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Drest Ovidius (Previously), Proctor Aureliana Vigdis (Currently)
- "That’s the old road to Thirdstone. We don’t go there anymore. Folks go there, they don’t come back."
- — Agricultor Primus Orna Everild
Sustaining the Askellon Sector’s spiralling population requires unending amounts of food and other resources, yet even Agri-Worlds have their limits. Frontier Worlds such as Temperance offer new opportunities to those hardy enough to brave the dangers, and given enough time, these faithful citizens might one day raise their world to match planets like Cel or even Kalto. However, Temperance is more than just a potential resource, with cults and recidivists lurking beneath its surface, archaeotech bandits out in the wastes, and a dark history that stretches back long before its founding.
Temperance’s inclusion in the sector’s fragmented planetary records dates back slightly more than a century. The world’s initial survey records remain scattered, and the only concrete information lists the reason for settlement as the hope that it might one day become a bountiful agri-world. There was much to support this goal, as Temperance is quite fertile and lacks any complex native life besides the dreaded mind-mould. Temperance’s first settlers originated from Kalto, and consisted of strongly-knit family groups whose farming expertise made them ideal for Temperance’s untouched landscape. Their strong ties to the Ecclesiarchy also made them model colonists, and many hoped that the strong bonds between each family group and their mutual devotion to the Emperor would keep the fledgling agri-world on a safe and straight path to productivity. Unfortunately, the planetary surveys failed to acknowledge the world’s extremely rocky surface. The land was fertile just as reported—perhaps more than expected—but the ground beneath the thin soil was harsh and impeded any rapid transformation to heavy agriculture. What reports remain from the first months after arrival speak of rock formations that appeared scorched or melted from some unknown cataclysmic event, with molten scarring dating back thousands of years. The cause is as yet unexplained, and speculation has suggested everything from massive seismic shifts to terrible orbital bombardments. Some whisper legends of past heretical acts, continent-spanning wars, and the death cries of billions, all of which rose to create a myth that now fuels the doctrine of Temperance’s dominant cult—the Sons of Temperance.
Hardship and death marked the first few decades, as the population struggled to sustain themselves. Mind-mould ate away at their farming land, and more crops ended up burnt than gathered. On several occasions, the mould nearly claimed the entire population, leading to the hasty development of a jury-rigged “mouldsuit” that kept the deadly spores at bay. The situation only worsened during periods of heavy rain, as Temperance suffered from long storms that started without warning and occurred in no discernible pattern—yet another detail the planetary surveys somehow failed to mention. Mind-mould thrived in the muddy quagmire left by each downpour, and even with the mouldsuits, infestations often lasted months and claimed hundreds of lives. To make matters worse, the Pandaemonium cut Temperance off from the wider sector almost as soon as the settlers arrived. As crops failed and mind-mould killed more families, many turned to superstition and apocalyptic preaching. The settlers splintered under the weight of their total isolation, with administrator Drest Ovidius powerless to stop each new doomsayer and his legions of hungry followers. As the years dragged on, Ovidius saw his population dwindle to less than half its original number and desperately clawed at any idea to stave off total societal collapse, even going so far as to dedicate his few Astropaths to a programme of constant broadcasts. The exertion killed or crippled almost all of them. Eventually, the small choir fell silent as a particularly heavy storm brought about the largest mind-mould infestation on record, and the psychic spores killed all remaining Astropaths within a matter of days. As Ovidius’ most loyal retainers burnt the bodies to prevent further infections, the people of Temperance turned on one another. Entire sections of the starved population openly renounced the Emperor for abandoning them.
It was at this moment, with Temperance’s future as a productive Askellian world in doubt, that the Legion of Twelve arrived. For some reason, perhaps even divine intervention, the Pandaemonium lifted, and a few days later a small fleet of transports entered Temperance’s orbit. Apparently, some of Ovidius’ desperately exaggerated cries for help had been received, as the recovery fleet contained a small craft staffed by an abnormally large compliment of twelve Adeptus Arbites.
Despite the false pretence that summoned them to the planet, the Arbitrators immediately broke into small teams once they saw the flagrant disorder amidst the scattered peoples. They pacified the remaining population quickly, and within weeks Temperance’s near-collapse was a memory, with crops replanted and recidivist leaders burnt in promethium pyres. Ovidius himself disappeared during the uprising. Some suspected he fled into the wastes and now lives as an anonymous Grox herder on some remote farm, whereas others believed he died at the hands of a ferocious mob. With the colony’s leader missing and with no orders to leave, the Adeptus Arbites took an unusual step and formed a provisional authority that rules over Temperance’s the main settlements of Bastion and Beacon, as well as the outlier farms, to this very day.
The centre of life for Temperance’s earliest families, Bastion is the frontier world’s capital city. Built from the ground up by the planet’s first colonists, records of Bastion’s original name vanished after the upheaval and the Legion of Twelve’s arrival. The town’s current name derives from the prefabricated precinct-fortress the Arbitrators brought with them, although whether the name came about out of reverence to the Adeptus Arbites, or from the second wave colonists not knowing the original, remains a mystery. The massive precinct here is the largest single structure on the planet, outside of Thirdstone’s abandoned cathedral, and due to Temperance’s flat landscape, the main tower is visible for kilometres in every direction. Bastion’s other buildings rarely go above three stories, and each dwelling and produce storehouse tells the tale of the first colonists’ hardship. Torrential rain and the need to burn away mould infections limited the populace’s ability to build larger structures, and every building contains a mishmash of different materials. Light metal and wooden levels sit atop haphazard stone foundations, and each house is a ramshackle development built out of need, rather than from any specific plan or template.
Most on Temperance consider Bastion’s society ideal, with limited criminal activity and most citizens too concerned with crop yields and potential mould growth to really care that the Arbitrators rule their world. In the nearly seventy years since their arrival, the famed Legion of Twelve now numbers only seven, and their leader—Proctor Aureliana Vigdis—is well into her second century, and rarely leaves the precinct bastion. A large corps of deputies now keeps order across not just Bastion, but also the world’s second largest city of Beacon and the thousands of outlier farms. This task grows more difficult with each passing season, as Beacon grows larger and more influential. Many old superstitions from the time of Temperance’s near-collapse hold sway in the outer reaches, and clashes between deputies and emergent cults happen frequently. Many within Bastion see it as only a matter of time before they suffer open rebellion from their sister town, and the recent incident in Thirdstone did nothing but fan the flames of apostasy.
With the upheaval thwarted and relative peace restored, Temperance’s second-wave colonists made planetfall. The Legion of Twelve looked at the state of Temperance’s shattered capital and decided to establish a new city to house the incoming colonists, and to expand the farming lands so desperately needed by the growing population.
Located several thousand kilometres from Bastion, Beacon is a more ordered and structured town. Lacking a history of devastation, its buildings are simpler and clean, built quickly and efficiently to house its three-million-strong population. A far larger city, Beacon stretches outwards over an area six times greater than the capital. Sadly, the exploding population and increased urban sprawl sits at the heart of Temperance’s major problems. Large portions of Beacon’s population see themselves as the real planetary leaders. They resent the continued presence of the Arbitrators, and with their more successful crop yields and growing herds of grox, the Beacon citizenry cannot see why they must answer to a smaller and less successful city. The Bastion Deputies only make the situation worse, as the population see them as little more than hired thugs, and numerous gangs offer bounties for the heads of captured deputies.
Despite the threats, the gangs are little more than a sideshow compared to the emergent cult activity within Beacon. Dozens of would-be preachers and proclamators stand daily before large gatherings of angry farmers preaching the “truth” of the Legion of Twelve, that the Pandaemonium proved the Emperor’s disdain for Temperance, and how there were other, older powers more than willing to fulfil the wishes of each and every farmer. The largest of these cults call themselves the Sons of Temperance. Originally a charity dedicated to helping outlier farms recover after periods of heavy rain, the Sons admonished Temperance’s sinful history and spoke of an inevitable reckoning, where the wicked and lazy would vanish into the turmoil of the Pandaemonium. They preached how years of rebellion against the Imperium and the foul acts of past millennia created the mind-mould, something that made little sense given the frontier world’s relative short history. Soon after that, the bombings began.
Specially-designed explosives and spore bombs detonated across Bastion and Beacon in a campaign of terror that lasted weeks. The subsequent mould infestations cost the lives of thousands, but wherever the infections flared, the Sons of Temperance emerged to ease the suffering of the afflicted. When the population of Temperance’s newest city, Thirdstone, disappeared overnight, the Sons claimed the event as vindication of their beliefs. Beacon elevated many of the cult’s leaders to positions of prominence, as scores of fearful farmers bolstered the cult’s ranks, opening themselves to the wisdom of the cult’s “prophets.” From that fateful day forward, the cult has only grown, and now the Sons’ ranks outnumber those of the Bastion Deputies. Reluctant to turn the unrest into a full-scale civil war, Proctor Vigdis maintains a level of patience with the Sons’ activities. Moreover, with Adeptus Ministorum representation on Temperance abnormally low since the Thirdstone incident, she needs someone to manage the spiritual well-being of her people, and until the Pandaemonium subsides and greater numbers of colonists arrive, the Sons of Temperance remain her only choice.
The brainchild of Proctor Vigdis, the few members of the Ecclesiarchy on Temperance, and a council of senior farmers, Thirdstone was to be the new jewel of the planet. Designed with a desire to push the frontier world into the next phase of development, Thirdstone would serve as its new Ecclesiarchical centre. Rumours hinted that upon completion, the Legion of Twelve might cede full planetary authority to the head of Temperance’s Adeptus Ministorum contingent—Deacon Christof Mannicus. Yet trouble hampered Thirdstone’s construction, even before the first groundbreaking ceremony. The Sons of Temperance declared the plan an abomination, and the chosen site lay upon the ruins of Askellon’s worst sins. Daily sermons described how building the city upon what they called the “Danestone,” or “Sinful Foundation,” would only hasten the Emperor’s judgement, and that if Vigdis followed through with her plans, the new city would share the same fate as “those that had come before.” Congregations of Sons cultists held up material convoys, and false reports of mind-mould outbreaks slowed construction to a crawl. Anyone who joined the building efforts began receiving threats, although indirectly and never with enough evidence to implicate the Sons.
The Bastion Deputies did what they could to keep construction on track, but the cult’s influence, especially with the people of Beacon, made any sort of public repression next to impossible. Eventually, not even the daily protests slowed construction and, after two years, Deacon Mannicus officially opened Thirdstone with a week-long series of blessings and sermons. Weeks after the visitors to the opening had departed, though, every soul in Thirdstone vanished, seemingly overnight.
How it happened remains the frontier world’s most enduring mystery, but all citizens know where they were when news broke of the city’s sudden emptiness. Proctor Vigdis ordered every member of the Legion of Twelve plus a large contingent of Bastion Deputies to ascertain the truth. The Arbitrators found a pristine city with everything in order, but devoid of any living creature. Uneaten meals and lit candles sat inside silent houses. Prayer books and stillsmoking censer burners lay within the empty cathedral. Thirdstone was a ghost town, and the Adeptus Arbites and deputies returned to Vigdis without any clear explanations.
The Sons of Temperance poured into the streets of Beacon, their wails of recrimination loud and unfettered, and if not for the dedication of the Bastion Deputies, the Thirdstone calamity might have sparked another societal collapse. On that fateful day, Temperance shifted from a frontier world grasping at the hem of greatness to an Askellian curiosity, especially to the Adeptus Mechanicus, who sent several survey teams to observe Thirdstone and determine, if possible, what became of its populace. Several Inquisitors caught wind of the events as well, but the unpredictability of the Pandaemonium made any signi cant investigations difficult.
In the dozens of years since that day, Thirdstone remained a quarantined zone, as untouched as it was the day everyone disappeared. Proctor Vigdis now fears that any attempts to repopulate the city might result in another tragedy, and many believe that the elderly Arbitrator’s self-imposed seclusion is also a result of the Thirdstone incident. For their part, the Sons of Temperance still preach of their vindication, and their leaders stand on every Beacon street corner with prophecies of more divine retribution to come.
- Dark Heresy: Enemies Within (2nd Edition) (RPG), pp. 122-125