- "We are at war with forces too terrible to comprehend. We cannot afford mercy. Mercy destroys us, it weakens us and saps our resolve. Put aside all such thoughts. They are not worthy of Inquisitors in the service of our Emperor. In our resolve we reflect His will."
- — The Verses of Inquisitor Enoch, Canto XLVII
The Askellon Sector is a region of star systems located in the benighted depths of space in the Segmentum Obscurus, between the infernal Eye of Terror and the cold, xenos-haunted Halo Stars. Situated towards the end of a ragged stellar cluster that includes the Calixis, Ixaniad, and Scarus Sectors of the Imperium of Man, it is long past its glorious apex, and few but the mad, the desperate, or the outcast dare travel there. The reasons for this isolation are many, and made all the worse by a curse that has its origins in a time before even the Emperor of Mankind rose to power and reunited the scattered remnants of humanity. As the 41st Millennium draws to a close, Askellon exists as a guttering flame burning alone in the darkness of the void. Once, it was mighty. Its worlds were prosperous and its armies strong, its fleets were far-ranging and ever victorious. From the ranks of its ruling classes rose all manner of heroes, from saints to scholars, mighty lords all. Yet, these great men invariably fell too early, or at the moment of their triumph veered away from the path of the righteous. Some fell to madness, others to hubris, sometimes damning entire worlds to share their sins in the process. Others were lost to ignominy and failure, their names struck from the annals of the Imperium's great histories for all time.
As if to compound its woes, the sector is afflicted with a seemingly unending Warp Storm -- known as the Pandaemonium -- that waxes and wanes across the millennia, but is growing ever more intense and dangerous with each passing generation. Such discharges from the Immaterium touch every region of the galaxy, but most abate in time, and Askellon itself has seen its share of minor Warp Storms throughout its history. The Pandaemonium's multifaceted eruptions, however, seem to exist independently of other storms, more akin to a living creature seeking to devour the entire sector. Already, several of the major Navigator Clans have withdrawn their holdings from the region, allowing lesser houses to grow in dominance. Many Chartist Captains plying the lonely Warp routes in this area of the galaxy prefer to avoid Askellon when possible, and some have marked the area as anathema or refuse to even admit its existence in times when the Pandaemonium waxes in virulent intensity.
Yet, Askellon has stood since before the Age of the Imperium, and its foundations are sunk far deeper than even its most senior rulers are aware. The oldest worlds in the sector are steeped in power, their cities and infrastructure built layer upon layer over generations beyond counting. The ruling classes have held sway since long before the rise of the Adeptus Terra or even the ascension of the Emperor to the Golden Throne, and they wear their authority like a mantle of invulnerability. From gilded throne rooms atop towering spires, the nobles of Askellon look down upon their realms, certain in the knowledge that they have stood for so long that nothing can possibly cast them down. They nibble upon delicate morsels while pronouncing declarations that needlessly crush millions of lives with futile wars or vainglorious constructions. The situation grows ever more desperate as the raw stuff of the Warp itself boils the void away. While the masses yet adore the Emperor, the preachers grow ever more strident in their declarations that He has abandoned Askellon, turning His beatific face away from them, so unbearable are they to look upon.
There are many who would agree with this assessment. The astropathic choir-masters of the sector's lynchpin worlds report that the screaming insanity of the rising Pandaemonium often drowns out the mind-songs from other sectors. Navigator Clans are dismayed that the light of the Astronomican gutters as the foul storm dilates. Many Rogue Traders still journey through the sector to pillage the untamed reaches surrounding it, or explore the still-hidden mysteries within its own borders, but even the bravest shudder when facing even a tendril of the baleful energies. Ancient legends, long suppressed and burned, hint of terrible events that awakened the Infernal Storm and its role in the damnation of Askellon, but none dare even contemplate such unbearable myths as truth. Perhaps the preachers are correct and the Emperor has abandoned Askellon to its ruinous destiny after all, unless heroes once again come forth to stay this most terrible of fates.
- "Gather tears for the sins of ye fathers, O children of Askellon."
- —Saint Valerius, Introit to the Apocrypha Askellios
Like the origins of the Imperium itself, historical truths surrounding the beginnings of the Askellon Sector have long since devolved over the millennia into myths and legends. Even these tales have become splintered, with many worlds and denominations holding their own unique beliefs. Most of the legends, though, hold certain areas in common, to an extent that most across the sector believe them as uncontested truths. These cherished beliefs on the origins of Askellon help bind the sector together in its continual and unstinting service to the Emperor. Taught on almost every world herein, they show a history older than the Imperium itself, that only became more grand once it united with the Emperor's divine purpose. It is one of uninterrupted loyalty, faithfulness, and devotion to the Emperor and His subjects, and none would dare whisper otherwise
Though the founding of the sector is shrouded with the ashes of history, most of the endlessly copied records indicate it occurred during the ages before the Imperium rose, when humanity seeded itself across the stars. The epic saga, the Lay of Askellios, contains this commonly held recital, though many hold it to be allegory and not a factual accounting. Its most famous copy, a gilded tome many metres tall enshrined in a massive stasis chamber on Juno, relates of a huge fleet arriving after a long, perilous journey to a region of space unmarred by Warp Storms. Finding the area peaceful and unsullied, they decided to build a grand civilisation and await other starships to eventually arrive. Stable Warp routes connected a handful of worlds, and the fleet split to settle them.
For reasons that many of the tales refuse to codify, one ship refused this scheme and the others turned on it, refusing to allow it to hinder this grand vision. Myths state it was filled with sinners and Heretics, and though heavily damaged it managed to get away, never seen again. The settled worlds grew and prospered, though, mastering the space around them into a stable union that managed to weather the terrible Age of Strife. For generations it remained isolated, until the blessed day when the one of the nascent Imperium of Man's Expeditionary Fleets arrived as part of the Great Crusade.
Imperial Compliance brought the region, now named Askellon, into the Imperium. Some of the legends of this time consist of nothing but tales of the grand ceremonies that many believe lasted several standard years and included the unnamed Space Marine Legions accompanying the Imperial fleet. They also relate of scattered worlds attempting to resist the Emperor's will, but that they were swiftly crushed. Of them, no more is spoken and none know of their names, though several still-charred planets perhaps give some evidence of their fate. No world living now would ever admit to such unthinkable betrayal in its past, and all are content knowing that none from those planets still live.
The Rise of the Pandaemonium
The time of peace was brief, as soon civil war on a scale undreamt of erupted. Many tales speak of how the sector's people fought valiantly during the dark times when the Imperium was nearly split asunder during the Horus Heresy. Though much of the region faced horrific damage and many of its main worlds were reduced to ruin, Askellon, like the Imperium, survived. Almost unnoticed amongst these early days of unification and rebellion were the first recordings of terrible Warp Storms raging across the once-peaceful region. Twisted legends began that the storms were growing in appetite, and only abated after they had devoured sufficient starships or worlds to sate themselves temporarily. It was not until millennia later that Argo Kappellax, then Arch-Magos of Cerix-Magnus, established they were not legion but instead a singular storm, rising and falling, though no aerythmatical formulae could fully predict its actions. The name the Navis Nobilite's Houses of Askellon cursed it with ages ago, the Pandaemonium, soon became commonplace amongst those who ply the Warp routes across the sector and beyond. The Infernal Storm continues to ravage the sector to this day, with periods of relative calm only to be followed with times so tumultuous that interstellar travel and communication become nigh impossible. With each generation it appears to grow stronger, though most assume this is more a reflection of Askellon's earlier, more golden ages than any true measurements. Some scholars believe that the Pandaemonium is once again growing in fury, this time to such a level that reality itself might not withstand the storm surge.
The Vaxi Atrocity
Though it looms large in the ebb and low of cause and effect that has shaped -- and continues to shape -- the Askellon Sector, very few are aware of the truth of the Vaxi Atrocity, either within or without the region. Despite its portentous title, the Atrocity was committed not by any lord, or servant of a lord, of Askellon, but by the members of the Inquisition's Ordo Hereticus.
The Vaxi Atrocity had as its roots an attempt by a number of Inquisitors, aligned to the veteran Witch Hunter Lord Spiron Hark, to investigate, and if needs be, purge, the Askellian nobility to get at the hidden secrets of the sector. Many had studied the remains of Dyrulli's researches, and even used his name and death as a rallying cry. Lord Hark was a notorious bombast and a Puritan through and through, and as such had garnered more than his fair share of rivals and enemies within the ranks of the Inquisition over the many solar decades of his service. These opposed his plans, apparently simply to frustrate Hark's rise in power and influence rather than because they objected to the course of action itself. Lord Hark called a conclave at Gnshal Oblitia, a world on the very edge of the sector. Towering in his black and gold Power Armour and crimson cloak, and reciting baleful stanzas from his Book of Ashes, he demanded action. A bitter exchange erupted in the hallowed vaults of the Oblitia Cathedra, soon followed by recriminations and accusations so severe they could not be withdrawn without substantial loss of face. Centuries of accumulated ill-will, anger, and virulent mistrust amongst the Inquisitors operating in the Askellon Sector seemed to quickly boil over to impossible levels. Hark finally gathered his household and his allied peers to leave the conclave for the inner Askellian worlds. Gesturing emphatically with his signature two-handed Power Sword, he declared to the assembled Inquisitors that he would have the truth, one way or the other, and with or without the blessings of those opposed to his direction.
Inquisitor Hark's opponents, despite appearances, were not opposed to him merely because he was a Puritan and they were considered the opposite, however. Rather, it was because two solar decades before, they had instigated their own infiltration of the sector for their own ends, and feared Hark's interference would ruin their work. Exactly what that work amounted to or was aimed towards appears to be a secret these Radicals took to their graves, for ever is it said that history is written by the victorious. In this matter, Hark and his allies were the seeming victors, but only after a war and a calamity so pernicious it was dubbed the "Vaxi Atrocity" by those allowed to know of its true existence. Upon the disbandment of the assembly at Gnshal Oblitia, both factions set out for the sector's core, sweeping up what allies they could along the way and utilising their powers as Inquisitors to requisition what assets they encountered. Squadrons of Battleships indentured from the Imperial Navy clashed in the void, for the will and power of the Inquisitors overrode all other Imperial agencies and commanders. As the rival groups penetrated deeper into the Rubicon Sub-sector, they called upon ever-greater forces, and entire regiments of the Astra Militarum mustered at their order from a swathe of worlds along a route many parsecs in length. By the time they crashed headlong into Rubicon, all pretence at due process was shed.
The warring forces made planetfall on a number of systems across the sub-sector, unleashing the full potency of the armies they had requisitioned upon not just one another, but any others caught in the middle. Entire worlds were burning before the Lords of Askellon had any notion what was occurring. Sector-wide defence protocols were set in motion, but while the defenders had experience fighting uprisings, prosecuting mutant culls, and even stalling xenos invasions, none had ever faced an enemy as powerful as this in many centuries. Within solar weeks, all but a handful of inhabited star systems in the Rubicon Sub-sector were consumed in war, and those Astra Militarum regiments raised from Askellon's main worlds were in disarray. The Terminus Prime system defence fleet was reduced to a cloud of burning hulks, its squadrons paid for by the great Askellian merchant houses and entirely unsuited to the total war that descended without warning. At length, the Sector Praefect, at that time Lord Vhinjet Romonav VII, declared war upon the unknown invaders. Using the full extent of his own powers, he mustered as many regiments as could be raised on the world of Vaxi along the rimward border of Rubicon, determined to bring them to battle and stall the invasion of his realm.
Lord Romonav's declaration was a strident statement, which began as a warning, but soon meandered into what amounted to an admission of heresy. Entire generations of savants have debated whether Romonav intended to broadcast the message he did, or if he was overcome by hubris, misunderstood, caught in the grips of insanity, or even possessed by some daemonic entity. Regardless of the truth, by the end of the message, which was transmitted using every Astropathic choir on Juno and spread across Askellian space, the Praefect had, with deliberate intent or otherwise, announced his sector's secession from the Imperium of Man. Confronted with treachery on such a massive scale and mindful of those shreds of the sector's history they had access to, the opposing Inquisitorial factions ceased their internecine battle. Immediately, they fell upon Vaxi and the millions of Askellian troops mustered there with power and potency surely not seen since the Macharian Crusade. The combined forces massacred the defenders in an Imperial Crusade so bloody none were spared. Every single warrior on Vaxi was punished for the crimes of Lord Romonav VII, either slain in battle or burned in massed pyres as tall as Warlord-class Titans .
As the fires settled over Vaxi, Inquisitor Lord Hark called for a parley. Within the solar hour, a dozen of the most powerful and influential Inquisitors in the Segmentum were facing one another across a plain of ash and scattered bone, the horizon alight in all directions with flames. The words that passed between them were either unrecorded, or else deliberately struck from any record, but their essence can be determined easily enough. The events leading up to the Vaxi Atrocity must not be repeated again, they agreed. Whatever gains were to be made from Inquisitors operating in the sector in their current manner could not possibly be worth visiting such destruction upon it that the bulk of an entire sub-sector lay in ruins, and Askellon stripped of its ability to defend itself should invasion come from an unexpected quarter. So far as Lord Romonav's treachery went, however, that could not be forgotten or forgiven. Shortly after his ill-judged declaration of secession, Romonav was found dead upon his throne at the annual state opening of court at the Pellucid Tower. Five thousand petitioners looked upon his face and blanched at the expression they saw on what remained of his features, before hurrying silently away lest such an awful fate be visited upon them too.
There remain many who secretly believe that the events as related represent but the tip of an unfathomably-deep iceberg, and that some or all of the main figures involved were being horribly manipulated. Some whisper that Hark was but a puppet for some other secretive personages operating in the sector, others that Romonav's part was entirely staged, or did not originate from him at all. Even Dyrulli's name was brought into the affair, either to sully it further or show his works were truthful. To what ends the Atrocity served these agencies is still speculated, for none dare speak openly given the power that was wielded. While an uneasy peace keeps the various factions from outright war, if one were to become too powerful in relation to the others, open war might again erupt between them. Those at the fringes of the numerous factions and philosophies in which the Inquisition is steeped appear ever ready to challenge this status quo, and none can predict when all-out internecine wars might come again. Few, however, doubt that they must, and worry who might be behind these new conflicts when they erupt, and for what benefit.
The Vaxian Sundering
For almost all of the Inquisitors in the Askellon Sector, the Vaxi Atrocity was a horrible error. For those of the Ordo Malleus who secretly investigated the sector's ruling families, though, it holds a special significance. For them, the great tragedy is that a renewed wave of blasphemy and abomination swept through the sector's populations. By design, the bulk of their resources in the sector were committed to re-establishing their hidden networks and to infiltrating the Askellian aristocracy. With their resources thus devoted to what they considered their most important -- yet distant -- goal, however, their enemies established themselves as major powers in the sector.
Thus, many of the Ordo Malleus Inquisitors in the Askellon Sector were visited by a tragedy known only to themselves, one dubbed by those that bore witness to it as the "Vaxian Sundering." It was an age when much that they had achieved was undone, for while the undercover networks were built, the worship of Warp entities and the seeking after forbidden knowledge went all but unchallenged. Even more threatening, schisms within the Ordo Malleus itself emerged, and factions that would have once been eradicated immediately festered and grew.
It was a mere standard year after the Vaxi Atrocity that a new and highly divisive faction formed amongst Ordo Malleus Inquisitors active in the sector. Exactly what triggered the appearance of this group is not yet certain; some Inquisitors claim it represents nothing more than the rantings of broken men whose minds and souls were pushed beyond the limits of sanity by the terrible scope of the horrors they witnessed. Others, however, claim that the Chialistica, as it has come to be known, has existed in some manner since the very dawn of the sector's formal establishment as part of the Imperium, and possibly even since the first human settlers arrived in Askellian space during the Age of Technology. The Chialistica appears similar to other strands of mysticism found across the Imperium, obsessed with the notion that Mankind is drawing towards a Time of Ending. Such creeds are known to wax and wane throughout the domains of humanity, in particular at the closing of centuries and especially at the turning of millennia.
This instance is even more powerful, however, for the Chialistica's adherents look forward to the closing of the ten-thousand-standard-year period since the Emperor ascended the Golden Throne. These Askellian Inquisitors hold that the Emperor's period of rule is drawing to a close, and after it there shall come an eternity of Chaos. None have ever openly declared membership in this most apocalyptic of sects, yet a plethora of evidence suggests that some cleave to its nihilistic philosophies. Many in the sector have spoken out against the faction, claiming that any Inquisitor who shares its beliefs is a traitor to his calling, for regardless of how he does so, it is an Inquisitor's most sacred task to stand sentinel over the future of Mankind.
In secret, however, the Chialistica hold that the Emperor has fulfilled a prophecy spoken millennia ago, and must soon either descend from His throne or transcend it, and thereby usher in a new, final, age. In their beliefs, the Chialistica veer dangerously close to several existing philosophical factions known to hold sway within the Inquisition, leading some to conclude that they are a still more extreme offshoot of another Radical philosophy, one that has gone beyond even the sins of the Istvaanians and abandoned all pretence of rebirth of the Imperium in favour of a final, galaxy-wide apocalypse.
The Catacalixian Heresy
The Catacalixian Heresy appeared in the Askellon Sector soon after the Chialistica, though the two are not believed to be linked in any way beyond the fact that the Vaxi Atrocity paved a way for their emergence in the sector. The Heresy takes the form of a series of coded warnings relating to the imminent collapse of the Imperium's power across the entire Segmentum Obscurus, warning that such a fate has already befallen several unnamed nearby sectors and shall soon come down upon Askellon. This aberrant philosophy appears to be spreading along the worlds of the region by way of trans-sector shipping, suggesting that travellers coming into the sector from neighbouring Imperial regions are preaching their warning to others they encounter along the way.
Of particular concern is the fact that the Catacalixian Heresy appears not to have taken hold of the greater masses, as so many doomsday sects do, but instead has swept through the upper echelons of the region's Adepta. It has found a home of sorts in the hearts of those whose existence or station grants them a perspective denied to most men, such as starfaring Chartist Captains and Rogue Traders, senior Adepts of the Adeptus Ministorum and the Adeptus Administratum, and, most disturbingly, some Inquisitors. There are plenty who hold that when such highly-ranked servants of Terra believe that doom is descending upon the Imperium, then surely the end is at last nigh.
The Abyssian Witnesses
The Abyssian Witnesses are a small and highly secretive conclave of Warp-savants and hell-seers devoted to the study of the Pandaemonium. They first came together when one of their number -- a one-time disciple of Lord-Savant Dyrulli by the name of Lorn Kecimii -- noted a disturbance in the ebb of the Warp Storms during the Inquisitorial attack on Vaxi. Some say that Kecimii studied the Pandaemonium longer than prudent and, as he peered into its depths, so something peered back at him. Certainly, Kecimii appeared to have gleaned some level of understanding of the shifting Warp-energies no savant before him had ever attained. A number of Inquisitors of the Ordo Malleus soon joined him to study his arcane teachings concerning the Great Storm and its links to other occurrences in Askellon's history -- especially to the secretive origins of the sector's rulers.
Ordinarily, the activities of the Witnesses would undoubtedly have been discovered and denounced by an Inquisitor of a Puritan bent. In the aftermath of the Vaxi Atrocity, however, the conclave went about its studies all but undetected, for the majority of the Askellian Ordo Malleus Inquisitors were engaged in setting up their network of infiltrators across the sector. With attentions focused elsewhere, the Abyssian Witnesses swelled in number from a handful of Warp-blasted seers to a large confraternity of many dozens devoted to the study of the Pandaemonium and the recordings of their founder Lorn Kecimii. These texts became part of an ever-expanding library maintained by Kecimii's inner circle, an archive ensconced within the cored heart of a rogue dwarf planet drifting through the stellar void spinward of the Thaur System, on the very verges of an encroaching front of the Great Storm.
From its precarious vantage point, the order's hell-seers are said to stare in rapture into the void, as if able to see beyond the umbral black of space and into the roiling vortex of the Warp that lies beyond the overstretched veil of reality. At times, the veil peels back and light-years-long tendrils of empyreal unreality slither forth to coil about the planetoid, and each time it does so the order bears witness to some new morsel of terrible knowledge. It is said that Kecimii and the most senior of the order watch the Great Storm through a vast mechanism at the summit of the so-called Tower of Heeding, utilising an orrery-like arrangement of rune-etched lenses to peer directly into the Immaterium while a cadre of attendants transcribe their every word. From these transcriptions and the annotations provided by Kecimii himself, the order has built up its staggering archive of knowledge relating to the Pandaemonium and to the Warp in general. In all likelihood, this body of work, allowed to amass unseen by the rest of the Inquisitors within the Askellon Sector, represents one of the most dangerous archives of forbidden knowledge not just in the sector, but in the entire galactic region -- perhaps rivalled only by the twelve sanctums of the Gethsemane Reclusium in the sheer weight of abominable texts held within.
To what end the Witnesses are amassing their library has yet to be understood, but it is known that extracts of their writings have turned up in the hands of Heretics and madmen throughout the sector. Portions are being utilised as elemental formulae in dark rituals and blasphemous masses by those who would commune with, or even summon, the inhabitants of the Warp, turning foolish dilettantes and Warp-dabbles into genuinely dangerous threats. The danger posed from the Witnesses is only beginning to be appreciated by leading voices within the Ordo Malleus, who have yet to gain firm evidence despite several missions to locate the conclave's hidden sanctuary. Most of what those Inquisitors opposing the sect know of their target are the scraps of Warp-lore left in the wake of attempted summonings or found in the possession of those with only tangential connections to its members and activities. Almost all of these pages describe the nature of the Pandaemonium and purport to be a translation of the Warp Storm's origins, cause, and how it is inextricably linked to the fate of the entire sector. These words, if true, represent horrors beyond those threats that even the most suspicious of the Inquisitors investigating the origins of the Askellon Sector and its rulers can imagine.
The Vaxian Aftermath Wars
In the annals of the Inquisition, the Vaxi Atrocity stands as a cautionary tale of the doom that can befall a region when the most highly-ranked servants of the Emperor set aside their mutual duties and allow hubris to dictate their actions. The Atrocity itself has been debated endlessly in such Askellian circles, its causes analysed over and over so they might never occur again. Some savants have even gone so far as to suggest the entire calamity might have been engineered by hidden xenos intellects, seeing the far-reaching influence of the Eldar in the still-unfolding events of the Atrocity. Most such theories are dismissed as fanciful musing at best, or the death-rants of fallen Traitors at worst, yet still they refuse to fade away. Certainly, Inquisitors of the Ordo Xenos have known for generations that the Eldar are capable of engineering events far into the future for their own sakes, their Farseers able to unravel the twisted threads of unfolding future and to re-knit them according to their own unknowable schemes.
Might the Atrocity have been intended to weaken the sector in order to turn the attentions of some hungering void-born horror away from the Eldar and towards Mankind? Arguments rage endlessly over these and other myriad forces --perhaps even from within the Inquisition itself -- that might have had a hidden hand in launching the terrible event, or guided it to results that few can fully understand. In truth, no sane mortal can say, though many still make such claims. Many savants have dedicated themselves to studying the ebb and flow of cause and effect in the wake of the Vaxi Atrocity, for it was to affect the region for many standard years to come.
The most notable of the events that followed the terrible event are known in the circles of the Inquisition as the Aftermath Wars. As a great many of these conflicts were fought against various xenos strains and factions, they are of particular note to those Inquisitors of the Ordo Xenos operating in the Askellon Sector, many of whom stand guard for more such ramifications, even many Terran years after the event.
The Portal Raids
In 731.M41, soon after the Vaxi Atrocity, an Imperial Navy long-range patrol squadron engaged in a three-standard-year sweep of the outermost star systems of the Asphodel Depths Sub-sector came upon a string of ruined settlements across a dozen of the settled moons of the Phobetor System. No bodies were found, and by the damage suffered to the hab structures it was evident that the Eldar were responsible for the attack. The commodore in command of the patrol -- Abin Kybras -- cared not which strand of the alien culture had carried out the attacks, though his suspicions were that it was the "Dark Eldar," for this particular Eldar sub-faction was known for launching raids upon human worlds for no apparent end than to take prisoners and to spirit them away to their home dimension of the Webway for no reason any sane man could fathom.
The patrol's report was logged via long range astropathic communion, and the squadron continued its lonely mission. As it penetrated the very edge of the trans-sector Wilderness Space, however, it found ever more evidence of Dark Eldar activity and, following these, determined a pattern. It was clear that the attacks were following the sub-aetheric Warp conduit leading to the Aventine System, a route known as Celaeno's Descent. By this point, it was estimated that the aliens must have carried away tens of thousands of the Emperor's subjects, and it became increasingly obvious that each attack represented an escalation in scale and daring. Worlds that should have been capable of defending themselves were falling, for their Planetary Defence Forces had been stripped in the solar months preceding the Vaxi Atrocity and left the worlds defenceless. With those defence forces reduced to bones now bleaching upon the irradiated murder-plains of Vaxi, entire sub-sectors were laid bare to the attentions of the Dark Eldar.
It was then that a dire realisation hit home, and Kybras ordered his fleet to abandon its mission and make for Aventine. The drives were worked far beyond tolerances despite the protestations of the Enginseers, and three months later the patrol set in at Aventine. There they discovered the system's outer worlds, none of them highly populated, but each one a productive sub-domain, colony, or mining operation stripped as bare as the first worlds they had found. Aventine itself was under attack, not by any space-borne force, but one which travelled from world to world by way of its own trans-dimensional means. Aventine's capital was under attack, and there was nothing the squadron could do to stop the vile aliens dragging its population through their swirling portals.
The commodore knew his duty, and though his office required him to remain stoic, he knew he was showing mercy in issuing his next order. The squadron might have had insufficient crew to launch a defence of the city below, but it could certainly intervene, as well as granting a quick death to those who would otherwise not receive any such fate. Solar minutes later, the skies of Aventine were split by the black entry containers of a hundred orbital plasma warheads. Each detonated with the power of a star, burning to ashes every last alien within a hundred Terran miles as well as the captives they were attempting to drag through their dimensional portals. That day, Commodore Kybras demonstrated that Mankind could be every bit as cold-hearted as the cruellest of Dark Eldar, if the Emperor so willed it. That it might have poisoned Aventine's populace against the authority of the Imperium and lead to the rise of even greater threats would be a menace for another day.
The Cyclopia Bush Wars
Less than a standard year after the tragedy at Aventine, Imperial commanders across the Cyclopia Sub-Sector reported a heavy upsurge in Ork activity, each on a world that had come under attack by these barbarous aliens within the last standard century or so. In each of these original instances, the Ork attacks had been repulsed, but only at a high cost in lives to the Imperium and only after very heavy fighting indeed. With the vast bulk of planetary defence units redeployed to Vaxi (and now destroyed), only second line defence forces remained, and these were woefully understrength and outnumbered by the Ork invaders. Over the course of the next solar month, a vicious bush war developed across a dozen worlds in the sub-sector.
The threat was rarely so great as to threaten the complete collapse of any single warzone, but ever grave enough that Imperial forces were constantly on the defensive and never allowed to muster a credible counter attack. The enemy was of a type referred to by Adeptus Astra Militarum tacticae Adepts as "Feral Orks" -- Greenskins that for whatever reason were not possessed of the usual range of ramshackle yet highly destructive weapons, vehicles, and other strange equipment often encountered in their hands. Instead, these Orks wielded primitive, pre-industrial weaponry, along with what items they could scavenge from the battlefields of previous generations or from defeated enemies. Where these invaders came from or how they had reached the worlds in question, none of the commanders on the ground knew, a critical weakness that ultimately led to their doom.
Had the Askellon Sector's military command been in any fit state, formalised procedures would have been set in motion to eradicate the Ork presence rising across the sector. Experienced commanders with sufficient clearance would have known or been able to ascertain that the Orks were the result of the bizarre manner in which their species spreads across the galaxy. Each time the Orks fight, their bodies shed microscopic spores which lodge upon the ground and much later develop into subsequent generations. In areas where the Greenskins have won dominance, these creatures are integrated into the pre-existing Ork culture. Where they appear upon ground where the Orks have been defeated, they carry on the war, ignorant of the earlier defeats of their forebears but still driven by a deep-rooted biological imperative to avenge them. The only way to avert such an infestation in the aftermath of an Ork invasion is to set the ground to fire with constant eradication sweeps, a duty innocently neglected by the second-line defenders left on to hold their worlds.
Inevitably, the defenders were overwhelmed. Across each of the affected worlds the beastly Orks rose up as one, having reached a critical mass of numbers and raw, savage bloodthirst. The worlds fell in an orgy of death, a million and more defence force troops slaughtered by the primitive savages. It would be over a solar decade before the sector was able to mount an effective campaign of reconquest after having restored something of its previous strength, but by then those worlds had very little worth reclaiming, and the effort of scouring the soil of the alien spores meant that any such campaign was judged highly unlikely to succeed.
The Askellian Incursion
Later in the 41st Millennium, at a time when the armies of Askellon were still reeling from the losses of the Vaxi genocides, not one but dozens of Space Hulks appeared within its borders. This event coincided with a massive increase in Warp Storm activity nearby, leading some Warp-seers to claim that the Pandaemonium was gorging itself on the souls of those slain during the genocides, though most dismissed such claims as the ravings of madmen. Regardless, the sector's resources were so depleted that even a single Space Hulk would have been a challenge to deal with in the prescribed manner. As it became apparent that multiple star systems were reporting their appearance, deep dread settled over the sector's high commanders. Worse still, it was evident that the appearance did not follow some random pattern born of the ebbs and flows of the tides of the Sea of Souls. Rather, each of the reported Space Hulks had appeared along a Warp route that, if projected along known empyreal conduits, would see them converge in the sector's core region. Clearly, some dark intellect or intent was at work. Across Askellon, every possible force that could be mustered was deployed in response.
At the Ferrom System, an entire army group was raised from the massive worker population, issued las carbines drawn from emergency stocks many standard centuries old, and ferried in the cargo holds of bulk haulers to the Space Hulk that had appeared out-system. Entire companies of these worker-soldiers were crammed into shuttles rated to hold a tenth of the number of passengers and fired across the void to board the vast hulk. For ten solar days, shuttle after shuttle deployed company after company until at length a hundred thousand and more soldiers were scouring the dark tunnels with orders to engage any enemy they encountered and to report any unusual finds as soon as they were made. No such reports were ever made, for as one, the Vox-feeds and tacticae relays fell silent. Those remaining attempted frantically to raise the boarders, and while the links were determined to be functional, no data was being passed along them. Increasingly fearful, the overseers of the mission debated a dozen and more responses to the situation, but a solar hour later, the decision was made for them. With a burst of light of no hue known to sane minds, the Space Hulk was dragged back into the Empyrean. At the moment of translation, every soul on board cried out in such anguish that every psyker within several light years felt their pain, many suffering seizures, some even perishing. Of that hundred-thousand-strong army, not a trace was ever discovered.
At the Myros Kappa System, a Space Hulk dove out of the Immaterium perilously close to one planet, destabilising its moons and setting off punishing tectonic upheavals. Stricken by tidal waves, earthquakes, and constant storms, the world's primary settlements were subsequently abandoned, and tens of thousands of Departmento Munitorum serfs perished along with vital Astra Militarum war materiel. Eight solar days later, it vanished uninvestigated, all nearby resources diverted to desperately evacuate any survivors.
Far worse occurred at Menoetius-Delta. The Space Hulk that emerged in that star system did so not at its outer edges, but far in-system. Menoetius-Delta was host to a subsistence-level society that had never truly taken its place in the sector and, thanks to the Space Hulk, never would. Three solar days after it was detected, the gigantic conglomeration of metal and rock smashed into Menoetius-Delta, triggering an extinction-level kinetic event that rendered the surface nigh uninhabitable to Mankind. It was later estimated that approximately fifty million souls went to the Emperor's Side when the Space Hulk collided with Menoetius-Delta, and the same number perished in the standard years that followed as its ecology collapsed. No mission was ever launched to evacuate survivors, and it is likely their descendants live there still, eking out a miserable and short life beneath the churning black clouds, the light of the star of Menoetius merely a myth passed down through the generations.
Of all the Space Hulks that appeared within Askellon's borders that year, only a single one was met with anything approaching a successful response. At the Hulee System's outer fringes, a Space Hulk was codified Assassin of Pride and it was investigated not by some ad hoc local force, but by a rapidly deployed Kill-team of the elite Deathwatch. Who or what called these Adeptus Astartes to deploy here remains unknown, and the alien hunters made no account of their mission to any of the Ordo Xenos Inquisitors operating in the Askellon Sector at that time. All that is known is that the Kill-team must have been successful in its operation, and that when the black-clad Space Marines departed they were carrying a cargo of obviously high import, which they took with them when they left in their Strike Cruiser. Furthermore, in the immediate aftermath of the Assassin of Pride boarding operation and removal of the mysterious cargo, every single Space Hulk still within Askellian space abruptly fell back into the Immaterium.
Following this burst of activity, the Pandaemonium began an unprecedented period of relative quiescence, and the Immaterium in the region strangely becalmed for several standard years, during which Eldar activity peaked markedly. It was not to last, and soon after the Pandaemonium began the turbulent cycle in which it is now engaged, a cycle so all-consuming that some say it may never end. When word of this mass Space Hulk incursion reached the ears of certain savants, they simply nodded sagely to themselves. To such as they, who have been declared mad by their peers for seeing the hidden hand of the Eldar or some other xenos strain in the Vaxi Atrocity, every woe that befalls Mankind is a potential doom wrought by the hand of the alien. One day, no doubt, they shall be proved correct.
The Time of Ending Approaches
In the ten standard millennia that have passed since the founding of Askellon, the sector's fortunes have waxed and waned many times. It has risen to the heights of power and prestige, only to be hurled into the depths of the abyss by the secret hubris of its leaders. Juno, the sector's pre-eminent world and the seat of its Sector Praefect, has been overrun by alien invasion, torn apart by bloodthirsty rebels, and crushed by wars with neighbouring powers. Askellon's peoples have been enslaved, butchered, and bombarded from orbit. Each time the sector has rebuilt itself atop the ruins, though never so high nor so proud as before. In current eras, many look back at past ages as golden periods and can only see darker times ahead.
Xenos threats are certainly on the rise, from raiders attacking vessels across the sector to entire armies seeking to conquer Imperial worlds. The sector contains the remains of many long-dead alien civilisations, and even their ossified artefacts can cause irreparable harm in the wrong hands. There are tales of cults that dare worship the inhuman, befouling human souls with the taint of the alien. Worse still, there are rumours of the resurrection of races thought dead and forgotten, though only the gullible or fanatical give these credence.
The Pandaemonium has only added to the sense of doom. For several millennia, Navigators and Chartist Captains have considered the region, ever traitorous and poorly-charted, as ill aspected and in some manner cursed. Instances of vessels cast violently off-course, barely surviving passage or vanishing entirely, are growing. Already, numerous charts state simply "Access Denied," where before they listed the details of the cursed sector, a warning that some who enter it might never return. Though it is a period of seeming calm, it grows in rage and hunger, but for what none dare say. Its power is limited not only to Warp travel; entire planets have been engulfed or lost behind its storm front, becoming isolated for generations. Doomsayers cry that the storm is drawn towards those worlds with the greatest populations of psykers, or worse might be itself causing the increasing number of these and other mutants. Heretical texts claim it is a manifestation of ancient sins revisited on the living, or the spirit of betrayed souls screaming for vengeance, and is so deeply entrenched within the stones of the sector's fortresses and the souls of its people that it may never be excised. Though none would openly countenance such beliefs, few Askellians disagree that it holds the sector in a vice that is ever-closing.
The pervasive sense of coming doom has led many to turn away from their Emperor to other gods, and heresies grow across the sector. Wherever there is darkness they fester, from within the shadows of tall, gleaming spires or the foetid black of buried ruins, though many operate openly behind façades of the respectable or sanctioned. No world or star system is safe from the touch of Chaos, and no soul proof against its many temptations. Only through faith in the Emperor, and the actions of His servants, can the sector survive these apocalyptic times.
The Domains of Askellon Sector
- "Worry ye souls, for the Storm rages anew."
- — Saint Valerius, from the Apocrypha Askellios
Numerous stable Warp routes cross the Askellon Sector, the most important of which is the Grand Processional. It is easily the most widely-used and reliable route, and in many ways it is the lifeblood that sustains the sector. Lesser routes branch away from its way, diverting into ever-fragmenting paths that line Askellon like some mad tattoo. The settled worlds of the sector are connected via these routes, with the stability of a route often determining its influence. The handful of star systems where the Grand Processional visits are known as the Grand Worlds, though not all are the most powerful of Askellon. The Tributary Worlds are greater in number, and though only linked via lesser routes, they are perhaps the sector's mainstay star systems and ruled through a complex web of aristocracy bound together with chains of fealty, marriage, and other, less obvious, ties. Only tenuous and hazardous routes reach the Low Worlds, though they are still very much part of the sector's rule. The Lost Worlds, however, exist only in rumour and legend; lacking charted routes (or at least routes not kept as jealously guarded secrets), they are hidden and abandoned -- sometimes by design.
There are seven Grand Worlds of Askellon along the Processional: the sector capital Juno; Desoleum, perhaps the oldest of Askellon's many Hive Worlds; the dark, Feral World of Enkidu; Kalto, the bountiful Agri-World; the foetid swamp-world of Orinoca; Pellenne, the enormous Mining World; and Vouxis Prime, home of continent-spanning cities. The Grand Processional is not itself an eternal pathway, and decaying parchments from millennia ago show other worlds along its trail than those currently listed. Legend has it that Juno and Desoleum have, as best can be told, always been Grand Worlds, and such is their power that none gainsay this. Should the Processional change its path, there could be new Grand Worlds, something many Tributary Worlds eagerly pray for.
The Askellian Sub-Sectors
Like most sectors in the Imperium, Askellon is divided into a number of administrative regions called sub-sectors. Each of these smaller regions has its own ruler often called a Sub-Praefect Askelline, an Adept of the Priesthood of Terra charged with coordinating interactions between the worlds under his purview and the central sector government. He has no direct power over the Planetary Governors of those worlds, except in areas pertaining to the payment of tithes and the culling of psyker populations. The sub-sectors of Askellon are the Stygies Cluster, Cyclopia, the Asphodel Deeps, Thule, and Rubicon, all regions mapped out according to the flow of shipping along the major Warp routes of the sector. Currently, Thule Sub-sector is without a Sub-Praefect, the prior incumbent having been assassinated by a previously unknown psyker cult calling itself the Brothers of Celestial Enlightenment.
The Black Ships
The Black Ships of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica ply the space lanes of the Imperium in an endless circuit, laying over at its worlds to collect those psykers swept up in the regular culls every Planetary Governor is required by most solemn obligation to enact. None can say how many Black Ships exist, and none can predict when one will next arrive in any given volume of space. At times when a world's psyker population grows so unmanageable the authorities are threatened with being overwhelmed, a governor may order a pogrom. This is a risky gamble indeed, for should the Black Ships arrive and find no psykers rendered up, the governor might forfeit his life as punishment.
This has not stopped many of Askellon's worlds from lethally culling suspected psykers, for in recent times their numbers have grown to dangerous numbers and overflowed the cells customarily used in Askellon for imprisonment. Some worlds have not been visited for several generations, cut off as Warp routes in Askellon dry up or change paths; unchecked psyker populations can only cause the Immaterium to grow ever more turbulent and give the Ruinous Powers easier access to reality.
The Xenos Threat
Orks are a ubiquitous threat to the domains of the Emperor, as the barbarous Greenskins are encountered everywhere Mankind has voyaged. The Askellon Sector is far from immune to their predations, and has been assailed by their periodic invasions countless times in its history. In each case, the Imperium has reacted by raising additional regiments to confront the threat and, while countless millions have martyred themselves in the process, each invasion has eventually been halted. Nonetheless, once Orks have set foot upon the surface of a world, they are all but impossible to repulse entirely, even when they appear to have been wiped out. Intermittent Feral Ork infestations plague several of Askellon's frontier systems, the bestial aliens appearing as if from nowhere to lay waste to Mankind's holdings. To date, these infestations have been kept largely in check by the increasingly ragged forces of Port Lokhart and, in recent years, the Surena Dynasty's daring but costly interventions. It remains to be seen how the sector's forces might react to a renewed period of full-scale invasion, beleaguered as they are by so many other pressures.
The Eldar represent a less obvious danger. This ancient race cares little for humanity, a species it often considers barely sentient at best. Some say the galaxy bent to the Eldar's whims before Mankind even descended from the trees of ancient Terra, and that star systems lived and died at their command. The Eldar of the late 41st Millennium, however, are a doomed race, reduced to a relative handful scattered thinly across the stars. Their piratical raiders harass and pillage across the sector, and no vessel seems safe from their attentions. There does not seem to be any rationale for their attacks, as a small freighter might be destroyed while a Promethium-laden bulk hauler is ignored. This unpredictability adds to the fear their Corsairs wield throughout Askellian space. There are rumours that the Eldar have also conducted slave raids and planetary attacks, but no clear evidence has been recovered from the devastated remains found on many remote planets. Worse yet are rumours that these inscrutable aliens are also conducting targeted assassinations and thefts, and that any who unknowingly have gained their notice are doomed.
The remains of other intelligent alien races litter the sector like scorched bones on a battlefield. Some were thought destroyed during the early days of Askellon's founding, but many appear to have ended long before Mankind left Terra. Each of these dead races is unique, as near as the Tech-priests of the Xenos Biologis can determine, common only in their silence. They are long-dead, forgotten, and, thankfully for Askellon's future, could never return.
Worlds of the Processional
- "The ambitious are driven to attain power, but they are so often entirely unsuited to holding on to it. It falls, then, to us, the unseen Lords of Askellon, to guide the hand that rules."
- — From the suppressed writings of the cult leader Johas Zadok
While most of the systems along the Grand Processional are in some way important to the sector, whether from a military, economic, or governmental perspective, they are only bound through their proximity to the great Warp route that ties the sector together. As such, though, they are important beyond measure as stopping points for interstellar travel, and have been forced sometimes into becoming greater worlds than they would have been if their system had been more remotely located. They are Askellon's way stations, and few who cross its space have not stepped onto their soil at some point:
- Juno - An Imperial Hive World that is the political seat and capital of the Askellon Sector. Despite its opulence, the notable Hive City Vesuna Regis hides a dark secret, for beneath it lies a horrid undercity where powerful rival gangs of mutants and Underhive scum thrive in the lawless depths, constantly waging brutal and ceaseless warfare upon one another.
- Desoleum - A notorious Hive World, Desoleum's massive hive cities are home to deadly Flesh-cutter gangs. In a hive where oaths are sacrosanct, the harshest penalties in Desoleum are for those who abandon their debts and flee their obligations or worse, attempt to alter their oath-cogs to lessen their service time. First, the Oathless must be found, and specialist Bondhounds within the local planetary Enforcer corps, called the Sanctionaries, track them down.
- Enkidu - Enkidu is a Feral World of impossibly dense, dark forests and endless swamps. An incredible array of fearsome beasts, most of them defying all categorisation and no two ever seeming to conform to even the broadest genus, roam its surface. So mindlessly hostile are the things of tooth, claw, and tentacle that dominate the benighted lands that the feral human populace must live high in the enormous, twisting, and distorted trees. Warriors daubed in bright paints defend villages made of wood and the metal debris from earlier efforts to subdue the world. Huts of crudely-joined armour plating cling precariously to the sides of oversized trees, linked together with rope bridges upon which warrior-sentinels maintain ceaseless vigil against the ravening abominations below.
- Kalto - Located along the Grand Processional, the most stable Warp route in the Askellon Sector, Kalto is a large Agri-World whose bountiful production has made it the breadbasket for the untold billions who dwell within the neighbouring sub-sectors. This high productivity is believed to be due in part to Kalto's negligible axial tilt which, when combined with the planet's stable orbit relative to its brilliant K-class orange star, creates a near-perpetual growing season ideally suited for agriculture. Kalto is particularly known for its production of padonus rice, a genetically-modified crop developed by the Magi Biologis of Core Theta, as well as large quantities of local emdur grain.
- Snope's World - Atop the main hab-city on the Civilised World of Snope's World lies the glittering Platinal Palace. Formed of fractalised sheets of iridescent metals, it shines like a beacon above the solemn clouds and polluted swamps that cover much of the rest of the planet. It is said that the palace's surface holds a million million angles, each one unique across its conical form. Within are the hive city's ruling families, each as superficially gleaming and beautiful as their dwelling. Here they plot endlessly against each other.
The Tributary Worlds
- "These so-called lords condemn in others sins they themselves flaunt shamelessly. They burn entire worlds over the slightest divergence. They shall not do so here, even should we all be drowned in the Sea of Souls."
- — Intercepted Vox transmission, used to implicate Lord Dyrulli in the Vaxi Atrocity
Other worlds beyond those linked through the Grand Processional wield great power in Askellon's fate. Systems such as these can have unparalleled influence across the sector, and some even outside of it. Some of these planets claim to date back to Askellon's founding in the Age of Technology, others are only several millennia in age, but all are puissant and between them control most of the commerce, industry, and manpower of Askellon.
- Aventine - A Civilised World.
- Cel - An Agri-World.
- Cerix Magnus - Cerix Magnus is perhaps the greatest of the many Adeptus Mechanicus Forge Worlds within the sector, and is strict in following only the most sanctified of technology patterns. The Tech-priests of the Regimen Affirmator work there to ensure no forge strays from the correct dictates of the Omnissiah, and that all proper obsequiences are made.
- Terminus Prime - Terminus is often the first developed star system a vessel travelling to Askellon encounters, and is a prosperous centre of trade.
- Thaur - The Shrine World/Cemetery World of Thaur is the resting place of billions, overflowing with the remains of the powerful and the saintly. Millions more of the humble and poor strive that their remains also find a place on this holy world, arranging in life that their dead forms be shipped there. It is at the Blessed Charnaven that their untold tonnes of flesh arrive for final rest. The Osseiates of the Charnaven inscribe into each bone a unique prayer before it is used to fortify a basilica or pave one of the kilometre-wide walkways that encircle the world. No bone is unused, and each becomes an eternal offering to the God-Emperor.
- Laran 9k - A Munitorum World where tens of thousands of the Astra Militarum's men, tanks, and support vehicles are regularly prepared for embankment and outfitting.
- Port Aquila - Port Aquila is located in a dense region of asteroids and it is primarily controlled by the Greater Askellon Trade Combine which continually works a stranglehold over commerce across the belt. The Combine's chief rival, the Pale League, operates across the belt as one of the premier smuggling operations in the region. Made up of failed merchants and sometimes even Rogue Traders who saw their fortunes fall from catastrophic expeditions or piratical raids, Port Aquila is a relatively recent formation, but it is growing in power in the sector.
- Port Lokhart - The Imperial Navy maintains several facilities in the sector, collectively referred to as the Askellon Station Command. The most important of these is Port Lokhart, strategically located to provide its vessels with ready access to a number of Warp routes leading towards the nearby Scarus Sector, as well as away into the unknown reaches beyond the sector's trailing borders.
- Vanth - On the Death World of Vanth, the primary danger comes from the plant life that makes up its trackless jungles and swamps.
The Low Worlds
- "Rebels rise up and the Segmentum lords blame our sinfulness, never their own incompetence. The Warp surges forth and the Cardinals preach that the evil in our hearts has aggrieved the Emperor. Xenos fiends enslave our sons and daughters and the High Lords say that we are to blame, never that the Imperial Navy has been lax in the prosecution of its duties. Little wonder that the very stars abhor the rule of Terra, for what choice of path have we, the true sons of Askellon, ever been offered?"
- — Unnamed author, The Decline and Fall of the Askellon Sector
Beyond the Grand Worlds and the Tributaries are those planets of the Askellon Sector categorised as the Low Worlds, those with only fragmented or hazardous Warp routes connecting them to other systems. Many are industrious contributors to the sector, lacking only better routes to allow them to become Tributary Worlds. Some are Frontier Worlds whose populations have never heard of the Imperium, or planets that have never known the tread of human feet. They are all nonetheless claimed by the rulers of Askellon, even if they exist as little more than an entry on a faded star chart:
- Angel KZ-8 - Very little is known of the Angel KZ-8 System. The only solid descriptions are those logged by the Auriga Navigator Clan, which fled the Askellon Sector five standard centuries ago, and though scouts from the Surena Dynasty briefly examined this system for exploitation, the notes were sparse and interspersed with madness. Most hold the existing information to be unreliable at best, and the product of broken minds and shattered ambitions at worst. What reports appear to agree on is that somewhere about the system's star there circles a black armoured fortress bristling with weaponry, its clifflike slabs encrusted with statues, surmounted by ebon gargoyles and etched with kilometre after kilometre of spidery text. The fortress appears studded with Augur pylons covered with sensors and probes, all trained intently upon the seemingly empty voids trailing the sector. What those silent sentinels might be keeping watch for remains a mystery, as do the identity of the fortresses' builders and what might trigger their eventual return. Accounts claim that the fortress is empty, though the Machine Spirits guiding its countless weapons turrets remain vigilant. Silent vacuum gates await the arrival, or perhaps return, of its masters.
- Far Draconis - Far Draconis is a world that exists at the very edge of the sector, and one occupying a precarious Warp route. It is an Ocean World orbited by a satellite so dense that it inflicts an incredible tidal effect upon the seas below. As the satellite passes through the sky, the highly toxic seas are drawn towards it. As the acidic waters rise hundreds of metres, so the seabed on the other side of the world is exposed, a process that takes around forty solar hours. What continues to draw curious individuals to Far Draconis is the fact that, when exposed by its satellite's tidal pull, the ocean floor is revealed to host many kilometres of sunken ruins. None can tell if they are of human or xenos origin, but the ruins are certainly ancient. All are of a uniform white marble, covered in tonnes of seaweed and barnacle-like life. Amongst the massive structures can be found oddly-shaped metallic objects known to command high prices amongst those Imperial aristocrats with a taste for the forbidden. The true function of these small artefacts is unknown, but many become the basis for fine jewellery or unusual sculptures. Recovering them is a dangerous task, even once a dry area is found. Lurking predators, evolved to the tidal shifts, emerge to attack without warning. Salvagers must fight them off and locate treasures quickly, for the highly toxic seas soon return -- and there is no way of halting the lethal waters.
- Gamma Euclid 13 - The Euclid 13 System exists at the extent of the Askellon's trailing border. The system is rarely accessible, having been cut off by the Pandaemonium many times in history. All of the eight worlds in the system appear to be clones of one another, exhibiting nigh-identical mass, dimensions and other gross characteristics. The only variation to be found is in the surface conditions, but most Mechanicus researchers believe these merely a reflection of each planet's vicinity to the central star. So far as the archives relate, only a single world in the Euclid 13 System has been visited. The third planet out from its star, Gamma Euclid 13 is reportedly a world dominated by distorted terrain formations that appear twisted out of shape as if by the whim of some mad god. Enormous spirals, arches, and limbs of rock tower far into the sky, seemingly unaffected by all normal laws of nature. It is not these strange formations that have earned the world a dire reputation, but that every expedition has fallen victim to some manner of guardian, only a handful of survivors returning to relate their terrible warnings of terrors emerging from the dark.
- Kul - The world of Kul lies beyond Port Aquila and is counted amongst those worlds having fallen afoul to heresy and madness brought on by the proximity of the Pandaemonium. For much of its history, Kul was a Frontier World, undeveloped and of little interest to the great houses of Askellon. Its people were regarded as tainted and regressed, and few outsiders had any reason to visit the world. When Kul was engulfed by the Warp in the mid-38th Millennium, most thought it lost for all time, and none shed a tear for its populace. A standard century later, however, the Warp apparently spat the system out once more, and an Imperial Navy squadron was despatched from Port Lokhart to ascertain what, if anything, remained of its people. What the mission discovered was a cause for concern amongst savants of the Pandaemonium. The surface of the world was blasted beyond all recognition and its settlements reduced to ruins. Blanched bones littered the land, but were not of the natives -- they were from an Imperial Guard regiment thought lost in transit many centuries ago, judging from their tattered uniforms. Their vehicles also dotted the now-hellish rock. Subsequent investigations failed to turn up any clues as to the population's fate, but most did meet with unexpected calamity and disaster. Currently the world is under quarantine, though this has not stopped agents of the black market Faceless Trade from plucking especially interesting items from its surface to sell across the sector.
- Nurn Delta - A world on the rimward edge of the Stygies Sub-sector and far from any useful routes, Nurn Delta has never truly been counted amongst its worlds. So far as the great houses of Askellon are concerned, it is a world of wind-blasted plains populated by savages, barely able to speak and concerned only with braining one another with large rocks. This combination of isolation, apparent lack of natural resources, and the utterly regressed state of the native human population means that few Askellian voidships ever visit it. Vessels from elsewhere entirely visit it, however, drawn there for unique reasons of their own. Once per generation, a warship bearing livery of brightest sky and purest cloud arrives by way of Warp routes not known to any of Askellon's Navigator Clans. Small parties of huge warriors suddenly appear on the surface at a time and place foretold at the height of the previous visitation. Their arrival heralds a period of trials, wherein the chosen sons of the numerous tribes set aside their rivalries and compete against one another for the favour of the sky warriors. These contests are waged until only one warrior from each tribe remains. From these, the visitors select those they judge worthy to begin the process of training and transformation that will, in a small fraction of instances, lead to the initiation of a new brother Astartes in their ranks. It is a matter of great anticipation amongst the tribes when the foretold time is almost upon them. Many hold that the wait is itself a test of faith, and the tribes must prove themselves worthy by engaging one another in renewed hostilities. As the time of trials approaches, the tension nears a fever pitch that will only be relieved when at last the sky warriors return to Nurn Delta.
Other Sector Worlds
- Hulee V - A notable Hive World, the hive city on Hulee V known as Hive Krakex is a huge edifice that pierces the polluted skies of this Industrial World. Hive Krakex appears more mountain than building. Generations continually build new outer layers that roll off the surface layers like lava dripping down a volcano. Each new layer stretches its bulk across the surrounding wastelands and devours kilometres away from the ragged millions teeming outside its circumference. Billions more exist inside, transforming bulk-imported raw ores into the sheet plasteel that protects many of the main battle tanks and fortresses across the sector.
- Ossuar - Ossuar is a Shrine World located in the Pollom System. A gargantuan mausoleum covers much of its main continent, where several of the blessed Imperial Saints who helped establish the sector are laid to rest in archeotech stasis chambers. Flocks of attendants work constantly to maintain the chronically entombed state, the idea of the saints becoming exposed to time too horrible to contemplate.
- Core Theta - An extreme Forge World, the Magos Biologis of this world continuously work on the edge of tech-heresy; in many cases, concerning the limits of the organic and not the technological. Their primary focus is constant experimentation upon the rigours of the flesh and the limits of organic life.
- Rhodin IV - Another notable Forge World, the Cult of the Machine God has occupied this world for several thousand standard years, ever since it was awarded to the Adeptus Mechanicus for its aid in repelling a nearby Ork uprising. Rich in Promethium and other useful ores, this once verdant world has since become layered with plasteel and pollutants. Factories many kilometres tall churn out a wide variety of armaments and munitions. Deep mines that weave through the planet's crust, so invasive that networks of cyclopean support beams are needed to buttress the immense weight of the manufactoria that cover the surface.
- Selvanus Binary - The trailing side of the Askellian Cyclopian Sub-sector is a vast expanse of open space. On its inner edge sits the Forge World of Selvanus Binary, known throughout Askellon for the high quality of its products. One of the smallest of four planets in a binary star system, it is the only one capable of supporting life. Even so, the forges have irrevocably altered the planet to suit their needs, by covering the surface in all manner of refineries and manufacturing centres. It is now a strongly polluted planet, toxic to any human without protective gear or heavy augmentations, and very inhospitable -- all as per the Omnissiah's wishes.
- Gregorn - A Feral World, Gregorn is a world of violence, where the primitive human natives fight each other while struggling to survive against tectonic upheavals and predatory megafauna.
- Rund - Another notable Feral World of the sector, Rund has only recently been visited by the Missionaria Galaxia, who have begun spreading the Imperial Creed of the Emperor's holy words in a concentrated effort to rekindle the belief of those humans long separated from the True Faith.
- Novabella - A relatively unsophisticated Agri-World, Novabella is an isolated but loyal provider for a significant portion of the local sub-sector's foodstuffs. This world has become an Adeptus Ministorum bastion devoted to tending crops and faith alike. From its start, it had been designated to support the Imperial war machine through food, not men, given the relatively low population.
- Echonis Augury - This ancient void station originally served as a major Adeptus Mechanicus research site. Echonis Augury drifts along the sector's rim and away from regular void traffic. Hundreds of Tech-priests and Servitors worked here to info-scour the surrounding parsecs in a secretive quest. Several standard centuries ago, a supply vessel arrived to find the station empty and barren. Since then it has become a popular trading post for Rogue Traders and common Imperial merchants alike. Hundreds live on it, with extended generations working to maintain and expand the site, all with occasional concerns over the fate of the previous occupants.
- Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (2nd Edition) (RPG), pp. 319-348
- Dark Heresy: Beta Core Rulebook (2nd Edition) (RPG)
- Dark Heresy: Enemies Within (2nd Edition) (RPG), pp. 16-17, 78, 85, 108
- Dark Heresy: Enemies Without (2nd Edition) (RPG), pp. 22-24
- Dark Heresy: Enemies Beyond (2nd Edition) (RPG), pp. 21-23