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The Askellon Sector is the campaign setting for the second edition of Dark Heresy, the Warhammer 40,000 role-playing game. In this RPG, the player characters are low-powered agents of the Inquisition investigating (amongst other things) heretical cults. Within that setting, the Callers of Sorrow is a Nurgle-worshipping cult.
The leader of the Callers of Sorrow is Achkovas Spengh. The Mournful Song Strain is led by Tormus Fayne. The Blessed Flesh Strain is led by Ferrue Fayne.
Like a cancer worming its way throughout an unsuspecting body, the Callers of Sorrow spread their corruption unseen amongst the hive populace. They have numerous aid houses under a variety of covers, where they offer assistance to the sick and injured lacking access to medicae support. They also comfort those crushed with despair, carefully hiding the cult's true nature from all those seeking help. The cult's flesh savants can tend to the pain of the sick and dying with supernatural efficacy, and can even extend life - for the right price, paid in much more than mere hive-scrip or oath-extensions.
Hive Desoleum is sometimes likened to a living thing, a great creature of metal. To the Callers of Sorrow, the hive is all but dead, and their purpose is to hasten its inevitable collapse. They look to the Underhive's decrepitude as Desoleum's ultimate fate, and see any attempts to forestall this as futile and foolish. With morose glee, they seek to accelerate the hive's fall. When first inducted, members are educated on these elements, and they often view it as an act of rebellion against their cruel masters. As they are inducted deeper into the cult's beliefs, they learn that the decay is not symbolic, but literal, as the higher echelons seek to harness the power of the Warp to bring about their goals.
The Callers of Sorrows are organised in a cell structure, each functioning as a complete cult in its own right, each subservient to a charismatic and powerful Preceptor. Only the higher-ranked members even realise there are levels beyond the bounds of their sect. Each cell, known as a Strain within the cult, centres its activities and rites on a different aspect of decay or disease. When a Strain takes action against the hive, it does so in a way that corresponds to its speciality, viewing the hive as a living creature supported by numerous organ systems. A Strain that focusses on diseases of the respiratory system, for instance, might plot to damage the hive's air-cyclers, or use them to dispense an airborne pathogen.
As if in imitation of disease itself, most Strains are content to bide their time before making a move, festering unseen as they lay careful plans, taking pains not to reveal themselves until it is too late for the hive to halt its infection. Sanctionaries and Arbites are often caught unprepared, as when nearly a decade ago the Leech Children slowly introduced a deadly affliction into a major water distillery. The total death count from this pollution of the hive's lifeblood is unknown, but still rising. To date, five districts have been placed under quarantine.
These humans have forsaken the Emperor's Light in the worship of the Pestilent Lord, and exist only to see Hive Desoleum brought low with decay and death. Many cultists twist their oath-bonds to the cult's ends, from a labourer slowing production to a noble funnelling his family's wealth to finance his loathsome Strain. The longer one remains in the cult, however, and the greater his dedication, the more his body reflects the decay in his soul. As the cultists engage in blasphemous rituals to call on the pestilent powers of Chaos, their own living flesh decays or succumbs to unnatural diseases, leaving them alive yet horribly afflicted. Even their oath-cogs become rusted beyond all function, decayed and layered with grime.
It takes a strong personality to lead a cult, along with the capability to twist minds against all that a good citizen of the Imperium believes. The leaders of the Callers of Sorrow are no exception. Preceptors, as they call themselves, often present an aura of morose amusement, rather than the fiery bombast other cult leaders utilise. They allege absurdity in the oath-system, providing an exit for disillusioned hivers unhappy with their lot. Some Preceptors are drawn to the worship of Chaos primarily as a way to further their personal power and influence, while others are fanatically devoted to the tenets of the Callers of Sorrow. All are charismatic and strong-willed, and extremely dangerous foes.
Armour: Head 6, Arms 8, Body 8, Legs 8
Boltgun: Class Basic, Rng 100m, RoF S/3/-, Dmg 1d10+5 (X), Pen 4, Clip 24, Rld 1 Full, Wt 7kg, Avl VR, Tearing
Skills: Awareness (Per), Command (Fel) +20, Deceive (Fel) +20, Dodge (Ag), Forbidden Lore (Daemonology) (Int) +10
Talents: Jaded, Peer (Heretical Cults), True Grit
Traits: Touched by the Fates (2), Unnatural Toughness (2)
Gear: Flak robes, ceremonial talismans
Look Out Sir!: Once per round, as a Reaction, after a successful attack test is made against the Preceptor (but before Hit Locations are determined), he can nominate one other allied character within 5 metres. That character becomes the new target of the attack, and the attack proceeds as normal.
Whether through the emergence of psychic abilities or pacts with Daemonic entities, many Preceptors are practitioners of the dark arts. Fearsome displays of unfettered sorcery further cement their control over the cult, proving the might of Chaos. These sorcerers are horrific in action, their honeyed words and gestures able to tear reality itself apart to draw forth the Warp's corrupting energies.
Armour: Head 5, Arms 8, Body 8, Legs 8
Force Sword: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+71+PR+SB (E), Pen 52+PR, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 5kg, Avl NU, Balanced, Force
Skills: Awareness (Per) +10, Command (Fel) +10, Parry (WS), Forbidden Lore (Daemonology) (Int) +20, Psyniscience (Per) +10
Talents: Bastion of Iron Will, Resistance (Disease, Psychic Powers), Strong Minded, Warp Sense
Traits: Psyker (PR 3), Touched by the Fates (1), Unnatural Toughness (2)
Psychic Powers: Endurance, Enfeeble, Life Leech, Nurgle's Rot (see sidebar on page 406)
Gear: Flak robes, tomes and scrolls of arcane lore
These foul spreaders of untruth and heresy are one of the most dangerous enemies an Acolyte might encounter. This is not due to combat prowess, though they may indeed be formidable, but the power these traitors wield over their followers. Some were formerly loyal preachers, now turned apostate and capable of corrupting those from their flock and beyond. Even those without a background in the Cult Imperialis possess such strength of faith and oration that their speeches can draw great crowds. Poisoned in mind and spirit, the masses readily hail the demagogue as prophet.
Armour: Head 2, Arms 3, Body 3, Legs 3
Laspistol: Class Pistol, Rng 30m, RoF S/2/-, Dmg 1d10+2 (E), Pen 0, Clip 18, Rld Half, Wt 1.5kg, Avl CM, Reliable
Chainsword: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+52+SB (R), Pen 2, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 6kg, Avl AV, Balanced, Tearing
Skills: Charm (Fel) +10, Command (Fel) +10, Deceive (Fel) +10, Intimidate (S) +10
Talents: Hatred (Everything), Adamantium Faith
Traits: Unnatural Fellowship (2)
Gear: Cult robes, and religious or blasphemous icons
Unholy Oration: As a Half Action, the demagogue may make an Ordinary (+10) Command test to sap the will of those who oppose him. If he succeeds at this test, a number of targets (up to his Fellowship bonus) that are in line of sight and earshot suffer 1 level of Fatigue. Note that a character can only be affected by this action once during an encounter; multiple uses do not stack on the same target.
New recruits to the Callers are found everywhere in the hive, from sickly dregs in the Gorges to ailing Apex nobles fearing the emptiness of their lives. Regardless of their birth or previous deeds, each has forfeited his soul by turning to the power of Chaos. Most are able to continue in their old lives and occupations as they rise in the cult, their appearance as yet unblemished by Chaos. Many accept or self-inflict ritual wounds and brands, allowing them to fester until few can avoid noticing the stench and filth.
Armour: All 4
Stub Revolver: Class Pistol, Rng 30m, RoF S/-/-, Dmg 1d10+3 (I), Pen 0, Clip 6, Rld 2 Full, Wt 1.5kg, Avl PL, Reliable
Skills: Medicae (Int) +10
Gear: Dirty robes
Full Strain members gain further access into the mysteries of the Callers of Sorrow, and their minds and souls become twisted beyond redemption as their devotion deepens. They often wear concealing clothing, for their forms are marked with the infections and diseases they eagerly share as ordered. Knowing the fate that awaits them at the hands of the Sanctionaries, infectors refuse to surrender, and are rarely taken alive.
Armour: Head 4, Arms 5, Body 5, Legs 4
Autogun: Class Basic, Rng 100m, RoF S/3/-, Dmg 1d10+3 (I), Pen 0, Clip 30, Rld 1 Full, Wt 5kg, Avl AV
Skills: Acrobatics (Ag), Dodge (Ag) +10, Medicae (Int) +10, Sleight of Hand (Ag) +10
Talents: Hip Shooting
Gear: Hive leathers
Unholy Resilience: Attacks targeting the infector's insensitive form cannot trigger Righteous Fury.
Fanatically devoted to the Callers of Sorrow, these zealots show little regard for their own lives. They are steeped in the corruption of Chaos, their bloated bodies deformed in reflection of their impure souls. Though less affected than mutants, the touch of the Warp is evident on them through festering wounds, pus-filled boils, and hideous pox-scars. In order to operate publicly, pestilentants must conceal their wretched forms completely, commonly using heavy rebreathers, enclosed furnace suits, or hooded robes. Most are far too insane to be trusted with delicate assignments, so their appearance is often the prelude to an all-out attack.
Armour: Head 5, Arms 5, Body 6, Legs 5
Sword: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+6SB (R), Pen 0, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 3kg, Avl CM, Balanced
Skills: Acrobatics (Ag) +10, Intimidate (S) +20
Talents: Devastating Assault
Traits: Unnatural Strength (2), Unnatural Toughness (1), Unnatural Willpower (2)
Gear: Leather scrap armour
Exploit Weakness: When making a melee attack a target with at least 1 level of Fatigue, the pestilentant gains a +10 bonus to the Weapon Skill test for each level of Fatigue the target has.
For those afflicted by mutation, hope is a luxury long since cast aside. It is a constant problem in Hive Desoleum, often the result of toxic manufacturing by-products and ancient radiation hazards in the deep hive. Hivers are taught from birth to hate and shun the mutant, a common decree from the pulpit. They know that mutation is an outward sign of an evil nature, a punishment and mark of sin. Indeed, the touch of Chaos and exposure to the Warp cause mutation at least as surely as any toxic hazards. No matter the source, a hiver with a minor mutation might attempt to hide it and go about his life, but always knows even his family would turn on him should they discover the truth.
Mutants are common in the Gorges, where dangerous environmental pollutants combine to result in horrifically unstable genes. Entire mutant populations gather and thrive in these dark reaches. Certain manufactorums in the lowest hive levels, collectively denigrated as blighted factories, tolerate mutants among their workforce. Even by hive standards, these labourers are treated brutally. Within the Main Hive, mutants must be cautious, as wandering into the wrong hab might get them attacked and burned alive. It is no surprise that many discard their oaths and flee far downhive. Isolated in the Dark far below Desoleum, they often become the flesh-eating monsters that hivers assume them to be.
The Callers of Sorrow offer a natural home for mutants whose deformities are an obvious symptom of the hive's decay, and hail them as the blessed fleshbent. Some are motivated to join by hatred for the hive that has persecuted them, others simply to be amongst like-minded souls and individuals who care not for, or even celebrate, their mutations. Worse still are those who became mutants in the course of their service to the Callers of Sorrow. As cult members partake further in the worship of the Lord of Decay and the rituals of the Warp, their flesh rebels at the unnatural influence of the Immaterium. Many cultists view these mutations as blessings from the Gods of Chaos, and as they pay their respect to the Lord of Decay, the gifts often include writhing tentacles, jointed eyestalks, extra heads, bestial features, or crowns of flickering balefire.
Some are horrifically altered creatures beyond even the grotesqueries of mutant wretches. With no place in society, it is natural that they flock to Chaos cults. While some retain their minds, at least as much as any servant of Chaos can, others are afflicted by madness and mental decay. They are often a great asset to the cult for their ferocity in combat, but of little use otherwise. Depending on the nature of their physical mutations, such dim-witted or insane creatures might be given a place of respect amongst the cult. Known as the Favoured of the Father, their nonsensical ramblings are taken as prophecy, and they act as advisors to the cult leadership.
Armour: Head 4, Arms 4, Body 5, Legs 4
Shotgun: Class Basic, Rng 30m, RoF S/-/-, Dmg 1d10+4 (I), Pen 0, Clip 8, Rld 2 Full, Wt 5kg, Avl AV, Scatter
Skills: Survival (Per) +10
Traits: Unnatural Strength (1), Unnatural Toughness (1)
Gear: Scavenged leather armour, broken trinkets and mementos
Fleshbent: These lowly mutants exhibit a wide array of strange and terrible alterations from the blessed form of humanity, and the GM should apply appropriate traits and entries from Table 8-16: Mutations on page 292 to create unique mutants to face the PCs.
Some mutants grow to inhuman size, their profane nature marked by impossible masses of muscle and dense flesh. The Callers of Sorrow actively seek out these creatures for their sheer physical bulk, their misshapen bodies a reflection of their Pestilent Father's corpulent bounty.
Armour: Head 6, Arms 9, Body 9, Legs 6
Great Weapon: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 2d10+5SB (R), Pen 0, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 7kg, Avl SC, Unbalanced
Skills: Athletics (S) +20, Survival (Per) +10
Talents: Crushing Blow, Iron Jaw
Traits: Size (5)
Gear: Scavenged flak armour, gruesome trophies
Smash to the Ground: Whenever a malatant strikes with an attack, the target also suffers 1d5+5 Agility damage.
These hideous mutants have taken on diseased and even necrotic appearances. In the most extreme cases, they must even feed on human flesh to sustain their own decaying forms. They are especially favoured within the Callers of Sorrow, who see them as the most blessed of Nurgle's mortal children.
Armour: Head 3, Arms 4, Body 4, Legs 3
Cleaver: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+4SB (R), Pen 1, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 3kg, Avl CM, Unbalanced
Skills: Acrobatics (Ag) +10, Dodge (Ag) +10, Survival (Per) +10
Talents: Assassin Strike, Constant Vigilance (Per)
Traits: Fear (1), Regeneration (6)
Gear: Scavenged leather armour
Leaching: Whenever he successfully inflicts damage to an enemy with a melee attack, the necrophage immediately removes 1d5+4 damage from himself.
The mutants known to some as toxers often thrive amidst the noxious chemical lakes of the Dark. These impossible creatures' twisted forms exude blighted chemicals fatal to normal humans, and often house hideous nests of twisted vermin in place of internal organs.
Armour: Head 4, Arms 5, Body 5, Legs 4
Claws and Teeth: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d5+5SB (I), Pen 0, Clip -, Rld -, Wt -, Avl -, Tearing, Toxic (2)
Skills: Survival (Per) +20
Talents: True Grit
Traits: Amphibious, Deadly Natural Weapons
Gear: Scavenged leather armour
Toxer Cloud: Whenever the toxer suffers damage, he immediately creates a debilitating miasma centred at his location with a radius of 3 metres that lasts for 5 rounds. While within a toxer cloud, enemy characters suffer -20 penalty on all tests; this penalty does not stack if an enemy is within multiple clouds.
Psykers who do not submit to the Black Ships of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica are universally dangerous, for even the least of them can still be the doom of an entire world. Every unprotected mind is a potential gateway through which the Daemons of the Warp can enter reality.
Unsanctioned psykers can hope for no peace in Hive Desoleum. Eventually, their nature is discovered, and they must fight or flee death by fire at the hands of a fearful mob. Some turn to the Dark Gods, for Chaos promises a path to power and perhaps even safety. A cult is one of the few places where rogue psykers are welcomed; the Callers of Sorrow in particular seek them out eagerly. From minor Warp-callers to terrifying Warp-priests, they are often used in cult rituals to beseech the Plague Father for new blessings to inflict on their foes.
Armour: Head 2, Arms 3, Body 3, Legs 3
Staff: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+3SB (R), Pen 1, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 3kg, Avl PL, Balanced, Primitive (7)
Skills: Psyniscience (Per) +20
Traits: Psyker (PR 2), Unnatural Willpower (2)
Psychic Powers: Enfeeble, Hallucination, Misfortune
Gear: Robes, assorted talismans and fetishes, malefic texts
Armour: Head 4, Arms 5, Body 5, Legs 5
Force Staff: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+8PR+SB (E), Pen 62+PR, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 2kg, Avl ER, Force
Skills: Dodge (Ag) +10, Psyniscience (Per) +30
Talents: Constant Vigilance (Per), Warp Sense
Traits: Psyker (PR 4), Unnatural Willpower (1)
Psychic Powers: Assail, Fiery Form, Iron Arm, Life Leech, Smite
Gear: Robes, false oath-cog
Psy Drain: As a Free Action, once per round, the Warp-priest may target one psyker ally within 10 metres who possesses a psy rating lower than his own. The target immediately suffers 1d5+5 Willpower damage and the Warp-priest then increases his psy rating by 1 for the remainder of the round.
The Ruinous Powers reward their followers with all manner of gifts. These twist bodies and minds in ways impossible to imagine, perhaps adding acidic saliva, an exoskeleton of red-hot rock, or leathery wings. To follow the Path of Chaos is to accept these gifts, no matter what deformities they bring, for at the end is the ultimate blessing of ascension to a Daemon Prince. There is, however, only so much mortal flesh can withstand before sanity and physical control is forever lost. If a mortal is not transformed into a Daemon, there comes a time when the mutations become overwhelming and he becomes a Spawn of Chaos.
A Spawn is a monstrous sight, each a unique, gibbering mass of tissue that should not possibly live but still does, powered through the unholy energy of the Dark Gods. Some might have multitudes of oily tentacles, or have grown insectoid eyes, or even sprouted new faces along their body that scream their pain with each motion. The Callers of Sorrow often have small numbers of Spawn chained in the lower depths of their strongholds, where they are worshipped as divine revelations of the power of Chaos made manifest. Often the Spawn are fed with captured enemies, or set loose to cause terror as part of larger cult actions.
Armour: All †
Clawed Tentacles: Class Melee, Rng 2m, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+†SB (I), Pen 1, Clip -, Rld -, Wt -, Avl -, Flexible, Snare (1), Toxic (1)
Traits: Deadly Natural Weapons, Fear (3), From Beyond, Regeneration (12)
†Constant Mutation: Roll 30+3d10 to determine each of the Chaos Spawn's characteristics at the start of each new encounter. GMs should feel free though to alter these as desired to create specific Spawn, and are encouraged to apply traits and results from Table 8-16: Mutations on page 292 to fashion even greater variety for these monstrous creatures.
Known only to the Preceptors of the various cult Strains, the overall master of the Callers of Sorrow is Achkovas Spengh, the Preceptor Poxifex. Spengh's history is unclear even to the cult's inner circle. None would suspect it was his dark ambitions that founded the cult centuries ago. The blessings of Nurgle have kept Spengh alive far beyond his natural lifespan, though whether he can still be considered alive in the conventional sense is an open question. Though possessed of an unnatural vigour, the touch of the Plague God is evident. Spengh is horrible to look upon, a bloated mass of ruptured and rotting flesh swathed in filth-encrusted robes that he has worn as long as any can remember. He directs the cult from a concealed abode deep within the darkest and oldest recesses of the Hive, his hideous visage safely hidden from prying eyes.
The Preceptor Poxifex is an appallingly powerful sorcerer, swollen with Nurgle's pestilence. As long as Spengh exists, so do the Callers of Sorrow. Even were each Strain purged and each mutant heaped on the pyre, he could regrow the cult like a corrupt weed. Though it may take centuries for his plans to reach full effect, Spengh is nothing if not patient.
The Fly Lord, the Grandfather of Pestilence, the Plague God - these are a mere few of the many names mortals use for Nurgle, the Chaos God of corruption and decay. His foul Daemons represent the death and decay that await all mortals. As the Chaos God of disease and decay, only Nurgle has the power to save a person from the ravages of disease and mortality. Indeed, those who earn his favour can avoid death itself, living indefinitely as an unnatural abomination of pestilent flesh.
Nurgle's foul foot-soldiers are the Plaguebearers, Warp-spawned embodiments of disease and decay. These rotten paladins solemnly serve the Heralds and other higher-order Daemons of Nurgle both in the Realm of Chaos and when the Plague God's forces erupt forth into reality. On those momentous occasions when their plans burst forth like maggots from rotten meat, the Callers of Sorrow summon Plaguebearers to accompany their assaults on Hive Desoleum as shock troops, or to act as guardians when the hive's defenders seek retribution.
The mere sight of a Plaguebearer is more than enough to induce overwhelming madness and physical illness, for they represent the greatest fears and most visceral disgusts of humanity. Most feature stained horns and a single, rheumy eye, while their decay afflicts each in a unique manner. Their putrefying flesh and spilling innards are impossibly revolting, further amplified by the unnatural aura surrounding all creatures of the Warp. As they advance, the Plaguebearers sonorously chant, counting the innumerable diseases that Nurgle has gifted to the galaxy, forming a maddening drone like the buzzing of countless flies.
It is written that Plaguebearers are formed from the souls of mortals who succumbed to Nurgle's Rot; as the victim's living body decays in the physical world, so does the soul rot in the Warp, slowly birthing a Daemon to serve the Plague God. Thus does a mortal who receives Nurgle's greatest gift spend the rest of eternity repaying the debt.
Armour: Head 13, Arms 14, Body 14, Legs 14
Vomit Attack: Class Pistol, Rng 5m, RoF S/-/-, Dmg 1d10+2 (E), Pen 2, Clip -, Rld -, Wt -, Avl -, Corrosive, Spray, Toxic (2)
Plague Sword: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+137+SB (R), Pen 0, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 7kg, Avl UN, Toxic (2)
Skills: Athletics (S) +30
Talents: Iron Jaw, True Grit
Traits: Baneful Presence (10), Daemonic (2), Deadly Natural Weapons, Fear (2), From Beyond, Nauseating (see sidebar), Unnatural Strength (2), Unnatural Toughness (3), Unnatural Willpower (2), Warp Instability
Gear: Rot armour
Vulgar and mischievous imps of the Plague God, Nurglings are said to originate within the bowels of the greatest of Nurgle's Daemons. When the Warp waxes strong, they gather into large groups, falling over one another in their eagerness to attack the enemies of their beloved Grandfather Nurgle. Though individually weak, in groups they can overwhelm and drag down foes many times their own size. As manifestations of disease and filth, even the slightest scratch from their jagged claws or pointed teeth results in horrific infection and necrosis. Nurglings also pose a significant moral threat, as does any exposure to the denizens of the Warp.
Being so small in stature and power, Nurglings can remain in the corporeal universe longer than other Daemons. In areas heavily saturated with corruption, such as the hidden redoubts of the Callers of Sorrow, they can exist almost indefinitely, drawing strength from the surrounding filth and decay. Though the Preceptors teach that the presence of Nurglings is a blessing from the Plague God, they often find it to be a frustrating one, as the tiny Daemons delight in absconding with relics, smearing excrement on the pages of forbidden texts, gibbering constantly in unearthly pitches, and generally acting as a nuisance even to those who worship their presence.
Armour: All 8
Claws and Teeth: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+63+SB (I), Pen 0, Clip -, Rld -, Wt -, Avl -, Toxic (1)
Traits: Daemonic (2), Deadly Natural Weapons, Fear (1), From Beyond, Nauseating (see sidebar on page 415), Size (2), Unnatural Toughness (2), Unnatural Willpower (1)
Clinging: While engaged in melee with one or more Nurglings, a character reduces his Agility bonus by 1 for the purposes of determining Movement values.
Amongst the daemonic legions, there are those that stand out as leaders of their kin and arch-corrupters of mortals. Though they do not possess the dark majesty of the terrifying Greater Daemons, these Heralds nonetheless tower over the ranks of other Daemons and are perhaps possessed of a greater spark of their god's essence. These entities are often a source of fear and worship, and have a place in the legends of innumerable cultures across the galaxy, both human and otherwise. One such Herald is most commonly known to mortals by the name Putricifex. He is the Maggot King, the Gifter, and the Emissary of Nurgle.
Putricifex first manifested over a millennium past, during what is known in the forbidden archives as the Scouring of Jarvin. His presence has been felt on numerous occasions since, as the Daemon reveals itself in the fever-dreams of the sick and dying. It was just such a visitation that first opened the eyes of a lowly servant named Achkovas Spengh to the glory of Nurgle. Putricifex sees it as a duty and pleasure to deliver the gifts of Father Nurgle to those unfortunate mortals who have not felt his touch. He is ever eager to aid Nurgle's mortal worshippers in their efforts to spread disease and corruption. To this end, he whispers secrets of disease and unholy power to supplicants, damning them in the process.
Putricifex's manifested form is nightmarish to behold. His body is bloated with corruption, even beyond that of the Plaguebearers he superficially resembles. Fat and disgusting maggots wriggle forth from the rents in his decayed flesh, plopping to the ground and wriggling away. These Warp-born insects make their way into water supplies and food stores, and even feed on living flesh. Their noxious saliva narcotises quickly, allowing them to swiftly burrow inside living creatures and rot bodies from the inside out. Victims usually remain alive for much longer than expected, drawing out the excruciating pain and allowing plenty of time to cry out to Nurgle for mercy.
Armour: Head 16, Arms 18, Body 18, Legs 18
Rotgifter Sword: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+157+SB (I), Pen 2, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 14kg, Avl UN, Corrosive, Toxic (3)
Skills: Athletics (S) +30, Parry (WS) +20, Psyniscience (Per) +20
Talents: Combat Master, Iron Jaw, Killing Strike, True Grit, Thunder Charge
Traits: Baneful Presence (20), Daemonic (4), Fear (3), From Beyond, Nauseating (see sidebar on page 415), Psyker (PR 6), Size (5), Unnatural Strength (3), Unnatural Toughness (5), Unnatural Willpower (2)
Psychic Powers: Enfeeble, Haemorrhage, Iron Arm, Life Leech, Nurgle's Rot (see the sidebar on page 406)
Gear: Rusted mail
Embodiment of Decay: Mere exposure to Putricifex's presence can rust and degrade even the strongest materials. While within 10 metres of Putricifex, all equipment, weaponry, and armour functions as though it were Poor Craftsmanship, regardless of its actual craftsmanship.
Furies are bestial, ravenous Daemons who desire only to inflict destruction and death. It is written in some tomes of forbidden lore that they are formed from the souls of mortals who sought to advance themselves by giving fleeting worship to each of the Dark Gods in turn. Upon their death, these individuals are rewarded for their insincerity with an eternity of hunger as a lowly, winged Fury. Yet, certain sealed archives speak of Furies that clearly bear the sign of a particular Dark God. Those Furies marked by Nurgle soar impossibly on wings of tattered flesh and exposed bone, their mouths filled with rows of rotten teeth. Whether these Furies have redeemed themselves in the eyes of the Lord of Decay or been enslaved to his service, none can say. Of course, to attempt to discern the ways of Chaos is to invite madness and damnation, and for most Inquisitors it is enough to know that Furies are Daemons, and anathema to Mankind.
Furies ever seek ingress into the material universe to vent their insatiable rage. Opportunistic, they sometimes arrive unexpectedly when a cult seeks to summon Daemons of the higher orders, for the ways of the Warp are unpredictable, and even the most accomplished of the Caller's Warp-priests can never be certain what will appear when he draws back the veil. Like unholy buzzards in the Sea of Souls, Furies also circle the souls of psykers, and hunt ships passing through the Immaterium. When a reckless psyker opens a Warp rift, or a vessel's Gellar Field fluctuates, Furies are often the first of the Warp's denizens to emerge, tearing apart all around them with ravenous claws and teeth.
Armour: All 5
Claws and Fangs: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+61+SB (I), Pen 2, Clip -, Rld -, Wt -, Avl -, Tearing
Skills: Acrobatics (Ag) +20, Dodge (Ag) +10
Talents: Assassin Strike
Traits: Baneful Presence (10), Daemonic (1), Deadly Natural Weapons, Fear (2), Flyer (7), From Beyond, Size (5), Unnatural Agility (2), Unnatural Perception (2), Unnatural Strength (2), Warp Instability
Dive Attack: If the Fury is flying when it performs the Charge action, it gains a +20 bonus to the Weapon Skill test and its attack gains the Crippling (3) quality.
Furies of Nurgle: The Furies summoned by the Callers of Sorrow, deliberately or not, often bear the blessings of the Plague Father. Furies of this type gain the Nauseating trait (see page 415) and their attacks gain the Toxic (1) weapon quality.
The adventure takes place in a rundown section of the lower hive known as the Gallowsway. It is home to a collection of Carrion Guilds, the families responsible for dealing with the dead of much of Desoleum's impoverished. Riddled with corruption, the Gallowsway has become a thoroughfare for those wishing to pass between the city's lower hive and the lawless Underhive relatively unnoticed. It is also the hub of the lower hive's body trade, where the Carrion Guilds dispose of the thousands of corpses sent from above, the remains of those lacking oath-credits for anything better than a one way trip to the Mortuarius Factorums.
The Gallowsway is more than just a warehouse for corpses and the citizens which tend to them: it is home to thousands of souls too poor to live anywhere else except among the dead. Even by the bleak standards of the lower hive, this is a tangled web of decay and ruin, with precious little power to light its worn streets and meagre rations to feed its populace.
From this rotten foundation, true heresy has begun to fester in the form of an ambitious and tainted Carrion Guilder: Ferrue Fayne. Second son of the Fayne Charnal House, Ferrue, along with his older brother Tormus and his younger brother Darnis, all share a latent psychic gift, rumoured among the Gallowsway residences to be the result of their late mother's illicit congress with unholy powers. Nurturing their gifts, the Fayne brothers were seduced by the Warp and its promise of power, becoming part of the Callers of Sorrow, a major heretical power overseeing many Nurgle cults within the hive.
While Tormus rose to power within the Callers, eclipsing the works of his brothers, Ferrue remained in the Gallowsway and schemed. His chance for power came in the form of a xenos artefact - a strange, asymmetrical device painful to look upon, which greatly enhanced his connection to the Warp and granted him the power to animate dead flesh. With promise in this newfound power, Ferrue formed his own splinter-cult, dubbing it the Blessed Flesh.
As Ferrue's power has grown, so too have the fortunes of the Blessed Flesh, and the cult is now well-established in the Gallowsway. The cult leader has created a lucrative body trade between the lower hive and the Underhive; he steals corpses from the Carrion Guilds for his own needs, then sells their wealth and remaining organs to the Red Walk, a gang located farther downhive. Ferrue's ultimate goal is to amass an army of the animated dead, and rise up from the Underhive in the name of the Plague God, spreading ruin and death in his wake. To this end, he has been preparing for a ritual to summon a powerful Herald of Nurgle to lead his corpse army.
Unfortunately for Ferrue, his brother Darnis has complicated matters by drawing the attention of the Sanctionaries. Much in the same way that Ferrue languished in the shadow of Tormus and the Callers of Sorrow, Darnis was jealous of his older brother's power. So much was his desire for attention and power that he stole a piece of the xenos artefact and tried to animate the dead himself. The horrific results are what has drawn the Acolytes to the Gallowsway, providing the first glimpse into the danger Ferrue and the Blessed Flesh pose to Desoleum.
With the destruction of the Herald and the capture or death of Ferrue, the Blessed Flesh is broken. Any survivors who escape either make their way back to the Callers of Sorrow, or flee deeper into the Underhive's darkness. The Acolytes are left in control of the xenos artefact, and have ostensibly completed their task. They may also have gained some allies for future adventures in the form of Oath-Captain Nils and Vornas Crimson, though this depends on how they treated their new acquaintances along the way.
They have learned about the existence of a greater cult of Nurgle within Desoleum from Ferrue or the notes he has left behind, and they have uncovered more of the hive's Trade Sable and the sector-wide Faceless Trade rife in the dealing of xenos artefacts. Finally, they have the xenos artefact itself, an object of obvious power as yet untapped. They are also left with questions to answer, lest another cult attempt a similar ritual with possibly even more horrendous consequences. If a more powerful artefact exists, it could animate corpses across the entire hive. Desoleum would fall in hours.
The Callers of Sorrow: In addition to information on the Trade Sable, captured cultists and details from Ferrue's notes indicate that the Blessed Flesh was only a splinter of a much larger cult. Even if the Acolytes do not fully realise the extent of this greater cult, the destruction of the Blessed Flesh draws the attention of the Callers of Sorrow, and it might begin actively targeting the Acolytes. Finally, the GM can include a holo-pict to be found on Ferrue's person, showing him with his two brothers. The Acolytes easily recognise Tormus Fayne if they met him in Gantry, and he is certain to become a major threat in future adventures.
"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.
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.
|Creatures||Beasts of Nurgle; Blight Drones; Foetid Bloat-drones; Great Unclean Ones; Hooktors; Lords of Contagion; Mabrothrax; Malignant Plaguecasters; Noxious Blightbringers; Nurglings; Pestigor; Plaguebearers; Plaguebulls; Plague Hulks; Plague Ogryns; Plague Toads; Plague Towers; Plague Zombies; Poxbringers; Poxwalkers; Rot Flies; Sloppity Bilepipers; Spoilpox Scriveners|
|Characters||Abcellyoth; Aynthrexes; Bilerot Vomitflesh; Lothar Bubonicus; Bubonis; Vorxec Calvarius; The Carrier; The Entomancer; Epidemius; Ferrue Fayne; Tormus Fayne; Foulspawn; Nathaniel Garro; Ghulroth; The Glottkin; Goresqualor; Gulgoth; Horticulous Slimux; Jibberjaw; Ku'gath; Mamon; Adrius Meinloka; Mephidast; Mortarion; Mortius; Mulch; Necrosius; Nurgle; Pestilaan; Putricifex; Rotigus; Scabeiathrax; Septicus; Achkovas Spengh; The Thanator; Typhus; Ussax; Plaguestrangler Vilestench; Jonas Whitespore; Ystareth|
|Groups||Apostles of Contagion; The Befouling Host; Blessed Flesh; Bringers of Decay; Callers of Sorrow; Carnival of Chaos; The Cleaved; Company of Misery; Death Guard; Deathmongers; Death Priests; Flylords; The Grey Death; Inevitable Order; Legio Mortis; Legion of Festering Death; Lords of Decay; Mournful Song; Nurgle's Rotters; Plague Legions; Pox Tribes; The Purge; The Reborn; The Scourge; Septicus Legion; Sorcerer-Kings; The Tainted; Tainted Sons; Vile Savants|
|Things||An'garrach; Balesword; Blight Grenade; Bloodrot Rounds; Bone Maul; Corruption; Cursed Carillon; Death Head; Dolorous Knell; Doomsday Bell; Entropic Knell; Epidemia; Father of Blades; Foulswarm Grenade; Gem of Nurgle; Horn of Nurgle's Rot; Icon of Despair; Icon of Seeping Decay; Manreaper; Palanquin; Pandemic Staff; Pestilaan Light Cruiser; Pestilent Flail; Plague Banner; Plaguebringer; Plague Cauldron; Plague Chalice; Plague Claw; Plague Flail; Plague Knife; Plague Sceptre; Plague Skull of Glothila; Plaguesword; Poxwalker Hive; Puscleaver; Rot Giver; Scab; Scourge Shells; Staff of Nurgle; TP-III; Undead Heart; War Altar|