large continent. From orbit, there was one major city that was long since devastated by war, and preliminary flyovers found a large number of coastal settlements, as well as no sign of any great technology opposing them. Landing with a heavily armed party, the Dynasty were surprised to found that although primitive, the Natives themselves appeared to adhere to the Imperial Creed, bowed to the Emperor and knew of at least the rudimentary basics of the Imperial Truth. The source of their knowledge was shown to be some ancient tomes that appeared to be millennia old, and taught a more secular version of the Imperium than what had previously been shown.
These artifacts appeared to have come from deep inside of the ruined city, which the villagers told a myth of how it had been destroyed long ago by demons from above, and that the demons still dwelled there, killing any who dared approach. Though the village they visited, and several villages after that, seemed more than willing to become servants of the Hos Dynasty, the majority of the population still lurked around the cities, and believed that the ruin itself could be retaken by the demons. Unwilling to let any easily killable demons keep them from money, the captain left Atticus in charge of converting visiting each coastal tribe to convert them to their cause, while they would make contact with the jungle tribes, and then retake the city to win them over.
The first half of their plan went swimmingly, and it wasn’t long before a well-armed Imperial party began depositing guncutter-carried troops into key areas of the city to secure its locations. The city itself was of an archaic, but recognisably Imperial design, though long since dilapidated by time. Rather disturbingly though, as they approached what was most likely a run-down Governmental palace, Eckhart detected a strong psychic signature sweeping over the group, and then zeroing in on Captain Hos and swiftly reading the Rogue Trader’s mind. The Astropath lacked any way to break the connection, and after a few tense minutes the mind withdrew, leaving no trace of its presence, nor when Eckhart sent a return scan any mind indicating where it could have come from.
The Death Bastards, though depleted by their excursion to Bannsack, were the only Platoon sent to accompany them as they had the most experience dealing with Psychic threats. As they approached the city, they were met by a being initially thought to be a mutant, before he hailed in a loud, clear voice that he was a Space Marine, and required evacuation by all loyal forces of the Imperium for he and his brothers. Further information was scarce, the Marine only indicated that he was on a mission sanctioned by the highest levels of the Imperium, the Dynasty was not permitted to know their duty, and they required transport off of this planet with their cargo uninspected or impeded with in any way.
Eager to please, Navigator Maturinus happily offered his private Navigation sanctums for their use, which seemed to satisfy the marines. Nonetheless, Eckhart’s scans still could find no trace of the psyker who had previously scanned them, and the existence of such a Psyker was evaded by the Space Marine, saying that he would answer no questions, as secrecy was to be held in paramount. All told there were only 6 Marines, but Eckhart was reluctant to probe further as he strongly believed there to be a lurking Psyker who could detect this perfidy. Although Hos was eager to agree, the remaining condition galled him: The city and its surrounding environs were to be destroyed from orbit, killing tens of millions of feral humanity in a fiery holocaust.
Though the coastal villages were to be left untouched, the knowledge that they would lose whatever secrets the city held as well as commit a literal genocide was too much for Caine and Sarvus to accept, while Eckhart no longer trusted the entire planet and said they should burn it all, Marines included and look for another alternative. Atticus and Maturinus were more than willing to agree with the Adeptus Astartes, and eventually persuaded Caine to their point of view as well. Captain Hos was forced to back down, and the Marines were brought on board, with their unknown cargo. With that, the beautiful forests of the planet were put to the lance.
Fortunately, Atticus had done his work well and the Dynasty had more than ample volunteers to fill its holds, and more waiting an eager return to their Imperium. Lacking profit, but gaining personnel was more than enough for the time being, and with the taciturn Marines under heavy guard in the Navigator sanctum, the Lumen set off on a return journey to Svard.
While deep in the hold, an unseen Marine began a plot that would threaten to tear the Dynasty apart…