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- "Honourable spirit, silenced by combat and broken by my hand, may you ascend to the great battlefields of the heavens, and there take many trophies among the Battle Lord’s enemies. You have fought well, brother"
- — Overheard from a member of the Hrax Bloodknives in the aftermath of battle
Hrax is a Desert World which emerged from a receding Pandaemonium front a millennium ago, and whose feudal inhabitants dwell among the mazes of interconnected canyons and cave networks inscribed into its arid surface. These great chasms were carved from streams lowing towards the warm equatorial oceans, and the native lora and fauna are almost completely dependent on these waters for survival. Occasionally, these rivers form pools or small lakes that quickly become verdant oases of life; great herds of sparmadons, families of garnun, and packs of deadly vornae gather about their banks. This sprawling labyrinth of winding ravines, overhanging stone arches, and endless interconnected caverns are as difficult to navigate as the densest of hives, and most Hraxian wildlife relies on some form of echolocation to aid in navigation.
This desolate, windswept rock is covered with massive fortress cities, whose occupants live in complex feudal societies under the command of mighty High Marshals. These warlords rule the great fiefdoms called Bastias, which encompass both their colossal fortresses and any surrounding territory. Bastias also house great warrior hosts originally sworn to defend from Ork attacks, but now more frequently from assaults by rival Bastias. In exchange for service within his armies and a tithe of any looted equipment, a High Marshal accords these warriors various hereditary rights based on the particular feudal clan to which they belong, as well as individual rewards for accomplishments in battle. As in all things, from dress to bestowed honours, the people of Hrax follow the dictates of the ancient ways—especially the legends surrounding the warriors who fell from the sky.
Bastias are constructed with materials salvaged from the rusted debris of massive Astra Militarum troopships that litter the desert landscape. The most powerful Bastias are formed from the shattered wrecks themselves, whose venerable hulls serve as the basis for fortresses of torn bulkheads and cavernous holds. Other canyons and ravines have basins littered with the scars of battle and the decaying ruins of ancient Imperial war machines and tanks. Yet who or what the forces of the Imperium faced remains unclear, as no record of such a campaign exists within the sector’s voluminous military annals. Some believe it to have been Orks, as greenskin remains pollute the world, while others instead point to the horrific damage inflicted on the numerous burnt out hulls as signs of an enemy of even more extreme potency.
Bred for War Edit
The warriors of Hrax are a proud and noble people who value courage and honour above all else. Only through combat and glory in battle can individuals advance within Hraxian society, which means the clansmen must fight continuously to maintain their Bastial rights in a never-ending cycle of death and bloodshed. In addition to power and glory, the inhabitants of Hrax also fight to honour the great warrior king of heaven referred to in clan lore as the Battle Lord. It is said that long ago, the celestial god-king sent his host down from the sky on columns of flame to deliver the people of Hrax from their enemies in a purifying baptism of blood. These legends also foretold that the Battle Lord’s armies would one day return to Hrax to convey the worthy to fresh conquests across the heavens.
From the time they are first able to wield a knife, the children of Hrax are instructed in the ways of war, in preparation for this glorious return. The training is brutal in the extreme, with only the most senior clan warriors allowed to instruct the new recruits. Many clans also have reputations for viciousness, cunning, or some other skill or trait on the battlefield, and these too must be ingrained in the new recruits, for without them the clan would lose honour, rights, and prestige among the others. The feudal clansmen of Hrax wield a variety of weapons in combat, and these weapons vary in condition and function, from jealously-guarded relics to blades that have been repaired countless times over the years. These warriors believe that every weapon has a spirit within that yearns for battle, and that this spirit must be maintained if a weapon is to aid them in combat. For this reason, older, proven weapons are highly valuable to these warriors, both as relics of the Battle Lord’s armies and objects of personal value to the fighter and his clan. Many go to great lengths to retrieve weapons that have been damaged in battle, though those which are beyond repair are ceremonially salvaged in order that the spirit within may live on.
The lords of Askellon quickly realised the potential for such skilled fighters, and soon the agents of the Missionarus Galaxia began the diligent and subtle process of indoctrinating the clansmen of Hrax into the Imperial Creed. In a few years, the High Marshals were shown the proper rites of devotion, and those who survived publicly swore new blood oaths to their Battle Lord, who now bore the more worthy title of Emperor. Shortly thereafter, the massive transport ships of the Departmento Munitorum arrived, and before long the first regiments of the Hrax Bloodknives left their world behind to claim glory and honour amidst the innumerable terrors of the Imperium’s countless battlefields.
By Blood Undone Edit
As Askellon continues to slip further into isolation and anarchy, the warriors of Hrax have had less and less contact with the heralds of the Astra Militarum. Many delegations even routinely insult the proud warriors of Hrax by herding recruits aboard drop ships like cattle, without regard for their rank or ceremonial blood sports and rites of tribute. As a result, relations have deteriorated dramatically in the past century, with many now openly questioning these off-worlders’ authority and resisting their attempts at impressment with terrible acts of merciless violence.
Several High Marshals have even forsaken their sacred oaths and publicly ordered their warriors to mar their loyalty scars with deep, vicious incisions. To these clansmen, the continued grovelling of the loyalist clans at the feet of their Imperial masters is unbecoming of true warriors, and only by killing the false god’s servants can they regain the blessings of the true Battle Lord. Whispers of the old ways, of terrible rituals and offerings of blood in exchange for unholy power have also begun to re-emerge among many clans, and though the Imperium is quick to quash such activities, many believe these tales hold the key to overthrowing their off-world oppressors. Meanwhile, those clans who persevere in their faith continue to view such sorcerous activities with palpable scorn, and attempts to erase such dishonours by both sides have ended in numerous acts of bloodshed and death.
In addition to the growing unrest that threatens to plunge the planet into open revolt, the number of nascent psykers on Hrax has also risen drastically. Imperial installations have trumpeted numerous decrees forbidding the harbouring of such individuals, but there is little evidence that the natives heed this instruction. Those fiefdoms still loyal to the Imperium have by and large upheld these declarations, and most youths who display any psychic talents are quickly discovered and presented to the Emperor’s servants. Among those who honour the old ways, however, this decree has fallen on deaf ears, as gifted individuals are spirited away into the wilderness only to reappear among the heretic raiders as terrible abominations of Warp-spawned corruption. Many among the clans interpret the return of these blasphemous warriors as a sign of the end times and the impending battle between the Emperor’s warriors and those of the gods of the underworld that seek to devour the souls of the slain.
Furimancers are relics of the old ways, and their resurgence among the feudal clans is worrisome to many. These sorcerers are devotees of the Hraxian god Charganal, the ruler of the underworld and bringer of the end times in ancient lore. It is said that Charganal draws his strength from the wanton experience of uninhibited combat, and only those who commit themselves to battle without honour or restraint receive his profane blessings. A Furimancer usually first manifests in the fury of battle. The sensations of combat stimulate his mind, enabling him to tap into his unfettered abilities. These berserkers are fonts of unholy destruction, and most quickly perish as the internalised raw Warp energy immolates their forms. Those who do not die, however, learn to channel their blasphemous gifts with devastating effectiveness on the battlefield, where their arrival is greeted with cries of renewed vigour and fury among their heretical brethren.
Warriors of the True Faith Edit
After centuries of fighting and squabbling amongst themselves, many feudal clans that remain loyal to the Emperor have now joined beneath the might of Warlord Talvrak, High Marshal of The Bastia of the Golden Light and recently-appointed planetary governor of Hrax. The Bastia of the Golden Light is one of the oldest and most revered of the mighty fortress-cities, its name stemming from its many gilded archways and hull panels, as well as the massive Imperial altar that crowns its most prominent battlement. Supposedly, when the sun first falls upon the altar, the light is refracted down the ruined Adeptus Ministorum frigate’s many corridors and murals until the surrounding canyon is bathed in radiance. It is rumoured that the warriors of the Bastia cannot be defeated when this light is upon them, and numerous clans have journeyed to its mighty, adamantine gates to beg admittance into the warlord’s fiefdom.
However, despite frequent exterminations, the rebellious clans continue to remain a thorn in his side, a fact which is not helped by the aggressive culling of Talvrak’s finest warriors for service in the Imperium’s armies. The Adeptus Administratum functionaries and Askellian representatives on Hrax also see little need to interfere in the planet’s affairs thus far, choosing instead to allow the conflict to continue as they pursue their own selfish gains. Yet still Talvrak persists in his efforts, even as his allies battle both each other and the heretic raiders for the right to ascend to the Battle Lord’s realm. Now, however, his body is growing steadily weaker with age, and his Marshals have begun to squabble and scheme for the honour of command. Meanwhile, the elderly warlord has begun to long once again to bathe in the blood of his enemies and feel his great axe bite into flesh and cleave bone. With every passing year, the call becomes harder and harder to resist, and it is rumoured that he has begun to look to ancient rituals for a way to break the stalemate while ending his own feverish cravings.
Aurelian Janissary Edit
Aurelian Janissaries are among the most zealous of Warlord Talvrak’s sworn clansmen, and their courage and skill have won him countless battles in the conflicts that rage throughout the canyons surrounding his venerable stronghold. In return for the right to dwell and worship at the feet of the golden shrine that overlooks the Bastia’s highest battlement, the Janissaries forsake all rights of salvage, and pledge their lives and swords to the warlord’s service. The Janissaries believe that a being known as the Sky King watches over them in battle, and often adorn their salvaged armour and personal banners with gilded eagle wings as well as other symbols of the Imperial Cult. In combat they are nigh unstoppable, as they unleash volley after volley of fire into their enemy’s ranks before charging into battle atop their vicious vornae mounts, fearing nothing save death with an unblooded blade.
Vornae are highly intelligent and ferocious predators with powerful legs. They prefer to hunt in packs, using high-pitched whoops to coordinate their efforts as they ambush prey from above. Meanwhile, the course fur that coats their thick, rubbery hides helps regulate their body temperature while camouflaging their movements among the tall hedge thistles and prickly scrub bushes. Only the most skilled riders are able to tame these venomous beasts, and those who manage to do so gain an unparalleled degree of lethal mobility on the battlefield.
Tooth Taker Edit
Tooth Takers are skilled hunters and warriors whose feats of bravery in combat bring honour to the Lords and clans who sponsor them. Supposedly this title is a relic of ancient times, when mighty warriors who defeated a bestial Ork in single combat preserved the teeth of their foe in the waxy resin of the ferdo shrub and displayed them as warnings of their deadly abilities. Now this tradition lives on in the exploits of these ruthless killers, though a trophy is only taken if the opponent is bested in single combat. As is also traditional, such trophies must accompany self-inflicted scars or brands to remind the warrior of the battle, assuming the teeth’s original owner did not already provide one.
As their trophies increase, so too do their honours and accolades. These warriors are also valuable to the Imperial Guard. Though held in high esteem among their comrades, Tooth Takers are also regarded as reckless and dangerous individuals. Many of their fellow guardsmen often react poorly when they see human bicuspids among their collections of mementos and tusks.
Cult of the Great Eye Edit
A clear night sky on Hrax is a wondrous beauty, yet the angry stain of Pandaemonium often tarnishes this splendour as it glares down from the heavens like a great unclean eye. Hraxian lore says that this is the gateway to Skreiga, the realm of the dead, and it is here that the Battle Lord’s armies fight to keep Charganal and the other foul denizens there from re-emerging into the mortal world. Now, as discontent with the Imperium continues to spread, there are many among the fallen who seek to revive the old ways of worship in order to free the armies of Skreiga and cast of the yoke of servitude. These so-called Skreiga Clans dedicate themselves to the worship of dread Charganal and the other malevolent beings whose veneration was once prevalent among the feral clans.
Though there are many underworld denizens which a clan may choose as its patron, one of the most powerful is Skarthrall, the keeper of souls. This god is believed to dwell in a hut on the banks of the River of Fate, appearing to his followers as a frail, wizened man draped in a tattered cloak of mouldering furs and shimmering, blue feathers. His small, unassuming hut is filled with the most terrible and wonderful secrets man has ever and could ever have know, and it is here that he weaves the dreams of the mortal realm with silvery threads of influence and seeming chance. It is said that those who harvest souls for Skarthrall may even bargain for a single thread of his forbidden knowledge of their very own, though the cost for such a request is often more than a sane man can bear.
- Dark Heresy: Enemies Within (2nd Edition) (RPG), pp. 80-83