After the crippled Ark Dominus broke from the warp, Abraxis and Ravensburg immediately went above discerning their position. The warp storms had thrown the vessel far off course, and the damaged vessel would need time to repair before she was warp worthy again. The ships auger arrays had discerned several small settlements on the world below. Each was surrounded by large arrays of worked stones of even spacing. The Acolytes were elected to take a lander down to the surface and do further recon work.
The Acolytes made planet fall several kilometers outside one of the settlements, located on a large, rocky isle whose basalt cliffs rose high from the crashing sea. Their pilot touched down behind small forest, and then immediately returned to a low orbit to avoid detection by any ground forces. No form of electromagnetic signal was being broadcast, leading the Acolytes to believe the the society was possessed of only low technology, perhaps even pre-black powder.
Their foray out of the forest revealed the large stone assemblies to be grave sites, and after reading some of the weather worn inscriptions Antellus was able to discern that they must be on the world of Pilgrim’s Pause, an ancient Cemetery World where the war dead from Lord Militant Angevin’s Crusade were interred. Xrel felt they were surrounded by psychic emanations, and alerted the Acolytes that they were being watched. Praetus then decided to dig up one of the graves, reasoning that those interred there must be alive, perhaps suspended in some form of stasis.
Suddenly alarms at the settlement sounded, and a great sigh went up from all around Praetus. Spot lights began scouring the surrounding area, and servo skulls were sent to hunt out the tresspassers. Praetus had raised the ire of the Caretakers of this plot, and Father Ishmael, who kept the Templum in this settlement, was displeased as this act. But not so great as the dead themselves, who rose up and took Praetus in their arms and bore him away. The Acolytes confronted Ishmael, and Contintus pleaded for Praetus’ release. But Ishmael said the matter was between Preatus and the dead, and would be settled by dawn the next day. The Acolytes were given sanctuary while Praetus met his fate.
Praetus was hauled by hands that possessed a strength far beyond that of any living man. Incorporeal fingers stripped him of all his possessions but his simple robes. He was taken down into a Mausoleum and locked inside. Looking about he found a lantern that still had some oil. Using his Lumin gift he lit lantern and looked for a way out. The way which he was brought down was sealed with a heavy stone slab, the only other exit was a tunnel behind a curtain that led deeper down. Shallow shelves had been carved out of the bare stone on either side of the tunnel, and each shelf contained the remains of someone. Some of the bones were so ancient as to be little more then dust. He went further down still, until the stone underfoot became crunching sand, and a distant wind could be heard. Still he pushed past the cob webs and the hanging, dusty fabrics that blew in a growing breeze. Somehow the worked stone became worn metal, and the sand below was rust red. Praetus was no longer in a tomb, or instead in a tomb of a different sort. He was in an armoured carrier, it’s passenger compartment blown open by what appeared to be a direct hit from an anti-tank weapon. The skeletal crew were still buckled in their seats. Outside he saw a storm raged, blowing sand concealing indistinct shapes.
He crawled out into the maelstrom and pushed forward, knowing something truly awful lay ahead. All around him were half-buried vehicles, or skeletal remains impaled on ten foot high metal spikes. The wind seem to carry half-heard whispers and cries, just as it carried sand into his servos and vox-grill ventilator. Uncaring, he plodded on through this ancient battlefield and its forgotten atrocities. Who knows how long he marched, how long the voices whispered their half-heard secrets? But eventually the wind slacked, and Praetus emerged into the eye of a storm that must have been thousands of kilometers across. He stood before a mountain that loomed up and over him, the epicentre of the storm. The billowing clouds turned bruise black as they circled the summit, green lighting forking down. Praetus knew then where he was. He stood on Mars, at the foot on Mons Olympus.
Suddenly the storm intensified as it roared around the summit, the sickly green lightning stabbing down again and again. The air was filled with a near constant booming that drowned out the roar of the wind around him. The earth shook, and Praetus was filled with exhilarated dread at what was coming next. There was a flash, and then another, and a great heaving of the earth and knocked Praetus to his knees. The summit of Mons Olympus swelled and exploded, sending a rolling curtain of pale green light down the summit and over Praetus. He felt the light going through him, into him, traveling down his spine until it filled him. Something emerged from the crater, something darker still then the void, something older and more terrible then he could have imagined. With awe and fear he knew he stood before a being that had seen the birth of stars and the death of galaxies. It spoke to him in a voice that none of his race had heard in eons, and Praetus felt the voice taking him apart and rebuilding him in an image more suitable to its designs.
Knowledge passed between them, and ancient secrets long buried and forgotten. Praetus knew this thing that had been worshiped as a god. It had no name of its own, although some among mankind had called it The Dragon of Mars, or Void Dragon. It was lord of all technology, and had sent it’s dreams into the minds of those who were receptive. It knew it’s imprisonment was a temporary affair, what is a few million years to something timeless? So it whispered its whishes, and orchestrated the construction of an empire dedicated to it. But mostly it waited, dormant, waiting to assume dominance once more over the galaxy.
Praetus was found wandering the next morning in a semi-delirious state. When he regained his sense he eventually told the other Acolytes of what he’d experienced, and showed them the red stone that was in his pocket that had come from Mars. They found the mausoleum and the tunnel. Following it, they heard the roar ahead and felt the sand under their feet as they wound their way down. But it didn’t lead to Mars, but instead to the cliff base where the sea crashed against the rocks. Still, the possibility of a gateway leading to the heart of the Imperium was too great a risk so they returned to the Ark Dominus and told Abraxis what they had found.
For many hours Abraxis, the Acolytes, and Ravensburg spoke. The need to keep Arylia safe seemed very great, and this world was isolated and located in something of a warp dead zone. Also the dead who were interred on this world did not take kindly to intruders. It was decided, with consent from Father Ishmael and his peers in other communities, that Arylia would stay here. But the risk of someone finding the world was too great, so the Acolytes were given two missions from Abraxis. First they were to return to Scintillia, infiltrate the Tricorn Palace in Hive Sillibus, and destroy all records they could find of Pilgrim’s Pause. Second they were to track down the elusive Eldar, for Abraxis knew the aliens had the power to move very quickly through the warp using stable gates called Webway Portals. If anyone could explain what Praetus found it would be them. It was decided the Ark Dominus would also remain in orbit around Pilgrim’s Pause, her captain and crew dedicated to the task of acting as protector’s to Arylia. Abraxis was going to stay behind to oversee Arylia’s defences.
With their plans settled Arylia was sent down the planet and the Ark Dominus returned to the warp to set their plans in motion.