"Every Imperial port has its own special charm and appeal—Footfall's seems to be its complete lack of either."
- — Hress Gort, Deckmaster on the Emperor's Truth
Footfall is a massive, sprawling void port of gigantic stone asteroids bound together by ornate bridges, flexible tunnels, and chains the size of voidships, all centred around a macrostatue of the most holy God-Emperor of Mankind dozens of kilometres high. This statue, placed by Footfall's founder, the Rogue Trader Parsimus Derwin, looks out sadly over a morass of vice, degradation, perversion, sedition, mutation, and heresy. The floating agglomeration of Footfall is situated just rimward of The Maw, transfixed in the hellish glare of the star Furibundus. Footfall is typically the first stop for those entering the Koronus Expanse and the last stop for those leaving.
First Stop Into Darkness
"Footfall is a fine place to do business and conduct trade - far from the pointless rules and needless taxes of more 'civilised' ports."
- — Hadarak Fel, Lord Captain of the Fel Hand
The light of Furibundus marks the far side of the Great Warp Storms and the beginning of the Koronus Expanse. It is a huge and primal stellar mass, far brighter and more energetic than any star should be. Its fires rage so fiercely that the cataclysmic energies unleashed within cause vast bulges of burning plasma to distend Furibundus's form, writhing as though immense beasts fight within. The outer envelope constantly tears and ripples, throwing off huge flaming masses into the near voids. Furibundus is surrounded by shells of remnant gas expanding outward, each a remnant of the star's outermost layers. The Imperial presence around Furibundus clusters in two locations: the Adeptus Mechanicus temple of Altar-Templum-Calixis-Ext-17 and the stonework void-settlement of Footfall.
Established in 410.M41 by the Rogue Trader Parsimus Dewain, the settlement that was once called Dewain's Footfall, and now simply Footfall, is a tethered network of hundreds of stone structures floating in the Furibundus System's voids. It is a mass of buttressed temples and plasma-pitted fanes whose towers jut out at all angles into the void. Most are linked by enclosed stonework tunnels and arch-bridges, in addition to huge steel chains. Footfall's ornate, tethered structures orbit at a sufficient distance from the star to be safe from the lethal ribbons of solar plasma, and for voidships to operate with little impediment. Many of Footfall’s buildings would not look out of place upon a planetary surface, while other spiral mazes and winding tunnels of unsupported stone would fall apart under the tug of gravity. Sections of Footfall have no gravity, and many have fluctuating levels of generated gravity. The few structures that have their own stable gravity generators are highly desired prizes and are fought over by the most powerful factions, changing hands over the corpses and regrets of their prior occupants with alarming regularity.
Over the centuries since its establishment, Footfall has become a lair of villainy and intrigue, the descendants of its original population of stoneworkers and Rogue Trader vassals now far outnumbered by less-reputable newcomers. Here, religious fanatics rub shoulders with assassins, spies, fugitives from Imperial justice, narco-tribesmen, rowdy crew on furlough, and a wide range of disreputable merchants. Beneath this tumult of lawlessness can be found an even more shadowy world: Hereteks, Chaos Cultists, unrestrained criminals, unsanctioned psykers, and worse. Here a thousand forms of deadly intrigue can be found, and anything from a starship to a human soul can be bartered in Footfall -- for a price. It is for precisely these reasons that many great powers and factions from the Calixis Sector maintain secretive agents in Footfall: the Administratum, the Imperial Navy's Battlefleet Calixis, the Great Houses of the Imperial nobility, the disciples of the Dark Gods, the Adeptus Ministorum...and perhaps even the Ordos of the Inquisition as well.
There is no central law on Footfall, at least not one that would be recognised in any civilised areas. Instead, the numerous criminal and piratical factions that run this wretched place have drawn up a series of laws and codes of conduct creating a neutral zone wherein visitors and residents are free to engage in their various business pursuits without the interference of the Imperium. This Derwin's Compact, as the laws of Footfall are known, serve one purpose as stated in the preamble of their charter: "Fomenting and fostering an environment upon this station and its surrounding areas that is agreeable to the pursuit of any and all business practices for the purposes of bringing profit to the ruling parties thereof." In this freewheeling, anything-goes environment there is very little that is considered illegal. Criminal gangs like Footfall's Black Brotherhood and the Kasballica Mission, organisations that would surely be hunted with extreme prejudice by the Adeptus Arbites on any civilised world in the Calixis Sector, operate openly next to "respected" shipwrights, merchants, and Throne Gelt brokers. Trafficking in narcotics, humans, xenos artefacts, proscribed knowledge, and many other types of contraband that carry a death sentence elsewhere is commonplace here. Even the most respected Rogue Traders and Free Captains dabble in these dangerous pursuits to greater or lesser degree.
Since the entire sprawling edifice is carved into different areas of influence under control of one or another of the numerous ruling factions, order, such as it is, is kept by roving gangs of household Enforcers and hired thugs. For the uninitiated, navigating the complex and ever shifting net of allegiances, tithes, bribes, and obeisance required to survive daily life on Footfall can be quite daunting, and those that are foolish and inattentive can lose more than their purse here. Technically, Footfall is "ruled" by the Liege of Footfall, currently an easily-bribed individual completely lacking in ambition named Tanthus Moross. Moross has remained in his role longer than most, due mainly to the fact that he has no desires to control Footfall. Instead, he is perfectly willing to play the figurehead, in exchange for plentiful bribes.
However, there is an older law, held almost sacrosanct by the powers of Footfall. Whenever a Rogue Trader visits Footfall, he rules the station. Should several visit at once, the most senior Rogue Trader (a nebulous definition, to be sure) rules the station. While Rogue Traders seldom show any interest in actually ruling there, this position of authority (enforced by the raw power of their starship and plentiful armsmen) usually ensures no fool disrupts Footfall's carefully balanced society by messing with them. The Liege foolish enough to ignore this takes his life in his hands. In 500.M41 the Liege Tarn Marvolus united an alliance of criminals, witches, and narco-tribesmen, and ruled Footfall with an iron fist. However, when Marvolus demanded the Rogue Trader Cassilus pay tribute to dock, she ensured the four quarters of his body were found at the four furthest points of Footfall. Likewise, however, a Rogue Trader who goes too far in upsetting the status quo may well find themselves opposed -- not only by the powers of Footfall, but also their fellow Rogue Traders. As stated before, there is little that is considered illegal by the ruling powers on Footfall. There is, however, one cardinal sin here, the act of which brooks no quarter from the locals, and that is the act of hindering business.
Kept deliberately vague to allow incredible flexibility in its prosecution, hindering business can be anything from snooping about or investigating criminal activity to pressing too many voidmen from the shipyards to murdering a high-level crime boss. Anyone accused of hindering business is permanently banished from Footfall and the entire Furibundus System. Those foolish enough to return and who are caught are rarely heard from again, their corpses often turning up mutilated in the Boneyard, Footfall's midden. There are, however, fates worse than a quick execution in one of the abandoned warehouses on Footfall, and rumours abound of "obstructionists," as those convicted of hindering business are called, being sold to Chaos Reavers as slaves for their vast pirate fleets or handed over to covens of accursed witches for their amusement. Of course, the more powerful the Rogue Trader involved, the more he can get away with. No merchant factor or Liege would be foolish enough to try and banish an individual such as Calligos Winterscale, for example.
"Everything has a price in Footfall, but if you have to ask you probably can't afford it."
- — Wesla Graves, Curiosopher and Merchanteer
Footfall is an irregular growth of towers, domes and docking gantries that hangs in the void like a lump of jagged stone. From its founding, Footfall has grown by the unplanned accumulation of structures built by the various groups and cults that have made it their home. As further structures are grafted on, the previous structures may be partially rebuilt or repurposed and so the internal and external layout of Footfall shifts and changes with the decades. Some structures have endured for long enough that they remain firm features that define this strange place even as Footfall grows and changes, and the means by which irregular visitors may gain some sense of permanence between visits.
Pit of Voices
Claimed by the outcast Astropaths of Footfall, the exterior structure of the Pit of Voices looks as much like a collapsed dome as anything else. The interior is a steep tiered arena and maze of cells beneath, gravity plated at an unsettling angle, and set with gargoyles pillaged from the frozen exterior stonework. Incense burns constantly, and a litter of occult devices is strewn about the floors.
The waste of Footfall -- along with quite a few unlucky murder victims -- all end up in the Boneyard, an open, frozen midden in the void beyond the structures. The Bonepickers of Footfall, clad in paltry or improvised voidsuits, pick through the debris and corpses in search of what little value remains. Useless waste is propelled away from Footfall by human effort, drifting slowly to pass through the weak Void Shields and away into Furibundus' burning embrace.
Chapel of the Third Congregants
The Chapel of the Third Congregants is an imposing, void-pitted structure of spreading bastions and leering gargoyles that floats unconnected to the rest of Footfall. Within, every surface is crowded with statues, sepulchres, and saints' shrines. Worshippers come and go in a procession of gigs, cramped passenger craft that are little more than a seal-gate and gas expeller for propulsion.
The largest hab-structures in Footfall look like ornate temples, their crenelated exteriors encrusted with crystal mosaics of Imperial Saints and grimacing gargoyles. Open spaces within are divided haphazardly by cloth and metalwork, uncounted masses packed close in an ever-changing three-dimensional maze. Here are the poor, the menials, and the lesser outcast factions.
One of the oldest structures in Footfall, these regal transepts and pillared, ornate halls are where the Liege of Footfall receives those of sufficient importance to warrant a formal welcome. The Liege's throne is beauteous alabaster, an ancient masterwork engraved with a hundred scenes of the God-Emperor's victories, said to have been looted from the wreck of a warship during a long-ago war, and equipped with embedded field generators to shield its delicate surface.
Macrostatue of the God-Emperor
The stern visage of the God-Emperor of Mankind watches over Footfall. His vast statue floats at the very centre of the community, close to the size of the greatest vessel of Battlefleet Calixis, linked to twenty structures by massive void-steel chains. The statue and its plinth are hollowed with chambers, but no-one dares dwell within. The macrostatue is a point of pilgrimage for the faithful who yearn to see the God-Emperor stare out across unclaimed voids that will one day be His.
A monolithic slab without decoration, the Red Schola is the slave-hold of the Tutors, a cabal of mysterious slave masters who have made Footfall their base of operations. Within their sealed edifice, the Tutors create slave servants using a variety of cruel and esoteric methods: noetic induction, the breaking of self, torture, ritual branding and hypno-conditioning. Few know what horrors lie behind its void-steel portals, but few who can afford them question the quality of the slaves produced by the Red Schola. Whether one requires a delicate courtesan assassin sculpted in the image of an Imperial Saint or a cohort of mute, slab-muscled stranglers, the Red Schola can provide.
The Void Shields that protect Footfall are projected from three Shield Shrines. Each is a cubic, metal Machine Temple marked with the raised cog of the Adeptus Mechanicus upon each face and linked to Footfall by a coiling umbilical passage. The Shrines are well-defended inside and out by Servitor-crewed weapon systems.
Spire of Intoxicants
The Spire is the only location in Footfall where narco-tribe gangers are willing to trade their drugs and allow outsiders to participate in their rituals. It is a trade-space, laden with chemical fumes and strange artefacts, some carried from the far reaches of the Koronus Expanse and given to the narco-tribesmen in payment.
Considered accursed by many, the Xenosium is a dwelling place intended for the alien. Great upheaval attended the construction of the Xenosium, built at the order of Parsimus Dewain near the end of his life. It is made in the fashion of a prison-fortress -- thick-walled and psy-warded. Void-weathered statues with stern faces look inwards at each corner. Often it is said that no human has set foot inside for centuries, but on several occasions, Rogue Traders have brought xenos representatives to Footfall -- sentient alien beings, not the beast-traffic intended for circuses and xenosepts -- and housed them within the Xenosium. No one seems certain whether or not the Xenosium is presently empty.
Balance of Power in Footfall
"No one could ever really attack Footfall. Its inhabitants would just flee and rebuild. The community is too disorganised for a fleet to even properly attack it. Threatening it would require a cataclysmic event. Something that could destroy the whole Furibundus system."
- — Commodore Montgomery Hazzard
No one rules Footfall, not truly. The masters of the most successful of Footfall's concerns nominate an individual who is referred to as the Liege of Footfall. By tradition the Liege disburses offerings of stone and supplies brought by Rogue Traders. However, traditionally a Liege is subservient to any who bears a Warrant of Trade. This makes even the least Rogue Trader higher on the pecking order than the Liege of Footfall, though in practice, this can prove difficult to enforce. However, a Liege is only Liege for so long as he can defend his position, and many have been leaders of murderous scum, employing cruel guards and ruthless enforcers to make their will known. Each was the latest criminal to have killed his way to what he thought is the top of the heap, realising too late just how wrong he was.
The true powers of Footfall are shadowy organisations, any one of which will murder a Liege who strays beyond his traditional role. Prime amongst these are the owners of Footfall's gambling dens, bordellos, and the wealthiest traders and smugglers whose wealth and position is created by the traffic of explorers and the treasures they return with. Beside these are other, more secretive powers such as Crew Brotherhoods who spy and who report back to the Administratum, Navis Nobilite, Adeptus Ministorum, or Imperial Navy paymasters. Others include agents of the Calixis Sector's Drusus Marches Sub-sector, crime barons, and gossip mongers. Their trade is information, and they are largely the reason that Footfall still exists.
Over a hundred groups and thousands of individuals make their home in Footfall, each with its own goals and purposes. If there is one constant in Footfall, it is that power is fragile and can be quickly overturned. The wise of Footfall remember that the victors of today are the slaves of tomorrow and the vengeful assassins of the day after: memories are long, and misdeeds repaid in kind.
The disparate members of the Black Brotherhood live from day to day as hired thugs and violent thieves, its members identified by crude black tattoos made using the traditional, painful lowdecks method. Collectively the Black Brotherhood knows much about the movements of vessels in the Koronus Expanse, but Thrones must change hands to hear any of it. Due to their trade as thugs, the Black Brotherhood is most closely tied to the workings of the Kasballica Mission on Footfall, though they are open to hire and manipulation by any with coin or cunning enough. Proud as sin, but with little effective leadership, the Black Brotherhood sometimes find themselves the tool of more cunning players.
The Narco-tribes of Footfall are blood descendants of men and woman brought back from worlds within the Koronus Expanse, mingled with the blood of those who have come to Footfall from the Calixis Sector. The culture and traditions of the narco-tribes are a feral melting pot of strange drugs, heathen rituals, and violent contests of fighting skill. Narco-tribe drugs affect perception and memory; many narco-tribesmen live all their life in a world removed from reality, and are dangerously unpredictable. Each nacro-tribe is distinguished by the patterns of scars made of hot brands on the faces of tribesmen. There is great rivalry between narco-tribes of different skin-brands, and violence and bloody vendetta are common between them.
Few things scare the hardened scum of Footfall like the Seven Witches: hidden psykers who curse the fates of all that cross them. Few know anything more of the Seven Witches and their servants, but some powerful Rogue Traders have sought them out for counsel, or so that they will augur what awaits them in the Expanse. The witches never leave their inner Sanctum. However, on occasion their silent and implacable guards appear at the Liege's Court bearing scraps of soiled parchment. These missives contain demands and cryptic warnings of doom the powers of Footfall treat with great seriousness.
The Kasballica, a great shadow-conclave of Drusus Marches crime barons, watches the exploration of the Halo Stars with interest. The so-called Cold Trade in xenos artefacts (such as rainbow-sheen materials from the Dead Worlds of the Egarian Dominion) spreads from the Koronus Passage to run throughout the Calixis Sector and is a fountain of wealth for Kasballica factions. The crime barons send trusted retainers into the Maw to cultivate Rogue Traders and ensure that a sufficient cut of the Cold Trade flows into their coffers. The Kasballica Mission in Footfall consists of skilled negotiators, ruthless enforcers, and merchants of forbidden goods and services. If the price is right they can provide, purchase, or arrange transport for almost anything.
The Obsidian Emporial is a bidding house of some fame in Footfall and the greater Koronus Expanse. Run by the mysterious and quite discerning Intercessors, the Obsidian Emporial provides a select few individuals with a place to sell items or information too rare and valuable for a trade-deck stall. The Intercessors organise auctions and manage deals, payments, and collections. Often, unless they wish otherwise, neither the buyer nor the seller will even know whom the other are. The Obsidian Emporial does not wield any obvious power in Footfall. However, none of the other factions are willing to cross it, and those few whom have failed to pay their debts to the Intercessors eventually and inevitably vanish.
The Tutors are a cabal of slavers and probable Heretics who fled to Footfall long ago and have made it their primary centre for their business -- the acquisition, re-moulding, and selling of the finest and most specialised human slaves available. Cruel and methodical slavers, the Tutors use a variety of methods within their fastness of the Red Schola to break and then educate slaves to be sold as tongueless savants, spies, bodyguards, and ritual torturers.
A small clan of this secretive Voidborn Death Cult came to Footfall in 795.M41, in the wake of their persecution by the Inquisition in the Calixis Sector. As well as serving as killers-for-hire, the Astral Knives' doctrine is to ritually assassinate those whom omens and the Emperor's Tarot indicate to be corrupt, so as to preserve the God-Emperor's protection on those who must brave the Warp. Since coming to Footfall, the cult has quietly flourished, and has gained a shadowed reputation as a faction both dangerous and powerful. As such, the Astral Knives are cultivated as contacts by many of those who know of their existence, often in the hopes that a steady stream of rich murder-compacts will prevent a sacrificial fate befalling them in turn.
Especially fervent members of the sanctioned Drusian cult of the Ecclesiarchy whose origins lay within the Calixis Sector, this extremist orthodox Imperial faction believes that the Angevin Crusade of Saint Drusus is eternally taken up by the faithful, and to stop at the present boundaries of the Drusus Marches Sub-sector is an unforgivable heresy. Fiery Preachers in black sackcloth robes, the Drusians are a common sight in parts of Footfall, extolling the masses to press ever onwards and even going so far as to petition Rogue Traders to carry Imperial colonists and missionaries out to found new worlds dedicated to the service of the God-Emperor in the Koronus Expanse. The iron nature of the Drusian creed is unbending and draws them into conflicts with many of Footfall’s other factions, including the Tutors -- who have in the past culled the Drusian Missionary flock to stock the Red Schola with fresh slaves.
Heretics who reject orthodox Adeptus Ministorum teachings sometimes seek out xenos beings, believing them messengers of the God-Emperor, keepers of lost Imperial legacies, or potential converts to the True Faith. Visionaries of this ilk have made their way to Footfall over the centuries, establishing small and short-lived sects that eventually merged to become the True Path of xenos-worshippers. The theology of these adherents is fractured and ever-changing, and few will ever have the chance to meet with the objects of their worship, as the True Path is much reviled and often persecuted by the other factions of Footfall and the Expanse.
Disciples of the Dark Gods
Servant of the Ruinous Powers and desperate Chaos Cultists who pray to the Dark Gods are also hidden amongst the faithful on Footfall, often remnants of the past when Renegade vessels sometimes came to Footfall, either openly flaunting their dark allegiances or hiding their true colours. These festering groups and malign cells all have their own despicable agendas and many hold a fierce loathing and murderous spite for Rogue Trader crews, those who hold to the Imperial Creed, and even those who simply do not follow their own dark causes.
Notable Persons of Footfall
- Liege Tanthus Moross - Moross was an ill-tempered, machine-enhanced recidivist until he abruptly murdered the last Liege of Footfall during a confrontation between factions in 808.M41. As Footfall's Liege, Moross has lasted longer than most, perhaps because his horizons are narrow. He has shown little interest in attempting to control the port, and far greater regard for collecting bribes from factions who enjoy this state of affairs. He uses this wealth to purchase concubines from the Tutors and increasingly ornate bionic augmentations. Moross is now almost a vehicle in human form, a strange sight indeed amidst the silks of his audience bedchamber, surrounded by fearful slaves. Suspicious minds wonder what is hidden behind this brute of a figurehead, and whether he is truly as simple as he seems.
- Vladaym Tocara - A senior negotiator for the Kasballica, Tocara dresses severely -- grey bodysuit, small silver Aquila, thin Data-Slate, shaven head -- and never smiles. Attended by armoured Kasballica Enforcers, Tocara is always present at the Liege’s Court to pay his respects to a newly arrived Rogue Trader, his adherence to the forms of tradition precise and efficient. Vladaym Tocara is the gateway to a vast array of illegal services, hidden information, and dangerous goods secreted in caches upon Footfall, but the price is always high. In particular, Tocara seeks greater formal ties between Rogue Traders and his masters, and influence upon the flow of xenos technology and Halo Artefacts into the Cold Trade. He actively seeks out newly arrived Rogue Traders, introducing himself and cautiously exploring their potential interest in less-than-legal enterprises. Tocara can prove to be a very useful individual for Rogue Traders new to the Koronus Expanse. His connections can aid in setting up smuggling routes from Vaporius into the Calixis Sector, and he can aid in selling Eldar artefacts through the Cold Trade, the blackmarket commerce in xenos items proscribed in the Calixis Sector.
- Calcus Calinnicus - Calcus Calinnicus is a vat-muscled thug with a taste for narco-tribe drugs and whose word is considered unbreakable. Calinnicus is the nearest thing the Black Brotherhood have to a leader -- a bully on the surface but possessed of a core of iron. Calinnicus is a murderer fifty times over, a number that would be much higher if he did not prefer to leave his victims crippled but alive, "So the scum can think over their mistakes." He reserves his worst for those who break their word, no matter what the circumstances.
- Attar Soloket - A burnt-out Astropath, Attar Soloket has become a soothsayer and cult leader who has drawn around her a small coven of wyrdlings and madmen with whom she claims to share great secrets of events yet to come to pass. Her nerves damaged by telepathic strain, Soloket obsessively orders every aspect of her life by the dictates of the Emperor's Tarot, refusing to deal with those marked as bearing ill. Soloket dwells in a cramped, candlelit hold of Footfall with her disciples. Despite the strangeness of her claims, many come in secret to the prophetess soothsayer and leave again with answers and the offering plate held in Soloket's hands filled with golden Thrones.
- Preacher Ywane - Preacher Ywane is in fact not a true priest of the Ecclesiarchy but a weak-willed fool, driven by a surfeit of opinions but lacking in the stomach or true conviction to follow them through. Years ago, Ywane went by another name ,and it is said fled from some debt or misfortune and came to Footfall, where he found the Light of the Emperor and ordained himself as a "preacher of the Emperor’s Truth." He has subsequently tried to build himself a position of political and moral authority in Footfall but has so far failed to achieve anything beyond becoming the spineless tool of others. He is also an ally of the Kasballica Mission, a fact that he believes is a complete secret but is in fact widely known across the void-settlement, and he acts as their mouthpiece in the Liege's Court. This cowardly alliance has in no small way kept the false preacher alive through years of foolery and mischance.
- The Provisor - The Provisor is a member of the sinister slaver group known as the Tutors. The Provisor is the intermediary through which most that have dealings with the masters of the Red Schola come to an arrangement. A disturbing figure, the features of the Provisor's face are pushed out of place by the tubing of life-preserving bionics which snake all around his body, swathed in dark grey robes hemmed with deepest red. The Provisor is calculating, scrupulous to a fault in business dealings, and utterly ruthless when the opportunity arises to exploit the oversights of others. More than one potential slave owner has failed to carefully plan his transaction with the Tutors and been enslaved and broken for his carelessness.
- Rogue Trader: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 342-343
- Rogue Trader: Battlefleet Koronus (RPG), pp. 18, 67, 103, 129
- Rogue Trader: Fallen Suns (RPG), pp. 31-39
- Rogue Trader: Hostile Acquisitions (RPG), pp. 18-19
- Rogue Trader: Lure of the Expanse (RPG), pp. 8-32