Celeste and Cloudburst
|Galactic Position||Cloudburst Sector, Celeste Subsector|
|System Overlord||The Overlord of the system is also the Lord Sector Cloudburst, presently Rhemortho Quintus; the Subsector Lord is Lady Celeste Magnolia Clement|
|Worlds in the system||Six, one inhabited|
|World Type, Name||Paradise World Celeste|
|Tropospheric Composition||Celeste has Nitrogen 72%, Oxygen 25%, Argon 1%, Water 1%, Carbon Dioxide 0.05%; Cloudburst has Nitrogen 71%, Oxygen 25%, Water 2.5%, Carbon Dioxide 1.5%|
|Government type||Adeptus Terra|
|Adept Presence||Adeptus Administratum (Sector Overlord, Subsector Overlord), Adeptus Ministorum, Adeptus Astra Telepathica, Adeptus Arbites, Adeptus Mechanicus|
|Climate||Celeste is a tropical paradise, with polar tundra; Cloudburst is a barren, wet rock, with constant rainstorms|
|Geography||Celeste is a massive planet, over twice the size of Terra, with a total surface land area of 172.6 million mi²; Cloudburst is the half the size of Mars, but with higher gravity|
|Gravity||Celeste has Terran Gravity, Cloudburst has .85 Terran Gravity|
|Day Length||26 Terran Hours|
|Economy||Gelt Thrones and Silver Thrones|
|Principal Exports||Sand, Salt, Copper, Iron, Fish, Silicon, Cogitator Parts, Missionaries, Nickel, Timber, Textiles, Magnets, Construction Rock|
|Principal Imports||Red Meat, Carbon Fuels, Alcohol, Leather, Laser Weapons|
|Countries and Continents||Celeste has six continents, roughly equal in size, with no national divisions; Cloudburst has no continents|
|Military||Celestial Guard, Cloudburst Defenders (high quality Guard and PDF)|
|Contact with other Systems||Daily|
|Tithe Grade||Exactis Tertio (combined)|
|Population||4,540,000,000 (Celeste), 890,000 (Cloudburst)|
The great, paired worlds of Celeste and Cloudburst are the beating heart of Cloudburst Sector. The gems in the crown of the sector named after them, and headquarters of all major non-Mechanicus Imperial institutions (save, notably, the Blue Daggers and Inquisition), this binary world is a coveted place to live and a beautiful place for nobles to build resorts. Celeste is a tropical paradise, with millions of twisting miles of undeveloped, pristine beaches, soaring mountains, dark forests, sparkling blue water, magnificent coral reefs the size of small nations, and over a hundred resort cities on stilts, rising above the waters below. On the island of Munkaero, a farm of one billion acres feeds Celeste and Cloudburst. It is the largest prison labor farm in the sector by an order of magnitude. Understandably, the moneyed classes avoid Munkaero. Coincidentally, it is also the most heavily recruited-from place for the Imperial militaries.
The resort cities are places of wildly varying contents and population sizes. For those vacationers of piety and taste, some resorts offer the famous Celestial Bubble hotels. The Bubble hotels are great blisters of transparent polymer, which can lower and submerge in the water, letting the vacationers inside see out into the fish- and plant-filled oceans. For the less wealthy, great museums, theaters, and auction houses allow visitors to buy and explore all manner of local and sector history. For those with less piety or even greater wealth, other cities offer enormous pleasure palaces, where every possible indulgence may be explored, from head-tiltingly creative sexual diversions to casino games. Restaurants offer imported delights from across the sector and beyond, or fresh foods from the great farm and fishing fleets of Munkaero. These cities patronize auction houses also, with perhaps somewhat less stringent restrictions on materials offered.
What visitors to the cities may not know, and even most native Celestials would rather forget, is that there are fewer cities than there used to be. Only two hundred years before the opening of the Great Rift, two cities were sunk beneath the waves by the Inquisition, for the crime of unrepentant and repeated Heresy of the Flesh – specifically, harboring mutant cults. A mere five years before the Rift opened, another was destroyed for harboring a Genestealer infestation so large, that the Ordo Xenos calculated that it was only four weeks from hitting critical mass to summon a Hive Fleet. The surviving cities are blissfully unaware of this (officially), and four more cities are under construction.
The largest city, however, is not built over the water. The planetary capital, the metropolis of Civitavecchia, houses another eighteen million souls, and is a bustling center of travel and government, complete with a 500 square-surface-mile hybrid transit hub. The hub, partially built underground to save surface space, boasts tri-rail tracks that stretch to all edges of the continent, and enormous, fourteen-lane elevated superhighways to the dozen smaller cities within two hundred miles. The hub also houses an air and spaceport, integrated into the local mass transit system, allowing freight cars to dismount from landed transports and hitch directly to massive cargo trains.
As could be expected, Civitavecchia has a bustling black market. Its population lives in varying degrees of discomfort from the constant flow of traffic. Soundproofing kits and sub-surface padded homes and apartments command a high price, as do the self-tinting window kits used by high-rise residents to block the glare from a thousand aerospace ships. For non-residents (and wealthier natives), the black market offers a neat cross-section of the infinitely variable wares sold in the department stores and auction houses of the resort cities. Gangs of thugs and brutes make themselves known to prospective buyers under the auspices of the House of Lending, a fanciful name for the local Thieves’ Guild. The Inquisition has infiltrated its ranks so thoroughly that the group can take effectively no action without Inquisitorial oversight, which allows the fact that there are other, more subtle mercenary groups operating in Civitavecchia to escape their notice.
Over two hundred noble houses of the Cloudburst Sector and nearby space maintain noble estates on Celeste, and they are expressions of pure avarice. The poorer ones, commanding only a few tens of millions of times more Thrones than the average family will ever earn, make do with sprawling mansions and hunting lodges in the high mountains of the southern continent. These look out over magnificent vistas of snow and herds of frolicking forest mammals, past picturesque mountains of colorful marble and hot springs older than mankind, and sadly ask how it could have come to this. Wealthier families, able to buy Coastal Licenses from the Celeste Administratum and thus build mansions on the vast beaches of Celeste, build vertical estates and boat launches on the pristine waters. These often take the shape of Imperial warship hulls, with huge, multi-story boat launches sticking out into the salty water, protruding from bloated manor houses on the water’s edge. The manor houses reign over dozens of smaller buildings nearby. Popular for the nobles who buy such things are small hothouses and farms, allowing them to treat guests to their own, personal stashes of food, and spartan steam rooms for sauna-goers. The mansions often loom many, many stories over the water, with integrated VTOL pads on their rooftops to allow nobles to travel directly to them without setting foot on the planet’s surface. Many noble families conduct fierce but impeccably polite contests to build the most diverse and well-stocked mansions they can, in the identically-sized plots of land their Coastal Licenses grant.
The very wealthiest nobles and merchants, however, go one step further. The colossal stilted cities, some with legs that extend down over a mile, are their homes. Palatial dwellings, with express elevators to underwater pleasure galleries and living spaces, cap these specific cities. Entire cities may belong to one noble clan, though this is rare. These houses own hotels, casinos, high-class brothels, low-class brothels, trading posts, factories, fisheries and hatcheries, tourist traps, chapels, and even small airports. All are bundled into the resort cities, which stick up from the water like artificial mountains. Though simple laws of material physics prevent the stilt cities from growing more than a mile in each dimension, and thus cannot become actual hives, they are often ruled as microcosms of the Thimble hives, with tourist and traveler levels at the peaks and waterline, and the bulk of other holdings in the middle levels, unseen by the visitors. The visitors travel in great elevators decorated with coral and marble, riding up and down through the hearts of the cities without ever seeing them.
Most cities are not privately owned, however. In fact, the ones closest to the protected shorelines can’t be, by direct legislative and executive edicts of Celeste’s Administratum. The resort cities closest to the shores are instead owned by nobody, but are controlled directly by the planetary Adepts. These are the largest cities, as well, and some are even connected to the shore by elevated tri-rail trains. These cities have wide varieties of entertainments and lodgings, designed for the broadest customer base, and generate most of the planet’s tax revenue.
Life in the great cities of Celeste is as stratified as its ocean-borne resorts. Even on a world of human-perfect climate and abundant natural wealth, the lower classes toil in unrelenting service to the engines of commerce and piety that dictate the Imperium’s course and propel its staggering corpse forward. However, Celeste is not a Hive World, it is a Paradise World, and even the darkest, ugliest corners of its industrial cities are habitable to some extent. This is also the case on the stilt resort cities, which have enormous undercrofts of machinery that keep the water drinkable and the electricity flowing. In these places, chanting Tech-Adepts oversee teams of local laborers who operate the machines, wave incense burners, and tweak control panels thousands of years old.
The Cloudburst Sector Adeptus Administratum is headquartered in the Celeste system, on the exotic moon called Cloudburst. The Sector Palace is a grand and awe-inspiring sight, with great towers lashed by sheets of thick raindrops, brilliant spikes of metal and glass piercing the cloud cover to rise above, and piles of black industrial slag sitting about. The ground buckles to ninety-degree angles where the subterranean building blocks penetrate the surface of the moon. Building walls plunge above and below the flat surface, while great tubes of ferrocrete and plasteel jut straight up from lumpen surface plains. Enormous murals decorate the sides of the buildings, in the images of the Emperor, the Primarchs, and the Saints. The Administratum Adepts that control the Sector toil inside these huge buildings, sheltered from the storms outside. Tithes, taxes, records, and datafiles cross a hundred thousand desks as the executive city keeps the Sector humming. Lord Sector Cloudburst Rhemortho Quintus rules from one of the Cloud Spires, the buildings that pierce the crackling clouds and gaze on the perfect jewel of Celeste overhead.
The Ecclesiarchal Palace and Grand Cathedral is not on Cloudburst proper, however. The Grand Cathedral is located on Celeste itself, far from the prying eyes of the Administratum. Of course, this also means that the Adepts and functionaries of the Administratum are outside the immediate sight of the Emperor’s most pious servants. The Cardinal of the sector, Cardinal Drake, is an ancient man, well over three hundred years into Ecclesiarchal service, and maneuvering to replace him has begun in earnest. The irony is that many have been trying to replace him for nearly that long. Some of his cleric rivals have been heard to remark that he would have been universally regarded as fit to rule, had he never ruled. Possessing of much charisma and no attention span, Drake is a fine figurehead, and a terrible cleric. Though he has a spotless record, this is largely a product of him doing very little overall. The Ecclesiarchal troops under his command, however, do not share this frailty. The Order of the Sanguine Soul is an Ordo Minoris of the Adeptus Sororitas, and the clenched fist of the Cardinal, on the rare occasion that he gives them orders directly. The Order has fewer than five thousand Battle Sisters, however. Like many Cloudburst Sector authorities, it is frantically expanding its ranks. The Cardinal is certain that the Glasians will come again for Celeste, sooner or later, and desires a force capable of repelling them without relying on the ‘heathen’ Astartes and Skitarii.
The Imperial Creed manifests in Cloudburst as the Cult of the Immortal Divine, which worships the Emperor as a man-born-God, who has total control of the souls of the faithful upon death. The Immortal God-Emperor of All Mankind, they preach, regards the faithful nobly, and nobility is, itself, Godliness. Therefore, the more wealth the people give to the Ecclesiarchy, the nobler the people are in the eyes of their God-Emperor. Cathedrals of the Emperor in Cloudburst are ostentatious in the extreme, with some even having the actual skeletons of Saints attend gatherings and ceremonies enclosed in stasis fields. The Ecclesiarchy of the Cloudburst Sector is headquartered in the Arch-diocese of the Cardinal Cloudburst, presently Drake himself.
The vast Cathedral of the Immortal God-Emperor in Cloudburst sits like a sterling coin in the heart of the pilgrim city of Quinnibeck, high in the mountains on Celeste’s second smallest continent. Quinnibeck is a city of 14 million souls, and holds a myriad of specialized Ecclesiarchal offices. Statues of Primarchs, saints, and Ecclesiarchs leer from street corners, cornerstones, museums, galleries, and schools. Some of the greatest artists in the history of the sector have come to the city of pilgrims to leave their mark. Though no member of the high echelons of the Cloudburst Ecclesiarchy would ever be so crass to as publicly flaunt their immense wealth in theory, they do so all the time in fact, unhesitatingly. The actual poorhouses of the city are usually run by a senior Hospitaller Sister, and all divert promising young girls to the Schola Progenum or monasteries for Initiation. Atypically for the Schola system in general, some of these children actually still have parents. These exceptions are made for the sake of pressing need, authorized by Cardinal Drake himself. He fears Glasian invasion, and is doing everything he can to avoid Chlorit’s fate. The rest of the Synod Ultima tolerates this, though they are wary of this expansion of power, and so is the Inquisition.
Cloudburst is not in the cradle of magnificent luxury that its neighbor enjoys. Though the great residences carved into the rock of the moon have both great defensibility and functionally limitless expansion opportunities, they have no sky and no ocean to enjoy. Underground residences are ubiquitous on Cloudburst, both to protect from the rain and to allow for complex construction the surface environment would prevent. Large conversion engines called Maskos machines, operated by faithful Mechanicus priests, convert the oxygen-rich crystals under the surface into breathable gasses, while machines siphon water with care from the constant rainfall. Nitrogen and other atmospheric gasses flow from tankers that fly it in from Cognomen, as that world has no use for its industrial waste.
Cloudburst’s vast Administratum bureaucracy churns out its paperwork and the Estate dutifully files it away. The underground labyrinths of tunnels hum with constant traffic; some tunnels are as large as the great, elevated highways of Celeste. Electric groundcars roll silently over forty-meter wide arterial tunnels, while tri-rail trains rumble past, laden with cargo. The few hundred thousand residents of Cloudburst generally serve as Adepts or menials in the greater machinery of the Adeptus Terra, but the moon has its own industries. Like in much of Cloudburst Sector, mining is a popular industry here, albeit almost entirely underground instead of on the barren surface. Cloudburst has not been left out of the trend of exploration and expansion that has characterized much of its sector’s history, however. Periodically, a new tower will burst from beneath the surface of the moon, filled to bursting with the new offices, administrative departments, and life support systems the tower will need.
Cloudburst proper also possesses significant defenses of its own. Mounted below the rocky surface in watertight, carefully concealed silos sit no fewer than five Mechanicus Defense Lasers, one with the range of a battleship’s main battery. These guns, maintained by the local Mechanicus temples as bulwark defenses for the capital, are an open secret among the people.
The rainy, rocky moon was only originally settled as a compromise. The vessel that first encountered the magnificent jewel of Celeste belonged to an Ecclesiarchal expedition. However, the expedition was led – or ‘advised’ – by a member of the Ordo Hereticus, who saw that the Ecclesiarchy did not need to seize control of this paradise world also, when Jodhclan’s Paradise and Maskos were already under their control. Despite opposition from the Ecclesiarchy, the Administratum also laid claim to the world. The Inquisitor settled the squabbling factions by declaring that the Administratum would allow the Ecclesiarchy to establish a great cathedral on the world, but the Administratum would control the entire system, so long as they did not establish their headquarters on the planet proper. Disappointed by the compromise, as is so often the case, both Adeptae agreed to the terms, and construction began. When the time came to establish the Oldlight Proximate Circuit as a proper Sector, Cloudburst was chosen as its capital, as it was a purely Administratum-controlled place already, with no other agencies save a token Arbitrator’s office present to offer jurisdictional justice, while Celeste was chosen as the Subsector Capital. The Subsector, therefore, is ruled from Civitavecchia, while the Sector is ruled from the planet’s moon. Though this seems inefficient on its face, it does prevent favoritism towards the Celeste Subsector from Sector Command.
Cloudburst itself is not without intrigues, however. In the thousands of years since the moon was colonized, several Inquisitors have been forced to step in after outside forces attempting to control or influence the sector were caught. Members of the Free Corsair Coalition trying to rile up unrest, smugglers importing xeno artifacts from the Circuit to sell illegally, and even criminals on the run from the Arbites, hoping to hide among the Administratum menials, have all been caught hiding on Cloudburst.
Life on Cloudburst is not so uncomfortable that crime is rampant, however. The moon’s core is a mixture of dense metals, which makes gravity at least comfortable. Use of starship-style artificial gravity plates in some buildings makes them even more Terra-like. Swap meets among the menial families, and frequent merchant visits from neighboring Celeste, ensure that at least some luxuries make their way to the people who are willing to pay for them. The underground tunnels left behind by the Maskos-built sub-surface terraformation and oxygen harvesting machines make ideal housing, once cleaned and flattened for construction. Furthermore, the fact that the entire underground habitation is pressure-sealed against the surface conditions makes them easy to secure, though the shared atmosphere and ventilation makes wide-scale disease outbreaks inevitable. Cloudburst Defenders train in tunnels set aside specifically for them. Deployment of vehicles is extremely dangerous and expensive in the tunnels; if a regiment of Defenders are raised and equipped with vehicles, they train on Celeste instead.
Cloudburst and Celeste Military
The military of Celeste is divided into two distinct forces of Guard and PDF. The Celestial Guard are the Imperial Astra Militarum contingent of Celeste itself, while the Cloudburst Defenders are the contingent from the capital proper. The PDF and Astra Militarum field regiments use the same names for their units, which can lead to confusion among those who fail to notice that PDF units are not numbered as Militarum field regiments are. Celestial Guard units trend towards riverine, marine, and amphibious combat specialization, thanks to the long, winding coasts of their homeworld, but as a Paradise world, they do tend to be able to afford whatever equipment they need for other roles. However, the Celestial Guard and Cloudburst Defenders do enjoy one huge advantage over many other PDFs: Mars-quality Leman Russ Annihilator tanks. This is the result of Cognomen Secutarii finding an intact STC for the base Russ design on a mission against pirates many centuries before, and Cognomen’s focus on perfect energy weapons. Celeste, as the capital world of the Sector, is the first to benefit from this discovery, though their report of no problems with the new tanks will no doubt encourage Cognomen to spread the design to other fabricators in the Sector soon. However, Celeste does not field its own Scions. Instead, graduates of the Schola Progenum’s Commissarial and Scion programs typically travel to either Septiim or Oglith for their final training.
Command of Cloudburst Sector’s military carries on in the complex network of three-dimensional tunnels under the surface of the moon, in an intricate series of parallel and intersecting tunnelways with redundant life support. Cogitators and communications equipment web the surfaces of the tunnels. Larger conference rooms jut off into the rock on either side of the tunnels. These rooms have Mechanicus-built projectors and strategic planning centers built into their floors and ceilings, to allow Lord General Xoss to command the forces of the Imperium and receive strategic updates from his forces afield. Elsewhere in the tunnels, long stretches of padding and carpeting on the floors and drywall on the wall segments denote permanent duty officers’ quarters and guest housing, under constant guard from Cloudburst Defenders. Lower down, the Mechanicus operates power plants and waste removal technology, to allow for up to five hundred people to live in the tunnels around the clock, with over three thousand transitory residents.
Cloudburst Defenders are best deployed for urban campaigns, as they have few other places to train, and are uniformly equipped with the heaviest Carapace armor and Padded Carapace armor they can find, down to the last soldier. While this is expensive, it makes them tenacious in close-in battle.
The martial traditions of Celeste and Cloudburst are not concealed from outsiders. The few large cities on Celeste on land often host large military parades, sometimes even proudly flaunting strategic and theater-level weapons on huge transports. As the regiments most often called to defend individual worlds that cannot raise enough troops on their own, such as Underbar and Fathon Prime, Celestial Guard troops rarely get to return home, and even more rarely find themselves blessed with Colonization Rights of Conquest. However, the regiments raised from the offspring of the Sector nobility can sometimes afford to return home after a mission by pooling their money and buying passage.
In combat, the Celestial Guard enjoy the use of Cognomen precision rifles. These expensive but highly accurate weapons are a sort of catch-all term for the rifled-barrel projectile auto and slug guns and the long lasguns of the lonely Forge. As one of the oldest continually deployed military forces in the Sector not under Forge World control, the Celestial Guard have a long and proud tradition of marksmanship contests. The PDF holds these contests in the great Red Sand basin in Munkaero, which contains the largest military base in the system. The base, so named because of the non-arable land that surrounds it, boasts a seventeen-mile long firing range. Of course, that is a range far beyond even Martian las-weapons and slug sniper rifles, but the range also sees use in testing Hunter-Killer Missile upgrade pods, freshly attached to the Celestials’ tanks.
The Commissariat strictly regulates these competitions; they see this as a valid if theatrical means of upholding morale and skill. Traditionally, each battalion participating in the contest sends its ten best rifle shooters to the contest, and the PDF sometimes sends troops as well. The contests consist of moving and stationary target tests, and time trials. The winners divide into laser and slug rifle categories, and prizes are awarded for most consistent accuracy, longest kill shot, and fastest response time for moving targets. Champions in each category earn a ribbon for their uniform that can’t be earned any other way, and a chance to volunteer for service in the Guard for PDF members.
Cloudburst Defenders sometimes train on Celeste as well, given the lack of vehicle training space. The competition between Defenders and Guards is fierce, in areas from physical athleticism to recitations of the Imperial Creed to shotgun marksmanship. The rivalry doesn’t extend as far as actual opposition or acrimony, but Cloudburst Defenders like to mock the Guards’ lesser armor and prestige, while the Guard have their crack at the Defenders’ limited combat versatility and bulky looks. When they do fight together, the two forces complement each other well, to their irritation. Defenders are the clenched fist of Cloudburst urban war, with their heavy shields, heavy armor, and Thimble uniforms. Individual Cloudburst troopers are hard to kill with conventional weapons in the best of circumstances, and when they form an Arbites-style lockwall or lay down a curtain of smoke and advance behind polarized masks, they are an intimidating force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. Celestial Guard are the masters of rivers, plains, and mountains. The range of their weapons and the speed of their deployments allow them to forge a beachhead in nearly any terrain, and hold tenaciously.
Because the command and control of the Cloudburst Navy is not centralized, but instead distributed over several anchorages at the Subsector Capitals, Septiim, and Coriolis, the Lord Admiral Maynard commands the fleet from the deck of the Vulpes Ferrum. However, the capital of the sector needs some connection to its fleet, and so Cloudburst and Celeste share a small Navy anchorage in orbit. It is too small to build ships, but it is large enough to house a dedicated Astropathic temple and several suites of offices for whichever officers may be present at the time. The orbitals of Cloudburst moon are colossal, and include the mighty Stormwell Station, which is not far smaller than a Ramilies star fort, and houses nearly all of the command and control offices of the region’s Navy, as well as Lord Admiral Maynard’s office, which he hasn’t used in five years.
The Order of the Sanguine Soul
The Order of the Sanguine Soul is the only Order of the Sororitas to have a significant presence in the Cloudburst Sector, headquartered in a colossal and partially-subterranean fortress on the pristine beaches of Celeste. The Order consists of a few tens of thousands of Sisters scattered over the sector and a few hundred more in the Circuit. Though their greatest number consists of the Famulous Sisters, there are several Battle and Hospitaller forces throughout the sector as well. They are well integrated into the local Ecclesiarchal hierarchy, with Canoness Minoris Gloria Anokane presiding over the large congregations of Celeste.
The Sisters here, having only a few thousand Battle Sisters total, depend on large Frateris Militia when prosecuting their wars of faith. Their means of transport are limited, with only a small fleet of reconditioned Navy transports, stripped of their armaments in adherence to the Decree Passive. The Ecclesiarchy maintains a single large ship for their own use in the collection of new Sisters from the Schola Progenum, and a few smaller troopships for the Sisters to be carried where they are needed.
The forces of the Ecclesiarchy in Cloudburst centralize their combat training, with the equipment they need supplied by the Mechanicus outfitters stationed in the asteroid belt of the Cloudburst system. The outfitters don't make any of the Refractor and Displacer fields of the Ecclesiarchy, however, with those instead being manufactured on Cognomen.
The Sanguine Sisterhood, however, are vicious and utterly fearless combatants, each more than capable of flensing a heretic or burning a rebel in the Emperor’s name. Though perhaps somewhat undersupplied compared to Ophelian or Terran Battle Sisters – the lack of Inferno Pistols for their Senior Seraphim is especially annoying – they make do with unbreakable faith, a wise and generous demeanor, and an unmatched victory record in infantry combat. Even the Daggers have known defeat in past engagements; the Sanguine Soul remains unbeaten. Of course, they also field at a strength of five battalions, which even the Black Templars can’t.
Daily life in the convent is one of reflection, but unlike those of most Orders of the Sisterhood, Sororitas of the Sanguine Soul are encouraged by the Ecclesiarchy to serve in the local chapels and cathedrals of the Emperor as direct clergy. It is common for places of worship in the Celeste system to have a Sister or two serving within. The Sanguine Soul Sisters have distinctive uniforms they wear on duty in this role. Clad in armless cloaks with an angular front flap, a matte black dress beret with the classic fleur-de-leis in embroidered silver, muted blue and grey service robes and tabards, and pleated black dresses or trousers at their choice, they stand out against the bright gold robes and capes of local Ecclesiarchs. In cold weather, they add a layer of leather or synth-wool under the robe. The Sisters serve as genetic counselors for new nobility in the expanding Sector, and since many nobles in the Circuit and Sector’s new worlds are former military, they also perform screenings and confessorships for these veterans.
Sisters of the Order also serve other secular roles in Celeste and Cloudburst governing, such as administrating the larger Schola Progenum and training the Frateris Militia that sometimes accompanies Missionaries into the Circuit. Primarily, of course, their role is a spiritual and martial one, and hundreds of Sisters have served alongside the Ordo Hereticus as their Chamber Militant. The Sanguine Soul has somewhat better relations with the Astartes than most Orders, but this does not make them friendly. The present view in the Order is that the Astartes are as much a part of the Emperor’s plan as they are, despite their genetic deviancy.
Rarely, the Sororitas will send out a force to do battle with the heretics of the Sector. It has few, because of very careful colonist selection by Naxos and the heavy military presence in the Sector, but its history isn’t spotless. Whole cities have burned because the Ordo Hereticus has ordered it, and the Sisters have lit the fires. By far the most violent single incident in the Sisters’ history is the purging of Brotherhood, which involved the mobilization of every Battle Sister in the Sector. Drawing on all the sisters of Celeste, Maskos, and Nauphry, the combined forces of seven Ordo Hereticus Inquisitors, their retinues and Throne Agents, and two Imperial Guard regiments, the conflict raged for only two weeks, but Brotherhood was left uninhabitable after it all.
The Sanguine Convent is the Abbey from which the Sanguine Soul sisters set forth. The building is a magnificent beachfront palace of the Ecclesiarchy. The structure itself towers over the shores and rocky cliffs of the area. The beach on which the Convent is built is the terminus of a mountain chain that stretches from deep within the continent to the edge of the water, and the Palace emerges from its end hills like a beacon. Stained glass windows, soaring towers, and snapping banners throw bright colors on the rooftops of the building. The air rings with the sound of crashing waves, singing choirs, and screaming Sarissae cutting through target dummies. The enormous Convent is actually far larger than the current Order needs, but the Order is expanding at the insistence of the two Cardinals of the Sector.
The Order does not traditionally sustain a permanent Templar Militia. The Sisterhood trains them as needed, instead. Since they were established after the Reign of Blood, the Sisters here have no history of using Frateris Templar, either. As such, the extent of permanent Templar forces in the system is a platoon of ceremonial guards, who oversee the personal quarters and starship of Cardinal Drake. The Templars train with the Sisters to familiarize themselves with the battle callsigns and drills of the Sororitas.
Among the warriors of the Adepta, there number just over five thousand combatants in Celeste, with another thousand in the Maskos system. The Battle Sisters here are defenders of Schola Progenum throughout the Sector and even in the few outposts of the Circuit. The Convent palace also trains some of the Drill Abbots of the Schola, and more than a fifth of the Planetary High Priests of the Sector have studied here under the Abbess. The Convent is more than a training facility or chapel, however. It is a garage, a prison, a laboratory, a school, and a retreat, too. All these functions together may explain why it is so large, given the Sisterhood’s general disdain for the wealth-centric model of the Cloudburst Ecclesiarchy. Within its Ceramite and steel reinforcement and outer stonework, the building is a home to thousands of teachers, scholars, gene-techs, and guards, all of them drawn from the tens of thousands of Sisters of the Sector. The teachers and scholars are a mix of all the Orders of the Sisterhood, including the more obscure Dialogous. Here, future members of the non-militant Orders train in their sacred duties, including translating odd dialects of Gothic, treating alien parasite infestations, interpreting the human genome, preventing forgery and counterfeiting, and even decommissioning heretic armaments. Among the responsibilities of the Orders here are preserving the master templates of the genetic stock of the Subsector Overlord families, to ensure that the families that rule in the Emperor’s name are not inbred. For this reason, water-tight and over-pressurized vaults sit below the ground level in the core of the huge Convent building. The Order Famulous oversees the vaults, and trains the gene-techs who work here to predict strains of mutantcy. The gene-techs have another role: predicting the rise of a Living Saint of the Emperor. So far, the Sector has produced none. The Hospitallers of the Sanguine Soul are known as being unambiguously the best field chirurgia in the Sector, eclipsing even the Astra Militarum Battle Surgeons and rivalling the Blue Dagger Apothecarion (who have understandably more specialized skills). The Hospitallers of Celeste take just pride in this, and their skills in healing the wounded and curing the sick have even reached the Deathwatch, who have consulted with the Hospitallers of the Sanguine Soul when they have encountered odd alien diseases in the Circuit. The Hospitallers enjoy a whole wing of the Convent to themselves, guarded around the clock by six Cryo-Shock Seraphim elites, wearing state of the art power armor with full environmental seals and liquid nitrogen sprayers. The security measures ensure that no strange illnesses escape the wing, but also prevent any of the hundreds of daily visitors to the Convent from entering the Hospitaller quarter. Among the non-militant orders, the Dialogous are the smallest in number, but the Ministorum regards them as no less holy or indispensable for it. The Cloudburst Circuit still contains dozens of regressive human worlds, and many more that could be colonized; a Dialogous Sister is invaluable to a Missionary or Rogue Trader active in the region. The Dialogous Sisters of Celeste are also responsible for copying certain texts from religious thinkers and Missionaries of Cloudburst’s past, like the great Missionary Maskos or the Arch-Deacons of Jodhclan. The sisters then send copies of the texts along with ships that travel into the Exo-zone or the Circuit, to spread the word of Cloudburst’s finest to the heathens beyond.
Of course, when the average citizen thinks of Adepta Sororitas, he thinks of lethal warriors in power armor, burning heretics and hedge witches with holy flame and hate. True enough, the Battle Sisters of the Convent are the most highly trained mortal soldiers in the Sector (with the possible exception of the Night Slaughter). The Sisters would reject the word ‘soldier’ as a description, though. Nobody could mistake them for unfit fighters, of course, but soldiers are professional military and nothing more, the Sisters here claim, while they have responsibilities most soldiers never will, and they also do not follow a traditional Astra Militarum hierarchy. The Battle Order of the Sanguine Soul are ruthless, potent, and awe-inspiring warriors and paramilitary enforcers of the Ecclesiarchy’s will, and the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Hereticus Cloudburst. On no fewer than fifteen occasions, the Ordo Hereticus has mobilized over one thousand Sisters from Celeste or Maskos to engage and destroy heretics and witches in the Sector, once destroying an entire planet in the process during the scouring of Brotherhood.
An entire wing of the building holds the vast fleet of vehicles and spare power armor the Sisters here deploy. The garage holds Immolators, Incarcerators, and Repressors, as well as the dedicated Rhino and Penitent Engine fleets of the Sisterhood. Unfortunately, the Sisters do not have the means of making Exorcists, as Cognomen was not issued a copy of the STC. However, the Sisters here do sometimes work alongside the Inquisition, which fields the comparable Whirlwind Artillery Tank.
The land outside the Convent is a training field for the Sisters. Girls as young as twelve and women in their nineties after juvenat spar, shoot, and exercise, under the frosty eye of Celestian trainers and Retributor practice leaders. The training ground is as much a punishment field as it is a practice one, however. After daily drills have concluded, Sisters and Initiates who have failed in some duty are sent out into the field with magnetic combs, and tasked with picked up every shard of metal scrap and shell casing they can. The next day, if the penance for their failures are deemed insufficient, the penitent Sisters must practice barefoot, so that if they missed a shard, they will be the first to know, a practice that visiting Celestial Guard drill instructors have noted is intimidatingly hardcore.
More experienced Sisters train on elevated platforms, reinforced with steel lattices. The platforms hold grav-plates manufactured in nearby cities and operated by Mechanicus-blessed servitors, and simulate the differing gravities of alien planets. On the platforms’ surfaces, target dummies and ambulatory sparring machines attempt to block Sister trainees from crossing pre-determined pathways to the other side, by either physically obstructing them or setting them on fire. Other platforms have rope assault courses, environmental hazards like whirling blades and electric prongs, or hidden spring panels that can send inattentive Sisters flying back to the start of their courses.
Specialists practice in their own areas of the training fields. Retributors use their heavy weapons in an area cordoned off from the rest of the fields, to prevent friendly fire. Jump pack equipped Sisters train inside a hollow tower of the Convent itself, flying from spar to spar and girder to girder in a simulated construction area, firing their bolt, flame, and limited Inferno weapons in training mode at holographic targets.
Even the most relentless and faith-fueled warrior of the Emperor needs to rest their bodies after days of nonstop training. Holo-field generators block nearby observation of the beaches of the Convent. On the mile-wide stretch of sand, Sisters meditate on emblems of the Emperor and Terra that Initiates painstakingly sketch into the sand every sunrise. With the tides from Cloudburst overhead, the emblems erode, in an object lesson about the impermanence of labor unless it is life-long. At the edge of the water, Sisters practice swimming, for either training or recreation, one of the precious few forms permitted at the Convent. Naturally, the presence of a mile-wide stretch of unobservable tropical beaches filled with thousands of athletic women has intrigued many a paparazzi or salubrious neighbor, who are invariably captured and given bone-chilling punishments for trying to peek on their spiritual betters.
Unlike certain other branches of the Ministorum, the Sanguine Soul Order members endure sets of prohibitions against conduct that the Convent Abbess deems inappropriate. Some Orders are simply held to such a high standard (and drilled to such a high standard) that inappropriate conduct is unthinkable to them, but the Sanguine Soul Sisters have these strictures enforced, thanks to the past misconduct of a few who ruined things for all their successors. The partaking of intoxicant chemicals besides alcohol and prescription medication is outright forbidden, as is gambling at a house-cut establishment, and private ownership of a vehicle. The vehicle restriction stems from some highly embarrassing and public incidents of sector noble families from Thimble gifting their skycars to Sisters in thanks for resolving family disputes, and the untrained Sisters promptly crashing them.
Starting families is not forbidden to the Sisters, though of course few ever find the time. The few Sisters who do usually raise their children within the Scholae Progenum of nearby Civitavecchia until the girls are old enough to train in the Convent and the boys are old enough to do something with their lives. Notably, the present Canoness Superior, Monica Lanbrie, is a grandmother, which some of her critics use as a point against her spiritual purity, but most see as being a piece of trivia at best. Lanbrie is no common Canoness, either, for she is by the direct order of Cardinal Drake the Canoness Extraordinary of the Celeste system, and even visiting Sisters from other Orders must answer to her while present in the Diocese Celeste.
The Convent has two other facilities that set it apart from a typical Ecclesiarchal facility. The first is the prison. Deep below the waves, under two hundred feet of sand and rock and another hundred twenty feet of salt water, the Sisters stand guard over dark secrets of Mankind. In a field of humming capacitors and silent Multi-lasers and Multimeltas, fifty Celestians of the Order keep grim vigil over four hundred stasis, cryo, and immersion cells. These cells host the worst heretics, recidivists, and Traitors in the Sector, captured by the Ordos Hereticus and Malleus and sent to the Convent for eventual interrogation. Inquisitors sometimes arrive by stealth shuttle in the dead of night, having transferred to the fleet of matte-painted Aquila shuttles the Convent maintains in a space station in orbit if they didn’t bring their own. The Inquisitors have delivered such prisoners as the Arch-Heretic Deacon Woldenbar, who led a million souls to damnation with the whispers of Chaos, the wicked Soul-Shrivener of Clegran, who found xenotech that let him part a body from its spirit, and even Renel Abbas, a former Thousand Sons Marine, captured alive on Oglith eight hundred years ago leading a cult of ritualists. Other cells contain Chaos-tainted pirates the Navy captured leading Traitor raider fleets, Glasian officers captured alive during Migrations, and the one Primary of the Cult of Unbound Good ever taken sane.
The other unique facility is less grim, and unlike the prison, is common knowledge among the Sisters and Initiates. Ironically, many also hold it in contempt; they see it as a sign of the Cloudburst Ecclesiarchy’s carnal corruption. One wing of the ten-armed Convent fortress hosts a resort for the senior members of the Ministorum in the Sector and Circuit, who may come here free of charge to relax and meditate. The wealth-obsessed Cloudburst Ministorum promptly turned the wing into a combination hotel and bar, to the displeasure of their subordinate Sororitas. The suites in the wing are decorated to gaudy extremes, while the rectory kitchen more strongly resembles that of a Rogue Trader gourmand than a monastery. While the Sisters were able to enforce successfully a prohibition on joygirls and joyboys in the building, some priests and Missionaries visiting the facility do insist on bringing rather larger and more youthful retinues than a meditative journey would strictly require.
The Inquisition is aware of this trend, and views it with equal disgust, but has yet to act. The possibility of Slaaneshi corruption in the beating heart of the Ministorum’s military headquarters, however, is not one they are willing to discount. The Ministorum is unaware of how close to ordering a purge of the resort some Inquisitors have come, or how eagerly the Sisters would follow such an order.