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Mournful Song

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 Mournful Song is a Strain of the Callers of Sorrow, a Nurgle-worshipping cult.

The Mournful Song is led by Tormus Fayne.

Forgotten Gods (2014)

Forgotten Gods (2014), p8 — The Callers of Sorrow

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.

Forgotten Gods (2014), p19-20 — Unexpected Callers

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.

Forgotten Gods (2014), p19-20 — The Enemy of my Enemy

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.

Pulling Back the Hood

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.