Sword & Spoken Word

Inaugural Address of Lord Harlan Autumnhall, Imperial Warrant holder

“My Lord Autumnhall, you are a thief.”

It was not long ago that I heard those words spoken to me. I choose to take them as my text.

They were, of course, spoken metaphorically and in jest, over dinner, so I was not constrained to call upon the man who spoke them to make good his accusations at the time of his choice, with the weapons of his choice.

Nonetheless, the sentiment must be spoken of, and entered into the record for all time, lest others imperil their souls in committing the same error of judgement, and questioning the Emperor’s word in their hearts, by wondering if his Anointed Warrant Bearers, commonly known as “rogue traders”, are little better than thieves.

It is the error of mistaking honor for duty.

The margin between honor and duty is razor-thin, yet it is a gap into which many souls have fallen and been forever lost to the Emperor’s light.

The Master of Mankind has many voices to remind us what our duty is, and nearly every man has his appointed master, to demand of him obedience and keep him free from the path of heresy and error. Yet many men believe that because obedience to the Emperor is righteous and honorable, righteousness and honor must therefore be obedience to the Emperor.

It is not.

The Emperor commands our obedience not so that we may vainly glory in our own upright character, nor bask in the admiration of lesser men. The Emperor cares not for our reputation, our honor, or even our righteousness.

No. He commands our obedience that we may join him in His great task of preserving and uplifting our species itself, of serving the great and sacred brotherhood of humanity in its place amongst the hostile stars.

And to that end, He has given each of us a duty.

To the Lords of Terra, He has given the task of guiding his Empire.

To the Eclesiarchal priesthood, He has given the task of teaching reverence for His name, that men might join together and work as brothers.

To Administratum, He has given the task of directing those labours.

To the Cult of Mars, he has given the task of keeping His sacred knowledge, and keeping its burden from those too weak to bear it.

To the common men of a million worlds, He has given the task of labouring to sustain and uplift His Empire.

To the Adeptus Arbites, He has given the task of keeping those common men obedient to their rightful masters.

To His forces of arms, his Imperial Guard, and Adeptus Astartes, He has given the task of purging His enemies from the many worlds.

To His Holy Navy, He has given the task of purging His enemies from the paths between the worlds.

To His Inquisition, He has given the task of speaking with His voice, answering to no master, to purge corruption from his Empire, whether it lies within masters or common men.

And to the Bearers of His Warrant, He has given the task of speaking with His Voice, answering to no master, to bear His Word into dark places that do not yet know His Light, or His Law.

Each man, then, must know and keep to his place, must know his duty and perform it. It is this, and not our personal honor or our reputation of righteousness, that is our sacred charge. We serve his purposes in whatever capacity He deems fit, for the plan is His, not ours.

It is for this reason that the “Rogue” trader, Bearer of His Imperial Warrant, plays the rogue. Because his sacred charge, from the Master of Mankind, is to serve Mankind’s purpose by whatever means are necessary, roguish or not.

And I, Harlan of House Autumnhall, swear now, before these witnesses, to dedicate myself and my House to this task.

By any means necessary.

Because Mankind, and the Master of Mankind, demand nothing less than all of us.

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Private Journal of Harlan Autumnhall, #5

Dear Anastasia,

Today I bribed an honest man. Or a man who imagines himself so.

Impossible, you say? Nonsense. Almost any man will accept a bribe. The honest man differs from the corrupt one only in what he desires. The corrupt man desires to sell his influence, and thus advance himself, the honest man to do his duty, and thereby imagine himself righteous.

Give him a gift that serves these ends, and for this price, you may buy him.

What I purchased was a trifle, the freedom of a foolish servant who knows how to be a petty criminal, but not how to be a great one, who understands why the common thief is hanged but not why the plundering baron is honoured.

But what I truly wanted was for him to accept my gift, and thus do his duty in the way I had chosen for him to do it. Father taught me that you need not buy a man, or cow him, to steer him this way or that… you must merely smooth the path you most desire him to tread.

And if you have two enemies to fight, set one upon the other.

I think father would be proud of how I have learned his little lessons, though you, perhaps, would chide me, forever afraid that I was becoming the lesson that I learned.

Well, what would you say to his last lesson, little one? Would you have me learn that one? And what do you suppose he was trying to teach? And to whom?

I have been thinking on lessons, of late. My inauguration approaches, and I must give an address, some statement to be entered into the Imperial record, for all time.

What would father say to that, I wonder? What shall my lesson be?

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Ideas From Brother Alric
For Future Studies
  • Rotating Power Saw Wheels AKA “Roller Blades” to be modified to all ground vehicles.
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Private Journal of Harlan Autumnhall, #4

Dear Anastasia,

Today I appeared in court in a civil case against… myself.

Which makes me the new owner of the former ISV St. Cordellia. I’m going to refit it into something more suitable to my needs.

While I was conducting an inspection tour, I learned that Gunmetal City has been locked down by some sort of Adeptus Arbites special flying squad. Two of my staff are trapped there… an intelligence expert I have pegged for my Master of Whisperers, as well as Brother Alrick. They have sealed off all travel in or out, or at least are trying to, which means they are looking for someone or something in particular.

I think it’s both. Something and someone. A tattoo. A starmap.

I think they may be acting outside their legal authority, either on their own wick, or they’ve been bribed.

I have something, and unless I miss my guess, a lot of people want it badly.

No one knows I have it, but there may be a few loose ends. The thugs I hired for back up when I went back in looking for it. The pirate “Castle”, and his men.

Castillo can most likely evade any official heat. And the Arbites is unlikely to find those thugs. But I do not understand what’s at the end of the treasure map I’m holding, I don’t know who knows about it.

As usual, each new answer I learn raises more new questions.

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Message to Magos Holt

Attn Magos Holt:

Skipping transcription servitor, skipping verbiage.

Plan for refitting purchased hull into new ship follows. Tentative name of ship “Take the Nails, Too”. Design concept: Stealthy exploration vessel or “submarine”-type craft.

Advise feasibility of proposed changes. Advise any recommendations.

Keep Intact:

Hull: +47 space
Outer surface to remain as intact as possible. Retain, if possible, option to masquerade as harmless freighter.

Strelov 1 Warp Engine (Pw 10, Sp 10)
Serviceable and adequate to our needs.

Commerce Bridge (Pw 1, Sp 1): +50 Achievement towards Trade objectives.
Not ideal, but not a replacement priority.

M-100 Auger Array (Pw 3)
Serviceable and adequate to our needs.

Extended Supply Vaults (Pw 1, Sp 4): Double the time the TTNT can remain at void without suffering Crew Population or Morale loss; Extended Repairs heal +1 Hull Integrity; +1 Morale.
Already ideal option for long voyages.

Temple-Shrine to the God Emperor (Pw 1, Sp 1): +100 Achievement towards Creed objectives; +3 Morale.
Useful for crew morale, political image. Space/power consumption also not large enough to justify removal.

Observation Dome (Pw 0, Sp 1): +50 Achievement towards Exploration objectives; +1 Morale.
Unfeasible to remove without extensive hull modifications.

Gellar Field (Pw 1/ Sp 0)
Serviceable and adequate to our needs.

Repair:

Main Cargo Hold (Pw 2, Sp 4): +125 Achievement towards Trade objectives
Unfeasible to remove without extensive hull modifications. Also, useful for taking everything not nailed down. If can pry up, wasn’t nailed down. Will also take nails. Already have large box of nails.

Modify/Refit:

Lathe Pattern Class 1 Plasma Drive (+ 40 Pw /Sp 12)
acquire and replace/refit/modify to:
Jovian Pattern Class 2 (+45 Pw / Sp 10)
For increased speed and power. Will require custom installation.

Voidsmen Quarters (Pw 1, Sp 3)
acquire and expand to
Clan-Kin Quarters (Pw 1, Sp 4): Drawing on the extensive social expertise and domain knowledge of “Spectre”, the quartering and work crew layout and training will be designed to foster espirt de corps among veterans of the Heptapyrgion Penal Colony. All Command Tests to defend against boarding and hit and run actions gain +5. In addition, all sources of Morale loss are reduced by 1, to a minimum of 1.
Don’t worry about details, here. Will handle elsewhere. Just need additional space consumption as described in attachment 2a.

Vitae Pattern Life Sustainer (Pw 4, Sp 2)
refit with
Ancient Life Sustainer: (Pw 2, Sp 1) Increase Morale permanently by 2, reduce all losses to Crew Population due to non-combat sources by 1. This can be used as a ship’s Life Sustainer.
Already have. Design/components from Heptapyrgion Station/wreck of “Inquest”.

Install: (have components)

Ancient Empyrean Mantle: (Pw 2, Sp 0). When performing the Silent Running operation, Detection attempts made to find the ship are 3 steps more difficult.
Powerful stealth system from Heptapyrgion Station/wreck of “Inquest”.

Graviton Flare: (Pw 2, Sp 0). When triggered, all vessels in the star system suffer a –30 to their Detection for 2 Strategic Rounds. The Graviton Flare requires twenty four hours to recharge between uses. This Component does not require hull space. Although it is external, it can only be destroyed or damaged by a Critical Hit.
System from Heptapyrgion Station/wreck of “Inquest”

Laboratorium: (Pw 2, Sp 2) +20 to all skill tests involving identifying, analyzing, or fixing Archeo/Xenostech.
Refit salvaged components and archives into research lab. Position adjacent to Cult Mechanicus tower, Engineer Prime personal quarters if possible. Have fun. Do not detonate ship.

Salvage and sell components:

Luxury Passenger Quarters (Pw 2, Sp 1): +100 Achievement towards Trade, Criminal, or Creed objectives; -3 Morale.
Luxury Liner role not useful in Koronus Expanse. Trashed anyway. Hold off tear-out pending forensic investigation of incident. Will advise.

Defensive Countermeasures (Pw 1, Sp 1): When deployed, these countermeasures impose a -20 penalty to all Ballistic Skill test made to attack the ship for the next 1d5+1 Strategic Turns. Torpedoes suffer a -30 penalty. Once used, the countermeasures must be refilled and refurbished with a successful Upkeep test under Open Acquisition or Limited Acquisition conditions.
Difficult to supply on extended voyage. Save space/power for other things.

Acquire and install:

Single Void Shield Array (Pw 5, Sp 1)

Prow Sunsear Laser Battery (Pw 6, Sp 4): Strength 4, Damage 1d10+2, Crit Rating 4, Range 9
Port Jovian Missile Battery (Pw 3, Sp 1): Strength 5, Damage 1d10+1, Crit Rating 6, Range 6
Starboard Jovian Missile Battery (Pw 3, Sp 1): Strength 5, Damage 1d10+1, Crit Rating 6, Range 6
Other weapons layouts feasible. Advise.

Shopping list:
Jovian Class 2 drive
Clan-kin Quarters
Sunsear Laser Battery
Jovian Missile Battery (x2)
Single Void Shield Array

Sell list:
Luxury Passenger Quarters
Defensive Countermeasures
Voidsmen Quarters
Lathe Pattern Class 1 Plasma Drive
Vitae Pattern Life Sustainer

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Private Journal of Harlan Autumnhall #3

Dear Anastasia,

I suppose you would be worried if you were actually reading these, but I am okay.

So is Brother Alrick, who is being stitched together with a great quantity of very expensive artificial parts as we speak.

We even found our star charts, perhaps by a whim of a fate frustrated by my obtuseness. I was looking for a book. I never thought to check the bodies for tattoos. We were most fortunate indeed that when we returned after medical evacuation, street urchins had stripped the bodies of usable clothing.

I shall have my Navigatrix copy them most carefully before deciding whether to return intact versions of them, garbled and dangerously flawed ones, or nothing at all. They appear to lead to something… very interesting. And quite valuable.

I have purchased the hull of the ISV St. Cordelia through a ruse worthy of father, and will be retrofitting it into something more suited to my needs (bills, bills). Perhaps I shall call the new craft the ISV Voluntold, in honour of its unorthodox manner of entering service.

The date for my Rite of Investiture is fast approaching, and with it I will lose any hope of passing for a simple criminal gang leader to that scum Ernesto de Palma. I must plan my next move carefully.

It does, however, create opportunities as well as remove them. If I invite the shadowy auctioneers of the Misericorde to the Rite, I may be able to secure an invitation for this year’s cold auction, and thereby approach Phineas Ardentus under some business pretext as, well, myself. Sort of. You know what I mean.

I’ve also had to dismiss my pilot. Some sort of family emergency. Not too tragic. She was highly skilled, yes, but also prone to dramatism and fussing. I shall secure a replacement.

Things are looking up. I have a ship, and soon it will be spaceworthy. I am heir to a Warrant, and will soon possess it in law as well as in fact. I have clues to rich treasures, and small pieces of leverage to use in creating greater ones.

I’m doing fine, and I’m going to posper if I am smart and resourceful.

Perhaps some day, some way, somehow, I can find a way to see you again. Until then, letters I cannot send.

Love,

Harlan. Autumnhall.

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Private Journal of Harlan Autumnhall #2

Dear Anastasia,

Writing letters one never means to send is perhaps eccentric, but it assists the organization of my thoughts to imagine an audience.

So I’m keying this into a datapad in a wrecked brewery in the depths Gunmetal City on Scintilla, while I wait for my men to scrape what’s left of Brother Alrick off the floor, spray on enough plasti-skin foam to keep him from bleeding out, pump him full of SynthVitae from the medikit, and get him the hell out of here.

Violence is a way of life for the rogue trader. A simple operation to retrieve some stolen star charts led us to…

… Well, I’d better start at the beginning. A Lord of the Calaxian Conclave is backing me with money and influence, getting the Autumnhall fortune out of probate, fending off other claimants to the Warrant, supplying access to military hardware, and so on. And I am dealing with a few sticky situations for him. ( Did I tell you about that in my last letter? I don’t have access to it down here.)

The first was Heptopyrgion. The second is this man I told you about. Ardentus. He needs to vanish without a fuss or a suspicious lack thereof.

After following his moves, feeding carefully orchestrated lines to his business partners, and impersonating a criminal gang led by a rogue psyker (stop making that face), I’m down here trying to retrieve stolen star charts.

And now I find they’ve been stolen by… well, what’s the worst thing a man can can become? Not that, but close.

Now you’re making another face.

I can’t be who I was before. I have to take risks to survive and prosper now. But I’ve surrounded myself with hard men, and even that child may be the most dangerous of all. I’m well-prepared and not taking any foolish risks.

A man with a mission must see it through, or what can he expect from the next one?

So I’ll get the priest back alive if I can (those cultists had an Astartes heavy weapon), but I will find those charts. The spilling of a little blood won’t stop me. There’s much more of that to come, I think.

They’re telling me he’s stable, now. Plastiskin is wonderful stuff.

I have to go. Give my love to… well, no one but you, really.

- Harlan Autumnhall

P.S. Yes, I insist on that. It has to be a habit, you see.

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Golden Moose Bar Tab
Liquor:
     Alrick (Hon. Br.):
            5 Reth Amasec, "Old Smoky"
            1 Jalapeno Martini
            2 Orcish Squig Bomb
            1 Bourbon Lancer
            1 Emperor's Fist
            2 Screwdriver, 
                Aquitaine "Black Five" Select Vodka

     H. Autumnhall (Lrdsp.):
          2  732M41 Spectoris Saint'Angelo Reserve
          1 Death in the Afternoon, 
                Jaglan Beta "Green Hell" Private Reserve, 
                940M41 Don Luz Especiale
          1 Astartes Wrestling Match

     Cmdr. Edmund Armengarde, 
       Imperial Battlefleet Calixis (Ret.):
           1 Orcish Squig Bomb
           1 Emperor's Fist
           1 Kill the Baby
           2 Reth Amasec, "Old Smoky"
           1 Mass Reactive Bolt Shell
           1 Kill It With Fire
           3 Exterminatus
           1 Runaway Cargo Train
           2 Harvey Headbanger
           1 Ghostfire Punch
           1 Salty Dog
           1 Servitor Reviver

Food:
     S. Veltenstone (Hon. Lady):
                 1 Hot Fudge Sundae

Total: 175 Thrones

Damages and Furniture Breakage:
     7 Chairs
     2 Tables
     2 Overhead Lighting Fixtures 
     Various GlassWare
     Drywall Patching, 2 walls
     Bartop resurfacing 

Total: 231 Thrones

Cleaning Expenses:
     Misc. 
Total: 17 Thrones

Grand Total: 423 Thrones


Ludicrously padded. Don’t bother Malmstein with this. Just talk him down to about half and pay him out of petty cash.
- Yulius Glick, Chief Jr. Staff Accountant, Autumnhall Travel Expenses Dept. (main)

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Private Journal of Harlan Autumnhall #1

Dear Anastasia:

I know you’ll never read this. Or at least not unless something has gone horribly wrong. But it helps, perhaps, to have some concrete mental model to speak to when one puts quill to parchment.

I’ll keep it short. The cryptographic cogitator I’ve programmed to help me with this cipher is an unwieldy thing, and verbosity is tedious.

To make a long story bearable… I’m safe, alive and well. And in charge of a rogue trader expedition. Yeah, Lord Captain Harlan Autumnhall, if you please. Yes, I know, you’re confused now. I’ll explain if we ever see each other again. Although you’ll have to understand that I hope that never, never happens.

I won’t commit what happened on the St. Cordelia to paper. Not even under what my pet Astropath assures me is unbeakable encryption.

No ship yet, but my expedition is being assembled, courtesy of a Scintillan Inquistor named Volgin. Apparently the man needs a very specific rogue trader ally (catspaw?) and it going to considerable expense to create my empire as what he needs.

This involved first hitching a ride in (in fact, commandeering) a BattleFleet Calixis frigate to a prison planet, to hire indentured crew and investigate a missing inquisitor. Yeah, the old “go find out what happened to the last guy I sent there” thing…

Anyway, the prison was actually an arcaeotech shipwreck. And infested with genestealers. Yep, genestealers.

I killed one of them in a sword fight. And you thought my little hobby was useless.

But I got the Inquisitor back, my crew for free, and am now the proud owner of a whole bunch of salvage archaeotech voidship components. Now all I need is a hull to put them in. Also found a hot trail to what looks to be another archaeotech site, once I have ship to follow it with.

To that end, I’m going undercover, after a cold trader and heretic named Phineas Ardentus. I’ll write more about it once I am through.

I’ve put together my command crew. Real flying rogues’ gallery, which is only appropriate, I suppose, given who and what I am.

I’ve got:

- An Astropath who’s twelve years old. Mental prodigy. Last year’s winner of the Rose Primarius. Alternates between scared girl and genius, with a little bit of brat thrown in.

- Complete sperg TechMagos. No social skills or political nose at all. But he can fix anything, jury-rig things you wouldn’t believe possible, and he’s good in a fight if you keep him pointed in the right direction and don’t much care about collateral damage.

- A Sister of Battle as bodyguard! Apparently a cogitator glitch got her assigned to regiment that doesn’t exist. So I scooped her up. There’s a curiously absent quality to her, but she’s a decent sword fighter, and the power armor and Sororitas heraldry are just thing for making an impression.

- A factotum who’s got more checker than past. I know his real name, but he’d want me to call him “Spectre” anyway, so I will. He’s wickedly clever, and loves a good scheme as much as I do.

- A pilot with… issues, and sex on the brain. I try to hire her after some impressive steersmanship, and the first thought out of her mouth is “no nookie”. You know what that means.

- A navigator who’s a virtual prisoner of her house, and sees me as a way out. Tricky, but if that means no Navigator House percentage on my gross take, well, I’m up for that.

- A priest to motivate the men. Yeah, a priest. Me. Hanging out with a priest. Surprising, perhaps, but he’s got a lot more “The Emperor will protect you” and a lot less “burn the heretic” to him. Very likeable fellow, actually. The men really respond to him. I’ve gifted him with a sword from my collection, a powerfield blade I picked up on Scintilla after the St. Cordelia debacle.

That’s all for now. Hope you’re doing all right, though I’ll most likely never know.

Oh, one more thing. If this ever reaches your hand, I’ll most likely be dead or in dire trouble. But just so you know it’s really me:

Remember that night on Campbell’s World, at the Solstice Ball at Viscount Martisse’s winter palace? When I went off with Blake’s little squeeze and… well, later sent her back wearing Sunshine’s collar? And she was all proud of it because she thought it was an expensive choker necklace from Cabrini’s on Aquitaine?

And then Blake, well, you know, and you were sooooo mad at me for winding him up that you threw Mr. Secretary Bear at me, and tore his arm? And you sewed him up again because you wanted to do it yourself?

It was his left arm.

Yes, it’s really me.

All my love
– Harlan

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Outline Written for Ulrich Malmstein

Ulrich:

Here’s some key points in our inquiries about the St. Cordelia, just off the top of my head, to get you started.

- Neither the Navy nor House Zurlinden has any reason to suspect that we’re trying to buy off the other side of the case, as well… just to think that this is a long term investment for House Autumnhall.

- Especially since they’ll figure that my full testimony (when the preliminary hearings are finally done) could steer the case either way. We should hint at this, not say it.

- House Zurlinden should be getting twitchy around now anyway. They’re not exactly swimming in liquid assets at the moment, their investors will most likely be nervous, and the docking fees and upkeep costs on a ship they can’t use must be bleeding them white. Not to mention court costs.

- We should present ourselves as an alternative to having to throw the case five years from now or so when they can’t afford to fight anymore.

- The Navy will be tougher to fend off. They have the stronger claim. But they’ll still know I could make this case difficult for them, if I did things like accept six months worth of a Captain’s salary from the Zurlindens.

- My thinking on this is that the Navy isn’t about the money, here, or the hull. This is about making a certain officer’s personal fortune, with his captain’s cut, as well as making his career, with an unexpected windfall for the Navy.

- We could proceed by emphasizing to this certain officer that if the case drags on for years, it could turn the opposite way… he wouldn’t be the smart officer who bagged the fleet a valuable hull, he’d be that court case ship guy, the one who got the Navy tangled up in court forever, expensively. Even if the Navy wins ten years from now, that’s ten years of Emperor-knows-what happening to his career. And of not seeing a single Throne of that money.

- If we play that angle, he might be eager to take a buyout, get both the Navy and his personal fortune a small but quick win. Still more money than he’s ever seen in his life, most likely. If he’s eager to deal, he might be able to swing the Navy.

I’m sure you’ll have more ideas. This is just to get you started.

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