Sword & Spoken Word

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.

Golden Moose Bar Tab
     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

     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:
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)

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

Outline Written for Ulrich Malmstein


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.

Holt's Prison Notes

Leaked into the prison’s database for public use via Magos Holt

Planetary & Facility Observations by Magos Siegmund Alessander Estabon Godwinne Holt

  • Atmosphere is toxic to non-augmented humans.
  • Machine spirits are suffering from low maintenance.
  • Archaic thruster platforms serve multiple uses based on power input.
  • Beware of pornographic stashes in maintenance holes.
  • Avoid laundry room without proper filtration and protection systems due to high levels of human sperm placating all surfaces.
  • Clear engineer tunnels of Tyrannid wastes and excrement. Use extreme caution; biomass may contain eggs.
  • Turrets are armed in several locations and are programmed to eliminate non-human biomasses. Sanctioned Xenos entry not recommended.
  • Genestealers are easily purged through extreme levels of firepower.
  • Any unclaimed tools are to be cataloged via inscribed number, type, physical description and then transported to Magos Holt.
  • A highly detailed report of all archeotech is to be delivered to Magos Holt upon completion, including picto-graphs, audio-recordings, and research for him to review for potential errors and future sanctioned experimentation.
  • Any item of the size equal to or smaller than a man portable lascannon that cannot be determined as to the purpose or nature of it, is to be transported to Magos Holt for study.
Cover letter of a mailed document, intracraft post, HHN Accordance

His Excellency the Master of Staff, Ulrich Malmstein, Greeting.

Please find enclosed draft two of the primary salvage contract, including the changes you have instructed.

While I would not presume to question either your Excellency’s judgment, nor that of His Lordship whom we serve, I find myself puzzled by some matters of these instructions, and must ask for a clarification of intent, lest I or my staff mar the work through misjudgment of its goals.

First, the change of the language identifying the parties to the contract, from the style "Harlan, Lord of House Autumnhall of Aquainane (hereafter OWNER to the salvaged materials) " to “The first signatory party, acting in representation of the interests and instruments of House Autumhall” and so on, language duplicated for Magos Gandermeyer.

Is this intended to make the contract binding on the Magos personally if the Cult of Mars should fail to honour his agency? If so, there are more explicit ways to about such an instrument, and indeed the text already includes some of them. Or is such an… innovative… phrasing of the first clause intended for some other purpose?

Second, in the matter of publication rights, in separating the intellectual property rights to any methods and techniques found in the original material (assigned to Lord Autumnhall), and the sole right to create derivative works for commercial purpose (assigned to Magos Gandermeyer), this instrument effectively prevents either party (and indeed anyone) from profiting from any product created from what is learned from the relics of sacred technology without the permission of both.

And yet the contract specifies no profit-sharing arrangement. It is an agreement which forces both parties to come to an agreement, nothing more.

Is this truly your intent? Why?

Third, what is this vague notation in your notes about modifications to an entry in the Lord Captain’s log?

It would be most gratifying if your Excellency would condescend to educate my ignorance, thereby allowing me to better serve yourself and the Lord Captain.

- Legatus (Second Class) Julian Strause
House Autumhall Departmentio Lex

Julian, your second question is foolish. Of course there can be no precise financial agreement when the nature of the discoveries is yet to be learned. Forcing both parties to work in concert is precisely the intent of the entire document, and it is for this consideration alone that Senior Magos Gandermeyer and the Cult Mechanicus shall provide with the hundreds of techpriests required to salvage the components of the Pre-Heresy spacecraft.

Your first and third questions are beyond foolish. They are impertinent. Your instructions are perfectly clear, and your legal judgment is not required. You are to include the first clause language exactly as written to you, and no mention of any verbal agreement regarding a captain’s logbook.

I must remind you that your Lord is the holder of an Imperial Warrant, a legal representative of the Emperor Himself. To question him in his execution of this duty is the question the Master of Mankind.

I realize you intended no heresy, but how many times must I remind you of the dangers of this curiosity of yours? The doctrine of Blessed Ignorance exists for a reason, and that reason is not simply to tantalize and frustrate Legatus Second Class Strause. From the blackest lies of the Enemy of All Life to the details of the affairs of your betters, knowledge is a poison which, once tasted, cannot be spat forth again. That which has been seen cannot be unseen.

Do as you’re told, Julian, and stop fussing.

- U. M.

Vox recording fragment

My Lord, this is all we have been able to decipher thus far from the secondary black box recorder.

While the stripped hull itself dates from the Age of Strife, this fragment appears to be of much more recent origin… post-Heresy. Historicus Balthazaar informs me that the language is a form of Low Gothic spoken around the end of the 41st millennium.

This fragment appears to be written directly on top of thus-far unintelligible older data, suggesting that it perhaps the results of accidental overwriting during analysis, perhaps by the individuals who stripped the hull and left it in its current state… strong evidence, perhaps, of when this might have occurred.

I have taken the liberty of delaying transmission until the Historicus could properly transcribe the one intelligible voice. As you will be able to observe for yourself, the fragment contains heavy background noise, and would prove difficult to understand even for one familiar with obscure dialect.

[Fades in] … cold bastard, and don’t tell him I said that. Scares me almost as much as the {thieves?}.

No, of course not unintelligible Armen unintelligible. The other one. The Lord {emphasized} Captain. Shot that woman without a moment’s pause, just put a plasma bolt through her. Said she was infected.

Yeah, but it was the way {emphasized} he said it. Like he was ordering fucking breakfast. Whole place covered in monster {sailors?} and this one scared girl and he just offs her. Got liquid nitrogen in his …

{1 minute, 34 seconds obscured by machine noise}

…pile of women with his flamethrower. What I don’t…

{47 seconds machine noise}

{12 seconds unintelligible multiple voices}

… four. If there had been five I’d not be standing here telling …

{15 seconds machine noise}

… Techpriest blasting here, there, and everywhere with that fucking … unintelligibletwo {emphasized} of them with it. unintelligible … the other one on fire.

No, the teenage girl. With the white eyes. Some kind of sanctioned…

{31 seconds blank}

… and it almost fucking reached us, except the Lord Captain runs at it with a fucking power sword. No more emotion than when he shot that woman. Like he forgot, like they all forgot, to be afraid. I was unintelligible my fucking unintelligible, I can tell you that.

No, it didn’t. He held it off. Then the nav … unintelligible … and he fucking gutted it. Those … unintelligible tear through fucking adamantite and inceram and he… unintelligible not one single …

{15 seconds machine noise}

… not serve with them if you …

{15 seconds machine noise}

… and a commissar with a shockprod. Follow them into a fight, yes. Serve under, hell no. I’d stay on this rock first.

Lord Captain Autumnhall's address to the assault force

Officers and crew of the Accordance, men of His Holy Navy, fighting men of Imperial Guard, Techmagi of the Cult Mechanicus, soldiers of humanity, and faithful servants of Our Most Holy Emperor.

You will have heard the whispers of what we go now to face. Xenos infestation. Husks that were once men. Genestealer.


These are words to make men afraid, to test the courage and faith of the best of us. I will not lie to you. The threat is grave. But I say to you now, you need not be afraid. Rather, you should rejoice.

Because you are humanity, and all that is not humanity must fear you.

The ancient religions of Christ, of Buddha, of Vishnu, of Allah, of Elvis, taught that we were weak, mortal creatures, sinful beyond redemption through no act of our own.

But the Emperor tells you to be proud.

You are human; perfect in form, perfect in mind, strong in brotherhood, in action like an angel, in aspiration like a god. Nothing on the face of a million worlds compares to you. Your love, your joy, your pride, your anger, and, yes, even your hate, are all what it means to be human. It is to be true to your nature.

Others would have you feel shame. But the Emperor offers you pride in who you are.

The future of humanity lies in all the stars. To live in unity throughout the galaxy, to see the wonders of the cosmos laid out before us. There is something special in all of us, the spark of courage and faith, of loyalty and determination and brotherhood. The human soul, pure and incorruptible. It burns brighter than a billion torches in the dark.

Never listen to those who would tell you that life is suffering and existence is meaningless. Never listen to those who tell you you must be afraid.

For you are a man. And together, we are humanity. We have purpose. We are brothers.

All of us. For we are united against a universe that has recognized our greatness, and in its fear, seeks to destroy us.

The Emperor has shown us the way forward.

There are some, I know, for whom these words will not be enough. For fear and doubt still lie heavy on their hearts and souls. So this I say to you.

The Emperor watches over all of us. He is with us every moment. Our strength is His strength, and his strength is the strength of all of us. Guarding us. Holding us up if we should stumble. Protecting us while we do His holy work. Death, when it comes, has no power over servants of the Emperor, and should we die, we shall sit in vigil at his side, watching over better worlds that we helped to create.

What more could a man ask?

So let us go and do His holy work. Let us go and remind the alien, the sulking coward who infects, who infests, who subverts, that we are humanity, united in purpose, and no foe can stand against us.

For the Emperor!

Captain's LogBook and Journal #5

6 092 996 M41

<Entire entry sealed to Ardent-level clearance.>
<Eyes-only: Autumnhall, Harlan | Armengarde, Edmund | Brahms, Yerastian | Volgin, Erastes >

Message accessed by Richter Hague under the authority of Inquisitor Erastes Volgin. Decrypted cleartext follows

No time for detailed reports. Based upon eyewitness testimony, have tentatively identified husks as Tyranid genestealer hosts.

Current manpower resources have proven more than adequate for combating hosts, but we face the possibility of an unknown number of original genestealer organisms… possibly as many as one hundred. Presence of a high number of Tyranid hosts explains the warp presence observed by Listener Brahms.

Magos Biologica contact advises we are still within the estimated gestation period of first generation genestealers. Estimated one hundred female prisoners onstation, whereabouts unknown. Terminating them will be a first priority.

I will not oversee the loss of the Emperor’s facility without a fight. I will muster all available manpower and weapons, and we will retake the prison, terminating hosts on sight, and suspected hosts with extreme prejudice.

If we are pushed back, we will lay siege, removing or destroying all biomass in order to starve the monsters.

Failing this, we will open the prison to the toxic atmosphere.

If this does not avail, we will lance the prison from orbit.

We will not allow one single xeno to exist in the Emperor’s universe for a single moment in which we have the strength and faith to slay it.

Emperor lend us strength. I go now to address the men.
Captain's Logbook and Journal #4

6 092 996 M41

Briefed Commander Armengarde on planetside situation, including the appearance and behaviour of <censored under Inquistorial remitt>.

Have commandered 1500 naval marines to retake the prison and disarm the Imperial Guard garrison.

I will take a party of picked men to accompany TechMagos Holt and reactivate the prison’s central landing lock and freight elevator. Marines will then be landed in waves, proceeding to secure the landing lock, barracks, and armoury.

We will then push through to Engineseeing, restore power, and lock down the facility level by level.

Armengarde is no fool. One look through Holt’s servoskull vid records, and he agreed the husks are a psykic phenomenon, and gave me all the troops I needed… although nominally I don’t have to ask, I wouldn’t care to press the matter, not when the frigate and all its men are a command he’s held for years.

I’ve had no trouble concealing how and why I know more than I would concerning phenomena like this. Everyone sees Harlan Autumnhall the agent of the Inquisition, and never thinks to ask what I know from lore, and what I have seen with my eyes.

Advern Adamas will be placed under arrest when found, on evidence given by Spectre and Cipriare, and an Inquisitorial examination conducted.

Gandermeyer is not altogether dim. Holt mentioned finding “cool tech stuff” in the prison, and he perked right up and tried to inquire. I managed (I think) to keep him from connecting these notions to the facility itself, by implying that Adamas’ smuggling involved tech-heretical artifacts. But he’s chafing to get down to the planet. I won’t let him.

As a last resort, I could create the impression that I am shielding Holt from charges of minor tech-unorthodoxy, rather than hiding a whole derelict vessel full of archaeotech. But that ship WILL be mine, not some plaything of the priests of Mars, locked away in a archive doing no one any good.

If only I had some of my good, solid forgeworld techpriests with me, Ruskin, Sebring, or Magos Ephraiem, men who believe in using technology and learning from it, not locking it away and worshiping it. But those allies are lost to me now. Can’t even mention their names.

Holt is solid, but he can’t keep his damn mouth shut, and he’s only one man. Not a team. Not a salvage expedition. I need a lot of techpriests, and I can’t use Gandermeyer’s lot, not unless I can undermine him utterly. Perhaps he could have some sort of accident?

To fear is to doubt the Emperor. To doubt the Emperor is heresy.

6 092 996 M41

TechMagos Holt has successfully reactivated the landing lock exclusion field.

Holt has successfully cannibalized a sacred Rhino into a juryrigged abomination that can power a cargo lift the size of a spinball pitch. Gandermeyer will have kittens when he finds out.

Marines have landed and we are proceeding through the facility in force.

6 092 996 M41

The Imperial garrison is disarmed and evacuating to orbit.

They accepted us as a relief force. Went topside without a struggle. They may be loyal to Adamas, but they have no notion there’s any conflict, and they care more for a hot meal and a shower than they do for the disputes of their betters.

6 092 996 M41

Have made contact with the prisoners. They are disorganized, but peaceful for the most part. The riots appear to have been a reaction to increasing failures in leadership and shortage of supplies. While this is no justification for rebellion and heresy, there can be no gain or sense in attempting to administer the Emperor’s justice until the prison is locked down.

Of course it’s a fucking justification for rebellion and heresy. These morons seem to have expected men to lie down and die because duty or something. I am struck by an increasing sense of the incompetence of Imperial authority here. Such men would command starving animals not to bite.

They though authority was power. They were wrong. Power is power. Authority is merely a tool to grasp it with.

Spectre has a pretty good following among these men, and I have a grip on them through him.

I’ve instructed Lyra to play the little girl, and look harmless… and she used a telepath’s trick to make one charmable, got me some good information. I don’t think she realizes I know.

6 092 996 M41

Have ordered down relief supplies from orbit.

Spectre found me a…

No, can’t write it down, even here. They’d kill him. Or… the other thing.

I just keep thinking about Lyra’s eyes. I won’t let that happen.

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