- "The fate of this distant world is worth a thousand others. If it falls, if the Nachmund Gauntlet collapses, the Imperium Nihilus is all but lost to us. The empire of Terra will soon follow."
Vigilus is an Imperial Hive World in the Vigilus System of the Segmentum Obscurus that represents the terminus of a key route through the Great Rift into the Imperium Nihilus. As a result, Vigilus has become a heavily contested strategic location and the source of conflict between several of the different starfaring species and factions of the Milky Way Galaxy in the early 42nd Millennium.
Xenos forces including Genestealer Cults, Orks, the Drukhari and the Craftworld Aeldari all launched assaults on the world. Even worse, the Black Legion Chaos Lord Haarken Worldclaimer, a Raptor, was sent to claim Vigilus for Chaos in the name of Abaddon the Despoiler.
The planet Vigilus had always been famed as a strategic linchpin of the Segmentum Obscurus. When the Great Rift opened, its status escalated from important to indispensable. So vital was Vigilus to the Imperium that when a teeming WAAAGH! of Orks burst from the Great Rift, the system's defenders responded with terrific force.
The Astra Militarum and Adepta Sororitas forces already stationed on Vigilus contained the Ork invasion and kept it from wrecking the densely populated hivesprawls, while several Space Marine Chapters sent reinforcements from the Stygius Sector and beyond. The latter waves were led by none other than Marneus Augustus Calgar, Chapter Master of the Ultramarines, and with him came some of the finest minds in the Adeptus Astartes.
These counter-assaults pulled Vigilus back from the brink. The psychic apocalypse of the Great Rift had disabled the planet's defences and made it vulnerable, allowing the Orks to raid from the wastelands, barging through each defence perimeter to wage war in the city sprawls. In conjunction, a great uprising of Genestealer Cultists was triggered, revealing an infestation that had festered upon Vigilus for hundreds of Terran years.
As the various starfaring races of the galaxy desperately tried to prosper in the horror-filled reality of the Imperium Nihilus, millions of eyes turned towards Vigilus. Were it to fall, so would the hopes of all trapped in the Dark Imperium. With the Cadian Gate broken to the west and War Zone Stygius raging to the east, Vigilus was wide open to invasion by the forces of Chaos.
Vigilus' Imperial defenders soon stood on the brink of total collapse without further aid.
With the opening of the Cicatrix Maledictum and the passing of the Noctis Aeterna in the early years of the 42nd Millennium according to the old Imperial Calendar, Vigilus found itself in that dark region of space known as the Imperium Nihilus, upon the threshold of the Nachmund Gauntlet. As one of the two relatively stable paths between the half of the Imperium that contained Holy Terra, known as the Imperium Sanctus, and the farflung Imperium Nihilus on the other side of the Great Rift, the Nachmund Gauntlet was of immense value to Mankind.
It allowed the Imperium to continue the movement of its forces across the interstellar gulf of the Great Rift, and also to maintain a line of astropathic communication -- albeit an unstable and dangerous one -- with the worlds stranded in the Dark Imperium. Should the Imperium ever truly be divided it would likely fall apart entirely. Hence the importance of Vigilus; it acted as a vital beachhead that kept the Imperium Nihilus under a semblance of Terra's control.
None truly knew how or why the Great Rift formed -- but the fight to gain passage across it quickly became intense. Vigilus had always boasted a vast amount of manpower, and had inherited a great number of Imperial Guard regiments since the clearing of the Cadian Gate -- an event the Adeptus Ministorum referred to as the "Pre-tempestine Exodus" -- but it soon became evident that the threats facing the planet would test its defenders to their limit.
The world was traditionally ruled over by a loose confederation of elders and nobles called the Aquilarian Council, known to the Adeptus Mechanicus as the "Council of Cogs." The fact that the different delegates could not even agree on a name demonstrates how divided they were; the palatial areas of Saint's Haven were riven by political wars for solar decades. Only the spectre of complete annihilation saw Vigilus' rulers united.
At the onset of the xenos invasion, Vigilus' vast and contiguous landmasses were broken only by a series of fortified reservoirs. The dust-bowl wastelands between each city-sprawl were analogous to oceans, and just as difficult to cross. They were not only arid and barren, but also hydrophagic -- in places the chemical composition of their dust dunes was so saline it could desiccate bare flesh in a matter of solar hours.
In theory, simply wearing enough protective clothing could have assuaged this. Unfortunately, the dust storms and twisters that were spun out from the giant tempest in the east -- known as the "Vhulian Swirl" -- caused this desiccant to creep into every chink of a traveller's armour and clothes. The dunes were hence populated only by tough-skinned or shell-armoured predators that preyed upon the unwary.
The planet's rare areas of productive land were highly sought after, but rampant industrialisation saw most of them developed into urban metropolises called "hivesprawls." These were so large they formed entire continents.
The world was formally ruled by its Planetary Governor, Lucienne Agamemnus IX. The Agamemnus Dynasty had overseen the planet's affairs from the spires of the capital hive city, Saint's Haven, for Terran millennia. Yet the planet was famous for being a stronghold of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
Vigilus' relative proximity to War Zone Stygius, where the Stygius Sector had been invaded by the Chaos forces loyal to the Chaos God Tzeentch, saw it serve as a way-station for incoming Imperial forces, including the Space Wolves and various Skitarii Legions. Its placement in the cosmos alone made it a valuable asset, but its most important export also made it vital for the Imperial war machine.
Vigilus was once one amongst a hundred Imperial worlds in the Segmentum Obscurus considered important primarily for the war materiel and manpower it exported. The planet's principal export was its exceptional defensive technology.
The Adeptus Mechanicus of Vigilus were blessed with the Standard Template Construct design for psy-tech force fields, and were sanctioned by Mars to put them into production. As well as being shipped out to aid the defences of countless other worlds, these Bastion-class force fields were installed around the perimeter of every Vigilant continent as part of a treaty that had been agreed between the Tech-priests and the Agamemnus Dynasty.
Until the opening of the Great Rift and the xenos invasions that followed, these defences kept the planet's industry and populace safe from outside invasion. In exchange, the Adeptus Mechanicus were largely left to their own devices on the forge continent of Megaborealis -- one of the "false continent" cityscapes that covered Vigilus' crust -- but as time went on this proved a high price.
Much of Megaborealis was given over to the unearthing of a strange black mineral called blackstone that ran like veins through its crust, which the Tech-priests obtained through vast and destructive mining operations. For the most part, these excavations were powered by energy produced in the volatile volcanic region of Storvhal to the south.
The deep drilling of the Adeptus Mechanicus' bore-hives caused such violent earthquakes across the planet that many a hive city was toppled, many a ruler's statue cast down, and the water table disrupted to the point that potable water became extremely scarce. Still, the Machine Cult of the Forge World of Stygies VIII delved ever deeper in their search to unravel the mysteries of the universe -- no matter their provenance, or cost.
Meanwhile, the gradual but undeniable influence of the Ministorum was to see the Agamemnus Dynasty slowly infiltrated by agents of the Ecclesiarchy. None could gainsay their encroachment, for to challenge them was to challenge faith in the Emperor Himself. The Ministorum Priests installed amongst the local Vigilant Guard Astra Militarum regiments worked ceaselessly to indoctrinate their charges until they too became dogmatic soldiers of faith.
As the solar decades slid by, the inner districts of Hyperia Hivesprawl, Vigilus' capital continent, echoed to the march of ever more Adepta Sororitas and their pious Vigilant Guard allies, until some said the Planetary Governor was ruler in name only. Vigilus was becoming host to several distinct Imperial power bases, all determined to pursue their own agendas no matter the cost.
The planet's disparate continents came into conflict over resource monopolies many times, but outright war was always avoided due to the efforts of the Aquilarian Council. Unfortunately, as resources were sequestered in ever more blatant power grabs, the grievances of the Aquilarian Council escalated from bickering and infighting to sabre-rattling and threats of violence that saw the planet brought to the brink of deadly civil war.
Then, under the malignant light of the Great Rift that broke across the galaxy, Vigilus and the other planets orbiting its star Astravigila entered a new phase of their tempestuous existence.
The Great Rift
Before the onset of the conflict known as the War of Beasts, Vigilus witnessed a cataclysm so great it all but split the galaxy in half. The Cicatrix Maledictum ripped from the Eye of Terror in the galactic northwest to the Hadex Anomaly in the southeast. Aside from a few corridors, the rift was all but impassable.
When the skies split around Vigilus, many feared the planet would be consumed forever. Instead, as the swirling nebulae dissipated, it seemed that Vigilus had held the Cicatrix Maledictum at bay. The planet's strange aegis linked it with the Knight World of Dharrovar and the distant planet of Sangua Terra to form the corridor known as the Nachmund Gauntlet.
Whether it was faith, the Emperor's will, a fluke of quantum entanglement or some other phenomenon that kept this rift passage open, none knew. But the route from the reaches of the still-functional Imperium to the desperate realms of the Imperium Nihilus remained stable. Vigilus became more vital than ever, and not only to the Imperium. Traitor generals and xenos masterminds looked upon it with covetous eyes, and hatched secret plans to conquer it.
A dark new era dawned across Vigilus' desert wastes and overpopulated hive cities. With the sky rent in twain by a Warp rift that bled purple light into the heavens, and civil unrest reaching new heights, draconian laws were put into place by the planet's governing bodies.
It was forbidden to look at the night sky on those rare occasions it could be glimpsed through the thick banks of cloud that choked the stratosphere, and a strict curfew was imposed that ensured all citizens would be indoors by nightfall -- or flogged for a full solar hour.
The repression that resulted saw many civilians look to new cults and underground orders for succour. Ironically, it was this heavy-handed lawmaking that sowed the seeds of anarchy. With the Warp rift of the Cicatrix Maledictum scarring the Vigilus sky, the doom that many had feared would consume the planet from outside instead began to take its toll from within.
Though the worlds of the Vigilus System had not been entirely cut off from the rest of the Imperium, it became ever more obvious that a new and darker phase of existence for its people had dawned. The Great Rift was visible only as a purple blur during the daylight, but at night the immensity of the Cicatrix Maledictum glowered across the sky, its curling extremities and swollen central mass seeming to form screaming mouths and deformed faces when glanced at out of the corner of the eye. It stole sleep and distorted rational thought, even affecting the chronoslates and data-webs of the Adeptus Mechanicus with its anarchic emanations.
On Vigilus, the Great Rift became particularly prominent at night, and hence curfews were put in place across all of Vigilus' hive cities. In every hivesprawl it was forbidden to be outside after sunset, lest the Cicatrix Maledictum take that person's attention for so long they become infected by its strangeness and rendered susceptible to psychic phenomena.
Even with these precautions, the shape of the Great Rift -- a serpentine mass with the channel of the Nachmund Gauntlet across it -- began to appear in the daubings of madmen and the idle scrawlings of those who thought themselves to be concentrating on something else. More disturbing still, it appeared in natural phenomena as well. After-images of the rift manifested behind the eyes of those who had looked upon it too long, but unlike those caused by strong natural light, they did not fade.
Parents looked in horror as they found birthmarks on infants born directly under the night sky when the rift glowered bright, each red weal broken by a thin white line of unblemished skin. Mildew growths and water stains on the walls and ceilings of the Hollows water purification plants formed in shapes that were uncannily similar, if not identical, to the rift in the sky above.
The purge-squads of the Ecclesiarchy, operating out of Saint's Haven, tracked down such phenomena with cold efficiency and zealous verve. But soon even they found themselves growing desperate, for as standard years went by, these phenomena became more pronounced. Where the planet's earthquakes rent the land, chasms would fall open in shapes that echoed that of the Great Rift, complete with thin land bridges that corresponded to the position of the Nachmund Gauntlet.
To one extent or another, every citizen of Vigilus soon found themselves harrowed by dark dreams and recurring nightmares. The sleep deprivation and foul tempers that resulted spilled over into a hundred new conflicts every day, from small skirmishes and beatings in alleyways to industrial strikes, organised uprisings and spates of assassinations that scoured the upper spires. It was in this state that the world met the first invasion of xenos that would mark the start of the greater conflict remembered as the War of Beasts.
The War of Beasts
Vigilus is a planetary asset deemed vital to the Imperium of Man's continued survival. Situated on the far side of the Nachmund Gauntlet -- the only stable Warp route through the dreaded Cicatrix Maledictum -- the strategic importance of Vigilus to the Imperium cannot be overstated.
Control of Vigilus allows the Imperium to just barely keep its beleaguered worlds in the Imperium Nihilus on the far side of the rift reinforced and re-supplied; to lose it would cripple the war effort against the rampaging forces of Chaos. Vigilus also provides a vital staging ground for the billions of refugees that come through the Nachmund Gauntlet to escape the threat of Chaos (or worse) in the Dark Imperium.
Roboute Guilliman himself designated Vigilus invaluable. The planet was something between a sentinel bastion and a staging post for further conquest, and its many Astra Militarum regiments and Adeptus Mechanicus macroclades formed a second line of defence against Chaos incursions from outside the Cadian Gate.
Vigilus comprises a number of continent-sized hive city sprawls that in recent years have become filled to overflowing with refugees seeking to escape the horrors besetting the worlds of the Imperium Nihilus beyond its aegis. Each such sprawl is protected by psychically charged Bastion-class force fields that render comatose any who would seek to breach their boundaries, enabling the defenders to slaughter them at leisure.
These force fields proved so effective that even when a vast WAAAGH! controlled by the Ork Warlord named Speedlord Krooldakka literally smashed into Vigilus soon after the opening of the Great Rift, the Greenskins were unable to assail the hivesprawls beyond, and took to seeking entertainment elsewhere by engaging in violent races across the sweeping open plains that separate the vast hivesprawls.
However, since the Great Rift tore across the galaxy, these Bastion-class force fields began to experience glitches, and eventually collapsed entirely to leave the hivesprawls open to attack. To make matters worse, the tide of Orks that poured past the inactive force field networks also had other, unforeseen consequences...
The Claw of the Thirsting Wyrm
For many Terran years, a gene-sect of the Pauper Princes Genestealer Cult calling itself the Claw of the Thirsting Wyrm had been thriving in the shadows of Vigilus. Having taken root in the subterranean depths below the militarised reservoir known as Greigan Hollow, many of their number had never seen the sky before their bloody uprising brought them to the planet's surface. Unbeknownst to the Vigilite defenders, the threat posed by the Ork WAAAGH! that attacked the world's hivesprawls had directly forced the cult's hand, for their long-planned time to rise was still a few solar months off.
Despite the initial successes achieved by roving Kill-teams of Adeptus Mechanicus Skitarii sent to counter these new attacks, every attempt to track the Genestealer Cultist threat to its source met with failure. Assailed by xenos from without and within, the Aquiliarian Council that governed Vigilus sent out a desperate call for aid -- unless the Genestealer Cults could be eliminated, Vigilus was as good as doomed.
Strike Force Icepelt
But the plight of Vigilus would not go unanswered, with the Ultramarines, Space Wolves, Iron Hands and more Space Marine Chapters besides committing their forces to the planet as the conflict raging across its surface escalated. The Space Wolves would prove invaluable in driving several elements of the Genestealer Cults underground once more.
A strike force from Ragnar Blackmane's Great Company of Space Wolves, led by the Primaris Space Marine Battle Leader Haldor Icepelt, had been thrown wildly off course as it travelled to reinforce the beleaguered Imperial armies battling the Chaos forces rampaging across the Stygius Sector.
Upon receiving the distress signal from Vigilus, Icepelt immediately ordered his ship, Wind of Fimnir, to change course. The Battle Leader was acutely aware that, should Vigilus fall, any retreat from the Stygius Sector could become impossible. Upon arrival, the Space Wolves vessel forced a passage through the flotilla of Ork spacecraft orbiting Vigilus and Strike Force Icepelt made planetfall.
By relying on their incredibly acute senses -- a trait of the Canis Helix unique to the gene-seed of the Space Wolves Chapter -- and the instinctive hunting skills inherited by those born of the world of Fenris, the Space Wolves were able to achieve results that even the most advanced technology of the Adeptus Mechanicus had failed to deliver.
Within only a matter of solar days, the Space Wolves were on the trail of another Genestealer Cult, the Cult of the Pauper Princes, that had eluded the defenders of Vigilus for so many solar months. But it was only when Icepelt led his warriors into the ruined cityscape of Greigan Hollow that the full extent of the Genestealer Cults menace was revealed and the true battle for the survival of Vigilus began.
With the Genestealer Cults of the Pauper Princes driven back underground thanks to Haldor Icepelt's efforts, Vigilus seemed safe. However, tragic misunderstanding and ancient rivalries once again brought open war to this crucial world.
The Craftworld Aeldari have always been a race of prophets and seers, gifted with preternatural foresight. As the Great Rift yawns across the galaxy, each Craftworld has scrambled to re-align the skeins of fate, conducting lightning raids and pursuing hidden agendas to secure a future for their kind.
Foreseeing disaster on Vigilus, the Wild Riders of Saim-Hann dispatched a strike force to assassinate Vannadan the Firebrand, a rising demagogue who had already convinced thousands of citizens of that beleaguered planet to throw their lot in with Chaos. Their mission was a success -- but not one without cost.
Upon completion of their mission, the forces of Saim-Hann were rewarded for their service to the Imperium in blood and steel, torn apart by a response force of Imperial soldiers. Interpreting the actions of the Craftworlders as an attack, no mercy was shown, and the forces of Saim-Hann were butchered, retreating with the Spirit Stones of their fallen and an lust for vengeance.
Spiritseer Qelnaris of Saim-Hann then sought to vent his righteous fury upon the Imperial forces of Vigilus. His assault was met by a force of Primaris Space Marines drawn from the Ultramarines Chapter.
Vigilus also became a target for the various Aeldari factions. Vigilus had become a hub for many refugees seeking to traverse the Nachmund Gauntlet. The Drukhari's ruling Kabal of the Black Heart, who had annihilated whole flotillas of these civilian spacecraft, began spiriting their captured human cargo back to Commorragh.
Finally, on the orders of Abaddon the Despoiler, a force of Heretic Astartes drawn from the Black Legion under the command of the Raptor Chaos Lord Haarken Worldclaimer has arrived on Vigilus to claim the beleaguered Sentinel World for Chaos.
Water was scarce on Vigilus, for the planet had a very low water table, and, aside from the wide-scale recycling operations, there were few ways to replenish used stores. In addition, plant growth and arable farming were a rarity. The planet's food production came from various inventive sources, amongst them cactus farms, vermin abattoirs and subterranean nutri-vats.
These latter methods recycled the fat-rich run-off and nutrient-rich sweat that dripped from the grates of the planet's grossly overpopulated manufactorum habs.
As a result, on Vigilus, the kind of water a person drank was a powerful status symbol, indicative of their wealth and position in its society. The majority of people in the underclasses and working populations drank water from deep underground, known as aqua subterra. This was dirty, foul-tasting and yellowish, but affordable.
The rich and powerful drank aqua glacius, mined in vast cuboid icebergs on the polar continent of Kaelac's Bane. The faithful flock of the Adeptus Ministorum in Hyperia Hivesprawl drank recycled water purified with holy oils -- aqua sanctus -- whereas the Adeptus Mechanicus drank aqua meteoris, which was mined from frozen asteroids they harnessed with the Greater Omnissian Hoist.
At the onset of the xenos invasion of the War of Beasts, Hyperia was the capital hivesprawl of the planet Vigilus, home of the Planetary Governor's palace and the Adeptus Ministorum stronghold that surrounded it.
Together, the strongholds of the Agamemnus Dynasty and the Ministorum formed the capital city-state of Saint's Haven, high-walled, gunstudded and surrounded by a vast, moat-like chasm known as the Ring of Nothingness. It is said that this abyss was bottomless, though some who looked down from the bridges that crossed it at its eight cardinal points reported seeing lights in the deep darkness below.
Over time, the Ministorum presence in Hyperia went from being a loose confederation of advisors and chaplains to a vast military force with a controlling interest in the region. The Ministorum were considered by most to be the power behind the throne, and none could deny them -- they were doing the Emperor's will, and His was the ultimate authority.
At the start of the war, the Adeptus Ministorum held de facto political control over a trinity of massive hive cities, known as Sanctifi-Ultima, Hivespire Magentine and Martyr's Pyre. From these strongholds, the agents of the Ministorum and the Adepta Sororitas sallied out to punish any whose faith they feared might waver, and to spread inspiration and courage amongst those that remained true.
A legion of Crusaders and Adepta Sororitas, acting under Canoness Superior Temperance Blaise and based at the Abbey Septimus of the Order of Our Martyred Lady, kept the citizenry under strict control, rooting out Traitors and Heretics, and stopping undesirable elements from disturbing their betters in Saint's Haven.
The Ecclesiarchy's head representative was the Pontifex Slyne Galluck, a man so obese he had to be conveyed about by an anti-grav hover-bier. He maintained that it was the unceasing prayers of the Ministorum that had kept Vigilus safe for so long, and that as long as the Trinity Hives remained standing, the planet would endure.
The Ministorum controlled the water drunk by the people of Hyperia Hivesprawl, called aqua sanctus, which was chemically treated as well as being blessed with holy writ and sanctified with holy oil. Their monopoly of this precious resource saw them gain even more power. Furthermore, any members of the Agamemnus Dynasty who stood against the Ministorum soon found their fortunes take a sharp downturn.
To the west of this city-within-a-city were the Industrial Enclaves, an endless maze of manufactorums from which a large portion of the planet's war materiel came.
The Negation District, also in the west, was once a well-maintained gothic quarter, used as neutral ground for the continent's factions to debate the planet's destiny. By the time the Great Rift split the sky, however, this region had become a slum district populated only by itinerants and refugees of the faith.
To the north were the Twin Chasms, mined exhaustively for amethyst since they yawned wide after the Greater Hyperian Quake of 882.292 previo VCM.M41.
Nearby was Sanctifi-Ultima -- a giant spiral-tipped hive city with huge concentric rings of amaranthec manufactoria around its base. These liquor-sludge distilleries spewed out baleful magenta-hued emissions that were carried across the northern limits of the continent, known as the Magentine Veils. The citizens there were said to lead short and dirty lives.
The Macro-yard district to the northeast of Saint's Haven reclaimed voidships consigned to disuse, and enjoyed a thriving black market as a result. Governor Agamemnus assigned troops to defend it in the early stages of the war, and it was put under the purview of the ramrodstraight Proctor Venedar of the Astra Militarum Vigilant Guard. Venedar held the line against the Ork incursions from Hurrikane Rekk, despite constant Deathskull raids and headlong assaults led by war leader Stormboss Stampskul.
Unfortunately, though the Macroyards remained inviolate, they relied upon the adjoining Eastgate Bastion Nexus to ferry munitions, and this site was overrun by the Orks of Mob Kommander Grokker. Amidst allegations that the disaster had been the result of a diplomatic feud between Venedar and Lord Commissar Asdan, Tempestus Scions of the 23rd Betic Centaurs and 12th Kappic Eagles launched pitiless counter-incursion strikes to retake the nexus.
Hubridon Sub-sprawl and the Triadine Plateau
The southeast of the hivesprawl, including the hive of Martyr's Pyre, the Hubridon Sub-sprawl and the Triadine Plateaus, held fast against Ork incursion throughout the war.
By keeping the Van Gollick Macrohighway open and hence allowing Astra Militarum and Adepta Sororitas vehicles to redeploy at speed, the major Ork incursions were stymied and eventually forced to retreat.
Meanwhile, the tireless efforts of Temperance Blaise's Adepta Sororitas Kill-teams saw each uprising of xenos insurgents among the Genestealer Cults swiftly exterminated before they could gain a foothold.
Cape of Lost Causes
The southernmost point of the Hyperia Hivesprawl, known as the Cape of Lost Causes, became a stronghold for incursion elements that bled into the city via the Hyperia-Dirkden Fortwall. Though the Brazen Claws Chapter practiced a scorch-and-scramble program of incendiary war across the widest point of the Cape, its tip was still in enemy hands at the time of the Ultramarines' arrival and the skirmish with the Aeldari that came to define the strife in Saint's Haven.
The continent of Megaborealis was ceded to the Adeptus Mechanicus in an ancient treaty, and from that time to the dawn of the War of Beasts, they strip-mined almost all of its resources. The rapacious industry of the Tech-priests proved to be the perfect cover for the clandestine deeds that were occurring below ground.
Even before the war began, Megaborealis was one of Vigilus’ most dangerous continents. This was thanks, in part, to its tectonic instability and the proliferation of volcanic mountain ranges that crisscrossed it. Yet it was the touch of the Machine God that truly cursed Megaborealis.
Over a thousand Terran years before the War of Beasts broke out, the Magi of Stygies VIII forged a pact with Vigilus' then Planetary Governor, Donsor Agamemnus, giving them absolute ownership of Megaborealis. In return, it was agreed that the Tech-priests would contribute the might of the Adeptus Mechanicus and its aligned Knight Houses to the planet's defence. That agreement, known as the "Pact of Fire and Steel," was swiftly ratified. The Adeptus Mechanicus began their excavations at once.
Though Megaborealis' bore-hives looked huge from above, their sprawl was greater still below. Where their immense excavator engines and macro-drills laboured ceaselessly, tunnels, mine workings, underhabs and manufactorums radiated out like tree roots.
The majority of these excavations brought up streams of ores and minerals, gems and crude fuels that were funnelled into the upkeep of the bore-hives themselves, and the war efforts of Vigilus' many armies.
The bore-hives began their existence as drill engines, each one several Terran miles in length. They were so enormous that they had to be transported to Vigilus within dedicated space-faring barges. Painstakingly manoeuvred into precise low orbit trajectories, the drill engines were launched into the crust of Megaborealis like enormous harpoons, each churning its way down through the bedrock to anchor itself deep within Vigilus’ planetary crust.
The tectonic upheaval of this monumental act was so great that the planet's landscape was changed forever. Volcanic eruptions caused the lands to convulse for years to come. Earthquakes of phenomenal violence opened chasms that could have swallowed cities, while a pall of ash and smoke rose above the continent that blotted out the skies.
The destruction was judged worthwhile, for deep beneath the planet's surface lay resources that the Xenarites of Stygies VIII believed to be incredibly valuable.
After that day -- known as the "Day of the Omnissiah's Claw" -- the drill engines were built up until they transformed into sprawling bore-hives. Thousands of levels and districts rose above ground, comprising laboratories, foundries, shrines, data-stacks, manufactoria, biologus dissection chapels, generatoria, weapon batteries, cogitator networks and countless other arcane facilities.
So high did the bore-hives stretch that their uppermost levels pierced the atmosphere, meshing with space docks where lumbering ore barges and manufactorum ships were moored.
In the underdeeps, below even the sacred bore-points and sump-pits of Dredger's Abyss and Unguent Sprawl, lay the Black Levels. Worked by neuro-wiped Servitors overseen by secretive Magi, these were the mines from which the precious blackstone veins within Vigilus' crust were painstakingly extracted.
Gathered in sanctified haulage-reliquaries, the substance was stockpiled deep within each borehive, for the Tech-priests would no more relinquish their grasp upon that extraordinary substance than they would give up their own lives.
Underground, billions of labourers lived and died in service to the Machine God. Countless mining clans dwelt in subterranean cities, never knowing the warmth of any light save that of petrochemical lanterns, never seeing any future but one of endless toil amidst the mainways and bore-shafts. It was amongst these clans that an offshoot of the Genestealer Cult of the Pauper Princes spread, bringing corruption disguised as hope.
Hive Ankhar Tertius
Deep beneath Hive Ankhar Tertius, the infestation first took root when a single, slinking Genestealer escaped from a harvested asteroid. Hidden away in the half-collapsed subterranean district of Piston's Hollow was the tainted brood cathedrum where the Genestealer Patriarch, Grandsire Wurm, often made his nest.
The Patriarch was a terrifying figure even to the cultists that worshipped him, yet he was the spider at the centre of the infestation's web, and his will bonded millions. Under this alien despot’s influence, much of Ankhar Tertius' miner militia fell to the cult's sway. Over twenty miner clans based around the rebel hold of Tecton followed suit, concealing their corruption from their Tech-priest masters by dint of diligent labour and ever-increasing yields.
This gene-sect was far from the only one lurking beneath Vigilus' crust. Only Grandsire Wurm himself knew the true extent to which his progeny had spread, undetected, through the infrastructure of the bore-hives and beyond. For long years they built their stockpiles of munitions and materiel, suborned positions of authority, stole codes, and laid plans for their day of ascension. This diligence lent them a critical advantage when the first stages of the war erupted on Vigilus.
Piston's Hollow was a subterraean district of Hive Ankhar Tertius that had partially collapsed.
Kraxxon was a region of Megaborealis dominated by petrochemical factories.
Scelerus was a bore-hive built atop a great thermal stack that yielded practically endless geothermal power. Scelerus provided over half of the energy that kept the countless manufactoria of Megaborealis operational.
The Greater Omnissian Hoist
The Greater Omnissian Hoist was a true marvel of the Adeptus Mechanicus' genius. Via this immense pulley, the Tech-priests captured and processed ice-clad asteroids for their elemental bounty.
Reaching up from the Stygian Spires -- the tallest hive city in Megaborealis by some margin -- was a vast construction known as the Greater Omnissian Hoist. This edifice was testament to the incredible willpower and vision of the Magi of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and was famed across the sector for putting into practice a hypothesis that had intrigued Tech-priests for millennia.
The Hoist and its supporting structures rose so high that the tip was invisible to the naked eye. They linked the Stygian Spires with the wheel-shaped space station of Sacrus Tora Hawking in geosynchronous orbit high above. It did this via a complex system of microfibre carbon chains and duraplas capillaries.
Partially telescopic and modular, these were created on an industrial scale by the workshops of Megaborealis' primary hive city and hauled into the stratosphere by a succession of low orbit tugs.
Across the span of an entire Terran century, the carbon chains were extended and reinforced until they not only reached Sacrus Tora Hawking, but passed through its specially constructed engine mills and back down to the planet's surface again. These chains were counterweighted with sections of the original space station in order to pull up replacement components from the hive below, the interstitial point of the Median Sacrus Way-station ensuring that each winchnode passed on in safety.
That was the first freight transaction made between the hivesprawl and the space station above it, but it opened the door for the tens of thousands of other exchanges that happened after. For its part, Megaborealis sent up manpower, food, repair parts and other necessities. In return, Sacrus Tora Hawking shipped down asteroids clad in thick layers of ice, a vital source of water for the planet.
The asteroids harvested by Sacrus Tora Hawking were native to a great band of space debris known as the Octiline Belt. Early auguries determined that the rocks drifting in that band were clad in ice water, and almost immediately a plan for the capture and exploitation of this resource was put into place -- the thirsting citizens of Megaborealis cared little where their water came from.
The plan to harness the Octiline Belt's seemingly endless bounty was so ambitious, and of such immense scale, that only one with the processing power of an Arch-Magos could dare to attempt it. But, with the help of his most trusted colleagues, Fabricator Vosch oversaw the Hoist program from beginning to end, adapting and installing banks of tractor beam cannons that could lock onto the asteroids within reach and slowly draw them into the space station's armature talons.
From that day, the transit of ice from orbit to the processing factories of the Stygian Spires -- where the meltwater was "refined" with the addition of sacred oils and blessed lubricants -- became a miracle so commonplace it was rarely considered worthy of mention.
Mortwald was the primary source of food growth and harvest on the planet Vigilus, as well as a centre for rejuvenat processing -- but for all the life it gave, its guns promised death to those who approached unauthorised.
The fabulous wealth of Mortwald's ruling aristocracy was largely due to its rejuvenat clinics and the system-famed adepts that worked within them. The bio-regressive procedures and neo-nascent surgeries conducted there were so advanced that so-called "immortality pilgrimages" were once common practice.
The privileged inhabitants of the Vigilus System worlds under Astravigila's light would make the long journey to Vigilus, and though it cost them Terran years to do so, they would leave looking solar decades or even centuries younger. There were rejuvenat clinics that dared to claim that they could lift the soul as well as the body, and in doing so honour an age-old tradition set down by the Master of Mankind Himself.
They maintained that the planet had the Emperor's blessing, and that evidence of His miraculous beneficence could be found in the tranquillity of the bio-domes. This same serenity could be conferred upon a visitor's soul -- for the right fee, of course.
The opening of the Great Rift quickly put an end to safe space travel in the region, all but eradicating this once-lucrative industry.
The majority of Mortwald's land was given over to the cultivation of hyperflora -- massive swathes of cactus and other succulents that formed oxygen-generating forests. These were force-grown on an industrial scale to counteract the huge amounts of gaseous by-product that Vigilus' industry churned into the planet's air.
The oxygenating effects of the Eastern Cactus Forests, the Ageless Weald, the Viridian Forests and the Emerald Strain did initially give the planet enough clean air for its ever-expanding population to survive.
Unfortunately, the atmosphere-scrubbing effects of Mortwald's forests were soon surpassed by the rampant pollution produced by the hivesprawls; not only did the other metropolises grow larger, but the northern third of Mortwald itself was taken over by a sprawling cityscape much in the manner of its neighbours.
Djodrolev Hivesta was the largest hive city in the Mortwald Hivesprawl and its administrative capital in the north of the region.
Electros Hive was the second largest hive city of the Mortwald Hivesprawl.
The rich and influential inhabitants of Mortwald lived in secluded enclaves far from the northern capital of Djodrolev Hivestar and its smaller but no less overcrowded sibling, Electros Hive. The domain of the rich and the indolent, these enclaves consisted of specially commissioned bio-domes, their interiors verdant oases of sanctity filled with trickling waterfalls, glittering lakes and sculptures of dynastic aristocrats past and present. They were called a paradise, and rightly so. The domes appeared quite different from the outside, dotted with brutal-looking gun-nests and sentry crenellations constantly manned against aerial attack.
No expense was spared to keep the biodomes safe, for these complexes were ruled over by Grand Castellan Deinos Agamemnus, brother of Governor Lucienne Agamemnus IX, and he had grown accustomed to a life of unalloyed luxury. The Castellan was a famed Imperial history enthusiast who collected devastating archeotech weapons like they were trinkets, and spoke at length on the subject whenever possible. It is said that his personal collection boasted no fewer than six Deathstrike Missiles.
Deinos Trench Network
Due in part to the suspicion that Deinos Agamemnus held for the Adeptus Mechanicus, Mortwald's perimeter was protected not only by bastion-class force fields, but by a network of squat bastions, trenches and aegis lines. The Deinos Trench Network in the continent's northeastern reaches was a superlative example, an overlapping labyrinth of raised revetments, gun emplacements and rockcrete roads lined with sentry towers some hundreds of feet tall.
Over time, that trench network was expanded to cover the vast majority of the eastern border of Mortwald, joining with the Tzeller Line in the south to protect the region's most valued holdings.
The Tzeller Line was a southern defensive line that joined with the Deinos Trench Network.
New Vitae Docks
It was through the New Vitae Docks that the continent's wealthy visitors came and went.
The Paradisiac Domesprawl was the enclave where the most high-end rejuvenat treatments took place for the wealthy of Morwald.
Rejuvenus Strongport was where the lesser nobility enjoyed having a few years stripped from them by more affordable treatments.
Those whose bodies were beyond recovery, should they receive permission from Grand Castellan Deinos Agamemnus himself, were allowed to visit the Biosanctic Fleshplants. It was said that extreme methods of rejuvenation, such as the suturing of old heads to fresh young bodies, were not beyond the abilities of the complex's biomagi and elite anatomagisters.
The source of water for billions of Vigilus' citizens, Oteck Hivesprawl was best known for its five vast reservoirs, which were to become hotly contested during the war. An insidious Genestealer Cult uprising from beneath and five Ork Scrap Cities in proximity saw Oteck assailed from without as well as within.
Like the other hivesprawls on Vigilus, Oteck was made up of hab-blocks and manufactoria that rose only a few dozen storeys above ground level, but spread out over enormous distances. Limiting the height of buildings helped them to avoid suffering catastrophic collapse when the inevitable tectonic upheaval caused by the mining operations in Megaborealis hit the continent.
Though there was a significant Imperial military presence in Oteck, the vast macro-districts were run by the Adeptus Arbites, who kept the labouring classes in check.
Water supply in Oteck was regulated through the Hollows -- five enormous reservoirs, more like inland seas than conventional containment sites. These gathered water from deep under the planet's crust via an elaborate system of pumps, capillary banks and pipe-ways, and were topped up with regular infusions from the island-like precipitation sites of Tzardonica, Luthvren Isle and the Lenkotz Chain.
Networks of macro-ducts pumped Oteck's water to the furthest extents of the continent, and even beyond. In return they brought back polluted water, industrial run-off and reclaimed biomass to be recycled into potable fluids. Much of the purer water Oteck conveyed to its prime clients was transported via convoy under armed guard -- it was not unheard of for Astra Militarum Hellhounds and Devil Dogs to carry two tanks of pure water alongside those filled with volatile fuel in their rear quarters.
As well as ensuring safe delivery, this tacitly meant that the crew of the armoured convoy would not die of dehydration on the long journey from one continent to another.
The five reservoirs of Oteck were known as the Greigan, Mysandren, Trevig, Ostaveer and Agamemnus Hollows. This last was named for the world's ruling dynasty, and was maintained as a back-up water source in case Hyperia's own store should be compromised.
Aquadine III Processor Districts
The Aquadine III Processor Districts linked, processed and distributed the water drawn from the Hollows.
Hives Dagda and Pneumos
The Hollows were overseen by Hive Dagda in the south. Dagda shared a fierce rivalry with Hive Pneumos, which both generated the immense pressure needed to force the water supplies across the planet.
To the southwest of the Hollows was the Ellerophosus Hivebelt, a cluster of medium-sized hivecities that were classed as one vast conurbation.
Solor, the Sentinel Hive
To the far south of the Hollows was Solor, the Sentinel Hive, which kept watch over the waste-grounds and shanties at the point closest to the freezing wilderness of Kaelac's Bane.
Hive Zontanus and the Sumphall Districts
Hive Zontanus and the Sumphall Districts were also overtaken by Oteck's sprawl, which reached all the way to the Siltid River in the north.
Perhaps the most coveted sites in all of Oteck -- aside from the reservoirs -- were the Turingsbane Datahives, whose foundations pre-dated Imperial settlement upon the planet. It was said that buried in their lower levels were rich troves of data so dense and meaningful they would make a Tech-magos weep.
The Agamemnus Dynasty knew well how much the Adeptus Mechanicus coveted the ancient data contained in the catacombs of Turingsbane, and the Planetary Governor used access to these data vaults as a bargaining chip with which to manipulate her Adeptus Mechanicus rivals on the Council of Cogs.
Part of the Pact of Fire and Steel made between the planetary government and the Mechanicus stated that the Tech-priests of Megaborealis could never access the archives unaccompanied, though evidence suggests that the magi eventually found a way to remotely access the data without permission.
Dirkden Hivesprawl, characterised by its rudimentary cityscape, was a troubled metropolis indeed. It was abandoned by Vigilus' elite, and was home to as many subterranean, half-feral outcasts as it was productive civilians.
Dirkden long ago reached a threshold in its expansion, after which it was all but abandoned by the Agamemnus Dynasty. Unbeknownst to all but the Cult of the Pauper Princes, however, this discarded cityscape did indeed supply something to its fellows -- the mutating xenos genetic pattern known as the "Genestealer's Kiss."
From Glaive Point in the north to the Rescalid Underworks at the southernmost tip, the hivesprawl was shot through with subterranean levels. These had become so liberally infested with Genestealer Cultists by the end of the War of Beasts that if a census had somehow been taken, it would have revealed far more in thrall to Grandsire Wurm than to the Emperor of Mankind.
Dirkden's tallest and proudest structure was Ashenid Non-Hive, a half-finished skeleton of a hive city that, although teeming with life, was open to the stars. Its construction was never finished, for the architects that built it -- now lost in the annals of history -- changed tack halfway through, and began to build downwards into the naturally occurring cave networks beneath.
Dirkden was joined to the southernmost reaches of its parent hivesprawl by the massive Hyperia-Dirkden Fortwall, a vast double row of crenellated defences with a rockcrete macrohighway running between them. Mortwald was similarly linked to its neighbour by the Mortwald-Oteck Fortwall, and the Dontoria- Megaborealis Line connected the two northernmost continents to facilitate trade and transit. The original plans for these links between the hivesprawls were put into place by Deinos Agamemnus shortly before his fourth rejuvenation.
Growing ever more irate at the toll the native hazards of Vigilus were taking upon his endeavours, and determining that his losses in export convoys were unsustainable, he leant on the Aquilarian Council to provide a more stable means of transit. It was hoped that by allowing the faithful of Hyperia to flood along the highway to Dirkden they would raise the hivesprawl to new heights of productivity -- and one day, should all go well, build outwards to merge the two into a single hivesprawl that would empower Hyperia all the more.
Instead, the macrohighway seemed only to drain the capital of Vigilus of its manpower and resources -- and in return, infect the Cape of Lost Causes in Hyperia with the gene-tainted xenos cult that plagued the subterranean levels of so many of Dirkden's districts.
Still, the Fortwall itself stood strong throughout the War of Beasts, even with the rampaging Orks that marauded around the wastelands occasionally mounting raids against it.
Dontoria was critically overpopulated, even amongst its fellow hivesprawls. So densely packed were its districts that it had access to incredible manpower -- though when the Genestealer infection broke out in the populace, it could not be stopped.
Dontoria passed the standard metropolitan population density recommended by the Administratum in 943 previo VCM.M41. Over a thousand Terran years later, it continued to pack more citizens into its earthquake-ravaged slums. The endless manufactoria and fabrication shanties that surrounded its numerous hive cities were so steeped in pollution their outer walls were blackened and flaking, and their insides were a sickly yellow reminiscent of a lifelong lho-stick addict's fingers.
Hacking coughs and expectorant splutters were common there; the lands of Mesha's Delta, Smog Field and the Great Choke were swathed in a dense blanket of vile pollution that damaged the lungs of those without respirator augmetics.
This false continent's sole source of water, the inland sea known as Lake Dontor, was polluted to the point that no life could exist within it and it sickened any who dared drink from it. That did not stop floating shanty towns being built upon it.
So desperate was the population to find living space that much of the lake was covered in walkways, rowing boats, decommissioned barges, flora batteries and sump haulers, all bound together in a latticework teeming with shouting merchants, hustling traders, merciless opportunists, tattooed thugs and smogwater urchins.
The scrap-built shanties of Tzimitria, Stump and Vostoyev Subsprawls were far from wealthy in the conventional sense, but as with many desperate populations, they were rich in faith. The Ministorum found it easy to sway the swathes of smoke-stained workers, so desperate for hope as the Great Rift glowered above, to the fervent worship of the Emperor at the exclusion of all else.
Their daily task was to make the autosanctioned relics and holy weaponry with which the Ecclesiarchy waged its Wars of Faith, and the strongest of their holy gangers often went on to lead new lives in the Vigilant Guard.
Grodholev, Pravdus, and Hallordwight were older; these subsprawls were considered to be the original foundation of Dontoria and hence were more heavily tithed.
The extreme north of the continent, optimistically named New Horizon, was slowly encroaching on the Vigilant wilderness in order to provide more living space.
Similarly, Missionary Point to the south was extending towards Mortwald.
Lord Tharenst, the Hive Marshal of Mesha's Delta, wished to link his province with the northernmost point of Mortwald, but his entreaties and proposals were met only with contempt, until the outbreak of war on Vigilus relegated them to the status of a distant dream.
Situated near the equator, Storvhal generated an incredible amount of energy from its volcano chains and geothermal chasms. It was home to countless worshippers of the Machine God, but still darker cults operated in the shadows.
The volcanic land of Storvhal was relatively small, but of exceptional value to the planet's infrastructure. Deliberately sited on a convergence of fault lines, it was originally founded as an annex by the Adeptus Mechanicus after the Pact of Fire and Steel was signed. It produced the planet's main source of power, its volcanic farms and geothermal generator arrays harnessing the energy created by the continent's frequently erupting volcanoes.
Fabricator Vosch claimed to have adapted, overseen and optimised the technology used in the farms himself -- basing his works upon the holy foundation of a Standard Template Construct database, of course.
Rather than suffering from the seismic upheaval caused by the drilling in Megaborealis to the north, Storvhal reaped the benefits of each tectonic shift and volcanic eruption in great measure. Though hundreds of its workers, magma-Servitors and Skitarii patrolmen died with each geo-spasm, its energy yield spiked massively as the volcanoes from the Phaestos Mound in the south to the Omnissiah's Tread in the north erupted. Fabricator Vosch considered the exchange more than worth it.
If the storage levels of Vulcanid Geohive, Hive Magmathermid and Phaestos Mound filled their enormous capacitors and generatorum caches to excess, the overflow of energy was sent along the Voschian Canals, and from there into a subterranean network of cables and macrofibres to Megaborealis. If that continent's needs were already met, the excess power instead went to the hivesprawls that bid the highest to receive it.
Being a place of fire and fury, Storvhal inspired a lot of religious subcultures. Some of the cults burgeoning in the Pyroclast Districts believed the volcanic eruptions of their homeland to be the Emperor's work, and that their sacrifice was necessary to appease the volcanoes. Others saw the abuse of their Adeptus Mechanicus overlords for what it was, and sought recompense.
The resultant unrest and civil ire was capitalised on by rogue elements working against the Imperium. Because of the inhuman toll on life, the agents that worked in secret in Storvhal found it easy to seed fire-cults, rebel sects and pyromaniacs throughout the slave populace.
Some preached the notion that the fires of the volcanoes could be altered to transform the faithful into divine beings, a phoenix-like apotheosis from ashes to glory. Worse still, the underground demagogue known as Vannadan the Firebrand was able to garner power -- not in the name of emancipation, but Chaos.
Kaelac's Bane was a frozen southern polar wasteland of permafrost, icebergs and glaciers. It was home only to ice-miners, arctic beasts, and secrets hidden deep in the snow.
Kaelac's Bane was of little use as a dwelling place -- the last testimony of the famed Vigilant pioneer Jonst Kaelac is proof enough of that. It was, however, invaluable as a source of the pure water known as aqua glacius, and the continent's glaciers were mined extensively by Adeptus Mechanicus clades optimised to endure sub-zero temperatures.
In the vast, continent-spanning mining operations that covered the sunward side of Kaelac's Bane, huge las-cutter engines sliced off perfect cuboids of ice from glacier fronts and the edges of the continent's craters. The Venstran and Heliostrike Impact Craters yielded the most bounty, harbouring the Glacia Betus and Glacia Omicroid macro-quarries, respectively.
Each day, mining Servitors, quarrymen and hook-handed ice-crawler drones crossed each glacial face of these enormous impact craters. As they did so, they hammered in pins and prepared las-nets that, although low powered, were able to melt their way through even icy rock in time. Each cyborg worker was noospherically linked to his fellows, and they operated in complete synchronicity, as if in some choreographed dance perfected by endless repetition.
From these sites, giant slabs and monoliths of ice were cargo freighted to Mortwald, Hyperia and other areas that could afford them.
It was not only water that was harvested from Kaelac's Bane, for in places the permafrost hid strata of valuable minerals and ores. Here too the Adeptus Mechanicus delved deep. The icy and featureless tracts of land protected by the force field web known as the Quixotine Loop were said to be rich in esoteric stone, and were mined extensively. Over time, the islands devolved to little more than landscapes of deadly ice crevasses.
These mining operations were risky indeed. As well as the logistical challenges of the punishing cold, the great white apex predators that prowled the region were as stealthy as they were violent. The truck-sized ice-stalker mantis was particularly fierce, frequently dragging ice-workers away to be devoured in their lairs, and the near-invisible whiteworm was a horrible threat that swarmed toward sources of heat and burrowed into the flesh of those too slow or preoccupied to evade it.
Even then there were worse predators snatching people from the snowstorms. Though no official Imperial sources existed to define their nature, rumours abounded, and the fact that so many glacier miners went missing was enough to cause grave productivity concerns in the upper echelons of the mining clades.
Though only the highest-placed adepts and leaders on Vigilus had an inkling of its existence, there was an ancient Aeldari Webway gate situated in the west of Kaelac's Bane. It had existed there for tens of thousands of Terran years. Shrouded by permanent blizzards that were whipped up by the empyric energies howling from within, it divulged its secrets only to those who could survive the barrier of intense cold that surrounded it like a moat.
Leading to the Labyrinth Dimension, it was an ingress point that the Drukhari used to attack Kaelac's Bane, Oteck and Dirkden on swift and deadly raids.
When the Deathwatch made a foray across the Dearthland Permafrost, they declared a region of some eighteen hundred square miles Quarantine Cryofernus -- centred on the arcing structures of the xenos portal. No Imperial presence strayed within that cordon, with the exception of the black-armoured Space Marines themselves, and they reported their findings to none save the Chapter Masters of the Vigilus Senate.
Even the Deathwatch, however, did not realise that an entirely different breed of enemy would emerge from that Webway gate within the standard year.
Ork Scrap Cities
The Ork settlements and junkyards that sprang up in the planet's wilderness were known to all as "Scrap Cities." From these came tides of barbaric xenos and an endless parade of war engines.
In the year 1.192 post VCM.M41, a vast agglomeration of Ork voidships -- each of which had uncharacteristically massive and powerful engines -- ploughed through the hastily assembled Imperial cordon sent to blockade it and made straight for the surface of Vigilus. Most of the ships aimed not for the metropolises of the hivesprawls, but for the regions of wilderness between them that would act as ideal staging posts for the invasion.
The vector of the Ork invasion was straightforward enough -- most of their spacecraft simply bulled their way through the stratosphere, pulling up over the last few Terran miles and angling their landing so they did not dash themselves to pieces on the wasteland dunes. It was a haphazard invasion tactic, that much was sure, but it worked.
Some Greenskin ships came apart in fiery arcs of destruction, spinning end-over-end as they flung burning scrap metal in all directions. The shock waves from these crashes rolled out across the deserts, battering far-flung monitoring stations and hammering refinery pipelines with each landing. Huge dust clouds were kicked up into the skies like atomic blasts, turning the air hazy for solar days.
The survivors were numerous enough to shrug off their early losses and repurpose virtually all of the scrap metal provided by their unfortunate comrades, using it to build immense, if ramshackle, fortresses.
Some ships, protected by powerful energy shields, made the landing all but intact. Their force-field generators were intact too -- projecting a kind of matterphobic dome known as a "bubble field." Adapted to protect the scrap fortresses, they remained functional throughout the War of Beasts, repelling many of the Imperial sorties sent against them.
These shields, like the fortifications they guarded, were testament to the strange, innate genius of the Ork Mekaniaks that built them.
Speedlord Krooldakka and his warlords were savvy enough to realise that to attack the cityscapes head-on from orbit would invite a vast amount of flak and defence laser fire -- and that even if they somehow made a safe landing amongst the dizzying hive spires, arches and statues of the cityscapes, they would almost certainly be surrounded and picked apart before they could muster a cogent invasion force.
Some of the Ork war leaders simply intuited that to invade via the wastelands would lend them a better chance of victory. Others wanted a chance to race their favourite wagons around their new home for a while before getting really stuck in -- after Terran years of being cooped up in the confines of a spacecraft, the scouring winds and open terrain of the Vigilant desert were a welcome prospect.
The first wave of invaders, upon finding they could not get past the Bastion force field networks, built shanty-style encampments around their crash-landed voidships. They set to work conquering the landscapes around them, attacking Imperial convoys wherever they tried to cross the wastes. As these running battles gathered pace, the resultant flotilla of Ork vehicles became known as the SPEEDWAAAGH!.
Western Scrap City Cluster
The largest part of the original Ork armada came down in the same region of Vigilus' wastelands, to the north of Oteck Hivesprawl. This area came to be known as the Western Scrap City Cluster. With capital-class spacecraft at the centre of each collection of Ork vehicles, they formed four Scrap Cities, the largest of which was Krooldakka's own stronghold, Fort Dakka.
The other three were the domains of powerful Ork leaders whose mutual rivalry saw their power bases flourish quickly. These became the hub of a primitive yet profitable economy of scrap metal, fuel and engine parts.
The westernmost Scrap City was Tanka Spill. Characterised by vast slicks of black petrochemical fluids that spread out from ruptured fuel-haulers and cargo hulks, this city was the province of the Mekboss known as Big Tanka.
To the south was Drogzot's Crater, where the Deathskulls hoardboss Drogzot and his Bad Moons customers piled salvage ever higher in an attempt to fill the vast impact crater to the lip with scrap metal.
Fort Dakka was the easternmost city, a vast scrap metropolis that bristled with every gun and artillery piece Krooldakka and his Meks could get their oil-stained hands on.
Other Scrap Cities
Out in the Aquaphobian Wastes was the Goffs base of Skumtown, a clattering mass of bone-dry structures that rattled against one another in the hot wasteland winds.
To the north of Storvhal was Da Wheel Hub, which famously offered a drive-by upgrade service to those Speed Freeks patient enough to stop there.
Nearby was Rakkuk's Mekmaze, into which many an aspiring racer drove his wagon, only to find himself walking back out with little more than a steering column, a small money-bag of teef and a confused expression.
To the far south of Oteck Hivesprawl was Mekstop City, the premiere site for vehicle customisation. Its Gargant construction fields were home to the legendary Drokk and his Rivet Krew.
To the east of Hyperia lay Hurrikane Rekk, an early settlement that was all but abandoned when the storm of the Vhulian Swirl expanded to ravage its rusted buildings and shanties.
Vigilus' only moon, Neo-vellum, was an orb of white rock and swirling green gas storms. It was a stronghold of the Administratum -- that bureaucratic branch of the Imperium dealing with the coordination, analysis, assessment and deployment of information.
Neo-vellum was a nerve centre of data for the Vigilus System, theoretically independent of the disparate Imperial factions on the planet, whose own agendas and bias might lead them to restrict or manipulate communications from the wider Imperium for their own purposes.
Amongst the moon's acid swamps and emerald gas storms were built massive, hermetically sealed scriptorums that churned out logistical analyses at a slow but steady rate. Each was a messagecentre and an informational waystation, their legions of bent-backed autoquill scribes and lexicographers literally chained to their desks, allowed to slumber for a few scant solar hours per cycle beneath their wooden workstations before getting back to their tasks.
Together, these stain-fingered troglodytes processed hundreds of thousands of data-slates, parchscrolls and data cylinders with every new day. Only a tiny proportion of these reached their intended recipients, but this was of little consequence to the senior scribes -- provided the ink flowed, they cared not how or why.
The normal protocol for despatching the message-scrolls produced by Neo-vellum's scriptorums was to encase them in ablative packets fitted with grav-chutes before firing them at the planet via hyper-pneumatic tubes. Each metal-cased scroll was launched on a route devised by the complex, cog-driven machine known as the Datasaint, a wonder of ancient technology that calculated the trajectory of the missive against the rotation and orbits of the moon and planet in order to target the recipient's exact position at the optimal time.
Despite its fastidious computations, the Datasaint was so antiquated that its systems were corroded by millennia of entropy. As such, many of the messages sent out from Neo-vellum were wildly off-course and never reached their targets. Grav-chutes also frequently failed to deploy.
More than one accident was caused by a stray message tube falling from the sky at great speed. In one famous case, the message was so on target and travelling at such a velocity that it killed the intended recipient instantly. The message tube itself was also destroyed on impact, and all record of its existence was swiftly eradicated by the Administratum -- but the tale lives on nonetheless.
Neo-vellum was left alone entirely by the Ork invasion of Vigilus. Perhaps this was because the invaders sought richer pickings on the planet below, perhaps because the moon was simply on the other side of the planet at the time the Ork WAAAGH! hit home. Yet the satellite was not untouched by the scourge of the xenos.
Hidden amongst the datastacks and grimoire nests of the Administratum's holdings, a secret cult thrived -- and in the attics of the monastic hab-blocks, strange creatures skittered from pools of darkness to slash apart those who dared to venture into their lair.
The Cult of the Pauper Princes made it a priority to settle an infestation upon Neo-vellum shortly after establishing itself within the hivesprawl of Megaborealis. Ensrod Ghaul, the Primus of the brood sent to conquer the scriptorum moon, stowed away with a pair of dormant Purestrain Genestealers in the capacitor hold of the electro-freighter Zealous Blurt before the ship left for Neo-vellum on a routine resupply mission.
Using a combination of forgery, charisma and murderous determination, he smuggled one container into the Scriptorum Primus district of Neo-vellum, and the other into the Stormwrack Citadel. As a result, two minor gene-sects propagated through the downtrodden ranks of Neo-vellum's workers.
After the narrow escape of the quillslave Ghorrod from a xenos attack, and an anonymous message sent to the Inquisition, the Purestrain Genestealers themselves were hunted down and burned out by an Ordo Xenos purge, but their dark legacy remained on the moon.
Neo-vellum also had a well-maintained astropathic presence for those times when a message was of such high priority that psychic communion had to be attempted. The Lunar Choir, as it was known, was a body of powerful Astropaths with many Terran centuries of experience between them; before the coming of the Great Rift it was said they were able to send visions of startling clarity across the stars.
After the Cicatrix Maledictum ripped open, the sending and receiving of psychic missives became more fraught with peril than ever before. The operatives of the Choralium, the torus-shaped building from which the moon's talented psykers sent their telepathic missives into the void, suffered dozens of seizures, fits and episodes of insanity in the solar months following the rift’s appearance.
Worse still, the complex was plagued by terrible manifestations of supernatural phenomena. This saw the Choralium all but shut down, and astropathic communiqués attempted only in extremis -- the psykers knew well the dangers of opening their minds to the Warp in such tumultuous times.
The wastes of Vigilus were vast, an endless desert punctuated by the hivesprawls that slowly encroached upon it. They were arid and dusty, broken up by gullies and chasms, and populated only by hardy survivors.
The wastes of Vigilus were anathema to life. They were not poisonous, nor acidic -- they were simply empty of all but the remains of those who foolishly tried to conquer them. The landscape was almost entirely devoid of greenery, for the water table was so low that the ground was infertile and dusty, incapable of producing anything but the hardiest vegetation.
There was little liquid to be found, other than the occasional river of lava vomited from some new seismic upheaval, and the odd stagnant mud hole. With nothing to bind the earth together, the landscape was a gigantic dustbowl, its substrate whipped up into the air with each passing landstorm to create great cyclones of grit that raged uncontrollably across the wilderness.
Despite the hostility of the region, there were areas where life found a way to eke out an existence. Some of the impact craters that scarred the planet's surface acted as bluffs, gathering a little moisture in their shadowed lees and allowing a rudimentary ecosystem to gain some purchase. In the same way a coral reef gives undersea fauna a chance to cling to an otherwise featureless sea bed, these features allowed the hardiest of species to stubbornly hang on to life.
The mounds and chasms around Storvhal became home to a colony of Ambulls; these claw-armed, subterranean giants preyed on isolated groups of travellers, hunting with their sonic and thermal senses. They learned to avoid the trundling tracks of Weapon Servitors and the lock-step thump of the metal-legged Skitarii, instead tunnelling up from below to scissor apart fleshier creatures that were usually meatier and less dangerous. Some amongst the Adeptus Mechanicus propagated the belief that the Ambulls were a manifestation of the universe's displeasure at those that relied on flesh rather than metal.
The terrestine molerats that infested the northern reaches of the planet could grow to the size of locomotive carriages on a diet of giant sandroaches -- the only other species that could thrive in the irradiated wastes to the west of Dredger's Abyss. Existing in great hives of several hundred individuals, these hideous, hairless moles honeycombed the giant ridged impact sites known as the Kenser Crater Network between Dontoria and Megaborealis.
They occasionally ambushed those forced to go on foot across the wastes -- for them, human flesh was a delicacy -- though it is worth noting that they did not trouble any of the convoys that happened to carry individuals bearing the mutated Genestealer DNA of the Pauper Princes.
The Vhulian Swirl was perhaps the most dangerous of all Vigilus' geographic features. A vast storm of dust and sharp, shredding particles, it birthed cyclones and hurricanes that continually ravaged the wastelands beyond.
To the east of Hyperia, there was a dust storm so immense that when seen from space it dominated a full quarter of the planet's surface. Near its centre it was so violent that the tiny stones, dust and sedimentary particulate could strip the skin from a man's body. Over time, the storm would abrade layers of subcutaneous fat, muscle, tendon and, eventually, bone. Ultimately, there would be nothing left of the unfortunate victim.
The citizens of Vigilus, and their shadowy Genestealer-infected counterparts the Pauper Princes, knew well to fear the Swirl, and so avoided it at all costs, never straying past the Perimeter Extremis as defined millennia ago by the Astra Cartographica that founded the planet.
Even the Ork invaders gave it a wide berth, for at times the Swirl raged so hard it could tip over their gunwagons and lift their light buggies clean into the air, only to dash them to pieces on the hard earth when its fury abated once more.
Smaller storms emanated from the Vhulian Swirl, cyclones and tornadoes bursting into the wastes along their own seemingly random trajectories. Carried by the hot winds that gusted from fault lines, they were flung eastwards by the pyroclastic blasts of Storvhal. These errant storms primarily scoured the unpopulated side of the planet, and were largely responsible for that part of Vigilus never being settled.
Freak weather patterns would cause them to occasionally veer towards the hivesprawls, but the Bastion force fields, while active, dissipated them before they could do serious harm. Travellers who strayed outside the force fields risked having one of these gritty, choking hurricanes bear down on them out of nowhere.
Even if it should not strip them bare, such a storm could foul an engine or cause an anti-grav vehicle to crash in a matter of solar minutes.
The barren side of Vigilus, known as the Dismal Waste, was commonly thought to include little of worth, and its dust storms were even more deadly than those thrown up over the deserts between the hivesprawls. However, the slow expansion of Megaborealis pushed fingers of industrial sprawl into the Dismal Waste as the Adeptus Mechanicus continued to quest for the bounty beneath the planet's surface.
Dontoria likewise expanded, being vastly overpopulated, though those who lived on the barren side were often beset by toxic cyclones.
For the most part, Vigilus' environment was so arid and riven by the toxic pollution of its hivesprawls that it had few ecosystems remaining. Lush vegetation could still be found in the Mortwald Hivesprawl, but otherwise the rest of the world was largely barren of flora.
Yet Vigilus' difficult environment was still home to a number of species of fauna, some native to the world, others alien imports brought by interstellar trade and commerce.
Among these were the colony of Ambulls who had taken up residence around the hivesprawl of Storvahl.
Giant eusocial, hairless mammals known as terrestine molerats that grew to the size of the locomotive carriages that carried passengers across the wastes existed in large hives of several hundred animals in the northern reaches of Vigilus in the Kenser Crater Network between the Dontoria and Megaborealis hivesprawls.
A common insectoid of Vigilus was the giant sandroach, one of the few species that could survive the high levels of radiation present in the wastes to the west of Dredger's Abyss. They were the favoured prey of the terrestine molerats.
Large apex predators were also found on the glaciers of the southern polar region known as Kaelac's Bane. The tundra was home to the truck-sized insectoids known as ice-stalker mantises who were both carnivorous and fierce, responsible for killing many of the human workers who sought to harvest the ice of the region.
The whiteworm was a feared parasite of the region whose swarms moved towards sources of heat like sleeping workers to burrow into their flesh.
The chronology of Vigilus, as denoted in records of the War of Beasts, uses as its anchor point the opening of the Great Rift above the planet. This was an event of such incredible magnitude it rewired the planet's temporal logic altogether, much as it did a thousand other war zones across the Imperium.
The first element of Vigilus' timestamp is the annual designator. It starts with the number of Terran years either before or after the rift opened, and then a number of chronosegments within that year as the second element. Imperial solar days are broken down into chronosegments of eight solar hours. After this is a third element -- either "previo" if the events occurred before the opening of the Great Rift, or "post" if after it. This third element is sometimes denoted as a minus sign or a plus sign.
The fourth element of the Vigilus timestamp is the system's designator initials; in essence, the initials of the star system to which it refers. For Vigilus, this is VCM which stands for "Vigilus Cicatrix Maledictum." For its neighbouring planet, Omis-Prion, the designator initials would be OPCM.
By way of a full example, if the time of an event in the Vigilus System was three solar days (nine chronosegments) before the opening of the Great Rift, the timestamp would be "0.9 previo VCM.M41," also expressed simply as "0.9 previo" or "0.9–."
This translates as "0 years and 9 chronosegments (three solar days) previous to the Vigilus System's first instance of the Cicatrix Maledictum in the 41st Millennium AD."
If it was one Terran year and eight solar hours after, the timestamp would be "1.1 post VCM.M41," also expressed as "1.1 post" or "1.1+."
- Codex: Drukhari (8th Edition), pg. 43 (Spreading Fear, #2)
Imperium Nihilus - Vigilus Defiant (8th Edition), pp. 5-20, 22, 25, 36, 41-42, 48-69, 71
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