Ship’s Log of the Rouge Trader Vessel, Hammer
Lord Captain Viktor Khal Commanding
It’s been decades since I walked these decks. The decks my family used to stride the very stars themselves. Now that the Hammer is safely back in the possession of House Khal, the necessities and formalities of command must be maintained, ab brevis, I must begin keeping a Ship’s Log again. I have no idea what happened to my honored father’s Log, and my own tenure as Captain last was brief and upset a great deal by the necessity to run and hide. So, I shall begin at the commencement, where all such records should start, but rarely do.
I am descended from a long line of Rogue Traders, who were more Rogue than Trader, I was groomed from birth to succeed my father, the Dread Privateer, Lord Captain Ashryel Khal. My early years are what one would expect from the heir to a powerful Rogue Trader Dynasty. A great deal of training, a bit of combat, and far too many teenage hi-jinks that would get a lesser citizen sent to an Imperial Guard Penal Legion. I had already been in command of one of my father’s merchant traders for several years when I received word that my father was liquidating our holdings in order to hire a vast mercenary army. His intention was to re-capture a recently re-discovered star system that had “fallen from the Emperor’s sight”. Lord Captain Ashryel ordered me to report to the Hammer, the Khal Family’s Ancestral Sword Class Frigate, as his first officer with the promise of giving me the Hammer and Warrant of Trade once the system was taken. He would make himself a Lord Governor and secure a world for his dynasty to act as a base of operations for what he called an “aggressive trade fleet”, which is Khalanese for Pirate Armada. My father was a bold man but not terribly original.
All the intelligence pointed to a sparsely defended world that hadn’t seen an Imperial Missionary since just before the Apostasy and had turned feral. The intelligence however, was manufactured by a cabal of my father’s numerous enemies. The world was in fact a secret Thousand Sons base. My father and his Mercenary army were slaughtered by a wall of anti-air missiles before their assault shuttle so much as broke cloud cover. I must confess that while my father was never a loving man and commanded his family much like he commanded his ships, it pained me beyond description to watch his death on the Hammer’s Auspex. Still, I have learned many times that one of the best cures for grief is blood curdling terror, at least in the short term. I quickly came to my senses and realized that escape was my crew’s only hope. I turned engine and fled for the warp as fast as the Hammer’s engines would burn. The fallen Marines pursued us in a Battleship belched forth from the mouth of Hell itself. It had hidden itself behind the world’s only moon, waiting for us like some bloated space spider, which was something else I was about to become all too familiar with. The commander of the Chaos ship used his foul powers to taunt us, his voice seemed to echo from the very bulkheads themselves. Rather than destroying the” spawn of the impudent fool burning on the planet below”, the Sorcerer promised, laughingly, that he would send my crew and I on a “delightful cruise like no other”. I am not one to stop and ponder the lunatic ramblings of a Warp dabbler too deeply when my life was at stake, so I transitioned into the warp as soon as my drives shown green. It was only moments into our warp journey that we realized what had occurred. The Sorcerer had cursed the ship’s Geller Field and no amount of supplication to the machine’s spirit would wake it. Thus began my cruise of the damned.
My time in the warp is not something I like to discuss for obvious reasons. Suffice to say the things that crawled into my ship like to play with their food. I’m afraid my time in the pink miasma has left me with habits that many scorn only because they do not understand, but the simple truth of the universe is that those who even see a glimmer of the hidden reality can never stay sane. Sanity depends on the delusions we whisper to ourselves to survive. The warp has a way of stripping us of those delusions. Still, delusions can be powerful and everyone tells me I’m deluded, therefore it follows that I must be powerful as well. Still, I digress, when the ship emerged the rest crew was long since dead (or would be if they had the decency to stay still and stop wandering about the place) and the great vessel was a shell of it’s former self. Knowing the ship was beyond salvaging (by anything short of a Astartes Chapter at any rate) and not wanting the things that now whispered in it’s broken hull to get loose (or follow me to continue their rather nasty pranks), I manually aimed the Hammer at the system’s local star and held it there until the last possible moment before I climbed into the last working escape pod with what few relics I could salvage and my family’s Warrant of Trade. Thus it was that the last of the Khal’s left their beloved ancestral Frigate.
Grave is a craggy outpost of scum and villainy. A scruffy little moon orbiting a bruised gas giant, the outpost’s one redeeming quality was that it was a short hop from the major Imperial Trade Lanes of the Calixis Sector. This makes it very popular with pirates and renegades, to say the least. It was here that I crashed. I sold the salvage rights to what was left of the pod to the worst off Tech Priest I’d ever laid eyes on. The poor fellow’s optical mechandrite kept falling out of his head, and his vocalizer seemed to have Tourette’s Syndrome. The proceeds gave me enough Thrones to feed myself in the short term while I began to plotting my return to the stars.
It didn’t take long before my money ran out and I was forced to put my skills to use as a Void Master to a Star Raider based out of Grave. Despite my familial propensity to raid and pillage, the situation was hardly ideal. While I am far from law abiding, I took umbrage with the pilgrim ships my fat, greedy, idiot of a captain preferred to target, but, I was content enough with my share of the profits to not make too much fuss. My paid silence ended when I learned that the Raider captain had made a deal with a chaos cult to sell the pilgrims they’ve capture as slaves or perhaps sacrifices. Shaking the coins out of the pockets of those who should know better than to travel in a practically unarmed transport is one thing, helping chaos worshipping filth was quite another. I felt that I’d been forced to demean my family name quite enough for one lifetime. Piracy doesn’t bother me. Targeting poor pilgrims, rather than say, plump merchant vessels, is stupid and lazy but even that I could stomach. Aiding demon worshipping filth…that I couldn’t abide. I soon began looking for a way to bring the Raiders and the cultists down in one strike, hopefully while turning a tidy profit for myself.
My opportunity came with the next raid. Another pilgrim transport, another futile effort to flee. Hunting the pious is so dull, they always stick to the same evasive maneuvers, which I like to refer to as the Missionary Position. While the other raiders were inspecting the passengers (throwing the old, sick, and the weak out of a handy airlock) I took it upon myself to see if there was anything interesting in the passenger’s pockets. I came across a rather peculiar overweight old man. Having never seen an overweight pilgrim in steerage before, (especially given that the entire ship was steerage), I sensed something was amiss, and where something is amiss…opportunity lurks. I ordered the old man into a nearby storage compartment. Before I got so much as a syllable out of my mouth, a man with a gun seemed to coalesce out of the shadows (as is his habit), while the old man shoved an Inquisitorial Rosette in my face. Rather than melt into a gibbering terror, as the pair seemed to expect, I started grinning, for I knew this was exactly the chance I’d been looking for. After a bit of conversation and more than a little bargaining, the Inquisitor, who turned out to be a fellow named Alistair Thorn and his personal Assassin who simply called himself Dex, agreed to not kill me outright. It didn’t take long for an accord to be reached. I would help the Inquisitor take down the cultists and agree to serve as his personal ship’s captain (the last apparently had been eaten by a Chaos beast) for a set period of time and in exchange, when my term was up, Thorn would see to it that I was outfitted with a ship and crew of my own, not to mention enough resources to get me back on course. Needless to say the pirates were killed, the cultists were purged, and the pilgrims were saved…well, for the most part anyway.
Next two decades or so were rather pleasant. I was captain of a fine ship, was making a bit of money on the side, and was part of an organization where my quirks were not quite so out of place. I even discovered he rather liked hunting heretics. I like to think of it as “sticking it to those pissy bastards in the warp”. It was during this time that I was introduced to Avaya Thorn, Alistair’s rather becoming daughter, who oddly found my peculiarities rather amusing. No doubt this was the result of being raised in an Inquisitor’s household. Eventually, we were married and had a son, Rojer. My beloved, sadly, never recovered from her labor and died soon after. This did little to help my admittedly, unstable mental state, but the pride he took in my boy helped to make my grief bearable. Both Alistair and I agreed Rojer should be raised on the Thorn estate. He would be provided the best training Alistair’s Inquisitorial resources could provide. Thorn knew perhaps better than anyone how dangerous the Imperium can be. He and I would make sure Rojer was prepared for it.
Sadly, all good things must come to a close and the good old Inquisitor finally met his end. I was investigating rumors that the Hammer had not been destroyed when the news came. The Inquisitor had died in the line of duty but had more than kept his word. He’d re-validated the Khal family’s Warrant of Trade and deposited enough Thrones in an account on Scintilla to outfit the Jericho Pilgrim Transport Thorn had procured from the Ordos’ Confiscated Shipyard. It wasn’t the flashiest void treader in the Imperium, but it was a start. I’d had spent more than a little time misappropriating Inquisitorial resources to forge contacts of my own and look up some my father’s old followers. I was confident my son and I could put together a fine Command Crew. I even had a name in mind; my new steed would be called the “The Anvil” as something of a memoriam to our lost Frigate. I couldn’t help but raise a glass to the old man. After all, he’d set Lord Captain Viktor Khal back on course to the unknown stars.
There was still the matter of the Hammer sightings to be dealt with first. With a proper crew at my back I felt confident that I could re-take the family’s frigate from the things that surely must still infest it. My search took months, investigating ghost ship sightings, hidden asteroid fields and unexplored worlds. It was on a world, which, while not unexplored, was defiantly uncharted, that the crew of the Anvil came across a downed Kroot Warsphere. It’s shaper had been killed in the crash and the survivors were being lead by some sort of senior Kroot Commander, if they have such things.
His/Her/It’s name was Kalm Ophou and he/she/it was remarkably civil for Xeno. Especially a Xeno that had been fighting off scavengers and fanatics for the Emperor only knows how long. My voidsmen and I made planet fall near enough to the wreck of the Warshpere to watch the Kroot in action. I was impressed to say the least. Again, I felt the knock of opportunity. I lead my men to reinforce the Kroot forces and drive off the startlingly well-armed locals. My admiration rose when he returned to find Kalm and his/her/it’s strike team had managed to infiltrate our Dropship without any of the landing crew being aware. The only creature I’d ever encountered that was any where close to being that stealthy was Alistair’s personal assassin, Dex. Shifty bastard had liked to hone his skills by stealing my hat from within the ever increasingly elaborate security systems I’d devised to stop him from scurrying off with it. Of course, I’d retaliate by hiding his guns, which made him positively apoplectic. Heh, those were good times.
Kalm was grateful for our intervention and was kind enough to A: not kill my landing crew and B: to invite me to dinner and C: polite enough to not serve the remains of the locals (though the bodies were all gone by the time we left). Kalm and I talked for many hours. Kalm seemed impressed to find a human that didn’t want to shoot him on sight and I knew enough about Kroot Mercenaries to know they would make fine allies. It seemed that the Warsphere and it’s crew had been stuck on this miserable death world for quite some time. Kalm and his/her/it’s people had been there long enough, at least to witness a drifting Imperial vessel crash into one of the beast trader ships that landed periodically. The description matched an ornate Sword class Frigate. It could only be the Hammer! I knew I was close to my prize so I struck deal with Kalm. If they would aid me in the recapture of my ship, I would give them transport to anywhere they wished. Kalm seemed impatient to be off this cursed rock and quickly agreed.
Kalm was the last Kroot to board the Anvil’s lighter. When asked what took him//her/it so long he/she/it only replied he was “preserving what needed to be preserved.” The shuttle shook as the Kroot Warsphere was engulfed in the blue flames of a plasma explosion. I admit to feeling a small pang of regret while I stared at the blue flames. I hated leaving anything un-plundered, but it’d be poor manners to do so in front of my new friend.
Even with Kalm’s help it took 3 more months to locate the Hammer. Only as The Anvil launched grapnels to arrest the motion of the great ship did I begin to feel uneasy about the return to my beloved ship. I wanted her back, badly, but not badly enough to face the ghosts and beasts that must surely be roaming its decks. How else could she have been spared the solar burial I’d planned for her? Kalm and his Kroot Kommandos lead the boarding party with me in tow. We spent another month scouring every deck, every bulkhead, and every inch of the ship only to come up completely empty. Even the psyker felt nothing. She gleamed like she was fresh from the forges of Mars. Every system functioned perfectly. It was like she was welcoming her Master home. Even so, I spent the entire trip back to the Thorn estates in an uneasy waiting game, expecting it all to turn into another Warp twisted prank, but nothing happened.
I expected Kalm to demand his/her/its side of the bargain immediately, and here too, I was proved wrong. Rather annoying being wrong, but at least I’d nabbed a valuable addition to my crew. After several weeks at void I finally asked the Kroot point blank. Kalm blinked at him and said only that he/she/it and his/her/its people are exactly where they were supposed to be and that he’d/she’d/it’d let the me know if that changed.
With the beginnings of a Fleet on my hands I decided it was time for young Rojer to learn to command an actual ship. I summoned the lad and gave him the command of the Anvil with one of the families trusted Void-Masters as his first officer. How she survived I have no idea, but Kataline Vuroc had both wiped, spanked and saved the collective asses of at least 3 generations of my family so I decided it prudent not to press the issue. Some practical experience would be the perfect way to round out the boy’s training and it’d free me up to see to building ourDynasty back into sometime the stars will respect and fear. It was long past time House Khal reclaimed its place among the stars.