After being singled out and inducted into the service of the Inquisition, things have not quite gone as you had imagined them. Removed from your past life, you have been tested and measured, questioned and interrogated. But aside from a few lectures given in darkened chambers that left you sick to your stomach and a seemingly endless stream of codes and ciphers given you to memorize and destroy, you have been left largely to your own devices. Lodging under a false name in an anonymous habblock in Hive Sibellus, you have bided your time for weeks waiting for the call from your masters, and perhaps, their verdict.
Inquisitor Soldevan Flashback
Three weeks ago you met Inquisitor Soldevan. A handsome man with the skin the colour of pale ebony and a taste in imposing military dress uniforms that only enhance his air of strength and authority. Rejuve treatments have kept him looking mid-40s, but he is certainly older than a century. His half-lidded eyes are cold and never quite seem to smile, regardless of his expression.
Each of you have only met him once. It was immediately after the divination ceremony, that he listened in on. He asked each of you what you thought the meaning of your divination was. (Ask the player to read into their divination in character). He was curt and attentive and welcomed you all into his retinue by giving you each a book of “The Scintillan Dictates” and a new cognomon to travel and live midhive. You know very little about Soldevan, other than he is very well-spoken, obviously highly educated with a piercing stare. (Give the players the Scintillan Dictates handout and add a cognomen (128 IH) to their equipment).
A knowledge roll can reveal more (if appropriate). A success reveals that Soldevan was an interrogator for one of the most Puritanical quick-to-punish Inquisitors, the Witchfinder Rykehuss. Rykehuss is well-known for his Court of Ordeals, where pious citizens brought accused neighbours and family to be tried. If any heresy was discovered, whole city blocks or cities themselves were sometimes razed. 1 degree of success: Soldevan split with Rykehuss soon after attaining his inqusitorial seal as he didn’t agree with his master’s extreme methods. He believes that knowledge, not wanton destruction, is the key to protecting humanity. 2 degrees of success: Soldevan applied to the Ordo Malleus, but wasn’t accepted. Some say Rykehuss pulled a few strings, others say that working for Rykehuss affected Soldevan’s chances. 3 degrees of success: not achieved.
Time to go
At last that call has come and a blankeyed courier has delivered to you a note featuring the cipher of the Holy Ordos. The message within was simple and perfunctory, containing a time, a date and a location. The instruction to come prepared and expect company is signed off with a single epithet: "The Emperor Protects".
Scintilla is the capital world of the Calixis Sector, a thriving Imperial hub that supports the largest planetary population in the territory. It is dominated (some observers say “shared”) by two vast hive cities, Hive Sibellus and Hive Tarsus, into which the vast majority of the planet’s groaning population is crammed. Despite the dominance of the two great hives, the “offsring” communities of Ambulon and Gunmetal City contribute significantly to the planet’s economic function. Scintilla is a world of splendour where the wealthy and the powerful compete with ruthless appetitie. Astonishing magnificence abounds, from the wonderous fashions of the hive nobility to the towering spectaccle of the hives themselves.
Hive Sibellus is the oldest city on Scintilla, almost certainly predating Angevin’s invasions. Its immense, eight thousand kilometre-wide bulk dominates the coastal plains and lowlands of the northern temperate landmass. Where its enormous, multi-layered skirt touch the coast itself–in a five hundred kilometre belt–they spill out over the black granite cliffs like shelves or glacial ridges. Sibellus has twice the population of its “twin” Hive Tarsus.
Space Port Vidicus
Your destination: Space Port Vidicus.
Spire Leviathan - floor 5482. Customs Gate 197. Room 7.23.
You each happily leave your one room habs behind and make your way to the innerspire transit system. The trip takes you a couple of hours by transit rail car as you travel higher and higher within the Hive. The farther you travel up-spire, the more ornate the architecture, the wealthier and the cleaner the environs become. Only in the last 15 minutes of your journey do you break free of the rockcrete and plasteel that is the sky for any middle-hiver and see the thousands of spires stabbing the overcast sky. Acid rain spatters against the fast moving transit car, leaving white streaks along its surface. The transit rail car plunges back into the Hive and within moments an unintelligible voice warbles through the compartment announcing your destination.
As you step off the rail car, you take in the enormous scale and majesty of the Space Port. The main hall is as large as a city block and just as high, its many painted domed ceilings held aloft by ornate pillars of marble and tanzanite. The walls are alternately covered in bas reliefs of the Empire’s Saints, murals of the Hive Sibellus or tapestries of the Calixis Sector Star Map. The central dome is entirely stain glass and shows the Emperor sitting on his Golden Throne in the centre of the Universe on Terra. Columns of people ascend on vertical conveyor belts and look like lines of ants zig-zagging up the far walls. Within all this splendour are thousands of people, jostling and pushing to get to where they need to go. You disembark and join the massive press of humanity. Nobles dressed in this year’s luminous feathery-tentacle fashions are surrounded by scores of bodyguards - their purpose to create a bubble of space around their charges in the surge of limbs. The dark green greatcoats of the Magistratum are everywhere, directing the chaos and keeping an eye on the crowd. You manage to push yourself through, climb seven levels via stairs and priveyors (the continuous personal vertical conveyor) and eventually find customs gate 197 and Room 7.23. As soon as you arrive (randomly determine order - initiative roll) you are shown through an “authorised personnel only” door by an old battle-scarred man wearing glowing red goggles. The room is small with a poster of the Joyous Choir, a large metal container, two folding chairs andonly one other exit on the opposite wall.
(have the players describe their characters as they enter)
The man that showed you into the room is bald, tattooed and almost toothless. He skin looks about 70, although his frame suggests someone quite stocky and well-built. He wears large goggle spectacles with glowing red lenses that magnify his eyes - which constantly flick over every detail. Half his face and neck and the back of his right hand are all badly scabbed. Some edges are flaking off, some have already peeled, others look red and swollen. It is clear that his whole body must be similarly damaged. His eyes flick over each of you and then looks down at the dataslate in his hand. His voice reverberates in his chest as if he smoke 50 lho-sticks a day. “Right - you’re late. You, take this (hands dataslate to battle sister)... you two pick that up (points at metal container), follow me and keep up. Introduce yourselves as we walk - they call me Scabs, but you can call me Interrogator Anthenus.” (He hands the most authoritive looking character the data-slate (player handout 1).
The Walk and Talk
Scabs opens the door in the opposite wall and says, “Come along”. He walks swiftly through a labyrinth of mostly deserted passages lined with numbered palm-coded closed doors. Every now and then a group of Magistratum guards or Administratum port officials are passed. They don’t make eye contact as you walk passed trying to keep up with the surprisingly quick Scabs. “When investigating try not to advertise the fact that you’re part of the Inquisition. If the heretic can see you coming, you’ll have a harder time rooting them from beneath the rock under which they hide.” He catches his breath before continuing. “Inquisitor Soldevan has seen fit to prove you lot on a mission of utmost ecclesiarchal importance and he’s wisely provided a powerful chaperone to guide your first tentative steps, the honoured Seer Aristarchus. Listen to Aristarchus, he’s a wise dedicated man of the Emperor. Remember all the dictates - especially the fourth. You are now part of Inquisitor Soldevan’s retinue and your behaviour reflects on him - do not abuse his trust.” He stops before a sealed door and punches in some codes, while the door works he turns: “A word of advice, our Inquisitor is a learned man with honours from several Schola Progenium. He is the most travelled, most read, most astute Inquisitor I’ve worked for in my 42 years of life. Honour him in name and deed and gather all knowledge of the incident. It’s knowledge our Inquisitor craves.” The door bleeps and a flashing red light begins to flash above it.
“Read the data slate, it contains all…” The last part of his sentence is drowned out as the heavy sealed door swings open onto one of the Space Port’s many shuttle and lighter landing decks. A whipping wind, the roar of many engines, decoupling locking mechanisms, the smell of promethium fuel, scorched plasteel and cordite all assault the senses. You can see a jumble of layered decks - most housing lighters and other cargo vessels of all sizes, makes and shapes. Smoke pours from uncoupled cables and grates. Running lights flash. The tangle of metal crossbeams, raised decks, observation towers, cargo lifts, parked space craft, cables, off-loaded crates make a complicated picture and its not clear where you’re supposed to go - it’s clear you haven’t taken the path of a regular traveller. Ships are landing and taking off, autoloaders are unloading cargo, servo-skulls hover near refuelling pumps, but here aren’t many people on the decks - those that are, are either work crew or Magistratum guard - so your group easily stands out. A couple of guards with Las carbines see your group and jog up weapons trained on you. Scabs shows the Inquisitorial Rosette and the guards immediately lower their weapons. He beckons them over and proceeds to use coded hand-signs to them, they sign back - one pointing to a deck or perhaps a lighter behind them. Scabs then turns and points to you three and the guards nod and beckon you to follow. Scabs smiles and shows you the finger as he disappears inside.
You are led between, under, across the various decks to a quieter area of the space port where more passenger-type shuttles are parked. The guardsman shouts over the din. "This is the lighter we’re meant to take you to. It’ll take you up to the Brazen Sky.” The players run up the ramp... the lighter is empty... its only for them. The pilot is a dirty, tired looking, lho-stick smoking man in his sixties. Everything about him is dirty. The lighter is of the same standard. The pilot smiles.
The geolocked mooring
The flight up is unremarkable, although to see the sectors largest Hive across the entire southern portion of a continent is always a spectacular site. 8000 kilometre wide Hive, 10kms deep in places. Then comes the site of hundreds of ships moored in orbit above Scintilla, each one as different from one another as possible. Some are gargantuan square and blunt-nosed Greatholds, bulk cargo ships that take dozens of months to load or unload. Others are sleek stylized Pleasure Cruisers off to paradise worlds like Quaddis or Reth. Some are thin, barbed dagger-shaped military vessels. Most are mid-sized cargo ships. In between the larger space vessels, hundreds of smaller craft go about their business. Limpet craft and lighters ferrying passengers and cargo to and from the surface of the planet. Scintilla patrol craft boarding and performing inspections. A little further out Imperial Guard guncutters patrol the area out to the warp zone beyond the ring of servitor controlled firing stations. Your pilot flies your lighter through all this and 30 minutes later docking protocols have begun. The Brazen Sky is moored with many other small Tramp Freighters and Void Jumpers, far from the more important ships. Your first look from the view ports of the kilometre long cargo transport doesn’t fill you with confidence; a small rundown freighter seemingly cobbled together from two or more ships - you can see servitors along the hull of the ship making minor repairs - melting metre thick plating over abrasions and voiderite damage. The taxi docks to an extending armature and umbilicus, and after a few moments you have walked through to the air lock of the Brazen Sky.
The warp jump
Using the plasma engines the Brazen Sky decouples from the mooring, does a slow turn and navigates its way passed the other vessels to open space. After an hour or so, the reverse thrusters kick in and the vessel is brought to a complete stop. The HomoPolar Generator (HPG) is then charged, draining power from the rest of the ship. Five minutes later the ship is enveloped in a Geller Field and is translated to the immaterium.
Why a prologue?
I needed an entry point for the published adventure Illumination. I wanted to describe as much of the flavour of the world and introduce their Inquisitor before they were flying off to Iocanthus and expected to roleplay WH40k out of the box. More than that, I wanted to use the four day warp journey from Hive Sibellus to Iocanthus as a combat primer for all of us to start learning the rules. And the last thing I wanted to do was to highlight the barren desert setting of Iocanthus by starting in Hive Sibellus - an 8,000km wide slab of city - where there isn't such a thing as an horizon for billions of middle hivers. This would then give Ioncanthus' setting more impact.
Interrogator 'Scabs' Anthenus
Landing Deck - Spire Leviathan