“I will have worlds named for me, one day!”
–Lucin Rufinius, former Commander of Port Wander
Deep within the area of the Koronus Expanse called Winterscale’s Realm is a frozen world which, were it not for the resources found upon its surface, no one would pay any heed. Lucin’s Breath is a planet covered in methite-rich snow and other types of crystallized gas. However, there is one resource on this dirty ball of ice that can be found here in great abundance, and it has Rogue Traders not only willing to kill for it, but to wage wars. This resource, pure nephium, is sought out by the tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus for its unique properties. It is something that they value highly, and they are willing to reward those who deliver it handsomely.
Discovered by Sebastian Winterscale in 258.M41, Lucin’s Breath was named to mock Commander Lucin Rufinius of Port Wander---an incompetent wretch who was posted there to ensure he would never wield any real power. Nevertheless, Rufinius boasted he would become so famous that his name would adorn worlds across the Expanse. So disgusted by Rufinius was Sebastian that he felt the name was appropriate for one so cold and out of touch with the rest of the Imperium. The world of Lucin’s Breath was once home to a xenos race who fashioned cities from the rock and frozen gasses using sophisticated and unknown technology. They were able to bore into the surface of the world and create warrens and tunnels that now stand empty, dark and cold as the void itself.
Why the aliens chose to build their cities around the bubbling and oozing pits of slushy tar-like nephium is a mystery. There’s no obvious technology left behind, although the severe cold eventually makes all metals brittle, and any material not specifically designed to operate within the deep voids eventually crumbles and becomes totally useless. If this is what happened to the remains the xenos left behind, none can say.
Surviving Lucin's BreathEdit
Lucin’s Breath is an extremely hostile world to human existence. The planet’s atmosphere is thin to the point of uselessness---although if someone attempted to breath it their lungs might well freeze before they suffocated. The following heavy-duty environmental gear is a must if one wishes to walk on the planet’s surface:
- Some form of rebreather with air canister.
- Survival suit, sealed and heated carapace armor, power armor, or a void suit.
If an individual does not have the rebreather, he suffers suffocation. If an individual does not have the proper clothing (but still has warm clothing such as a cloak or coat), he can survive on the surface for a number of minutes equal his Toughness Bonus, at which point he must make a Difficult (–10) Toughness Test or suffer one level of Fatigue. After another amount of minutes equal to his Toughness Bonus, he must repeat this test---this continues until the individual either finds shelter or goes unconscious, at which point he dies in 1d10 minutes. If the individual does not have any sort of warm clothing, the time becomes a number of Rounds equal to his Toughness Bonus, rather than minutes.
Gear and Supplies
The extreme cold also has an effect on weapons, sapping energy and causing components to warp, degrade, and deform. Unless specially adapted for cold operations with wire heaters and the like, weapons can suffer these effects from prolonged cold exposure (at least a day or more). Las weapons reduce their clip size to half normal as the cold drains their charge packs. Flame weapons jam on a damage roll of 7 or higher, rather than a 9, as feed tubes freeze over. Finally, any weapon that fires projectiles gains the Unreliable Trait. Plasma and melta weapons are unaffected by the cold.
Melee weapons are also effected by the extreme cold. Chain, Shock, and Power weapons reduce the damage they deal by 1, as charge packs falter and gears freeze up.
No one knows for certain what happened to the lost xenos race that dwelled upon this world. Yet, if the destruction wrought upon the walls of their cities is any indication, they may have been on the losing side of a great war. What their fate was afterwards can only be guessed at.
Scattered across the surface of this frozen world are numerous clusters of xenos-made structures as what can only be called cities, formed from the very gas-impregnated ice and snow that covers this world and anchored deeply into the bedrock. Somehow, the xenos race that existed long before the coming of man were able to fashion the ice and snow into a transparent material that is far stronger than ceramite or any other material found within the Imperium. No one knows how they were able to achieve this, yet the cities are (or rather were) breathtaking in their beauty and design. Beneath these icy cities are warrens of frozen tunnels cut by mysterious drills into the rock.
Each city is clustered around a sinkhole where the bubbling pools of nephium can be found. The wind-smoothed edges of the cities’ shattered walls are the only hint of what became of the lost xenos civilization that once thrived here. It is whispered by those who are indentured to toil and sweat within these dead buildings that the structures should be shunned and feared; on certain nights when the planet’s single pale moon shines down on these places and beneath the light of certain stars, strange and thin shapes can be seen within the pearlescent walls---writhing shadows trapped within for all eternity.
Shadows in the NightEdit
For the better part of a century, stories have filtered back to the seedy taverns, bars, and underworld of the Calixis Sector that Lucin’s Breath is a cursed world. Workers who manage to complete their contracts with their patron Rogue Traders and cartels (and those who spend any appreciable amount of time on the world) speak about the strange writhing shadows that can be seen moving within the glassy walls of the crumbling xenos ruins. The stories say that the shadows appear as wraiths that undulate and flow with a humanoid appearance. Others state that the shadows sometimes appear in the form of other, far stranger shapes that have no human attributes at all. None of the shadows appear consistently, and only seem to appear when the planet’s single moon passes overhead---reflecting the pale white light from the system’s star.
What these shadows are or why they constantly appear is totally unknown; most do not investigate the matter as long as the precious nephium shipments continue uninterrupted. While they seem to be nothing more than moving patterns in the icy material of the walls (which some attest to either the light of the moon or the influence of various mind-altering chemicals employed by the mining prods), they can be quite unsettling. Recently, however, rumors have emerged from Aspyce Chorda’s camp that workers have been going missing. No one knows what happens to them, and there are no signs left behind of their passing. Even the various gang-bosses are at a loss to explain how able-bodied workers simply vanish from sealed camps without a trace.
Nephium is a highly flammable substance that has a number of useful and unusual properties. While its most common use is as an additive greatly enhancing promethium, nephium has other properties that are little understood by the techno-magi of the Adeptus Mechanicus. For one thing, nephium reacts violently to organic tissues—to touch unrefined nephium with bare skin usually results in eventual, painful death.
On Lucin’s Breath, the greenish-black, tar-like nephium is staggeringly pure. The entire planet is dotted with sinkholes where the goo seeps to the surface. These sinkholes lead into the depths of the planet and are thought to be a product of the world’s unstable mantle. Why nephium is so prevalent on this world is anyone’s guess, and if there’s any correlation between the abundance of the semi-solid material and the shattered cities of the missing xenos civilization, no one has yet found it.
These days, the nephium is available for the taking by any who are prepared to risk the lethal cold, toxic environment, tremors, bandits, and Rogue Traders who have already staked claims on the world. However, only those with the resources to protect their claims can truly hold on to them. Sinkholes are mostly found within the city ruins. Most of them are now lost beneath tracts of vast Imperial machinery, thermally shielded habconstructs, and gargantuan storage tanks. These sites are often surrounded by a miasma of sickly smog, pollution fumes and wastes produced by the mining and extraction processes of the cold-wracked machine plants. The equatorial regions of Lucin’s Breath are scattered with the frozen ruins of miscellaneous construction machines and storage tanks that were either abandoned or destroyed during the Claimant Wars of 785.M41.
The most productive of the nephium mining operations are those sinkholes that have been capped with the prefabricated standard template extraction vaults, which are heated by oversized plasma generators, and have been dropped into place from orbit by the Rogue Trader Aspyce Chorda. The various systems and extractors are worked mainly by captured pirates, renegades, and servants of rival claimants to the wealth of this world.
Places of InterestEdit
Scattered across the surface, and beneath the crust itself, are numerous sites of interest to intrepid Explorers. The very environment of Lucin’s Breath is inimical to human life. The temperatures are so low that an unprotected human will freeze solid in moments, and the very air condenses and falls as snow. Amid this frozen hell, small squads of House Troops fight near-constant shadow wars for the rich sinkholes and nephium pits, in clear violation of the Nephium Compact.
Mining heads are scattered across the surface of Lucin’s Breath, from pole to pole. The mines are controlled by a number of different interests, though the majority are under the authority of Calligos Winterscale or Aspyce Chorda. Each mine head is different, depending on the resources available to construct it. However, they all follow the same general pattern. The capping head itself is usually a vast steel or adamantium dome that encases the sinkhole and allows the workers to operate machinery at something approaching a habitable environment. Vast filtration pumps within the cap slowly siphon the viscous ooze, draw off impurities, and store the raw nephium in outer stowage tanks.
Partially buried airtight walkways connect the caps to miner habs, workshops, and genatoria facilities. The mines also have landing pads for tanker shuttles, and—inevitably due to the Claimant Wars—weapon emplacements and airtight bunkers. The average mine head may have as few as thirty crew members, or as many as several hundred, depending on the size of the sinkhole and the strength of the defenses.
Beyond these similarities, however, every mine head is different. The mines controlled by Calligos Winterscale are ancient, sprawling complexes, some centuries old. Over the years the miners built additional ramshackle constructions and expansions, until the original mine buildings are all but indistinguishable from the later construction. Some have even turned into small communities of rough miners and their families.
By contrast, Chorda’s mines are STC extraction vaults, dropped from orbit onto promising sinkholes, and are a model of grim efficiency. However, a visitor will notice they have no sealed hanger bays, just landing pads for tanker shuttles. Chorda is in the habit of putting her captured prisoners and slaves to work at the mine-heads, and they are dropped from orbit with the vaults. There is no way to leave one of her mines—new “recruits” and supplies are thrown from the tanker shuttles, where their only hope is to reach one of the vault’s airlocks before they freeze. If a mine crew doesn’t produce, Chorda can shut off the vault’s plasma generator, condemning them to a slow and very cold death.
Victory Station is an orbital refinery-station/military depot constructed several centuries ago by the Winterscale dynasty, and now controlled by Calligos Winterscale. It is an old station, heavily armoured and battle-scarred from countless conflicts, in geosynchronous orbit over the nephium fields controlled by Calligos.
Victory station is a heavily modified Chasm class voidstation, a ring construction roughly as large as a cruiser. It has a small population for its size—only 20,000 souls. These unfortunates maintain the leaky and deteriorating structure, harvest foodstuffs from the starch-vats and protein pits, and supply it to Winterscale’s mines on the planet’s surface. In turn, they receive a steady stream of raw nephium from those mines, which is refined and stored, waiting for dynasty transports.
Victory is a cheerless place, its population ground down by the unending work and the constant threat that a leak or refinery malfunction could ignite the pure nephium and incinerate the entire station. However, the station does have several ship-berths capable of void-ship repairs, and the station also sells supplies at inflated prices. This is enough to entice some ships to visit, though they must deal with Winterscale or his intermediaries to obtain a safe-route through the thick minefield that protects the station. Once aboard, any dealings go through Dom Daruos, Victory Station’s tight-fisted and overworked chief foreman.
The Skull Pit
The “Skull Pit” (so dubbed by the local miners, indentured workers and visiting Rogue Traders of Lucin’s Breath) is all that remains of a once successful nephium extraction operation run by Aspyce Chorda. The facility itself was once home to over three hundred indentured slaves, convicts, and captured raiders who were put to work under the guns of the infamous Rogue Trader.
Roughly two years ago, in 814.M41, all contact with the site ceased. It was thought that the severe cold was playing havoc with the comm arrays, but when the tech-crew dispatched to investigate arrived, they found the entire facility empty of workers save for one man, Valsetto Haine, a former raider commander who was captured and put to work in exchange for his life. The entire hab was littered with clothing, tools and other evidence of a routine workday. There were no signs of a struggle; they had simply vanished. Half-eaten food cooled on tables; bunks looked recently slept-in. The only thing they could get from Valsetto, who was completely mad, were the words “touch the pool... touch the pool...” over and over again.
When investigators checked the nephium sinkhole and its pool of ooze, they found a horrific scene: polished white skulls arranged around the perimeter of the sinkhole, all turned away from the pool with their empty eye sockets staring back at those who approached. Valsetto was charged with the deaths of all the occupants of the site and executed for his crimes. What really happened to the other miners is anyone’s guess, but no one has tried to reclaim the cursed sinkhole, nor have they made any attempts to remove the skulls that ring the nephium pool—skulls that match the exact number of missing workers assigned to the facility... minus one.
When the most recent Claimant War began, both Chorda and Winterscale brought massive military assets to bear against one another. The site of one of the largest clashes in that war is now the largest junkyard on the planet. Simply called “the Wrecks,” this area near the lower equatorial region is home to hundreds of wrecked and ruined mining vehicles, troop transports, aircraft, and more. All of them are covered in centimeters of methane ice and snow, scavenged over and over in the years that following the great battle.
A small group of nomadic scavengers, called Shrivs by the locals, crawl over the frozen metal beasts like parasites, removing anything of value from them and then selling them back to the respective Rogue Traders or their agents. The Shrivs and the Wrecks can prove a valuable resource for a Rogue Trader and his crew, although getting in touch with them can prove problematic. Neither of the factions that controls Lucin’s Breath appreciate a third faction living off their losses, and both occasionally send purge-teams into the Wrecks to hunt down the nomads. In turn, the Shrivs have begun relying on representatives who live in Victory Station or amongst Chorda’s mining encampments. These representatives remain anonymous, but approach those looking for supplies or items with an offer to meet their demands. If interested, they are supplied with a vox-frequency to arrange a meeting with the Shrivs. Though the items they can provide are not particularly rare or exotic, the Shrivs know their bargaining position is weak and do not ask much in return.
The Shrivs can provide items with a rarity of Average or lower, and all Acquisition Tests made to obtain items through them gain a +5 bonus due to the Shriv’s discount. If the GM wishes, he can have the Shrivs provide rarer items, though in those cases, the Shrivs might ask more in return.
The Claimant WarsEdit
“It’s a cold, icy, dirty little world, and once I rid myself of that troublesome wench Chorda, I’ll wipe it clean of the vermin infesting it and put House Winterscale back in control... where it belongs!”
–Calligos Winterscale, on Lucin’s Breath
Not only is pure nephium a valuable resource, it’s also the key to gaining the favor of many forge worlds within the nearby Calixis Sector and elsewhere. The tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus value nephium not only for its efficacy as a fuel additive, but also for the other properties it exhibits. From the time the world was claimed by Sebastian Winterscale, his Dynasty enjoyed unrivalled control of this world and the prestigious and lucrative trade that went with it. For centuries, House Winterscale had been able to hold their claim to Lucin’s Breath because of the power they possess. Recently, however, Aspyce Chorda challenged House Winterscale’s claim to this world by simply invading it. Because Lady Chorda possessed the resources and power to hold on to the territory she claimed, there was little House Winterscale could legally do.
Thus, the result of Chorda’s invasion was a series of Claimant Wars fought for total possession of this world. These wars have been highly lucrative to Rogue Traders outside of this conflict, as they have been able to negotiate contracts transporting and guarding the precious nephium shipments for both sides of the war.
The most recent of these bloody and vicious battles was fought between the forces of Calligos Winterscale, the current head of House Winterscale, and the Rogue Trader Aspyce Chorda in 785.M41. This was thought to be the bloodiest Claimant War fought to date, with countless dead on both sides and tonnes of machines lost; scattered across the great equatorial region of the planet.
As the Claimant War continued and lives and resources were expended in the process, the flow of nephium was brought to a virtual stand-still. Eventually, after reaching a stalemate in the conflict, both sides entered into an unprecedented settlement: the Nephium Compact.
According to the terms of the Nephium Compact, the world of Lucin’s Breath is equally divided between the Houses of Winterscale and Chorda until such time as “honorable writ and claim can be established” over ownership of the world. The signing of the compact was so wildly out of character for both the mercurial Calligos Winterscale and the merciless Aspyce Chorda that wild rumors circulate on occasion about how some other force or organization may have been behind its signing. If this is true, there are those willing to pay to find out just who this might be, in the effort to undermine both claims on Lucin’s Breath.
Despite the compact, Lucin’s Breath has not seen peace since the Claimant War began. Routine raids, sabotage, and defection of troops from one side to the other are very commonplace. Servitors are deemed to be too costly to risk destruction in the cold production habs; instead the workers, who are slaves in all but name, are hustled into various squads and suicide-auxiliaries. They are issued armored heat suits and whenever one of the planet’s ubiquitous methite blizzards arises they clash with their rivals from the other side. It’s not uncommon to fi nd remnants of pitched battles, corpses frozen solid in the ice and snow, bearing unexploded nephium-laced explosives, mining charges, and other improvised detritus and weapons of war.