The Chartist Captains are the commanders of the state-owned merchant starships that are the primary commercial vessels of the Imperium of Man and belong to the Imperial Merchant Fleets. They are called Chartists because every captain and his voidship must have a Merchant Charter granted by the Administratum in the Segmentum of the galaxy that their route takes them through.
The space lanes of the Imperium are plied by huge, often ancient, merchant starships commanded by the Chartist Captains. Lacking Navigators and sometimes even Astropaths to guide them through the Warp or maintain communication with the rest of the Imperium, these civilian voidcraft take Terran years to travel their pre-planned, circuitous routes between the stars, trading and bringing supplies to worlds which need them.
The starships of the Chartist Captains are the only contact many worlds have with the galaxy at large, and to some primitive worlds their arrivals are long-prophesied events of great spiritual significance. Similarly, the reports of Chartist Captains are the only evidence that many human-settled worlds still exist at all.
The route of each starship, set down in its charter written up by the Adeptus Terra, can take generations to complete and a Chartist starship is home to a spacefaring community of "Void Born" souls who can live and die without ever setting foot on the surface of a planet.
Chartist Captains are not Rogue Traders, and are not given the nearly limitless power of a Warrant of Trade. However, unlike Rogue Traders, they sometimes garner enough political power to be represented on the Senatorum Imperialis of the High Lords of Terra. Chartist Captains are also ensured a level of financial security unknown to Rogue Traders by virtue of their route being approved and made stable by a Segmentum Lord or equally powerful individual within a Segmentum government.
It is not unknown for Chartist ships to follow the path of an Imperial Crusade or other warfleet, delivering supplies to Imperial forces left behind on conquered worlds, though their lack of Navigators means they cannot hope to maintain pace with the galaxy-crossing warships of the Imperial Navy.
Notable Chartist Ships
- Bountiful Beast - Livestock and Victual Mass Conveyance Provender Bountiful Beast, to give it its proper title, or the Reek as it has been known for centuries, has since the Calixis Sector’s founding plied the cold void carrying a cargo of live flesh and dead meat to assuage the hunger of the masses. A vast patchwork relic of ancient days, the Bountiful Beast rivals the largest warships in size and takes the form of an irregular fat cylinder nearly sixteen kilometres long from stem to stern; its hull is heat-blackened and corroded, pitted with ancient scars and haloed with debris and vented vapour mist that shrouds its passage. The Bountiful Beast’s origins are lost to antiquity, but it seems certain it first came to the nascent sector as part of the forces of the Angevin Crusade as a long-range supply vessel, though the ship’s prior history no doubts predates this by at least several millennia and perhaps longer. In the aftermath of the Crusade's success it seems the ship's master became one of the earliest Chartist Captains, and this independence and license has never been given up by any of the D'Rais family line since. The Bountiful Beast follows an erratic path around the fringes and backwaters of the Calixis sector from the Periphery to the edges of the Threnos Zone. Garnering livestock for transport and meat for rendering at Feral and Feudal Worlds in return for manufactured goods, before transporting its processed cargo to isolated mining colonies and frontier planets, the Bountiful Beast’s appearance can mean the difference between starvation and plenty for the inhabitants. But to the other Chartist captains and the void born it is a bloody and ill-omened thing. The Bountiful Beast is no silent, steel coffin sailing the darkness; it is a mobile, steaming, bustling, stench-ridden and blood soaked industry unto itself. At once a cattle-wagon, breeding pen, abattoir and freighter, it is crewed by thousands of victualers, cooks, cold-bloods, slaughtermen, beast-handlers and skinners in addition to the thousands of ratings and crewman needed to run a starship of this size, and they in turn are dwarfed in numbers by the potential tens of thousands of creatures, live or dead, in the Bountiful Beast’s holds. As with most large interstellar vessels, many of those who serve aboard are void born, or more accurately darkholders, a particularly notorious strain of the type and likely the latest generation of their families in an unbroken chain down the centuries on this single ship. In the Bountiful Beast’s case many more of its crew are taken on during its many stops as volunteers and hired muscle. The ship’s industries are arduous and ceaseless, and it has a rapacious desire for new blood, so it is that each time the Bountiful Beast makes port it has need for scores of new crew members; losses caused by desertions are one culprit, and a great many die on board either through accident, brawling or factional fighting. Many more simply disappear mid voyage. More than enough tales of its vast slaughter-chambers, lakes of rendered fat, and red-dewed corridors have been spoken by those that have left this iron abattoir to have painted pictures as close to hell as any could wish for to those that listen to the tales told in star ports and way stations across the sector.
- Misericord - The Misericord is an example of the many Chartist spacecraft that ply the trade routes between Scintilla, Iocanthos and Sepheris Secundus and the other worlds of the Calixis Sector. It is an ugly and enormous voidship, resembling a barnacle-encrusted, spacefaring whale, from which jut haphazard clusters of engines and towers, and it trails a long tail of debris like a comet. The Misericord carries huge quantities of trade goods between its client worlds, along with many passengers. Buying passage on a voidship like the Misericord is the most common method of travelling between planets in the Calixis Sector. Its round trip -- Scintilla/Iocanthus/Sepheris Secundus -- a route laid down on the charter carried by its captains, takes well over a standard year. Ships like the Misericord are very common in the Calixis Sector and throughout the Imperium, plying a slow, thankless route across the stars. Without the Chartist ships, large swathes of the Imperium would be completely cut off and whole sector economies would fail. In spite of this, few have much regard for the Chartist ships, and their crews are stereotyped as rough, untrustworthy Void Born with few scruples and even fewer refinements. Each Chartist voidcraft needs an Imperial charter that sets out its permitted trade routes and activities, and the Misericord’s charter was signed by one of the earliest generation of Calixis Sector governors.
Notable Chartist Captains
- Captain Kobal Aizdar - Captain Aizdar is a roaring giant of a man, quick to curse but quicker to laugh. His family lineage is an ancient one: his most prized possession, which he'll eventually get around to pointing out to all of his passengers, is his hereditary charter to ply the space lanes of the Calixis Sector. Sealed behind a small void shield, the charter has been passed down his family line for close to a thousand Terran years and bears the signature of no less a person than Saint Drusus himself. Captain Aizdar has a stunning collection of oddities and artworks that he has amassed over the years, a common affectation with Rogue Traders, which he’ll proudly show off to passengers he comes to favour.
- Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 25, 254, 308
- Dark Heresy: Purge the Unclean (RPG), pg. 100
- Dark Heresy: The Radical's Handbook (RPG), pg. 30
- White Dwarf 140 (UK), pg. 50
- White Dwarf 139 (UK), pg. 17