“You entered into the agreement freely and benefited greatly from doing so. I strongly advise you not to renege on it now, no matter if you think you no longer need us, no matter how powerful you think you have become. The consequences of disappointing our Principal in this matter would be…appallingly unfortunate... Please believe me. I know.”

—Captain Alicia D’antess, Amaranthine Agent

The Amaranthine Syndicate is a new threat rising on the Trailing/Coreward Border region of the Calixis Sector and one whose influence is quickly spreading from the troubled worlds of Hazeroth to the Josian Reach. It has even begun to brush at the edge of the hive worlds at the sector’s core. The trade cartel known as the Amaranthine Syndicate outwardly appears to be a loose confederation of trader-captains, void clans, and outpost colony merchants, but has roused the suspicions of some with evidence of involvement in unlawful trades, smuggling, and backing trade wars. In recent years, individuals linked to the group have been the subject of capture and destruction by the Arbites and Navy, and several Syndicate vessels have been found in possession of forbidden xenos artefacts. Some have even been implicated in pirate attacks, horrific massacres on isolated outposts, slaver raids, and other atrocities. In each case, the Syndicate has disowned those involved and covered its tracks well, but the suspicions of some within the Ordo Xenos have been roused.

Inquisitorial involvement with the Amaranthine Syndicate is a new one and so far only superficial investigations have been carried out. However, suspicion is growing that the Syndicate may have been infiltrated or is being secretly controlled by a xenos force or agency from beyond the sector’s borders.

What the Ordo Xenos does not know is that the Amaranthine Syndicate is merely the tip of a deadly iceberg that could spell doom for the entire Calixis Sector. The Syndicate represents a concerted conspiracy to infiltrate and corrupt the Imperium by a terrifying xenos species known as the Slaugth. These baleful creatures epitomize everything that mankind has come to hate and fear about the alien; they are horrific, implacable beings with frightening powers and nightmare science. To them, mankind’s only use is as cattle to be farmed and slaughtered to feed their depraved hunger.

The Syndicate by ReputationEdit

The Amaranthine Syndicate appears, to outside observation, to be nothing more than an up-and-coming cartel of interstellar traders, minor merchant houses, and void born families who have successfully banded together over the last few years to improve their lot in a region notoriously difficult and dangerous to operate in. The Syndicate’s reputation has yet to spread much beyond the Hazeroth Abyss and its nearby stars. However, its rise has been noted by the economic powers of the sector who, though long established, always keep an eye on potential rivals and commercial shifts. As far as most of the emissaries and notaries of the great trade houses, Chartist Captains, and sector grandees are concerned, the Syndicate offers little threat or challenge economically as it is simply too small a group and founded on too precarious a footing to be worthy of being considered a potential rival.

Those that have encountered the Syndicate in action, however, might offer a different opinion. It has proven itself efficient, well-resourced, and ruthless in its operations, as many who have crossed it have found out to their regret. Many independent interests, criminal groups, and even local governments where the Syndicate has taken hold are starting to view it with growing disquiet and some suspicion, as are some within the Adeptus Arbites and Battlefleet Calixis, although the voices of concern in those last two organizations are still relatively few so far.

The suspicions that surround the Syndicate are linked primarily with travel to prohibited areas outside of the Imperium, the trade in illegal xenos artefacts, and piracy. While none of these conjectures is without merit (or entirely uncommon or unexpected for that matter), many who have had dealings with the Syndicate believe something even darker lurks behind its façade. Whatever that darkness may be, it is something most cannot identify but fills even the usually hardened voider families, commonplace smugglers, and dockside gangs with deep unease.

Apart from its more sinister dealings, the Amaranthine Syndicate operates exactly as one might expect of any successful trade cartel. It is made up of a diverse group of private commercial interests that trade between the worlds on the Calixis Sector’s Trailing border and has recently made inroads into the more established areas of the Josian Reach, as well as the northern edge of the Ixaniad Sector. The Syndicate’s membership includes independent free-trader captains and local void born clans, as well as planet-based merchant houses, trade guilds, prospectors, petty nobles, and the like. While these members continue to operate largely independently, the Syndicate acts on their behalf to cement trade agreements, negotiate settlements, and quell discord between its members.

It also works to control markets and prices, massing its power against competition, rivals, or outside threat. The Syndicate’s ruling body, known within the organization as the “Principals,” also provides resources, financing, and armed force and punitive measures at its members’ request. These Principals demand that members give them a (surprisingly moderate) cut of their profits, that potentially useful information be reported back to them, and that when they do make a direct request of their members, it is carried out promptly, expediently, and without question.

In terms of structure, the Syndicate follows a simple pyramid layout. The largest, lowest tier of the pyramid is the Syndicate’s production base and markets---local planet-bound individuals, such as nobles, guild bosses, traders, prospectors, specialist artisans, and the like. These individuals might be quite powerful locally and control large bodies of men and material; indeed, their own organizations might know nothing of the master’s affiliation to the Syndicate. The middle tier is composed of the Syndicate’s agents and a number of groups with direct Syndicate affiliation. This tier is primarily made up of starship trader captains, their crews, and associated void born clans. However, it also includes a number of mercenary groups and a small dedicated body of scribes, emissaries, and logisters who negotiate for the Syndicate in more formal settings as a legitimate trade body. This tier of operation also incorporates a less legitimate “shadow” made up of smugglers, outlaws, hereteks, and assassins who also serve the Syndicate.

The upper tier controls the Syndicate. It is composed of the Principals---a rarely encountered group who deliberately hide behind layers of secrecy. Outsiders and many within the organization believe that the Principals are simply taking prudent means to protect themselves. Some believe they may be powers already present within the sector (such as a great house who wishes to keep its involvement under cover) or one or more Rogue Traders seeking to expand their power within the Imperium’s bounds. Others believe the Principals are renegades from outside the Imperium---pirates, noncompliants, and outlaws---and that the Syndicate is backed by blood money taken in raids and destroyed shipping. This would be bad enough, but the truth is far worse.

A Black Market IndeedEdit

The illegal operations of the Amaranthine Syndicate operate in tandem with its more legitimate trading interests and are centered on intersystem smuggling operations. They deal primarily in illicit drugs, stolen items, controlled technologies, arms, and other black market goods, and in the worlds bordering the Hazeroth abyss, the Syndicate has quickly come to displace other organized smuggler gangs, being the first to challenge the domination of the Cold Guild in generations. It has been utterly merciless in crushing any organized opposition against it and the Syndicate will readily utilize targeted assassination and mercenary kill teams in order to employ a strategy of divide and conquer---backing one local criminal or mercantile faction against another.

The Syndicate is also careful to leave petty gangs and local independents largely untouched, using their activities to mask the Syndicate’s own and providing convenient scapegoats for the authorities. For those with the wealth or connections, the Syndicate has other goods and services to offer. Its agents deal in forbidden xenotech, artefacts, and other trinkets from beyond the Imperium’s border. The Syndicate can also do more, much more, for the right buyer; it can arrange to have enemies permanently “vanished,” provide clients with vast sums of financial backing, and arrange for shipping (or even whole outposts) to disappear without trace. However, the price for such services is total loyalty to the Syndicate and its often strange requests.

The Devil’s BargainEdit

The Amaranthine Syndicate first appears as a friend to those in need, offering a lifeline to those so desperate that they do not care who saves them and for those for whom the need outweighs good sense or caution. Once a suitable target has been identified, a Syndicate emissary will make the approach, and the deal offered will always seem more than generous, designed to alleviate the subject’s immediate problems.

However, as time progresses the Syndicate will secretly contrive to increase its target’s dependency on it by setting the target’s enemies against him, blocking other forms of help, and creating “accidents” or adverse turns of events. This forces its targets to repeatedly take the easy way out and ask for the Syndicate’s help until the target is so heavily embroiled there is no way out. It is at this final stage that the subject (if he is particularly unfortunate) will be introduced personally to one of the Principals, leaving him in no doubt as to just what kind of bargain he has entered into and the consequences of betraying his new-found allies.

The Principals’ demands may at first seem trivial or bizarre; that a commodity price is raised fractionally, seemingly random personnel reassigned, a report misfiled, or a book in a private library burned for example. Over time, these demands change, becoming truly dreadful---relief shipments to outlying worlds redirected away from planets in need, medical supplies tainted at the source, a blind eye turned to pending disaster, or even hundreds of colonists betrayed in order to stock the Slaugth larder.

The Dark DesignEdit

The ultimate power behind the works of the Amaranthine Syndicate is a covenant of xenos known as the Slaugth. The Slaugth are an ageless and patient race, and their plans and schemes are tangled and largely incomprehensible to the human mind. However, they share one motivation that humans can understand, that of an addictive hunger. To feed this hunger, the Slaugth have undertaken to destabilize the Calixis Sector in order to see it unravel in civil war, anarchy, and terror so that they might feed on the fractious masses of mankind with little or no opposition.

To this end they infiltrated the Amaranthine Syndicate when it was a fledging trade cartel, overcoming all opposition until they controlled it completely. The Syndicate is their pawn in a wider game that may take generations of human lives to see fruition. Their plan is elegant in its simplicity. The Slaugth understand mankind very well. Their weapons are human greed and desire, and their plan is to effectively destroy humanity by giving it what it wants---wealth, power, weapons, drugs, and forbidden trinkets---and watch as humanity tears itself apart as a consequence. At the same time, they are using their “gifts” to further infiltrate not only the criminal underworlds and economic structures of the sector, but also its nobility and government. Certainly the Ecclesiarchy, Munitorum, and Administratum are likely targets. If their plan sees its apotheosis, then when the time is right, the Slaugth will turn the key on their operations---eaten away from within, utterly compromised and eroded, the Calixis Sector will collapse in on itself in fire and chaos. In the ruins of once mighty Calixis, the Slaugth will have their way, and the survivors will doubtless envy the dead.

Inquisitorial Threat Briefing Edit

As far as the Ordo Xenos is concerned, the Amaranthine Syndicate, or possibly a faction within it, is under suspicion of the organized trafficking in proscribed xenos artefacts and perhaps more seriously of extensive links with renegades and pirates operating in the Hazeroth Abyss region. As a result, several Inquisitors (with the support and notice of Battlefleet Calixis’s Hazeroth patrol squadrons) have begun to undertake the tracking and investigation of suspect individuals and craft connected to the Syndicate. To date, the results remain inconclusive, although several smuggling rings and individual xeno-heretics have been successfully prosecuted as a result of the Ordo Xenos’s investigations. The matter is ongoing, and the Amaranthine Syndicate remains under covert surveillance and Inquisitorial suspicion. However, preliminary reports indicate that no wider conspiracy or xenos-taint exists beyond such localized corruption.

Only one organization within the Inquisition knows the truth behind the Amaranthine Syndicate, but they themselves are no ally of the Calixian Conclave, having long ago been decalred excommunicate traitoris: the radical Phaenonites. Having established themselves in the Hazeroth Abyss, they began to infiltrate the Syndicate only to discover the terrible secret lurking within. Rather than fight a war against a power whose nature and extent they did not fully understand the Phaenonites are now giving the Syndicate a wide birth where they can until they can find out more.

Against the ArbitesEdit

If the Arbites knew of the true nature and extent of the corruption that the Amaranthine Syndicate is injecting into the heart of the Calixis Sector there would be no delay and no mercy. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the name could expect to find themselves barb-cuffed to a rail in the Chasteners’ dungeons in short order. So far, however, the Syndicate’s foul masters have not only been able to keep their nature hidden, but have had the audacity to add the Arbites to their growing list of resources and puppets.

The Arbites have only once knowingly prosecuted an Amaranthine Syndicate operation. A number of times they have rolled up a criminal network that answered to the Syndicate---the Vidian’s Children sub-cult that had infiltrated half a dozen Planetary Defense Forces in the Drusus Marches, the cruel reign of the self-styled Underlord Hurango and his string of notorious slave-farm stations, and the vicious campaign against the bribe-broker rings in the fanes of Gunmetal City on Scintilla itself. No clue ever reached the investigators that it was the ruthless squeezing of the Amaranthine Syndicate that forced these enterprises into the recklessness that left them exposed and vulnerable. If any Detectives across the sector have noticed that routine attempts to place informants in this new Syndicate’s ranks invariably cost them said informant, then to date it has only been recorded as an oddity, a slight upward blip in attrition statistics in a field of operations known for its high turnover.

The Slaugth, however, are extremely aware of the Arbites, and in the Precinct of Canopus they have scored a great success in their early moves against them. The Commander of Court there, Senior Arbitrator Reig Reigssen, a direct appointee of Lord Marshal Goreman, has fallen into dereliction of duty and borderline criminality through the outlawed doctrine of Abstractionism. Reigssen’s attempts to purge his Chamber of Judges, both from general prejudice and from their efforts to reign in his excesses with the codes of law, put many of the Precinct’s Judges in fear for their lives and the Chamber took the astonishing step of relocating itself out of the Precinct Fortress, commandeering an accretion-mining station in the system’s outer dust belts. With Arbites throughout the Precinct openly moving to take sides, Amaranthine agents managed to persuade the already-compromised Arbitor Reigssen to accept illegal help in saving himself from the retribution that would follow once reports of his crimes left the system, and caused the spectacular destruction of the station through wanton sabotage.

Reigssen knows how the station was destroyed, and is terrified that some of its Judges might have survived. The Syndicate is exploiting this, offering him more and more support, eliminating other Arbites whom his paranoia paints as possible informers, helping him hide his crimes and shore up his command so that all within the system appears in order. Reigssen sees no immediate way out of his involvement with the Syndicate, but is past the point where he can rationalize his deeds away using Abstractionist platitudes. He knows that the Syndicate knows the value of such a powerful agent; he does not know what depths his new masters will eventually push him to.

For its part, the Syndicate is delighted at the opportunities that a single weak link has brought it, and, with Reigssen’s reluctant help, they are starting to sniff out similar opportunities in the surrounding systems. Their fondest hope is that Reigssen will be rotated to a more central position where he will be of even more use to them---the High Precinct command at Solomon would be splendid, a position at Scintilla better still.

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