The following is a journal of my Dark Heresy campaign. 'The Vermilion Codex' is the name of a volume of forbidden lore that lies at the heart of many of the Acolytes adventures. This introductory scenario, which sets down the premise, is titled:
THE FENKSWORLD CONSPIRACY
DH assumes that the player characters start out as currently employed agents of an Inquisitor. However, as a fan of 'caper' movies, I've always liked the part where the team of specialists is initially recruited, so I thought it would be fun to try something similar in DH- starting the campaign with the player character's first meeting with their prospective patron. This was fairly risky- there was always a possibility that the recruitment mission would be a failure, or the PCs simply wouldn't come together at the right time to form a party. I tried to allow for enough failsafes to channel things in the right direction if the scenario went off the rails, but you can't allow for every possibility. Still, being a glutton for punishment, I blundered forward...
I didn't assign dates to the events depicted here until after the party had officially formed; I had to keep the timing flexible to ensure that everyone ended up at the right place at the right time...
The PCs names are bolded the first time they appear. Text in [brackets] contain information relevant to the storyline that was unknown to the PCs at the time.
301.815.M41. The Inquisitorial Black Ship Nicodemus arrives in orbit of the grimy hive-dominated industrial planet of Fenksworld, to take custody of their current batch of identified psykers, in accordance with Imperial law. The capital hive-city of Nova Castillian is abuzz about the ominous visitor which has arrived nearly a month ahead of schedule.
302.815.M41. [Inquisitor Aurellius Montag of the Ordo Hereticus, travelling on board the Nicodemus fulfilling some bureaucratic obligations to his Ordo, has dinner with his old friend Provost Severis, head of the Nova Castillian Arbites precinct. After dinner, Severus asks Montag for his opinions about a possible Conspiracy that his Arbites have uncovered...]
303.815.M41. Venris, a young noble-born cleric in the service of Nova Castillian's Crown District Cathedral, encounters his down-and-out cousin Pietro after his daily services. When Venris inquires about his disheveled appearance, Peitro tells him that he has fallen in with a very dangerous crowd and become addicted to the drug Obscura. His new 'friends' were using him to make contacts with members of Fenksworld's upper class society, but his drug addiction got out of hand and, now that he is of no more use to them, Pietro is convinced that they will try to 'eliminate' him. Venris agrees to help his cousin and takes him in.
Kaarl, a disciple of the Machine God, begins a gruelling 72-hour workshift deep in the Bowels, the lowest functioning district of Nova Castillian, bordering the abandoned Underhive.
304.815.M41. [While Venris is away at services, Pietro breaks under his withdrawal symptoms and disappears.]
In the Adminisratum Annex of Nova Castillion, an adept named Denathor, newly promoted to Munitorium Quastor, spots a discrepancy on a weapon shipment invoice; being naturally paranoid, he investigates, dragging the signatory of the invoice, Sub-Quastor Akton, to the hanger where the shipment is staged. Denathor checks several of the cases of lasguns, and finds nothing amis. When he begins to pry the lid off of the case with the anomalous tracking number, however, he discovers that the case is filled with scrap metal. In a panic, Akton draws a concealed laspistol. This leads to a near-fatal shoot-out, in which Akton reveals that he is stealing lasguns on behalf of parties unknown; Denathor barely survives, while Akton is killed by a mysterious cloaked figure who promptly disappears- apparently after checking the contents of the case himself.
Arbites Trooper Alaric, on patrol in the Administratum Annex, receives a call about a disturbance at a Munitoruim shipping hanger. Upon arriving at the scene of the firefight, he arrests Denathor; he finds no sign of a 'cloaked figure'. Alaric takes Denathor to his Pricinct and, after Denathor recieves some medical attention, he is brought to an interrogation room. While interrogating Denathor, Alaric's investigation is abruptly taken over by Captain Clovix, an Arbites officer who would normally have no jurisdiction over this particular crime.
Capt. Clovix subjects Denathor to a long and repetitve interrogation; not getting the information he was looking for, Clovix sends Denathor to a holding cell to try again the next day.
Later, back at his desk, Alaric receives a secret communication, apparently from an Inquisitor, ordering him to release Denathor and enter a judgement of 'self-defense' -Clovix having not submitted the paperwork necessary to formally take over the investigation.
Returning to his small hab-unit, Denathor is contacted by the cloaked figure- Inquisition Interrogator Sebastian Rao- who enlists his aid in investigating the missing lasguns.
Down in the rough Hive-Bowels neighborhood of Z-Town, streetwise scummer Varn, fallen on hard times, swallows his pride and seeks employment with local crimelord Grim Largo at his public headquarters, a dive bar called The Spigot, so named for the huge industrial spiggot used as a makeshift buttress on the sagging front wall. Varn uses his drinking buddies within the Hammerjacks gang- who frequently work as hired muscle for Largo- as references.
305.815.M41. After services, Venris is contacted by some low-hive Enforcers, who ask him to identify the body of a murder victim who they believe to be his cousin Pietro.
Capt. Clovix, discovering that 'his' prisoner has been released, chews out Alaric, but can take no official action against him since Clovix never filed the necessary paperwork.
Denathor, recuperating form the previous days' injuries at his hab-unit, receives a servitor-delivered batch of Munitorium shipment logs, courtesy of Interrogator Rao. He settles in for a long day of searching for discrepancies similar to the one that alerted him to the missing lasguns.
When his references check out, Varn is hired by Grim Largo as a secondary driver on a mysterious shipment down into the Lower Bowels, a mission led by Largo's tech-savvy second-in-command, Dullos. After a long drive down to a dark and disused section of the Bowels boardering the Underhive, it is revealed that stolen lasguns are being traded to some offworld smugglers for a supply of the illegal narcotic Obscura. However, since the smugglers know that this will be the last in a series of exchanges, and having heard that Largo is understaffed due to a gang war between the Hammerjacks and the Screaming Skulls, the smugglers decide to betray Grim Largo; they try to kill his men and take the lasguns. Most of Largo's men are wiped out, but Dullos dives into a vehicle and flees; Varn manages to jump into the back. As they narrowly escape from the ambush [unaware that a tracking device has been attached to the vehicle by a hidden figure], shotgun blasts ring out followed by the [apparent] war-cry of the Screaming Skulls. The smugglers flee with most of the lasguns.
Kaarl, investigating a strange power fluctuation [caused by Dullos overriding a security program to facilitate the rendezvous], comes upon the shoot-out between the smugglers and Largo's men. He is surprised by a hulking 'jungle fighter'-type Guard veteran who identifies himself as Sgt. Thrane, an agent of an Inquisitor [it was he who imitated the Screaming Skulls war-cry to scare off the smugglers]. Kaarl tries to close a hatchway to trap the smugglers, but the hatch closes too slowly and the smugglers get away. After staging the crime scene to look like a Screaming Skulls gang clash [Thrane had a 'run-in' with some Skulls on the way to the rendezvous], and hiding the few remaining lasguns, he takes down Kaarl's cognomen information and tells him that his boss will be in touch.
Venris arrives at the seedy Bowels-level Enforcer precinct house [at the entrance to Z-Town] to identify his cousin's body and arrange for it to be sent uphive. The enforcers have clearly done little by way of investigating Pietro's death. When he leaves the precinct house, Venris doesn't notice that his servitor-cab is being followed by a battered old limousine; on a deserted stretch of the Arteria, the limousine forces the servitor-cab off the road. Two hulking heavies with guns get out and haul Venris into the limousine. After a short drive, he is dragged into a seedy pub with an enormous industrial spigot buttressing the front wall. Inside, he is taken to an overweight man [Largo] at a private table who asks him why he is snooping after a junkie. Venris says that "he confessed some very disturbing things to me...". Largo is surprised by his honesty and orders his men to take Venris out and 'dispose' of him.
Quintilla, a void-born woman who apprenticed in the art of assassination with a zealous Death Cult, but was expelled from their ranks, wanders the hive Bowels semi-lost, looking for sinners to punish in the name of the Emperor but finding few 'worthy' of her attention. She comes upon some likely candidates roughly dragging a man in the robes of a Ministorium cleric out of a seedy tavern. After a short but heated battle, she and Venris dispatch the thugs, then wipe out Largo's bodyguards inside The Spigot. Largo flees in panic out the back door from what he assumes to be a deliberate assassination attempt. Venris and Quintilla poke around the Spigot trying (unsuccessfully) to get some information, when the Enforcers arrive on the scene. Quintilla is nearly killed, but Venris repays her rescue buy convincing the Enforcers that they are innocent victims who acted in self-defense; confused and scared, the rookie Enforcer shoos them out the back door.
Dullos, driving like a madman, with Varn holding on for dear life, arrives at The Spigot; rounding the corner to the back alley, he slams head-on into Largo's fleeing limousine, sending Varn flying. Dullos jumps into Largo's vehicle and they flee, leaving the injured Varn behind.
Venris and Quintilla, walking down the alley from The Spigot, come upon Varn. Assuming that he may know something useful about the people responsible for his cousin's death, Venris offers to help Varn out. He flags down a servitor-cab and puts Varn and Quintilla up in a rented mid-hive hab unit for the night, then returns to his quarters in the Cathedral.
[As a squad of Enforcers try to make sense of the shootout at The Spigot, a shadowy figure, having tracked Dullos' vehicle to the alleyway, contacts a distant ally via encrypted microbead. He tells him to search servitor-cab records for three people matching the description of the suspects seen fleeing The Spigot; upon finding the address of the cab's destination he orders the information deleted before anyone else finds it...]