"Lo, I see that which is beyond. I see the faces of pale moons and the fire of lost stars. I see the void un-walked and the waiting dark. I see the void that is my home and to which I return with hope and fear."
- —reputed words of unknown Rogue Trader departing Port Wander
The Expanse is accessed through the Koronus Passage, a treacherous but navigable route through the great Warp Storms that bar passage to the Halo Stars beyond the way station of Port Wander on the edge of the Expanse.
As is true of the Calixis Sector itself, the Expanse was untouched by the God-Emperor's Great Crusade many millennia ago -- and so it is a realm of fearsome xenos, treasures beyond imagining, heathen worlds of men, and the echoes of ancient doom.
The Koronus Expanse in the late 41st Millennium is a scattered, partly explored region on the frontier of the galaxy containing a few young Imperial colonies and vast natural wealth still barely exploited. Rogue Traders vie with one another for known resources, heedless of lives lost in the pursuit of riches, while a tentative attempt at Imperial colonisation follows in their wake.
Drawn by the flow of wealth, pirates and servants of the Dark Gods have also slipped into the Expanse, eager to cast destruction upon the works of the God-Emperor’s faithful, living by what they wrest from dead hands, while the Expanse itself holds many secrets and native inhabitants no less dangerous.
For centuries, Rogue Traders have braved great evils and the treacherous warp to venture into the Koronus Expanse, but their efforts have barely begun to uncover its secrets. Footholds have been built close to the few semi-stable Warp routes into the area.
Here, resource-rich worlds are exploited, xenos ruins excavated, trade envoys meet with heathen lords, and Imperial colonies are attempted upon sheltered worlds. This effort has been enough to shower wealth and fame upon the fortunate -- and make corpses of the rest. The gateway to the Expanse is littered with broken vessels and tales of the vanished.
Beyond these human conflicts lie truly dark and dangerous voids, rife with rumoured terrors, undiscovered stars, and worlds of men who have never known the light of the God-Emperor. There are no defined Warp-routes, no safe ways through the swirling Empyrean. These regions hold the fearsome Ork, the treacherous Aeldari, and strange ruins that lie beneath the light of dying stars.
The Warpspace of the Koronus Expanse is treacherous and unknown in the main, and the partially explored regions of the Expanse are islands of Imperial activity amidst a vastness of danger and mystery. Navigating is a far cry from traversing the well-established Warp routes of the Calixis Sector.
Most of the Koronus Expanse is known to the Imperium only though legend, revelation, and hearsay. The Rogue Trader who ventures into this unknown risks his very soul upon the talent of his Navigator, and on the quality of what little information he has gleaned from those gone before.
Beyond the partly explored regions of the Koronus Expanse, past deeps beset by pirates and dread xenos, lie many worlds and strange phenomena which exist as the stuff of dark legend. Some of these uncharted stars were visited by a single Rogue Trader whose tales are doubted or dismissed by rivals as outright lies, while others are known only from dubious and apocryphal sources such as Thulean datavaults recovered from Dolorium's voids in 741.M41, or the infamous prophetic visions of the Seven Witches of Footfall.
Other fragments of contradictory lore relating to these dark zones are culled from even more untrustworthy sources, such as the muted astropathic whispers overheard on the Warp's twisted eddies, the falsehoods of the deceitful Eldar, or the ancient myths of heathen worlds given over to darkness for millennia uncounted. Such areas are labelled only as "Here be monsters" on ancient charts, where only the foolhardy or insane would venture to seek their destiny.
"Without the scratching of a tedious scribe’s quill there is no history. Events both great and terrible may pass unmarked and unremembered and so leave us only with scraps of what was. These fragments of memory are what fools call history and the wise call lies."
- —from The Lost Imperial Past by Sejanus Morn, 789.M41
What follows is the chronicle of significant events that mark the selected history of the Koronus Expanse, as it is generally known and agreed upon by scholars within the Imperium, with particular reference to the deeds of the Rogue Traders that have forged it. Within are accounts and records of the exploration of the Koronus Expanse, and the strange and wondrous worlds found beyond the Emperor’s Light. Few, however, who compile the chronicles of the Expanse have ever ventured there, and thus they rely on the accounts of others. The sources used by most scholars are the records kept by Rogue Traders and their associates. Such records are prone to inconsistency, embellishment, or outright falsification, and so claims as to the completeness or accuracy of any chronicle are best treated with suspicion.
Koronus Expanse Timeline
- Great Crusade (Late 30th - Early 31st Millennium) - The Emperor of Mankind's Great Crusade seeks to reunite all of the human-settled colony worlds in the galaxy under the rule of the newborn Imperium of Man.
- Horus Heresy (Early 31st Millennium) - The Warmaster Horus, Primarch of the Sons of Horus Space Marine Legion, is corrupted by Chaos and his own ambition and rebels against his father, the Emperor. He successfully recruits half of the Space Marine Legions, large parts of the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Imperial Army into the service of Chaos and unleashes a 7-year-long galactic civil war that kills billions. Horus is slain by the Emperor at the conclusion of the Battle of Terra. Mortally wounded himself in the confrontation, the Emperor is interred within the Golden Throne. The present Age of the Imperium begins.
- The Age of Apostasy (100-600.M36) - The Imperium is consumed by civil war and apostasy from true faith in the Emperor after the High Lord Goge Vandire seizes control of both the Administratum and the Ecclesiarchy in an attempt to impose his own will upon the Imperium rather than serving the will of the Emperor. He is ultimately brought down by an invasion of Terra known as the Terran Crusade and the Ecclesiarchical Palace led by the Space Marines, the Imperial Guard and his own bodyguards, the Daughters of the Emperor, the predecessors of the Adepta Sororitas. The invasion is spurred on and guided by a militant religious reformer, the priest Sebastian Thor, and his Covenant of Light.
- Haarlock's Progress (Ca. 760.M36) - Solomon Haarlock, scion of an infamous and (according to some) damned Rogue Trader lineage, successfully charts the area of space known as the Calyx Expanse in the Segmentum Obscurus and some say stray beyond the Maw as well.
- The Koronus Fragments (101.M38) - During the preparations for a proposed Imperial Crusade to bring the volume of space known as the Calyx Expanse into Imperial Compliance, a number of apocryphal documents come to light in the vast data-stacks that house the Segmentum Obscuras naval records on Wykthorne Prime. These documents, which become known as the Koronus Fragments, are the degraded and incomplete logs of an Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator fleet of unknown age and provenance that purports to have discovered a stable passage through a vast swathe of Warp Storms at the edge of the Calyx Expanse. The few complete sections mark dozens of mineral-rich worlds, life-supporting biospheres and other areas for later exploration, which presumably never occurred. Also missing from the fragments was any concrete data on how to reach this zone, rendering them effectively useless. Nevertheless, the Koronus Fragments were added as addendum to the Angevin Crusade data, and later served to breed the legend of a vast untouched spatial zone littered with (oft-overstated) riches just beyond the reach of the numerous Rogue Trader vessels attached to the Crusade efforts.
- Angevin Crusade (322-384.M39) - The Angevin Crusade forges the Calixis Sector from the former border region of the Calyx Expanse, with great effusion of blood and the loss of many millions of lives. Several minor xeno-empires are crushed, dark powers cast down and lost human colonies either restored to the Light of the Golden Throne or purged from the stars, according to their measure.
- The Cauldron of Savagery Enters the Calixis Sector (589-591.M39) - The Space Hulk designated Cauldron of Savagery appears on the fringes of the Drusus Marches Sub-sector of the Calixis Sector, purportedly exiting the Great Warp Storms on their edge unscathed and marauding through several border systems before seeming to disappear again from whence it came. Imperial Navy warships assigned to shadow and harry the Space Hulk are lost with all hands near the storm border. Later evidence and deduction seems to indicate that its point of origin was the Koronus Expanse.
- Abenicus’ Theorem and the Mistaken Age (878.M39) - Studying ancient pre-Angevin Crusade reports, prophetic murmurings culled from dubious texts and the visions granted him by his own fickle gifts, the Mad Navigator Abenicus of House Benetek spreads his theory that there exists a safe passage through the veil of Warp Storms that crowd the edges of the Drusus Marches and form a "natural" border to the Calixis Sector. Despite the Navigator’s evident insanity, his proofs and arguments are convincing and spark something of a "gold rush" of Rogue Traders and other ne’er-do-wells attempting to discover the route to his "safe passage", drawn on by the lure of untold riches and manifest power in the years to come. Many die, few return, and others meet only bloodshed and poverty in exchange for their efforts in what becomes known in local parlance as "The Mistaken Age," but in doing so lay the groundwork for the various Stations of Passage dotting the extreme border of the Drusus Marches extending into the storm zone.
- Return of the Cauldron of Savagery (673.M40) - The Cauldron of Savagery returns to blight the Drusus Marches, breaking forth from the Great Warp Storms during a period of unprecedented Ætheric turbulence which disrupts communication and passage within the sub-sector. A loose alliance of Rogue Trader vessels under the leadership of the infamous privateer Esme Chorda and a threadbare contingent of the Imperial Navy's Battlefleet Calixis defenders confront the dread wanderer. The Space Hulk is bombarded and successfully driven into the primary star of the Pellucidan System before its nightmarish inhabitants can ravage Pellucida’s worlds. The Pellucian sun is said to be scarred for nearly three decades afterwards, vivid greenish stains burning upon its harsh white surface. The Rogue Trader line of Chorda is gifted freedom of the sub-sector in addition to its usual Warrant of Trade. Although repealed a century later for malfeasance, this benefice cements them as one of the most powerful Rogue Trader Houses operating out of the Calixis Sector.
- Founding of Port Wander (917-924.M40) - Port Wander is founded by the Imperial Navy in the Rubycon II System: A large and heavily-armed space station designated Port Wander is built and equipped as a staging ground to investigate the loss of many vessels and other incidents on the fringes of the Drusus Marches over the course of the preceding centuries. Using Port Wander as a base, Battle Group Trajan is assigned to carry out deep patrols beyond the bounds of the sub-sector. Nothing concrete is found and Navy starships are quickly removed to other duties owing to unrest in the sector core, leaving the station for the moment as little more than an oversized watchpost, heavily dependent on Rogue Trader traffic for its survival and protection.
- The Discovery of the Maw (997.M40) - Rogue Trader Purity Lathimon succeeds where dozens of other Rogue Traders have failed and perished, discovering and plotting safe passage through what she dubs "the Maw" to the Koronus Expanse beyond. Fated and cursed in equal measure in some quarters, Purity Lathimon’s crew returns largely too insane or troubled in mind to travel the void again, and she barters her knowledge for vast wealth with the other Rogue Traders posed to exploit her discovery. Purity herself is said to have disappeared back within the Imperium after imparting her secrets to those who would follow her. According to some apocryphal stories she is said to have purchased her own paradise world outright and in others to have met a far darker fate.
- Disappearance of the Sceptre'd Rose (999.M40) - The Sceptre’d Rose, a Rogue Trader barque under the command of the Lady Juno Dach’man and one of the first vessels to traverse the new route through the Maw, disappears in transit. The voidship enters Koronus lore as perhaps the Expanse’s first ghost ship but is far from its last. The vessel is sighted on scores of occasions in the centuries to follow, both visually and as an "auspex phantom," and is generally regarded as an ill-omened sight at the start of a voyage, and a good omen if sighted upon returning to port.
- Calixian Warrants of Trade Granted for Koronus Expanse (055.M41) - The Lord Sector Calixis and his heirs and successors are granted the right, within set guidelines, to issue Warrants of Trade pertaining to the exploration, exploitation and domination of the Koronus Expanse by the writ of the High Lords of Terra. This leads inevitably to a steady rise in the number of Rogue Traders operating within the Expanse in the years to come, kept largely in check by natural attrition, and also serves to further bind the frontier of the Koronus Expanse to the Calixis Sector politically.
- Kobras Aquairre enters the Koronus Expanse (101.M41) - Kobras Aquairre passes through the Maw. Aquairre, a terrifying and merciless figure with a well-deserved reputation as a butcher of worlds, holds the nearly-unique position of possessing both a Greater Warrant of Trade as a Rogue Trader and full Inquisitorial rank -- a position of extraordinary power within the Imperium of Man. He will never again return to the Imperium and passes far into the depths of the Expanse at the head of a mighty fleet, tasked with rooting out those who have fled the God-Emperor’s judgment and making war upon the xenos. His reports couriered back to Port Wander go to form the basis of much of what is known by the Imperium about the Koronus Expanse to this day, but it is believed that Aquairre reported far less than what he found to his masters. Even to this day, dead and ravaged worlds marked by his banner are still being rediscovered.
- The Gothic War (143-160.M41) - The Gothic War, also called the 12th Black Crusade, was a vast military campaign against the Imperium of Man launched by the Warmaster of Chaos Undivided Abaddon the Despoiler of the Black Legion in 139.M41 which lasted until 160.M41. Abaddon managed the rare feat of uniting the disparate forces of the Ruinous Powers under the banner of Chaos Undivided and led his Chaos Space Marines and the rest of the Forces of Chaos from the Eye of Terror into realspace where they engulfed the strategically important Gothic Sector of the Imperium of Man in war. The conflict consisted of hundreds of planetary invasions and naval battles and only ended when Abaddon was forced to retreat to the Immaterium with the arrival of Imperial reinforcements. It saw the destruction of several planets and four of the six known Blackstone Fortresses, as well as the deaths of billions of Imperial citizens.
- First Eldar Raid in the Koronus Expanse (152.M41) - The Rogue Trader fleet of Synbar Lockhart is ambushed by the treacherous Eldar in orbit of the Dead World of Foulstone. The first confirmed contact with the ancient and malign xenos within the Koronus Expanse, the Eldar assailants are later identified as belonging to the Eldar Corsairs faction known as "The Crow Spirits." A dozen human voidships of varying sizes are destroyed in the ambush, and only the Menes Rhea, Synbar’s own Cruiser, escapes intact. The Lockhart fortunes never fully recovered from this blow, and that Rogue Trader line maintains a bitter hatred of the Eldar to this day.
- Death of Kobras Aquairre (151.M41) - The death of Kobras Aquairre is proclaimed in Port Wander after more than a decade without a report from his armada, to the rejoicing of some and the lamentation of others. Some claim his ships lost with all hands to a fleet of pale-hulled xenos craft, while others say he was the victim of assassination from within his own ranks. Yet others claim that his fleet was laid to waste by an unexpected Warp Storm, but no facts or proof are presented. In the wake of this news, many other Rogue Traders are drawn through the Maw to seek their fortune.
- Disappearance of Lo Pan (161.M41) - The final garbled transmission from Rogue Trader Abner Lo Pan’s Cruiser is picked up faintly by astropathic relay at Port Wander. The transmission, although badly degraded and incoherent speaks of the vessel ensnared within the tightening coils of a great serpent of blood and glass. No sign of Lo Pan or his starship are ever found.
- Veronique Renuka Declared Outlaw (179.M41) - Veronique Renuka is declared an outlaw for her involvement in an attempted coup on the Calixian Hive World of Cyclopia. She flees into the region of the Koronus Expanse now referred to as the Unbeholden Reaches with a substantial fortune and a cadre of household troops.
- Formation of Winterscale's Realm (188-274.M41) - Sebastian Winterscale, a cunning and able Rogue Trader rumoured to be the unwanted son of the ruling families of the distant Ophidian Sector, is granted a fresh Warrant of Trade and begins to systematically establish and dominate an interstellar realm that bears his name to this day in the Koronus Expanse. Although still only partially explored, by any measure Winterscale’s Realm remains one of the most well-traversed and well-established within the area of the Expanse, and a prize to be envied and perhaps desired as a target for conquest by many.
- Elementis Vulpa Returns to Port Wander (201.M41) - Kobras Aquairre vanishes into the Rifts of Hecaton, a fact attested to by the last ship of his fleet, the Frigate Elementis Vulpa, which returns to Port Wander later in this year. This small and already damaged vessel turned back on his order when the remainder of the fleet plunged into the depths of the rifts, with the expectation that they would meet their deaths within. Rumours in Port Wander begin to circulate of dead suns and lifeless darkness in the rifts, and that Aquairre sacrificed himself and his fleet willingly to prevent some terrifying threat they discovered to all human life. The Elementis Vulpa and her crew subsequently disappear, some say into the grip of the Ordo Xenos.
- Fenton Kail Claims Discovery of STC Database in the Koronus Expanse (388.M41) - Fenton Kail declares that he has discovered an intact Standard Template Construct database on a dead moon circling twin red stars when he puts into dock at Port Wander, seeking backers and stating his intent to re-equip and hire mercenaries to exploit his find. A few days later, he is assassinated before he can mount his expedition and his "secret" dies with him. His starship, the Malcontent, passes to the hands of his first mate by right of succession and is destroyed a few months later through the seemingly-accidental overloading of its plasma reactors. There are no known survivors of the ship, and Kail’s death ends his direct bloodline. The dead moon supposedly harbouring the STC described by Kail has never been discovered by other hands, although faked copies of "Kail’s Map" regularly appear on sale to the gullible in several ports.
- The Macharian Crusade (392-399.M41) - The Macharian Crusade was a monumental, seven-year-long Imperial Crusade fought between 392.M41 and 399.M41, led by Lord Commander Solar Macharius, the Imperium's greatest Imperial Guard commander of all time and a recognised tactical and strategic genius on a par with the Primarchs themselves. This Crusade took place on the far western edge of the galaxy within the Segmentum Pacificus, reaching as far as the border of the galaxy with intergalactic space and even reaching into the unknown regions of the Halo Zone. The furthest extent of this Crusade reached just beyond the edge of the Segementum Pacificus, where not even the blessed light of the Astronomican could penetrate the dark void. Most Imperial savants agree that Macharius was the most successful and brilliant Imperial Warmaster since the Arch-Traitor Horus. Nearly a thousand worlds were brought back into the Imperial fold in only seven standard years of fighting, yet upon his death the newly-won territories erupted into the civil war known as the Macharian Heresy as Macharius' various generals vied for control, fighting over the spoils as degenerate warlords.
- The Year of the Dreaming Depths (397.M41) - Quickly entering into whispered myth and legend among the voidfarers of the Koronus Expanse, in this year Warp predations dramatically spike. A disproportionate number of vessels suffer incursions by Warp entities during transit, and many ships -- such as the ancient and justly famous Battleship Duchess Iolanthe, long a cornerstone of the Winterscale fleet -- are lost to the malice of the Warp. Rogue psyker activity on several worlds where there are those with the wit to know it for what it is increases and the entire fledging colony of Comenina on the edge of the Foundling Worlds dies in a single night.
- Rogue Trader Parsimus Dewain founds Footfall (410.M41) - Possibly in search of a world on which to build a palace city, former Imperial Guard Colonel turned Rogue Trader Parsimus Dewain passes through the Maw with a small fleet of starships laden with stone, plasteel and iron. Becalmed on the far side of the Maw he orders the construction of "my grand palace in the stars." It is believed that some of his followers who question the sanity of such an order are put to death, sealed alive within the walls of the rapidly expanding void settlement of Footfall.
- WAAAGH! Gulgrog Assaults Port Wander (422.M41) - The Ork WAAAGH! Gulgrog erupts from the depths of the Koronus Expanse and smashes through the Maw, laying siege to Port Wander with a fleet composed of hundreds of Kill Kroozers and crude Roks. Many Rogue Traders simply stay out of the massive fleet’s way rather than be crushed by its vast numbers, while others demand exorbitant fees for coming to Port Wander’s aid. The siege is finally lifted with a massive counterattack by Battlefleet Calixis and the Adeptus Mechanicus.
- Balastus Irem Assassinated (443.M41) - Balastus Irem and all his family are put to death by a cell of Inquisitors of the Ordos Xenos Calixis. The use of shapechanging murder teams by the Ordo and the horde of xenos artefacts possessed by the Rogue Trader become the stuff of whispered tales between explorers and voidfarers, and former allies and servants of House Irem quickly find sanctuary and new identities in the services of certain other unscrupulous Rogue Traders.
- First War for Armageddon (444.M41) - The First War for Armageddon is the least well known of the three wars fought by the Imperium in defence of the Hive World of Armageddon in the Segmentum Solar, and was a titanic clash between the Forces of Chaos and the defenders of the Imperium of Man. It represented the culmination of years of preparation by the former Primarch and Daemon Prince Angron, the favoured Champion of Khorne, to unify his World Eaters after the Battle of Skalathrax had led the XII Legion to break up into scattered warbands. Angron sought to recreate a coherent force of Chaos Space Marines capable of invading deep into the Imperium once more just as they had done during the Horus Heresy. In the end, it was Angron's own foolish belief in his victory before completing a total conquest of the world that led to the failure of the campaign and his banishment to the Warp for one hundred Terran years. The First War for Armageddon represents a textbook example of how the Forces of Chaos can slowly infiltrate an Imperial population to eventually bring about a full-scale invasion from the Warp.
- Death of Parsimus Dewain (498.M41) - Parsimus Dewain dies in his bed of natural causes, truly a remarkable feat given the quantity and quality of his enemies. Footfall immediately becomes submerged in a struggle for political and economic control of what has become a wealthy waystation and island of relative stability for Imperial explorers passing into the Koronus Expanse.
- The Reign of Blades (499-500.M41) - Footfall comes under the brutal tyranny of Tarn Marvolus; a recidivist who had fled the Calixis Sector. Marvolus rose to be the Liege of Footfall through a campaign of assassination and the use of dark sorcery. Any who questioned the word of the soft-spoken Marvolus was later found sliced into quarters -- one in each of the four most distant points of Footfall. This Reign of Blades lasts for over a standard year, owing mostly to the indifference of passing Rogue Traders, who little care who rules Footfall as long as it serves their needs, and the brutal alliance of criminals, witches and narco-tribesmen that Marvolus commanded. The Reign of Blades is finally ended when Marvolous, grown too bold and arrogant, demands that Rogue Trader Cassilus pay him personal tribute for docking. Cassilus replied that she would “pay a tribute of the kind she only paid to the greatest kings of untamed worlds”: The four quarters of Marvolous’ body were later found in the four farthest points of Footfall.
- Increase in Void Kraken Attacks (499-503.M41) - Vessels exploring the fringes of the Hecaton Rifts report sightings and indeed attacks by Void Kraken in alarming numbers.
- Space Marines in the Koronus Expanse (517.M41) - Two Adeptus Astartes Strike Cruisers and several Escort ships of unknown Chapter and origin and sporting no heraldry appear over Footfall demanding tribute in supplies andinformation on pain of planetary assault if their demands are not met. The Liege promptly and wisely acquiesces to their requests and the Space Marines depart again to an unknown destination.
- Battle of Embers (520.M41) - The Rogue Traders Aton Marner and Cassius Sult clash over the exploitation of a mineral-rich asteroid belt near Falcon’s Fall Gamma, in what becomes widely known as the Battle of Embers, sparking a blood feud between them that carries on to this day.
- Disciples of Thule Enter the Kornus Expanse (528.M41) - An Explorator sub-fleet under Magos Solus Kanceme enters the Koronus Expanse and scatters far and wide, spurning xenos worlds in search of pre-Imperial artefacts sacred to the Omnissiah. Little is known of Kanceme’s final fate, but his fleet’s arrival marks the first major mission of the Mechanicus sub-cult called the Disciples of Thule into the area.
- First Recorded Appearance of the Whisper of Anaris (540.M41) - Travelling from the far reaches of Winterscale’s Realm, Rogue Trader Elbor Winterscale reports being stalked by a "ghostly xenos ship with tattered sails." Though unknown to Elbor and his crew, it is believed this is the first recorded appearance of the Eldar phantom ship Whisper of Anaris.
- Cara Marner Succeeds to the Marner Lineage (577.M41) - The feud between Rogue Traders Marner and Sult worsens when Aton Marner is killed on the deck of his voidship in battle, following a daring ambush by a warship under Hyperia Sult’s command. This sparks a crisis of succession in the Marner line, which is ultimately resolved when the Marner Warrant of Trade passes to his granddaughter Cara Marner on distant Fenksworld, who is acclaimed Rogue Trader never having set foot aboard a starship before.
- Prophecy of Gartrafal (633.M41) - Master Gartrafal, an Astropath noted for his abilities as a prognostic, famously dies in Footfall in a fit of screaming madness, babbling of “dark worms beneath a green-eyed star,” the “sea of molten gold,” and other half-formed and paradoxical terrors. A heavily adulterated transcript of his last words makes the rounds as a penthrift dreadful foretelling doom for the entire Koronus Expanse, and is quickly suppressed by the Imperial authorities on Port Wander, although its distributors remain a mystery. Numerous sources have supposed the “green-eyed star” to be a reference to the blighted world of Concanid in the Unbeholden Reaches.
- The Haarlock Purges (703.M41) - Erasmus Haarlock vanishes after systematically butchering all other scions of his line in a brutal purge following a succession war between the heirs of House Haarlock. Ranging from the Calixis Sector to dread Mandragora and beyond, Haarlock’s purge also touches the Koronus Expanse, where he hunts down three of his kinfolk and destroys two other Rogue Traders who dare stand in his way.
- The Lost Paradise (711.M41) - In 711.M41, tales begin to circulate, in both Footfall and Port Wander, that deep within Winterscale’s Realm lies a clutch of beautiful worlds hidden for millennia. These worlds are said to all orbit a single bright star and each is said to be an untouched paradise of lush vegetation where the air is sweet and great grazing creatures roam in contented docility. Some tales insist that the water itself is blessed and can rinse away any disease and gems the size of a child’s fist wash down from the rocks of snow-capped mountains. All tales agree that no one has ever found these wondrous worlds and returned.
- Midnight's lair Sighted (713.M41) - A previously unseen Space Hulk, designated Midnight’s Lair, is sighted by Explorator voidships surveying the Unbeholden Reaches.
- Ember Nostromo begins Her Reign of Terror (717.M41) - Ember Nostromo, Navigator and refugee from the brutal Haarlock Purges, betrays her new master, the outlaw captain Buros Han, and takes command of his vessel, a pre-Angevin Crusade relic named the Monarch of Whispers. Turning pirate and gathering to herself a coterie of Warp-witches and killers from the hated Saynay Clan, the Monarch becomes one of the most hated and hunted ships in the Koronus Expanse, a prize bounty of enormous price placed on her head by the Navis Nobilite for her treacherous perfidy against the Emperor and damage to their good reputation.
- Death of Roodmar Urussalin (718.M41) - The Rogue Trader Roodmar Urussalin is reported slain by Orks by the survivors of his fleet’s expedition beyond the Cauldron, but reports of his fleet’s passage stir up Rogue Traders, who flock to the area to do battle with the growing Greenskin menace.
- Discovery of the Dolorium Vaults (741.M41) - The Disciples of Thule discover data-vaults from a Space Hulk drifting through the void above the Feral World of Dolorium. The Dolorium Vaults reveal details of the unexplored regions of the Koronus Expanse that begin a rush of voyages into its far reaches. Many Imperial explorers disappear and much of the data proves inaccurate, or to have been rendered so by the passage of time. Whispers circulate that the Disciples of Thule have deliberately corrupted the information. Some go so far as to assert that they have kept some fragments secret from those outside their order.
- Damocles Gulf Crusade (742.M41) - The Damocles Gulf Crusade was the first military conflict fought between the Imperium of Man and the rapidly expanding Tau Empire in the Lithesh Sector of the Ultima Segmentum in the galaxy's Eastern Fringes during the late 41st Millennium. The conflict essentially ended in a stalemate, as the Imperium was forced to conclude its military offensive early to deal with the encroaching Tyranid threat while the Tau sought to begin diplomatic negotiations with the Imperium to show humanity the benefits to be had by accepting the Greater Good.
- Battle of Agusia (742.M41) - In one of the largest naval battles of recent times in the Koronus Expanse, a combined fleet composed of starships from more than a dozen Rogue Trader houses including Winterscale, Sult, Helfire, Lo Pan, Lockhart and Marner give battle to the archeo-pirates and Renegades of the Amerat Union and their savage allies, the Cabal of the Bloody Libation. The vile pirates are betrayed by one of their own and ambushed in the star system of the Cemetery World of Agusia where the Union’s Heretek Jagerdamen hoped to uncover an artefact of unholy power. Losses are heavy on both sides after a fifteen hour space battle, and reports of a black-iron coloured vessel sporting the livery of House Aquairre assisting the Rogue Trader fleet during the worst fighting are later dismissed by all the surviving captains as “mere fantasy.” The Amerat are wiped out during the battle and their void station-sized mothership breaks up while attempting to flee into the Warp, while their Eldar Corsair allies are likewise badly mauled in the engagement and scatter into the void.
- First Tyrannic War Begins (745.M41) - Hive Fleet Behemoth, the first Tyranid Hive Fleet ever encountered by the Imperium of Man, is defeated at the Battle of Macragge by the sacrifice of the Ultramarines Chapter and most of the Imperial Navy's Battlefleet Ultima. This represents only the first of the many Tyranid incursions into Imperial space to come.
- Discovery of the Processional of the Damned (746.M41) - Following a vision by one of his numerous flock of zealots and holy mystics, the Rogue Trader Wrath Umboldt discovers the Processional of the Damned. From this moment on the pious man believes himself to have passed beyond the grace of the Emperor.
- Ravana's Bloody-Handed Cogs Enter the Koronus Expanse (747.M41) - A small but powerful force of Sollexian Adeptus Mechanicus Explorators from Haddrack in the Calixis Sector, having splintered from their fellows on doctrinal grounds, and led by Archmagos Ravana, enter the Koronus Expanse. They quickly prove their willingness to fire on and do battle with Rogue Traders and clash with other Explorators under the direction of Magos Kanceme and anybody else who would stand between them and their goals, but remain uncensored by Cult Mechanicus overlords. This earns them the mocking nickname “Ravana’s Bloody-Handed Cogs” for the crimson and gold Opus Machina graven on the hulls of their vessels, placing them in the popular imagination of the Koronus Voidborn as little more than sanctioned pirates, a reputation which has lasted to the present.
- The Ragwitch Mystery (751.M41) - The merchantman Malfian Princess arrives at the void settlement of Footfall in the Koronus Expanse three months overdue and with every soul aboard, some ten thousand crew and passengers, dead -- nothing left of them but dust and brittle bones aged as if millennia had passed and her plasma reactors nearly cold. The word "ragwitch" scraped in the thick dust of the arm of the captain’s chair remains the only clue as to what fate befell the vessel.
- The Harvest of Reavers (754-761.M41) - The Rogue Trader Aspyce Chorda begins her campaign against the Chaos pirates of Iniquity in the Koronus Expanse. At first all those captured by her are crudely lobotomized and sent as slave-serfs to Chorda’s various domains. After a series of massacres and the corruption of a number of her holdings the practice is discontinued in favour of immolation of the captured Heretics. Chorda’s campaign ends when debts and oaths to the Calixian banking House Krin draw her back to the void settlement of Footfall to protect their interests.
- Start of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade (755.M41) - The Sabbat Worlds Crusade was an Imperial Crusade fought over the course of more than 23 standard years between 755.M41 and 778.M41 to retake the Sabbat Worlds Sector located at the rimward edge of the Segmentum Pacificus from the heretical Forces of Chaos. This Crusade was one of the largest and most significant Imperial military operations undertaken in recent history and ultimately ended in the reconquest of the sector by the armed forces of the Imperium of Man.
- The Claimant Wars (785.M41) - A short, destructive conflict erupts between the forces of the Rogue Traders Calligos Winterscale and Aspyce Chorda on Lucin’s Breath. The matter is unexpectedly settled with the signing of the Nephium Compact that divides Lucin’s Breath between Winterscale and Chorda interests.
- Stryxis Establish Presence in the God-Emperor's Scourge (789.M41) - The Stryxis, covetous and untrustworthy xenos traders, already known as rarely-encountered wanderers in the Koronus Expanse, establish a permanent (if shifting) presence in the asteroid belts and lifeless systemson the trailing edge of the Warp Storm anomaly called the God-Emperor’s Scourge. Known among Renegades as the "rust palace" the Stryxis that trade there will strike any kind of deal and deal in anything, and only Eldar are unwelcome on pain of death.
- Midnight's Lair Assaults the 'Undred-'Undred Teef (789.M41) - The Space Hulk Midnight’s Lair is sighted in battle with Ork raiders near the Greenskin-controlled star systems in the Koronus Expanse known as the ‘Undred, ‘Undred Teef by the blockade runner White Sabre. The Orks appear to be faring worse in the engagement.
- Karrad Vall Enters the Koronus Expanse (794.M41) - The barbed vessels of the Chaos Renegade Karrad Vall emerge from the Maw and bombard the void settlement of Footfall. The Renegades are finally driven off by the fleet of the Rogue Trader Calligos Winterscale, but not before their boarding parties and surface raiders capture hundreds of souls. Their fate is to said to provide a libation of blood to the Dark Gods in thanks for safe passage through the Great Warp Storms for the infamous Vall, said to have last plagued the Imperium a millennium before.
- The Astral Knives Enter the Koronus Expanse (795.M41) - A congregation of the Astral Knives comes to the void settlement of Footfall in the wake of their persecution by the Inquisition in the Calixis Sector. As well as serving at times as killers for hire, the Astral Knives’ see themselves as true servants of the God-Emperor whose creed 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 its coming to Footfall, the cult has quietly flourished, and has gained a shadowy reputation as a faction both dangerous and powerful.
- The Loss of the Gaunt triumph (796.M41) - The Grand Cruiser Gaunt Triumph is found drifting around a nameless world in the Unbeholden Reaches of the Koronus Expanse. The few survivors onboard the wreck speak of a vast and pale structure drifting through the void like the carcass of a creature picked clean by eyeless things in the depths of lightless water. They whimper of the glow of the thing’s deathly light and the voices of the dead wailing in your mind like the scratching of talons on the inside of a coffin lid. Some claim to have set foot within the thing, and tell of “echoes that sing” and “silver trees that weep blood.”
- Da Wurldbreaka Strikes (800.M41) - A flotilla of Mechanicus Explorator vessels charting the Accursed Demesne are set upon by the dreaded Ork Kaptin Morgaash Kulgraz and his vessel, Da Wurldbreaka. Though much of the ships are destroyed, an unlucky few are scattered amongst the Demense to be hunted by Ork Freebooterz.
- Death of Amphian Deed (803.M41) - Covert forces of the Ordo Xenos operating in the Koronus Expanse reveal themselves in force and burn the Rogue Trader Amphian Deed and his coterie for his role in the Halo of Darkness cult. Afterward rumours persist that scions of Deed yet remain unfound, and many who previously believed themselves to have been beyond the Imperium’s reach sleep less soundly than before. Much of Deed’s vast fortune in precious crystals and xenos-tech is thought to have been hidden somewhere in a secret cache near the Unbeholden Reaches, sparking a perilous scavenger hunt in the dangerous stars of the area by many lesser Rogue Traders willing to venture their luck.
- Karrad Vall Finds a New Home in the Koronus Expanse (805.M41) - Rumours begin to circulate that the Warp-worshiper Karrad Vall has founded a world somewhere Spinward of the Cauldron devoted to the dark powers he serves, and that he is willing to pay in savage arms and occult lore for any that will bring him a bounty in human lives to build his new kingdom of slaughter. Many pious Rogue Traders swear to discover this nameless world and burn it to cinders, while Vall becomes the chosen target of sermons by Ecclesiarchy Preachers throughout the Koronus Expanse.
- Tanthus Moross Becomes Liege of Footfall (808.M41) - Tanthus Moross succeeds to the throne of the Liege of the void settlement of Footfall in the Koronus Expanse by right of murder, and quickly proves a highly effective and diligently ruthless leader to wide public acclaim.
- Murder of Justinian Krin (808.M41) - Justinian Krin, leader of a powerful merchant’s factor of the Calixian banking House Krin operating out of Port Wander in the Koronus Expanse and a man with many enemies, is brutally and publicly slain by what onlookers describe as a “shining phantom” while attending a grand feast, his body swiftly dissolving to toxic slime after the attack. House Krin offers a standing reward of a great sum in Thrones or a fully outfitted Warp-capable Frigate to the party who can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt who is responsible for the attack.
- Reef Stars Crusade Begins (811.M41)
- Rak'Gol Marauders Appear in the Koronus Expanse (811.M41) - The merchant brig Daughter of Regals and her Escorts are lost with all hands to the xenos known as the Rak’Gol Marauders running between Port Wander and Lucien’s Breath. The alien race, known only in scattered reports over the previous decade, are seen by some as a growing threat to human domination of the Koronus Expanse. This attack, the latest in a string of escalating incidents, prompts large bounties to be posted on their vessels and knowledge of their origin by the rulers of Lucin’s Breath, fronting a cabal of other "interested parties" who would see the hostile species exterminated from the stars.
- The Strangling (813.M41) - The Great Warp Storms on the edge of the Calixis Sector swell and the Maw snaps shut for the first time in centuries. No starships can pass into the Koronus Expanse from the Calixis Sector and the void settlement of Footfall in particular finds itself starved of the wealth and vital supplies that come with the voidships of passing explorers. Hardship and starvation grip Footfall more strongly with every passing day. Those that are able flee the slowly dying settlement and those that remain turn on one another in bloody civil war, and many old alliances are shattered and new vendettas birthed. Footfall is saved by a sudden easing of the Warp Storms near the turning of the year that allow spacecraft to pass through the Maw once more, but the world’s population has been reduced by a full quarter in the intervening time.
- Sighting of the Rift Hydra (815.M41) - The Rogue Trader Relza Calzus claims to have sighted the Rift Hydra in the void of the Rune System. Few believe his claims, and instead remark that the Beggar Captain has never so much as ventured beyond the void around Footfall.
- Midnight's Lair Sighted Near the Heathen Stars (816.M41) - The Space Hulk Midnight’s Lair is sighted in the vicinity of the Heathen Stars. Several vessels also soon disappear in the area, and astropathic communication near the Heathen Stars becomes almost impossible.
- An Age of Opportunity (816.M41) - A new generation of Rogue Traders and their retinues of explorers begins to move into the Koronus Expanse. They enter the little-known region in search of new opportunities for wealth, commerce and Imperial colonisation. Little do they know of the hidden dangers that lie within the Expanse, and the threat they present to the Calixis Sector and the broader Imperium of Man...
Great Warp Storms of the Halo Stars
"Calixian history is littered with footnotes describing the lost and the dead who braved the Great Warp Storms beyond the worlds of Saint Drusus."
- —from The Voids, scribed by Tarsimus of Archaos
On the rimward margins of the Calixis Sector boil vast Warp Storms that have since ancient times barred passage into the Halo Stars. This barrier of raging tempests has claimed the lives of many who would dare to find new passage to the unexplored expanses. They ebb and flow with a ferocity and maliciousness that can lure even the most seasoned navigator to destruction in a sudden rending surge. Though these Warp Storms are referred to as a group, they are in fact an amalgamation of individual Warp Storms that clash, overlap, and occasionally consume one another. Passage through this mass of tempests is almost impossible outside a few stable routes that run through the storms like narrow threads of calm. Some storms have persisted for long enough that they have acquired names of infamy amongst those who travel and navigate the Sea of Souls. Of these, the most famous are the Void Dancer’s Roil and the Screaming Vortex, which bracket the stable passages known as the Maw like daemon sentinels at the gates to a waiting hell.
The Void Dancers' Roil is a mass of subtly sliding drifts and beguiling currents in the Warp that can lead the most seasoned Navigator astray and carve apart the hulls of starships that dare their tides. It is said that ghost-ships have been sighted drifting amongst the Void Dancer's Roil, their hulls as pale as carved stone.
The Screaming Vortex is a boiling mass of Warp turbulence and vortices that clash and grind against one another with unceasing fury and power, giving rise to a constant psychic wail that can be perceived by those sensitive to the flow of the Warp. It is this dread wail that gives the Warp Storm its name. The character of the Screaming Vortex is that of a raging beast whose teeth clash and gnaw in a neverending search of food, and it is said by the void born that it has claimed entire fleets to satiate its endless hunger.
Nesting within or beside the Screaming Vortex and the Void Dancer's Roil are other lesser Warp Storms whose nature is permanent and distinct enough that they have acquired their own infamy and doom-laden titles. Some Navigators who have strayed within or to the edge of the great storms whisper of the Deathveil as a strange cascade of unnatural beauty that will draw the mind of the unwary to within its soft and silent embrace never to return. Old voyagers into the Halo Margins of the Calixis Sector exchange strange stories of the pocket of stillness within the fury that they name the Whispering Storm, where the fingers of the dead caress the hull and forgotten voices whisper inside the minds of the living in voices of crackling static. These strange storms within the Warp, and many others beside, all whirl and dance together and so create a wall within the Sea of Souls that cannot be crossed except by a rare few stable Warp routes. The greatest and most easily navigated of these is the Koronus Passage, or “the Maw” as it is more often called, which passes through the Great Warp Storms and into the dark unknown of the Koronus Expanse.
"A stinking, painted harlot who would see your blood flowing for a few coins, that she may be, but who cannot say that they love the light that is known waiting for the traveller returned from the void."
- —Rogue Trader Cortin Blaine, captain of the Astra Veritas
Port Wander is a void station on the uttermost edge of the Drusus Marches Sub-sector of the Calixis Sector, rightly regarded as the last bastion of the rule of the Emperor this side of the Koronus Expanse. A place of desperate hopes and vain dreams; Port Wander teems with a transitory population of traders, spies, merchant factors, pilgrims, and missionaries amongst which move Adeptus Administratum functionaries and minions of the Adeptus Mechanicus, all feeding on the riches that flow from the realms beyond the Warp Storms in the Koronus Expanse. All who travel into the Koronus Expanse share one common experience in that they pass Port Wander. Be they the pious bringing the Emperor’s Light into the darkness beyond the Imperium or black-hearted monsters searching for the keys to forbidden dreams, many will stop in the last place where the rule of the Golden Throne keeps the horror and possibility of the unknown at bay.
Port Wander was founded by the Imperial Navy in 917.M40 as a staging ground to investigate the loss of many vessels on the fringes of the Drusus Marches. With the discovery of the Koronus Passage in the late 40th Millennium, the space station grew in importance owing to its close proximity to the Passage. Its original role as a base for military operations was slowly forgotten, and Port Wander became a way station for those daring passage into the Koronus Expanse. Merchants and mercenaries began to choke the once- deserted corridors of the station, and strangers shook the dust of distant stars from their boots while trading wondrous things from beyond the Great Warp Storms.
Rubycon II System
Rubycon II is the star system that is home to Port Wander in the Drusus Marches. It is centered on a a bloated red star that is nearly a thousand times larger than Blessed Sol and burns a deep crimson. It is a dead system of two large gas giants whose pale surfaces flow with great typhoons that spread and die like bruises on flesh. These two planets are named the Ruby Brothers, and between the two worlds lies a wide and dense field of asteroids that may be the remains of a lesser sibling planet whose death occurred long ago. This broken string of asteroids is a common hiding place for those wishing to avoid Imperial notice, and has become a meeting place for agencies of ill repute who would still chance the Koronus Passage to the Expanse. Beyond the orbit of these two bloated twin planets is Port Wander itself, set amongst a clutch of asteroids, many of which have been converted into other installations, ship yards, housing units, research stations, repair docks, and storage facilities. Surrounded by vessels of all shapes and sizes, it glows with the lights of hundreds of beacons and tens of thousands of souls. Beyond this island of life are the comets, untold hundreds of thousands of chunks of ice and carbonaceous soot, each a glittering mote in the heavens. Finally there is the true void, still and serene except for the silent roar of mighty plasma drives as voidships pass in flight or in hope.
Structure of Port Wander
From a distance, the port resembles a small Imperial cityscape, with spires and cathedral towers arching upwards and a huge Aquila marking its allegiance to the God-Emperor. Numerous long piers protrude from the sides with spider-like docking fixtures, ready to bring in a voidship and anchor it to the station. Smaller shuttle bays dot the station where numerous small spacecraft carry cargo and people between voidships and the station. Deep crevasses run along the station, showing the slow layers of expansions through the many decades and the somewhat patchwork nature of many of them which includes parts from small vessels such as the nearly intact hull of the Solstice Imperialis, grafted onto one side of the void station many centuries ago. Further construction and external maintenance is constant, with servitors crawling over areas of damage or expansion like flies over a bloated metal beast.
On the underside of the station are the main repair yards, where damaged ships can contract out for refurbishment and mending. The yards include entire sealed drydock bays, where smaller ships can be totally enclosed for more intensive work. Also along the station’s keel are a variety of elaborate and mysterious arrays and probes used by the Adeptus Mechanicus in their arcane research into the nature of the Warp passage leading through the Great Warp Storms to the Koronus Expanse beyond.
Across the length and breadth of the station are Lance emplacements, weapons batteries, torpedo launchers, and Void Shield generators, all placed for maximum efficiency and kept in readiness. In addition to these static defences, squadrons of heavily armed monitor craft are stationed near Port Wander, and warships from Battlefleet Calixis pass the port on regular patrol. Port Wander may be the gate to the Koronus Expanse but it is a gate that is guarded.
At any given time there are at least a half-dozen Rogue Traders docked at the station, as well as other merchant vessels, enormous transports, and numerous smaller craft moving into and out of docking stations like swarming insects. Other vessels move through the area, offloading raw fuel gases mined from the two larger planets or minerals and ice from the further reaches of the system. There are also numerous asteroids sharing its space, most of which have been turned into fuel depots, palatial manses and estates, crude habitats, storage facilities, voidship yards, and other more useful installations.
Koronus Passage: "The Maw"
"It is a beast that swallows the apostate, the doubter, and all who ship with them. Better to slay the unfaithful than risk the dread Maw whilst such false wretches draw breath."
- —Opening lines of the Voidfarer's Warning from the Drusian Play
The Koronus Passage is a stable but dangerous Warp route that passes through the Great Warp Storms separating the Calixis Sector from the Koronus Expanse. The Koronus Passage was discovered by a Magos-Explorator of the Adeptus Mechanicus in the distant past, lost for millennia, and found once more by the Rogue Trader Purity Lathimon at the very close of the 40th Millennium. The Passage links Port Wander and the Drusus Marches to the great star Furibundus and the Imperial void colony of Footfall -- and beyond Footfall, the mysteries of the Koronus Expanse beckon.
Superstitious voidfarers call the route “the Maw.” To their eyes the Maw is a beast made of warp storms, cunning and malicious, whose crushing gullet must be braved by those who seek to break through to the Koronus Expanse beyond. Many have died in trying, and traversing the Maw remains harrowing despite centuries of experience gathered by Navigators and Rogue Traders. Some say this ill-omened title came from the first to survive the crossing -- and that they returned wild-eyed, at the edge of sanity, and few journeyed to the voids again.
The possibilities of a passage through the Great Warp Storms were first recorded by Abenicus, insane Navigator of House Benetek, and have gripped the hearts and minds of Rogue Traders ever since that time. Vast riches and a way through the Great Warp Storms were once a lure to the brave and foolhardy, and many died for pursuing what they believed to be the truth. In time, cautious steps into what would be called the Maw laid the groundwork for the Stations of Passage that guided steps of those passing through the Maw. Later, during the Mistaken Age of the early 41st Millennium, Navigators learned to read the Maw and its moods -- to see signs in the Warp for what they were and so avoid the sudden, sweeping maelstroms that doomed earlier explorers. The Stations of Passage fell into disuse, save as refuges from unexpected upheaval in the Empyrean, and as covert rendezvous points for plotting Rogue Traders.
In the present times the Maw is a rite of passage for Rogue Traders of the Calixis Sector. A Lord-Captain may bear the greatest Warrant of Trade ever seen in Port Wander, but until he harrows the Maw and survives to see the raging light of Furibundus at its farthest end, he is no better than a common Free Trader in the eyes of his peers.
Stations of Passage
The Stations of Passage are locations within realspace at which voidships can safely drop from the Warp while navigating the Maw. Rogue Traders religiously avoided certain Stations, and some still retain an ill reputation. Many of the Stations are clear voids, howling streams of energised gas, or the outskirts of dead systems. Others are more intriguing, however.
The Temple is a dead star system at the very outskirts of the Great Warp Storms, a short Warp jump from Port Wander. It is a strangely symmetrical, almost artificial system of perfectly spherical rocks several hundred meters in diameter orbiting a sun that is a cinder of dense matter. Nothing else exists -- no dust, gas-streams, or worlds. The Temple is so named either because of a long association in voidfarer myth with the Temple card of the Sybillan Emperor’s Tarot. The card signifies the commencement of a blessed endeavour but also the passing out of the realm of the sanctuary of the known.
The Witch-Cursed World
The Witch-Cursed World is a large rocky rogue planet set alone without a star to orbit in the deep void like a bauble discarded by the whim of a god, its atmosphere frozen to glaciers upon its surface. Whether it is an exile from its former star system or was formed within the lightless void is unknown. No crew will stand for a long stay in these voids -- it is an ill-omened place.
Legend has it that the Battleground was an ancient wreckage field even before the Rogue Traders Trame and Ettimus Lathimon fought here to mutual destruction over the Ragged Worlds. A vast span of debris swirls slowly under dim starlight, most of it Imperial, spread across the empty void. Every crew has a dozen tales as to what happened here long before Rogue Traders traversed the Maw.
In the midst of the Mistaken Age, a tiny Adeptus Ministorum sect paid vast sums for Trame Lathimon to carry them and their void station Hermitage out into the Halo Stars. Lathimon cast the hermits forth from his holds at the Conclave, a station then known for the frequency with which vessels met to trade for rumours of what lay beyond. The outer reaches of the Hermitage have crumbled and opened to the void, but a few hermits still come to dwell here. Rogue Traders have long left ciphered messages at the Hermitage for their allies, hidden at prearranged points within the void station. The richly decorated central transept is sometimes used as a neutral zone for clandestine trade, the parties standing before a bluestone altar, platinum Aquila, and perfectly preserved banners depicting the victories of Saint Drusus.
"A lamp of fervour shines upon the white gate, Not held by the greatest saint to mark the way, But hung alone to banish enfolding shadows, That beset the Emperor's true servant upon the fated path"
- —Translated from the prophetic verses of Abenicus
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’ 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 stonework void-settlement of Footfall, and the Adeptus Mechanicus temple of Altar-Templum-Calixis-Ext-17. 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. Further inwards, close to the primal roar of Furibundus, there is a planet set in a frantic orbit and blasted to molten rock over and again by its proximity to the bloated star. The only way it can be seen is by the shadow it casts on the movement of plasma-ribbons. This is Altar-Templum-Calixis-Ext-17, and it is here that the Mechanicus hide a heavily-shielded fortress-temple, within which Tech-priests study the secrets of this furious star.
"You sir are a liar, and while you may command a flotilla of warships, the fact is that right here and right now there is just you and me and this hammer. So let us hear no more of what you do not known and proceed to what you do know."
- —Doronal Casius, "Prince" of the Kasballica, in coversation with Rogue Trader Hiram Sult
The settlement that was once Dewain’s Footfall, and now simply Footfall, is a tethered network of hundreds of stone structures floating in Furibundus’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. At the very centre is tethered a huge macro-statue of the God-Emperor, larger than many warships.
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 and 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, 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.
For the Rogue Traders and their agents, Footfall has many uses beyond those of a simple port. These individuals come to learn about competing interests, find an array of illegal services unavailable on Imperial worlds, send forth trusted crew to carouse, gather new recruits to replace those lost to the void, and participate in deadly intrigues to gain an edge in the exploration of the Koronus Expanse. It is also a place where a vessel can shelter to refit and repair damage in relative safety, provided a Rogue Trader can abide the thousand assorted scum who might flock about, or the dubious strangers who will swarm their injured vessel and toil upon its hull for a few Thrones apiece -- or the Hereteks whose price is far higher but whose “no questions asked” expertise makes them worth the daemon’s bargain to hire.
"It is a place of graves and grinning skulls. Its wealth is its curse on all who seek it, for who could not look upon such wealth and not think to spill his brother's blood to posses it all?"
- —Vilius Hope, voidsman
Winterscale’s Realm is one of the most explored and exploited regions, and one that has delivered both fabulous riches and early death for the unwary in equal measure. Winterscale’s Realm is a region of space defined by the stars explored and charted by Sebastian Winterscale in the early centuries of the 41st Millennium. It is composed of a few coveted worlds sitting like islands amongst the darkness of the unknown. Rogue Traders have traversed the Realm’s breadth a hundred times, but even so, its farther reaches and troubled Warp regions remain unmapped. Though only a handful of worlds within Winterscale’s Realm have been even partially explored, these have proven to be fat with riches and treasures. It has lured those whose goal is only wealth, and has become a battleground between rivals for its bounty. Gems, precious minerals, exotic Death World beasts, xenos artefacts, and many more rarities have poured into select coffers of merchant cartels and noble backers in the Calixis Sector and beyond, thanks in no small part to the Winterscale Realm’s tireless explorers.
Winterscale’s Realm is named for the Rogue Trader Sebastian Winterscale who first explored and charted many of its stars. Those who venture into Winterscale’s Realm do so in the main because of the legendary wealth it is said to harbour, but also because it is one of the most haphazardly charted regions of the Koronus Expanse. There are many Navigator clans who hold many more charts of Winterscale’s Realm; most such records agree in part, though some are wildly divergent. The few points of agreement between these charts thus indicate the worlds, stars, and Warp routes that are generally agreed to exist, at least insofar as the explorers of the Koronus Expanse are concerned. The other charts are considered to be flights of fantasy, and their navigational data to be nothing more than a vile trap to lure and destroy the foolhardy. Many believe that the reason for the profusion of misleading and contradictory charts of Winterscale’s Realm is simply a by-product of several centuries of Rogue Trader activity. But a few whisper in the obscura dens of Port Wander that all such charts are true, and if combined using the correct cipher, they would reveal the true extent of Sebastian Winterscale’s exploits and the hidden riches of his realm.
The proximity of Winterscale’s Realm to the Koronus Passage, the tales of its wealth, and the relative abundance of navigational charts -- albeit of dubious accuracy -- mean that explorers and merchant concerns and renegades are drawn to it, willing to fight for fortunes that might be no more than fancy. Winterscale’s Realm is soaked in the blood of rival claimants to worlds and resources, and every glittering prize carried back into Calixis Sector has to be bought in death and slaughter from those others who would claim it. Weaker Rogue Traders, fearful of greater risks, may come to Winterscale’s realm hoping to grow slowly wealthy from its resources while remaining close to the light of Imperial domains. Any who does not come armed and prepared for battle, however, is a fool who will not see the lights of Port Wander again. The graves of the naïve, arrogant, and unlucky litter the stars of Winterscale’s Realm and offer mute testament to this untamed cauldron of death and greed.
"Death dripping down in the rain, blood and the scream of beasts: that is all I recall of that place."
- —Mesenicus Var, mercenary captain of the entourage of Rogue Trader Hiram Sult
Burnscour is a Death World of roaring storms, jungles, and strange beasts. It is no place for men, as the steaming rain alone eats at metal and breeds strange fungus on exposed flesh, and the sap dripping from plants is lethal or viciously toxic. Yet the beast trade has found a foothold upon Burnscour, carried there at exorbitant rates by Rogue Trader vessels and illegal, unsanctioned merchant craft. They come to Burnscour to stock the ever-hungry fighting pits of the distant Calixis Sector with saurian leapers, gargantipedes, and other horrors of fang and maw. Hunter retinues clad in bulky suits of vulcanised rubber stalk the jungles in search of exotic xeno predators for the fighting pits, ever watchful for creatures that will make the most lethal attractions on far-off Hive Worlds of the Imperium.
There are no permanent structures on the surface of Burnscour -- only the slowly dissolving metal carcasses of landing craft brought down by the planet's storms, the few melted ruins of structures built by fools, and the swaying jungles ever growing beneath the caustic rain. From the uppermost leaves of its canopy to the ground, the jungles of Burnscour are a choking mass of countless plants: trees with dark waxen leaves and trunks covered in barbs that weep thick sap the colour of bile, blooms of fungus as pale as milk, thick creepers from the branches of trees, delicate flowers the colour of livid bruises on pale flesh, which open at the touch to expose waving fronds that fill the air with a heady scent that dulls the mind -- all these and thousands more species swarm and choke the surface of Burnscour.
Beasts stalk through the nightmare jungles of Burnscour. Things of every sizes, all perfectly adapted to the hellish environment, live here in vast numbers, from beetle-like creatures who gnaw through flesh or bark to feed on blood or sap, to the strange six-legged stalkers the size of three grown men but scuttle silent and invisible though the branches of the middle canopy. Almost all are capable of killing any human that steps onto the surface of Burnscour. The lethal nature of Burnscour’s native creatures is both the planet’s curse on any who might wish to establish surface habitation on there, but are also the prize that draws many to it.
When men come to Burnscour, they come for the beasts. So little does the jungle and rain tolerate the presence of man that beast-hunting parties are usually dropped onto the surface of the planet and remain for as little time as possible before hailing their waiting drop craft with a homing beacon. These hunters and their ferocious harvest are often hauled off the surface into hovering dropships that never touch the surface. Others defoliate the jungle with anti-plant bombs and Heavy Flamers to create brief landing clearings—which are swallowed again by the jungle within days. Dangerous it might be, but the price commanded by hunters for living beasts of Burnscour is enough to blot out the tales of hunting parties vanishing, never to be seen again, or the whispers of the things that stalk unseen beneath the dark leaves and hissing rain. It is said that even the feared Beast House of the Calixis Sector has invested a small fortune to secure constant supply from Burnscour. Such are the prices that its predators can command from the wealthiest and most discerning patrons.
"If proof were ever needed that some darkness best left undisturbed lurks amongst those haunted stars, then I could offer no better than those dead and dry worlds. To the wise they would suggest that curiosity is indeed the greatest of sins."
- —Inquisitor Marr, speaking of the discoveries of Rogue Trader Sebastian Winterscale
The Egarian Dominion was once a populous xenos domain that spanned a handful of close stars. Many millennia past, the alien civilisation that dwelt in this domain fell victim to a nameless doom that left only empty, desolate worlds and crumbling structures in its wake. The principal worlds of the Dominion are dry, cool desert planets, covered by tightly packed structures that form a vast maze in three dimensions, walls and corners hundreds of meters high and extending in belts for thousands of kilometres across the desert plains. These claustrophobic xenos complexes are buried by windblown sand and dry soil, their borders ragged cliffs that mark the edge of lowland deserts. Egarian building materials glisten with rainbow light as though oily, even as they crack and crumble with age. They somehow channel the light of Egarian stars, and even the deepest regions of the xenos hives are lit with a disturbing, shifting glow. The passageways are cramped for humans, and the hive mazes are empty, as though the xenos and almost all their works simply vanished overnight. The only sound is the moaning of the wind as it blows through enclosed maze-spaces and across desert outcrops.
Murdered World of Jerazol
"There is no crime too terrible, nor act so monstrous that man will not commit given a sufficiency of conviction and self interest."
- —ancient Terran proverb
Jerazol is a desolate world of ash and charred bone. It is a world, tales say, murdered for greed and spite. Discovered by a pious Rogue Trader whose name does not survive in Imperial records, Jerazol was verdant, fertile, and supported a population of humans whose culture had regressed to the level of a primitive tribalism. The unnamed Rogue Trader was determined to bring the population back into the light and dominion of the God-Emperor. He began the process of tutoring and civilising the population, while purging it of any trace of deviancy or corruption.
Not long after Jerazol was discovered, it was also found by other explorers, who believed that the primitive humans where hiding wonders of lost technology in warrens beneath the earth, built by their forgotten ancestors who first came to the world from across the stars. These machines, they said, were worth any price in blood and death, and when the nameless Rogue Trader stood against them, they destroyed his vessels, letting their wrecks fall to the surface of Jerazol like the burning tears of a god. Then, it is said the murderers bombarded the world, burning its surface to ash and choking its atmosphere with smoke. The tales do not agree as to whether the despoilers found the technological treasures they sought. Some say they unearthed such wonders that they rose to the highest tiers of power within the Imperium, others say that they only found ash, bone, and mud and that they cursed the dreams that had brought them through void and madness to murder a world for naught. No matter the truth of the tales, the burned and Dead World of Jerazol exists as testimony to the price that can be paid in search of the riches of Winterscale’s Realm.
"It is a place cloaked in storms, where the ghost lights of false stars lure you to a depthless nothing. It is a place that wants us not, and will see us dead for our daring its bounds."
- —Navigator Helias Yeshar speaking of journeying into the Foundling Words
The Foundling Worlds lie beyond the Cauldron, a lesser Warp Storm whose baleful churning might be seen as a warning against further exploration. By strange accident of fate, the Foundling Worlds cluster, although relatively close to the Koronus Passage, was not visited by Imperial ships until several standard centuries after the opening of the Koronus Expanse to exploration. Amongst voidfarers the Foundling Worlds are described as a cursed place of sudden Warp Storms, temporal distortions, and strange stellar phenomena, and it is said that nothing will come to any good that is undertaken within its bounds. That is not to say that none have tried to probe the mysteries of the Foundling Worlds or tame it through colonisation and exploitation -- but even after a route into this storm-wracked region was established, most of its stars and planets remain unexplored. Those few endeavours that have been made to establish settlements or to harvest the wealth of the Foundling Worlds have met with disaster or misfortune.
It is extremely difficult to navigate a course into the Foundling Worlds, even if one is following a charted route. The Warp trashes and twists as if trying to throw a ship onto another course, and furious tempests suddenly appear and claw at a ship’s Gellar Field. At other times the cluster gives rise to strange pockets of stillness that hold ships becalmed. Even established routes are unreliable, sometimes appearing to vanish altogether or suddenly lead to different locations. Many ships have been lost trying to make passage into the Foundling Worlds, and with every craft lost, the evil reputation of the Foundling Worlds grows. The strange localised nature of the storms, and anomalies that enfold the Foundling Worlds, have led some amongst the Navigator houses to privately speculate that the region is hidden and protected by something that does not wish its worlds violated by human presence.
The Foundling Worlds are littered with the dead carcasses of hopeful attempts to wring profit out of its stars: derelict space stations not crewed for centuries, shattered outposts inhabited by the burnt and dried corpses of the dead, feral colonies of humans who have turned from the light of the Emperor. All are a testament to the belief among many who explore the Koronus Expanse that all endeavours in the Foundling Worlds are cursed. With each passing decade, a bold new generation scoffs at the tales of older and more wary explorers and set their plans amongst the Foundling Worlds. Some prosper for a time, but fate is inexorable, and the malignancy of the Foundling Worlds is patient; in time, all are undone and their fortunes with them.
"Hunger unwound what little hope was left and moved us to what humanity would not once have contemplated."
- —Comdeus Canto, survivor of the expedition from the Inferno’s Child
The storm-ridden world of Grace is circled and shrouded by swirling clouds and hurricanes. Continual gales carry the spores of its simple fungal life far and wide amidst lightning and frozen hail. Beneath the storms, the peaks and valleys of Grace's jagged surface form a stark, beautiful landscape that was once dotted with the proud structures of a colony founded under the authority of Rogue Trader Aspyce Chorda. From behind Void Shields and armoured crystal viewports the colonists, drawn from the wealthiest exiles of Imperial nobility and the most successful of criminals (a distinction between the two being not always easy to draw) gazed out on the beauty of the world that was their sanctuary from blood wars, vengeful rivals, and the iron fist of Imperial justice. The world of Grace is still just as beautiful, but the colony palaces lie in ruin and its pale-eyed people scuttle in the shadows, harbouring a terrible secret.
Grace was an Imperial colony world founded not for the expansion of the domain of the God-Emperor, but to serve the greed and arrogance of Rogue Trader Aspyce Chorda. The colonial palaces built on Grace were palatial fortresses for Imperial exiles of wealth and means -- those worthies secretively brought to the edge of the Imperium by the Cold Guild, stored in frozen vaults for their journey and returned to life in the depths of Port Wander. Rogue Trader Aspyce Chorda swelled her coffers accepting fugitives into the world she had claimed and giving them leave to build their armoured palaces on Grace. At further ruinous cost, she provided the exiles with illegal slaves from Footfall, provided them with the finest foods using the lesser voidships of her fleet, and allowed their spies and agents to pass to and from Imperial space in the holds of her ships. It was, for a time, a paradise of the wicked, but it did not last.
It is said by the pious that in time no sin goes unknown or unpunished in the God-Emperor’s sight, and the punishment for Grace was terrible indeed. Vessels of Aspyce Chorda carrying supplies to Grace were destroyed by a Warp Storm that rose up, swallowing them whole and sealing passage to Grace. The world itself was a pleasurable and beautiful refuge and had no capacity to produce its own food. For a time the exiles and criminals contented themselves with the false hope that supplies would come, and then when they did not, they turned on one another, sending their vassals to loot and burn other palaces and strip them of supplies and food. In time only a few of the many colony palaces were left, and these had become ugly fortresses against the predatory raids of the few others that persisted. When even raiding could not feed those who remained, they turned to eating their dead -- first those who had been slain, and then those who still lived. So it is that the few debased colony palaces harbour those who eat human flesh, and they are always hungry. Some have beacons that broadcast distress calls out into the void, seeking sustenance from unwary travellers.
"There is no hope now; I have heard the voice calling. It is calling to me from the storm in the sky, and spoke of trespass and blood, and hearing it I know it is the truth."
- —extracted from the final astropathic message broadcast from prospecting colonies on Rain
Rain was a colony world of wet grasslands and high plateaus in the Foundling Worlds, its flora and fauna inedible but otherwise harmless. Small prospecting and bio-augury colonies were established by a number of Rogue Traders in the late 8th century of the 41st Millennium. They found little of interest in the ecology of the planet and even less of value beneath its covering of loamy earth. The last scraps of astropathic reports from the prospecting colony talked of structures they had found in the dense forested areas of the planet but gave no other information except a note that the rain made a strange noise when it fell near them. Nothing more was ever heard from the colonies apart from a single garbled astropathic broadcast that raved about pale figures in the rain and sleek shapes in the clouds.
"By this blood I swear my soul and heart to the blackness and to the Iron Scourge."
- —from the oath of the Iron Scourge fraternity
Iniquity is a world of huge mountains rising from an acid sea, orbited by a fractured moon. In warrens burrowed into the dark rock of the mountain lurk thousands of Renegades and scum of the worst kind. It is a world that exits to feed its feral packs of Chaos raiders with metal and supplies, who return with captured prisoners to toil in the foundries and poisoned mines. There is no lore on Iniquity save the lore of might and murder, and its brutal society is split into fraternities bonded by blood and pledges made in unholy tongues. These fraternities control the mining and smelters in the deep reaches beneath the mountains and watch over the toiling armies of captives whose lives are best if they are short.
Long ago mines were established on Iniquity, burrowing into the mineral-rich rock despite thousands of lives lost to rock falls and poisoned gas pockets. That time was ended when the indentured workforce rose up and slaughtered the mine overseers and daubed the dark walls of the mine workings with their blood. Some attempt may have been made by the backers of the mining operation to regain control of Iniquity, but if there was, it remains unrecorded, and its failure is obvious from the evil tales that seep like a blood stain though rumour and whispers even to Port Wander. To this day none has ever succeeded in cleansing Iniquity -- though many have tried and failed to return.
"Only we few shall see what lurks beyond those terrible passes and beyond those dark and glittering gulfs. Be it death or ancient majesty, we shall tread the void and see what lies that little further."
- —Aleana Howsian, Rogue Trader, address to the crew of the Samarkand
The corpse-embers of the Charnel Stars beckon explorers of the Foundling Worlds, promising dead worlds and unknown treasures. No Rogue Trader is known to have found a route through the twisting, malicious Warp of that region, not yet. The secrets and riches that wait in the baleful light of those evil stars have beckoned to explorers for centuries, but all have failed to penetrate into the Charnel Stars. Many of the boldest have perished in their attempt to approach the seemingly unassailable void.
"Pride has conducted us unto death, and torment awaits all who follow in our steps."
- —attributed to Faith Laithmon
In ages past, man believed that all evil and corruption in the Koronus Expanse emanated from the Accursed Demesne: ills in the Warp, energies that blasted life from worlds, clusters of stars that seemingly died together in unnatural cataclysms, misfortunes, ghost-vessels, and the ravening Ork. Wise Rogue Traders shun these voids even now, and little is known of the worlds deep within the Accursed Demesne. Common voidfarers live in terror of the Demesne and the ill fortune that flows from it. They whisper tales of xenos tombs upon Lathimon’s Death, cursed Dolorium, and the domain of the fearsome Ork beyond.
The Accursed Demesne is a vast and uncharted region into which few have voyaged and returned. Few routes into the Demesne exist, and those which are likely to be accurate are jealously guarded by the Navigator clans who first found them. Other fragments of Warp navigational information are highly inaccurate and likely to prove lethal to both Navigator and voidship, should they be followed blindly. Those who decide to voyage into the Accursed Demesne do so in the knowledge that they are stepping into the true unknown where their fate is subject to the wildest chance and where they may find ruin as easily as fortune. To a bold and ambitious soul, however, the Accursed Demesne is a place of possibility poisoned by a dark reputation.
"Above the tomb were scrawled in blood, that had dried and flaked in the wind, words I will take to my own grave, and I fear even there I will find no release from their dread import."
- —from the personal journals of Balastus Irem
Lathimon's Death orbits one of the Cineris Malificum; a string of star embers surrounded by shells of thinned star-matter cast out from their ancient demise. This chill world, upon which Faith Lathimon and a hundred others died in ways that were never recorded, bears great cyclopean structures, columns, and avenues spread across its darkened surface, so worn and covered by the dusts of time that they appear to be hills and valleys. Only a few are said to have visited this dread world, their names including Balastus Irem, slain by the Inquisition, and Rafe Longinus and Eduard Majessus, who vanished without a trace into the dark regions of the Koronus Expanse.
Processional of the Damned
"Have you never wondered where the lost go? Not the dead, but those lost to hope, and lost to all that holds us to these tattered fragments of life? No, I see that you do not think on this. Neither do I, for I have seen that place, and know that to it I must go in time, as will we all."
- —from the last confession of Navigator Conrad Nostromo before his execution by the Ordos Calixis
[File:ProcessionaloftheDamned.jpg|thumb|250px|The Processional of the Damned]] There are dark places amidst the Halo Stars, cursed or beyond understanding, where the very voids reject the hand of man. The unnamed star system that hosts the Processional of the Damned is one such place; it is a blighted void, a few barren worlds circling a bright and turbulent star. Closer in to the solar energies is the Processional: a thin orbiting chain of wreckage, Warp-crushed Space Hulks, and dead vessels of a hundred different xenos origins. If the myriad docks of the Segmentum Obscurus each launched a new vessel at the very same time, that vast fleet might approach the scope of the Processional. The currents of the Warp have cast these uncounted thousands of sorry wrecks and ship-ruins here, perhaps for longer than Mankind has travelled the stars -- perhaps for longer than Mankind has existed. Ghosts and other Warp-echoes orbit with the Processional, bound to the wreckage and the dust of their remains.
There are many tales of the Processional. The past crew of Rogue Trader Wrath Umboldt spins one such yarn about how his vessel, the Righteous Crusader, came silently to the outer reaches of the Processional system whilst upon an expedition far beyond cursed Dolorium. The very void of the system was haunted: presences stalked the crew on darkened decks, foreboding patterns swirled in the Auspex grids, and the Crusader’s Machine Spirits become disturbed. Moaning Astropaths of the Crusader’s choir were sedated whilst devices failed and unexplained energies crackled about the Warp-Drive. Umboldt pressed onwards into the Processional, and at his order men packed themselves into salvage craft and launched into the Processional. Some returned with great treasures and strange xenos artefacts, some with crew driven mad and babbling, but most did not return at all, swallowed by the Processional of the Damned, or lured into frozen emptiness by Auspex-ghosts and failing tech-devices.
"There are beasts among the stars, beasts that would crush our lives, make ash of our worlds and break all that we hold sacred. The beasts wait in the dark and shunned reaches like the things glimpsed in the forests of old, things that looked out with red, shining eyes and hearts filled with the joy of ruin."
- —from Remarks on the Nature on the Unknown by Estivan Mauritin, advisor to Rogue Trader Hiram Sult
The Undred-Undred Teef is a tract of star systems at the heart of the Accursed Demesne that is a nest and breeding ground for Orks. Only a few of the boldest -- or most foolhardy -- of explorers have ventured into this place, but those who have speak of worlds held in an embrace of filth and wreckage, ringed with clouds of debris and wreckage from which Ork voidships arise like flies, their brutal prows bristling with weapons and decked in grinning-skull war paint. Beneath their mantles of scrap and crude defences are worlds poisoned by the spoils of Ork industry and on which the Orks constantly slaughter one another over looted debris, competing to construct weapons, slab-sided forts, and massive machine-effigies. From these worlds the Orks have, in the past, sallied in search of booty and raw materials for their growing armies.
The warring Orks of the Undred-Undred Teef are split into gangs, warbands, and clans that are lead by ever more powerful individual Ork Warbosses. Orks constantly strive to overcome and dominate their fellows, with the most successful and powerful bosses growing in size to mirror their status.
Undred Undred Teef is unusual amongst Ork-held systems -- it is home to many more numbers of rich, arrogant Orks known as Flash Gitz than normal. Some suggest this may be the Orks' evolutionary response to the opportunities of the Koronus Expanse, though no one knows for sure. Flash Gitz are infamous for their love of treasure and are always interested in opportunities to raid and pillage. Flash Gitz are not above treachery, murder, or other shifty strategies to accumulate wealth and more powerful wargear. Some Flash Gitz will even hire out to other xenos races. Many of these Orks take up the life of a Freebooter to get their hands on even more ill-gotten gains. Thus, Undred Undred Teef is home to hordes of Freebooterz, and these piratical Orks dominate the Greenskin hordes of this region.
Hulking Kaptins emerge from time to time, cunning beasts who lead their followers forth from Undred-Undred Teef across the Koronus Expanse in search of new loot for the clans. Mercifully these few powerful individuals have only been able to command a fraction of the Orks of Undred-Undred Teef, but at the heart of this domain something is growing in power.
At the centre of Undred-Undred Teef is a world where Orks have bred in the greatest numbers and where the battle between them is fiercer than on any other. Powerful Warbosses and Freebooter Kaptins gather here to test their mettle in the greatest fight in the Expanse. With every passing cycle of conflict, the number of bosses grows fewer, and those who remain are more powerful and grow to ever greater size. In the brutal tongue of the Ork this place is called Tusk and it is the true heart of Undred-Undred Teef.
Above Tusk’s surface a huge Space Hulk orbits, and millions of Orks and their smaller breeds work under the direction of so-called Meks, fitting engines and weapons looted from the ships of other races or built in workshops scattered across Undred-Undred Teef. No individual Ork knows what compels them to gather here, but in every cell of their flesh they know WAAAGH! is gathering, and all that it waits for is an undisputed boss to emerge from the crucible of inter-Ork warfare. The Orks are poised on the edge of a great WAAAGH! of destruction that, if not stopped, will shake the Koronus Expanse and the reaches beyond.
"This is an age for the godless. Better to die a without faith beneath a darkening sun than bend one’s knee to those who would have us call them gods and devour our blinded souls."
- —words of the apostate Lucius Greer
The Heathen Stars are a diffuse region of old stars that burn with a darkening light and whose worlds have been inhabited since times long past. Human societies and communities long separated from the greater body of humanity dwell in the Heathen Stars. These communities know nothing of the divine light of the God-Emperor, and some strange cultures harbour unusual technologies from Mankind’s lost past. It is possible that these scattered human domains are the remains of one or more greater empires that have long since vanished, leaving these fragmentary enclaves like detritus left behind the retreating tide.
Tenuous routes have begun to be established from Winterscale’s Realm to Naduesh and Zayth of the Heathen Stars, but the remainder of these fallen worlds are a matter of mystery and rumour. Rogue Traders have barely touched upon the treasures of the Heathen Stars, and have yet to bring the word of the God-Emperor to the human communities. A billion heathen souls await the coming of missionary zealots and great auto-temples dropped from orbit. Some speak of great treasures upon Dead Worlds, whilst others lust after the myths from a lost age kept secret by those who dwell in the baleful light of the Heathen Stars.
"Death is a land into which we will all pass in time."Agusia is a Cemetery World that circles a dim red star. A lost human civilisation transported their dead to Agusia for millennia, and in doing so turned it into a necropolis world. The vast ruin-deserts and spire-mountains of Agusia remain desolate, eroded, or half-buried by wind-driven dust, empty of all but
- —ancient Terran proverb
the remains of a long-distant past. Every part of Agusia’s surface is buried beneath strata of crumbling edifices and seas of dust eroded from the ancient stonework. Every chamber is a sepulchre of great antiquity, every space a mausoleum. The decaying upper tomb-spires and kilometres of compacted ruins beneath contain the material echoes of a trillion souls.
Agusia remains almost untouched by explorers with the sole exception being a small expedition of the Disciples of Thule sect of the Adeptus Mechanicus, which has penetrated into the catacombs beneath the icy deserts of the northern polar zone. So far the Thuleans have investigated only a small fraction of the world, and vast amounts remain hidden and undisturbed. Yet what the Tech-priests have discovered is both wondrous and puzzling: ornate sloping tomb-fanes, huge dormant prayer-mechanisms of a dozen varieties, mausoleums efficiently filled by stacked biers, impassable walls of blackgreen metal set with intricate silvered magnetic runes, ornate hololithic displays of abstract art somehow still active after millennia. What wonders or terrors lurk in the unexplored portions of the world remain to be revealed.
"We do not know what our ancient ancestors’ purposes truly were. We have only the tools they made to realise those purposes."
- —aphorism dictated by Paracelcus Thule
Naduesh is a human-inhabited Frontier World of hot, dry plains and enormous, sprawling megacities that are now little more than ruins but which speak of an awesome and now lost technological achievement. The mega-cities of Naduesh are maze-like warrens beneath an arching dome supported by huge pillars and walls set with massive bastions. Every part of the whole is set with structures that cling like gargoyles and riddled by vaults and tunnels. The bulk of the planet’s population follows a tribal existence away from the cyclopean mega-cities, following herds of herbivores that sustain and clothe them while viciously warring with each other for honour and bloody sport. The people of Naduesh have little understanding of the relics of technology left behind in these ruins, and seem unable to fully rebuild their society. The sounds and structure of the Nadueshi language and culture indicate a distant root in High Gothic and tie the population and its ruined mega-cities to a now lost age of Mankind.
The most influential of the human population on Naduesh dwells in Marajur, an immense enclosure of ruins thirty kilometres broad and three kilometres from ground wreckage to crumbling vaults high above. The interior space of Marajur gapes empty between its support pillars, and the curved ceiling vaults are set with enormous mosaics. The entire structure is large enough for its own weather systems, the haze of distant wall-bastions broken by white cloudsand sudden warm showers. As awe-inspiring as it is Marajur is a shadow of its former self: its base structures are ruined, its upper vault braces failing. With each passing year another of the upper vault structures tumbles down.
Despite its fallen status, Naduesh is used as supply point by many human Renegades and outlaws in search of provender beyond the reach of would-be hunters, trading weapons and slaves in return for livestock and fresh recruits from the planet’s feral warriors.
"Of what wars waged beyond the Emperor’s light we will never truly know and can only look at the wreck of the overgrown battlefield and wonder at what has passed."
- —remark dictated by Rogue Trader Hiram Sult
Zayth is a War World scarred deeply by constant conflict. Enormous vehicles the size of cities churn the surface of Zayth’s single macrocontinent. Each is a fortress and weapon platform armed with fearsome devices of war and destruction. Within them dwell Zayth’s human population, protected from the radiation and toxins unleashed by long centuries of warfare. Zayth’s surface has been barren for millennia, ploughed and poisoned by shellfire, rapacious, urgent strip-mining, and the passage of hive-vehicles. Despite their weaponry and extraordinary vehicle cities the humans of Zayth have fallen far from the knowledge of their ancestors in all but war, and the knowledge of producing their hivevehicles is long vanished. Great generators and engine vaults are permanently sealed by copper doors or guarded by hereditary Engine Orders who guard the traditions and culture of each clan fortress.
"Dreams go astray in the void beyond reason; they become dark and terrible things made of the desires of fools and the artifice of tyrants. When dreams go so astray, it is best to leave them alone."
- —from the personal reflections of Inquisitor Hastur Whitlock
Raakata is a ruined world that can only be reached by passing beyond a shifting and treacherous region of the Warp. Its collapsed and empty hive cities are said to be laden with untouched relics of the Dark Ages of Technology, while the void around Raakata is filled with Vox broadcasts of strange languages, garbled binary code, and blurts of static. Its human population is composed of feral and vicious savages who daub themselves in ash and powered rust; the knowledge and sophistication of the ancestors who built the ruined hives and treasures rotting within are long lost to them. All that is known of Raakata comes from the accounts of Toros Umboldt, who claimed its discovery but has subsequently failed to rediscover the world in two later expeditions. All traces of his earlier passage have been erased by the changing Warp, and his standing amongst his peers is diminished greatly as a result.
"What a man believes is more important than what he does. False belief undoes the virtue of any endeavour, and consumes the greatest of achievements."
- —from the speeches of Saint Drusus
All that is known of Vaporius and its strange people is gathered from rumours that circulate in Port Wander, Footfall, and wherever explorers and Renegades gather. Vaporius is said to be a world of red deserts, gleaming turquoise seas and great cities of copper towers, enamelled domes, and sprawling buildings covered in brightly coloured tiles of glass, metal, and ceramic. The human population of Vaporius is tall, with proud, almost feline features, and eyes of brilliant cyan. They move about their cities in robes of shimmering fabric that subtly changes hue as they move. The rule of Vaporius is reputed to lie in the hands of Priest-Kings who control the distribution of water that is held as a divine force of life. It is said that decades ago a clutch of Imperial missionaries voyaged to Vaporius to break the rule of the Priest-Kings. Nothing more was heard of them apart from whispers of torture, slaughter, and blood.
"So as these realms of stars are, so once were all realms that are now counted amongst the Imperium of Man: rich with the fear and darkness, and rank with the smell of secrets that belong to the dead."
- —attributed to Rogue Trader Solomon Haarlock
Beyond the larger nebulae of the Koronus Expanse are regions visited only by the silent Disciples of Thule and few others. Tales are told of ghost-vessels, beauteous but deserted worlds, dust-nebulae that claim the souls of the damned and forsaken -- and of course, wealth beyond measure, awaiting the courageous Rogue Traders who will claim it.
"Any who set out on a course from the ravings of prophets and witches are already lost, and any who voyage with them are fools."
- —Vilius Hope, voidsman
Concanid is a distant unvisited star that through association with the dying words of a psyker has become a place that both beckons and repels explorers. In 633.M41, an Astropath in Footfall was driven to madness and slow death by terrible visions. Before he died, the Astropath spoke of “dark worms beneath a green-eyed star,” the “sea of molten gold,” and other half-named terrors. Some savants of the arcane suppose the star Concanid in the distant Unbeholden Reaches to be the “green-eyed star.” Concanid regularly flares green for reasons unknown to Tech-priests of the Divine Astrometricum, who toil endlessly to record such celestial events in minute detail. The star remains unvisited, and the full testament of the dying astropath now decays within a few private collections of esoteric works.
"Lies, all of it...especially those portions as ring true in the heart when first heard. This is the liar’s craft displayed, and so undone. That is my judgment upon these so-called Thulean secrets."
- —Astigos of Far Prol, Seneschal to Morthus Winterscale
The Disciples of Thule possess records that speak of a strange machine world deep in the Koronus Expanse: hidden cogitation arrays are packed beneath every part of its crust in huge vaults descending to the very limits of geoauspex probes. The surface is swept by tumultuous storms and rendered barren by ancient strip mining. Huge towers vent geothermic heat through vast shafts into the turbulent atmosphere, the heat driving frenzied storm belts of churning clouds. Ten citadels project from the crust, each massive as a hive, echoing and empty but for the whispering dust of xenos dead. Corridors tens of kilometres long are crowded with niches in which dried xenos corpses remain, their desiccated flesh still punctured by filaments that link into the vast machines.
"Though I walk amongst beasts and feel their claws, may the Emperor hear my prayer and let me pass unharmed."
- —from the Canticle of Passage of Saint Drusus
The only knowledge that Mankind has of Orn is from the Disciples of Thule, who were drawn to the tangle-forests of Orn by the emanations from a dormant Warp-Drive within a half-buried xenos starship. There the Explorators discovered a warlike, near-feral xenos breed using the strange vessel as a form of township or nest. The xenos wielded tech-devices as though relics, and hunted, tore apart, and consumed surveyor Servitors dropped from orbit. The Thuleans marked the world with the rune of intransigence, declared it anathema to Mankind, and moved onward in their quest.
Rifts of Hecaton
"The light of the Emperor is like a lamp that shines in the dark, but as one passes further from its source, all becomes indistinct, and what one can see seems made of doubt and fear. And at the outmost limit of the light, where all is dark and light but a distant memory, that is where terror dwells."
- —Kobras Aquairre
The Rifts of Hecaton are an unnatural darkness in the far depths of the Koronus Expanse, like the anger of gods fallen upon worlds long ago. Their presence casts a long shadow across the Expanse; the Rift stars are guttered and dead, and the bold Rogue Traders who go there do not return. The Rifts long ago swallowed the potent Lord Inquisitor and Rogue Trader Kobras Aquairre, and many suppose the same fate to have befallen the Disciples of Thule who followed in his wake. The stars that exist in the shadow of the Rifts are ill-omened places of which little is known apart from the uncertainties of myths and prophecy.
"Look on my works and despair."
- —apocryphally attributed to an ancient Terran king
Near the Rifts of Hecaton lies an angry, churning star. Around it, the void is choked with debris and flare energies. The Disciples of Thule are among the only Imperial explorers to venture this far into the Expanse and return. They hold that Melbethe once hosted a strange xenos civilisation who sculpted black palaces of the asteroids and left vast obsidian sculptures hanging in the void. They are long-gone, vanished to some unknown fate, leaving behind only broken wreckage.
Far Corpse Stars
"There are some ventures that only the mad would undertake -- you will be rewarded only with ashes and the laughter of the dead."
- —warning to Kobras Aquairre
Many are the corpse stars of the distant reaches of the Koronus Expanse: the Seven Dooms, the Pyres, and the ragged, nameless embers that drift within the very fringes of the Rifts of Hecaton. These are stars that guttered and died long ago in some vast and sweeping catastrophe. Now veiled by the cast-off gases of their destruction, they await the coming of Mankind. Dire forces, dead for aeons, may now stir upon blasted worlds in those distant regions, and the Warp is troubled.
Power Groups of the Koronus Expanse
"Anyone who looks upon a star and thinks himself the first to do so is a fool. Every planet, moon, or glittering sun is the grave of untold races and the slumbering tomb of secrets lost to the passage of time."
- —words attributed to Rogue Trader Solomon Haarlock
The Koronus Expanse is a gulf of darkness in which the few facts known by humanity stand like guttering candles. Within its vast bounds wait worlds and secrets that it would take generations of explorers to discover, and within these vast gulfs of the unknown and uncharted dark other things move and plan with inhuman minds and soulless purposes. From the long-dead makers of the Halo Artefacts to the treacherous Eldar, many other powers have a claim or interest in the Koronus Expanse, and each has its own purposes and knowledge that drives it to act. These motivations frequently bring them into contact with the Rogue Traders who are but the youngest of their kind to walk these stars.
"An Ork has no fear of pain, is not cowed by doubt or failure, and is single minded in the pursuit of what he wants. That makes him the most dangerous thing I can imagine, and the crudity of their weapons does nothing to dim my own fear of them."
- —Marius Lorrt, captain of the warship Victus Gloriana
The Orks are a race of brutish, ugly aliens with an unquenchable thirst for violence. They are a green-skinned blight on the galaxy, constantly spawning, gathering together in huge numbers, and battering through the stars like a bloody fist, looting and destroying all that is in their path. That might is right is an unquestionable and obvious mantra to all Orks and one that they understand in every cell of their being. They constantly fight amongst themselves, and only the strong survive in Ork society. Those who achieve authority over other Orks ("da Boss" as they are known to Orks) do so because they have proven that they are the meanest and toughest Orks around.
An average Ork stands as tall as a human but is hunched with muscle and would tower over most humans if he were to stand fully upright. They have long arms that are knotted with slab-like muscle; they have a thick skull set low on their hunched shoulders with a heavy brow and glittering red eyes. Their mouths are filled with jagged fangs that jut out like a feral predator. The physiology of an Ork is such that they are exceptionally hard to kill and can shrug off injuries that would kill a human, and can survive and recover from having limbs severed and crudely reattached later. Orks speak a harsh guttural language that mirrors their physical appearance and blunt outlook on existence.
Though their technology is crude, they are possessed of an innate understanding and affinity with machinery and weapons. This racial genetic knowledge manifests through the abilities of so-called Oddboyz, who possess a strange quirk of understanding or ability that sets them aside from the rest of the Orks. Of these the most crucial to the Ork war machine are the Mekboyz who create the weapons, armour, and vehicles used by Orks to do what they do best: kill things. Mekboyz are ingenious but unreliable artisans who are masters of creating ramshackle but fearsome starships, war machines, and weapons from scrap and salvage. Even if they do not come out exactly how they were intended, these devices are still terrifyingly effective -- most of the time.
There are those who would claim that the Orks are not the greatest of spacefaring races, that their voidships and weapons are unreliable constructions of scrap and parts salvaged from the ships of the other star-faring races, crudely refitted by luck rather than judgement. There are others, however, who point to the fact that the Orks can be encountered in every corner of the galaxy and the supposed limitations of their technology have not held them back from being some of the most feared and effective pirates in the galaxy. Their ships are massively armed and loaded with Orks eager for a fight, and an Ork’s natural love of violence and acquisition make him a terror to other space-faring races.
Ork Freebooterz want more of everything: more weapons to grow stronger, more salvage to build ships and war machines, and more wealth for prestige among their kind. While many items captured in raids are of little use to the Orks, such plunder is valued highly by other races that fight and die to protect it. Thus, the value lies in the opportunity for battle, and no Ork shirks from a good fight! Orks rarely organise above the level of a single ship. However, small fleets can form around a particularly charismatic or successful Ork leader, known as a Kaptin. To the mind of an Ork Freebooter, two things are uppermost: battle lust and greed. In the Expanse, Orks are usually encountered in small raiding ships, roughly the same size as an Imperial escort vessel. However, the size of an Ork voidship is deceptive: invariably, the ship is crammed with a green tide of Orks, which ensures that any boarding action is likely to only go one way.
An attack by Ork Freebooterz tends to be brutal and direct, with the Ork ships rushing headlong toward the enemy firing every gun they have before ramming and boarding their victims. The directness of an Ork Freebooter attack does not mean, however, that an Ork Freebooter Kaptin lacks cunning. Orks often lurk in asteroid fields on the edges of systems where they cannot be seen by the sensors of ships passing to or from the void. Ambushes on convoys of supply ships from this kind of hidden position are common, and even small fleets or warships are not unheard of. Should an Ork Freebooter Kaptin feel the need for bigger prey, the crew may descend on an inhabited world or space station, loot and burn it, and withdraw to their ships and the protection of a debris field. If, however, the Orks of a Freebooterz fleet are really spoiling for a big fight, they are likely to brutalise a world or void station and just wait and see who or what turns up to try and stop them.
Ork Freebooterz lurk throughout the Koronus Expanse. From crude space stations built in asteroid fields or debris clouds, numerous Ork Freebooter Kaptins lead their fleets to loot whatever they can find and fight whoever crosses their path. Even the relatively explored systems close to the Maw have all felt the iron fist of Ork piracy; in the past Footfall itself has come under attack from the ships of Ork Kaptins who had become powerful enough to command great swarms of gunships and kroozers. Luckily for those journeying into the Expanse, the presence and predations of the many Ork Freebooter fleets is haphazard and without unified purpose, and they are often inclined to war upon their own kind as much as anything else.
The Orks dominate a tract of worlds within the Expanse known as Undred-Undred Teef. They exist in untold numbers, spawning like a plague within the Koronus Expanse, and the rising tally of worlds and vessels that these pirates have sacked suggests that their numbers are growing. The Ork Freebooterz are becoming a dire threat to the Expanse. The more Orks there are the bigger and meaner an Ork must be to become the leader. The more powerful the leader (called a “Warboss” in the Ork parlance), the more likely he is to gather together a huge force and batter his way across the stars. No such supreme leader has emerged from the mass of warring Orks in Undred-Undred Teef, but it can only be a matter of time.
One of the most prominent Freebooterz in the Expanse is making a bid for overall leadership of Undred Undred Teef -- Morgaash Kulgraz. Morgaash is a cunning and ambitious Freebooter Kaptin. He is taking ruthless advantage of the numerical superiority of the Flash Gitz and Freebooterz in Undred Undred Teef, as well being bigger and harder than all the other Warbosses, to support his rise to power. This brutal Ork leader first appeared in the Koronus Expanse aboard a heavily damaged Space Hulk, the Fist of Gork. Although barely spaceworthy, the Hulk was filled with loot from other parts of the galaxy. None could say how long the Space Hulk had drifted in the Warp before arriving at Undred-Undred Teef, but Morgaash’s impressive arrival was just the beginning of his rise to power.
A cunning master of ship-to-ship combat, Morgaash wrested control of the largest and most powerful ship in the system, a massive Battlekroozer named Da Wurldbraka. Morgaash then got a crew of the strongest, most aggressive Boyz from the other Kaptins, including as many of the psychic Ork Weirdboyz as he could find. Da Wurldbraka quickly became a ship as legendary as its Kaptin, a nightmarish sight that caused panic amongst smugglers and Rogue Traders alike.
Morgaash has struck quickly and forcefully in every raid, allowing handfuls of survivors to spread his infamy across the Expanse. Armed with weapons of baleful and bizarre cast, Da Wurldbraka is constantly surprising its enemies with the breadth of its capabilities. Most vessels in the Expanse can only hope to get clear before the dark xenos warship ends the battle by crippling its opponent and planting its Kaptin firmly on the enemy’s bridge.
"Do not fear, biped. We Stryxis are no threat to you, just poor scavengers and merchants, not like yourself, biped -- with your ship and friends. They are good friends, yes? Good friends, strong and pretty. Are they for sale? We Stryxis have pretties too: deadly weapons, secrets, lies, hatreds, and joys. All of these can be yours, biped. Tell us, what is your pleasure?"
- —Sirred Fain, Stryxis Merchant Master
The Stryxis are a sparse, nomadic xenos race with a reputation as untrustworthy traders, wanderers, and sometimes slavers and pirates. Encountered infrequently in Koronus Expanse, their reputation is a dark one. The Stryxis are a truly hideous xenoform to look upon beneath swathes of ragged, bonecoloured cloth and trinkets, described variously by human onlookers as a gangling and multi-eyed creature that resembles a human-sized, skinned, dog embryo. Yet they communicate easily with willing humans through a common language of greed, curiosity, and self-interest. Scavengers and obsessive hoarders, they possess a wealth of technology stolen and bartered from countless races.
They delight in trade, attaching worth only by perceived value and rarity of things they can grasp in their bony talons. They seem to care nothing for conquest or territory, abstract wealth, nor even their own species, but are driven instead by avarice and viperous petty intrigues. This being said, they are not to be underestimated and can be extremely dangerous and treacherous. They are creatures wrapped in subtle lies and conceal dark intellects behind their eccentric behaviour and obsession with trinkets and baubles. They will not hesitate to betray those they deal with if they perceive a great profit in doing so. The Stryxis will trade with almost anyone, human or xenos, even the worshipers of the Ruinous Powers, but they despise the Eldar. They will kill them if they can, and avoid them otherwise.
The Stryxis inhabit wandering caravans of starships plying commerce routes between distant worlds. These caravans are often salvaged mishmashes of patchwork vessels and hollowed-out asteroids, fitted with engines and augmented with numerous stolen or traded technologies. These caravans contain relatively few adult Stryxis, along with larger numbers of slaves, mercenaries, "acquisitions," and gene-engineered servant creatures. Aside from the adult Stryxis -- who continuously politic and backstab each other for rank and prominence in the caravans' social hierarchies -- no young, gender variations, or other culture to speak of has ever been encountered. When questioned about their own species, the Stryxis will spin endless and often contradictory lies about the matter.
Stryxis Caravans interest Rogue Traders who do not mind dealing with these nefarious xenos for their myriad opportunities for commerce and profit. In addition, as inveterate wanderers and collectors, Stryxis are often troves of secrets, legends, and information. Their contacts span the Koronus Expanse and beyond -- if the Rogue Trader has the wit to separate the truth from the lies.
Forces of Chaos
"I have seen what the rewards of 'freedom' are: the screams of those not allowed to die, the drip of blood, and the howling of hungry things on the edge of sight."
- —from the proclamations of Inquisitor Xerxes, Ordo Malleus
Within the realm of psychic energy that is called the Warp exist dark and malign intelligences formed from the darkest thoughts, desires, and fears of sentient creatures. The greatest of these beings are called variously the Dark Gods, the Ruinous Powers, or the Chaos Gods, and they promise all manner of powers and gifts to those who are foolish enough to bend their knee in worship to them. These deluded fools who become enthralled to the power of Chaos have forfeited their immortal souls, and their lives are subject to the whims of their dark masters; whether they believe it or not, they are slaves to darkness and eternally damned.
Tempting and seductive, brutal and punishing, the servants of the Dark Gods take many forms in the Koronus Expanse. The most dangerous are the piratical Renegades who are made up of vicious and deluded men, some of whom have fled the Imperium and fallen into the worship of dark gods. Others hail from worlds deep in the Expanse where the light of the Emperor’s truth has never penetrated, and the taint of Chaos has gone unchecked since the Age of Strife. Piloting captured or Renegade Imperial starships, or mysterious vessels of unknown origin, they are truly monstrous and rapacious creatures, no longer fully human. It is better to die than be taken to join the ranks of their slave crews and corrupted Servitors. These disciples raid any convoy or world too weak to defend itself. They come in search of slaves, murder, and riches.
Using sorcery and the fickle guidance of daemons bought with blood and souls, some Chaos pirates traverse the Warp and roam the Koronus Expanse in search of prey, either as lone ships or in predatory packs that can pose a threat to even the most heavily armed vessels, harrying them and finally brining their larger quarry down like a pack of wolves attacking a lion. Some of these corrupted pirates are bonded together by loyalty to a particular cult of the Ruinous Powers, and their ships are ruled by pirate demagogues, their holds given over to vile fanes. Others are warbands of corrupt and often mutated warriors, bound together under the will of a charismatic individual who is touched by the power of Chaos. To some, the acquisition of more power, resources, and prestige is what they desire, and the power of Chaos is something that they foolishly believe can help achieve these desires. Others seek only to burn and destroy, leaving things of value in an orgy of slaughter and realising their darkest desires in the service of their daemonic patron.
The Koronus Expanse is the hunting ground of many enemies of the Imperium, from the barbarous Orks to bitter Imperial exiles, but greatest of these voidfaring predators are the Chaos Reavers. Pirates and slavers pledged to the glory of the Dark Gods, Chaos Reavers prowl the Warp routes, eager for the blood of the foolish and the unwary. Agile and well-armed reaver vessels wait in ambush amongst the outer clouds of those star systems that draw Imperial explorers like Rogue Traders, pouncing savagely before the prey can react. The reavers cripple their targets in short order and board them before repelling crews can be mustered. Once on board, the reavers unleash an orgy of bloodshed as they slaughter all resistance, working their way towards the bridge and the final confrontation with the vessel’s master and his guards. Having gained control of the ship, the reavers put it and its crew to a range of uses. Useful vessels are captured as prizes and converted to pirate ships, while the best the captured crew can hope for is a quick death. Most are enslaved, to be sold into a cruel life of misery to one of the petty empires to be found in the expanse. Others are slaughtered in the name of the Ruinous Powers, or forced to serve in the pirate hordes, or press-ganged as crew.
Many different reaver groups prowl the Expanse. One such group are the damned hosts of Iniquity, under the control of Karrad Vall, the Faceless Lord. These debased brigands have, as their home, a world many believe to host beneath its blasted surface something utterly malign and born of the Warp. It is not only in the hearts of hunters and reavers that the touch of the Ruinous Powers is to be found in the Koronus Expanse, for like many regions of its type, the area is host to countless worlds settled countless millennia ago and subsequently lost to humanity during the Age of Strife. Such worlds are entirely ignorant of the greater galaxy, their ancestors having lost contact with Mankind long before the coming of the Emperor and the rise of the Imperium on Terra. Yet, Chaos lurks in the hearts of men despite the specifics of their existence, and even the most isolated colonist is not deaf to its whispers. Indeed, the populations of many such worlds exist in such abject misery and ignorance that the Dark Gods are their only succour. Wilderness Space is strewn with worlds entirely in the thrall of the Ruinous Powers, some so steeped in the power of the Warp that they are the hunting ground of daemons.
For one who treads the path to glory in the name of the Dark Gods, the Koronus Expanse represents an opportunity to forge his own destiny according to his own vision. He might attempt to build an empire, or simply to satiate his bloodlust in endless attacks upon those who would stray beyond the borders of the Imperium. Others seek to uncover ancient secrets and, in so doing, gain immeasurable power. These are the most dangerous, for should they ever gain the power they seek they will plunge once more through the Maw and visit upon the Imperium of Mankind doom that it has not known in ten thousand standard years.
Chaos Space Marines
Chaos Space Marines are mighty superhuman warriors of the Adeptus Astartes who have betrayed the Imperium, forsaken their vows, and become monstrous warriors who answer to nothing but their own dark desires and the Chaos Gods. These Renegades and Traitors are terrifying warriors who are amongst the most potent and terrible of the servants of Chaos. From hidden bases and defiled spacecraft they wage war against the Imperium that they once protected. Fell whispers have begun to spread that warbands of Traitor Marines have been drawn to the Expanse in search of something that might be an apocalyptic weapon or a terrible fragment of lost technology. These fallen Astartes have assumed dominion over the lesser servants of the Dark Gods like proud and bloody lords who demand that lesser men bend their knee or be subject to torment and death. If this proves true, the danger these Chaos-tainted, superhuman killers represent is a terrible one, and no world or domain of the Expanse is safe.
The Saynay Clan is a dynasty of corrupt monsters that fled the fetid world of Dusk after the corruption of their blood was discovered by agents of the Inquisition. In time they made their way to the Koronus Expanse, and here they exist still in disparate spacecraft whose insides are like slaughter houses hung with the dismembered corpses of those taken in the Clan’s raids on shipping and isolated outposts. The Clan and its vassals feed on the dead, daub foul Chaotic runes on the hulls of the voidships, and perform terrible sacrificial rites to summon daemons into the defiled flesh of the dead. Above the slaughter preside the flesh-gorged matriarchs and patriarchs of the Clan, their finery and rotting wigs cracked with dry gore. Such is the reputation of the Saynay Clan that even other pirates and raiders shrink from them and cower at the threat of their attention.
Reavers of Karrad Vall
Karrad Vall’s name is a dark curse on those who have ventured into the Koronus Expanse. No one has ever seen him, but the barbed prows of his starships and the baying of his scarred warriors are enough to have caused captains to scuttle their craft rather than be taken before Karrad Vall, the Faceless Lord. Some whisper that Vall was once an Adept of the Departmento Munitorium, a former tithe-master swayed and fallen to the lure of the Dark Gods, whilst others claim he was once a trusted admiral of the Imperial Navy's Battlefleet Calixis. What is known is that Karrad Vall braved the Maw in 794.M41 and promptly established his intent by shelling Footfall and engaging Calligos Winterscale in battle. His small fleet tore through the defences arrayed against them. As Vall departed, he cast several last taunting messages in his wake before disappearing without a trace for the next decade.
The ships of Karrad Vall are a brutalised selection of Imperial voidships taken in raids or pulled as hulks from the void and refitted, and steered by the craft of vassal Chaos Sorcerers and powerful daemon pacts. Each of the Reavers of Karrad Vall owe loyalty to him above all, but the Dark Gods and the punishments for treachery are as terrible as a dedicated servant of Chaos can devise. So far all of the Reavers’ actions have been aimed at gaining resources to expand Vall’s pirate fleet: voidships, weaponry, and slaves. With each successful raid on ships in the Expanse, the danger posed by these jackals of the void becomes greater.
Karrad Vall’s fleet is often called “the Wolfpack,” a mismatched group of vessels including many of obvious Imperial origin. Some of these ships are captained by ruthless raiders as infamous as the vessel itself. A partial list of known starships belonging to Vall’s Wolfpack is presented here:
- Gift of Despair
- Mortis Ex Astra
- Optimus Nemesis
Followers of False Gods
There are worlds waiting to be discovered within the Koronus Expanse that are inhabited by people who have fallen to the worship of false gods which are but a mask for the Ruinous Powers. Proud and decadent civilisations build temples to the Dark Gods and bind their societies together with sorcery, terror, intrigue, and atrocity. On certain planets, they may worship the glory of Chaos as a pantheon of gods and divine servants, the dark reality of their beliefs cloaked in strange names and mystery. Others may have fallen into the embrace of worship of a single Chaos God, becoming a world in which war and bloodshed is the bedrock of existence, or one which has evolved an elaborate social and political hierarchy around which intrigues, lies, and secrets move like poison. Where these worlds may be or what devilries they harbour are yet to emerge from the dark unknown of the Expanse, but they are there waiting like serpents in long grass. Were ever such a world to be discovered, the all true servants of the Emperor would destroy its people and the lie of its gods completely and utterly, lest its poison and lies spread.
Eldar of the Expanse
"I am Athel Astaan -- the Blade of Shadow. Perhaps you fancy yourself a swordsman... if so, you shall soon regret your error."
- —unknown xenos voice from the final transmission of the Dolorous Prize
The Eldar are an ancient and highly advanced alien race who voyaged across the stars long before Mankind could even comprehend such a thing. An extremely long-lived species, the Eldar are physically similar to humans, but with longer, cleaner limbs, slim and elegant features, pointed ears, and penetrating eyes. Though they may share superficial anatomical features with humans, an Eldar could not be mistaken for anything other than an alien. They move with an inhuman grace and elegance, live with an intensity of experience many times greater than humans, and possess potent psychic potential.
The Eldar have a long and complex history as a spacefaring race. They have been travelling across the gulfs of space for aeons and once ruled an empire of worlds that spanned the galaxy. Those days of dominance and glory have long passed, and the Eldar that exist in the late 41st Millennium are the dwindling remnants of a once-proud race. They are all that remain of a lost and wondrous age that ended with a cataclysmic event known as the Fall of the Eldar, which caused the collapse of the great Eldar civilisation as a result of the birth of Slaanesh, the Prince of Pleasure and youngest of the Chaos Gods in the early 30th Millennium. Most of those Eldar who survived the Fall did so by fleeing the death of their worlds on great city-like starships called Craftworlds, huge spacecraft many times more vast than the greatest ship of the Imperium that drift through the void on a journey without end.
Though they are a dwindling race, the technology and artifice of the Eldar is highly advanced. Most Eldar technology is based on the manipulation of psychoplastic materials collectively called Wraithbone using psychic energy to create breathtaking architecture, light but extremely effective armour, and deadly weapons. Their starships are swift and sleek craft propelled by solar sails and hidden by Holo-fields that hide their position and confuse observers. Incredibly manoeuvrable and armed with devastating weapons, an Eldar starship under the command of a master of space warfare is almost without peer.
For those Eldar who dwell within the Craftworlds, the heightened pitch at which Eldar experience life is tightly controlled by adhering to a Path which creates bounds and limits on an individual Eldar’s experience. Occasionally an Eldar turns his back on the Path and embraces an existence without restrictions; these Eldar are called Outcasts. This decision is a perilous one, as it not only leaves the Outcasts more vulnerable to the thirsting nemesis of Slaanesh that has pursued the Eldar since the Fall, but also opens them to the risk of becoming consumed by their experiences and so lose themselves to darkness. The Elder Corsairs that prey on other races in the void are Outcasts from the Eldar Path and are highly dangerous and unpredictable, equally likely to act with magnanimity or wanton slaughter.
There are several Eldar Corsair fleets active within the Koronus Expanse, ranging in size from single vessels to large and dangerous fleets. The exact number of separate fleets remains unclear, and distinguishing between different groups of Eldar or the finer points of alliance and fealty among Eldar is beyond most humans. Some hunt weak and underprotected vessels like predators drawn to feeble and sickly animals, using the exceptional manoeuvrability to take or destroy craft that stray into their hunting grounds.. Rarely do the Corsair ships attack the strongholds of other starfaring races openly, choosing rather the approach of the silent predator, unseen by its prey until it pounces. Of Corsair bands that lurk in the Koronus Expanse, two whose names are known with fear and dread are the Children of Thorns and the Crow Spirits.
Children of Thorns
When voidfarers in the Expanse speak of the fickle and vicious ways of Eldar Corsairs, their tales most often speak of the Corsairs known as the Children of Thorns. Clad in glossy beetle-black armour, the proud and capricious warriors of the Children of Thorns are merciless in combat and are said to slaughter their enemies to the last once battle is joined. It is said that one is fortunate to hear the keening war cries of the Children of Thorns and live to tell of it. The leader of the Children of Thorns is a female who long ago cast herself from the strictures of the Eldar Path to lead her Children of Thorns in bloodshed across the Halo Stars. Her true names long ago discarded, she is now simply known as the [[Mother of the Shadows]]. When attacking in the void, the night-black ships of the Children of Thorns prize stealth above all tactics. Only once they have ensured complete surprise and a perfect position of attack, they strike with ferocity and precision, crippling their prey and leaving the ship reeling and boarded by screaming, dark, and graceful shapes that kill and kill until there is nothing left alive and the prize is theirs.
Despite their terrifying reputation, the Children of Thorns have had dealings with a number of Rogue Traders in the Expanse and have even made compacts with a few or fought as mercenaries for those brave enough to seal such a bargain. It is perhaps these ties that give the Children of Thorns the phenomenally accurate information that allows them to strike at human craft close to the Maw with such accuracy. One or more Rogue Traders have sealed a compact with the Children of Thorns -- one paid for in the blood of their rivals.
The Crow Spirits are grim, cold killers who seem bent not on piracy but the selective annihilation of humanity within the Koronus Expanse. Clad in glittering armour that shines as if filled with moonlight, they make no sound in battle and are led by witches robed in pale tatters with tall helms of gleaming bone. Their starships are like pale dead things driven by a cold and broken will. Their tattered ethereal sails propel them from the depths of the void to strike at Imperial ships, colonies, and stations in the Foundling Worlds, Accursed Demesne, and Unbeholden Reaches.
Cloaked and unseen until it is too late, the Crow Spirits are borne on a storm within the Warp and realspace that boils and screams with ethereal voices. They destroy and kill with a cold precision -- and then leave, taking no prizes. Who leads these mysterious Corsairs and what their purpose is remains unknown, but some have speculated that they are guarding something, or keeping something from being discovered. At least one Inquisitor of the Ordo Xenos believes that the Crow Spirits have some tie to a notorious Eldar Corsair in the Calixis Sector -- Ulthyr Ellarion.
The Koronus Expanse has its share of legendary vessels -- among them Karrad Vall's Wolfpack and Da Wurldbreaka -- but none are as infamous as the Whisper of Anaris. This spectral Eldar voidship has reaved the Expanse for centuries, its appearance considered a portent of unholy calamity. Tattered ethereal sails propel the Eclipse-class Cruiser from the depths of the void, cloaked and hidden by holofield technology far more effective than most Eldar ships. The Whisper of Anaris ' potent pulse Lances have shattered ships across the Expanse. On some planets, a sighting of the Whisper of Anaris in local space is enough to kick off a frenzy of prayer and sacrifice to drive the ghost ship of the Expanse away.
The first reported encounter with the Whisper of Anaris was filed by Rogue Trader Aspyce Chorda on a resupply run to Lucin’s Breath. The ease with which the ghost ship shed pursuit and its tattered, keening solar sails became the genesis of a hundred stories of haunted vessels. There is only one certainty with the Whisper of Anaris -- it obeys an inscrutable plan. The ghost ship has been known to help Rogue Traders, on occasion, only to turn and attack in another encounter.
"...They’re coming through the walls...we’ve lost the enginarium and the port gun deck...urgent assistance requi...the...need heavier arms...the. [screeching sounds interlaced with rapid Shotcannon fire]...falling back! God-Emperor save me...broken thr..."
- —transcription of Vox data recovered from the wreck of the Merchant Brig Daughter of Regals, lost with all hands in 811.M41
The Rak'Gol are a relatively new threat to those who would ply the Koronus Expanse, encountered first in the dim stars past the Alenic Depths a little more than a century ago. A xenos breed of which little is known for fact, they take the appearance of rough-hewn and irregular stone reptilids, eight-limbed and over three metres long. Chalky white in colour and mantis-like in bodily arrangement, Rak’Gol warriors favour cybernetic augmentation to increase their abilities and replace lost limbs. Their point of origin remains unknown, as does the motivation for their sporadic attacks on human-held worlds and vessels, other than to slaughter indiscriminately and steal minerals and weapons. Their rasping, screeching language remains incomprehensible, and no successful communication between the Rak'Gol and humanity has been recorded; no Rak’Gol has ever been captured alive. Indeed, even their name is taken from children’s stories of mythical monsters from Footfall’s slums, legends which they superficially resemble.
Rak'Gol technology is judged by the Adeptus Mechanicus' Magos Explorators to be inferior to the Imperial standard, but what they lack in this regard they more than make up for with their ferocity and single-mindedness, as well as their individual combat prowess, which is considerable. Many mysteries surround them, not least of all the location of their homeworld, already marked for destruction by many Rogue Traders should it ever be found. Some believe that they may possess a pocket xenoempire somewhere deep in the Expanse; others claim they are no more than nomads, moving locust-like through the stars. Another mystery the Explorators and Ordo Xenos would like answered is how they appear to be able to navigate the Empyrean with some skill, as no psykers have been reported among them. A few Adepts with the dark wisdom to know such things have noted that the distorted symbols they use to adorn themselves bear some similarity to the blasphemous iconography of Chaos.
Disciples of Thule
"The galaxy is a midden scattered with the bones of humanity’s glory."
- —aphorism dictated by Paracelcus Thule
Archmagos Paracelcus Thule’s vast Explorator fleet is a potent force in the Calixian Adeptus Mechanicus. Despite that, he and his followers disappear beyond that sector’s boundaries for decades at a time. In 528.M41, a sub-fleet of Thuleans under Magos Solus Kanceme entered the Koronus Expanse and scattered far and wide, spurning xenos worlds in search of pre-Imperial artefacts sacred to the Omnissiah.
Little is known of Kanceme’s fate. The Disciples of Thule are a mystery to Rogue Traders, vanished into the far voids for centuries now, uncommunicative and fixated upon their own goals. Many believe the Thuleans lost, consumed by the myriad dangers of the Expanse. If the devotees of Paracelcus Thule still come and go through the Koronus Passage, then they do so secretively, avoiding both Port Wander and Footfall. A Rogue Trader who finds himself vying with Thuleans for a prize of ancient human technology should consider them as great and ruthless a foe as any xenos breed.
"If it does not rot, if it can lie like this here forever... is it truly dead?"
- —Savant Preem
The Koronus Expanse is rife with unnatural drifts of dead stars, each a dim ember, the remnant of a mighty cataclysm wherein a star convulsed in death throes, casting forth a shell of burning outer matter into the voids. The dark outer reaches of the Rifts of Hecaton were long ago sculpted by the violent deaths of dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of stars. A great evil indeed must have moved across the Expanse in a past age, a dark power that murdered the very stars, cluster by cluster. Dead Xenos Worlds orbit these stellar remnants, blasted molten in ancient death throes and then frozen beneath the wan light of a star-ember. Their ruins are cyclopean, their under-crust warrens labyrinthine, and their dire symbols, where not worn to dust by the passage of aeons, warn of xenos sorcery and ancient doom; they speak of the Yu’vath.
The Yu’vath were a blight upon the Calyx Expanse in the era of Lord Militant Angevin, prior to the creation of the Calixis Sector in the fourth century of the 39th Millennium. The Warp-worshipping Yu’vath enslaved worlds though vile xenos sorcery, expending the lives and souls of corrupted human slaves to build such horrors upon the Calyx Hell Worlds that chroniclers of the Angevin Crusade forbore to record them. The Warp-ridden Yu’vath and their tormented slave armies bled the Crusade’s forces for decades before their ultimate extinction at the hands of General (later Saint) Drusus and the Adeptus Astartes. Even now, chronicles of the Angevin Crusade’s victories over the Yu’vath are restricted works, and few savants know what came before the blessed establishment of the Calixis Sector.
"The best mercenaries are those for whom war is part of their base nature: they understand instinctively the requirement for loyalty to one’s employer and the pointlessness of betrayal. Those who die at the hands of their own hirelings do not understand this fact."
- —remark attributed to Rogue Trader Hiarm Sult
The Kroot are a predatory, often mercenary, avian breed of alien who fight with ferocity and feed on the dead. The Kroot maintain a nomadic society strangely divided between feral savagery and proficient high technology-use. Their homeworld is Pech and is fully part of the Tau Empire. However many Kroot fight for others as mercenaries, which is at odds with the Greater Good and something the Kroot seek to keep from their Tau allies. These mercenary kindreds will fight for anyone for the right price. They are thinly spread across the galaxy and cross the voids in imposing Warspheres, yet they abandon almost all of their technology to live and fight in a feral fashion once set down upon a habitable world. Most disturbingly, the Kroot eat the flesh of other species with an avid, selective hunger, and the ugly forms of their future generations take on some characteristics of the consumed. Much of their culture is driven by these unholy acts, carried out at the direction of their leaders, beasts known as Shapers. Every Warsphere contains many branches of the Kroot breed, made diverse and often corrupt by their Shapers’ past choice of victims -- some which were clearly human. Marauding Kroot Warspheres move across the Koronus Expanse very infrequently, though none can say from whence they came or what destination they see ahead. Some Rogue Traders have taken a handful of Kroot mercenaries into their employ where they have encountered them, but others exterminate them on sight, weary of so predacious a species gaining a foothold in the region.
Most kinds of wealth in the Expanse are measured in the Imperial currency of Throne Gelt, the coin of exchange in the nearby Calixis Sector. One of a number of sector and Segmentum based Imperial currencies whose value directly relates to the Administratum's audits, the worth of Throne Gelt is secured against the massive riches generated by Imperial planetary tithes, and is locally issued in the form of coins known as "Thrones."
A currency consists of whatever objects are a common unit of exchange in a given locale -- government coinage, ephemeral digital ledger-data, ammunition, gold nuggets, or shells picked from a beach. The currencies of Mankind are as varied as the worlds of the galaxy, and are only measured in Thrones when it comes time to collect the Imperial Tithe.
Port Wander, Footfall, the colony Foundling Worlds, and Imperial outposts of Winterscale's Realm are small portions of the greater Imperium, projected into far voids. A hundred different currencies are brought to Port Wander by merchants and Rogue Traders -- or even issued by those same worthies, for all great men and women wish to see their face embossed on coins or parchment notes. Money-changers of the Administratum are both corrupt and busy in the Port, and the heady mix of currencies seeps outwards into the Imperial settlements of the Koronus Expanse.
The isolated heathen human worlds of the Expanse are just as varied in terms of money. Upon war-torn Zayth, each hive-vehicle circulates its own coinage -- often small stamped ingots of precious metals hung upon loops of silver wire. Naduesh is still advanced enough for usury, complex trade arrangements, paper currency, and promissory scrip backed by the word and wealth of noble Maraj families. On other heathen worlds, even barter is conducted hesitantly, with all parties involved bearing arms.
Human reavers and pirates of the near-Koronus Expanse are often refugees or descendants from the Imperium, and so understand Throne Gelt's value. Of course, to these Renegades, offering currency in trade without a display of force or at least a little bloodletting first is a sign of weakness. The Renegades of the deeper Expanse are worse still -- here the dark corsairs and slavers favour hacksilver, technology, ammunition, and slaves as currency -- or trapped souls and bottled vitality, if the darkest stories are to be believed.
Xenos also have their currencies, though their interpretations of this concept may be remote and strange. The vile Ork, for example, counts wealth in "teef" -- literally the teeth of enemy Orks kept for noisy, threatening trade with "dem 'ard gits what got the bitz we needz." By comparison, the deceitful Aeldari of the Expanse do not appear to employ currency at all, and are said to find such human concepts of valuation primitive or debased. Aeldari do value certain items -- particularly the lost artefacts of their species.
However, attempting trade with Aeldari of any faction is a harrowing experience, with the negotiations ever treacherous and shifting. Perhaps of all the Expanse's xenos, the nomadic Stryxis have the most "human" outlook on trade. Though strange to look on, Stryxis caravans offer an often bewildering variety of goods, many perilous and outright prohibited within Imperial space. However, their inscrutable masters drive a hard bargain, and are never to be underestimated.
"I have looked into the expanse of soulless darkness that waits beyond the gates that man should not dare to pass. I have seen the death light in the eyes of those who walk that forbidden land."
- —from the personal reflections Inquisitor Hastur Whitlock
Halo Artefacts, or Halo Devices, have been known to select Arch-heretics, recidivists, and the Ordos of the Inquisition for millennia, ever since renowned Explorators and Rogue Traders of antiquity returned from the Halo Stars bearing these devices, along with tales of corpse stars and disturbing pict-records of dead Xenos Worlds.
The Artefacts defy analysis by tech-augury and are nearly imperious to age and harm. The corrupt amongst the Imperial masses long ago discovered that, through dark transformation of body and mind, some of these xenos devices can grant life eternal. The body is restored to youth and the passage of years no longer weakens the flesh. Other Halo Artefacts were found to possess stranger and greater powers, their unholy potency behind the rise of a number of infamous Arch-heretics. As centuries passed, the Artefacts were sought by masters of the occult and became legends amongst the power-hungry, associated with dire heresy and corruption. Nonetheless, perhaps a few score Artefacts have changed hands for vast sums since the Calixis Sector came into being, and the opening of the Koronus Expanse in the 41st Millennium has added to their number.
Halo Artefacts have many forms, but most are small and easily confused with odd jewellery, small pieces of armour, or even curious, abstract miniature statuary. Some are irregular spheres, some segmented ovoids a handbreadth wide, still others small scarab-like objects. All are clearly xenos in origin, made of an unidentifiable metallic material, and their texture and surface patterning calls to mind the shells of insects or skins of lizards.
A Rogue Trader might win a fortune to dwarf his noble inheritance in the trade of a single Halo Artefact won from a Dead World of the Koronus Expanse, but he risks both life and legacy to be burned alive, for that is the fate of all who are discovered by the Ordo Xenos to have touched such vile corruption. Or worse, the Artefact might call to him, merge with him, and drag him down into an eternity of corruption, the nightmare legacy of xenos creators long vanished to dark aeons.
Every Rogue Trader of note knows the bloody consequences that fell upon the Lord-Captains Balastus Irem, Rafe Longinus, and Eduard Majessus in the fifth century of the 41st Millennium as a result of their suspected dealings in Halo Artefacts. Wealth beyond measure exists in a hundred other forms in the Koronus Expanse: crux-gems, precious ores, xenos beasts for the circuses, and worlds brimming with heathen riches. Yet dead stars and eldritch biers upon lifeless Xenos Worlds sing their siren song, and there are always some who will listen.
There are those who seek the power offered by Halo Artefacts. These individuals become physically bonded to the device they have obtained and are transformed over time into undying inhuman monsters. The powers granted by a Halo Artefact come at great cost: a body, mind, and soul corrupted by ancient alien technology. Those who meld with a Halo Artefact are ultimately doomed, fallen prey to xeno thirsts and waking nightmares that come to rule their every moment. Many of these transformed monsters flee into the depths of the Koronus Expanse, where their transformation, and the unnatural thirsts that accompany it, can be hidden in places beneath undiscovered suns. Some amongst the Ordos Xenos look at Rogue Traders who spend much time unseen in the depths of the Expanse and shun the company of others, and wonder if they have become something other than human while walking the unexplored void.
Notable Rogue Traders of the Expanse
"To gain a throne, you must possess a throne -- like calls to like. How to gain that first throne? There is the chasm that divides men from serfs."
- —attributed to Barabbas Krin, of House Krin
- Aspyce Chorda - Aspyce Chorda is ruthless in both negotiation and battle, a dangerous woman who does not hesitate to cruelly remind others why they should be terrified of her. She cares greatly about form and elegance, but little for human life, save when it provides wealth for her coffers. When she ravaged the pirates of Iniquity at the close of the Harvest of Reavers in 754.M41, survivors were crudely lobotomized and sent as slave-serfs to Chorda’s various domains. When vying for resources with Calligos Winterscale in 785.M41, she initiated a violent war to get her way, heedless of the cost to her crews. The Chorda lineage is of piratical origins, its descendants only distinguished from those hunted by Battlefleet Calixis by their Warrant of Trade and noble birth. So the tale is told, a younger Aspyce Chorda captured her siblings and forced them into hidden cryovaults to ensure her sole mastery over the Chorda Warrant of Trade. There those unfortunates remain, frozen souls awaiting a revival that will never come.
- Calligos Winterscale - A man of passions, ruled by his notorious temper, Calligos Winterscale is not to be idly crossed. His demeanour can swing from back-slapping friendship to screaming anger and back again in a matter of minutes, and he does not hesitate to unleash his wrath to get his way. Winterscale respects strength of will -- though he may not show it whilst raging with anger. Those who concede are weak inferiors and will be treated as such. Even his allies and closest retainers are terrified by Winterscale’s intimidating, stormy moods. Calligos Winterscale is a forceful captain of battle and commands a potent vessel, the Emperor’s Vow. He possesses a gift for leading common scum and hardened voidfarers, and attracts dangerous men to his crews. Many of his servants and emissaries are but a single step from murderous criminals: muscled, intimidating men who might well be fresh from an Imperial prison.
- Jonquin Saul - There are nobles who pour scorn on the source of the Saul fortune, built though merchant trading between established worlds like common Free Traders or Chartered captains. Jonquin Saul is the epitome of his ancestry, a wilful and charismatic soul more captured by commerce and the ebb and flow of markets than by plunges into the unknown. Every circumstance and obstacle is an opportunity for trade, and it is a crime to let a meeting between Rogue Traders go without a deal struck to make both wealthier. Jonquin Saul views the Heathen Stars as the true grail of the Koronus Expanse: their billion souls will one day be linked to the Calixis Sector by trade routes and a staggering flow of goods. Vast wealth will accrue to Rogue Traders who can establish good routes though the dangers of the Expanse and reliable trade compacts with the heathens. In this endeavour, Saul has powerful allies amongst the Drusus Marches Adeptus Ministorum, which is eager to bring the God-Emperor’s words to souls lost in the far voids.
- Wrath Umboldt - Wrath Umboldt has seen horror in the Koronus Expanse: places to shrivel the soul and make blood run cold, places where Yu’vath once writhed, and places where the dead yet gather. It was he who discovered the Processional of the Damned in 746.M41 and glimpsed the Alenic Depths where souls are stolen. In the decades since that terrible voyage Umboldt has quested less within the Expanse and more within his own heart, in search of a deeper connection to the God-Emperor and a greater purpose than mere wealth. His fortunes as a Rogue Trader have been poor in any case, with numerous ventures of his small fleet into the near Expanse ended by disappointment and loss. Umboldt believes himself under a penance of ill luck sent by the saints to guide him to enlightenment.
- Tanak Valcetti - Tanak Valcetti presents himself as a man of refinement for whom the vicissitudes of expeditions into the dangerous Expanse are something one simply does not speak of. A noble must show himself uncaring of danger, possessed of a savant’s knowledge, and be far above the crude urges that beset lesser individuals. This, at least, is the philosophy of the Valcetti lineage. To date it is has served them well: centuries of cultured, arms-length politeness and a mildly acknowledged respect for the endeavours of others have ensured that Tanak Valcetti has few enemies. Behind the mask of noble courtesy is courageous, capable man with a genuine love for the finer things in life, and one who expects the best from his retainers. The wealth of the Valcetti family is presently maintained through the steady exploitation of the worlds within the Expanse and large investments in the trade between the Scarus and Calixis Sectors. Tanak Valcetti and his sons depart into the Koronus Expanse for years at a time, leaving his seneschal to manage his armoured estate and investments upon Port Wander.
Lost Rogue Trader Lineages
Many are the Rogue Trader lineages passed into darkness, victims of the Koronus Expanse or their own corruption. Large Rogue Trader families will survive the loss of their patriarch or a single scion, but lesser lineages can be extinguished utterly by a single death. Among those known to have been lost within the Koronus Expanse are the:
- Aquairre Lineage - This lineage died along with the notorious Kobras Aquairre, who gained a just reputation as a genocidal madman and the scourge of those who sought to escape the Imperium’s judgement. He vanished into the Rifts of Hecaton in 201.M41.
- Deed Lineage - The Ordo Xenos burned Amphian Deed at the pyre in 803.M41 for his role in the Halo of Darkness cult, ensuring he was the last of his line.
- Dewain Lineage - The Dewain lineage passed on the deathbed of Parsimus Dewain in 498.M41, as that great man left no heir.
- Haarlock Lineage - The Haarlock lineage was destroyed from within by bloody-handed Erasmus Haarlock, who then vanished in 703.M41. Of all the lost Rogue Trader lineages the Haarlock is perhaps most crowded with dark and terrible myth.
- Irem Lineage - The Irem lineage was ended by the Inquisition’s murder of Balastus Irem and all his family in 443.M41, fit punishment for trade in xenos corruption.
- Kail Lineage - The Kail lineage was ended by assassination within days of Fenton Kail’s declaration of discovering an intact standard template construct in 388.M41.
- Urussalin Lineage - The Urussalin Lineage was lost to the voids with Roodmar Urussalin, presumed slain by Orks in 718.M41.
- Renuka Lineage - Veronique Renuka was declared outlaw for her involvement in an attempted coup on the Calixian Hive World of Cyclopia in 179.M41. The Renuka’s descendants are said to still operate as pirates on the edge of the Unbeholden Reaches.
- Rogue Trader: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 113, 336-362
- Black Crusade: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 320