As Callidon continued to parlay with Tolica Neta, the leader of the Blood Bullets, it became increasingly evident that the two groups could gain more through cooperation, than through conflict. Callidon skillfully read Tolica’s feelings towards Astraeus, Manfred von Burga and Lord Nathaniel Burne.
In the end this culminated in the reasonably peaceful release of the Blood Bullet’s hostages and the return of the Aquila Lander to the team. The lander, along with a number of other vehicles in the starport’s vehicle bay and air field had been cannibalised by the Blood Bullets to outfit their own vehicles and Tolica’s mech suit.
Whilst assessing the structural integrity of the lander, Kuurahn attempted to get a better look at the mech suit’s design. Unfortunately in the bustle of the air field he was not able to get a good look at it, nor was able to approach it without being seen by the Bullets.
The Aquila Lander itself remains functional, but with a moderate amount of its armour removed and placed on the other vehicles and mech suit instead.
Whilst Blur explained the Blood Bullet’s take over of the starport to Octavius, Callidon reported in with Felix. Following this, believing that their electronic communications with The Stalwart Venturer were most likely being listened to, Callidon had Mordechai transmit a more detailed message to Felix psychically. This message contained all the relevant information about the team’s current situation, the Blood Bullets and a request to ask for the blockade to be taken down now that the starport was under their control.
During Callidon’s discussions with Tolica she stated that she would be in a position to provide Blood Bullet members as new crew members to the Venturer. To this Octavius suggested that perhaps it might be prudent to rename the Blood Bullets to something more friendly, making Tolica laugh. Tolica and the team in general get on well together, Vulgrim in particular bonding with her on their shared excitement at the prospect of hunting down pirates.
Meanwhile Callidon contacts Commodore Viri Fortissimi in an effort to remove the blockade on Astraeous. After more than half and hour of radio silence Mordechai intercepts an interstellar message emanating from Ritammeron. Whilst Mordechai was unable to discern the full contents of the message, or its target, he was able to deduce that the message was about the team, in particular of their being in Astraeous.
Almost as soon as Mordechai intercepts the communication a large host of craft join the blockade including a number of ships in orbit and the atmosphere between the team and the Venturer.
The team’s efforts to contact the Commodore only result in rebuffs. Tolica isn’t surprised by the turn of events, stating that the Commodore, whilst an officer in the Imperial Navy is currently on assignment under the control of Lord Burne. It is likely that the blockade and the increase in its size comes as a direct order from him, rather than the Commodore acting alone.
As Tolica explains this the team manage to disguise von Burga and sneak him to the lander without alerting Tolica or the Blood Bullet’s to his presence.
Seeing the blockade strengthened the team retired to the lander in order to plan. The team decide that if flying out of the mountain-surrounded colony would be suicide, the only way to escape would be to go under the mountain range. The Saltu and Flaminis discuss this and realise that the cave they hid within during the Terrorax attack was most likely an ancient Saltu shrine, potentially with a blocked off tunnel to the outside.
As the team prepare to leave Mordechai spots a gang member with a power sword, an unusual weapon for a gang member to have. Mordechai exploits his psychic powers in order to convince the gang member to hand it over freely to him. Tolica however spots what Mordechai has done. Tolica does not intervene but makes it very clear that she is extremely displeased with Mordechai and will be watching him incredibly closely with hostile eyes.
Eventually the Blood Bullets and the team exit in a convoy through the jungle to the cave the team rescued Senisa and the Saltu from. On the way, Tolica makes a point to be behind Mordechai and keep him within sight at all times.
At around noon the team arrive at the clearing and begin searching for the entrance to the underground shrine. Kuurahn finds the passageway and leads the team downwards.
As Flaminis inspects the cave he accesses his mild psychic abilities through a Saltu ritual in order to divine the entrance to the passageway. The team break down the walls in the direction he indicated, discovering a thick layer of stone leading to a worked stone tunnel.
As the Blood Bullets begin to widen the entrance to the shrine and the gap into the tunnel Flaminis reads a disconcerting Saltu message written on the inside of the walls:
“Beware and caution trespassers.
We, the Saltu, have contained these tunnels,
through suffering and pain.
Let those who enter be warned,
there is only madness and darkness here.”