"On this day, as punishment for their sins against the almighty God-Emperor of Mankind, the benighted worlds of Argoth, Kaggeran and Rheelas shall be isolated from His most glorious domain. No ship may approach those worlds, no servant of Him-on-Terra shall set foot upon them, and no mercy shall spare them from the just consequences of their misdeeds. So shall it be until the ages have expunged the taint of their peoples."
- —Lord Commander Sebiascor Ebongrave, issuing General Order 169
Once a teeming Hive World many thousands of Terran years old, which had endured the long nightmare of the Jericho Reach's "Age of Shadow" largely intact, Argoth now faces a slow and cruel demise at the hands of the Imperium.
In a few short years, the world's population has been reduced to roaming bands of scavengers and raiders, with the most desperate driven to madness, cannibalism and blasphemy as supplies dwindle to nothing.
In a matter of generations, Argoth will be a wasteland, a savage realm of steel caves and haunted old manufactoria, populated by the barely-Human degenerate descendants of those hardy enough to endure their world's isolation. Not long after that, the world will be dead and filled with the bones of those the Imperium condemned.
Lord Commander Sebiascor Ebongrave seems unconcerned by the brutality of the fate to which he has condemned the Quarantined Worlds, seeing so cruel a punishment as fitting for the crime of consorting with xenos.
He would sooner leave worlds to die in this fashion than risk the spread of their perceived taint, content in the knowledge that the worlds can be repopulated by true, loyal citizens of the Imperium in due course.
In spite of this, however, it is rumoured that he has sanctioned a handful of missions to the Quarantined Worlds, perhaps in search of some method of more swiftly ridding them of the taint of the insidious T'au.
The planet's standing army is non-existent, the societal collapse on Argoth having been a 98.114% likelihood within the first two Terran years of isolation, removing all capability for an organised military. Now, with Argoth under strict quarantine under General Order 169, a blockade prevents all interplanetary trade or distribution of resources.
The local economy is believed to be nonexistent, due to a lack of natural, usable resources. Projections indicate that a subsistence-level hunter-gatherer society is inevitable within two solar decades, and that this is incapable of sustaining a Hive World's population for any length of time.
Argoth, like the nearby worlds of Rheelas and Kaggeran, was colonised by the Imperium in the early 32nd Millennium under the expansionist mandate of a succession of Lords Sector of the Jericho Sector.
Little in the fragmentary records of that era remains, but there is no evidence to suggest that any of the worlds in what was then known as the Arkalas Cluster were anything more than a collection of backwater colonies adjacent to a well-travelled Warp route.
The uncertain history of the Age of Shadow does not mark Argoth with any particular significance beyond the mere fact that it survived that benighted era, leaving the world as little more than a footnote.
Raids by pirates, Traitors and Heretics -- commonplace across the Jericho Reach during the Age of Shadow -- plagued the worlds of the Arkalas Cluster, by that point joined together as a single political entity referred to as "The Unity," but history seems largely to have passed Argoth and its sister worlds by.
This changed in the latter years of the 8th century of the 41st Millennium, less than a solar decade after the conflict known as the Damocles Crusade.
Expanding outwards from their homeworld, and having reached the coreward edge of the Jericho Reach, the alien T'au began to establish a strong presence within the region, variously conquering, treating with or simply colonising the worlds they came across.
Argoth was a distant goal at the time, many solar months travel for even their fastest ships, but it was more populous than any other world encountered by the nascent Velk'Han Sept, and allied with other resource-bearing worlds, and thus a prize to be coveted.
Swift messenger ships carrying Water Caste dignitaries followed the intelligence-gathering drone-scouts, conveying greetings on behalf of the T'au Empire and expressing a desire for peaceful cooperation, endeavouring to appeal to The Unity as like-minded individuals in a hostile galaxy.
The T'au could attempt little more than this opening preamble before the Imperium arrived to reclaim their worlds. Unwilling and unable to fully muster a defence against the crusaders, the T'au fell back from Argoth, Rheelas and Kaggeran, while gathering a force to contest the Imperium on Wrath, closer to the worlds the T'au had already claimed.
However, the brief time the T'au had been in contact with The Unity would be sufficient to shape the fate of Argoth and its sister worlds for years to come.
Within solar months of the supposed conquest of Argoth, The Unity and countless other secessionist groups on worlds regarded as Compliant struck against the Imperium, each of them supported or encouraged by the T'au.
Operation Hammerfall ground to a halt, denied the reinforcements Maclir needed to press his attack and overrun the T'au-held world of Ravacene. The advance of the Achilus Crusade was stalled in a storm of betrayals so swift and sudden that their timing could only have been carefully orchestrated.
Even as Astra Militarum and Adeptus Arbites forces put down these rebellions, disaster struck. Lord Militant Tiber Achilus was lost to his crusade, and its advance was halted on every front by the sudden loss of its leader and founder.
As the crusade mourned, secessionists on Argoth struck back against the Imperium, and hostilities between Imperial and Unity forces became increasingly vicious.
The arrival of two Deathwatch Kill-teams, directed by Inquisitor Lor Tremayle and scores of Acolytes, swiftly and brutally put down the rebellious elements wherever they were found and provided the Adeptus Arbites and Astra Militarum forces the opportunity to regroup and renew their efforts.
His pride injured by the loss of worlds that had been conquered by his armies, and his hatred for the alien stronger than ever, Ebongrave gave his first order after his promotion -- the quarantine of Argoth, Rheelas and Kaggeran.
As the worlds upon which the uprisings had been most vicious, they were to serve as an example to other Human-settled worlds that betrayal and sedition would be punished mercilessly.
Since the quarantine began, Argoth has suffered more greatly than its neighbours, being far more dependent upon off-world supplies than the other two worlds.
In the solar decades following, more than 90% of Argoth's population is estimated to have died in the desperate violence that now characterises its hive cities, the state of the world observed by orbital augury from Imperial Navy vessels blockading the planet.
During the long years of the Age of Shadow, Hive Korianthus was the home of the ruling council of The Unity. From the fortress known as the Pinnacle, at the very top of Hive Korianthus, The Unity ruled across the worlds of the Arkalas Cluster.
In the millennia before the Age of Shadow began, Hive Korianthus was the planetary capital of Argoth, an honour and responsibility gained simply by being the oldest and largest of the world's three hive cities.
As the Jericho Sector collapsed, it seemed as if Argoth would fall as many populous worlds had, unable to sustain themselves and lacking the infrastructure of the Imperium to maintain them.
Unwilling to see their world starve, the planet's ruling nobility set about trying to strengthen ties with the other worlds of the Arkalas Cluster, restoring simple starships to defend the systems and carry goods between them and thankful that the distances were small enough to be traversed by calculated Warp jump.
As Argoth's situation stabilised, and then began to improve, the needs of the populace grew, and the world's Adeptus Mechanicus congregation found themselves needing to test the limits and tolerances of every machine they could produce and maintain, pushing them further than their doctrine would permit and succeeding in spite of it.
As their successes accumulated, so too did their certainty, and over the millennia, the congregation ceased giving worship to the Omnissiah and the Machine God, viewing themselves as masters of the machine.
When the Imperium returned to Argoth, it was a Techmarine of the Storm Wardens Chapter who discovered the forge-citadel of these presumptuous Hereteks, and the Adeptus Mechanicus wasted no time in laying waste to the defiled temple and its impure mechanisms, as Skitarii phalanxes butchered the apostate mechanics who commanded Argoth's technology.
At present, Hive Korianthus is a ruin. Much of the city was damaged during the initial assaults of Operation Hammerfall, and little opportunity existed to repair and remake the city before Unity forces began their uprising.
The upper tiers are entirely inhospitable without well-maintained rebreather equipment, while the lower levels and underhive depths are a crumbling wasteland, prone to hive-quakes and collapse, with ancient atmosphere processors failing due to lack of maintenance.
Isolated pockets of survivors exist, but they are few in number and growing fewer by the day as the air becomes increasingly toxic and food supplies become ever more scarce.
During the time of the Jericho Sector, Hive Tiestomadan was a centre for mass industry within the region, containing the highest concentration of manufactoria anywhere within the sub-sector. However, while it could produce vast quantities of equipment, little of what it produced was regarded anywhere within the sector as anything other than cheap bulk goods.
The situation changed with the fall of the Jericho Sector. As The Unity came into being, the manufactoria of Hive Tiestomadan were the only places capable of manufacturing a variety of items in sufficient quantities to supply three worlds, and the hive city's prestige grew.
The number of engineers and technicians within the city grew with every passing standard year, as necessity forced the manufactoria to produce ever-more complex items.
Unlike Hive Korianthus, Tiestomadan emerged from the return of the Imperium relatively unscathed, its status as a manufacturing hub important to the burgeoning Achilus Crusade, and its relative lack of political status making it a far lower priority than Korianthus.
As a result, when the engineers of Korianthus were forced to flee the purges of the Adeptus Mechanicus, they fled to Tiestomadan, going into hiding amongst the manufactoria and biding their time.
Similarly, when The Unity rose up against the Imperium, it was from Tiestomadan that the rebels gained their arms and armour, some using designs gifted by the T'au in good faith, and from Tiestomadan that they drew the bulk of their numbers.
The city fell after eighteen solar weeks of conflict in a war that saw millions die for meagre gains, and was left a ruin in the aftermath of the rebellions.
However, the hive city's nature has allowed it to endure longer than the others, taking advantage of technology to aid the hunt for food and the maintenance of life-sustaining machinery, and while its populace are much-depleted after decades of isolation, they remain far closer to the civilisation they once were than the populations of Korianthus or Akirrorhineus.
Almost too small to be worthy of being termed a hive, Akirrorhineus was still a massive city at its peak, originally formed as a conglomeration of scattered mining settlements before the world's worthwhile natural resources became scarce.
It was not until the establishment of The Unity that Akirrorhineus gained notoriety as a source of supplementary labour for the other two hive cities.
Isolated from the Imperium, the worlds under The Unity lacked contact with the Black Ships of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica, and thus had no way of dealing with the new generations of psykers being born. With no means of sending the psykers away as they had always done, an alternative solution was required.
The few remaining Astropaths and other Sanctioned Psykers on Argoth, Rheelas and Kaggeran were put into service passing on their knowledge to those who shared their gift and given the responsibility of monitoring the populace for emergent psykers, eliminating those too dangerous to live and training those who could be of use to The Unity.
The Collegium Psykana sprang up in the relatively small and isolated city of Akirrorhineus, to act as a hub for this solemn duty, and for millennia, its staff oversaw the training of generations of witches and seers, far from the light of the Astronomican and the gaze of the Emperor.
By the time the Imperium returned to Argoth, Akirrorhineus was a haunted and heavily depopulated shell of a hive city, with much of its populace having relocated to the other cities to escape the psychic fallout from the Collegium Psykana.
While it had produced numerous skilled and stable psykers to serve The Unity, the techniques of the Collegium masters were a far cry from the age-honed and meticulous methods of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica.
The city was obliterated without mercy upon discovery of this fact, though none who are there will speak of the method used to bring that nest of witches to the Emperor's judgement.
Rumours amongst the loose lipped and foolish tell of silver-clad warriors who could wield the Emperor's holy fire and wrathful lightning as easily as a man wields a lasgun, who turned the city into a pyre in a single solar week. Rumour mongers who tell such tales swiftly vanish, but the rumours persist nonetheless.
- Deathwatch: The Jericho Reach (RPG), pp. 63-66