Dragonstar: The Serpent's Teardrop

Sick

Based on the Star Trek: The Next Generation adventure “Marie Celestial” originally published in the book “A Fragile Peace: The Neutral Zone Campaign Vol. 1” by Last Unicorn Games © 1998

Tipping the Scales

The wind whistled through the peaks of Galdarast Prime, it’s high whipping pitches buffeting the cold rock while it’s song was echoed by the cries of falcons. Across craggy mountains and through deep valleys it blew, until, almost self consciously, it caught itself on the rim of a great dark crater. It seemed to lose it’s bluster in an instant and instead turn away ashamedly from the spires within. The flags hung limply across the grand temple of the Church of the Reaper.

Built from black, volcanic rock across the dry caldera of an extinct volcano, the temple was an awe-inspiring and frightening sight. Great towers adorned with skull and scythe motifs dominated both the domed cathedral and the plain office buildings. Mausoleums of archaic design crowded the modernized roadways. And on the outer edges symbolic pyres gave the sooty ground the appearance of volcanic life. Even the efficiently laid out space port on the other side of the crater seemed grim.

Death was the Reaper’s business, and no devotee would be allowed to forget that here. Needless to say, Galdarast Prime didn’t receive too many willing visitors.

It was, however, the hub for the Church, it’s system heavily defended by the Savarans as well as the impressive fleets of it’s wealthy cardinals. Despite the brooding facade the Church’s temple was not just for contemplation of mortality, but was the bustling business end of a galaxy wide religious order. The ferrymen worked tirelessly to ease the last gasps of all, to see the balance of life and death maintained, and to hunt down those who would pervert the spirits or the bodies of the dead for their own ends. Most bereaved gave a little of their worldly wealth to ease the transition of their departed into the next world. Given how many trillions of lives had passed on since the inception of the Dragon Empire, it followed that the Church was incredibly well funded.

In the basement of a gruesomely festooned office building, racks of servers whispered away in a perfectly controlled dance of data. Expensive portals to other worlds across the Empire remained open day and night feeding, not materials or people across the stars, but information. Records of the dead and dying were the primary movers. Extrapolating necromancy hot spots sucked up bandwidth. Finances whirled around them all.

But in one small corner of the network a few unusual subroutines continued their daily waltz. Processors that had until relatively recently been seeking very particular stories about uplift events or grainy pictures of a half-seen space vessel, now seemed to focus on feeds coming from the border between Golion and Altaran space. The Serpent’s Teardrop. Phrases like “temporal anomoly,” “dark zone interaction,” and “resurrection of a deity” organized themselves around a few, particular, unique names. Galen. David. Elocinda. Celie. Praxus. Silverhand.

Data whipped like the wind across an archaic display. Cardinal Trenar’s unblinking eyes didn’t miss a moment of it. Patterns played themselves out, the raw information conjoining inside his insect mind with perceptions beyond what the data net could bring him. He saw events triggered, lives changed, and shadows deepening across countless parsecs. Throughout all the myriad layers of information racing across the screens and through his mind he clearly saw something tipping the scales out of balance.

“Perhapssss,” he hissed to himself, “it is time to tip the scale back…”

With that he unfolded like a dry slender origami and stepped slowly from the midst of the data center towards the temple’s research laboratories.

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Death Rock

Based on the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventure “Death Rock” originally published by Flame Publications © 1990 and collected in “Wars & Death” published by Hogshead Publishing © 1996; also inspired by parts of the Dragonstar book “Raw Recruits” published by Mystic Eye Games © 2002

Planetfall over Vera

Pilot First Class Emdar slipped his drop-ship into the pipeline, following the first barrage down towards the verdant green world. Behind him he could hear the guttural joking of the White Legion marines as they imagined the rape and pillage they were about to unleash on the unsuspecting primitives. Emdar smiled. The brutes might get their share of first pickings, but pilots like himself were going to enjoy the fruits of the noble daughters when they were reclassified as prostitutes. He always enjoyed “uplift” assignments.

The first sign of trouble came from his weather instruments. Still well above the atmosphere the readings showed tropical storm like conditions brewing exceedingly quickly over temperate regions of the planet. No new orders came through the channel though. Probably spastic primitive magical response that the Dragon Lord Bleeding Sleet would crush in an instant. Holding course Emdar braced for atmospheric insertion.

The moment his drop-ship crossed the threshold, all the hells broke loose.

Ahead of him Emdar saw strike fighters that had been dispatched to soften up landing sites torn apart by green-edged clouds that appeared from nowhere. Comm channels went mad with the screams of the dying, and the screams of commanders demanding answers as their instruments went dead. Emdar fought the urge to pull out of his dive, the threat of a dragon led court-martial far more frightening than a rough landing. He expertly maneuvered through chaotic turbulence as frigates above him began to be dragged into the maelstrom.

Suddenly a cross-wind threw his drop-ship out of it’s controlled dive. Curses rang through from the back as equipment smashed free of restraints and weapons clattered across the deck. Emdar fought with the controls, but a force much more powerful than nature tossed his ship around like a toy.

Pilot First Class Emdar screamed like a stuck whore as he, his ship, and his marines were torn to dust.

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On the Edge of Night

Inspired by the adventure “On the Edge of Night” from the “Star Trek: TNG” Roleplaying Game book “Planetary Adventures” published by Last Unicorn Games © 1999. Also inspired by the adventure “Fright Night: Ghost Ship” published by Hogshead Publishing © 2005.

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Nightmares

Near the joint between asteroid and aft hull of the Mithral Star a spire rose above the cold plated decks and the pitted rock. Climbing like a talon, the black tower glistened with lit windows and bristled with defensive guns. At its base was housed the cathedral-like bridge of the gargantuan ship. But the upper reaches of the spire were reserved for its admiral.

Alsir’s quarters were as befitted a half-dragon of his rank. Opulent carpets and gold-trimmed furniture decorated lengths of empty corridor and unused lounges. Massive ancient tapestries depicting ancient legends from hundreds of planets hung in stasis fields that protected them against decay. In each office stood rows of artifacts; suits of armor from fallen foes, archaeological wonders from before the Imperium, the mounted heads of fantastic beasts from across the galaxy. Chambers within the admiral’s rooms could have been torn from gaudy palaces and hosted sumptuous feasts or the celebrations of hundreds of people. And yet, for all this excess, the majority of the spire was only ever seen by the empty electronic eyes or walked by the silent mechanical feet of its army of maintenance robots.

In a simple chamber not far from the bridge of the Mithral Star Alsir slept. He slept suspended in a viscous amber liquid that cradled him like a womb, arcane nanoswarms and secret chemicals easing the troubled sleep his human half required. Beyond the protective liquid, runes and powerful fields integrated with the tank made an impregnable shell, the admiral completely protected, removed, invisible to the outside world.

Except for one, small, near invisible path.

One hidden port in the walls around Alsir was open. One door that could be unlocked with a particular psychic imprint. When that door opened, Alsir’s dreams suddenly turned to nightmares.

-

Her cabin had barely been lived in. Only the slightly rumpled sheets on the bed showed any signs of habitation. Sitting cross-legged on the floor she slowly removed her own mental shields and began the arduous process of finding his mind. The process was calm, methodical. Something she had done a thousand times before, though nearly no other human in the entire galaxy could accomplish the same over such distances. Her companions stood back near the door, somehow always afraid of her silence.

Suddenly the golden glow from her cabin window snapped to black. Her eyes opened, focusing in mild confusion on the scattered light of cold alien stars. A companion exclaimed, a shudder was felt. Then, from the darkness between the stars, a cold slithering feeling slipped across her mind.

Her scream coincided with an explosion at the cabin door. The soulless face of the window splattered with red…

-

Alsir awoke, standing and trembling on the soaked carpet of his cabin. Blood trickled down a hundred cuts across his shoulders, and his clawed feet cracked the shards of tank below his feet. For a moment he paused, his eyes locked to the tableau of stars beyond his cabin window. Then in a blur he launched himself out of the cabin, a clawed hand snatching a data crystal from a nearby display as he vanished into the quiet corridors and from the cold eyes of the maintenance robots dispatched to clean the remains of his sleep tank.

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Idol Threats

Based on the adventure “Idol Threats” from the “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” Roleplaying Game Core Game book, published by Last Unicorn Games © 1999.

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Bad Decisions

Commander Obolos of the Blizzard Tusk frowned at the strange object on his viewscreen, trying to visualize the scale of the thing in his head based on his First Officer’s readouts. It looked like the pitiful tokens he had torn down a thousand times on a thousand planets, yet here it was dwarfing his Arrogant-class Corvette. He knew it hadn’t been sighted spinward of Rielak before. But something that size didn’t just appear out of nowhere.

“Commander!” cried his First Officer, an edge of panic in his guttural shout, “It’s bombarding us with some kind of scan. Encryption protocols have been breached!”

Obolos sat sedately back into his commander’s chair. This was something he knew how to react to. Altaran military secrets must be kept at whatever cost. He smacked his upper lip with his tusks.

“Bad decision my strange friend. White Legion… fire at will!”

The stocky corvette dove towards the alien object, particle beams lancing out across the black. Torpedoes and laser cannons joined the fusillade, a veritable barrage designed to tear starships, asteroids, and even dragons to pieces. With no obvious shields or weapons the strange stone-like surface of the object should have disintegrated in mere seconds.

The Blizzard Tusk turned after its first pass and found the object behind it, fully intact, with barely a scratch across it.

And then the thing lashed back. A sliver of silver light, like a giant whip, cracked across the corvette’s bow.

The bridge of the Blizzard Tusk exploded into a frenzied dance of blood and light. Obolos’ power armor went rigid, gel cushioning the blows he took and his helmet closing automatically over his face. He crashed from his throne to the deck as pieces of an unlucky orc crewman tumbled past him. Fires flared over weapons control and core systems consoles as the veteran crew hurriedly brought their damaged ship back under control. His limbs eventually released, Obolos stood and roared at the visage of their enemy on the now cracked viewscreen.

“Status.” he spat.

“Particle beamers down, overload on the laser power grid. Hull breach on decks one through three, but it’s contained. We have propulsion, but overload damage to the core systems could mean…”

The First Officer stopped, his eyes glued to the flickering viewscreen. The stars, dim pricks of light seen beyond the sunlit back of the object, were twisting as if caught in a galactic whirlpool. Space twisted then tore in a rainbow-colored explosion, the head of the object disappearing into unknown fathoms beyond. Obolos glowered at his retreating enemy, then turned with unbridled rage.

“Follow it!”

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Ghosts of the Past

Based on the adventure “Ghosts of the Past” from the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” Roleplaying Game book, “Planetary Adventures: Volume 1, Federation Space” published by Last Unicorn Games © 1999.

Bureaucracy

The bridge of the Mithral Star resembles a vaulted cathedral, a wide central nave dominated by a three-dimensional tactical hologram of the space surrounding the ship. Balconies, bridges, and floating platforms give the crew unparalleled access to the construct, a clean efficient hierarchy of stations quelling any sense of chaos the scale may infer. Drones whip about in silent dances while the crew mutter calmly into personal datacoms. A hushed, temple-like atmosphere is maintained.

“Remember your place, Finch! I am still commander of this vessel and an admiral of the fleet!”

Alsir’s voice carries like thunder before a storm. The half-dragon strides to the edge of the command platform and glowers over the massive hologram, his usually supple stance rigid with suppressed frustration.

“Do not presume that I take my responsibilities to the Service lightly. In my estimation it is exactly that responsibility that demands we follow the journey of the Countess and ensure that Minos is found.”

At the rear of the command platform a small crowd is clustered at the heels of a well-dressed human, his tall collar and cloak trimmed in royal blue. A fine hand slowly raises itself to stroke back wiry salt and pepper hair as lips twist themselves in a barely contained sneer.

“Admiral,” sighs Eminicus Finch, “the Royal Exploratory Service shall indeed pursue the tantalizing…. clues discovered by Mr. Gims’ research. The wanderings of Countess Pix are indeed of great value to us.”

Finch begins to pace, the eyes of his entourage following him with practiced awe.

“However, the half-remembered and heavily redacted recollections of a three-thousand year old explorer are not the sort of evidence that the RES’ Golion flagship, this ship, should be chasing on a whim.”

Alsir grinds his teeth, eyes still on the hologram as if to center his mind.

“The legendary weapons of Minos are not trinkets to be handled by a solitary trailblazer or a legion platoon. The Mithral Star should be the ship to discover and control them, the Twelve forbid raiders or the Altaran’s stumbling across such a trove.”

“If this Minos is found under Altaran jurisdiction,” counters Finch, lazily, “then I at least hope their commander has the sense and capability to follow our Emperor’s will.”

“Mezzenbone be damned,” mutters Alsir, almost under his breath.

“Admrial!” snaps Finch, as if waiting for this moment to strike, “Need I remind you that your questionable loyalties are precisely the reason I have been assigned to this ship! The Mithral Star is a flagship of the Royal Exploratory Service and as such owes fealty to the Imperial throne! Our discoveries and efforts seek to strengthen and glorify your Dragon Empire. Understand?”

There is a breath, a beat, a moment of almost perfect reverential stillness on the bridge of the Mithral Star. Then with blinding speed Alsir turns and leaps at Finch, razor-edged teeth snapping in the human’s face. A clawed hand closes over Finch’s throat, one deathly sharp tip hovering over his suddenly pulsing jugular vein. The mind-numbing speed and violence of the attack causes a courtier to faint with a pathetic whimper.

“Don’t you ever forget which one of us has dragon blood!” roars Alsir.

He lets go and spins back to the edge of the platform, his brows knotted over the hologram again. Eminicus Finch, his suave bravado replaced with a pallid choking breath, stumbles to the exit.

“You… you know your orders… Alsir.”

As the mildly panicked train leaves with the bureaucrat Alsir heaves a sigh and shakes his head at the floor hundreds of feet below him.

And one stocky officer in a crisp gray and copper uniform frowns with thick eyebrows at the half-dragon’s back, then stomps off the bridge after the retreating Finch.

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This Little Piggy...
This Little Piggy…

Somewhere between the cold, hostile stars of the Serpent’s Teardrop, below the inky tentacles of the Dark Zone nebula, a behemoth slips silently through a ring of arcane fire and back into the vacuum of real space. Like burning spires of an ancient cathedral, its bristling bow reflects the glow of astral space for a few moments longer as radiation dissipates from the insulated hull in cooling plumes of gas. Behind these clouds arrives a tremendous asteroid fixated in the midst of the ship’s structure as if part of a patchwork automaton. More spires, flanges, and even towers scar the rock’s surface before the dark iron of the dreadnought’s stern and engines encapsulates the stone.

The astral burn subsides and the Royal Exploratory Service Ship “Mithral Star” engages it’s massive fusion engines to push itself across the gulf of darkness. In the noiseless radio waves and tight-beam transmissions that erupt after its arrival, codes and handshakes bleat themselves to attentive ears. From complete stillness a massive shadow detaches itself from between pinpricks of light and falls in to flank the city-ship. Far smaller than the “Mithral Star,” the Golion Destroyer “Absolution” is still a gargantuan vessel, it’s sleek hull occasionally glinting with inferred malice.

Below the starboard stone skin of the “Mithral Star’s” asteroid, the half-moon shaped City of the Rock bustles with business and banter, almost oblivious to the incredible change in dimensions that took place just beyond its walls. Cowled dwarves hurry about on furtive errands, disappearing into their sealed districts and mines when done. Disparate passengers wander the market perusing goods from hundreds of worlds under an artificial sky. Crew members spend hard-earned leave in the rambunctious bars or queuing up at the Siren’s brothel. And a select few answer a mysterious summons to a quiet establishment in the bowels of the rock, the Drop Bottom Inn.

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The Drop Bottom Inn is a small establishment in the rougher neighborhood at the bottom of The Drop. The Drop is a large semicircular atrium near the center of the city next to the outer wall. It’s an open space that reaches all the way from the top residential neighborhoods of the city, down through the market and service districts, to the seedy workers’ quarters at the very bottom. Lined on each level by plazas, trendy restaurants, parks, pubs, or inns it is a virtual slice of the city (although it still excludes any access to dwarven quarters). More than this it is something of a highway. Most vehicular traffic is prohibited in the city, so the quickest direct route from one level to another (besides private elevators) is to step out into the Drop. Color coded disks whisk passengers to pre-programmed landing zones and make the Drop a dizzying rainbow of people during peak market hours.

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