- "Then I beheld the verdant land towards which the Blessed Saint had guided me these many years I wandered. I fell to my knees and wept tears of joy, for the Emperor’s Hand was upon me, and by His Will would we forever reign among the stars."
- — from The Chronicle of Lord Drazitine and the Path of the Iridescent Saint
Snope’s World is a Civilised World that was once one of the most prominent worlds within the Askellon Sector, and it is said that, at the height of its power, its influence stretched well past the distant spires of the Pellucid Tower. Now, however, it is little more than a poisonous swamp, its towering spires gradually falling into ruin as its rulers squabble over the last scraps of wealth like starving canids. Even more distressing is the evidence that the planet’s once lucrative trade routes are becoming weaker every year, and many now fear Snope’s World imminent isolation, its seething masses falling on each other as their last vital links are severed.
According to legend, Snope’s World was originally a beautiful world of pristine, lower-illed forests and glittering emerald seas teeming with life. Strangely, it was also one of the few worlds left uninhabited during the sector’s founding, though it is believed that the first sector lords were aware of both its presence and splendour prior to its disappearance into the maelstrom many millennia ago. The man credited with its discovery is Lord Drazitine, fourth scion of the Hadaeko Trader Dynasty, and heir to that failing legacy. Drazitine’s fortune had been in perpetual decline since the loss of a frigate that passed through the tumultuous wake of a dying star during Warp transit. Legend says that the insane and anguished wails of the doomed vessel’s occupants, including those of his wife and sole heir, echoed from every vox on his lagship as he helplessly watched the Immaterium swallow the vessel.
Believing that luck and the Emperor had forsaken him, Drazitine sank into despair, his fortune wasting away as his ships aimlessly plied the void. Then one night, as the grief-stricken lord stared out an observation blister into the riotous confusion of the Sea of Souls, a figure swathed in pious robes of shimmering starlight appeared before him, revealing to him a virgin world that would forever secure his family’s legacy. Though Drazitine never explicitly revealed the figure’s name, Askellian scholars believe it to have been Saint Coronia the Iridescent, and have subsequently added this apparition to her other miraculous deeds.
The saga of Drazitine’s epic voyage has since passed into myth and legend, and after years of trials, tribulations, and catastrophes, the remains of his battered convoy finally arrived within the distant Askellon Sector. Upon re-emergence into realspace, the great storm Pandaemonium inexplicably parted before the weary vessels, thus granting passage to a region of space that had hitherto remained unexplored for millennia. Afterwards, the leet soon discovered an emerald globe in orbit around a bright and vigorous star, and Drazitine’s ships quickly took up high anchor as the Rogue Trader himself led the first shuttles down to its idyllic surface.
Following this discovery, the great technological leviathans of the Imperium quickly arrived to strip Snope’s World of its mineral resources, and centuries of mining eventually replaced the verdant jungles with chemical bogs and squalid swamps. Meanwhile, massive trawlers, each the size of a small city, dredged the river beds and tropical coasts for rare silicates, or probed the ocean depths in order to plunder the vast reserves of raw promethium waiting beneath the waves. Most of the indigenous species did not survive, their teeming multitudes replaced with unnatural mutations and hardy predators better able to endure the resulting pollution and deadly acid rain. After centuries of unchecked exploitation, though, the planet’s resources have begun to decline, and with them the legacy that Drazitine had bequeathed to his successors.
Hive Saturna and the Saturnal CourtEdit
Currently, only a dozen of the hundreds of production hives that once covered Snope’s World retain any vestiges of power, the planet’s aristocracy having largely abandoned the others as their crumbling infrastructure became too hazardous for their ornate soaring spires. The oldest and most inluential is Hive Saturna, whose venerable foundations are said to be situated upon the exact spot where Drazitine irst set foot planetside those many centuries ago. This towering hive is home to not only the planetary governor and the ruling Saturnal Conclave, but also to the illustrious Platinal Palace, which Lord Drazitine himself commissioned to honour the divine figure who guided him. It is believed that each of the millions of glittering angles set upon the spire represents a soul lost during the treacherous voyage, though Imperial scholars have long debated the significance of the bizarre gestures of supplication displayed among the immense, angelic host.
The Saturnal Court still dwells within this masterpiece of Imperial architecture, and it is from the ranks of these corrupt remnants of the world’s gentry that the Saturnal Conclave draws its delegates. During the height of its power, the Court encompassed the wealthiest inhabitants of Askellon, a status that led to struggles for dominance as the planet’s wealth began to wane. Such conflicts often ended violently, and each family is rumoured to have had a sizeable cadre of bodyguards, combat and snifter servitors, assassins, spies, and others skilled in the deadly arts at its disposal.
However, following the notorious Dinner of the Poisoned Blades, when fully one in five of the members of the noble households were messily murdered during a three-day banquet, the then planetary governor Viceroy Nadrathor decided to take drastic measures. He decreed that even the consideration of such dishonourable and underhanded tactics was unworthy of a true servant of the Emperor, and would henceforth result in the severest of punishments for any so accused. It is rumoured that the resulting opposition within the Saturnal Conclave was formidable, though Imperial records are vague as to which of the delegates survived the subsequent debates and which merely resigned in protest.
The effects of his actions were two-fold. First, the level of deception in Saturnal politics escalated, as the countless plots became an even more twisted morass of deceptions, false rumours, and covert assassinations. Second, it prompted an immediate deluge of charges brought before the High Juriducial Courts, as the noble houses sought reparations from their rivals for every real and imagined offense ever inflicted on them and their ancestors. The ensuing litigation resulted in an impasse that has persisted to this day; by the time a case finally comes before a magistrate, laws have changed, evidence is lost or fabricated, or one of the principal parties has died of old age, thereby opening up countless avenues of objections which force the case back to square one.
This rampant atmosphere of collusion and deceit has bred all manner of secret societies that continue to thrive, even as Snope’s World slips further downwards. It is widely believed that nearly every member of the Saturnal Court is a member of a secret order of some sort. Many are merely social affairs, their members seeking a clandestine way to advance their respective agendas or indulge their private vices away from the constant scrutiny of courtly life. Others are more insidious, their existence serving only to entrap fellow nobles or gain exploitable knowledge. There are even some whose sole purpose is to supplant or exterminate any rivals, acts that constitute treason if detected.
Yet scattered amongst this impenetrable web of deceit are other, more diabolical cabals dedicated to any number of forbidden pursuits and heretical practices. A great many of these began as simple pleasure cults or harmless acts of rebellion that inevitably serve as fertile breeding grounds for darkness and corruption. Others have instead become tools for devious recidivists, dangerous radicals, and other heretics who use their newfound wealth and influence to advance their hideous designs. Such cults represent the single greatest threat to Imperial rule on Snope’s World, and despite countless investigations and repressive actions, the true perpetrators often manage to melt into the shadows, only to reappear elsewhere and continue their activities anew.
The Lure of the OccultEdit
Across the many worlds that humanity has claimed, worship of great historical figures is extremely widespread. Snope’s World is no exception to this, as there are many here for whom the name Drazitine is held in particular reverence. Within the great Hive Saturna, faith in the Cult of the Iridescent Saint or pledges to the devout Children of Coronia are also particularly prevalent, though similar shrines often appear in the many cathedrals across the planet. The denizens of Snope’s World are also notorious for their intensely superstitious customs, a practice that the frequent wars of propaganda among the noble houses only exacerbates. Yet interspersed with these harmless beliefs are other, darker traditions that involve macabre and gruesome offerings in exchange for protection from the myriad dangers believed to lurk in the dark, polluted depths. Occult beliefs are natural extensions of such activities, for it is often only a small leap from simple charms and wards to more dangerous paths of corruption and power.
The sheer variety of occult activity on Scope’s World is almost beyond comprehension, as the numerous factors and conflicting motives for the activities of these groups have spawned countless expressions of blasphemy over the years. Cults infatuated with various Dark Saints are often popular warrens for recidivists and other malcontents with deviant political ambitions. Meanwhile, other groups such as the Cult of the Deceiver, the Society of the Celestial Façade, and the Enclave of Obscure Erudition run the gamut from eccentric social gatherings to dangerous heretical cabals that threaten the very foundations of Imperial rule. Even more alarming is the rise of innumerable cults dedicated to the power of the great Warp storm Pandaemonium, such as the Disciples of Disorder, Pathos de Tenumbrae, Tempestial Brotherhood, and Chosen of the Storm. Many are consumed with the insane goal of enticing the swirling maelstrom to engulf their world in an unstoppable tide of unrestrained madness. The Inquisition and other servants of the Emperor have destroyed countless such cults among the increasingly disheartened populace, yet for every heretic that faces judgement, another arises, a pawn of the baleful shadow the storm casts across the minds of those it chooses.
Situated of the coast of the second largest landmass, this thriving port city is constructed atop the remains of a gigantic mobile refinery. Hundreds of these devices once roamed the planet in their never-ending search for promethium and other mineral deposits. Now their valuable mechanisms and technological secrets make them targets for the treacherous nobility and enterprising raiders. The behemoth on which Port Languin is constructed was designed to dock with the towering nautical drilling wells. Laden with promethium, its internal processing plants then reined the crude for a variety of industrial, military, and void-faring applications on its journey back to the bustling orbital docks. Centuries ago, this particular machine halted, its massive servos seizing and its towering front legs buckling, as it gradually settled down into the thick muck within sight of the nearby coast. Luckily for the occupants, their home did not sink entirely below the waves, and generations later it has grown into a massive, thriving city.
Space on Port Languin is generally at a premium, with the more affluent constructing additional levels at higher altitudes or residing in great domiciles formed from the original berths that housed the walker’s crew. Meanwhile, the majority of the city’s inhabitants live on massive floating pontoons or in ramshackle sheds, attached directly to the corroded superstructure and supported by salvaged parts and rickety walkways that sway and creak in the pungent ocean breeze. For the average citizen of Port Languin, life is bleak, wet, and -- with the exception of the occasional acid storm, rogue wave, oil ire, or accident at sea -- uneventful, and most spend their entire lives toiling in the refineries or unloading crude on the pontoon docks.
The port’s lifeblood is promethium and other valuable fuels, and its attendant leet of archaic tanker ships, civilian patch jobs, and other ramshackle craft continue to supply it with a steady supply from those few wells and rigs that still function. The crews of these vessels transport their precious cargo any way they can, and many of the countless skirmishes, bitter feuds, and costly accidents among these vessels occur when ships either lose their cargo overboard or collide in their frantic attempts to oload their steadily leaking payloads. The refineries aboard Port Languin still function despite the centuries that have passed since the massive walker’s last step, and as a result the port enjoys regular trade with nearby hive cities, as well as the occasional interstellar vessel. The Fuel Barons of Port Languin have become quite wealthy in their own way; most even enjoy fair relations with the other noble houses, many of whom are rumoured to loathe intermingling with the descendants of their former servants.
As with much of Snope’s World, instances of corruption and heresy are increasingly common among the citizens of Port Languin, including numerous attempts to usurp or sabotage the Fuel Barons’ tight control over their precious promethium reserves. The ready availability of such a viable fuel source has also made the city a convenient location for trafficking in profane and prohibited items among the unscrupulous traders that frequent the port city. However, the true extent of such deals can only be guessed, for few imagine what horrors change hands within the rickety, oil-slick undertown that sways unsteadily beneath the city’s gloomy bulk.
The Meldorian TrenchesEdit
The Meldorian Trenches refers to both the massive quarries that originally comprised the boundaries of Hive Meldor, as well as the sprawling city that sprung up amidst the corpse of the great hive that formerly overlooked them. Situated at the mouth of the Thidillic River, this teeming megalopolis was one of the most prosperous hives represented within the Saturnal Court, and its glittering palisades were home to the countless bulk lifters and cargo shuttles that once locked to the wealthy spire. Yet the lords of this celestial marvel delved far too greedily and too deeply into the mountain that formed the hive’s foundation, for one day, the spire toppled and collapsed, and with it one of the planet’s main trade empires. It is said that the impact of this dreadful event was felt across Snope’s World, and that the fallout from the resulting earthquakes and dust clouds devastated the surrounding ecology and human settlements for years.
Instead of killing of the great hive, though, the fall merely changed its direction, and soon the dazed survivors began to slowly rebuild their shattered city amidst the skeletal ruins of their former home. The spire’s catastrophic failure had irreparably destroyed the once lucrative manufactorums, while the massive quarries and mighty river were then inundated with vast quantities of toxic runoff and debris. Currently, the river is little more than a series of interconnected mires and murky pools whose banks are choked with slag weed, barbed keratin creepers, and other stunted vegetation. Though the trenches have fallen into disrepair, the people of the sprawling habs who cling desperately to its precipitous slopes continue to eke out a wretched existence, their workers either scrabbling across the muddy slopes for ore and other refuse, or reining the putrid gases that bubble up from the flooded caverns below.
The sprawl itself is a confused hodgepodge of salvaged buildings, repurposed equipment, and cavernous, exhausted mines, all crammed with habs, improvised shops, and manufactorums. Each of these uneven structures is attached either to anchor points or bolted directly to the nearby trench walls. A journey from one hab block to another is apt to include numerous detours, rickety walkways, endless stairwells, and perilous climbs. Meanwhile, the many cranes and maglev systems once used to carry ore from the great mines now serve as lifts for workers to and from the rank, stagnant muck that pools beneath the city proper. The toxic pools below this massive city are the bane of its citizens, for those that spend their lives near the putrid water risk all manner of maladies from exposure to this viscous, contaminated filth. Yet instead of ending their misery, many of these foul impurities only prolong their victim’s suffering, as the vile toxins rot them from the inside out.
Now the wretched inhabitants of this city’s underhive have begun to view these painful maladies as the Emperor’s divine judgement, and the inflicted as sinners worthy of persecution. This belief has inspired countless radical throngs of religious zealots to engage in purges of the lower levels, through cleansing chemical fire and acts of mob violence that defy rational comprehension. Yet their fears are often justified; those afflicted that embrace their condition frequently turn on others in grotesque displays of unnatural strength and resilience, and ferociously drag their victims down into the stagnant swamps below.
Though most of Snope’s World’s mineral resources were exhausted long ago, the planet’s downtrodden multitudes continue to toil day and night within the surviving manufactorums, which provide the bulk of the income for the various noble houses that cling desperately to their precarious positions of power. The most powerful of these houses maintain scattered ties with the rest of the Askellon Sector, their ancient merchant pacts and mandatory trade accords supplying the majority of the ores and other raw materials needed to continue production. Most hives specialise in various luxury spaceship components, including magnificent fractal viewing blisters and ornate void-shielded observation bays, in addition to any necessary industrial and military manufacturing.
However, there are still a few houses among Snope’s World’s nobility that continue to claw futilely at the remains of their hereditary holdings, in order to extract the last dregs of mineral wealth. The most common of these efforts involve the collection of industrial runoff from the vacant mineshafts below for reprocessing, or the employment of vast hordes of conscripts to seek out any remaining deposits beneath the scarred and toxic surface. However, this steady proliferation of increasingly desperate mining tactics has had a profound impact on the structural integrity of many hives in recent decades, and instances of collapse among the outlying districts are now appallingly frequent occurrences. Yet such matters are of little importance to the members of the Saturnal Court, even as their ruthless exploitation threatens to destroy the very foundations of their ill-gotten power.
By contrast, life outside these decrepit hives is an incredibly desperate affair, with far-lung communes struggling to scratch out a living amidst exhausted claims, and huge worker caravans migrating across the poisoned landscape in search of work within the isolated labour hives that still stand. Employment within these rickety, corroded structures is far from ideal, however, and countless battles and massacres frequently erupt over jobs so hazardous that a constant stream of workers is required just to maintain the estimated production quotas.
Beneath the MasksEdit
Life within the Saturnal Court is an increasingly fragile pageantry of which every participant is painfully aware, yet no one is willing to shatter. Instead, the lords and ladies cloak their every action in elaborate veils of serenity and luxury, even as their social hierarchy continues to fracture. Many have even become so self-deluded that they are easily disconnected from reality, their minds retreating into the opulent fantasy of Saturnal society’s relentless succession of balls, dinners, grand coronations, and other frivolous formalities.
Status is everything among the elite here, and any Court member who successfully garbs himself in the trappings of authority can quickly become a formidable opponent. As a result, the nobility of Snope’s World go to great lengths to outdo each other with incredible displays of affluence and status. Though such spectacles are not uncommon amongst the unfathomably wealthy of the Imperium, here such demonstrations are elaborate in the extreme, including grand parades of press-ganged marchers and pampered aristocrats whose ostentatious titles take hours to recite.
In order to survive in such a society, one must not only appear powerful but also perfectly calm and composed, for even the slightest hint of uncertainty can betray weakness to a potential adversary. For this reason, the nobles of Snope’s World are masters of the art of dissembling, with many further augmenting their abilities with neural implants and delicate servo-muscular modulators designed to hide their emotions behind veneers of tranquillity. Others instead choose to conceal their face entirely, through the use of rictus masks of lawless vat-grown lesh, or intricate carvings of delicate porcelain or pearlescent silicate.
In light of such rampant duplicity, reliably untainted information is a rarity, and its acquisition and exchange has become a lucrative profession for those who conduct business among the elite of Snope’s World. Such returns come at a high price, however, as witnesses to even the most circumstantial evidence of wrongdoing or weakness are often subject to assassination, torture, and other unspeakable atrocities in order to protect the image of the individual in question. Personal servants and fellow conspirators are often highly suspect in this cutthroat world of information dealing, and it is now customary for noble houses to entomb senior or favoured servants alive with their deceased lord in order to ensure his secrets die with him. These servants go willingly, in the belief it is a true honour for themselves and their families to accompany their masters on these final journeys.
Environments as adapted to deception as this are ripe breeding grounds for heresy and recidivism, and the Court is no exception. Here, among the power hungry nobility, the promises of Chaos -- of power, wealth, endless pleasures, freedom from mortality, or the blood of a hated enemy -- are tempting offers for aristocrats so desperate to regain their former glory. Among such individuals, the countless secrets of the Court shield their dark ambitions from discovery, thus allowing their malevolent intentions to grow and fester among the shadows and furtive whispers. This influence is usually subtle at first, often taking years to manifest within the blighted souls of its victims; they plot and scheme against their rivals in an attempt to sow seeds of corruption among their fellow citizens. By their very nature, any such individuals must always keep their affiliations a closely guarded secret, meaning that, by virtue of their upbringing, the heretics of Snope’s World are amongst the most devious in all the Askellon Sector.