Stern Hope is an Imperial settlement that lies to the north of Port Suffering, high in the mountains, accessible by one road through the Badlands called the Pilgrims Road by the natives. Missionary-Abbot Orland Skae successfully petitioned for the first Iocanthan cathedral to be built in the settlement two years ago, and since then reports indicate that he has gathered a sizeable congregation of native converts and worthy off-world pilgrims to his cause. Skae himself, a very distant scion of Scintillan nobility, has managed to garner both off-world donations and considerable local support to his mission, so far succeeding where others have failed.
As the cathedral structure has neared completion, unusual phenomena have been evidenced both at the site and in the surrounding area. These include strange lights in the hills, animal attacks, missing persons, an upsurge in accidents and unexplained deaths. These incidents have culminated recently in more serious and obviously unnatural events such as manifestations of phantom sounds, walls weeping blood, telekinetic disturbances and other such phantasmagoria.
The Cathedral - The as yet unconsecrated cathedral has been built with much hard work, using local materials and the unpaid labor of hundreds who have taken to the task as a willing offering to the God-Emperor. In shape it is a large, roughly circular building made of polished and smooth-fitting stone blocks, finished with black quartz facings. Its dominant features are a high central dome and four high pillars set equidistantly around the base, each capped by a tall Imperial aquila. The building is set at the highest point of Stern Hope.
It also rests at the top of an angled rise so that any who approach it have to look up as they draw near, making it loom over visitors. Within, the cathedral is a mixture of the ornate and the austere, designed to be a cool, shadowy place; a refuge from Iocanthos’ harsh glaring day. Its most striking feature is the massive mural set on the inner surface of the central dome which depicts Saint Drusus standing triumphant, a short-bladed sword held aloft in one hand and a golden aquila in the other, with a shadowy half-suggested figure laying crushed at his feet, surrounded by intricately engraved patterns of flowers and wheeling birds.
The Crying Clota - The Crying Clota is what passes for an inn and a guesthouse in Stern Hope, as well as a scrap trader’s yard and livery stable. In truth, it is mostly a watering hole that just happens to have a few rooms for rent on the second story. Constructed of old scrap wood, flint blocks and corrugated iron, it has a shabby appearance, and looks like it would collapse under a strong wind. Hanging from strings all along the front porch are spent brass cartridges and shells that tinkle in the fitful breeze. In spite of its impermanent appearance, the Crying Clota has been around for a while and has proved to be remarkably resilient.
The interior consists largely of the bar room, and a dozen tables and six booths offer plenty of places to sit. Most days, there’s a handful of people inside, but at night, the place is packed with standing room only. The Crying Clota’s permanent residents consist of its owner, a small twitchy Ashleen man named Forst, and a few of his clansmen and women who serve as staff. They are all happy to see “outlanders”, are eager to please, and have a talent for minding their own business. The Crying Clota serves the local “spitbrew” ale, grit-water and listless stew, and also holds a few bottles of slightly dubious imported amasec behind the bar.
The Priory - This sturdy prefabricated building is not far from the path that leads to the cathedral. It strongly resembles an Imperial bunker, on which its architecture is indeed based. The interior is sparsely decorated, the walls adorned with images and icons of the Cult of the God-Emperor. The ground floor consists of a large common area and a few adjoining rooms serving as stores, ablutions and a kitchen. On the second floor are the private rooms of the abbot, Brother Lamark and Brother Severus, and two dorm rooms that house several other lesser monks, clerics and lay brothers.
Generatoria & Workshops - These single-story prefabricated block units house Stern Hope’s small generator plant and the workshops where the cathedral’s building materials are prepared and the workers’ tools and gear stored. Stern Hope’s few and often-repaired vehicles are parked in the yard around the back of this location.
The Warriors Camp - This area is set aside for visiting Ashleen clanners, clota herd drovers and other nomad groups that may pass this way, and is made up of open tents, a corral and a wellhead. It is isolated enough from the main camp to make everyone feel a little safer while remaining inside the wall.
Sights and Sounds of Stern HopeEdit
A harsh wind blows through Stern Hope and the air is filled with the chalky smell of dust and the musty scents of human living. At night the sky is clear and the stars very bright. Low illumination seeps from the curtained doors of the dwellings and from the night fires burning in old promethium drums dotted about the camp. The smell of smoke and cooking blends in the chill night air. The settlement has the feel of a refugee camp, and is composed of scores of haphazardly erected tents, lean-tos, shacks and the occasional flint-block building ranging from small, one-man affairs to larger family-sized dwellings. All these are arranged in a rough circle around a bare, rocky hill on which the outline of great domed building is visible even at night.
The people of Stern Hope appear to be a mix of the various indigenous peoples of Iocanthos and off-world pilgrims and mendicants, and many have formed families, often with young children. The locals, while a somewhat halfstarved lot, seem in fairly good spirits, with many now at something of a loose end since the cathedral is nearly completed. Given their harsh surroundings, many are armed or have weapons in the shape of clubs, knives, a rare few hunting rifles, masonry hammers and a variety of home-made spears, but little else.
The congregation are a rag-tag group: Ashleen tired of the endless fighting, refugees from the constant wars, the squalor of Port Suffering and a small number of hardy pilgrims from off-world, drawn here by Skae’s holy mission. Faith and the Imperial Creed has given them strength and Abbot Skae has given them purpose. If robbed of these unifying factors, they will fall into division and despair---in short they will be lambs to the slaughter, just as the Daemon Tsyiak wishes.
Missionary-Abbot Orland Skae - Abbot of Stern Hope and leader of the faithful
Brother Lamark - A senior cleric at Stern Hope, charged with the people’s welfare
Brother Severus - A senior cleric at Stern Hope, charged with defending the settlement