- "I've been a lot of places boy. I've tussled with Enforcers on more worlds than you've got hairs on your head. If you're going to peddle your cold trade services here... well... you're going to need to be a bit faster on the draw."
- — Gui, Acolyte of the Inquisition
Scintilla is the capital world of the Calixis Sector of the Segmentum Obscurus, and is a thriving Imperial hub that supports the largest planetary population in the sector. It is dominated (some observers say "shared") by two vast hive cities, Hive Sibellus and Hive Tarsus, into which the vast majority of the planet's groaning population are crammed.
Despite the dominance of the two great hives, the "offspring" communities of Ambulon and Gunmetal City contribute significantly to the planet's economic function. Scintilla is a world of splendours where the wealthy and powerful compete with ruthless appetite. Astonishing magnificence abounds, from the wondrous fashions of the hive nobility to the towering spectacle of the hives themselves. Landmarks like the Lucid Palace and the Cathedral of Illumination are famous throughout the sector.
Scintilla is also a world of corruption. Moral decay eats away at the noble houses, members of which are often deluded by their own wealth and status. In the rarefied culture of the high-born, the corruption of power and privilege runs deep. Noble houses consider themselves (sometimes correctly) as above or outside of Imperial law and can wield immense influence.
Their attitude towards those lower-born is callous: it is not unknown for thrill-seeking degenerates from noble houses to prey upon lesser-ranked humans as sport, often feeding secret Chaos Cults devoted to Slaanesh. At the other end of the social spectrum, the underhives are rife with mutants, outlaws and ultra-violent gangs, as well as the psychotic zealots of the Redemption.
The middle hivers trapped between the aristo spires and the rancid underhives live out thankless lives of unending toil, where ignorance is a virtue, and death is a reward for a lifetime of loyal, drone servitude, fulfilling the exorbitant tithes levied on Scintilla by the Administratum. It has been this way since the days of Angevin, and Scintilla's various corruptions are so deeply ingrained that they have become invisible even to those who perpetrate them.
Scintilla's most important features are its two hive cities: immense, multi-levelled arcologies that house billions of Imperial citizens. Both hives on Scintilla are largely independent, ruled by councils drawn from the nobles of the spire. The majority of the inhabitants are middle hivers, the labouring classes, without whom the planet's manufactoria and trade houses would cease to function. Almost all middle hivers are owned by or indentured to nobles from the powerful, sector-wide Great Houses or from Scintilla's own lesser houses.
The poorest and most neglected areas are the underhives: polluted, crime-ridden places where life is cheap and brutal gangs struggle for supremacy before violent death inevitably claims them. As long as the violence does not spill over into the middle hives, the authorities are happy to let the gangs murder each other in the cesspits of the underhive.
Scintilla's two great hives have always competed with one another for prestige and influence, but no rational observer could fail to acknowledge Hive Sibellus' dominance. Geographically the larger of the two hives, it is often referred to as "the Capital" or the "ruling hive," and is both the seat of political and administrative power on the world, and the centre of the planet's manufacturing might.
Hive Tarsus functions as a dark, shadowy twin, popularly referred to, by Sibellians, as the "Other Place." Hive Tarsus is a mercantile hive city and controls all off-world trade and commerce. Neither hive could function without the other, a fact celebrated in Scintillan proverbs and myths. However, neither great hive would openly admit to the importance of the "offspring" communities, Ambulon and Gunmetal City, both of which wield considerable influences of their own.
Law on Scintilla is the province of the Magistratum, the planet's local Enforcers and police force. In the higher hive spires, the dark green greatcoats of Magistratum officers are a common sight as they patrol the streets and investigate anything from petty theft upwards. In the middle spires, they are concerned mainly with serious or violent crime, unable and unwilling to deal with other common crimes. In the underhives, they are almost completely absent.
The quality of the Magistratum's officers and procedures varies enormously through the layers of Scintilla's hives, depending on the funding and support they are given by the ruling noble councils, and on the environments they have to work in. Inevitably, it is far easier for a noble victim to get the Magistratum to investigate a crime, and far easier for a middle hiver criminal to be arrested for one.
The Adeptus Arbites have a strong presence on Scintilla but they leave everyday policing to the Magistratum, concentrating on sedition, interference with the Imperial tithes, certain cult and psyker activity, and in using their paramilitary strength to help put down major riots. Most Scintillan citizens never see an Arbites officer unless it is from the wrong side of a riot shield. The Arbites and the Magistratum despise each other and have little interest in working together except under dire circumstances.
The laws across Scintilla vary from place to place, but two constants are trial by combat and duelling. Both are legal on Scintilla, and trials by combat are especially common when the hive city nobility are involved. Trials by combat, where the accuser and defendant fight to decide who is right, have conditions attached depending on the nature of the crime (murder and severe violent crime is to the death, while some crimes have restrictions on the weapons to be used and sometimes bizarre conditions for victory, from first blood to the removal of limbs).
It is permitted for either party to have a champion fight in their place and a skilled combatant can find lucrative, if perilous, employment in the Bloodsquares run by the Magistratum. Needless to say, good champions do not come cheap, and the very best are retained by the noble houses of the spires.
Similarly, duelling is permitted on Scintilla and forms a part of the culture in the hives and elsewhere. The Magistratum does not interfere with duels and killing an opponent in a duel is not considered murder. This means it is entirely possible to eliminate an enemy by manufacturing a matter of honour between him and an opponent who happens to excel at the form of combat used in the duel.
Hive Sibellus is the oldest city on Scintilla, almost certainly predating Lord Militant Golgenna Angevin's invasions of the Calyx Expanse. Its immense, eight thousand kilometre-wide bulk dominates the coastal plains and lowlands of the northern temperate landmass. Where its enormous, multi-layered skirts touch the coast itself -- in a five hundred kilometre belt -- they spill out over the black granite cliffs like shelves or glacial ridges. Sibellus has twice the population of its "twin" Hive Tarsus.
Like almost all Imperial hive cities, Hive Sibellus is composed of an extraordinary conglomeration of architectural forms. Countless generations have added their own embellishments and every available surface is crammed with gargoyles, frescoes, columns and mosaics. The hive spire is a jumble of glittering wonders, while the middle hive -- and even the underhive -- is composed of long-fallen statues and temples to wealth and power. The middle hivers live in rickety tenements built inside the shells of great mansions and basilicas, and trudge to work each day through avenues formed by fallen statues. The underhivers live in buried hovels built into the eyes of great stone heads or clustered around the broken columns of fallen temples.
The sprawl of the hive is at its most spectacular along the rugged coastline. The hive looms -- indeed, spills -- over towering black granite cliffs, which are lashed by ferocious seas during the stormy season. The Lucid Palace, a city in its own right, stands on a massive column of rock rising from the sea just off the coast, connected to the hive city by a single, cyclopean, stone processional bridge, as well as by countless smaller rope bridges and a fleet of ferries which transport strong-stomached passengers across the debris-strewn waters.
Hundreds of rickety elevators scale the cliffs and the rock column on which the palace stands, and the hovels of ferrymen and fishermen cling to the rock face like barnacles. The bulk of Hive Sibellus itself rises up many times the height of the cliffs, casting a permanent shadow over the headland and the waters.
Hive Sibellus is Scintilla's power centre and every noble house on the planet seeks to have its own estate on the hive spire. These estates form an extraordinary riot of architectural styles, from stern fortresses to gilded pleasure palaces. The spire is constantly growing, the new estates built on the remains of the old, and so a Sibellan noble house must constantly strive to embellish its own estates to keep up.
Antiquity is everything in Hive Sibellus. A family draws prestige from the number of ancestral generations it can trace and even the newest estates look like age-weathered bastions of tradition. Hive Sibellus' nobles are intensely competitive and demonstrate their superiority through the magnificence of their estates as well as the antiquities they collect, from artefacts excavated from the deserts and jungles of Scintilla to works of art from across the Imperium. Most estates conceal a high-security gallery or museum, which sometimes holds extremely valuable and illegal items, like xenos artefacts or even dangerous proscribed texts.
The streets of the hive spire are constantly busy. Hive Sibellus' noble fashions are spectacular, impractical and perpetually changing, and the nobles travel the streets of the spire accompanied by large retinues of servants whose primary role is to look impressive. The streets in the spire are very safe thanks to the large private armies that guard every estate and the efforts of the Magistratum to man checkpoints, which regulate the people coming in and out of the hive spire.
Violence in the spire, apart from trials by combat and sanctioned duels, is rare -- the crime that most nobles fret about is burglary, since their collections or artworks and relics are so important to them. Tales of impossibly skilled cat burglars are a staple of Hive Sibellus' folklore and many of those tales are true, since there are a great many things worth stealing in the spire of Hive Sibellus.
Hive Sibellus' middle hive is dominated by manufactoria devoted to heavy production and the enormous blocks of cheap, warren-like housing for the factoria workers. The traditions of the hive spire filter down to the middle hive, with many hivers collecting curious objects to beautify their meagre homes, aping the extraordinary fashions of the spire nobles or even keeping crudely stuffed dead relatives. The middle hive's factories and tenement blocks are built among layers of compressed mansions and statuary, making it a confusing and dark place of collapsed finery.
Somewhere deep amongst the fragments of vast statues and toppled remains of great temple-mansions, the middle hive becomes the underhive. Composed of countless compressed layers of the city above, Hive Sibellus' vast underhive is impossible to navigate and prone to frequent collapse. Underhive settlements huddle in the few stable areas, separated from one another by endless deadly warrens where hive-quakes and cave-ins are a constant threat.
Many settlements are completely isolated, their inhabitants hunting underhive vermin to survive and having no idea that there is a hive city above them at all. It is not unknown for nobles of the spire to sponsor heavily-armed expeditions into the underhive to dig up coveted artefacts from Scintilla's past or to explore the tombs of a family's distant ancestors.
Hive Sibellus' most extraordinary single landmark is the Lucid Palace, which houses the magnificent court of Sector Governor Marius Hax. The Lucid Palace, and the vast column rising from the waves on which it sits, is thought to be much older than Hive Sibellus or indeed, anything on Scintilla. The palace resembles a vast flower of stone, its granite petals overlapping to form its huge dome and the many archways used as entrances. The palace is draped with hundreds of banners representing the institutions of Scintilla and its noble houses, and having a banner fluttering from the palace dome is an honour that some will murder for.
Another spectacular landmark is the Bastion Porphyr. This slender tower of purple-black stone is the tallest point in Hive Sibellus and the headquarters for Scintilla's astropaths. Scintilla's Astropathic Choir consists of about half a dozen astropaths, the largest concentration of these powerful psykers in the Calixis Sector, led by Senior Astropath Xiao.
These astropaths are the only means for contacting other sectors and without them the Calixis Sector would be cut off from the rest of the Imperium. Anyone who wishes to use them to send a message must personally climb the apparently endless spiral staircase up the tower and make their request personally to Senior Astropath Xiao. Each astropath has a different method of visualising and sending messages, and they spend their lives amid the draughty belfries of the Bastion performing intensive mental exercises and studying the tomes of symbolic code. Aside from a few Servitors to assist them, no one lives in the Bastion other than the astropaths.
The other most notable landmark in the hive is the Tricorn Palace, the headquarters of the Inquisition on Scintilla. A dark and austere trio of linked towers at the northern end of the hive sprawl, the palace is the headquarters of the High Council of the Calixian Conclave, which is to say that it is the administrative seat of the Inquisition in the Calixis Sector.
Since earliest times, the Inquisition has often convened and empowered a conclave of its members for each sector of the Imperium. Each sector conclave is ruled by an Inquisitor Lord of unimpeachable merit, selected and appointed by the High Lords of the Inquisition on Terra. For the past two hundred standard years, the Lord Inquisitor of the Calixian Conclave has been Aegult Caidin.
Though respectful of the Lord Sector, Caidin answers to no one except the distant High Lords. From the Tricorn Palace, he supervises and directs the general policies and activities of the Inquisitors under his command, as well as individual specialist cabals of Inquisitors sent upon "special circumstance" missions. The Lord Inquisitor is seldom seen in public. It is said that he keeps his true likeness secret, even from close aides and allies, so as to be free to operate unmolested and unrecognised. His true age is not known.
Lord Inquisitor Caidin chairs the High Council of the Calixian Conclave, a ruling body of seventy senior Inquistors drawn from all three Ordos, which orchestrates and monitors the Inquisition's work throughout the sector's territories. Estimates suggest that over eight thousand Inquisitorial personnel toil in the officio of the Tricorn Palace, from lowly scribes to archivists, from savants to specialist Tech-adepts.
A small but potent army of Inquisitorial troops is garrisoned at the Tricorn Palace and dedicated starships of the Inquisition are permanently stationed at high anchor above Scintilla for rapid response deployment. It is also suggested, but unconfirmed, that the Tricorn Palace possesses its own astrotelepathic choir. In times of great crisis, the Officio of the High Council Calixis can call upon the help of any Imperial Adepta it requires.
New Acolytes to the Inquisition on Scintilla often start their teachings by learning the Scintillan Dictates, which are based off a series of letters by Inquisitor Heraclion Theos intended to educate investigators on the Calixis Sector's capital world of Scintilla.
The general multitudes shun the Tricorn Palace, regarding it as a place of fear, peril and downright evil, though largely this is because the average citizen has no real grasp of the work and duties of the conclave. Nevertheless, to be seized by the Inquisition and carried to the Tricorn for questioning is a grim fate that few ever return from.
Hive Tarsus is Scintilla's second largest population centre and is the seat of the planet's trade and commerce. It maintains an aggressive independence from Hive Sibellus, though it relies on the export produce of Sibellus' manufactoria. Hive Tarsus is in the centre of Scintilla's least hospitable desert, baking in the relentless sun and battered by sandstorms.
The hive's construction is based around a foundation of immense vertical bars, between which stretch the great conglomerations of buildings that make up the body of the hive. As a result, Hive Tarsus is more vertical than horizontal, with more middle hivers climbing to work than walking.
Hive Tarsus' unusual structure and hostile location mean that darkness and cold are valued commodities and, as such, very unusually for a hive city, the richest areas are those on the bottom of the hive instead of at the top. Hive Tarsus' nobility enjoy the shade afforded by having a whole city strung in a dizzying web above them, while they are far enough from the merciless sun to live in cool comfort. The very wealthiest live in pitch-black subterranean mansions where inhabitants and visitors carry dim lanterns to see by, while the air is cooled to sub-zero temperatures that require everyone to wear lavish furs.
The nobility here demonstrate their superiority by controlling their environment at immense cost, even to the extent of making their handsome estates as dangerous to the ill-prepared as the worst summer droughts. Hive scum that stray too close to the base of the city are often found frozen to death, caught out by the dramatic drops in temperature the closer they get to the wealthiest districts.
The closer to the surface of Hive Tarsus, the poorer and more dangerous the hive becomes. Middle hivers labour in sweltering workshops bathed in the heat filtering down from the sun, plagued by sunbeams that sweep through the hive during the day and burn exposed skin. The outermost layers (known as the Hiveskin) are hellish; it is almost too hot to breathe and hivers are bathed in sunlight so potent it can make those caught in it blacken and shrivel up in a few solar minutes.
Layers of hovels cling to the top and sides of the hive, too flimsy to completely block out the deadly sun or the frequent lethal sandstorms. Worst of all, the heat is relentless, easily hot enough to kill those not adapted to it. The hiveskinners scrabble like scarabs across the outermost layers to avoid the worst of the sun as it moves overhead during the day. They are a sunburned, sand-scarred lot who survive by hunting the hardy fauna that dwells here including dangerous Scaldbats and mildly poisonous Fingerburner Beetles. Many wear improvised, iridescent armour suits to reflect the sun, so that they themselves resemble human-sized beetles.
Trade within Hive Tarsus
Hive Tarsus manufactures very little. Instead, its middle hive is dominated by the Goldenhand, a vast complex of trading halls and auction houses held like a great golden nugget in the heart of Tarsus' city-web. The Goldenhand houses a massive, infinitely complex financial market where commodities are bought and sold at a dizzying rate, and enormous amounts of money and goods change hands hourly.
Traders representing both planetary and sector-wide houses buy, sell and try to swindle each other. The Goldenhand never shuts and is constantly thronged with people yelling out offers and curses in a complicated trader's code called Goldentongue. Most traders are accompanied by armed bodyguards, since the application of violence or even assassination are recognised tactics for gaining the upper hand. Activity in the Goldenhand is extremely intense, with few who work there lasting very long before they are burned out. Many is the man who has lost a fortune for his noble patrons in the Goldenhand and chosen to walk to certain death into the desert to do penance for his failures.
Activity in the Goldenhand is regulated by two bodies. The first is the Goldenhand's own staff of auction masters and functionaries; dressed in browns and brass, their faces painted deep gold, they look appropriately enough like a part of the Goldenhand itself. The second group is the Administratum. The Adepts of the Administratum's Goldenhand Consular Taskforce (under the leadership of the energetic and surprisingly goodhumoured Consul Sevavin) forms the largest concentration of Adepts on Scintilla and probably in the whole Calixis Sector.
They are a familiar sight in their stark grey uniforms, contrasting with the outlandish fashions of the various noble traders, and are never jostled or threatened as they go about their business. The Adepts are considered above the violence that flourishes between the other traders, partly because they represent the interests of the God-Emperor, but mainly because they have the very best protection in the form of veteran soldiers from the Death World of Mortressa. The Adepts' purpose in the Goldenhand is to ensure that the tithes handed over to the Administratum from the hives of Scintilla do not consist of inferior goods with inflated values, and to maintain awareness of all the major deals going on among the planet's noble houses.
Another important player is House Krin, one of the great sector-wide noble houses, which revels in its reputation as "Drusus' bankers" and can arrange banking and massive loans to anyone confident that they can pay up when the time comes. The Adepts of the Administratum are based in a building of gold and glass suspended over the Goldenhand's largest trading hall, while House Krin's household troops protect the family's complex of vaults and safe rooms just beneath the Goldenhand.
Hive Tarsus' trade dominance is due to the fact that the planet's orbital docks are geostationary above the hive. It is said that Tarsus is the "lungs and stomach" of Scintilla. Vast wharfs and warehousing/handling vaults dominate the middle hive, pulsing with the import and export of goods. There are said to be chambers the size of cathedrals in the dense heart of Hive Tarsus, packed with crated goods never claimed or shifted.
Hive Tarsus' proximity to the orbital docks means that it is also the home of the planet's military units. Scintilla's Planetary Defence Force, the Army of the Scintillan Protectorate, is based at Hive Tarsus. It draws its troops from across the planet and there is considerable rivalry between regiments. The regiments raised from Gunmetal City's ruffians consider themselves to be superior and they are mostly justified in this, with the Gunmetal regiments being the equal of the Astra Militarum.
The Gunmetallicus 41st Regiment, in particular, is a prestigious elite formation whose troops are used to escort VIPs and perform dangerous missions in the wastelands between the hives. When the Imperium needs new Imperial Guard regiments raised for conflicts close to the Calixis Sector, Scintilla's tithe is often raised to include a draft of manpower for the Imperial Guard. This draft is mostly taken from the Army of the Scintillan Protectorate, with some Imperial Guard also being raised from the ultra-violent gangers of Gunmetal City's notorious Infernis.
Since the Scintillan troops often cut their teeth battling the Infernis gangs, care must be taken to keep the resulting Imperial Guard regiments apart. The Army of the Scintillan Protectorate, while answering to Marius Hax in his role as Planetary Governor, is effectively sponsored by the noble families who contribute their household troops to tours in the army, and most of its officer class is drawn from the younger sons and daughters of noble houses. Warrior brotherhoods, secret societies often born of loyalties to a particular noble house, are common in the army, with the most prestigious having fraternal meeting houses in the spire of Hive Tarsus.
Cathedral of Illumination
Hive Tarsus is also the site of one of Scintilla's sector-famous landmarks. The Cathedral of Illumination is the most important place of worship of the divine Emperor of Mankind in the whole Calixis Sector. It is the base of operations for Cardinal Ignato, the sector's most senior Adeptus Ministorum clergyman, who leads the Synod Calixis from the cathedral's lavish auditorium. The cathedral is an extraordinary collection of spires surrounding a cavernous central nave, topped with an enormous stained glass dome, through which the scorching light of Scintilla's equatorial sun blazes.
The decoration on the cathedral is paid for by nobles and prominent citizens from across the sector, all eager to purchase a piece of the God-Emperor's grace. The outside of the cathedral is covered in statues, depicting scenes of Imperial history and images of the Imperial Saints, all gleaming gold in the fierce sunlight. It is said that some of the cathedral's least accessible places conceal bizarre statues, like grotesque monsters or scenes of bizarre occult rituals. The area around the cathedral is a forest of statues of Saints and important citizens of Scintilla, the most impressive of these being an enormous statue of Saint Drusus that has pride of place outside the main doors to the nave.
Inside, the cathedral is just as magnificent. The cavernous nave's glass dome is supported by columns carved into the likenesses of past cardinals and there are enough pews to sit tens of thousands of worshippers. The nave is dominated by an altar that sits in front of a triple portrait in gold and silver, depicting the Emperor (with His face turned from the congregation) flanked by Saint Drusus and Lord Militant Golgenna Angevin, as well as effigies of several Saints.
Behind the altar is a choir of two thousand Servitors filling the nave with soaring choruses. A pulpit overlooks the nave, and it is from here that Cardinal Ignato and the other Ministorum preachers speak the Word of the Emperor. On days of religious importance, such as the Feast of the Emperor's Ascension (the day celebrating the Emperor's "ascension" to the Golden Throne at the end of the Battle of Terra), many thousands of nobles and Adepts from across Scintilla fill the nave, while lesser citizens crowd outside in the hope of glimpsing some of the splendour within.
The cathedral also contains the cardinal's quarters, the Synod Auditorium, where the sector's cardinals meet to discuss spiritual issues, and the Hall of Relics where holy items are kept for safekeeping and study. These include relics of Saint Drusus' life, including bones purported to be from Drusus' own body (enough to reconstruct several skeletons).
The Archivum Spiritual, a library of theological works and religious records, also resides below the cathedral, as do the extensive catacombs where members of the Ecclesiarchy are buried. The cathedral has a huge staff made up of both lay volunteers (mostly ex-pilgrims) and members of the Ecclesiarchy. Armed laymen of the Frateris Militia protect the cathedral, assisted by a single squad of Sisters of Battle from the Order of the Ebon Chalice.
The presence of the cathedral means that the Ecclesiarchy has immense influence in Hive Tarsus, to the extent that Cardinal Ignato has more power here than the hive's nobles and the Frateris Militia have a stronger presence on the streets than the Magistratum. All the trade and warehousing halls of the middle hive have lay clergy preaching to the workers about the sacred nature of obedience and the heinous sins of leisure and curiosity.
A large proportion of Hive Tarsus' population is made up of pilgrims who are journeying through the city to reach the Cathedral of Illumination. Queues of pilgrims snake from the cathedral throughout the middle hive, sometimes spending Terran years waiting for a glimpse of the cathedral while surviving off the efforts of Ecclesiarchy handouts, lay volunteers and unscrupulous traders.
The pilgrims are an essential part of Hive Tarsus' economy and most never leave, finding themselves among the labourers of the middle hive or, for a lucky few, working as volunteers among the glittering majesty of the cathedral itself. Hive Sibellus may be the seat of power, but Hive Tarsus is the seat of faith, despite many attempts to shift the Ecclesiarchy's base to the ruling hive city. Almost single-handedly, the cathedral accounts for Hive Tarsus' continued importance and influence in the shadow of its giant rival.
Ambulon is a bizarre sight indeed, claimed by many to be a hive city in its own right. The entire city is mounted on the back of a machine that slowly walks across the unstable rocky regions in the centre of Scintilla's main continent. The machine is extremely old, and was almost certainly already on Scintilla when the Imperium conquered the Calixis Sector.
It is probably a pre-Imperial artefact, constructed by a civilisation that fell before the foundation of the Imperium, though some claim it is a relic of pre-Horus Heresy terraforming technologies. Certainly the skeletal ruins of moving constructs similar to Ambulon dot the central steppes. Ambulon's unusual form affects every aspect of life in the city, from the industries that employ its middle-class citizens to the city's customs and folklore.
Control of Ambulon
Ambulon is navigated via a huge and very complicated control centre, powered by arcane engines of incredibly occult design, in the area corresponding to its head. The Guild Peripatetica, highly superstitious engineers who keep the secrets of how to control the citadel-mechanicus, are constantly scrambling about the intricate controls making tiny adjustments to keep the edifice moving. Many tales of hive folklore dwell on the terrible consequences should Ambulon ever stop, varying from the city simply collapsing, to the machines becoming self-aware and devouring the humans clinging to its back.
The noble houses quarrel constantly over what orders to give to the guild, but they are also well-aware that they should not bully or otherwise cross the Guild Peripatetica lest the engineers point them towards a crevasse or other dangerous obstacle and hold the citadel to ransom. The path that the machine takes is crucial to harvesting the deposits of oil, natural gas and precious stones that form Ambulon's contribution to Scintilla's Imperial Tithe, and everyone has an opinion about where it should go next.
Ambulon stalks the wastelands of Scintilla, mining and harvesting the planet's natural resources, supplying the manufactoria of Hive Sibellus and the foundries of Gunmetal City. Neither could function without Ambulon's natural resources. Ambulon tours the steppe wastes once every twenty-eight standard months, slowing to minute speeds in order to dock with Sibellus and Gunmetal City for a few days to offload ore and mineral resources. Between these celebrated ceremonial times of docking, Ambulon supplies Sibellus and Gunmetal City by way of regular land trains: ore-cargo crawler pods many kilometres long.
Life in Ambulon
Ambulon's constant movement means that even the most solid buildings are in danger of being shaken off the city's structure. This in turn means that the city's wealthiest and most important districts are located in the places where they are least likely to be destroyed, especially along the citymachine's Spine.
The Spine's buildings are rarely as big as on hive spires, since space is at such a premium on Ambulon's carapace, nor are they as tall, as they have to endure the constant swaying of the city-machine's slow, rolling gait. The style of the Spine sees elegance and even minimalism preferred to the grotesquely grandiose ornamentation common in the great hives. The nobles of Hive Sibellus, in particular, consider Ambulon to be a cultural backwater, whose nobles neglect the proper pursuits of beautifying their city and venerating their dead.
Ambulon's equivalent of the middle hivers are the hundreds of thousands of workers who inhabit tenement blocks piled up on the vast, shield-shaped back of the city-machine. These tenements are plagued by cityquakes caused by the city's constant movement, and are all shored up and extensively repaired after past collapses. Few streets run between Ambulon's buildings since there is not enough space for them, so the middle classes tramp to work across the roofs of the tenements, or even through each others' homes.
Almost all the middle classers are engaged in harvesting or refining the raw materials that Ambulon gathers from the igneous wastes. The "head" of the city is equipped with immense drills that can be lowered into the rock, and when the city strikes oil, thousands of flexible pipelines are lowered from the edge of the city to pipe up as much of the oil as possible as the city-machine passes by.
Working on these pipelines, which are controlled by webs of chains like the strings of vast puppets, is very dangerous and requires a hardy breed of men and women with no fear of heights. Ambulon's many refineries process this oil into Promethium fuel, some of which is piped back into the city-machine, while most forms the majority of the city's tithe contribution, to be delivered to Hive Sibellus and Gunmetal City. Other citizens sift through the rock thrown up by the drilling to pick out precious stones, which are then worked into industrial components, or cut for jewellery in workshops inhabited by generations of gemcutters (considered a hereditary occupation on Ambulon).
Ambulon's lack of space means that every citizen must justify his presence there and unemployment is illegal. Each household in the middle city is tied to a particular refinery, workshop or other industry, and its members may not work anywhere else. It is vitally important for every middle citizen to be properly recorded in the Rolls of Justification which each place of industry maintains, because if they cannot prove to the authorities of the Spine that they are permitted to fulfil the role in which they work, they are banished to the Underbelly.
Ambulon's "underhive" clings precariously to the belly of the city-machine. It is known by a variety of colourful names such as the Underbelly, the Guts, the Vitals or the Hivegroin. Clusters of hovels blister down from the city-machine like warts, connected by makeshift catwalks and rope bridges. Many thousands of people live only a footstep away from plummeting to their deaths towards the rocky ground that constantly grinds by hundreds of metres below.
Underbelly settlements are often scraped off the city-machine's underside by ridges or peaks that the city-machine walks over, or are simply shaken off by the city's movement. Life is short and very difficult here, and the Gutscum live off the detritus of the carapace above, constructing scoops to catch the effluent and waste thrown off the edge of the city, or they form bandit gangs to prey on the citizens who work near the edge of the city-machine's back.
One prominent feature of the Underbelly is the cages hung from the edge of the city above containing prisoners condemned to the much-feared punishment of "dangling." The prisoners are locked in a cage attached to a long chain, which is then flung off the edge of the city-machine and left to dangle, swaying with the city's movement, until the prisoner starves and the cage is hauled back up.
Hundreds of dangled prisoners hang from the city at any one time, and the Gutscum sometimes use them as target practice or, on very rare occasions, "rescue" them to induct them into Underbelly gangs, enslave them or pit them against one another in bloody gladiatorial fights. Ambulon folklore maintains that some dangled prisoners have survived for solar months hanging below the city, thanks to divine intervention from the Emperor, and were released when the cage was brought back up again to live saintly lives. In practical terms, however, dangling is a cruel, drawn-out death sentence.
- "Welcome lords and ladies, saints and sinners, young and old, child and grandsire! Welcome to the thunder of the guns, the trail of life, the judgment of the swift and the dead! Welcome to the Sands of Blood: the greatest show in Gunmetal City! Just a few more minutes and you'll see the bullets fly!"
- — The Crooked Man, Master of Ceremonies at the Sands of Blood.
Gunmetal City is a huge industrial mass, built into the crater of an immense volcano, Mount Thollos, that rises from the smouldering lava fields of the northern coast. A mere megapolis compared to the planet's two great hive cities, Gunmetal City's spires tower high above the volcano's peak, while its lowest districts delve right down into Scintilla's crust.
Gunmetal City is a place of soaring steel, with towers like great, tarnished silver needles piercing the sky. The volcano's crater limits the size of the city's foundation, so nobles have built upwards, the most prestigious locations being perched precariously on slender columns of steel hundreds of metres high. The city is frequently bathed in smoke from the foundries of the middle city below and the houses employ small armies of menials whose job is to scour the surfaces of the skybound mansions until they gleam. Clean air is a valued commodity, with every mansion having powerful air filtration systems to cut out the smoke, while the most ostentatious hosts pipe air imported from cleaner worlds into their magnificent homes.
The middle level of the city is dominated by immense foundries powered by the geothermal heat from the heart of Mount Thollos. Almost all of Gunmetal City's middle classers work in these foundries over cauldrons of molten metal or blazing furnaces the size of tenement blocks. Gunmetal City's main export is munitions, and endless crates of weapons emerge from its foundries, forming an important part of Scintilla's tithe to the Imperium as well as arming many of the Calixis Sector's own Planetary Defence Force troops.
The foundries are sweltering, filthy places where accidents are common and even a fortunate worker's life is shortened by solar decades thanks to the choking air and cruel environment. The middle classers' homes are clustered around the foundries and often fashioned from cargo containers. People are an afterthought in Gunmetal City. The foundries and the weapons they produce form the real purpose behind the place.
The Infernis is a region formed by the lowest levels of factories that have collapsed or become uninhabitable. This far down, the city is unbearably hot and prone to floods of lava or toxic gas from Mount Thollos' occasional lurches out of dormancy. The gangs of the Infernis are the toughest and best-armed on Scintilla and almost no one else lives there save hard-bitten killers toting weapons extorted from the middle hivers. There is nothing to live for in the Infernis save superiority over enemy gangs, and so gang warfare is literally a way of life.
The Lawless City
In truth, Gunmetal City is an upstart. Younger and far, far smaller than the dominant hive cities on Scintilla, Gunmetal is a feral community that thrives simply because of what it produces. Hives Sibellus and Tarsus tolerate it because of its export materials. It is a jumped-up, uncivilised boomtown in the Wilderness, a city that got too big for itself. One day, in a thousand Terran years' time, it might become powerful enough to challenge for the dominance of Scintilla. For now, it is a four-billion-strong foundry station where law is slack and noble houses fight, literally, for ownership of lucrative mercantile output. Of all the main population centres on Scintilla, Gunmetal City is the most dangerous and lawless.
The gun is everywhere in Gunmetal City, from the weapons churned out by its foundries, to the symbols of the city's noble houses and the guns carried by almost every citizen. Gunfighting is a leisure activity, with designated areas throughout the city set aside for shoot-outs. Duels in Gunmetal are fought with pistols, and a great many people, especially from the middle hives where life is quite short anyway, seek out brief but glorious careers as gunfighters.
Shots ring around the foundries of the middle city incessantly and the nobles often hire prestigious gunslingers to battle in elaborate arenas while the audience watches from behind bulletproof screens. Some of the best gunslingers come from Infernis, and it is little wonder that the gangers adore their guns so much when expertise in their use brings such wealth and status.
Guns of Gunmetal City
A few of the guns produced by Gunmetal City are famous, either through their iconic nature or exceptional performance. These guns are status symbols, especially for the Infernis gangers, and are carried by officers of the Scintillan army as side arms. The Thollos Service Autopistol, or the "Tholl," is an Autopistol that sacrifices ammunition capacity for stopping power and is much coveted by Magistratum officers in particular.
The Scalptaker on the other hand, is a very solidly built and extremely uncomplicated ballistic slug pistol designed for use by just about anyone. It is such a common weapon that any self-respecting ganger will try to upgrade his Scalptaker, even though it is a very easily maintained weapon designed to survive the rigours of the Infernis.
The Fykos Forge Nomad Hunting Instrument is one of the most precise and well-calibrated weapons produced in Gunmetal City, and is the rifle of choice for hunters who stalk big game in Scintilla's wastelands. Procuring a "Nomad" costs an enormous amount of money and involves a five-standard-year waiting list.
Finally, the Blackhammer Defence Shotgun is a brutal, massive-bore shotgun that can blast holes in doors and shred opponents. Its limited range and single-shot capacity do little to diminish its value as a weapon of intimidation in the hands of hardened criminals and enforcers.
The hive inhabitants refer to the areas outside the great hives as "the Wilderness." This is something of a misnomer, as there are a great many settlements outside the hives, but certainly none of them can compare to the importance of the great hive cities themselves. Scintilla's natural resources have either been drained long ago or are monopolised by the great hives and Ambulon, so many people exist as nomads.
Those permanent settlements that do exist are often founded by mercenaries, who lived by selling their services to the land trains that crisscross the planet. The mercenaries, easily recognisable by the white bands painted or tattooed across their faces, are essential to providing security against the more predatory nomad tribes. Land trains consist of dozens of huge tracked vehicles that crawl in from hive to hive transporting goods and passengers. Some land trains even cross Scintilla's oceans, loading their vehicles onto great barges for risky journeys across polluted waters with their fair share of predators and pirates.
With resources in short supply away from the hives, settlements can grow up and die out rapidly. Few survive for more than a generation and the Wilderness is studded with ghost towns. In some places, on the very fringes of Scintilla's habitable lands, small communities continue to exist as they have done for Terran centuries far from the shadow of the great hives.
These people have often been in the same place for centuries. Isolated and ignored by Scintilla's authorities, they live in ignorance that the hives exist at all, much less that they live in a galactic empire ruled from distant Terra. Scholars of the Magnopticon sometimes send expeditions out to search for such benighted peoples, in the hope that studying them will reveal some secrets about the pre-Imperial history of Scintilla.
The most extraordinary feature of the Wilderness is the ruin of Hive Tenebra. This necropolis was once the heart of Scintilla's high culture and arts, built around a circle of stepped pyramids rising like enormous altars from the steaming jungles of Scintilla's equator. The hive city is now a titanic mass of wreckage gradually being reclaimed by the voracious jungle.
The disaster that claimed Hive Tenebra along with millions of lives happened over eight standard centuries ago, and is thought by most to have been caused by a collapse of the geothermal heatsinks that provided it with power. There is no shortage of conspiracy theories about what "really" happened to the hive city, however, ranging from ill-advised summonings of Warp creatures to a deliberate act of sabotage by agents of the Imperium.
Tales about its destruction are outnumbered only by stories about what might lurk in the ruins now: ravenous monsters, Renegade nobles and hordes of hideous mutants ruled by a mighty deformed overlord. No one ventures close to Hive Tenebra with any regularity, and when they do they rarely penetrate into the collapsed interior of the hive where the foulest horrors are said to lurk.
Departmento Cartographicae Planetary Database
- Galactic Position: 88/23/CS/SW.
- Satellites: Two moons (Sothus and Lachesis). Orbital docks in geostationary orbits above Hive Tarsus. The Scintillan moon Lachesis is home to the base of the Inquisition's Tyrantine Cabal. This is the Bastion Serpentis, a bleak fortress of age-polished black stone jutting from the surface of Scintilla's moon. Few people know of its existence, and those who do not are kept away from the moon by dire warnings about geological instability. Inquisitor Lord Anton Zerbe can normally be found at the Bastion.
- Climate Classification: Temperate.
- Tropospheric Composition: Nitrogen 72%, Oxygen 25%, Argon 1%, Ozone 1%, Carbon Dioxide 0.5%.
- Religion: The Imperial Cult. The Cult of the Redemption is also active on several planets in the Calixis Sector, but its spiritual home is Scintilla.
- Government Type: Adeptus Terra.
- Planetary Governor: Sector Governor Marius Hax.
- Adept Presence: Adeptus Terra, Administratum (Goldenhand Consular Taskforce), Adeptus Ministorum, Adeptus Astra Telepathica (Astropathic Choir at Hive Sibellus), Adeptus Arbites, Ordos of the Calixian Conclave High Council Officio (Tricorn Palace headquarters at Hive Sibellus).
- Climate: Climate is temperate to tropical with extensive equatorial deserts.
- Geography: Three main continents -- mountainous/volcanic southern polar cap, equatorial crescent deserts/jungle (Hive Tarsus, Hive Tenebra [extinct]), northern temperate landmass (Hive Sibellus, Ambulon, Gunmetal City). Remainder of planetary surface covered in ocean (heavily polluted, severely depleted fish stocks). Two moons (Sothus and Lachesis). Orbital docks geostationary above Hive Tarsus.
- Economy: Scints, Scolds and Scabs - These are all terms used in the hives of Scintilla, and have become synonymous with the most valuable denominations of the sector currency known as "Thrones," based in no small part on Scintilla's excessive levels of wealth. A currency called Rounds are used in the depths of Gunmetal City, where actual bullets are sometimes used as a currency.
- Principle Exports: Scintilla is a major exporter of manufactured goods to the Imperium including ship-drive components and weaponry. It is also an important source of manpower, with a large Planetary Defence Force (PDF) and a huge underhive population, both of which make for excellent Astra Militarum recruit sources.
- Principle Imports: Scintilla cannot support itself and requires massive imports of food from the Calixis Sector's many Agri-worlds.
- Countries and Continents: Scintilla has three main continents -- a southern polar cap mountainous/volcanic, an equatorial crescent deserts/jungle (Hive Tarsus, Hive Tenebra [extinct]), and a northern temperate landmass (Hive Sibellus, Ambulon, Gunmetal City). Remainder of the planetary surface is covered in ocean (heavily polluted, severely depleted fish stocks).
- Military: Army of the Scintillan Protectorate (medium/high quality Planetary Defence Force, based at Hive Tarsus), Astra Militarum regiments such as the Scintillan Fusiliers.
- Contact with Other Worlds: As the sector capital, Scintilla has a great deal of contact with other worlds in the Calixis Sector, as well as worlds in other sectors and segmentums. Stable Warp routes link Scintilla to Tranch, Settlement 228, Iocanthus, Luggnum, Sephiris Secundus, Malfi, Orbel Quill and Baraspine.
- Tithe Grade: Exactus Extremis.
- Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 23, 290-299
- Guide to the Calixis Sector (RPG Web Supplement)