|Population||Est. 62 Billion|
|Geography||Five primary continents: Continent-spanning conurbation (Bethvyrnesse), semi-tropical mountain ranges/grassy steppes (Dagonesse), stony and sandy deserts(Escanoresse), polar ice continent (Mordessant), Sub-surface oceanic plateau (Drustainland). One moon (Pendragon).|
|Adeptus Presence||Strong. All major Adepta present. Dual Astropathic Choirs, Fidelis Ordos of the Victorumite Conclave Supreme Court.|
The Illuminated Blades of the Imperial Majesty,
|Trade||Imports: Food, fuel, religious pilgrims
Exports: Weaponry, manpower, Rogue Traders
The Capital of the Victorum Sector, Avalonus has been the heart for the region since the Dark Age of Technology, when the Falxian Gladocracy ruled this region of space. Sitting at the juncture of several cross-sector warp routes collectively dubbed The Dacian Trunk, it dominates travel and trade throughout the central sub-sectors. Not only did this make it a natural choice for sector capital, it brought a prominence to Avalonus which saw it rival other Segmentum powers in days long past.
Avalonus is a world of unimaginable wealth, where the treasures of a thousand worlds are gathered by Chartist fleets plying the space-lanes of the Imperium and Rogue Traders plunging into the distant and unconquered frontiers. The patronage of a million nobles pay for the creation of art and soldiers known even to the distant spires of Holy Terra, while ponderous and stately examples of the pinnacle of Mechanicus craft can be seen on every upper hive street. Mineshafts plunge deep beneath the surface of the planet, seeking untapped mineral riches and deposits of ancient war ruins to process into useful commodities which it exports to lesser worlds and distant sectors.
It is also a world of stately anachronism and brutal killings, where oath-bonds and noble knights are as woven into the fabric of Avalonian society as bespoke dueling and gladiatorial arenas. Every citizen, from the lowest underhive scunner to decadent spire noble carries a blade with them to settle matters of honor, swear blood oaths or simply show willing. Wandering sell-blades known as knights are pledged to noble families and guard their claims, taking to arenas to settle matters of dispute. Vying “dukes” and “earls” and other titles of peerage dot the landscape of the hive, bestowed upon the allies of the great ruling families, fighting shadow wars of influence and control from the base of the noble spires to the very depths of the Underhive.
In the shadows of Avalonus, however, lurk secrets vile enough to chill the heart of even an Inquisitor Lord. Slumbering treasures from the Dark Age of Technology are hunted by Mechanicus hereteks seeking secrets that could drown these stars in a tide of blood and death. Blood cults dedicated to the Skull Throne vie with the pleasure cults of the Prince of Lies, the excess of bloodletting fuelling dark deeds as decadent and dissolute nobles seek ever greater pleasures that the Imperium denies them. The complex weave of noble politics draws the unwelcome attention of the Changer of Ways, while seditionists whisper of a future where Avalonus stands at the heart of a vast human empire and heretical priests speak of the return to an age of aggrandized worship. The age and wealth of Avalonus has long been a breeding ground for conspiracies of a most ancient provenance, and one day they will boil to the surface in a frenzy of damnation, tearing down the structures of the Imperium and replacing them with once-dead nightmares and long-hidden designs.
Avalonus can be broadly divided into four main regions. The first, The Great Conurbation, dominates the northern hemisphere. Born from a melding of Hives Gildwynn, Calivere and Jaranoct, it is the heart of the planetary and sector government. To the south lies the great expanse of water known as the Grail Sea, home to the undersea hive of Aronlot which clings to the seamounts of Avalonus’ planetary ocean. The wet, tropical continent beyond it could be another world, were it not for the looming bulk of Hive Verethkyn. On the other side of the planet lie the twin hives of Gergenir and Exewain, based in the vast expanses of desert that mark the landing zones of Saint Castor’s forces six millennia ago. These hives are mostly independent, ruled by nobles that jealously guard their holdings and influence, but each hive sends a representative to the Arch-Council of Avalonus to negotiate matters of inter-hive importance.
The oldest, most expansive hive on Avalonus, Hive Gildwynn is the heart of the Victorum Sector’s administration. Its cyclopean, blade-like towers covers the western half the northenmost continent and spill out over the polluted remnants of the Sea of Tiran to merge with the proletarian sprawl of Hive Jaranoct. The hive competes with Hive Exewain for dominance of the orbital trade, but neither hive alone would be able to cope with the sheer volume of traffic that Avalonus attracts.
Gildwynn can be divided into two regions: 'The Gold' and 'The Steel.' Named for the gold and electrum-clad hive towers (called "blades") clustered around the First Sword, The Gold is the home of greater noble houses, Rogue Trader dynasties, and the high organs of Imperial governance. In contrast, gray-clad towers of The Steel are home to the “pretender” noble houses raised by the true nobles of the upper hive, as well as less successful merchant cartels and prosperous knight orders. Every spire is blazoned the history of its denizens, a practice that began with the First Sword. In either brilliant gold statuary or simple steel engravings, noble families and merchant cartels emblazon their triumphs and trials upon the spires of Gildwynn.
Travel between these upper regions can be done through the graceful roadways built by the skilled architects of the hive, but this is normally left to the liveried servants and other lesser beings who are granted residence in the upper hive. Instead, fleets of private aircraft and skimmers fly in a chaotic tangle of aerial flight paths determined by the Administratum for maximum efficiency and minimal risk.
The middle hive is a warren of tithe-houses, manufactories and shuttleports amidst dense blocks of tenements and blood arenas. Large portions of the maze are pierced by wide arterial transitways which feed the hive’s engines of production. Even here, the practice of blazoning continues; arenas celebrate the greatest honor jousts and bloodiest performances upon their armored domes, merchants brand their seals or logos into the doors of their storefronts, dwellers carve their names into the crumbling brick of their new tenement. The middle hive is also home to the hive’s seaward docks, which open onto the Sea of Tiran.
In the darkness of the underhive, one can find pools of industrial waste, abandoned mining tunnels or excavations, and even, it is whispered, structures dating back to the time of the Gladocracy. These hazards constitute the only way most underhive denizens have of surviving, either by cultivating the mutated life-forms that spring up from these dismal places or scavenging them for anything they can sell to up-hive expeditions.
- The First Sword serves as the heart of Imperial rule, with Sector Governess Rosella Khassom-Ownevere holding court from within its glass-topped apex. Rising nearly 15 kilometers into the air, it towers over lesser blades. At its peak is the Imperial Curia, where the Lady Victorum meets with representatives of the Imperial Adepta and her vassal worlds. Beneath stained glass renditions of Saint Castor’s victories, the powerbrokers of the Imperium negotiate tithes and plot the course of the sector.
- The Grand Court of the Perilous Round: Located just beneath the Imperial Curia, this is where the Arch-Council of Avalonus meets to discuss matters of planetary import. While not as grand as the Curia, its soaring walls are covered with adamantium shields, each emblazoned with the coat of arms of Avalonus’ greatest noble houses. At the center of the Court are the eleven Seats Superior, where the representatives of the six other hives sit around a round table with the Lord-Generals of the two PDF armies, the Inquisitorial Agent, the Mechanicus Envoy and the Saint’s Voice. At the nominal head of the table is the "Throne Perilous", which only the ruler of Hive Gildwynn or their chosen representative may take.
- Under the Grand Court: There are thousands of chambers and rooms that host emissaries and agents of the nobles, cartels and governments of the Victorum Sector, as well as representatives of the Imperial Adepta and dignitaries from beyond the sector’s borders. This is the heart of the Administratum, which creeps over a dozen square kilometers of records rooms and clerical quarters. Millions of clerks and servitors collate the output and consumption of Avalonus’ manufactories and people, ensuring that the people of Avalonus fulfill the demands of the Imperial Tithe.
- Tower of Sight: This electrum-plated spire, thin and sharp like a needle, it is home to the two dozen astropaths that maintain the Victorum Sector’s links to the greater Imperium. It also hosts the vast support mechanisms of the sector's Adeptus Astra Telepathica, which collects and dispatches psykers to the myriad worlds of the Victorum Sector. Unknown to all but the highest levels of the Imperial adepta, the Tower maintains a battalion of sanctioned battle-psykers within its silvery depths, ready to be deployed against daemonic incursions and rogue psykers.
- Iudex Antagonistes: In the midst of the gleaming blades of The Gold sits a squat black fortress built in the shape of the Imperial Aquila. This is the Iudex Antagonistes, the heart of the Adeptus Arbites operations on the planet. Visible from all the higher towers, it is a reminder of Imperial Justice and the cost of failing your Emperor-given duties.
- Varranus Spaceport: Sprawling over the great docks of the Sea of Tiran, Varranus is the official spaceport of Avalonus, where any Imperial presence will first land and disembark. As such, it combines both Avalonian traditions and Imperial design, to impress upon guests both the unique character of the capital world and its loyalty to the Imperium. A constant stream of lighters, shuttles, and aerial transports feeds the Conurbation hives from its blast-scarred surface, and carries the products of the great northern continent to the great fleets in orbit.
Though Hive Gildwynn’s towers and hab-blocks are usually packed close together, one stands alone, surrounded by a circle of courtyards made of white Terran marble that rest upon the middle hive. This spire is far larger than the average blade, cylindrical rather than flat and nearly reaching the heights of the First Sword. It is the Court of Last Remembrance, the fortress-palace of the Fidelis Vigil Ex Victorum. Its impressive bulk is carved with images of Inquisitors, Saints and other heroes of the Imperium, each graven statue concealing deadly defences. The Court is the subject of intense rumor and myth among the people of Avalonus. Beyond the usual horror stories that accompany an Inquisitorial fortress, the history of its construction is shrouded in mystery. It is said that it appeared suddenly one night, rising from the black depths of the Sea of Tiran, or falling from the sky on fiery rockets, or being lifted from a massive land-train that stretched twenty kilometers into the continent. The Inquisition has never responded to rumors that, in times of dire need, the entire hive spire could be either sunk into the Sea or lifted back into space.
The Court of Last Remembrance is home to roughly ten thousand agents, clerks and Inquisitorial troopers, in addition to passing bands of Acolytes and Inquisitors. In the bowels of the spire, sealed off from the rest of the middle hive, are banks of cogitators and vast echoing vaults of arms and equipment. Deeper still, descending into the pollution of the Sea of Tiran, are the forbidden vaults, where arch-heretics are questioned and potentially heretical, and certainly dangerous, artifacts are sealed. In the time of Lord Qatasoum, their contents have remained untouched for fear of arousing his ire, and those artifacts recovered have tended to disappear into the fusion fires of nearby stars instead.
The Conclave has been led (some say ruled) by Lord Inquisitor Shandolh Qatasoum for the last thirty-two years. Answerable only to the High Lords of the Inquisition, Lord Qatasoum’s first act upon assuming lordship of the Sector Inquisition was to plunge it into a bloody Inquisition War. This pogrom, which claimed more than a dozen Inquisitors and their retinues, has led to a growing movement of Radical and unaligned Inquisitors to either distance themselves from the High Council or otherwise remove the influence of the Lord Inquisitor.
Hive Gildwynn’s glittering spires are inhabited by a peculiar class of Imperial noble, one that proudly upholds archaic notions of honor and chivalry within a viper’s nest of intrigue, blood feuds, and secret heresies. This attitude, of respecting a sworn oath, of giving a personal trophy to a chosen champion, of spilling blood in the name of slighted honor contrasts sharply or dovetails neatly, depending on the viewer, with the Avalonian capacity for malicious betrayal, cold-hearted manipulation, and brutal extermination. To an outsider, the combination of nearly blind honor and loyalty and vicious intrigue are hard to reconcile, but these attitudes can be seen through all levels of Avalonian society, and most prevalently amongst the nobles of Hive Gildwynn, who claim direct descent from the first colonists to repopulate this world.
Middle hivers are oath-bound to a noble house or merchant cartel, who are themselves bound themselves to a higher noble house in a complex web of blood and shared history. A similar web governs the relations between the families and merchants of the middle hive, leading to a world in constant tension as citizens attempt to keep the latest updates to the pattern of ancient blood-feuds and friendships in mind. Through these connections, the regions of Hive Gildwynn are split into pocket empires for the greatest of the noble houses of Avalonus, which are expanded either through outright conquest, the raising of a middle hive family to “noble” status, and the claiming of wagers.
Those in the underhive are frequently written off as unproductive and bane on the hive, but any action against them is forestalled by more worldly up-hive nobles. The greatest knights and bodyguards have risen from the denizens of the underhive, and a significant portion of Avalonus’ Imperial Tithe is paid by the presence of conscripted underhivers. The final resource of the underhive are the rare discoveries of archeotech, which fuel a continuous train of Rogue Trader and Mechanicus expeditions into the hive’s depths.
Hive Calivere is a far more imposing hive, at least in aspect, than its partners Gildwynn and Jaranoct. Towering above the Conurbation, its heartforges and clustered spires rise like steel mountains. It is one of the centers of arms production on Avalonus, competing (naturally) with Hive Gergenir’s Mechanicus forges. However, Calivere is quite obviously outclassed in terms of quality, focusing primarily on the massive production of basic weaponry and ammunition rather than attempting to compete with Gergenir’s exceptional and esoteric products.
The upper reaches of Calivere are nearly untouched by urban smog thanks to advanced atmospheric shields and ancient weather manipulation systems maintained by the Mechanicus. Thanks to these advantages, the upper hive is constructed as a series of tiered galleries, open to the brilliant blue sky and shining sun. Hanging gardens, built along the walls of the hive, are quite common, and led it the appearance of being a terraced garden sprouting from an ashen bowl. Noble estates are built more like pleasure palaces upon some paradise world.
This stands in stark contrast to the levels of the middle hive, which is forever wreathed in a gray-green haze and where the most apartment blocks are built without windows. Calivere’s thousands of manufactories belch out a continuous stream of polluted smog into the air, causing its outermost layers to be uninhabitable without extensive filtration and protection systems. Contributing to this poison is the presence of a great many crematoria. Middle hivers trudge in near-subterranean conditions to their appointed work places, relying on trapdoors built in their tenement blocks that lead onto the massive transitways that worm through the entire Conurbation.
The primary nexus of the Conurbation’s transitways, Calivere is also host to the largest docks of the northern continent. Opening onto the black, icy waters of the Urodelan Glaciers, they are an extensive array of oil-slick rustpiles servicing a tremendous subterranean sea that is all that allows access to the promethium reserves beneath the planet's polar ice cap.
The underhive of Calivere is fairly typical, differing only in location and scope. Divided into scattered regions, each section of Calivere’s underhive faces unique challenges and factors despite the presence of shared gang-lines and commonality of practices. The life of an underhiver below the Sun’s Reach is very different from that of an underhiver living in The Lake, yet both will likely observe the same rituals and fear the same menaces, perhaps even paying tribute to the same gangs. The fact that the mutated wildlife found across these underhive regions are fairly equivalent point to some shared passage that Imperial authorities are both unaware and uncaring of.
- The Morial Chantry: The Morial Chantry is the most deeply-respected and honored funeral shrine in the hive. The original structure, long-since hidden beneath the serpentine flues and crude human stonemongery of later additions, predated the foundation of the Hive proper by nearly 200 years. In the beginning of Calivere's history, the chantry was but one outpost in the long, final siege of the Falxian Gladocracy, and its master was a renowned Captain of the Salamanders. Their deeds entered sector legend, and their fortress became one of the planet's first shrines, with millions of soldiers and craftsmen making pilgrimage. In time, this developed into a cult community, one that left a permanent mark on Caliveran practice and faith. To this day, the Morial Chantry is the heart of a divergent cult of the Promethean Way, one linked through doctrine and ancient treaties with the Sons of the Dragon.
- Mannusian Munitions Factorum Prime: Within the great mass of the Calivere's Forge District, several manufactories and guilds distinguish themselves by reputation and design. Mannusian Munitions is the premier of these, crafting near-forgeworld quality equipment for discerning buyers. Long interchange between its overseers and ambassadors of the shadowed forgeworld of Nilumanen has contributed to Calivere's continuing independence from the forge-fanes of Hive Gergenir.
- Cathedral Mortis Imperium: The "High Hand of the Emperor," as he is known, rules from the smoke-drowned depths of the Mortis Imperium. Once a cathedral of the Saviour Emperor, this ruin was cast down during the Seventh Battle of Avalonus at the end of the Reign of Blood. But its literal collapse into the Underhive did not end its faith, and a shadow church of true heretics has clung to survival behind the masks of the hive's people.
Life in Calivere is even more reliant on an inner-outer lifestyle than in other hives on the capital world. While honor and respect play their part, the deepest-held motivation of the average Caliveran is faith, and the appearance of faith. While in public striving to present a stoic, almost monk-like countenance and attitude towards the vicissitudes of the universe, behind vac-sealed doors the people of Calivere are as human in their vices and follies as any other.
The average hivedweller spends their entire working day behind masks. It would be impossible to move about the hive otherwise, shrouded as it is in the toxic by-products of vast manufactories and funeral crematoria. Only at home can they be free from the imprisonment of their masks, both literal and social. Even in the leakiest underhive shanty, the Caliveran you meet might be vastly different from the one you work with.
Hive Jaranoct is the third great hive of the Conurbation of Avalonus. Younger than Gildwynn and Calivere, it was regarded as a satellite of the two for much of its history. Only after the Age of Apostasy was it recognized as an independent hive, having played a key role in overthrowing the rule of the Vandiran Loyalists during the Reign of Blood.
An atypical Solar-type hive, Jaranoct is crowned by The Wurm Mountains, a great mountain range of red sandstone and ancient mineworks that blocked eastward expansion. Instead of leveling it, as was done on other hiveworlds, the ancient hivers mined their way through, building labyrinthine hivewarrens and great transitway tunnels over the ruins of fallen empires. Beyond the mountains, gleaming spires and smoke-belching factories were nourished on the torturously extracted metals and reclaimed scrap found beneath the Wurms.
Such is the public history of Jaranoct, the history celebrated in elaborate, geometrically-precise blazons across its spires. The truth is somewhat different.
- Cathedral of Wurms/The Walking Cathedral: The Wurms are home to what is almost assuredly the second longest cathedral in the Imperium. Carved out of the peaks of the mountain range, the Cathedral of Wurms rears up to 6 kilometers above sea level and is 8 kilometers long, with more than 700 shrines dedicated to the saints of every major world within the Victorum Sector. A relic of each saint is ensconced in a dedicated shrine, each reflecting the unique culture of the planet or region they originate from, and the Sector Synod has declared visiting the stations of the cathedral a pilgrimage in its own right, spiritually equivalent to worshipping on the worlds of the saints themselves.
- Mat-Ex 2983:
A far more proletarian hive than its two older neighbors, Jaranoct has always been dominated by tradeguilds rather than noble houses, though it has its fair share of pretenders. This is not to imply that the hive is ruled by its workers; simply that money rather than blood matters more.
Rising from the blasted glass plains of the Argonesse, Hive Exewain has the singular honour to be the first and oldest hive on Avalonus. Raised from the vast landing fields and barrack-fortresses of Saint Castor's armies, Exewain has grown to become a vast, hungry hive that produces exchanges pieties for Thrones as it struggles to maintain a glory that was old when the Imperium was young.
Built on the ruins of the second-greatest city of the Conurbation, which was scoured by fire and plasma and electromagnets during the Saint's Crusade, Exewain has never been self-productive or sustaining. Aside from plundering war-blasted ruins and harvesting shards of glass fused by the energies of creation, there was nothing left for the hive to sustain itself after the liberation of the planet. This, more than any other reason, is why Exewain was denied the privilege of planetary governorship, and why its nobles are so widely regarded as pretenders by the rest of their world.
In order to survive, the hive's leaders exploited its sacred history, becoming a site of pilgrimage second only to Babylum itself within the Sector. Innumerable relics, shrines, temples, cathedrals, religious orders, and more were collected, created, and put on display for the Imperial masses to see. With the pilgrim traffic came ever-increasing fleets of merchants seeking to fill their empty holds on return flights, and a growing population of Frateris Militia inspired to crusade, needs easily met by the hive's ancient landing fields. By the 34th Millenium, Exewain could claim to have eclipsed nearly all other hives on Avalonus in its fame and wealth, and it was only natural that it became the base of power for Goge Vandire's loyalists.
The Seventh Battle of Avalonus was Exewain's downfall, and though the hive has recovered some of its ancient glory it will never again challenge the triumphant trio of The Great Conurbation for the crown of Avalonus.
- Cathedral of Saint Triumphant:
The deep desert climate of Exewain
This vast hive sprawls out in the desert like a beached whale, following the path of ancient ruins long-since picked clean by the scavenging Explorators of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Dominated still by the Machine-God's influence, Hive Gergenir is a bastion of technological lore and arcane sciences, where human life is little more than fuel for the fires of production.
Such a regime is unremarkable when compared to hiveworlds like Necromunda or Armageddon, but Avalonus adds a unique element of chaos to the mix, one which required the acceptance and creation of non-Mechanicus noble houses and the secular submission of what would have been the Mechanicus' fief to the Imperium.
- Temple of the Machine-Emperor: The chief of the Adeptus Mechanicus shrines on Avalonus, outstripping even the Factotum of Knowledge in Gildwynn. Technically the sovereign domain of The Homeodidactic Congress, it is politically dominated by techmagi aligned with the forgeworld of Guan Yu. Tech-orthodoxy reigns supreme here, and Gergenir's high reputation is the result.
The sole hive and heart of Imperial culture on the sweltering, tropical continent of Dagonesse, Hive Verethkyn is a small, grease-covered hive of great importance. The vast tree plantations which dominate Dagonesse's lowlands and the great rail mulchers which traverse them are responsible for the production of more than 40% of Avalonus' multi-fuel supplies. Without a constant stream of Verethkyn's low-quality fuel supply, life on Avalonus would grind to a halt within a few days. It is for this reason that Verethkyn has more guns per square kilometer than any other hive on the planet, for such wealth raises a never-ending stream of would-be magnates from the hard-drinking, hard fighting workforce. Such money as they make is quickly spent on weapons, armor, and gifts to expand the influence of their screeching rail-rigs and supply contracts with distant hivelords.
Established by Avalonus' first planetary governor and Sector Overlord, and ruled by his descendants, Verethkyn is commonly considered the spiritual heart of the Illuminated Blades of Imperial Majesty, one of two active PDF forces on the planet. The remit of the Illuminated Blades covers the landmasses of Avalonus, from frigid and forbidden Mordessant in the south to the tiny, rocky Icecrown Isles in the frozen north.
Verethkyn proper is a macroscale hive tower dominating a great river valley at the northernmost point of Dagonesse. Satellite spires, linked by rail and based around the harvesting and refining of off-world rapid-growth trees for the production of multi-fuel dot the interior of the continent.
- Fort Dagon: Named for a famed Ogryn bodyguard of Saint Castor, Fort Dagon is the primary training ground of the Illuminated Blades.
This vast subsurface hive is built upon a cluster of seamounts, former mountains of a sunken continent dubbed Drustainland. For centuries, Aronlot has been dying a slow death as the hive's population has shrunk and its out-lying spires have grown empty and derelict. Though it continues to produce and ship vast quantities of power cells thanks to an abundance of geothermal power, diminishing mining and sea trade has forced its populace to seek their fortunes elsewhere.
- Port Fanel: Named for the overlords of the Knight World of Fanelia, who were crucial to the defeat of the Gladocracy's own undersea war-engines, this vast complex is the home port of the Reflected Blades of the Imperial Glory, the well-equipped but small naval and air component of Avalonus' PDF.
The practice of blazoning is all-present among the populace, visible on all manner of clothing, weapons, and other goods. The quality and history of an emblazoned object determines its value and prestige amongst the up-hive nobles, and some truly masterful schools of craftsmen have remained in vogue for several thousand years.
To safeguard these valuables and worthies, the hive relies upon the services of the Knights of Avalon. Essentially, these part-time soldiers serve as the planetary Enforcers, riding mighty beasts descended from the Terran horse in suits of gleaming silver armor and wielding sword-like metal clubs known as iron whips. The Knights exemplify the Avalonian concepts of chivalry and honor, and are much praised for their pursuit of all crimes committed against the wealthy and powerful of the upper hive.
Middle hive life is a poor reflection of the lives of the up-hive nobles. The unreachable beauty of the upper hive is reflected by a tendency towards garish colors, large and bold experiences, and the poor imitation of the complex emblazoning that is so important to Avalonian society. Life in the cramped and twisting warrens of the middle hive is shaped by the economic processes that drive Hive Gildwynn’s economy. The transport of raw material from the hive spaceport, the industrial production of the great manufactories of The Steel, and the feeding of the popular arenas that provide entertainment and release for the masses have shaped the middle hive’s construction and people.
The great arterial transitways that link Calivere to the rest of the Conurbation are viewed as sacred and holy, and desecrators who threaten them with graffiti or damage are hung from their ramparts by coils of steel wire. The maintenance of these transitways are a responsibility left solely to the Guild of Passages, who also maintain the bridges and roads of the upper hive and the Conurbation. It is not uncommon to see the spaces beneath the great arches that hold them up being used as improvised cathedrals by the wandering monks known as friars, their home-spun parables mingling with High Gothic prayers and shared stories of courage, honor and the values of the Saints.
When two noble houses clash, subjects are expected to offer their services to their noble rulers, often bringing their own ancestral weaponry to bear. Oftentimes, middle-hive families that bear bad blood have found themselves fighting alongside each other as household troops of the same nobles thanks to the obscurity and denseness of Avalonian politics; on these occasions, it is not unknown for sudden thaws between rivals and the rapid shifting of middle hive territories as a result of shared sufferings and victories.
Here, the power of the Knights of Avalon weakens as one descends the hive. The knights become fewer in number and pursue only the most heinous of crimes, such as murder or oath-breaking, and their equipment is both rougher and tougher than that issued to their up-hive brothers. The most important function of the Knights in the middle hive is maintenance of social order, most especially through the control of the knight orders and mercenary troops based in the middle hive. These organizations are the easiest path for ambitious hivers to rise in hive society, and through their arena victories and proxy wars, they can be sure of capturing the attention of the rich and powerful. The lives of middle hivers caught in the crossfire and bloodshed is a small price to pay for a well-trained body of elite armed forces, ready to be paid to the Imperium or used in the frequent civil wars; however, any damage to the hive’s infrastructure or disruption of the hive’s business will be met by the force of the Knights of Avalon.
The wretched dwellers of the underhive have no such protection. For them, life is a poisonous struggle for existence. Industrial run-off is the only source of fresh water, and the mutated plants and animals that live within the ancient and decayed layers of the hive remain toxic even after extensive primitive processing. Vicious gangs rule large segments of twisted ruins in a parody of the spire nobles, extracting tithes of food and water from their frightened “subjects,” and press them into service for brutal gang wars. The most powerful of the gangs are borne of large extended families, tied by blood and loyal only to those that share it.