The first step to “settling in” at the House of Dust and Ash was to see to the accommodations for all the guests. With the shortage of auction-goers in attendance not to mention the size of the complex meant that the party had the run of the complex on either sides to themselves. The rooms themselves were in ancient Imperial architecture, with massive descending porticullises to keep intruders out, which was not viewed as secure enough by the Acolytes who decided to stay in the same room for safety. Once in the privacy of their room which was swept thoroughly for listening devices, Mayweather expounded that a stormfront was on approach, and communication with the mainland would be impossible, meaning the Acolytes would be on their own. A formal reception was to be held that evening which would be a good chance to get to know their fellow auctioneers, and hopefully gain some information on events in this building. The accidents had left many of the staff on edge, but both Bland and the Sorrowful Guild were eager to proceed with the auction, though likely for different reasons.
With Mayweather having told the Acolytes all that he could, they decided to send him back to the Skyship to report on the progress of repairs, and so that if they were on the verge of leaving (or were forced to), they could be kept abreast of the situation. With a few hours to go before the reception, they set off exploring the complex. The main reception hall had a large library that Nixios noted for perusal later, as well as adjoining Administratum Cells and some Receiving rooms for the guests. Further explorations revealed what was a series of Crypts including one for the Haarlock line themselves, as well as a staricase leading underground to a massive volcanic vent that supported a massive machinery complex the purpose of which was not easily identifiable. It was during this exploration that the group were intercepted by Greel, the Head Mourner and man responsible for maintaining the House of Dust and Ash. The reception would soon be starting, and he was there to gather the Rogue Trader Jarl Jarlsson and his retinue, and non-transparently escort them away from their unsanctioned wanderings.
Drawn into conversation by Cutter, Greel told the group that the Crematorium was originally the property of the Haarlock clan, and that they mourn the passing of the line. Any further questions were adroitly evaded, and the group was led to the Garden of Saints, a circular chamber where the auction would be held the following day. Greel disappeared to deal with whatever it is he did when he wasn’t openly lurking, and the Acolytes disseminated themselves to learn more about their auctiongoers. Nixios was drawn into conversation again with Cisten and Whent about the history of the Haarlock family, the former having some interesting pieces of gossip on the disappearance of the once-noble family. Eighteen found a comrade in Magyar Marshrek, an older but still well-built man who kept to the shadows and was vigilant for danger. Their camraderie was expressed in the two of them finding opposite corners to lurk in, but there was still probably a bond there. Wolfe in his disguise as Rogue Trader Jarlsson, accompanied currently by Skive acting as a bodyguard, met Captain Rubio, another self-professed Rogue Trader who appeared to want to outdo the Arbitrator in flamboyant and overly elaborate displays of wealth and extravagence. Cutter had been interviewing the retinue of the various parties and had learned of Deadtown, a black market and living facility for the indentured servants and other menial labourers, which he resolved to visit the next day.
Conversation was briefly interrupted when Wolfe and Captain Rubio’s constant one-upsmanship led to a duel between a member of each of their bodyguards. Skive squared off against what appeared to be nothing more than a well-muscled thug against Captain Rubio, and in one decisive strike Skive broke the man’s kneecap, sending him to the infirmary. Wolfe was effulgent in praise for the quality of his “minion”, causing general consternation among the other Acolytes for how seriously he was taking his role. The overwhelming skill shown by Skive drew the attention of another party attendent – a Master Nonesuch and a group of silent, stone-faced attendees. Nonesuch had taken a particular interest in this delightful display of violence, and though Wolfe had no problem carrying on a conversation, Skive found himself immediately distrusting the man and wishing to go anywhere else. His hopes were granted as another duel broke out among the crowd, this one decided much more finally as a well-dressed gentleman pulled a power sword and quickly slew his competitor. With the tension in the room rising, the crowd gradually departed back to their rooms for the night.
The Acolytes’ decision to stay together would prove necessary, as upon their return a small Warp portal opened and disgorged a strange Warp creature that immediately beset them. Had they been separated the thing may well have been able to overwhelm a individual acolyte, but under massed fire from the five of them it quickly fell apart. A quick survey of the area revealed no other strange incursions, nor were there any signs of discomfort from the other guests leading them to suspect that this had been a targetted attack, and the group made sure to sleep in shifts to keep an eye out.
When dawn broke, Cutter and Skive decided to head to Deadtown to see if the normal working staff had any indication as to the tensions they’d noticed on the island, while Wolfe, Nixios and Eighteen remained behind to learn as much as they could about the auction. Nixios headed to the library to learn more about Erasmus Haarlock, and met Cisten and Whent for a third time, managing this time to engage the pair in a scholarly conversation where he learned much about the ancient Haarlock line: how Erasmus had been betrayed and his family killed, and the bloody vengeance that in turn descended on the rest of the Haarlocks. Wolfe and Eighteen decided on talking to Provost Bland, because technically Eighteen was not invited to the auction and they had to come up with a cunning plan in order to get him inside. That plan involved doing nothing, because they found Provost Bland quite busy: according to Octavia Nile the Sorrowful Guild were insisting the auction be moved up in schedule, and a number of the auctiongoers were unable to preview the goods before buying. Wolfe quieted the crowd with a harsh word, and the Provost gratefully announced that the auction would take place within an hour, and everyone was at the same disadvantage so they should prepare to the best of their abilities.
Meanwhile, Wolfe and Cutter had reached Deadtown and met Chenshan, the unofficial master of the town. He told the pair that the regular staff had all been exiled from the Crematorium for the duration of the auction, and they were waiting to get back to work, and they knew something was going on with the Sorrowful Guild but there were no specifics to be found. Vymer and Quill were also at the bar, and when asked about the auction the pair alluded to the fact that they were not here to actually acquire any items, but they would be along in short time. The two had more they wished to do when they were contacted by Vox that the auction was starting and they needed to report back immediately. Vymer and Quill wished them well, but seemed to be in no hurry to come along.
The way back took the duo along the edge of the island close to the sea, and Skive heard someone on the path ahead of them who appeared to be trying to be quiet. Figuring that this was the time for boldness, he quickly strode around the corner to cheerfully confront Abbot Tomas and his followers. The Abbot stammered some excuse about also going to Deadtown, and acquired after the whereabouts of Cutter, ignoring all attempts to explain why. After a few moments of feeble excuses, he dropped all pretenses and ordered his men to attack. His followers were unskilled fighters and were quickly dispatched by the pair, but Tomas himself was an unsanctioned Psyker that attempted to draw on the power of the Warp to slay the two Acolytes, and got more than he bargained for. With an unholy shriek that rose in pitch and turned almost into a bird’s call, his face began to stretch and melt and The Crowfather, the being that had plagued the Acolytes previously took host inside of Tomas. Cutter lost his mind with fear and fled, while Skive managed to hold his wits long enough to Vox in a warning and farewell, before attacking the creature to buy Cutter time to flee.
With the storm rolling in, communications among the island gradually cut out so Eighteen went to the upper levels to scout through his Needle rifle what was going on. After a few tense minutes, he saw Skive escort a captured Abbot Tomas back to the mansion, the Guardsman explaining that one of Tomas’s men had merely used some unsanctioned sorcery to cloud their minds, and he had managed to slay the last cultist and capture the ringleader for questioning. Cutter was out of contact, and the group revealed their identity to the local PDF in order to have Tomas imprisoned in the lower levels. After a debate, with the auction approaching and no further distraction needed, Wolfe left with Skive to execute the prisoner while Nixios and Eighteen went on to the auction to monitor the situation.
Returning from the execution, the Acolytes were informed that Greel wanted a special demonstration first of the Gilded Widow, a mysterious oracle that belonged to Erasmus Haarlock and was supposed to be able to tell the future. Outraged at the distractionn, a riot was prepared to break out until Nixios stood up with a question, hoping to at least stall the situation somewhat and asked if Erasmus Haarlock was still alive – after all if he was then the auction could not proceed and Inquisitor Marr could seize the goods at his leisure.
Unfortunately for all involved, the Widow spoke that Haarlock was not dead, and was returning with the powers of Hell behind him. At this pronouncement, the entire facility shook, the Mourners present dropped to their knees in adulation and the servitors in the facility all dropped dead. The Widow continued to prophecize the doom of everyone present before falling silent, the noise broken only by the murmur from the assembled Mourners, and hearty applause from Master Nonesuch who delighted in the revel. As Bland stood to try to regain order, Greel suddenly cut him down with a Power weapon hidden in his staff, the Mourners began to turn on the populace and Eighteen caught sight of Abbot Tomas, very much alive and glowing with a daemonic power.
And before the Acolytes could react, Skive and Wolfe began to move according to the will of the thing that was Tomas…