Voyage of the Phallus Maximus
The Svard System is centered on an ancient star in the last millennia of its life. Once, it was home to numerous planetary bodies and flourishing biospheres. However, time and the brutal celestial forces of the void have reduced it to mostly asteroid fields and radiation clouds. Only a single true planet—Svard Prime—remains; a massive gas giant resting on the outer edge of the system’s dwindling bio-zone. As the star dies, however, and its gravity shadow shrinks, so too does its hold on the gas giant—setting off a rare sympathetic celestial phenomena which is diminishing the planet’s own mass. As a result, the gas giant is slowly losing the gravimetric pull to hold itself together and is gradually boiling away into the void. This has created the ‘storm’—an area of near void choked with charged particles and heavy vapors that now engulfs many of its moons. It is here among these moons, and within the storm, that the remnants of life in Svard remain.
The gas giant has literally dozens of moons ranging in size from hunks of rock only a few kilometers across to some that are almost small planets in their own right. Over the centuries, most of these have been extensively explored, and nearly all bear the marks of Imperial settlement. In its current state of decay, however, only three of the moons remain inhabited: Svard—the largest moon and site of the systems’ primary settlement, Silence—a religious retreat and location of the Saint Tower, and Cog—the system’s main industrial site. The only other inhabited location is the orbital Installation 23, the promethium refinery.
The storm is a constant and visually spectacular effect that surrounds much of the gas giant and constantly engulfs its moons. Caused by the diminishing gravity of the planet, it is literally the world bleeding into space, creating streams of vapor and particles some hundreds of thousands of kilometers long. Visually it looks like the gas giant is shrouded in fog, the ghostly shadows of its moons occasionally appearing and disappearing beneath its shifting blanket. Only Svard— the ice moon for which the system is named—breaks the storm’s surface, riding across its turbulent clouds and twisting currents like an island caught in the onslaught of the sea. The storm does not, however, have a great affect on the lives of those that live on the moons. Apart from blotting out the stars and filling the skies with great crimson ribbons of cloud the vapor, it is mostly harmlessly deflected by what passes for atmospheres on Svard, Cog, and Silence. The same cannot be said for void-farers, like the Explorers, who must cross the storm to reach the moons. Such a voyage—even though it is only a few hundred thousand kilometers—comes with the perils of scrambled sensors and the constant assault of the storm on the vessels void shields. Helmsmen must rely on instinct as much as anything to guide their vessel to its destination, peering ahead into the gloom searching for shapes and shadows as they loom out of the cloud.
The namesake of the system, and the gas giant’s largest moon, Svard is the primary settlement within the system. From here, the Crystal Council (so named for the ice hive from which they rule) commands the rest of the moons and maintains a tenuous tie to the Imperium. It is a cold and inhospitable place where survival on the surface is practically impossible, the moon’s thin atmosphere trapping precious little heat. As a result, the original settlers built vast domes of snow and ice, creating entire cities sheltered from the harsh elements.
Over time, these domes grew until they became frozen hives clustered across the moon’s surface like icy stalagmites. With a population in the millions, Svard was once hugely prosperous, reaping the resources of the other moons and the fuel rich liquids of the gas giant below. While still a shadow of its former glory, with Lord-Captain Rinn’s having reestablished power and restarted trade, it is on its way towards prosperity.
Wherever traces of the Imperium can be found, so too can the shadow of the Imperial Cult and the faithful of the God-Emperor. In Svard, these faithful have created the Saints Tower. Whilst the Ministorum maintains numerous shrines and temples on the moon of Svard, more extreme elements of the faith decided to settle one of the nearby moons for their own purposes.
Dubbed Silence, the moon is, in reality, just a large asteroid perhaps a few hundred kilometers in diameter. With no atmosphere or gravity to speak of, Saint’s Tower was constructed to be a bastion of faith, shielded from the void by energy fields and held firm to the rock by powerful gravity sinks.
Saints Tower is also the oldest continually maintained settlement within the Svard System, and among the reams of volumes on saints and the Imperial Cults can be found records dating back to the settlement of the moons
When Svard was settled, the ice moon was deemed unsuitable for heavy Imperial industry—its ice covered mantle too weak and constantly shifting. There was also a fear that the waste caused by such industry could even melt the world itself! To combat this, the settlers moved the bulk of their heavy manufacturing to a smaller, rocky moon nearby. On this moon they built a huge factory, which became known as the Cog, since it was the cog in the gears that made Svard turn.
Years after its creation however, the settlers discovered that Cog created too much waste for the moon’s weak atmosphere to process, to the point where it was beginning to damage the factory itself. Too expensive to ship off-world, they instead settled on a more lasting solution, and moved the factory to another part of the moon away from the corrosive slag heaps it has spawned.
Inevitably, the problem returned with the waste, and the factory was moved again. At this time, they also discovered that the waste at the original factory site was no longer so lethal and thus no longer hazardous to the factory. This situation led to the creation of a system of tracks, carved into the surface of the moon along which the factory could travel—always staying ahead of its prodigious and volatile waste and returning years later once that waste was no longer harmful.
To maintain the Cog, a small cadre of Tech-Priests led by Magos Tevla are in constant attendance, overseeing the army of servitors and regular workers and monitoring its output. They also decide when the corrosion levels get too high and supervise the Cog’s lumbering journey to its new site.
Cog has restarted manufacturing. It can repair ships to full hull integrity in the space of a few weeks and fabricate any schematics.
Installation 23 is a massive low orbital station and promethium refinery (located only a few thousand kilometers from the gas giant’s surface and well below even the lowest of the moons). About two kilometers in length, the station looks like a great irregular disk dotted with fuel silos and filtration tanks. In its centre, a great command and control dome rises up, providing living quarters for its crew and a foundation for its huge void shield emitter. Without this, the particle wash coming off the gas giant would rip the station apart. Built shortly after the system was settled, it quickly became Svard’s primary source of promethium and heavy plasma fuel production.
It was placed so far from the other moons for two reasons: the first was so that its fleet of vapor mining vessels would be close to the rich base of the storm, and the second was so that if there was any kind of accident it would be far from the nearest settlement. There were fears that, if exploded, the resulting fireball could ignite the hydrogen rich storm and literally set the sky on fire. No one knows for sure what this would mean and if such a firestorm could burn long enough to reach even the closet moon—but it was considered dangerous enough to the survival of the system not to risk.
Promethium mining has now restarted.