Sepheris Secundus is a feudal Mining World located in the Golgenna Reach Sub-sector of the Calixis Sector in the Segmentum Obscurus. Sepheris Secundus is a world of immense mineral wealth, city-sized mines, billions-strong hordes of serfs and the sharpest divide between the elites and the masses in the Calixis Sector.
It is a grim place of snow and twilight, feral mutants and lives spent in back-breaking labour deep beneath the ground. The Imperium's eagerness to exploit Sepheris Secundus' vast resources is such that the planet is at the same time the richest and poorest world in the sector.
Sepheris Secundus' climate is cold and stormy, its surface obscured by a mantle of cloud. It has no oceans save for the small polar seas, so the moisture in its atmosphere comes from below the crust, spewed out from failed mine workings or natural geysers that pockmark the planet like pustules.
Its surface is split between the vast open mines like deep scars in the crust and the dense, snow-laden forests broken only by the ruins of failed kingdoms that tried to claim Sepheris Secundus in the past. With its endless blizzards, widespread ignorance and antiquated methods for doing everything, Sepheris Secundus would be a meaningless backwater were it not for the enormous mineral wealth buried beneath its surface.
While the whole Imperium is ultimately a form of feudal empire, feudalism is taken to an extreme on Sepheris Secundus. Everyone born on the planet must have a master to whom they pay nine-tenths of their income. The second force beyond poverty that keeps the population of the world repressed is physical violence. One of the reasons that Sepheris Secundus' culture is so primitive by many galactic standards is that weaponry and other technology is monopolised by the Crown.
The queen's Royal Scourges are equipped with Lasguns, grenades and Chainswords, contrasting with their gaudy, stained-glass-like armour. Though few in number, the technological advantage that these troops possess has been enough to put down a great many uprisings in the mines of Sepheris Secundus, and the planet's history is littered with massacres where thousands of serfs fell to volleys of Lasgun fire.
The barons each have their own security forces, some of which are permitted to use a few high-technology weapons, although most of them are armed with primitive but well-made weapons and armour with which to enforce the baronial will. Meanwhile, when the serfs rise up, they do so with improvised weapons and mining equipment. The serfs, even when roused to violence in significant numbers, have never held one of Sepheris Secundus' mines for very long because of the massive superiority in equipment and training possessed by the forces of their masters.
When the baronial armies fail, the Royal Scourges do not. The Royal Scourges, the world's Planetary Defence Force, answer directly to the queen, which also makes them ideal for keeping the barons themselves in line. Many an overambitious baron has refused to send the queen her rightful tribute, only to find his supposedly elite army cut to pieces by the Royal Scourges.
Order upon Sepheris Secundus is enforced by the troops of the various barons. While Sepheris Secundus has some generally observed laws -- a serf who strikes his master will usually be put to death, for example -- each baron enforces his own laws in his own way, and some do not bother at all as long as there is no open rebellion.
Other barons, by contrast, have troops patrolling the upper mines ensuring that no one wears the wrong colour on the wrong day, spits in the street or fails to use the traditional forms of address. In Icenholm, the capital city, the Royal Scourges enforce order and are also sent to restore obedience where it has broken down.
The Queen of Sepheris Secundus and Planetary Governor, Lachryma III, is an elderly woman who has successfully led Sepheris Secundus through numerous revolts, baronial uprisings and increasingly spectacular Imperial Tithe demands from the Administratum. Now, however, she is getting old. Though her mind is still sound, her body is infirm and, some of the more ambitious barons say, she is losing the ruthlessness and willpower that once served her so well.
Queen Lachryma’s aged, underweight form is swamped by her royal regalia, with its voluminous gown made from thousands of panes of stained glass and its crown of white gold. Her voice is thin and shaky, and she no longer has the presence that once acted as an anchor for the repressive feudal system of Sepheris Secundus. In her later years, the queen has sunk into the throes of a personal crisis.
She wonders why her serfs have to live such grim lives of toil and whether there is another way that Sepheris Secundus could be ruled. She has ordered her barons to investigate what actually goes on in the depths of the planet's mines, but her barons have resisted this and a few of them have sensed weakness and doubt in their queen. Though she would never admit it to anyone, Queen Lachryma III is afraid of how she will be remembered, and knows that she is running out of time before she can get to the root causes of Sepheris Secundus' constant misery.
Sepheris Secundus' capital city is Icenholm, a wondrous city built into the mountain crags that loom over the vast smoking pit of the Gorgonid Mine. Icenholm's glass spires encrust the mountain peak like a crown, bathed in an otherworldly light. This light is actually concentrated on Icenholm by a series of enormous reflecting mirrors positioned around the peaks overlooking the Gorgonid Mine, an expensive and complicated process that makes it look as if the light of some distant heaven is shining directly onto the capital.
The main body of the city is suspended between three vast peaks on thousands of thick cables and chains, like a glittering jewel upon a complex necklace. The origins of this unusual structure are not recorded anywhere, but a common theory is that it was built around the core of an enormous warship that docked there during the Angevin Crusade and never left, the hive city growing up around it like a pearl around a speck of grit. Many buildings dangle from the city’s mass, reaching down hundreds of metres towards the floor of the valley below the city like strands of hanging moss.
Icenholm is constructed of stained glass that shines in a dazzling array of colours in the sunlight. Its spires house some of the most senior barons along with members of the Sepheran royal family. The majority of Icenholm's population is made up of hereditary servants, pledged to either the queen or one of her barons. They form small armies of clerks who ensure that the planet's barons are offering up the correct tithes to their queen, and attend to other matters of governance such as the regulation of heraldry.
These servants have their own hierarchies, with the queen's own servants very much in charge. They wear the liveries of their masters, which in the case of the queen's servants is red (red is a colour reserved for royal use on Sepheris Secundus -- anyone else wearing it is likely to be arrested by baronial troops). Icenholm's gates do not open to just anyone, so while Imperial Adepts and barons will be received into Icenholm, anyone else will have to sweet-talk the hereditary family of gate servants who are difficult to impress.
The peak of Icenholm is taken up by the royal palace, which consists of the various chambers of state along with Queen Lachryma's own quarters. The throne room is spectacular indeed, set beneath a soaring spire of stained glass depicting the glories of Sepheris Secundus' past monarchs.
The throne itself is of ice kept permanently frozen, and the voluminous royal robes which the queen wears are partly to keep her from being frozen herself. The queen's chambers are lavishly appointed, with three separate bedrooms alone: one for sleeping, one for promulgating the royal line (not used since the Prince Consort passed away twenty Terran years ago) and one for receiving morning visitors.
The Gorgonid is one of Sepheris Secundus' largest and most productive mines. Though it is within sight of Icenholm and the royal palace, the structure and society of the mine itself is typical of many across Sepheris Secundus' surface. The exact population of the Gorgonid is impossible to calculate, but it is vast, consisting of enormous hordes of serfs, most of whom never see the world outside the mine.
The Gorgonid is a vast open mine hundreds of metres deep. Rickety scaffolding reaches down into its lower depths, and countless pulleys and cranes lift containers of ore to the edge of the enormous mine pit, where it accumulates in mountainous heaps waiting for cargo ships to transport it off the surface.
From the edge of the mine pit can be glimpsed the heaped-up wooden tenements known as the "Commons," while cart tracks and well-worn paths lead below the edge of the pit towards the mining areas deep below the ground. Only the central part of the Gorgonid is open to the air. All the mining faces and many homes are below the surface, existing in eternal darkness.
Most inhabitants of the Gorgonid live in the Commons. This is the collective term for the areas of built-up wooden housing where the serfs live. In theory, all of this is owned by the Gorgonid's barons, who allow the serfs to live there in return for nine-tenths of everything the serfs mine. In practice serfs simply live where they can, often cramming large families into a single candle-lit room.
The Commons are teeming, but it is not a boisterous, lively place. The serfs go everywhere with their heads bowed, trudging to and from the mine faces, snatching a few moments of rest in the squalor of the Commons. Besides work, sleep and sermons by the lay clergy who represent the Imperial Creed in the Gorgonid, there is very little levity in a serf's life.
The barons of the Gorgonid live in the Commons, tradition demanding that they live in fastness keeps and small castles. The serfs are expected to show deference to all barons, particularly the one who owns their labour, at all times. A baron travelling through the streets can expect to have serfs present him with small handcrafted trinkets or other gifts.
He will then burn these outside the gates of his tower to symbolise the relationship between serf and master. Most barons have large entourages of troops and other servants to ensure that the serfs do not get too close. These include the distinctive Stench Wardens, servants who carry censers of scented water to help fend off the "Commons stink" when a baron must endure walking the poverty-stricken streets.
"The Face" is the term for those areas where there is ore to be mined, and it is here that most of the Gorgonid's work is done. The Face consists of thousands of kilometres of open rock face stretching deep beneath the ground, from massive cliff faces covered in precarious scaffolding to narrow, stifling tunnels too low for a man to stand upright. Every serf has the right to mine a particular section of open mine, and the Face is covered in markers driven into the rock to state which serf is permitted to work that spot.
In times past, the serfs had to chain themselves, or one of their children, to the marker to ensure that the claim was respected. Nowadays, however, a smear of the serf's blood is enough to demonstrate that the serf is currently working the spot. Serfs must frequently draw blood to renew this mark, hence the process is known as "staking" a claim.
The means by which the serfs mine is very primitive. Most use tools handed down by their forefathers, and fortunate is the serf who earns enough from his minuscule portion of the rock's bounty to buy a brand new set of tools. Each morning countless thousands of serfs trudge to the Face from the Commons and every evening they trudge back again, pausing only to pay deference to the barons who tour the Face to ensure that the slothful are punished.
When the explosives engineers of the Disassemblers' Guild blast a new area of the Face, a stampede occurs as thousands of serfs rush to stake their new claims. These occasions can be dangerous, as many are trampled or killed in fights over the best claims, but this is accepted as the price for making sure the fittest, most determined serfs mine the most productive seams.
"The Shatters" is the term given to the deepest, darkest, most dangerous parts of the Gorgonid, which even the barons recognise are too dangerous for serfs to work. Caverns filled with deadly gas, flooded, partially collapsed or simply lethally hot or radioactive can be found in the Shatters. No claim may be staked in the Shatters and ore mined there is not owned by anyone.
The Shatters are home to the very lowest of the Gorgonid's low, comprising two main groups. The first consists of the dispossessed: those who have no master, either having been born outside a marriage sanctioned by the barons or condemned to lose even a serf's meagre rights after being convicted of a crime. These hapless individuals invariably die very quickly in the Shatters. Those who survive to illicitly sell a few handfuls of ore fare well compared to most.
The second group consists of mutants. Mutants are common in the Gorgonid, as on the rest of Sepheris Secundus, perhaps due to the massive amounts of dangerous metals and chemicals that find their way into the dubious water supply. In any case, mutants gravitate towards the Shatters, which is the only place where they can survive in any numbers without being hunted down by baronial troops or burned by torch-wielding serfs.
Some mutants are well adapted to the hostile conditions, and a few even thrive in the Shatters. Mutants have their own crude society where seniority is based on brute strength and the degree of mutation. The mutant barons and kings, it is said, are inhuman monsters from the depths of a nightmare, hellish abominations that range from enormous tentacled horrors to three-eyed seers who can read thoughts.
The more criminally-minded serfs buy the ore mined by the outcasts and mutants in exchange for food and other essentials, and a major part of Sepheris Secundus' economy is made up by the labour of the mutant underclass. It is even possible that more ore comes out of the Shatters than out of the exhausted seams of the Face.
"The Tumble" is the only area outside the Gorgonid that most of its serfs ever see. It is a wasteland on the surface above the mine, dominated by titanic heaps of rock spoil and other trash. In this polluted twilight, thickly carpeted with heavy metal toxins, shady deals are made that take place outside the mine's proper feudal economy.
These range from serfs selling off their surplus, to organised criminals selling their services as killers or smugglers. The mutants of the Shatters have a tunnel that links to somewhere in the Tumble, and on the darkest nights, shambling, hideous creatures emerge from the poison smog to take their cut. Barons and off-worlders are sometimes known to frequent the Tumble, every one of them eager to hide their identities.
The Fathomsound is the most unusual of Sepheris Secundus' mines. Within its enormous basin is an underground lake upon which float thousands of rafts, barges and lashed-together wooden structures that form the home of Fathomsound's serfs. The frequent blizzards that rip across Sepheris Secundus churn up the waters of the Fathomsound, and many serfs are lost to the freezing waters with every storm. "The Flotsam," as this floating city is known, is one of the most poverty-stricken and desperate places on Sepheris Secundus, with its inhabitants literally clinging to life, permanently ill thanks to the toxically fouled water, and condemned to lives spent in the deadly underwater mines.
The barons of the Fathomsound are obliged by planetary law to live within the mine whose serfs they own, but none would willingly dwell on the dangerous Flotsam. Instead, they live in mansions suspended from the edge of the mine pit, hanging from mighty chains and served by precarious elevators and cable cars.
The barons typically enjoy taking caffeine on the balconies along the lower surface of these extraordinary homes, from where the Fathomsound is a spectacular sight and its poverty and dangers are not obvious. The mansions swing alarmingly when the wind is up and it is not unknown for them to break free and plunge into the lake. Inside, the furniture and ornamentation is bolted down and visitors to the Fathomsound's barons have to find their sea legs quickly.
Cults and Malcontents
The Gorgonid's large, oppressed population has led to the formation of groups of criminals and other malcontents. The baronial troops eagerly hunt down criminals and execute them on the street corners of the Commons. Other groups are cults and secret societies lurking in the Gorgonid's dark places.
"The Loathers," for example, is a group that has forsaken all happiness and hope, and sells its services as assassins and destroyers of lives to spread the misery that has afflicted them. Some whisper that cutting off a finger and nailing it to a signpost in the Commons will bring the Loathers to your doorstep when you least expect it, and that you can then bargain with them to destroy someone you despise.
The "Orphans' Crusade," on the other hand, searches discreetly for those with unusual psychic abilities, reading minds or precognition for example, and spirits them away before they are handed over to the baronial troops by fearful relatives. No one knows what the Crusade needs these gifted individuals for, but the fate that awaits them can surely be no more sinister than being dragged away by the baronial troops, never to be seen again. The greyhooded agents of the Orphan's Crusade can sometimes be glimpsed at the bloodsport pits popular in the Commons or at the witherhouses where victims of diseases and accidents languish, always looking for something.
Perhaps most terrifying of all the Gorgonid's hidden cults, though, is the "Granite Crown." This group's sinister symbol of a blinded eye is carved on many entrances to the Shatters and many an old serf miner tells tales of how the Granite Crown rules over even the mightiest of mutant shatterchiefs, who pay fealty to the Granite Crown's lords. These "lords" are said to dwell in the most ancient of places beneath the ground. No one knows where these stories originated, let alone whether they hold any truth, but similar tales are told by firelight all across Sepheris Secundus.
Sepheran Traditions of Serfdom
Sepheris Secundus' centuries of harsh serfdom have created many cultural traditions that confirm the relationship between baron and serf, some of which seem very strange to outsiders. The details of these traditions differ across the planet but their spirit is preserved everywhere. They include:
- Marriage - A marriage between serfs must be sanctioned by both serfs' barons. The prospective husband and wife each cut off a little finger and send it to their baron, which symbolises the serfs handing over of their rights of any children born out of wedlock.
- Death - To demonstrate the fact that no serf ever fully pays off his debt to his baron, his body becomes his baron's property upon his death. Most barons dispose of these bounties by burying them under heaps of mine spoil, but some more ostentatious barons make a point of feeding dead serfs to their hounds.
- Mandatory Celebrations - On an occasion important to the baron, such as the birth of a child, the baron's serfs are required to celebrate by breaking into dance upon hearing the news and whenever the baron approaches. Many barons take this very seriously and will flog nearby serfs until they begin to dance, regardless of whether they have heard the baron's good news or not.
- Faceday- A serf celebrates the day when he becomes old enough to stake his own claim on the Face (normally in early adolescence). The first Faceday is marked with three solar days of ceaseless toil, to demonstrate that the young serf indeed deserves the bounty of the Face. Anniversaries of this Faceday are marked with ceremonies that vary wildly but are always painful or humiliating, varying from simple beatings to being painted with offensive slogans and forced to run naked through the Commons.
- Day of Thanks - An annual holiday observed across Sepheris Secundus, the Day of Thanks is a chance for the serfs to remember and mourn their dead (a practice otherwise frowned upon or even prohibited). Since mourning is considered a selfish act, participants ritually disguise their identities by wearing masks, painting their faces or attending gatherings in pitch darkness.
Departmento Cartographicae Planetary Data
- Galactic Position: 52/34/CS/NNE
- Class: Mining World / Feudal World.
- Satellites: Three moons, none inhabited.
- Geography: Planet-wide overcontinent, small polar oceans. Mountainous, forested, extensive areas of open mine workings. Arctic climate and average temperatures, atmosphere moisture-laden and blizzards constant.
- Government Type: Feudal monarchy.
- Planetary Governor: Queen Lachryma III.
- Adept Presence: Very low. Some Adeptus Ministorum clergy, Adeptus Arbites Precinct-Fortress.
- Economy: Chips or Lumps -- In the mines and villages of Sepheris Secundus life revolves around endless mining, to the point where chips and lumps of ore are sometimes used as an alternative default currency to the Throne more common in the Calixis Sector.
- Principle Exports: Sepheris Secundus is the largest exporting planet in the Calixis Sector. Without its massive exports of ore, strategic metals and fuels, the economy of the Calixis Sector could not function. Sepheris Secundus is known for exporting the defensive weapon known as a Mirror Shield. The Mirror Shield is used by the Royal Scourges on Sepheris Secundus. The shield is a large rectangular shield that will cover about two-thirds of a human-sized body. The shield is made from layers of stained glass, a material used in large quantities by the barons of Sepheris Secundus. This gives the shield a mirrored effect that has been known to repel las-weapon shots of low-strength.
- Principle Imports: Sepheris Secundus relies on imports of food from the sector's Agri-worlds.
- Astra Militarum Recruitment: Sepheris Secundus' vast population makes it a potential supplier of Astra Militarum recruits, although a relatively small proportion of the population would be suitable because of universally poor health, along with the risk of exposing the subjugated masses to the possibility of life outside the mines.
- Military: Royal Scourges, Baronial armies, noble private armies. Poor/medium quality troops.
- Contact With Other Worlds: Stable Warp routes link Sepheris Secundus to Scintilla, Iocanthos, Fedrid and Ganf Magna. Sepheris Secundus is one of the worlds on the path of the voidship Misericord.
- Tithe Grade: Exactis Extremis.
- Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 303-307
- Fantasy Flight Games The Calixis Sector
- Guide to the Calixis Sector (RPG Web Supplement), pp. 58-60