Dark Heresy recap: Session two

So our first plan was to try and play a session on Fantasy Flight Games’s Dark Heresy every week. Unfortunately we picked quite possibly the worst time of the year (December and January – lots of movement and lots of time spent with families) to start and subsequently I picked the worst time to attempt to write up recaps of said sessions.

Some of the events have been altered to better fit a narrative structure.

I got some great feedback from people who read the first session I recapped and I’m hopefully taking all that on board.

And thus continues the adventures of Jacques, a former penal legionnaire in the Imperial Guard of the Imperium of Mankind in the Warhammer 40,000 setting. For those who cannot be bothered to read my 5000 word previous entry (relax, this one is less than 3000 words), Jacq has been sequestered from his penal legion by a woman named Adgencourt onto a ship full of other guardsmen. He was sent by Adgencourt to a monastery on the planet Tokugawa to covertly retrieve a ledger of some importance. Shortly after arriving, the monks began dying and reanimating, but they’re the least of his worries – there is at least one daemon afoot.

Luckily Jacq has a steadfast ally in a fellow guardsman and pilgrim Severus, who happened to be staying at the monastery on his way to a campaign.

Session two:

Jacq’s head was pounding. His face and his hands were freezing as Brother Severus found a sheltered alcove in a nearby building.

“Are you all right, Rabbit? I’d give you something to drink – I had a flask of amasec, but I’d unpacked and left it on the floor of our bunk…I don’t think going back into that burning temple to get it is an option.” Severus said, handing Jacq a mostly clean cloth.

“Don’t know I’d want to go back in there even if we hadn’t set it on fire.” Jacq said as he picked semi-solidified blood and vomit from his face. His clothes would have to wait until later.

“Well, in any case, we can’t stay out here. There might be more of those…things.” Severus said looking around. He tucked his hands under his armpits, and his lasgun slipped slightly.

The thought of more horrors like the thing wrapped in screaming faces made Jacq feel sick all over again. His head was still fuzzy but he pushed himself to his feet all the same.

There were only three more buildings around the yard. Jacq was a simple guardsman and not particularly religious like Severus appeared to be, but he was almost praying clearing out the monks would make the snowstorm dissipate.

With the burning building behind them, Jacq decided not to check out the woodshed behind them, but move closer to the building that burrowed into the mountainside.

As the pair shuffled along, they hid in the alcove of the next building. It was a long and ornate with a huge set of double doors made of timber. Circular glass windows lined the side of the building.

“Do you think we should look in here first or keep moving?” Jacq said.

Severus looked at the doors and then back at Jacq. The uncertainty was written on his face, but Jacq knew the soldier wanted to get out of the snow as badly as he did. Unless Severus was from Fenris or the depths of an underhive, he had to be suffering, even with that huge beard.

“All right. I’ll look in and see if there are any more of those monks. If there are, I’ll call you in and we can take care of them. Maybe there will be some weapons in there too.”

Severus seemed to agree with Jacq’s reasoning, standing slightly back and aiming at the door as Jacq pushed his way inside the building.

Despite the experienced solider standing behind him, Jacq’s heart was pounding. It made a nice companion to his head, he supposed as he slipped inside.

The room was tall and long, with timber pillars on each side. Like the food hall and sleeping quarters Jacq and Severus had set alight, the building shared the Tokugawan style.

Firelight shone in from a set of windows but did little to alleviate the gloom.

From what Jacq could see, there were about five sets of pillars and then a door presumably leading further inside.

Pressing his back to the wall, Jacq slowly began to inch toward the first pillar when he heard something.

He shook his head. No, he smelled something. It was like something was mashing those two senses together in a wholly unpleasant way.

He hesitated. This wasn’t like fighting Orks or renegade guardsmen. He had only one other solider and they were on a mountain where the dead were rising.

As he hesitated, two figures walked out from behind one of the pillars further into the room. One was small and stout, the other was impossibly tall and impossibly thin to be human. Jacq couldn’t make out what they were saying, but it wasn’t in High or Low Gothic.

The smell became stronger as the two creatures came further into the middle of the hall.

It was only minutes since Jacq and Severus has been attacked by the…thing on the frozen pond. Jacq didn’t think it was possible for his body to produce more adrenaline, but the familiar sensation jabbed into his chest once again.

It was more than just a simple scare, however. Jacq nearly panicked. He clutched his pistol and axe so hard it felt as if his fingernails bent against the palm of his gloved hand.

Jacq pressed himself against the wall, almost hoping the flimsy timber would crack with the force of just his legs. But he knew that was a hopeless thought.

He took a small, shuddering breath and began to make his way back toward the main door.

Though he was less than two metres from the door, slowly inching back felt like it took forever. And the stinking chatter was making his head spin. He felt as if he was about to gag as he made it to the door and stumbled out.

“What happened in there?” Severus said, looking at Jacq’s sweating face.

Jacq shook his head and wiped his brow with a part of the stolen monk’s clothes that wasn’t soiled with blood or vomit. He didn’t trust himself to speak after such a close call with what he thought were two more of the horrors.

The pair made their way into the structure furthest from the dining hall. After his close call with the two things, Jacq didn’t even consider checking the small building between.

Jacq basically collapsed as they pushed the door open, with Severus easing him against a pillar.4

“Emperor’s beard, these heretics don’t know when to quit. ” Severus said with a smile that was missing several teeth. He clapped Jacq on the shoulder.

“Maybe it isn’t just heretics. Maybe it’s xenos. Maybe…” Jacq said, realising he was probably grasping at straws. Severus gave him a sympathetic look and began to help Jacq up.

“Don’t you worry, brother. It’s just witches. Deciding to burn down that building was a good plan. You and I will sort out the rest of them out with the ends of our guns. How does that sound?” Severus said and began to look around the room.

While searching the pair found several styalised murals along the walls – but these were different. While still in the Tokugawan style, the men depicted weren’t carrying the primitive timber and steel bludgeons and blades seen in the food hall. They were carrying Imperial weapons.  Jacq swore he saw heavy stubber like the ones he used to use back on his hive.

Severus pulled back the curtain at the back of the room. The tunnel lead further into the mountain.

“Don’t suppose we have any more kindling…or something to hold the fire?” Severus asked, looking over his shoulder as Jacq approached.

“Unless there’s a kitchen in here I think we’re going to have to go in blind.” Jacq said, ripping the curtain down with a huge pull. He used the  fabric to clean himself up as best he could. If the situation weren’t so desperate, Jacq would have considered creating makeshift ponchos.

As they ventured into the stone tunnel, Jacq began to feel more at home. It was the hugeness of the outside that made him nervous. Growing up on a hive world, tunnels and small spaces were what Jacq knew best. The throbbing in his head began to subside.

They reached an intersection as the light from the hall had begun to dim. While one lead further into the mountain, there was no light.  The other way was only barely lit from a far off source running adjacent to the main building.

“Looks like we’re going this way,” Jacq said, taking the lead.

The light began getting brighter and the pair arrived in what looked like a waiting room. Jacq guessed they would probably be near the end of the building from where they were situated.

Jacq made note of three exits to the waiting room. One continued the way they were already headed and up to a flight of stairs. The other two lead to what Jacq assumed were what passed for offices in the Tokugawan monastic society.

Their weapons already ready for combat, the pair moved into a combat formation. Jacq, with his shotgun, at the front, and Severus hanging slightly back for cover. The pair had both been guardsmen and their training prepared them for close-combat fighting.

Jacq booted in the first door and immediately dropped to one knee to give Severus a clear line of sight.

A huge monk stood in the corner of the room. His normally tanned Tokugawan skin turning an alarming pale shade toward his limbs and head.

The monk was dressed slightly differently to the others  Jacq had seen, his clothing designed to provide significantly more freedom of movement. He also carried a massive curved sword that had runes carved into the side.

It wasted no time in charging Jacq and Severus, swinging the massive blade in an arc. It got half way across the room before Jacq unloaded a shotgun blast into its stomach.

The monk stumbled and let out a gasping roar. Jacq wondered what was taking Severus so long to finish it off. He looked over his shoulder and saw another huge monk grappling with the big soldier. Jacq assumed the other monk must have come from the other room.

His momentary distraction nearly cost Jacq his head. Dropping to the floor as the first monk took a chunk out of the wall in the space where Jacq’s head had been next to. Jacq had expected the shotgun blast to take more of an effect on the monk and the relentless attack had caught him off guard.

He fumbled to bring his shotgun to bare as he scooted backward. He had one more shell in the chamber before he had to reload and wanted to make it count.

Severus was fighting frantically with the other monk, butting it in the head with his rifle where he could and dodging around the clumsy swings.

As Jacq bumped up against the wall of the room, the monk attacking him raised its sword above its head, ready to perform a coup-d’état . It opened its mouth to roar again but only a slight hiss came from its throat. It gave Jacq just the right opportunity to finally get a good shot off.

The blast from the shotgun was deafening and the stock of the gun punched back into his stomach. The monk’s upper body was riddled from the shot, with his neck and jaw suffering the most damage. It stood there, above Jacq, for a couple of seconds before toppling forward onto Jacq.

The weight of the dead body knocked the air out of him, and Jacq began to struggle so he’d be able to help Severus,  who ‘d managed to fire a couple of rounds from the hip.

“Back around this way!” Jacq shouted as the monk  slammed his blade into Severus’ chest. The soldier had managed to shrug into the blow so the tip of the blade only cut the first few layers of clothing. It looked like while he’d shrugged off the worst of the blow, Severus did look like he’d been slightly winded.

As the pair stumbled back toward Jacq, he frantically worked to try and get his hand axe free.

Severus tried stepping over the corpse of the monk Jacq had killed, but managed to stand on it. Jacq let out a groan as his legs protested, but Severus had moved the monk enough that Jacq could reach his weapons.

There was a sickening crunch as the axe came down on the other monk’s knee, causing it to topple sideways onto Jacq.

The attack gave Severus enough time to pounce. Before the monk could react to either Severus or Jacq, who was now pinned by two of the monstrosities, Severus stepped in and unloaded a short burst of las into the back of the monk’s head.

The second monk fell still.

“A little help?” Jacq said, legs and lower torso slowly being crushed by 200kg of dead flesh.

“The Warp-cursed bastard snuck up on me. Nearly took my head off too.” Severus said as he helped roll the cold bodies from Jacq’s lower body.

Increasingly Jacq felt like he was out of his depth. Though Severus tried to assure him the monks were only heretics and witches, the thought didn’t give any comfort to Jacq. He was used to fighting xenos and traitors who’d planned to secede from the Imperium. Something that could reanimate bodies and was in cahoots with daemons was something else entirely. He prayed he was wrong and the bodies were only infected with some kind of alien fungus or something.

The pair made their way up the stairs, arriving at an ornate door. While it was still made of the same simple timber as the rest of the buildings in the monastery, it was covered in intricate patterns and illuminations.

Jacq and Severus burst into the room, guns at the ready.

Jacq half expected to see more of the huge, heavily armed monks. Instead, the only occupant of the room was a frail old man lying on the floor near his cot.

A quick inspection of their surroundings revealed the room to be larger than most of the other monks’ sleeping quarters, but not overly spacious. There was a cot, a small table in the middle of the room, and numerous hangings of the monastery’s patron saint.

Jacq moved closer to the old man to get a better look while Severus explored a small alcove toward on the left side of the room.

The man’s  skin was a bluish white. His headdress was slightly askew and it looked as if he had fallen as he was crossing the room. Though he had few wrinkles on his face, his cheeks had begun to show age spots and his hands and neck showed he was by far the most senior of the monks they’d encountered.

He vaguely remembered one of the monks he’d spoken with had told him about the head monk, Ito. This had to be him. Jacq remembered his mission from Adgencourt and began to search around for a ledger.

Severus suddenly flung himself back into the room and began to look around frantically.

A strange noise began to wash over the room accompanied by a nauseous feeling akin to standing in a strong wind and being seasick. Though he’d never heard the sound himself, he’d spoken to psykers and sanctioned navigators who’d described it to him – the sound was the noise of the waves of the Warp.

“Oh Throne, oh Throne, oh Emperor on His Throne…” Jacq said under his breath, half a prayer, half a curse, as he began to ready his weapon.

Ito suddenly began to get up. He did it without using his arms, making the whole unnatural.

Jacq fired his shotgun at Ito, but the buckshot hit the head monk in the legs, only making him stumble as he pulled himself up.

Ito grinned, his smile crooked and missing several teeth. He…no, it, pointed toward the alcove Severus had thrown himself in from.

Suddenly Jacq heard bells. The ringing was deafening. It was louder than the Great Cathedral on Gunmetal. It wasn’t just the one bell in his head either, there were hundreds.

Jacq struggled to hold his shotgun as he stumbled back, the force of the noise almost hitting him like a physical assault.

And then she appeared. Her hair was shining black, her makeup white and immaculate, her robes ceremonial . The woman from the paintings, and sculptures…the Imperial Saint… came into the room through the alcove.

Now back against the opposite wall to where the woman had come in from, Jacq could see the alcove actually lead out to a small balcony. A small balcony that could only be 20 metres from the ground. It was then Jacq noticed the woman was floating.

Severus was scrambling as far from the woman he could – panicked enough that instead of running through the door, he ran to the corner of the room where the cot was and leapt upon the bed.

The woman floated in and Jacq was paralysed by a combination of the ringing bells and terror.

Then she looked at Jacq, and stared straight into his eyes.

The world went black.

… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …

So there is it, I hope you enjoyed it. The next addition will feature a dream sequence giving a bit of Jacq’s backstory, which I’m finding out is bloody hard to write.

If you have any feedback, please leave it as a comment or send me a tweet. 

Thanks again for reading.

Cam

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