- 1 Rogue Trader Houses
- 1.1 Dynastic Houses
- 1.2 Smaller Rougue Trader Houses
Rogue Trader Houses
Although the Cloudburst Sector does not, by virtue of its relative youth, contain any of the truly ancient Rogue Trader Militant Houses that the Emperor and Primarchs created, there are some Rogue Trader Houses in the Cloudburst Sector so old and so wealthy that they dominate the regions into which they travel. Some are of the more traditional Rogue Trader nature, that of the explorer and pathfinder for the greater Imperium, but most have shifted into a more corporate form. These Dynastic Houses have long pedigrees, whole fleets of ships, holdings on many worlds, connections to Sector and even Segmentum governments, and of course, obscene wealth. Other Houses, generally younger ones, have fewer permanent assets, but are more adventurous, and are more likely to have their Warrant-holder personally venture out to engage with the greater galaxy. One side effect of the unusual history of the Cloudburst Sector, established as it was in a great pair of Gold Rushes with no Crusade or grinding war of invasion, is that there are vast tracts of space between the clusters of worlds of the Sector. However, there are virtually no unexplored worlds in the clusters. While some regions of space, like the better-mapped Ixiniad, Scarus, and Calixis Sectors, are homogenous in their population frequency, the Cloudburst Sector is tied together like clusters of beads on a necklace, with each cluster stuck to others by long, tenuous Warp Routes.
However, these Warp Routes are those that allow for a ship without a Navigator to travel between the worlds, not those who have a Navigator. Theoretically, a ship with a skilled enough Navigator and powerful enough engines can travel anywhere in the Sector and Circuit. Therefore, despite the rapidly rising number of people in the Sector and the fact that there is nothing left to be found within these clusters of worlds, both the Cloudburst Sector proper and the Cloudburst Circuit still retain many hundreds of Free Captains and Rogue Traders who leap at the chance to explore any pocket of nearby space.
There are three major problems with this arrangement, however. While the Inquisitorial edict forbidding travel in the region was long since lifted, there are some parts of the greater Cloudburst region that contain navigational hazards of such size and risk that even approaching them is tantamount to suicide. The second major problem is piracy. While the nearby Drumnos Sector has far more lucrative starlanes, it is also heavily guarded. While the Naxos Sector has a great buildup of Imperial military materiel to steal, much of it is in use fighting the armies of Nurgle, and there are already privateer fleets at work in the region anyway. Thus, Cloudburst has become a growing site of piracy by the opportunistic criminals of the galaxy. The final problem is the remit of the Trader Warrants themselves. Many of these documents are written to provide Rogue Traders with the legal instruction to perform some task or effort in Imperial space or the Cloudburst Circuit in exchange for nobility and the sponsorship of the Imperial Government. However, the Cloudburst Sector expands into the neighboring non-Imperial areas by gradually agglomerating territory as the Administratum finishes its colonization. Thus, Traders who are forbidden from enacting their trade in Imperial territory but encouraged to do so outside the borders might suddenly find previous family stomping grounds forbidden to them.
Despite these drawbacks, however, the regions of space in and around the Cloudburst Sector are wealthy enough to lure in Rogue Traders and other adventurers in enough volume to keep their practice churning with activity. Originally, the Rogue Traders of the Cloudburst area based their activities from the great astral coaching house Star Gilt in orbit over the Naxos Forge World of Fabique. Today, most Cloudburst region Rogue Traders base their activities from either noble residences on Thimble or from the great Administratum-owned space station Emissicius in orbit over Maskos, where the Inquisition can keep an eye on them. More daring or piratical Traders prefer the huge Deep Void platform Port MaxientMaxient, which is much farther from public scrutiny. The tracts of space that define the Cloudburst Circuit are actually somewhat limited in scope thanks to the Warp Storm on their north, and the overlapping maximum range of the Astronomican.
There is no one House or even Dynasty that can claim with total honesty that they possess the largest or toughest fleet in the region. Some are more mercantile than others are, and have whole flotillas of cargo liners and freighters with barely any guns. Other Houses have fewer hulls to their name, but each is a warship or Galleon, capable of moving cargo and killing attackers at the same time. By the raw number of vessels to their name, the biggest is the House Prinz, but many of their ships are not Warp-capable, or have no significant guns, or both.
There are over twenty other Rogue Trader Houses that operate in the region besides those listed below; the ones here described constitute the most historically or economically successful of their number.
Rogue Trader Dynastic House Rondlee
House Rondlee is one of the ancient Rogue Trader Houses of the Cloudburst region, and often boastfully claims to be the oldest, although there is little evidence for this. What is wholly certain is that House Rondlee has its tentacles of corruption, deceit, and outright robbery in nearly every conspiracy and backdoor deal in the Cloudburst Circuit.
The House is old; nobody could dispute that. Its age has allowed it a certain perspective on the affairs of the Imperium in the Cloudburst Circuit. It can see, or so its elders privately claim, the wheels of the Segmentum government turning. The slow patterns of colonization, proselytization, exploration, and war that edge the border of the Imperium into the Circuit; the killings and disappearances that announce the Inquisition’s arrival among the criminal gangs that rule the outer borders of the Circuit; and, of course, the flow of money from outposts in the Circuit into the pockets of the Sector. It has been happening, slowly and surely, for thousands of years, and House Rondlee has been there since it started.
The Warrant of Trade that House Rondlee holds was signed by the Chancellor of the Imperial Estate over four thousand years ago, although it is free of context. Clearly, the House originates in Ancient Sol, the core of worlds near and around the Throneworld, upon which the Senate of the High Lords exerts direct control. Other than that, no House Records state definitively whether their House were war heroes, ancient aristocrats, merchant kings, warlords that opposed the Imperium and were punished with becoming Rogue Traders Militant, or even Inquisitors pushed out of the way of their peers. The House usually prefers to describe themselves as being mighty conquerors in the service of the Imperial Navy, elevated to Rogue Trader status in reward for bringing some collection of worlds to the light of Man. In fact, they have no idea, and probably never will.
What else is known clearly about the House is that they take for granted several functions of the Imperium in their business dealings. Their Warrant is very clear: they are to explore and pacify the Oldlight Proximate Circuit, now known as the Cloudburst Sector and Circuit. Beyond that, few means are forbidden from their repertoire. The House may trade in narcotics, sell explosives, run ‘indentured servants,’ traffic xenotech or even actual xenos, ally with heretics, and do more or less anything that they choose out in the Circuit.
Within the Sector itself, however, the House is a paper tiger. In the past, certain members of the House have taken the fact that the entire Sector except Hapster is part of the former Oldlight Proximate Circuit to which they are tasked as authorization to do as they please within that territory. A savage and public humiliation of the House patriarch and near-revocation of their Warrant of Trade by the Inquisition swiftly put those ideas to rest. Every so often, a new House Scion with something to prove challenges the Inquisition on this, at which point the Celeste Penal Legions gain a new member.
The higher ranks of the Inquisition, especially Lord Inquisitor Hueng, view House Rondlee as a crime against the Imperium waiting to happen. If the House weren’t protected by vast wealth and a Warrant of Trade, they would almost certainly have begun an investigation into the House’s senior leadership by now. As it stands, the House is already on thin ice. Just because the House is theoretically allowed to break the laws of the Imperium beyond its borders doesn’t mean that they actually do in all cases, of course, but Lord Hueng is personally involved in the issue because he suspects that the House has begun trafficking live xenos as bodyguards for Thimble nobles. Warrant or not, enslavement, sentient trafficking, and xeno-harboring are crimes the Imperium does not permit on Thimble, and he is itching for the chance to take the Rondlees down a notch.
Aside from their rumored criminal activities, however, the House also has laid claim to several unnamed and uncategorized stars in the depths of the Cloudburst Circuit, far from the Sector border. There, the family is rumored to be mining out rare minerals in huge quantities, for covert sale to Forge Worlds outside Cloudburst. This would explain their growing wealth and their unusually friendly relationship with the Mechanicus, certainly. As befits an ancient House, the Rondlee fleet is quite varied. They have specifically avoided any vessels larger than a Battlecruiser, just for logistical concerns, but their flagship, the Auric Fists, has such extensive upgrades that it can fight toe to toe with a Grand Cruiser. Presently, the Warrant-holder is House patriarch Lovis Rondlee of Celeste, who has a reputation even worse than that of his family.
Rogue Trader Dynastic House Atongwë
The House Atongwë is a decorated one, and its great and public piety made it the darling of the Ecclesiarchy for centuries. Its name decorates the halls of office for many Imperial institutions on Maskos and Drimmerzole. Indeed, a relative of this sprawling family reigns from the seat of power on Oglith as the Lord of the Subsector.
However, in more recent years, the House Atongwë has fallen on hard times. The family is still wealthier than most Imperial families could ever be, and its political ambitions are still strong, but the Rogue Trader branch of the family is on the rocks.
By no means a spent force, House Atongwë regardless has lost hundreds of millions of Thrones’ worth of money in the last few centuries, to a variety of sources. Costly labor disputes, legal wrangling, property damage, shipwrecks, jurisdictional battles, alien troubles, and even a few high-profile deaths and social gaffes, have conspired to make the House Atongwë a diminished presence in the dynamics of Cloudburst Sector. Some whisper that that is more than mere hyperbole: there actually is a conspiracy against House Atongwë, and may even have had some sponsorship from jilted rivals or envious Administratum personnel.
However, if there is a hidden hand at work in the damage done to the venerable Atongwë dynasty, there is no evidence for this. Indeed, nearly all the parts of the family have taken a beating lately, including the distant and barely profitable packaging businesses the family owns on Delving, that have no bearing on the greater family holdings. It is as if the entire Sector has turned on them, by no conscious choice.
The greater Cloudburst Sector has reason to be worried. House Atongwë has a hand in many of the great discoveries of the religious fleets and Missionary convoys of the Sector’s past. It was an Atongwë who discovered the entire Maskos Subsector (except for Lorelei), after all, and carried Maskos himself to the planet that would later bear his name. The Atongwë family also hold high station on Celeste and Cloudburst itself, and though it will likely never be proven, there are whispers that an Atongwë even served as a Blue Dagger. The House’s incredible run of bad luck lately is seen by some in the superstitious Imperium as a sign of the imminent collapse of the entire Sector.
Others, including the Inquisition and other Rogue Trader dynasties, are far more realistic. The House has made some poor decisions, that’s all. Their explorations into the Cloudburst Circuit keep stumbling over worlds already picked clean by their predecessors, their expeditions into the Oldlight Exo-zone were grossly underequipped to explore the most hostile region of explorable space, and Darren Atongwë is an imbecile. The businesses that the House patronizes have suffered immense losses not because of curses or conspiracies, but because they are based on Delving, a planet of catastrophic volcanism. Even the faux paus that have damaged the family’s reputation on Celeste have been nothing more than overeager family scions taking their competition to succeed their patriarch too seriously and in public.
The House is not exhausted yet. Despite the losses of several of their ships in the voids beyond Imperial territory, they still have much of their core fleet intact, including the Exorcist Grand Cruiser Messenger from on High. The current family patriarch is ailing from age, but is determined to restore his family’s glory. Named Moloarch Atongwë, he has a fiery determination to claw the family back from the brink of disaster, through grit, determination, and piety.
Piety is core to the worldview and outlook of the Atongwës. Their family were originally little more than commissioned officers on the Battlefleet Ultima Oberon Battleship Impressive, until they were awarded a Warrant of Trade for saving the life of Solar Admiral Belquist twice during the Rupture Nebula War. Belquist noticed the ambition and utterly unbreakable faith of his rescuer, and awarded the former pressedman a Warrant, sensing the potential for greatness in the young Lieutenant.
This was a prescient decision on Belquist’s part. The Atongwës immediately took ship in the upgraded frigate they had been granted, and within fifteen years, the family had crewed the vessel to bursting with eager voidsmen who were ready to carve up the stars in the Emperor’s name. The Atongwë family captured pirate ships, sunk the Traitor Cobra She’s One of Ours, Sir with a brutal ramming strike, and even located the future Imperial colony world Azreid for the Explorators.
Flush with success, the family tackled the edict given to them alongside their Warrant: when the House was ready, and had the proper means to do so, they were to secure the passage between the Naxos Forge World of Fabique and the Ecclesiarchal Shrine World Cinma’s Glory from the vicious pirate flotilla of Ironboots da Gitshoots. The Atongwës did not merely adopt a patrol route, however, as the Navy was sure to have tried already. Instead, the family spent a fortune on a small, decommissioned freighter, the C-153b, and loaded it with over eight hundred gigatons of aluminum, cesium, and magnesium thermite, thousands of bottles of compressed oxygen, and fifty thermobaric warheads, and then spread the rumor that the freighter was instead carrying ammo for the Sisters of Battle stationed on Cinma’s Glory. Lurking in a dispersed escort around the ship at one of its ‘routine’ navigation stops along the route it would have to take to get from Fabique to Cinma’s Glory, the Atongwës watched as the freighter was taken by Ork pirates that swarmed out of nearby asteroids, then gave chase. Using the skills of the Navigator assigned to their flagship, the flotilla chased the Orks to their hidden moon base in a nearby dead system, waited until the freighter had docked on the ramshackle Ork base, and then pushed a button. Some few weeks later, a Mechanicus patrol ship discovered an anomalous thermal bloom on a scan of an uninhabited moon near the appropriate Warp lane, and the Atongwës popped the corks.
Freed from their primary burden, the Atongwës have since been able to leave a token patrol garrison on the Star Gilt, and focus the remainder of their time becoming filthy rich. The House grew and grew along with their fortunes, and expanded hand-in-hand with the Ecclesiarchy into the Cloudburst Circuit after the initial Gold Rush. The Atongwë family did not partake in the former, but the second Gold Rush had the Atongwë family at the head of the pack, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Ecclesiarchal personnel.
Today, the Atongwë Rogue Trader House keeps their wealth in a series of bank vaults across the Maskos and Rampart Subsectors, while investing the majority elsewhere. By law, part of their fleet is tasked with providing escort along the Warp conduits between Fabique and Cinma’s Glory. However, this is a pittance of their true force, especially since the fleet has already wiped out the Orks.
Rogue Trader Dynastic House Vermouthe
Although most Rogue Traders are wealthy and ambitious by their nature, many also meet a bad end in the pursuit of money and power. House Vermouthe came a hair’s-breadth from the latter fate, and only a single act of mercy by the Inquisition prevented that.
House Vermouthe was awarded a Warrant of Trade as recompense, after an Imperial Navy Commander named Haxtor Vermouthe fought alongside an Explorator ship that had been jumped by the Eldar Corsair vessel Haliantho Ab’ris. Having saved the life of the Explorator and more importantly, having saved the immense cargo of archaeotech stashed in its hull, the Adeptus Mechanicus persuaded the Imperial Navy to award the young Commander Vermouthe with a limited Marque of Trade. This would turn him into a professional privateer who was also authorized to carry out limited trade beyond the borders of the Imperium. Within ten years, Vermouthe had taken fourteen journeys into the space between the Naxos and Caedra Sectors, and had taken three pirate ships as prizes, rescued four convoys under Ork attack, and flattened a renegade Imperial Guard company that had captured an Imperial Temple and begun making demands.
Eventually, the Adeptus Administratum recognized that a force of destruction and ambition as great as the young Free Captain was best suited for attacking the Emperor’s enemies, lest he become one himself in the pursuit of ever greater power. The Adeptus Administratum revoked his Marque and awarded the House Vermouthe with a Lesser Warrant of Trade, which made him a proper Rogue Trader.
While Haxtor Vermouthe himself was a capable and ultimately loyal leader of men, his grandsons were less able to live up to his legacy. They might have made good Imperial Escort Squadron Leaders, Commanders and junior Captains who could work well together, fight under orders, and obey instructions from high; those are not the ideal traits for a Rogue Trader. A Rogue Trader’s authority must be absolute, their will must be unambiguous, they must be able to work alone, and above all, they must not need a support structure to get things done. Under the leadership of the two grandsons, the family became little more than well-dressed pirates, and although they never abandoned the restrictions and commands of their Warrant, they never quite made a name for themselves.
That changed when both men died in a horrific starship crash, and the elder grandson’s own daughter inherited the Warrant. As soon as Amanda Vermouthe took the Warrant, she went on a spree of destruction and chaos that left scars on the faces of fifteen worlds. Gathering her family’s now rather large fleet to herself, she sent it plunging into the Loqui Deeps of the Drumnos Sector, bringing savage war on the pirates and xenos that lurked there. She met with some initial success, thanks to the dwellers of the Deeps having had no idea at all that she was coming. Imperial Navy ships that had entered the area to skirmish with the pirates and aliens found a charnel house of shipwrecks, plundered vaults, and sometimes Imperial vessels that had been destroyed by xeno armaments.
While her early victories were certainly to the Imperium’s benefit and accomplished much of the regional pacification, she had no head for logistics, and before much time had passed, her vessels could continue the fight no longer. Her individual ship Captains pled for her to return to the family holding and cash in all of their booty and plunder. She refused without discussion. Subsequent pleas had equally unhelpful outcomes.
The Captains were seriously considering confining her to quarters and turning the ships back on their own when a message came through for the Lady Trader. To the shock and horror of her Captains, her vessel had unknowingly entered a region of the Deeps in which the Inquisition was staging for a secret, terrible mission. Although the Inquisition’s messenger did not inform her what that mission was, the messenger was unambiguous in his instruction: the Vermouthe ships were to turn back and go no further. They had served the Imperium well, but now it was time to go home.
By this time, Amanda Vermouthe was in no shape to listen. Her bloodlust and natural arrogance had taken her completely. She ordered the Inquisitorial courier fired upon, and before the bridge crew could react and stop her, one of the ship gunnery crews had already done so.
That one shot was not enough to destroy the courier, and the courier boat immediately fled. The ship Captain declared barratry on the spot and beat the startled Vermouthe unconscious while the gunnery crews immediately stood down once the Chief Gunnery Officer relayed the facts to them. The ship’s Astropath desperately begged the Inquisitorial courier to wait and hear out their explanation, but it jumped into the Warp without a word.
With Vermouthe now sedated in the medical wing, the ship Captain had to make a tough call. There was simply no way the Inquisition would let that incident slide, but the ship crews were clearly innocent of the crime. After some deliberation, the Ship Captain flew the vessel and the rest of the surviving Vermouthe flotilla to their home base in the Naxos Sector.
As expected, the Inquisition was waiting. The Vermouthe ship Captain turned the raging Amanda Vermouthe over to the Inquisitorial vessels and sat by, awaiting judgment.
It came on cold words. The entire Vermouthe fleet was to turn over all of the lucre they had captured, all the ships they had captured, and all xenotech they had acquired from anywhere, within one day. The House Vermouthe members on the surface protested until the Inquisitor present showed the footage of the Vermouthe ships firing on them, at which point the Vermouthe Household complied.
Now utterly bankrupt, the Vermouthe House nearly had to sell their Warrant. It took decades of hard work by the new Warrant holder to get back into profits, and twice as long to get back into the good graces of the Inquisition. Even now, thousands of years later, the House is still something of persona non grata among Naxos Inquisitors.
Perhaps that is why House Vermouthe moved to the Cloudburst Sector eventually. There, farther from the Inquisition’s eyes, the House has been able to stake a great claim to the stars. The Vermouthe fleet has managed to recover from their errant venture, and has even managed to purchase a modest mansion on Celeste, where they can rub shoulders with other nobles of the Cloudburst Sector and awe them with stories of their fleet’s deeds among the dust clouds of the Circuit.
The most recent incident of note in the Vermouthe family was their brush with the Lomax Pirates, who drift from system to system in a nomadic cloud of slow-moving but Warp-capable ships. The Lomax Pirates have long haunted the nebular drifts that separate the Nauphry and Rampart Subsectors, and ambushed several Vermouthe freighters that only barely managed to call in reinforcements before they were overrun. When Vermouthe ships arrived, the freighters had already been boarded. The Vermouthe vessels then had to enact boardings of their own ships, which cost a fortune and still did not succeed in retrieving them all.
Rogue Trader Dynastic House Arins
There is no other House of Rogue Traders that raises the ire of the other Traders and Free Captains of the Cloudburst region like House Arins. The dynastic House Arins is barely more than a fleet of state-sanctioned buccaneers, with all of the trends towards robbery and pillaging that that implies.
House Arins is the youngest of the houses unofficially considered Dynastic by the Sector Administratum, although that is really an informal term used only for convenience. The Arins fleet is a motley hodgepodge of custom-built ships, salvaged wrecks, ships prized from Space Hulks, pirate loot, and even xeno vessels. The current Warrant holder, Giuseppe Arins, is a skillful and insightful man, but his total disinterest in politics and crude demeanor do little do smooth over the effects of his fleet’s behavior.
Of course, if his fleet ever did resort to outright piracy against Imperial targets, things would go poorly for him very quickly. Lord Admiral Maynard loathes Giuseppe Arins, and would very much like to see the man hang. However, the Arins fleet has successfully taken battle to the endemic Ork pirates of the Oldlight Exo-zone who so often spring forth to menace Battlefleet Rampart and the Drumnos Sector Fleet. Thus, so long as he toes the line and never dips into true criminality, the Inquisition is unlikely to take any actions against him.
Some Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus have even whispered, in the halls of the Palace of Maskos, that it may not be the worst idea to turn the Arins fleet loose on the FCC and see who wins, given that the Navy is in no shape to handle it at present. Others take issue with this, pointing out that if Arins defeats Langdon Reith and takes Zlodziei, they will have essentially created an independent satrap of the House Arins with little to no Imperial oversight and a massive fleet. If there were anything that could tip the violent and unpredictable Arins into open conflict with the Imperium, it would surely be a world of his own and an unaccountable fleet.
Giuseppe Arins is not like the Atongwës or the Walshes. He has no element of piety to him past the bare essentials. All that matters to him is results. His entire family line is such; they have no concern for the possible collateral damage of their actions so long as they succeed. There are many such hotheads in the war-making history of the Imperium of Man, but few as successful as the Arins family.
Part of the reason for this success is their enormous ground force. The Arins family employs a huge force of mercenaries, with airplanes, tanks, ornithopters, artillery, and even submarines. The family pays them well and lets them plunder non-Imperial worlds, although they hold no truck with Chaos-tech. The mercenaries are moved about their wars in several large transport ships that Arins has stolen from various pirate fleets or Space Hulks over the years, and are inserted into warzones with a combination of Cetacean transports, Aquila shuttles, and typical Navy transports.
When the Arins family takes a prize, they usually distribute any hard cash and simple treasures among the men, keeping them well-motivated. For larger prizes, however, like ships or unique archaeotech, the Arins family has arranged with several hundred dissatisfied Techpriests of the Forge Worlds in the Drumnos and Cloudburst Sectors to work for them in exchange for first crack at any good loot. The Arins family owns a void platform called the Hand of Time that they purchased from the Grand Anchor, and use it to cache their treasures that are too valuable to store on Celeste.
The Arins family and the other, wealthier Rogue Trader Houses in the Sector have arrangements to keep each other at arms’ length while in the Sector proper, but in the Circuit and Exo-zone, all bets are off. The Arins family has assaulted other Rogue Trader ships outright for getting to a prize before they could. Although it will likely never be proven, the Arins family is the most likely suspect for sinking the Battlefleet Rampart Cobra destroyer Golden Aquila. The House’s enormous buccaneer army travels from world to world in the Circuit, serving as mercenaries as much as a collective army, and pillaging non-Imperial worlds or ancient xeno strongholds.
Rogue Trader Dynastic House Arpel
While some Rogue Trader dynasties begin sharply, with a great triumph against many foes of Mankind, House Arpel did not. House Arpel got to the position of the second wealthiest Rogue Trader House in the Sector after House Zutash through determination and very cautious battles, but they are all the more difficult to dislodge from their perch for it.
House Arpel got their Warrant only five decades after the turn of the last millennium, and have been slowly pushing their way to the front of the galaxy since then. The House has by far the largest range of legitimate business interests of all the Cloudburst-based Rogue Trader houses, in terms of both distribution and function. They have holdings in companies and even schools as far apart as Port Maw and Orask. Naturally, this has led to some mutterings by other Traders that the family pursues ‘unfair’ business practices, but the House Arpel Warrant of Trade is clear: they may pursue profit and the betterment of the Imperium concurrently in nearly any form they wish, so long as they do not harbor hedge psykers or come into conflict with the Imperium. The House has simply understood this to mean that they are free to open or sponsor as many businesses as they want without worry.
At the very least, none can doubt that the Rogue Traders of House Arpel are aggressive in their pursuit of Imperial betterment. Their most famous business is not a trade house, auction hall, shipyard, or even one of the great Thimble clothing foundries, but a school. The Arpel School of Courtly Conduct is a refined and posh thing indeed; a massive but elegantly designed compound on Celeste where proper manners and etiquette are taught to the youth of noble families. There, students may learn courtship, equestrian and martial skills, genealogy, refined dining habits, Imperial religious lore, sanitized history, and many more topics that any budding Imperial noble scion may desire to have.
Of course, the Arpel fleet is no more effete than that of any other thousand-year dynasty of ruthless killers. The Arpel fleet is a sprawling affair, commanded from the heavily modified Vengeance Grand Cruiser Arpel’s Eminence. The fleet often sends exploratory missions out into the voids of the Cloudburst Circuit and Oldlight Exo-zone with the intent of locating worlds that humans have inhabited in the past, either Imperial colony ventures or Terran Federation worlds. On some occasions, they have found them, and earmarked them for future colonization by the Adeptus Administratum. Their most valuable finds have been the so-called ‘wildcat’ colonies that were established by anti-Imperial dissident humans in the aftermath of the Reign of Blood. They hid their colonies in the Oldlight Exo-zone for hope of evading Inquisitorial oversight, and sometimes succeeded. By now, of course, the original purpose of these colonies are long forgotten. Some have succumbed to Chaos, others have been enslaved by aliens, others yet have collapsed due to lack of preparation by their creators, while two were taken by the Dark Mechanicus for use as raw materials in unspeakable tech-heretical rituals. Others are still functional, and even prosperous. These are the ones Arpel moves to annex for Mankind, or flatten and burn to ash if they can’t be persuaded to join otherwise.
Their relationship to other great Houses of the Sector is a pleasant one. The House has done great work in civilizing the frontier, and unlike the fleets of the Prinz or Arins Houses, never cross swords with those of other Houses. Unlike the ruthless and savage battles between Rogue Trader Houses in the Koronus Expanse, the battles for control of the Cloudburst Circuit are less common and less violent, and mostly fought with money. House Arpel controls so many interests and businesses outside the Circuit that there is little need for them to throw their weight around in the Circuit. However, there are some Houses, usually those descended from or led by heroes of the Astra Militarum or Imperial Navy, that find them to be too dainty in conduct outside battle, and look down their noses at the Arpels despite their staggering wealth.
Rogue Trader Dynastic House Zutash
The House of Zutash holds the only record most Rogue Traders strive for: the wealthiest known noble family in the entire Cloudburst region, which includes the Sector, Circuit, and nearby reaches of the Exo-zone. Their material value is so high, they could purchase the assets of any other Rogue Trader House in the region outright (excepting, of course, the horrifying power and Inquisitorial remit of Thomas Walsh).
Despite this awesome wealth, however, the family’s power still pales beside those of the ruling families of the Subsectors and the Quintus family. This is not a point of great contention. With a few obvious exceptions, the Subsector and Sector Overlord families are far too busy preparing for the imminent onslaught of Ork and Glasian warriors on their homeworlds to care about Crado Zutash and his money.
The Zutash House did not become so wealthy or so powerful through profligacy nor through making enemies, however. House Zutash has the second largest network of successful legitimate businesses in the running after House Arpel, and they did not shut them down when Crado moved to return his family to their more piratical roots. The original Lord Zutash was a major player in the Naxos Sector Administratum. As a titled noble of the Naxos Sector Peerage on Asklepian and a high-ranking official in the Administratum alike, he wielded immense influence over the course of the Sector government. He used this influence to pressure the military and Adeptus Astra Telepathica to push their forces deeper into the Pox Ring nebular Warp Storms and confront the source of the Nurglite threat there before it swelled to engulf them all. After one too many pushbacks, he was summarily stripped of his position and ‘offered’ Rogue Traderhood instead, just to shut him up and move him away from trouble.
This nearly got the Lord Zutash killed, since he had no experience at all with matters of void war or interplanetary shipping and trade. His son, however, realized that his father was being slighted by the Naxos government, and spent every coin he had to his name in school. He bought the best education his money could buy him. The scion of House Zutash learned about history, warfare, politics, trade, void navigation, science, personnel management, business finance, and every other topic his voracious mind could absorb and bottomless money could pay for. When his father died, the new Lord Zutash turned his one frigate and struggling businesses into an empire of prosperity. Abandoning the family holdings in Naxos and moving to Cloudburst, the House Zutash promptly fell upon the unsuspecting region like an ambull on steaks. The Zutash House rose to meteoric heights of success by buying into businesses and using family assets (like ships and financial advisors) to make them more efficient.
The House didn’t stop with upgrading existing ones, however. They also took struggling companies off the market with buyouts and stock trickery, then rebuilt them to higher standards and sold shares, making obscene wealth from their grateful stockholders and employees. Not every venture was a success, of course, but those that were more than paid for those that weren’t.
To expand further, the Warrant holders of the House then shifted gears. Leaving their old business in place, the family began to purchase small businesses that had been founded by families. The businesses that the Zutash family targeted for buyout were small affairs that had stayed in the founders’ family for a few generations, but had fallen into the hands of owners that just wanted to cash out and live the high life without working for it. Zutash accountants would perform the buyouts, then integrate the businesses into the Zutash holdings, absorbing them outright if it would make other businesses more efficient, and simply keeping a share for those that had no place in the larger Zutash business empire. Along the way, the House attorneys and financiers would make the small businesses more efficient through internal reform, so that the businesses in question could survive the Zutashes taking a share of the profits.
There was absurd wealth to be made, and so it was. House Zutash’s focus drifted farther and farther from the process of exploring the voids and more into the ground-side business world with each passing generation.
That all came to a halt with the ascension of the young Crado Zutash to the positon of family Warrant holder. Crado promptly stripped the Zutash family holdings bare of every scrap of money that could be spared, and poured it all (a vast sum by even Inquisitorial measures) into the crafting of starships. Mostly he bought upgrades for the House’s existing fleet, even those ships that really didn’t need them. The rest were the vessels he earmarked for his own coming journeys. Gathering up those vessels he had set aside for the purpose, he flew into the Cloudburst Circuit in search of wealth and power.
He returned with four more ships than he had left with, all of them tiny pirate vessels he had captured, and a trove of ancient and valuable archaeotech he promptly sold to the Adeptus Mechanicus. Declaring his startled relatives fainthearts and his Rogue Trader rivals blind, he announced a new age for the Zutash family. Crado said that the family would return to their adventuring ways, and burn brighter and longer than any other star in the Cloudburst Sector.
His campaign continued, as he relentlessly pursued archaeotech caches across the whole Cloudburst region. Decades passed as he searched and flew, finding pirate hoards, Ork loot, lost treasures of the Imperium and Terran Federation alike, and glory for his House. Every Throne of goods he could sell, he did sell, and he poured all that money straight back into his House businesses. He bought upgrades for cogitators and office buildings, he hired Techpriests to staff his factories to make them more efficient, he used his own star charts to find the best routes for his freighters, and he used his Imperial Guard veteran advisors and Archmilitants to protect House holdings when they weren’t with him in the field.
Thus, the genius of Crado Zutash came clear to his rivals and doubting relatives. He was not abandoning their brilliant entrepreneurial techniques, he was complementing them with his own skill at finding treasures. Now, the Zutash family empire is wealthy beyond measure, and Crado Zutash is looking to retire. He has been grooming his son Fox, who has nearly as much business and treasure-hunting acumen as himself, for the role, and so far, the lad shows every sign of living up to his father’s legacy.
As might be expected, most of the other Captains of the Cloudburst Sector, Navy and Trader House alike, regard the Zutashes with a mixture of respect, awe, begrudgment, and concern. They seem unstoppable. Their empire is growing without pause, they have eclipsed all rivals in nobility, business influence, and even firepower (save perhaps Walsh and Arpel), and they have even managed to score the great honor of a contract with the Blue Daggers to explore the Oldlight Exo-zone together after the Seventh Glasian Migration ends. The other Houses of the region don’t know what to make of it all, but most are trying to stay out of Crado’s way. Of course, envious rivals whisper that he has Chaotic sponsorship, but this is wishful thinking on their part, at most. Crado Zutash is simply the Sector’s best businessman, and very aware of it.
Rogue Trader Dynastic House Rowsdower
The Rowsdower dynasty traces its way back to an ocean of blood. The battles the House fought to claw their way near the top of the pecking order in the Cloudburst region are among the bloodiest in the history of the Sector.
Many Rogue Traders that hail all the way back to the beginning of the Imperium have historical records of Adeptus Astartes being called to serve alongside, or even under, Rogue Traders. Sometimes these Marines were simply advisors, or perhaps field commanders. Other times, Rogue Traders of a particular skill were actually given command over combined forces of Imperial military power, including Astartes. The Rowsdower House has had many chances to command Astartes in battle, including Blue Daggers, and this rare honor stems from their glorious history of service to the Officio Munitorum.
Although Rogue Traders are members of the Imperial peerage, and not the Officio, they often have militarized functions as a part of their duty. The Rogue Trader Houses that interact with the alien cultures of the galaxy may well bring fire and ruin with them, enact judgment against cultures deemed too deviant to survive, or even nip potential xeno problems in the bud before they have a chance to grow out of control. House Rowsdower has on the retinue of several of its Captains experts from the Adeptus Mechanicus Biologis divisions. These experts excel at identifying alien races and their weaknesses. The House has also worked alongside the Deathwatch, carrying individual Kill-Marines on secret missions to scope out alien holdings in the depths of the Oldlight Exo-zone. Forts Excalibris and Pykman have sent Kill-Marines to Rowsdower ships, and so has Fortress Dascomb.
House Rowsdower doesn’t spend all of their time waging costly wars on the behalf of the Sector or Deathwatch, of course. Much of the House’s time is spent on the lucrative business of scrap and salvage. The House Rowsdower fleets often travel in what the Imperial Navy refers to as ‘Dispersed Net’ formations. These vessels exit the Warp in a tight cluster with overlapping augury and auspex instruments, then slowly drift apart until each ship is at the absolute edge of the next ship’s sensor ranges. In the relatively dense primordial soup of gasses and dust that constitute the great Cloudburst Sector hypernova remnants, this is not a great distance at all, but it has still netted the House some success in finding their true goal.
The House Rowsdower fleet, using these techniques and more developed by the Navy or their own Paz Rowsdower many centuries ago, has been able to salvage over one hundred rare metal asteroids and twenty shipwrecks using this technique, and mark the locations of several hundred individual ship pieces flung away from long-past explosions. Of course, this barely breaks even in terms of the money it takes to run such a large fleet, but the fleet isn’t just looking for scrap. The use of such far-distant sensor webs also allows for the ship communications experts to precisely locate the sources of light-speed communication, thanks to the onboard Fabique Mapping Clocks of the Rowsdower fleet.
However, the true goal of the Rowsdower fleet isn’t research, or even really for money. The House Rowsdower fleet is always looking for more opportunities to expand. Many of the ships the Rowsdower fleet has found on their searches of Warp navigation stops and asteroid fields have come right back to the House once salvaged and put the service of their flotilla. They have added ships as disparate as a promethium tanker barge and a Gothic cruiser to their fleet in this way. Of course, sometimes the original owner of the ship is still alive, or the vessel belonged to the Navy. In that case, the House is sometimes dragged to court to press their claim to the ship, and Cloudburst maritime Judges are brutally even-handed.
The House Rowsdower maintains a very large percentage of the Clog station, larger than any other House. There, they can sell the cargoes of their salvaged ships, or haul the wares they have bought from primitive worlds of the Sector to visitors from more advanced ones. The House reaps a tidy sum from this trade, and is eager to spend more money there. The House also funds some of the small gas mining fleets that drift into the gas clouds that streak the entire Cloudburst Circuit, harvesting the primordial gas of the void.
Of course, the House are still Rogue Traders at heart, even if they often feign a more military air. The mightiest and most long-ranged ships of the House fleet often trawl the dark places of the map, seeking lost worlds and alien treasure. The Glamour anomaly was co-discovered by a member of House Rowsdower and a Mechanicus Magos. The House was also the first to sound the alarm that the Rot Souls had returned, and were heading to civilized worlds.
The recent history of the House has been a strange one, marked by the House coming to blows with factions it didn’t even know existed. For example, routine work in the Circuit on the behalf of the Sector Administratum turned into an unexpected delve into a lost pre-Imperial city on the planet AVR285. That in turn led to a battle between the startled House forces and the feral cult of black-clad killers that dwelled there. Mercenaries of the House had to slaughter dozens of these strange cultists, who apparently had no ties to Chaos or Genestealers at all, and the House is still not entirely sure why they were in the derelict city in the first place, or how they flew there. The Ordo Hereticus is investigating, but has higher priorities at the moment.
At times, the House’s Warrant clauses will come into effect, and the House must lend ships to an evacuation or colonization effort on the behalf of the Adeptus Administratum. The House generally does not begrudge this, since the money is usually good, and it allows the House to establish contacts with the populations with whom they work, potentially opening up new recruitment opportunities.
The current holder of the Warrant is Marcus Rowsdower, who does not appreciate that there is another House in the Sector that has the same family name as his given name.
Smaller Rougue Trader Houses
Rogue Trader House Marcus
The House Marcus is among the youngest Rogue Trader Houses in the region. So far, the House consists of three people: Erleissa Marcus, the Warrant holder and former Imperial Stormtrooper, her younger sister Catalina Marcus, and Catalina’s adopted son Ivan Marcus. The three have taken to the life well, but they started out dirt poor, and have quickly discovered that the romantic myth of the Rogue Trader as a master diplomat, merchant, warlord, negotiator, and explorer are perfectly true, once they can pay for it.
This is not to say that the three have not tackled the issue with alacrity, because they have. Some of the older Rogue Traders based on the great station of Emissicius have even admired the Marcus family for tackling the dumbest problems head-on, delegating only when they need to, and always managing to come out on top, even if only barely.
The House began when Erleissa Marcus was awarded a Lesser Warrant of Trade and Marque in exchange for her heroic rescue of Inquisitor Dolan during a disastrous investigation of heresies in the underhives of the great silver cities of Thimble. Over the following months, Dolan watched with interest as this Argent Sword Stormtrooper fought with a combination of quiet respect, tactical brilliance, unyielding faith, and cold cruelty that Dolan saw in the best of his peers. However, when the campaign against the covert cell of heretics was over, Dolan decided that rather than make her an Inquisitor or Throne Agent, he would instead turn her talents outward, so her representation of good Imperial values might be best used against its foes pushing at the border.
To nobody’s surprise greater than her own, the young, battle-scarred Major was presented with the Lesser Warrant of Trade and Marque, contingent on her using her assets to aid the Inquisition in investigations of specific threats in the Cloudburst Circuit. She was presented with a pair of destroyers recently recaptured from the Free Corsair Coalition, and ordered to get to work.
Reaffirming Inquisitor Dolan’s choice immediately, the Major-cum-Trader promptly turned the guns of her ships on the innumerable pirates that lurk in the depths of the heavily-patrolled Drumnos-Cloudburst border. She arranged for her crews, the experience of whom far eclipsed her own, to affect a simple deception. After coming to a protection arrangement with a freighter Chartered Captain who routinely moved goods from Thimble to the Drumnos Worlds, Marcus filled one of the cargo containers of the freighter with her own crew, given weapons from the destroyers’ arms lockers, and simple life support gear. She then modified the freighter’s cargo manifest to read livestock and perishables, leaked its route to the right people on Clog, and waited.
Two weeks later, the bait was taken. A pair of pirate Raider ships, the Sudden Shift and the Tidal Swell, jumped the freighter, cornered it, and boarded it by docking directly with the hull.
Inside, they found tens of thousands of Marcus ship crewers, armed to the teeth and hungry for blood. The pirates were overwhelmed and attempted to withdraw on their own ships, only for the two destroyers to emerge from nearby gas clouds and spring a trap of their own. With the remaining troops of the two destroyers, the two Marcus ships docked with the Raider’s outer faces, those facing away from the ‘helpless’ freighter. Faced with the freighter and destroyer crews on one side, and hardened Imperial Stormtrooper veterans boarding them from the other, both pirate ships folded almost immediately.
The five ships eventually surfaced in the orbit of Cognomen, having slowly flown to the Forge World. The repairs to the freighter were more than paid for by selling one of the Raiders to the Mechanicus, while the victorious Erleissa Marcus kept the other as her personal flagship, now renamed Turnabout.
Knowing better than to repeat the tactic, she contacted Dolan with the name of the pirate contact to whom she had leaked the information, told him of her new total firepower, and asked if he had any idea what his timetable would be for reinforcing him in the Circuit.
Dolan, delighted and finding the whole situation unaccountably hilarious, told her that she had fifteen years to kill before he would need her.
In that fifteen-year span, Erleissa Marcus has had bizarre ups and downs in her career. She has taken on a full company of Argent Sword Guardsmen as the core of her forces, and has worked tirelessly, uncomplainingly hard to improve her family’s fortunes. A Hiver born and bred, she has an innate hatred of profligacy and waste, and so her vessels are far less ostentatious than the flying cathedrals and gilded dandies of the other Rogue Trader houses. While House Rowsdower may be the most visibly militant of the Cloudburst regional Houses, none who know of it can doubt that House Marcus is the most devotedly militant when the chips are down.
Erleissa has loaded her body up with every anti-aging technology and genemod she can legally acquire. While living forever was not a major concern as one of the Stormtroopers, she takes her Warrant terms very seriously, and thinks she would be derelict in her duties if she died before she was done bringing the universe to heel before the Emperor’s radiant, righteous power.
Mercy is a term foreign to her. Alone among the entire Rogue Trader gallery of the Cloudburst Circuit, she never, ever bothers taking prisoners unless they are the result of an unconditional surrender. Perhaps it is simply a facet of her former Stormtrooper training, but she sees surrender as a waste of time if there are any rules attached. Of course, when fighting Orks or Chaos cultists, this is never a problem, but occasionally other foes will think to throw themselves on the Emperor’s mercy when they get the chance. Erleissa does not bother with such things. Her vessels have no detention bays save for her own crew. She replaces the other detention blocks on all of her ships with ammunition and spare part storage cells, so her ships can fight even harder.
This is not to say that she is foolish, or tactically blind to the possibility of a valued prisoner. She simply doesn’t care. Dolan thinks that if she had become an Inquisitor, she would have become the most violently, ruthlessly Puritanical Inquisitrix he had ever seen, even more than Lerica herself.
Her sister is of a different nature. Erleissa is medically unable to bear children, thanks to her many, many genemods, and lacks all interest anyway. Her sister, and more importantly Ivan, do not, and both are just as ambitious, loyal, and cruel as she is. Ivan has a caring side he keeps well hidden, but in business, all three Marcuses are brutal, frank, and uncompromising.
Their House has the lowest profit income of any House in the Sector, by both absolute volume and relative percentage, but that doesn’t stop House Marcus from kicking the hornets’ nest every once in a while. For a groundpounder, Erleissa Marcus has an uncanny knack for void war, and her ships are all built to best accommodate her style. Every ship in her flotilla is custom-overhauled for the highest possible ammunition storage and self-repair capability, even at the cost of prisoner storage or luxury. Despite the size of her mansion on Cassie’s world, Erleissa’s personal quarters are only forty feet by forty feet with a twelve-foot ceiling; Thomas Walsh’s private quarters are the size of a scrumball field.
Marcus doesn’t cut costs because of some obsession with money, though. She is simply a military woman through and through. She is willing to deal with other Rogue Traders, and actually enjoys dealing with some of the more purposeful Houses like Zutash and Crusher. In them, she sees a similar human spirit, driven by profit, power, piety, and the hunger to make the galaxy their own, tempered by loyalty.
That is the trait that all of House Marcus honors above all others: loyalty. There is nothing more important. This is why the only people in her line of succession are family, adopted or no: she can trust nobody else to be up to her standards. Every crewer she has would die for her, reluctantly or otherwise, and she makes sure to reward them commensurately. The risks of their job are small compared to her wrath if they betray her confidence. Her ultimate punishment for disloyalty is to seal traitors in vac suits, connect them to voxes that let them broadcast for great distances, put them on a chain that drags behind their ship, and let the crew listen as the ship enters the Warp. She has had to do it exactly once.
She does draw a distinction between disloyalty and disobedience. As a former Stormtrooper officer, she knows perfectly well that it is possible for an order to be given absent the requisite intelligence. To disobey an ill-informed order is reasonable; it allows a person to avoid unneeded jeopardy. To be disloyal to the person giving the order is impermissible, and punished with sickening cruelty.
Her ships are a welcome sight at the Grand Anchor yards. There, she has brought the remains of ships her vessels have killed, as well as piles of money with which to buy upgrades for her already impressive ships. Rather than spend money and crew on maintaining as large a fleet as she can afford, she prefers to raise her existing crews and vessels to the heights of readiness. Extra turrets, Forge World-quality starship power cores, advanced void fighters and bombers, Astartes-grade targeting equipment, and internal component cooling and repair systems are her preferred mechanisms of upgrade.
As a natural fighter, the Lady Marcus is already looking forward to her coming trials in the Circuit. She has been sleeplessly pursuing the acquisition of wealth and material to fund her mission, even going so far as to attack targets on behalf of the Inquisition. Those Inquisitors who have fed her House intelligence are aware that sooner or later, the House will fall into the hands of somebody who does not appreciate that, but for now, Lady Marcus is well enough aware of the true nature of the enemies of Mankind to cooperate with the Inquisition on matters of mutual benefit. This mostly takes the form of hunting down the criminal elements on the edges of Imperial territory that harbor hedge witches from the Ordo Hereticus, and then keeping whatever assets they were using once the Inquisition is done collecting the wayward souls in question.
Rogue Trader House Demmelwaithe
The vagaries and cruelties of the life of a Rogue Trader can catch up at the worst times, and House Demmelwaithe has experienced this like a kick in the jaw. The House seems cursed. Some on the Emissicius whisper that it actually is. The House has been assaulted by pirates, fired upon by mistaken Adeptus Mechanicus Basilikon Astra warships, sabotaged by rivals, beset by plagues that took root in its life support systems, lost battles with Eldar, and even had prominent members of the family be arrested for overdosing in public.
All of the family’s misfortunes stem from one series of appallingly poor decisions by the House Warrant holder, Postla Demmelwaithe, not forty years ago. Other members of the House are openly questioning if she is struck by a sort of madness, or perhaps has even gone Traitor. There seems to be no logic or reason to her choices, and before much longer, the House will either fall apart or have to replace her.
Forty years ago, the House Demmelwaithe was waxing higher. Its legitimate businesses were doing prosperous trade, its scrap businesses were churning recycled materials into circulation, its partnership with the Explorators was fruitful and amicable, and all seemed well. Then, with no real explanation, Postla elected to collect much of the House fleet and turn it to a privateering mission from the Navy in the Oldlight Exo-zone. The Navy contract was against some well-entrenched Ork Freebootaz that had begun assaulting Imperial exploration ships in the void, and although the pay meant the House would barely break even, the fleet dutifully packed up and set to flying.
This is where the story diverts heavily, depending on which person on the Emissicius one asks. Some say the battle went perfectly, but the House fired on the Navy in the chaos of battle. Others say the Orks tested some madness-inducing weapon on the House warships. Some others say that the Adeptus Mechanicus shot down a House ship purely by accident. The one thing all the tale-tellers agree upon is that an Eldar ship behind a holofield suddenly decloaked and fired on all parties involved, offering no quarter and no explanation. The survivors of all three Imperial forces limped back to the Emissicius later, quarrelling bitterly the whole way.
Things went downhill from there. There is no one record of all the misfortunes to befall the House, because so often there are few survivors of their calamities. Some of the other Rogue Traders of the region are even becoming uneasy about the prospect of the House Demmelwaithe liquidating their assets soon, because of the concern of a curse spreading to other Houses.
Rogue Trader House Victoire Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse; that’s the House Victoire way. Sponsors of the production of luxury goods and fast aircars all over the Thimble hives, and general hedonists, House Victoire are wealthier than you and they love it. The entire House, save a few of the more pious, younger scions, are concerned with the acquisition of wealth and its carefree expenditure. They let nothing get in the way, whether that may be Imperial law or common sense.
The House was founded only four hundred years ago, and promptly catapulted to the ranks of the major Houses of the Cloudburst region thanks to their founder’s discovery of a massive, underground warehouse of truly ancient Golden Age goods on the planet AYRJ841, built under a Dark Age settlement of scarcely lesser value. With the Mechanicus doing handsprings of joy, the House got stinking rich straightaway, and the decadence didn’t take long to settle in. For those rare few on the high end of the Imperial wealth disparity, the opportunities to live the high life are infinite.
Appropriately, the House is based on Celeste, a Paradise World, and the heart of culture and government in Cloudburst Sector. The House has as few duties as Imperial peers as they can manage, the more time to spend getting rich and spending money.
The Sector Administratum has no problem with this. The House businesses are on the level and profitable, the House pays their taxes on time, and unlike certain older Houses, has never tried to levee troops from the populations of Cloudburst Sector worlds. The extra income tax the Sector Administratum collects, and the occasional massive burst of spending the House undergoes, more than makes up for the occasional orgy cleanup or tanker truck joyride that an inebriated House scion might leave in their lubricated wake.
The Inquisition, on the other hand, is on the verge of declaring a crackdown on the House. There are a hundred other things the Inquisition would rather do than swat down a riotous Rogue Trader House, like investigate the crash of the Predator or find the source of mutantcy on Crispin. The prospect of assaulting or deeply investigating a very rich family of nobles is both daunting in its probable cost and a probable time sink.
However, the possibility of Slaaneshi corruption of the House must be accounted for. The Inquisition has undertaken preliminary steps to investigate the possibility. So far, this has taken the form of Inquisitorial spies infiltrating the crews of the House ships. The Inquisition has also begun to investigate ties between the House and the firms that bank their money, searching for any sign that there may be financial links between the House and any known Slaaneshi infiltrators.
Rogue Trader House Brasmel
Most Rogue Traders specialize in some way, and this is a good way to carve out a market niche. However, the most successful Rogue Traders at least try to break into multiple markets concurrently, to make a name for themselves and ensure that no one catastrophe can wipe out their holdings. House Brasmel, based on Nauphry IV and ranging forth from its huge orbitals, is one of the rare exceptions. When one says ‘House Brasmel,’ there is only one word that comes to mind: warfare.
The House Brasmel concerns itself nigh-exclusively with prosecuting wars against other human enemies of the Imperium. Heretics, witch cabals, Traitors and Renegades, pirate fleets, Secessionists, other Imperial nobles that have gone rogue, and even occasionally retributive wars by Sector governments against rebel planets; the House Brasmel has fought them all. More than a few members of the Imperial Guard have stated off the record that they think the Warrant of Trade the House holds should be revoked and given to another family, since the House itself barely does any trading.
Indeed, the House Brasmel has committed itself to no more financial transactions and commerce than it needs to support its war goals. This is horribly stunting to its development as a monetary concern, obviously, but it has some benefits. Other Traders with far more money may look down on Brasmel House, but they do so with concern and a kind of awed respect. Brasmel can free itself completely from the desire for money, and its pursuit of the human foes of the Imperium is a grinding nightmare for its targets.
Lord Ayiid Brasmel, the current Warrant holder, is a brutal tyrant of a man, who lurks in the social gatherings he deigns to grace like a combination of vampire and grox, glowering at anybody who approaches and never laughing. He and his father and brothers are all men of killing and triumph, who have stood high atop mountains of corpses and planted the Imperial flag. Notably, most of his family’s actions are against human forces in other Sectors, but he has deployed men in his own home Sector, including on Hapster.
Periodically, the vast body of the Imperium rocks from the spasmodic violence of insurrection from Heretics, Liberals, rebels, or just cultural dissidents. Naturally, police and Arbites presence is enough to quell this most of the time, but when they and even the PDF fail, the Imperium must mobilize proper military assets to constrain the violent. Most of the time, this consists of mobilizing any available Imperial Guard and Scions in the system itself, or calling for some more from offworld if there aren’t enough available on-planet. On some occasions, whole regiments may be raised on more stable worlds to put down the violence. On the rarest of events, even the Adeptus Sororitas or dreaded Adeptus Astartes may get involved.
However, on some occasions, a Planetary Governor or System Overlord doesn’t need much more firepower than they presently have to win a civil war. Sometimes, the world just needs a few hundred thousand more men, or a few thousand tanks, or a few bombers, and that will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Enter House Brasmel, which functions as much as a consultancy firm as it does a band of warriors. Although lacking the immediate military heritage of House Marcus, the House Brasmel has far more collective experience in ground battle, and eschews void war. The House Brasmel offers itself to any System Overlord or Planetary Governor, as a counselor or advisor, or perhaps as a mercenary force. They charge little and offer much, especially for a Rogue Trader organization. The group is more than capable of handling flash mobs, or even small insurrections, without any assistance. In cases of global conflict, the House Brasmel forces can act as a force multiplier for a native militia or Guard force. They can also serve as an elite corps of troops that can be relied on not to break when confronted with long odds, although even Brasmel units don’t fight to the death unless it is absolutely called for.
Precisely why House Brasmel is so thirsty for blood, and why their hate and focus on other humans is so direct, is not clear to many outside the House. Even the Brasmel troops themselves, a group of hundreds of thousands of soldiers tasked to the Brasmel name and recruited from across the Galactic North, are not greatly forthcoming on the issue. They may not know, themselves.
However, the Inquisition’s Ordo Hereticus suspects that the entire issue may well stem from several events in the House’s history. The first few Warrant holders, the records show, were not as destructive, and in fact focused themselves entirely on the recovery of lost ships from Warp anomalies and Space Hulks around the Sector. They did well for themselves and made decent money, and the clearing up of navigational hazards endeared them well to the Chartist Captains’ collective, which is normally ambivalent at best to Rogue Traders. Over time, however, the Family gradually stopped these activities entirely, in favor of their later martial activities. The Inquisitors who have inspected the House’s activity suspect that the House uncovered some terrible secret of ancient Mankind in their collection of derelict ships. Some covert probing by the Inquisition has led the concerned Inquisitors to suspect that the secret concerns the nearby Storm of the Emperor’s Wrath, the massive Warp Storm that ripped the Ecclesiarchal fleet apart during the savage rule of Goge Vandire. While the Inquisitors are yet unable to learn exactly what it is that troubled the old House so, it has clearly been passed along to each new generation of Brasmels, who now rarely do anything but collect the profits from their remaining businesses and spend it on warships and tanks. They do not fight void wars for pay, but use their ships to protect their ground assets.
Their fleet may not be large, but it is obsessively well-maintained, to the extent that they have actually hired Cognomen and Fabique shipyard bosses and Techpriests for the purpose of keeping their ships in perfect fighting trim. Their troopships are also of high quality, and are as fast as they can be made to be. Their dedicated ground forces are more a motley collection of soldiers, however, mostly Officio Munitorum dischargees. The loyalty and reckless devotion of their leaders bleeds into the conduct of the troops, making them fanatically faithful, though not suicidal. The House Brasmel headquarters from the sprawling military fortress Ironpoint on Celeste, which a home for the Warrant holder in the same way that a silo is home for a missile.
Rogue Trader House Crusher
House Crusher is a fixture on Thimble, Cassie’s World, Septiim Secundus, Delving, and all of the other worlds of the Cloudburst Sector that are rapidly expanding their industrial capacity. The House has made a massive amount of money by selling the archaeotechnological discoveries and trade goods of the Circuit in these industrial dynamos, even to the extent of surprising the Adeptus Mechanicus. The House Crusher has pumped untold dozens of billions of Thrones into the economies of these worlds, and it is all due to the ambitions of their ruling family.
The House Crusher are wealthy, expansive, and eager to build. As is often the case, legacy and lineage are important to House Crusher, but they have no restrictions on marriage so long as the wedded-in members of the family swear to place fealty to the House after only the Emperor. Any other concern is tertiary at best, and the House takes this with proper weight.
However, even good breeding and loyalty are second to ambition. House Crusher has not risen to power on the basis of its lack of drive. The money they make, the discoveries they commercialize, and the alliances they forge are all products of a burning will to seize more, more, more.
The House does have a singular Warrant, of course, as every House does, but they do not place any special emphasis on its holder being the sole leader of the House. Rather than have a single House Warrant holder, the Warrant is left in a stasis field in their orbiting palace above Hapster, and instead, the ‘official’ Warrant holder simply casts the final vote in the periodic ballots for the future of the House. For the past eighty years, the ballot has been for expansion, into more markets, more fields, more exploration.
This manifests as frequent explorations of the Cloudburst Circuit, and even the more dangerous Exo-zone. The House has lost ships, and even Crusher family members, in the pursuit of opportunity in the void of space. The House has had far more successes than failures, however. It was the House Crusher that discovered the Abhuman world Crispin, and the world of man/machine hybrids called AHG131 (a point of contention, since Thomas Walsh ordered it destroyed before House Crusher was done robbing it). House Crusher was the force that blazed the trail through the Warp to the Oldlight Exo-zone colony of Misty Step, and funded the arrival of the first six thousand colonists from the Drumnos Hive World of Arquebus.
House Crusher has many small businesses under their thumb, of course, and even a few controlling shares in large corporations on Thimble and Septiim. By far their most profitable venture in that regard is their thirty percent share in the Flaxweave Foundry, which produces the highest quality clothing and outerwear available in the entire Galactic North, even selling to two Astartes Chapters. However, the House’s passion for discovery and new places can’t be sated by sitting behind a desk watching a stock ticker. The House Crusher is always pushing for more, and funds whole convoys of ships and escorts into the deep clouds of the Circuit, seeking glory and treasure.
They occasionally find what they seek. House Crusher has developed a solid reputation as Hulk-finders. Their collection of highly skilled Navigators and Astropaths have meticulously scoured the nearby regions of space for any signs of the thinning of the Immaterium veil that presages the violent exit of a Space Hulk. The House remains one of only three non-transhuman forces in the Sector to have successfully enacted a Hulk capture. The others are House Marcus and the Imperial Navy’s Hulkbreaker squadrons from Cypra Mundi that sometimes dock at Coriolis.
House Crusher has developed very positive relationships with the Adeptus Mechanicus, thanks to decades of extensive trade with the Techpriesthood. They have exchanged starmaps, technologies, refugee populations for projects, and the aforementioned Space Hulks. In return, the Adeptus Mechanicus has rewarded them with mountains of upgrades for their ships, their land-based businesses, and the small space stations the House maintains for their fleet. Mostly, the House prioritizes sensor and augur upgrades, allowing their assets to peer deeper into the darkness. The other upgrades go to their business structures on the worlds that house their legitimate trades. These include cheaper, cleaner energy sources, Forge World-quality fabricators, Techpriests to oversee it all, high-efficiency cogitators, and other things that give an edge of superiority over competing brands.
Perhaps it is because of this positive relationship that the House has been able to make inroads to the Oldlight Exo-zone that the other Rogue Traders of the region rarely do. The Mechanicus has as much interest in looting the ancient knowledge and wealth of the Exo-zone as any other party in the region, and perhaps more. The Oldlight Exo-zone, however, has two distinct risks to it that few other regions do. First, the Exo-zone is almost entirely unmapped. Although it is well known that the forces of the Imperium waged savage wars against the aliens that lived there during the Great Crusade, its territory now is vacant of much Imperial life, thanks to the difficulty in detecting the Astronomican there. The fact that Navigators have such difficulty seeing there makes exploration faster than a snail’s pace rare and hazardous, despite actually being closer to Terra than the Eastern Fringe. The second reason is that of entrenchment by the Imperium’s opponents. Just because the ships of the Imperium rarely travel there doesn’t mean the inhabitants of the Exo-zone are unaware of it. The Imperium of Man has been an active force in the universe for over one hundred twelve centuries; few in the galaxy aren’t aware of it. There are pocket kingdoms of non-Warp capable aliens, human wildcat colonies, Orkholds, and worse that dot the entire Exo-zone, and it would take immense resources to ferret them all out. These are resources the Imperium presently can’t spare.
House Crusher is one of the few forces of the Galactic North that still makes the effort. The House Crusher fleets have even traveled to Deathwatch stations in the region to share knowledge collected on indigenous aliens, albeit rarely. Other Crusher ships scour the few mapped starlanes in the region for any sign of surviving Terran Federation colonies, or their remnants.
However, these expeditions are expensive and take immense time to perform. House Crusher augments their income with other tasks. At times, the House has even accepted privateering contracts from the Segmentum Ultima to assist the Battlefleet Drumnos with their occasional wars against pirate gangs or Freebootaz. These contracts pay well and offer some action, so younger scions of the House are encouraged by their elders to take up the sword for the family’s sake.
Rogue Trader House Howe
The Inquisition is entrusted with oversight of all but one of the branches of Imperial governance and life. Even the Adeptus Arbites are ultimately answerable to the Inquisition, although naturally not often. The obvious exception is the Talon of the Emperor, those martial offices that are part of the Sisters of Silence and Adeptus Custodes, who couldn’t care less about Cloudburst.
Thus, the Inquisitorial authority extends over all of the Sector unimpeded, and a portion of it is currently fixed on Rogue Trader House Howe. The House is presently under active investigation by the Ordos Xenos and Hereticus for all manner of debauchery and crime, with the lead suspect being the imminent Warrant holder and scion of the House, Waldeon Howe. Waldeon is a product of the House’s extensive ties to the Celeste nobility. He is a hedonist and a brute, who despite his obvious intellect simply cannot countenance not being the most powerful person in any given room. He has real talent for business, for battle, and for certain artistic pursuits, but he has no tact or restraint.
Out in the Circuit or Exo-zone, of course, that could be a major advantage, but in the Sector proper, it is a huge liability. The current Warrant holder, Lawrence Howe, is on the verge of death, with his many cybernetics and augmetics on the verge of final failure. He is not fully conscious, and may be wholly oblivious to his grandson’s mania. The Inquisition has given up informing him, since he seems not to respond, and has now focused their efforts on the task of investigating Waldeon’s antics.
So far, they have uncovered strong evidence that at the very least, he is engaging in copious acts of the Cold Trade. The Trade is the traffic of proscribed xeno artifacts to buyers in Imperial space. For centuries, the current Lady Inquisitrix Cloudburst, former Ordo Xenos High Inquisitrix Cassandra Lerica, was the bane of the Cold Trade in the region. She pursued its participants with chilling precision and wrathful zeal. However, since she has had to shift her attention more and more to the affairs of high office and her ad hoc leadership of the Deathwatch overseers, she has had understandably less time to pursue the Trade and its buyers.
Thus, in the absence of the cat, the metaphorical mice play, with freighters occasionally slipping up to a ton of xeno artifacts into the wrong hands. Lerica’s replacement, Lord Inquisitor Hueng, has far bigger concerns, and simply doesn’t care as much about the issue as he does about the Glasians. This doesn’t mean that he devotes no effort nor subordinates to the problem, it is just not his priority.
Meanwhile, the House Howe is getting filthy rich. Unlike other Houses, they do not focus much on a large fleet. Instead, the House has begun to prepare for massive expeditions into the border region between the Cloudburst Circuit and the Oldlight Exo-zone. There is no physical boundary between the two, so it is somewhat nebulous. This is made literal since the area is in fact a giant nebula. There are whispers on Emissicius that there are entire star systems in the border nebula that are just waiting to be plundered, and worlds where ancient Imperial forces under Lion El’Jonson and Leman Russ assaulted the northern holdings of the Rangdan xenoforms.
The Inquisitors tasked to observing House Howe is aware of these rumors, but for now is inclined to let Howe explore the region. If there is nothing to be found, then the House will be weakened, and more vulnerable to Inquisitorial action. If there is, looting it all will take time, and by the time the House Howe forces return, the purge of their ranks may well be over in their home territories, leaving the Howe fleet leaderless for Inquisitorial co-opting.
House Howe is not openly criminal in its actions, however. They do maintain several wholly legitimate manufacturing and printing companies, as well as multiple stolen pirate ships they have stripped and repurposed as freighters. Most of the House’s legitimate income stems from the sale of goods to worlds that are undergoing colonization or terraformation, many of which were discovered or colonized by House Howe ships.
Rogue Trader House Prinz
The House of Lilith Prinz has swelled from a meager handful of ancient destroyers into a starfaring force of nature, in a mere few generations. Unlike the meteoric rise of some of their competitors, the House of Prinz arose from origins that were neither humble nor particularly prideful.
The House Prinz began when Lilith Prinz, a Subsector Overlord of the Nauphry Subsector, was awarded a Warrant of Trade and a single Endeavour Light Cruiser as a means of getting her out of the way. The other Subsector Overlords had been unable to convince the Sector Overlord of the necessity of her removal, thanks to the ties she had to his own office. Thus, they were unable to legally vote her out of office. However, they were able to persuade the Administratum Ultima to award Prinz the Warrant with the clear subtext of their own sabotage of her own ventures in the Subsector if she didn’t take what was offered.
Precisely why the Subsector Overlord was needed out of the picture, history does not record, although Inquisitorial records hint at a public ambition and ruthless disregard for the wellbeing of the Administratum that may supply the answer. However it came about, Prinz accepted the Warrant with ill grace, and took ship to the Circuit.
After forty years of up and down fortunes, victories and losses, Trader Prinz retired and left the Warrant to her grandson, who had similar fortunes. After two more lackluster generations, however, the Warrant fell into the hands of Capsei Prinz, the father of the current Warrant holder. His daughter Madeline, the future Warrant holder, entered the Navy as soon as she was old enough, in preparation for her father’s plan to revitalize the House. Meanwhile, Capsei himself took to the trade with vigor. He spent every scrap of money he could spare on new vessels for his fleet, many of them sub-lightspeed transports and gunboats. He and the rest of the family threw themselves into the business of buying ships and equipment for their low-gravity metallurgical factories and other legitimate businesses in the Celeste system.
Meanwhile, Madeline was rising through the ranks. Although some of her initial postings were quite easy, thanks to her superiors being unwilling to put somebody of such a pedigree in a position of risk or danger, she still managed to climb through the pay scales of the Imperial Navy, eventually becoming a Lieutenant Commander in a squadron of Escorts. When her father began to consolidate his increasingly large and unwieldy fleet into a single cohesive force, Madeline started unsubtly pointing her own ambitions towards command. After a few years of carefully positioning herself in points of prominence in the flotilla, she was eventually given command over one of the Escorts.
As she did so, her father’s plan to make the Prinz fleet the pre-eminent force under arms in the region advanced. The House Prinz fleet based from Celeste, which is not a place lacking in defenses or in orbital security. Thus, the large flotilla of non-Warp ships the Prinz family has amassed are rarely used for anything other than simple patrols. However, the system has come under threat by the occasional Ork or pirate in the past. The Prinz fleet offered itself as contract security for the system, which would allow the Sector and Subsector fleets to focus their construction efforts on Warp ships to defend the rest of their territory. Thus, the Prinz fleet was able to ingratiate itself with the Sector command.
After several years of hard work, of defending the Sector from pirates and other miscreants, Madeline Prinz was appointed to Captaincy in the Battlefleet Cloudburst to command a squadron of three Escorts. At that point, however, whatever long-term plan she and her father had been working on collapsed, with his sudden death from overwhelming embolism.
Prinz promptly handed in her commission and returned to Celeste to command the House assets directly. The schemes she and her family had been working on may well be in play in some form or another, but for now, the House Prinz assets are spread thin. Although the family’s flotilla of non-Warp capable defense vessels for hire in the Celeste system are still dutifully puttering away on patrol to protect the Sector Capital and other spots in the region, the majority of House Prinz is on a war footing.
In the forty-seven years since the Prinz family Warrant passed to Madeline, she has been obsessively expanding her fleet, even in direct competition with other Rogue Traders. To the consternation of other Houses, she has even entered into a rivalry of sorts with Lord Captain Inquisitor G. Thomas Walsh, whom she delights in stymieing at every chance she can get. House Prinz now owns the largest fleet by helm count in the Sector not under Imperial Navy control.
Rogue Trader House Walsh
The House Walsh is not one of the old Houses of the Sector, by the scale of the Sector’s relative youth. However, it is a glorious one, one entrusted with high honors by the Imperium, and one that seems marked for success by the Emperor Himself.
The House gained a Warrant through a combination of gallantry and quick thinking, after a series of disastrous setbacks by the Imperial Officio Munitorum. The Imperial Luna Cruiser Triedes Fists suffered barratry when its officers betrayed the Captain and Chaplain, killing both, and declaring for a pirate fleet operating in the Drumnos Sector. The crew and midshipmen fought back, led by Erlin Walsh. The Sergeant at Arms led the ship’s enlisted men in driving back the barrateering officers and seized the bridge and engine room. When the pirate ship on the way to provide a relief crew realized the Imperium still had control of the ship, it fired on the Triedes Fists. The vessel fought back and managed to drive the pirates away.
The Sergeant at Arms was promptly promoted to the ship’s Second Officer position after a replacement Captain and XO were flown in from Celeste. Erlin Walsh went on to have a sterling and exemplary career in the Navy, which eventually culminated in a Warrant of Trade from the Sector Administratum in exchange for the discovery of two inhabitable systems in the Cloudburst Circuit.
After a few centuries of gradual expansion of the Walsh business empire, the family’s fortunes received a shot in the arm after their discovery of a great cache of archaeoweapons in the ruins of a human colony at the very outer edges of the Oldlight Exo-zone. The House Walsh rose to greatness one generation later when the brilliant logistician Torotino Walsh successfully funded, transported, and defended an entire Administratum outpost in the Cloudburst Circuit, by himself, with nothing but the promise of remuneration for his efforts. When he eventually was paid, he used the immense payment to purchase the Battlecruiser Law of the Gun.
However, the roots of the current ties between the House and the Imperial government began one generation later. The Ork Empire of Greenfisk Orghlahk in the Oldlight Exo-zone abruptly expanded its borders, capturing a small independent human empire with which it had previously skirmished. The Orkhold, over twenty-eight lightyears beyond the edge of the Imperium, was shrouded to the Imperium’s eyes, thanks to its location being blocked from the light of the Astronomican by intervening Warp Storms.
The Ecclesiarchy found out about this annexation thanks to the abrupt pleas for help from its covert Missionary force in the small human pocket kingdom. The Ecclesiarchy of the Drumnos and Cloudburst Sectors all but begged the Administratum of those two Sectors to pool their resources and take the fight to the greenskins. There was much to gain, they argued. It would be an economic boost to the region; it could allow for millions of human souls (even non-Imperial ones) to be saved from the grip of the alien, and it would allow for the Imperium to more carefully map the darkness.
Eventually, after much badgering and hectoring, the Greenfisk Expurgation Task Force assembled in the Drumnos Forge World of Syracuse. To the manifest surprise of both the Ecclesiarchal and Officio Munitorum personnel there assembled, it was Donnatella Walsh that was selected as the leader of the Task Force, by virtue of her decades of hard work leading the Walsh fleet into the void in search of plunder and glory. She had spent that time mapping the Oldlight Exo-zone, fighting aliens for scraps of wealth and knowledge, and commanding a large and disparate fleet under her House’s banner, even before inheriting her Warrant.
Despite the reservations the other personnel of the Task Force held towards serving under a Rogue Trader, especially one that spent little time being a ‘normal’ Imperial noble, the Task Force assembly proceeded. When its full strength mustered, the Force included over a hundred ships, many of them from the Rogue Trader Houses Rowsdower and Walsh. The Force also included over four hundred thousand mercenaries and one million Imperial Guard, as well as the Household Troops of six noble Houses, and three thousand Skitarii to protect the Syracuse Battle Robots.
When the force of humanity set out into the void, they arrived at their first navigational checkpoint to collect more reinforcements: six squads of Blue Daggers, led by future Company Captain Savoir. They were joined by fifty thousand Frateris Militia and eighty thousand House Joun-Lee mercenaries, as well as more ships from House Walsh itself. After another four months of slow, arduous flight into the Oldlight Exo-zone, the flotilla arrived in the system the Orks had claimed as their own.
Donnatella Walsh did not panic as a swarm of Ork small vessels swarmed around the flotilla. Instead, she rallied her escorts and struck out with a lash formation, breaking the Ork fighter swarms and clearing a path to the planets at the heart of the system.
The next half a year of fighting broke the Ork forces in space and on the ground, thanks in part to Walsh’s brilliant leadership and tactical skills. However, it was her actions at the end of the campaign that sealed her reputation as one of the most dangerous people in the Cloudburst region. After the Orks had all but broken between the combined forces of the Imperial and local human forces, the Rogue Trader gathered a few select ships and flew to the center of the Ork empire. The Orkhold hung in space like a wart, and its remaining defenders dispatched their own ships to repel what they assumed was an Imperial retaliatory effort. It was not. Walsh, under the instruction of the Inquisition, unleashed a cyclonic torpedo barrage against the planet. Its biosphere cooked, its crust dropped into its mantle, and its fault lines imploded, as a final warning to the Orks.
Upon returning to the system where the Task Force was busily mopping up the last of the Orks, Walsh calmly informed the rest of the Task Force of her actions, and presented an ominous warning to the shocked local humans. They were too far from the Imperium to join it thanks to the lack of the Astronomican visibility, but they could and would worship the Emperor and pay a reasonable tithe to Terra, or face her wrath.
The House Walsh today makes its fortune from the immense exploratory efforts of the House, as well as the mysterious missions and efforts of the Lord G. Thomas Walsh in his Inquisitorial duties in the Cloudburst Circuit. His actions there are unusual by the standards of a normal Rogue Trader, since they concern themselves so much with policing the behavior of other Rogue Traders and Imperials in the Circuit. However, the Inquisition has clearly vested immense trust in him, since he is permitted to profit from his actions, which normal Inquisitors are not.