I suppose I should fill you in on everything that’s happened over the past few months.
We left Absolon Van Daark’s ship and returned to our own. As a group we discussed where we were going next – to rescue the Machenko child, to buy a new ship, or to further investigate the problems surrounding the crusade. We decided that rescuing the Machenko child would probably bring in a fair amount of profit with which we could buy a new ship more suited to finding out more about the mysteries of the crusade, so that was the order we decided upon. We knew (a Palatine told us) that it would take around 6-7 months to return to the expanse, and we thought that stopping at Port Wander, or Port Moor would give us a place to rest and relax.
Someone from the lower decks came to speak to us about the Astropath that Herman picked up and the large Machenko who was impatiently waiting to hear about what we were doing with regard to the child. Theo called him up to where we all were and told him of our plan to stop off and visit Port Wander or Port Moor before going on to rescue the child. The Machenko – called Malachi – exuded a strange aura and wore an odd collar, but seemed happy enough with the situation. He asked if there was anywhere he could train, and Theo suggested (in jest? I’m not too sure…) that maybe he would like to train with the Murder Servitors. Malachi to our surprise, agreed. I offered to take him to see the armsmen, as I had gone on a mission previously with their captain Sehr Armitage.
I wheeled myself down there, while Malachi looked down on me, and spoke to the second-in-command. Armitage was doing some routine checks on the underdeck and I was told he would probably be a couple of hours. I explained that I and Malachi were looking to join their training sessions if they ould allow us to do so – which was no problem at all, and then…I had to ask for them to organise a training session for Malachi against the Murder Servitors. Oh, that was fun…
After some time (and the fraudulent signing of Theophilius’ signature) eventually it was organised. We were given a rough time estimate of 2-3 hours, and I decided to get my power armour and fist on. Even if he was built like an 8 foot bull, I wasn’t risking things getting horribly out of hand.
When I entered the seating around the pit (AKA a docking bay) I was surprised to see it had become a full-blown event. I doubt there was a single person on ship who wasn’t packed into the seats. (Well, I came to know that Herman wasn’t…but I’ll explain that later.) There were refreshments, betting slips…so much happening in the crowds, but I was hurried up to the “royal box” (a lifter platform) and I was stood with many Techpriests, one of whom was Darius, who had been wittering away to the second-in-command of the armsmen about the issues of arranging a situation like this. I found out that he was the person responsible for overseeing and repairing and creating the servitors and was incredibly stressed and concerned for their wellbeing.
I was able to get a good look at Malachi’s collar as he stood in the ring, as he was wearing little more than a loincloth. It was a glossy black material, embedded into his flesh, filaments running up into his skull. It looked heavily armored and too fancy to be a slave collar. There was a green light at the front of it, just below the end of his neck, and an on/off switch on the back. He was a hell of a fighter. A couple of times I caught the Palatine sneaking a glance or two through shutter and slits.
Malachi flicked the switches on the tops of the Servitor coffins and the bout began. I stood in the “box”, keeping an eye on proceedings and my gun close to hand. It barely seemed like seconds before the knife-claws of one Servitor pierced straight through him. He kept on fighting, so I just stood on guard, rather than running in.
The fight went fairly well, until I noticed a servitor following an odd pattern…it was following the grates. Theo voxed across and told me it was because Herman (it could hardly have been anyone else) was in the heating vents below the ring. The entirety of the bay had been locked off from the rest of the ship in case they had to vent the servitors due to escaping or such, so he was trapped below the ring…and one of the servitors had spotted him.
No sooner had this been realised, than the servitor plunged his knife fingers through the floor, presumably to “murder” Herman. I stood on ringside and got the security teams ready to enter. Theo kept telling us to wait as it would “void the bets” otherwise. Eventually he did manage to escape, and the two of them fought together.
Once the servitors were destroyed, something odd happened. Malachi turned on Herman, landing a blow on his face that knocked him backwards. At that point, I and the security teams entered. Whatever passed over Malachi had ended and he apologised to Herman. I strode across to Herman, told him never to do anything like that again, and lifted him off his feet by the scruff of his collar, taking him (with or without consent, I didn’t really ask) to the chapel to heal. Malachi commented on my armor, asking me if I knew how to use it properly. When I replied “probably not”, he offered to train me. Well, I could hardly pass that opportunity up!
So, during the 6 months or so of travel, I trained long and hard with Malachi, and there were semi-regular pitfights – some of which I joined Malachi in, fighting alongside. It kind of seemed like people weren’t turning up to see him anymore, though – I kept hearing things about the “ex-captain” when the crew discussed the fights during their working hours, which made me smile to myself.
There was talk of the “Feast of St. Drusus’ Rest” where he did something or another and he fought amongst his men for some reason and this was obviously worth celebrating. (Wow…that shows how much attention I was paying…) Apparently it was commonplace in some areas to hold fighting contests – a champion of each captain fighting for bragging rights. Port Wander was holding a hand-to-hand combat fighting contest, while Footfall was holding a no-holds-barred contest which seemed to be drawing more Rogue Traders to it. I’ll admit, I was almost jumping for joy when I heard we were heading there. I could probably manage alright in a hand-to-hand situation, but I quite like my armour and fist.
When we got there, I was warned by Malachi that I shouldn’t hesitate to kill the Orc. I was surprised by this, but agreed. Hey, he hadn’t done too bad teaching me so far!
My first fight was against a scarred man with a flaming knife. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to kill him, and it didn’t take too long to win. I grabbed his head, and hit it to the ground – not hard enough to kill, but hard enough to knock him cold.
The second fight was tougher. I was teamed up with a Kroot mercenary (Anyesa Winterscale‘s Kroot mercenary, in fact), against a man in carapace armour and something that could really only be described as a “ninja”. The Kroot chased after the man in armour, and so I was left with the “ninja”. Thanks to my darksight I was able to spot them easily, but hitting them turned out to be more difficult. I was damn near killed by a grenade that was thrown – one that seemed to expel foam so corrosive or…something…that it ate a hole through the platform we were on! Well…that was it. That wouldn’t have just killed me, that would have positively destroyed me. I was on a mission to hunt and kill, nothing less. I heard something behind a wall, but the adrenaline pumping caused me to not just hit through the wall and grab them, but to pull the entire wall down. It escaped and ran, and I pursued. I saw them jump on top of a wall, and I ran straight through it, knocking them to the ground. I struck them with my fist, doing (what I thought was) enough damage to kill, but they survived. As they struck the power line to my fist, cutting the electricity flowing to it, I saw almond eyes staring up at me with hatred. I would have taken a step back had I not been so angered by the almost deadly attack previously. Theo voxed me and shouted at me to stop – something about duress…but I couldn’t care. I drew my pistol…and missed.
In fact, I hadn’t just missed. The man in carapace armour had escaped the Kroot, and had shot me in the back, the bastard! I walked towards him and crushed him fairly easily. No-one was going to stop me from killing the Eld…where the hell had it gone?!
The Kroot appeared, sans an arm, and we both went in search of the Eldar. We found them standing near the far edge of the platform, and they plunged their sword into the ground, spitting words of hate at us. It was almost as if they had given up.
Suddenly I could hear shouting, a man was yelling at the Eldar. He had an orc near him with a shiny…thing. It seemed like whatever he was threatening had something to do with the shiny thing the orc was now trying to smash with whatever was close to hand. I know I shouldn’t have…but I felt a pang of pity for the being standing in front of me…almost in surrender. I didn’t trust them, though, and I stunned them before picking them up. I then asked them why they were working for the man – I got an irritated response regarding semantics. The Eldar wasn’t “working” for him, they were “in service” to him.
I offered them a choice: Work with me and recover the stone, or kill me and let the man keep his hold over them. I was accused of being like the man, but I shrugged that off. The Eldar had no reason to trust me, and I could have easily then simply used the stone to my own advantage. Theo and I had been talking away, and I knew he was heading towards the man, orc and stone, and I told the Eldar so. They agreed to work with me, and it was with a thankful, but heavy heart I turned to the Kroot. The audience were getting aggrieved that we had done nothing but talk for a while, and I turned to my teammate and apologised.
I tried to do little damage to the Kroot, both because I knew what damage it would do to our relationship with the Winterscale family simply by turning against him, let alone by killing him, and also because I have a strong respect for the Kroot. The way they work and the results they can get are something to be admired. However, the power fist is not meant for simply knocking people out, and with a very heavy heart indeed, I watched the Kroot fall the miles and miles down to the ground.
The crowd was stunned…I don’t think many people were expecting anything like that to unfold. And as I looked back to the man and his orc, I could see nothing glowing. I told the Eldar I thought we had managed to get hold of their stone, and sure enough, once we had both been escorted off the platform (and I’d been told off for another thing I’d said by the Eldar) Theophilius came to meet us. A deal was done – we would get a single unspecified favour from the Eldar in return for returning the stone – and the Eldar (as I had promised) found the stone back in their possession. They asked for my name and for Theophilius’ before leaving to return to their people.
Given the fact I’d broken a few rules (not killing both the opposition, killing my teammate, joining forces with one of the opposition etc.) I doubted I’d be allowed to return to the contest for the second day. I was wrong, though – and I was able to win.
My prizes were an iron circlet engraved with skulls, a statue of the God-Emperor, and any weapons from my defeated opponents I decided to keep. I took the blade of the man I fought first – an incredibly sharp obsidian blade, with microcircuitry, a power sword and an autocannon. Many people began to ask for my help in fighting, asking if I would join numerous leagues and championships, and all kinds of other stuff. An unexpected prize of mine was a huge embrace from Malachi, who I had mentioned to all those who asked for favours and things. I’d had numerous people then asking if I would sell him, and I had to tell them he was not mine to sell. The embrace may not have been the most…pleasant…embrace I’ve had, but it was greatly appreciated nevertheless.
The Kroot’s clansmen came and congratulated me, brushing aside my apologies and condolences. They all agreed that he was a mercenary and had known the risks of entering such a competition. They seemed to be fairly happy with the outcome, especially as they had been able to gather his body.
We returned to the ship after that…my two days of long hard work were finally done. It was fantastic fun (except the part where I almost died four times over at once) but I think I deserve a rest – Theophilius is officially the Captain now, so he can do all the hard work for a bit!
Now; where’s my cocktail…