Bishop Kevin is presiding, and leads the crew in a eulogy for Wheely Kevin. The casket is empty save for a chair and a pair of pants.
He allows us a moment of silence before shouting "NEXT!" and the next casket is dragged in.
57 services later, Leftenant Kevin takes the team aside to give the good news: The Kevins have this thing called "Shore Leave", now. Also, after months of extensive testing ("Kevins within Kevins within Kevins, within Kevins. Affirm." "Affirm." "What's it like to be paid?" "Unknown.") I, Fixy Kevin, am finally out of the brig.
Shore Leave appears to have been granted en masse -- the dock is filled with Kevins, and the pubs creak collectively in fear. The locals flow out, and the Kevins flow in.
As promised, Lieutenant Kevin buys us the first round, and toasts Wheely Kevin. Whom I knew from Technical College. I put him in the wheelchair during the exam for my degree, sure, but I liked to think we were close.
Our clique (Me, Healy Kevin, Smarty Kevin, and Grizzly Kevin) are talking about intoxicating substances (Amasec, that water from Vaporious) when Sleazy Kevin takes this opportunity to show up to peddle his shitty cocaine.
"Heck off, sleazy kevin, we don't want your crap cocaine around here," Healy Kevin says.
"Nah, this is new stuff," he promises. He presents some interesting-looking lho sticks. "These are better than any obscura."
Grizzled Kevin wants to buy the drugs, but he's got no money, so he distracts Sleazy Kevin and then punches him clean out. He steals every drug he's got, and starts handing out the fancy sticks, a green, crystalline substance wrapped in gold foil.
Not strong enough to resist peer pressure, I light up first. And I hear screaming for a moment before I black out.
I wake up with everyone else in a place that definitely isn't the bar. We're sprawled on the floor in the middle of a forest -- everything is ridiculously green, and the trees are dense.
The sky overhead is a brused color. We're definitely not on Footfall.
Fighty Kevin asks Grizzled Kevin to climb a tree. But he doesn't climb trees, he pushes them over. And to prove it, he does so, with a splintering of wood. And a squelch sound?
We check it out carefully. I approach with staff in hand. It's a swamp. Or a mire.
As we're peering at it through bloodshot eyes, something long and thin picks me, Healy and Fighty Kevin up off the ground!
Grizzly Kevin slaps the vines, dealing some damage.
Smarty Kevin tries to negotiate with the vines. He promises them women later for freedom now, but nothing. It seems like these are harder to buy than the Incel board.
Healy Kevin tries to wriggle free. She doesn't.
I apply leverage to the vines with my staff, and I free myself, readying my lasgun.
Fighty Kevin gets out, and pulls out his monospear.
The vines react; the one that has Healy Kevin strangles. The one that had me shoots a cloud of spores at me from a flower. It misses, but another one gets Fighty Kevin good, and breathing is hard.
Grizzly Kevin keeps working at the vines holding Healy Kevin.
Slighted by the vines, Smarty Kevin opens fire on the vines -- it's like High Scholum all over again. The vines recoil in pain.
Healy Kevin frees themselves, and draws their flamer.
I land a shot on the vines as well, getting a scream from the plant.
Fighty Kevin, struggling to breathe, nonetheless manages to plunge his spear into the heart of the plant and kills it.
The plants spray more spores at Healy Kevin. Grizzly Kevin slaps them around some more.
Healy Kevin, now free and armed, burns their flower monster.
Fighty Kevin stabs mine and finishes it off.
As combat ends, Healy Kevin administers antidote to themselves and Fighty Kevin.
As we examine the plants (smell like meat, and look like rotting flesh), there's the sound of walking feet. And as we watch, the forest seems to move to part for a figure.
A feminine figure, rather pointy and to some of the party, familiar -- she looks a lot like the statue salvaged from the Dread Pearl?
We introduce ourselves. Her name is Isha. She has a husband, "Very Busy Man".
She greets us warmly, and apologizes for not reaching us sooner. She invites us to "come along", and we do so, taking advantage of her ability to part the forest.
We eventually reach a small cottage; the outside appears to be dripping slime, but it looks to be in good condition, a thatched cottage with chairs outside and a kettle on a fire. Isha takes a seat and invites us to do the same.
She recaps how we got here. She knows where Footfall is, mentioning some of "her people" who occasionally speak to her from there. The way she speaks of it, we're nowhere near the Halo stars, it sounds like.
We are in the Garden -- here, she and her husband grow flowers. She grows the brighter colors, in contrast to her husband's preferred blues and blacks.
Then the ground shakes as immense footsteps approach. Trees don't part for this one. He swims into view -- an immense, bloated creature wearing a hat and tie, a greater daemon of Nurgle, guts hanging out and corpulent.
He shrinks down to a more reasonable size, and Isha plants a small kiss on his cheek. We politely introduce ourselves to this monstrous, but clearly pleasant creature with a very jolly voice, "Very Busy Man". He corrects me on the name -- Nurgle. But most people call him Grandfather or Pappy.
We speak with him. Long story short, we are indeed in the warp. And we are in so much danger. But he's nice enough. He saw Psy Kevin, he passed through briefly. Nurgle sent him on, although he's not sure what happened after that. A darn shame. He's willing to send us along after him, if needed.
We snap a commemorative photo for Aquilagram. We all take a point of insanity... and tag @WinterYork. We'll have to wait until we get Astropath signal to upload it, though.
Nurgle has some opinions of the other gods.
Khorne is nice enough, provide you catch him on a nice day. The problem is, he hasn't had a nice day in about 12 billion years.
Slaanesh... best not to go there. But Healy Kevin can just... do whatever.
Anyway. Nurgle makes a door appear out of some trees.
Before we leave, Nurgle has a letter for us. It's addressed to Hadarak Fel... If we get the chance, we should say hi to the Eldar for Isha.
He gives us a gold tooth for the trouble, and bids us farewell.
I open the door, and I'm no longer in the Garden. Ashen fields surround us. "God damnit," Smarty Kevin says. "We're in New Jersey."
Ahead of us, we can see a figure sitting in the ashes. As we get closer, we realize he's huge. Huger than Grizzled Kevin, even. Clearly a space marine, his armor is ashen white and his pauldrons blue.
He greets us with a slow, heavy voice. He tells us that we are... here. Very helpful. Here is not a safe place for mortals to be wandering. He speaks slow and ponderously, devoid of emotion.
He will guide us out. He brushes ashes off the ground, and picks up two very familiar chain axes... remarkable craftsmanship. Made for unification.
I ask him what his name is. Akaios, he thinks. It's been a while. He turns to the horizon, and starts walking -- slowly -- so we can follow. He suspects we're not from his time. I mention we're from M41, and he confirms he's from M30.
He's depressed as hell. He needs to leave, but he can't; he and his brothers are damned. It's a very somber walk.
As we walk, we approach structures, mountains and citadels in the distance. There's another figure in the distance, hunched and without power armor. We're being watched.
Healy Kevin waves and bids it hello, and all we get back is a laugh. A laugh I've heard before. A laugh I don't like one bit.
It's my Ex. A bloodletter. I ask to borrow one of Akaios' axes. He agrees, and gives me a now-familiar axe -- Wrack.
Grizzly Kevin puts his hand on my shoulder, and passes me a literal fistful of leaves. I chow down and suddenly, I feel like a bear. I bellow a challenge at this bear-like bloodletter, and challenge it to a fight.
I proceed to have the coolest duel of my life, burying the borrowed chainaxe in it just as it punches me out cold.
I find myself adrift in a sea of stars.
"Dude! Dude! Wake up!" I open my eyes with an unsticking feeling to see a flaming skull leering over me. I'm sitting in the sidecar of what appears to be a daemonically posessed motorcycle. A space marine with a flaming skull for a head drives it.
I took bear leaves, and apparently I know how to fucking party. Doomrider is his name, and Astral Projecting is apparently what I'm doing. He'd be glad to give me a ride back to my physical body.
I open my eyes again. For a moment there, I was cool. Then they avert their eyes from mine again. I'm surrounded by the other Kevins and Akaios. I sit up, and for a moment, I see Doomrider, before he vanishes into a portal.
I confirm that I won the fight, and return the axe to Akaios. To my surprise, he returns the axe to me, and Ruin to Healy Kevin.
He dusts off the ground to reveal skulls -- 88 of them. He asks us to remember him, remember the War Hounds as what they were, and not what they became. I tell him I only see a loyal War Hound, and I'll never forget Akaios of the War Hounds.
We rematerialize in a realm of purple, gold, and silk. Soft music flows. There's a large bed, silk drapes on the walls, mood lighting and incense in the air... and an ork? The ork is confused, unarmed, and just wants a fight.
A tantalizing voice calls from beyond a series of veils. "The Ork, I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting visitors."
It's Healy-Kevin's time-share god.
Slaanesh materializes a bag of cocaine for Grizzly Kevin, and he buries his face in it, becoming Polar Kevin for a time.
We stay and chat for a while, but it's eventually time to go. The exit door leads to a long corridor.
There are two doors -- one with a symbol like a meteor, and one labelled in Gothic, "Armageddon". The ork wants a fight, so I guess we'll head out through Armageddon?
The Ork smells the air that blows through, and is thrilled. He smells a fight. He's going to take it, and make great the name Gazgul Mad Urak Thrakka.
Whoops. Oh well, we make an exit through the other door.
We find ourselves in a mirror maze. Healy-Kevin seems to have a knack for navigating it, though, so we follow his lead.
We find ourselves in a central, eight-pointed star at the center of the maze. And sitting on a glass bench in the middle, with no pants and no wheelchair... Wheely Kevin.
He's not who he used to be. But he still has that same shit-eating grin, and I Remember why I didn't feel that sorry about putting him in the chair to start with.
We talk a while. But talk runs thin, and we want out. Or we never wanted out. Or we've always wanted out. And the way out is through the Blue Horrors that are now surrounding us.
Only holy weapons or a psyker will save us here, and we have none. But we do have bear leaves.
"Well, are you going to eat the bear leaves or not? For the Emperor."
Standing atop the walls of the Infinite Maze, dressed in a long cloak, carrying a bolt pistol, a makeshift staff, and a ridiculously wide hat -- Psy Kevin. He jumps down, and with a strike of his staff, keeps the blue horrors at bay.
We chow down on the bear leaves, and...
We come to, and catch up with psy-kevin. It's been... a while. He's seen a lot.
But for now, two errands.
First, we return to the ashen wasteland. Istvaan V. We find a cave, and inside, white helmets stacked neatly; we leave the power axes there to be found some millenia later, and eventually, pass into the hands of our captain, and all is right with the world.
The next errand is a stop at Groks' Pizza, we're on a pizza run, apparently -- although with warp travel and time being optional, not on any particular schedule.
We find ourselves in a smoky room, the smoke in 9 primary colors. We catch a lungful of plaid on the way in.
"Pizza's still warm," Psy-Kevin announces.
The smoke parts to reveal quite an array of players. The Deceiver. The Eldar Laughing God. Tzzentch. And the Emperor himself. It's a strange game, Paradox Poker, and the stakes are... odd.
The Emperor thanks us for the delivery, and decides to grant us each a boon.
Grizzly Kevin asks for and gets gold-laced cocaine.
Smarty Kevin asks for and gets forgiveness for Akaios of the War Hounds.
I ask for and get an STC.
Healy Kevin asks for and gets freedom from Slaanesh.
The Emperor opens a door, and there's a gold surfboard. He takes us back to Footfall... the long way around. As we pull up outside the bar, I have one last question, hopefully a freebie.
"Are we before or after we left?"
"Poorly worded question. That's my fault, I accept it."