A Rebellion of Stone and Ice

“The Daemon has many forms. You must know them all. You must tell the Daemon from its disguise and root it out from the hidden places.”
-First Book of Indoctrinations of the Ordo Malleus

The acolytes collect what little information they can, such as a map of the Harrow mine, the list and times of attacks, and the list of serfs who have died since the Adeptus Arbites became involved.

In the evening, Rollando checks on what has become of the family Hernandez – and discovers that the family was wiped out after being accused of treason (details are missing), and stripped of its name and title which were then given to another unrelated bloodline. He has already asked the other acolytes to call him by his cover name, Skab.

Proctor Rotlan invites Aenid to his table for dinner, and the others are shown to their modest quarters for the night. Regulator Mallier, Rotlan's second-in-command, is also present at dinner. The affair is as formal as can be managed in such a modest precinct, and they get out the best amisec. They ask Aenid questions about her work for the Inquisition, and her answers seem to reassure them, especially her encounters with the Ruinous Powers. They have been worried that the rebellious mutants' rock-melding abilities might in fact be linked to the Ruinous Powers, and the serfs here are really terrified.

The first manifestations of that ability started a little over a year and a half ago the rebellion has been unfolding for three years), which caused the Adeptus Arbites to be called here. Rotlan immediately requested assistance from the Inquisition when he saw what was being done here. The uses of the power have become more frequent and have caused large sections of the mine tunnels to become impassable. The mutants live in an area called the Hard Vaults, underlying part of the mine, and are normally left to their own devices because it would be so hard to root them out, and the local nobility tolerates them because they mine in areas where even the serfs could not survive.

Ulbrexis used to be the baron who controlled the Harrow mine, and consorted with mutants and serfs to foment rebellion, but of course it has been twenty years since. The Arbites is not certain whether the current mutant rebellion has any connection with the mutants in the Hard Vaults; the latter certainly deny it, even under severe questioning.

Rotlan also tells Aenid that no one else on the planet knows yet that the acolytes represent the Inquisition, leaving it up to them to reveal their status if and when they need to.

The acolytes are awakened early the next morning by the sound of tools clanking as the mining shift changes. Tech Priest Sanctus Machina notices what poor quality tools they are carrying, a shocking lack of regard for the Omnissiah's instruments, and no tech priest in sight to care for the equipment and bless it properly. He goes in search of the individual in charge of making these crude tools and finds a blacksmith at work. The man seems reasonably skilled, but has many more tools to repair than he can give decent attention to, and his own tools are in poor state.

Sanctus Machina admonishes the man, who falls to his knees when he recognizes an actual tech priest. Sanctus rapidly assesses the forge, sees how worn the tools are and what uneven heat the poor quality cool produces; he repairs the blacksmith's tools, and decides he must obtain the parts in Icenholm to build a heat regulator. The blacksmith timidly pulls out a crudely fashioned medallion with the sigil of the Omnissiah and asks for a blessing on it. He wants to immediately spread the word of the Machine-God to all other smiths, but Sanctus orders him to tend to his work first and repair the miners' tools.

The Arbites shuttle is ready to depart for Icenholm, so Aenid and Rollando call Sanctus back; they are accompanied by Proctor Rotlan. The hope is that Rollando will be able to discover any new development in a place he used to be familiar with, and Aenid is going to keep him out of trouble… Calpurnia stays behind in case of another attack on the mine.

Icenholm is apparently built in the caldera of an ancient volcano, a glittering city of ice suspended above the center of the crater from gigantic chains (and in Sanctus Machina's opinion, the help of contra-gravitic supports.)

Once they land, Rollando and Aenid go take the pulse of the place. Rollando finds the location of a tavern that is still in the same location as a 150 years ago. A group of the Queen's Scourges are drinking, so he buys a few rounds and makes friends. He realizes that the Queen's Scourges hardly get any work from the queen anymore, so they mostly hire themselves out to various nobles as mercenaries, bodyguards, thugs, even gladiators. Their armour has been upgraded to carapace in the elapsed years, and they strut around, secure in the knowledge that they vastly overpower the serfs they keep in check.

The two acolytes learn that the events at the Harrow mine have hardly been noticed elsewhere on the planet, and don't seem to have spread. Captain Movern Hernandez and his men, who will be going to the Harrow mine with the acolytes, are admiringly described as “mean.”

Meanwhile, Sanctus Machina visits the Adeptus ad Astra Telepathica and sends his messages to the Adeptus Mechanicus, requesting assistance for the Misericord, and to a dead drop that will go to Inquisitor Skane, with the acolytes' report. He then visits many places to collect the spare parts he needs to build a heat regulator for the Harrow mine smithy, before returning to meet his travel companions.

Back at Precinct 14, Calpurnia is poring over the maps marked up by Baronet Riksdag, when the whole building shakes. Regulator Mallier runs in, announces that there has been an attack at the mine. They grab their armour and weapons and pack into a patrol hovercraft. The location of the attack is spewing a column of smoke, and serfs are running out, making it difficult to get close. Finally the vehicle stops and the Arbites team and Calpurnia go in. They find an area blocked off by a wall of whitish, newly formed stone. Calpurnia verifies that its temperature and texture are similar to the rock walls, even though its colour and appearance are different.

Then another detonation rocks the tunnel. An alarm on the comm beads informs them that a second attack has taken place in a different part of the mine, so they run out, pack back into the hovercraft and head for the second location. Serfs are in a panic there, screaming in terror and some vomiting. A column of new stone has formed over a mine shaft, blocking out almost entirely. This time, several serfs have been trapped in the stone and are moaning in pain. One level below, Calpurnia sees a woman half embedded in the column, waving for attention. Calpurnia clumsily makes her way down to see if the woman can be rescued, but the damage is too great. The woman pulls Calpurnia close, and croaks: “Words – words on the face…” then expires.

This brings back for Calpurnia the memories of cultists with unholy words on their foreheads, first in the Joyous Choir chapel in Ambulon on Scintilla, then in the Coscarla Sector on Port Wander. She also realizes that the new attacks have targeted two high-production areas of the mine, a new occurrence; previous attacks have not particularly targeted production areas, and this is the first time two attacks happen so close to one another. As soon as she is out of the mines, Calpurnia calls her colleagues in Icenholm and in cautious words – she doesn't know how secure the line is – gives them an overview of the situation.

After receiving Calpurnia's report, Aenid, Rollando and Sanctus Machina meet with cigar-chomping, burly, smelly Captain Hernandez and his ten Queen's Scourges, who were picked up by the stoic Proctor Rotlan. Hernandez is overbearing, coarse, and trying hard to push the new arrivals to anger, but Aenid is all sweetness and light, even though she starts fuming internally when he disparages the Adeptus Arbites. When he brags that he will have the Harrow mine's rebellion quelled within a week, she takes him up on it with a bet of a hundred throne gilts.

After a return trip that seems incredibly long, they make it back to Precinct 14. Sanctus Machina builds a heat regulator for the smithy, which draws its own power from the coal fire it regulates and provides even temperature calibrated for the alloy most used by the blacksmith. He then find himself beleaguered by requests from serfs to bless their tools, to the point where he has to resort to mass blessings!

Baronet Riksdag also arrives and the acolytes compare notes. They decide that they must send someone undercover as a serf to hear what they can learn from those quarters (Aenid volunteers); they must speak to the local baron; they need to go look at the areas that have been sealed off; and they need to make contact with the mutants of the Hard Vaults.

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