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Forgotten Gods is an adventure for the second edition of Dark Heresy, one of Fantasy Flight Games' Warhammer 40,000 RPGs.
"Some will sell their very souls if they receive enough coin. But, to return to the topic at hand, how much were you offering for this delivery?"
— Gholsken Hresk, Sable Trader
The adventure begins in Hive Desoleum, with the Acolytes investigating the scene of a violent altercation at the request of Sanctionary Oath-Captain Kaytian Nils. The scene is marked by several strange factors that led her to reach out to the Acolytes. Confirming the Oath-Captain's fears that something unnatural and heretical is at work, the Acolytes follow the trail of a group of smugglers from the scene and discover that these smugglers are indeed involved with the corrupt xenos artefacts that have been poisoning the hive. These smugglers are in fact not importing them to the city, as others in the Faceless Trade in proscribed items have done, but transporting them off-world. In order to discover the truth, the Acolytes must follow the smugglers onto a ship bound for an unknown destination.
The crime scene that the Acolytes find themselves investigating is the aftermath of a deadly encounter between smugglers of the Trade Sable and cultists of the Callers of Sorrow. The latter is an expansive cult, with many dozens of sub-cults called "Strains" throughout the hive. Its true numbers are unknown, and at any moment the Strains are involved in numerous unholy plots. It was a cult member named Ferrue Fayne who first came into possession of a strange and ancient relic of unknown but clearly xenos origins, with which he boosted his existing psychic powers. Drawing on the unholy resonance of the xenos artefact, Ferrue was able to raise the very dead to serve him. If the Acolytes have already been through the events of Desolation of the Dead in the Dark Heresy Game Master's Kit, then Ferrue Fayne is most likely himself dead, his corpse dissolving in the depths of the sump. However, word spread quickly of Ferrue's explosive ascent within the cult and the reasons behind it.
Soon other would-be leaders and sorcerers within the Callers of Sorrow began seeking out similar xenos artefacts, which the smugglers of the Trade Sable were all too happy to provide. The malevolent work of the Trade Sable, one of the largest groups working the Faceless Trade in forbidden artefacts, should be quite familiar to players of the adventure Dark Pursuits in the Dark Heresy Core Rulebook. These smugglers sell to whomever can pay, and they have no more qualms about dealing with the twisted cultists of the Callers of Sorrow than they do with the jilted nobility of the Apex. Even seemingly innocuous artefacts of xenos origin fetch a high price and have become one of the most lucrative commodities for the Trade Sable in Hive Desoleum.
As ever, heretics are quick to betray their allies when it seems expedient. Certain factions of the Trade Sable have worked for some time with a cult known as the Children of the Inheritance, based on the fabled Cemetery Planet of Thaur (though it is important that the Acolytes do not learn this until the events of the second chapter). In fact, this is the same cult that employed the services of the arch-heretek Somnius Halbrel in the events of Dark Pursuits. The Children of the Inheritance value these artefacts not just for their power, as the Callers of Sorrow do, but as a central object of devotion within their heretical belief system (for more on the beliefs of the Children of the Inheritance, see page 112). The Inheritors, as they are sometimes known, are willing to pay almost any price for these objects. Thus, a number of enterprising Sable Traders, collaborating with the Inheritors, decided to retake artefacts from the Callers of Sorrow, by force if necessary. The adventure begins in the aftermath of one such incident. This is not the first deadly encounter between the Traders and the Callers of Sorrow, but it is the first to come to the attention of the authorities, as the others have occurred in the darkest and most forlorn stretches of the hive.
A handful of Sable Traders escaped the carnage and are working their way through the hive, carrying with them the artefacts taken from the Callers of Sorrow, even as the Acolytes investigate the scene of the skirmish. After some investigation, the Acolytes pick up the trail and eventually catch up to the smugglers, either fighting them or following them into the wastes surrounding Hive Desoleum. Eventually, the Acolytes discover a smuggler camp, where Sable Traders and cultists of the Children of the Inheritance are preparing to take their stockpile of artefacts off-world. Again, the Acolytes can choose to take up arms against the smugglers, or to remain inconspicuous and follow them. In either case, the path leads to a vessel preparing to disembark. In order to discover the smugglers' destination, the Acolytes must board the ship and leave Desoleum behind.
The Callers of Sorrow are a large cult endemic to Hive Desoleum. The followers of this malefic group are sworn to the service of the Dark Gods, in particular the Chaos power known in forbidden texts as Nurgle, the Lord of Decay. The cult is divided into self-sustaining cells, known as "Strains". The events of Forgotten Gods are concerned with the Mournful Song Strain led by Tormus Fayne, based out of a downhive area known as the Gallowsway. Tormus is one of three brothers who are the hereditary masters of one of the Mortuarian Houses of the Gallowsway - macabre facilities where the bodies of the dead are rendered down to their component parts. This region, rife with death and decay, is fertile ground for the Callers of Sorrow. Tormus's younger brother Ferrue, seeking to usurp his elder brother's position as Preceptor of the Strain, came into possession of a mysterious xenos artefact, which amplified his own sorcerous abilities and granted him the very ability to raise the dead as mindless automatons. Whether or not Ferrue is still amongst the living, knowledge of his practice has spread throughout the Strain, which seeks further xenos artefacts to enhance their Warp-spawned powers.
More information about the Callers of Sorrow can be found in Chapter XII: NPCs and Adversaries in the Dark Heresy Core Rulebook, and in the adventure Desolation of the Dead in the Dark Heresy Game Master's Kit.
The Acolytes might wish to seek out witnesses to the fight or its aftermath, and this is certainly a legitimate approach. No witnesses have come forward in the aftermath of the event, so it is up to the Acolytes to find them. The inhabitants of the Gallowsway and surrounding environs know better than to intrude into matters that are not their concern, and this philosophy extends to crimes, including violence and murder. Most denizens of the region are aware of the numerous gangs that from time to time pass through their shanty-like hovels. Knowledge of cults, such as those within the Callers of Sorrow, is less widespread. Imperial citizens are taught from birth to refrain from asking questions, and so tend to look at their feet and simply ignore the mysterious goings-on around them. They are also taught to report signs of unorthodox behaviour and heresy, but such desires often take second place to that of survival. Ultimately, what this means is that very few inhabitants of the Gallowsway are likely to even know of the cult's existence, unless they are directly involved in the Callers of Sorrow themselves. They might have heard rumours and whispers, which they most likely try to place out of mind, lest such knowledge lead to their own downfall.
The Red Walk's war with the cultists has continued even after Ferrue Fayne's death. Though Crimson knows that the cult involves itself in dark matters that even he would never touch, for the most part he views it not unlike any other rival gang. He does not stand for their presence on his turf, and he strikes at their operations where possible. How the Callers of Sorrow view him, Crimson cannot say. Whether he realises it or not, it is very possible that even now the Callers are gathering their dark arts to strike back in full force against the Red Walk for its actions against the Blessed Flesh. Crimson and his gangers are masters at inflicting pain with a blade, and even the hardy cultists captured earlier are not beyond their skill. Under torture that could shock even a hardened Inquisitorial interrogator, cultists have revealed to Vornas that individuals who they believe to be smugglers have been striking at the cult's stockpiles of xenos artefacts and taking them off-world for purposes unknown. Vornas might mention that the information seems a bit too convenient, almost as if someone wanted it to be known, for the captured cultists yielded these stories disappointingly quickly.
The Strain engaged in a struggle with Vornas Crimson is also the same one that is the primary target for the Sable Traders. It is the Mournful Song, one of the primary operations Tormus personally oversees. Beset by enemies, Tormus hopes to turn them against each other. He has at least some knowledge of the Acolytes if they were responsible for slaying his brother Ferrue in the events of Desolation of the Dead.
Tormus does not hold any particular animosity for this; in fact, they did him something of a favour by halting his younger brother's ambitions to replace him as leader of the Strain. Tormus hopes the Acolytes can perform another such favour by removing the Sable Traders who have been such a thorn in his side. It is for this reason that Tormus has both held back his full power in his war with Vornas Crimson, and purposefully fed Crimson the information about the Trade Sable. Tormus hopes that the Acolytes will be in contact with Crimson and act on this intelligence. Of course, Tormus holds no illusions about the danger the Acolytes pose, and plans to deal with them should they succeed in halting the smugglers.
Not all of the cultists are privy to his plots and strategies, however. One such group, ignorant of their master's plans, seeks vengeance for Ferrue Fayne's demise. Once the Acolytes' investigation is well underway, the GM should make a Subtlety test. If the warband fails this test, it indicates that the cultists have learned of the Acolytes' presence in the vicinity of the Gallowsway, and they move to strike at them. At an appropriate point during the Acolytes' investigation between major encounters, these cultists attempt to ambush the Acolytes. The group consists of two Strain Infectors and one Strain Initiate per PC (see pages 406-407 of the Dark Heresy Core Rulebook), a number that the GM can adjust to fit his Acolytes' combat ability using the threat threshold rules.
The cultists attempt to set an ambush, intending to launch a surprise assault on the PCs as they pass through an otherwise empty stretch of tunnel. The cultists conceal themselves amidst debris and behind pipes until the Acolytes approach. Each Acolyte should make an Opposed Challenging (+0) Awareness test against the cultists' Stealth, rolling once for the entire group of cultists. The cultists have specifically chosen a particularly dark area, where only a few sputtering chemical lanterns provide illumination. This grants them a +20 bonus to their Stealth test; however, if any of the players voice the observation, in or out of character, that this would be an ideal place for an ambush, provide that Acolyte a +10 bonus to his Awareness test. Any Acolytes who fail the Opposed test are Surprised during the first round of combat.
Through interrogating a captured Sable Trader with whom they previously did business, the Callers of Sorrow learned that the smugglers were using the Oath Unspoken for transportation of artefacts. In order to ensure that the Acolytes continue their investigation of the Inheritors, a small group of Mournful Song cultists have also snuck aboard the Oath Unspoken under the orders of Tormus Fayne. The intention of these cultists is to observe the Acolytes in secret, while simultaneously conducting their own investigation into the Inheritors as a sort of contingency plan.
The group consists of three Strain Initiates led by one Strain Infector (see pages 406-407 of the Dark Heresy Core Rulebook). This group is far too small to pose a threat to the Children of the Inheritance on their own, and thus attempt to avoid detection while observing the Acolytes, the Inheritors, and Sable Traders. The Strain Initiates can gather information by talking with the crew and other passengers, much as the Acolytes do. Depending on how this chapter unfolds, the Acolytes might not even become aware of the Mournful Song's presence. However, there are a few ways the GM can utilise the Strain members throughout this chapter.
If the Acolytes miss clues, ignore leads, or otherwise need assistance locating the Inheritors and Sable Traders, the GM can use the Mournful Song cultists to pass on information without exposing their presence. This could take the form of hand-written notes, rusty data-slates, messages communicated by intermediaries, or discreet markings on bulkheads. In any case, the GM should allow Acolytes who are familiar with Desoleum cults to attempt Awareness or Logic tests to recognise the hand of the Callers of Sorrow at work. Successful tests detect such clues as inexplicable rust or tarnish on devices, cult symbology included in hidden messages, or descriptions of the cultists from witnesses or intermediaries. Any information the cultists pass on should help the Acolytes to get back on track, but should not eliminate the need for them to do their own footwork. Even if the information is complete, the Acolytes would do well to distrust it until verifying it for themselves. Additionally, the GM should remember that the cultists are also operating on incomplete information. If he does not think it would prove frustrating for the players, the GM could insert some inaccuracies in the information that the cult supplies. This leaves the Acolytes to determine whether their source is simply mistaken or is purposefully misleading them.
In particular, the Strain Infector, one Gerag Corlin, attempts to stay completely out of sight, for his countenance is so decayed and diseased as to mark him as accursed. The Strain Initiates still appear normal enough that they can interact with others without necessarily drawing suspicion. In this way, the Acolytes could learn of the Mournful Song's presence. If he wishes, the GM can allow Acolytes who obtain more degrees of success than necessary on Investigate tests aboard the ship to also learn that another group has been asking similar questions. Alternatively, if the Acolytes' presence becomes known, any allies they make amongst the crew, passengers, or pilgrims can potentially advise them that another group has been asking questions about them.
It is, of course, possible for the Acolytes to discover the Mournful Song's presence, and perhaps even its identity. If the Acolytes learn of its presence indirectly, or if the cultists provide information to the Acolytes, they might choose to investigate the identity of this third party. They are certainly correct to do so as long as they do not abandon their primary investigation.
If the Game Master desires a confrontation with the cultists, he can give the Acolytes a chance to notice the presence of one of the Initiates. This could mean spotting him in a crowd in the Drunnels, or detecting his presence as he follows the Acolytes at a distance through the corridors of the ship. In either case, the GM should call for one of the Acolytes, either the one in the best position to notice a cultist or the Acolyte with the highest Perception or Awareness skill to make an Opposed Challenging (+0) Awareness test against the Initiate's Ordinary (+10) Stealth test. These Initiates were specifically chosen for their mission based on their abilities, and should be treated as having Rank 1 (+0) in the Stealth skill. Most areas on the ship allow sufficient hiding places, such as behind bulkheads, amid tangles of pipes and cabling, or simply in the shadows left by insufficient lighting. As such, the cultist should usually gain at least a +10 bonus to the test from the environment.
The cultists do not intend to confront the Acolytes, and attempt to flee if discovered. They do not attack the Acolytes except in self-defence. Even then, the cultists try to drive the Acolytes off or pin them down while they escape, and not to kill them. Tormus is counting on the Acolytes to destroy the rival Inheritors, and has given his Mournful Song cultists on this mission express orders not to interfere with or harm the Acolytes.
Though the Children of the Inheritance was dealt a huge blow, there are undoubtedly survivors on Thaur and perhaps on the Oath Unspoken or other worlds, all eager for revenge or to reattempt their unholy resurrection. Tormus Fayne, the powerful cult leader, could use them to strengthen his forces away from Desoleum and grow the Callers of Sorrow. Fayne sees the crippling of the Inheritors as a major victory for himself as well as the God of Decay, and views this as a sign to increase his efforts. This could lead to greater cult activity across Desoleum and the sub-sector, even as far away as Juno itself.
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