"Mutant cults? You've discovered that there may be some mutant cults in the mines? There have always been mutant cults in the deep tunnels! The difficulty isn't "discovering" that they exist—it's "discovering" ways to cull enough of the filthy scum to keep them from overrunning our homes and butchering us in our beds!"
- — Captain Thibalt Psarkin, 2nd Regiment, Pellennian Deep Guard
Pellenne is one of the Grand Worlds of the Askellon Sector. It is crucial to the sector's economy, not only by virtue of its tremendous mineral resources, but also by dint of its vital strategic position. It sits squarely along the Grand Processional, the primary Warp tributary linking the sector's Grand Worlds in relatively stable travel paths.
The Processional permits access to the sector capital, Juno, with Warp journeys between the two worlds lasting only scant weeks. In addition, Pellenne sits at the centre of a local web of lesser Warp-routes to a number of Low Worlds within the Stygies Cluster, and acts as a jumping-of point for spinward-bound traffic exiting the wider sector.
Pre-Imperial records relating to Pellenne are scant, but all extant documentation—spanning thousands of years—consistently describes it as a Mining World. Pre-Imperial commercial contracts retained by the ruling dynasties indicate that the planet’s initial human population was small, a long-vanished caste of peripatetic interstellar mining clans using a high degree of mechanisation. Over millennia, as the skills necessary to maintain their equipment were lost and their fleets of ragtag starships eroded, Pellenne's rulers became more and more reliant upon vast numbers of unskilled labourers shipped to the planet from adjacent inhabited worlds.
Pellenne corrupted these labourers; mutation ran rife among those toiling in the deep tunnels, even among those who took all precautions to ward themselves against the virulent radiation found within. For as long as there have been humans on Pellenne, there have been mutants and outcasts clinging to existence in ramshackle towns outside the shielded tunnel-cities, eking a miserable life from the effluent seeping downward from above them. The arrival of the Imperium made little difference to the planet’s utilisation; indeed, it only hastened the planet’s reliance upon off-worlders. Locking this imported labour into hereditary contracts of indentured servitude—to do the jobs the resource-rich Pellennian ruling dynasties were not prepared to do themselves—was the next logical step.
Given the number of indentured workers (who vastly outnumber the natives), the planet’s culture retains a rather rough edge, despite its antiquity, and Pellenne still feels like a Frontier World. As on most Imperial worlds, the majority of its inhabitants do not experience art, leisure, and the advantages of civilisation. Pellennian society remains highly stratified, with little interaction between social classes. The planet’s rulers, a class of interrelated (and often inbred) noble families known as the “Dynants” live in heavily shielded towers on the surface, protected by dozens of regiments of ferocious Enforcer-soldiers—the Deep Guard.
The Dynants are aggressive exploiters of the poor of the Stygies cluster, enticing them to the planet with promises of honest paid work, only to then tie them in to contracts containing unachievable mining targets. Every year, hundreds of thousands of naive workers arrive in Fornix, Pellenne’s great subterranean capital city, to discover that they must carry out decades of backbreaking work in highly radioactive mines. There are tales of some managing to eventually leave, but they are more hopeful myth than fact.
The planet exacts a toll on those who work there; mutation rates, especially among those who work closer to the planet’s core, are frighteningly high, despite extensive rad-shielding. Any worker exhibiting signs of mutation is dismissed immediately, exiled from the protection of the great tunnel cities, and driven into the vast and ancient mutant Pellennian underclass
Deep Guard Enforcer
The famed Deep Guard regiments act as both a local defence force and Enforcers on Pellenne, an unusual dual role which speaks volumes regarding the Dynants’ paranoia, obsession with control, and the lengths they go to in order to retain it. Effectively a well equipped militia force consisting solely of native-born Pellennians from the upper, lesser-irradiated levels of the planet, the Deep Guard have a well-deserved reputation for brutality. However, this is tempered by a keen insight into the desperate tactics of mutants from within Imperial society, making the Deep Guard a valuable asset to the wider Imperium: Deep Guard regiments are routinely tithed to the Astra Militarum to take part in the brutal suppression of mutant uprisings across the segmentum and beyond. Their distinctive appearance, with their iron combat armour and stylised drill-bit shaped great helms has made them a familiar sight in areas of civil disturbance across the sector.
No one knows exactly how many mutants there are on Pellenne. Since time immemorial, they have lurked at the edges of human society, feeding upon its refuse and watching its inhabitants with envious eyes. In recent years, as many of the great excavation machines have begun to malfunction, these outcasts have assumed a greater economic importance; each mine’s overseer now musters them together every work-cycle in their thousands and herds them into the deepest mines, where they hack away at the bare iron with hand tools in exchange for meagre scraps of food. Those wretches closest to the currently-worked mines and tunnel cities, a group consisting largely of recently-mutated indentured workers desperate for survival, are still utterly dependent upon human society. These desperate exiles occupy hastily-assembled shanties, and jostle for the scraps thrown to them by Pellenne’s untainted population.
At a remove from these unfortunates are the descendants of earlier outcasts. These more experienced mutants are less servile and more resentful of their lot. Prone to forming ruthless, exploitative, and secreted bands with their own gang-cant, they are opportunists, entrepreneurs, and innovators, establishing their own constantly-evolving culture. The movers and shakers of mutant society, they operate tattered drinking dens and seedy outposts, many of which are the grandest buildings in the under-towns. These crime lords and ladies, agitators, and thugs are responsible for many ill-fated uprisings against the cruelty of the Dynants over the centuries.
At yet a further remove is a third mutant community. This is by far the most poorly-understood population, consisting of those mutants who, in ancient times, led deep into the lowest and oldest tunnels. A primeval and preternatural attraction to the depths has always drawn the most mutated. Every year, as if at some secret signal, thousands of mutants wander into the darkness in ones and twos. Many die, their desiccated corpses littering the dark, spiralling tunnels. Yet many seem to find others of their kind, there living a peculiar, almost tribal, existence, feeding upon each other and the strange mould that glimmers wetly in the darkness. Here, strange societies bloom and fall, far from the eyes of the Imperium, worshipping and sacrificing to hidden gods. Here the spiral mutants breed and plot, waiting patiently for the day when their numbers are so great that they can rise up from the deepest tunnels and drown the light of the human cities in eternal darkness. One day, soon it appears, their time will come despite the futile efforts of those above to eliminate mutants from Pellenne
Spiral Pit Mutant
The mutants of the deepest pits are an ancient tribal people, subsisting on an unholy diet of cannibalism and a sickening black radiotrophic mould that thrives upon the latent radiation of Pellenne’s lower levels. How the spiral pit mutants survive in what should be a lethally-radioactive environment is a matter of some conjecture. Perhaps they have evolved unprecedented levels of natural resistance, or perhaps they have located tunnels with survivable radiation levels; no satisfactory proof supporting either explanation has yet been found. Some blasphemous theories even hold that the descendants of Askellon’s mythological first settlers live among these mutants. These tales relate that though they were once human, they have since devolved to a level where they are no longer recognisable except as horrid creatures to be exterminated as rapidly as possible.
What could have driven them to sink so far, both in geography and shape, make up the most twisted parts of these theories. Although by no means a true-breeding Abhuman race, the mutants of the deepest pits tend to share certain traits: glowing eyes, powerful and tumorous horn-like protrusions, and terrifying ferocity when threatened. Although these atavistic mutants have devolved to a lower tech-level, they are by no means animalistic in their behaviour. They have created their own unique languages and cultures, demonstrate complex (if sinister) religious beliefs, and utilise sophisticated techniques when hunting and battling the human inhabitants of the upper tunnel systems
Veiled Mutant Noble Conspirator
Not all mutants are shambling monstrosities whose deformities are so obvious that they must run to the darkest tunnels to hide from torch-wielding mobs. There are many who bear the stigmata of genetic impurity in some less obvious, concealable fashion: a second leering face embedded in their chest, a withered extra limb that can be wrapped under voluminous clothing—the variations are infinite. On Pellenne, it is said that some within the coddled ruling class, the Dynants, secretly bear the mark of the mutant, and conceal their condition for fear of what they would lose if they were forced to join the ranks of those they have oppressed. These conflicted individuals are, by virtue of their condition, easily drawn into conspiracy, whether by blackmail or by desperate need to keep their corruption secret from the agents of the Imperium. Some veiled mutants desperately search for a “cure” for their mutation, while others gather together with other similarly-afflicted individuals and form secret cults for protection, or for fostering revolution against those who would seek to burn them at the stake
The Consanguinity is a Pellennian sect dedicated to the total eradication of mutants and those who might support them, and worries many with its growing power. Even amid the company of myriad other groups obsessed with destroying mutants wherever they are found, this mildly-tolerated cult stands apart for the volume and extent of its horrific atrocities, extreme fanaticism, and willingness to engage in extreme violence against both mutants and untainted humans alike. In the Consanguinity’s eyes, any human who refuses to devote every waking moment to the extermination of mutants deserves nothing less than death, and only vigorous, ongoing war against mutants is acceptable.
Founded on Pellenne three centuries ago, with a manifesto branded into the chest of a charred mutant corpse nailed to the doors of Fornix’s High Templum, the cult has in recent years spread its tendrils throughout the Stygies Cluster and beyond. It is highly dogmatic and refuses to allow for any possible usefulness of mutants in any aspect of the Imperium. Brothers of the Consanguinity do not accept any accommodation with mutant communities, and insist upon taking steps to destroy them where local authorities refuse to do so. Indeed, they have been known to assassinate Imperial figures in positions of power who refuse to act against mutant populations per their dictates, often seeking to portray these murders as the work of mutants. In recent years, they have been extremely active, and have come to exercise a frightening degree of control over the mid-level slums of Pellenne. The sect routinely conducts purges wherein those bearing minor birthmarks or disfigurements are burned alive, and summarily executes any citizens believed (accurately or not) to have had dealings with mutants in any capacity. The Dynants who rule Pellenne are increasingly concerned by the support that the Consanguinity appears to enjoy among the working classes. While the Dynants (like all proper Imperial citizens) despise mutants, they despise any threat to their primacy more, and now actively plot against the cult.
The Consanguinity is obsessively secretive; each “Frater Consanguinitas” (as members of the organisation style themselves) runs his hate-fuelled operations under a highly organised cell structure, while wearing an all-encompassing black robe and identity-concealing hood. The history and membership of the group is virtually unknown, and indeed individual members go to extreme lengths to keep their identities as hidden as possible. The sect has induced unrest in Pellenne and the surrounding Stygies region by pitting mutants and untainted citizens against each other, to the extent that a number of armed conflicts have been attributed to their work. In recent years, it is rumoured that certain Inquisitors have turned their attention to the group, regarding it as a destabilising influence on important worlds within the Askellon Sector, despite perhaps sharing some sympathy for the group’s objectives. There are confused reports of local planetary forces conducting purges of the Consanguinity, and indeed it is muttered in certain quarters that some Frater-run cells have been quietly eliminated by shadowy Inquisitorial operatives, only to reappear in a new, more powerful form at later times. There is, however, little proof of these allegations.
Despite many attempts, the rulers of Pellenne have never satisfactorily established the identity of the leaders of the Consanguinity sect. Undercover Deep Guard investigations have identified that certain shadowy masked figures issue instructions to individual cell commanders at Consanguinity gatherings, but these individuals have never been captured. These Magisters Consanguinitae seem as skilled in rhetoric and inflaming mobs as they are in subterfuge, treachery, and counter-surveillance. They have been recorded delivering instruction to junior members of the movement in skills as diverse as bomb construction, operating covert cells in hostile territory, countering interrogation techniques, and the deployment of propaganda. The skilled professionalism of these leaders is of some concern to authorities, as they far exceed those typically found among unofficially tolerated groups of this sort. Speculation about the leadership, and why it has insisted on secrecy, has ranged far and wide in senior Imperial circles; the conclusions drawn have led to increased official interest in the cult.
Individual members of a Consanguinity cell are unprepossessing and anonymous, as if expressly selected for their ability to blend into a crowd. When in public, they wear plain, black, unadorned robes with tall hoods that mask their identity and often carry stylised totems displaying a foul mutant hanging from a gallows. All are devoted to committing heinous actions against mutants and those they believe support them in any manner, especially if they provoke greater hatred between humans and mutants.
Pellenne is a large planet consisting primarily of high-purity unprocessed iron. The iron is not mixed in with rocky ore, or locked below a crust; rather improbably, the entire world appears to be the cooled core of a far larger former planet. It has a thin atmosphere, which at surface level has been heavily polluted and is barely capable of supporting human life. For this reason, human society on Pellenne is almost entirely subterranean. The planet is riddled with gigantic tunnels, most over a kilometre wide and some much larger. All run for hundreds or even thousands of kilometres in meandering, apparently random courses through the world. Some drop vertically from the surface to unfathomable depths, while others form lazy spirals that slowly meander towards the core over tens of thousands of kilometres. All eventually lead downwards. The tunnels appear to have been cut through the iron during some ancient era, using vast boring machines that have now vanished. There has been much speculation as to the source of these channels; the official explanation is that the tunnels are wonders of the Dark Age of Technology, created by the legendary first Askellian settlers during Mankind’s distant times. However, some have pointed to the difficulty of accurately dating the passages; there is also quiet speculation in some quarters that they are far, far older and date back millions of years to some unspecified pre-human culture. The planet’s gravity hovers around one Holy Terran standard; despite the planet’s vast size, this implies that much of its mass may have been removed by whatever created the vast tunnel network that pervades the world.
The planet’s unusually elevated radiation levels, atypically, do not appear to derive from the Pellennian system’s own star, but from the planet itself. Radiation levels increase with proximity to the core; at the surface they are raised, but tolerable. In the lowest tunnels they can become quite lethal. The source of the radiation has never been satisfactorily explained, and few are anxious to journey into the lower depths to discover it. Given this, the iron mined on Pellenne should be highly radioactive; however, this is surprisingly not the case. While the iron exhibits high levels of radiation at depth near the core, it somehow loses this quality as it is brought to the surface in a phenomenon not fully understood by the Adepts who have studied it.
Such an environment is inimical to human habitation, and as such the planet’s surface outposts and extensive subterranean cities are well-protected with Void Shields and other protections to ward against the horrific effects of rad-corruption. However, much to the dismay of the planet’s long-term inhabitants, mutation rates among the population remain unusually high, even within the richest and best-shielded noble enclaves. Why this should be the case is a growing concern to senior figures within the world’s ruling classes. Some have suggested that the mysterious radiation source deep at the planetary core emits energies undetectable by the traditional rad-augurs, energies which have the effect of mutating human genetic material. The preachers of the Adeptus Ministorum cry out that high mutation rates are a sign not of some physical or genetic taint, but of a spiritual malaise brought about by lack of faith in the Emperor. Certain Inquisitors worry that the truth of the matter lies somewhere between these two extremes, and fear that at the heart of the planet lies some object or being which is somehow twisting the planet’s human inhabitants into new forms.
Pellenne possesses two small moons. One, Brax, is rich in rare silicates while the other, Leem, is a carbon moon rich in titanium carbide and diamond. Such a combination of geologically distinct bodies in a single system is highly unlikely in planetary formation. The question of how such conveniently exploitable resources came to be in their current location has such worrying implications that few Pellennians are inclined to delve into the matter too deeply, however. Both moons show the same evidence of mining by boring machines of colossal size during some unidentifiable previous period. There is a third, artificial moon, Facility Rho-Kappa 213. This large orbiting smelt yard is operated by the Adeptus Mechanicus under the terms of a centuries-old mutual benefit charter entered into with the current Pellennian ruling dynasty. Beyond these, the space above is remarkably free of orbital bodies and debris.
Pellenne's resources are crucial to the operation of the entire Askellian economy. It annually exports hundreds of teratonnes of pure, high-quality iron for use across the sector, together with large quantities of rarer minerals and ores from its moons. The reliability and consistent supply of iron generated by Pellenne has made it a world of importance; unlike other resource worlds, there is no sign of Pellenne’s natural bounty exhausting itself at any time in the future.
- Dark Heresy: Enemies Within (2nd Edition) (RPG), pp. 90-95