The Apostasy Gambit
Hive Tarsus is Scintilla’s second largest population centre and is the seat of the planet’s trade and commerce. It maintains an aggressive independence from Hive Sibellus, though it relies on the export produce of Sibellus’s manufactoria. Hive Tarsus is in the centre of Scintilla’s least hospitable desert, baking in the relentless sun and battered by sandstorms. The hive’s construction is based around a foundation of immense vertical bars, between which stretch the great conglomerations of buildings that make up the body of the hive. As a result, Hive Tarsus is more vertical than horizontal, with more middle hivers climbing to work than walking.
Hive Tarsus’ unusual structure and hostile location mean that darkness and cold are valued commodities and, as such, very unusually for a hive city, the richest areas are those on the bottom of the hive instead of at the top. Hive Tarsus’s nobility enjoy the shade afforded by having a whole city strung in a dizzying web above them, while they are far enough from the merciless sun to live in cool comfort. The very wealthiest live in pitch-black subterranean mansions where inhabitants and visitors carry dim lanterns to see by, while the air is cooled to sub-zero temperatures that require everyone to wear lavish furs. The nobility here demonstrate their superiority by controlling their environment at immense cost, even to the extent of making their handsome estates as dangerous to the ill-prepared as the worst summer droughts. Hive scum that stray too close to the base of the city are often found frozen to death, caught out by the dramatic drops in temperature the closer they get to the wealthiest districts.
The closer to the surface of Hive Tarsus, the poorer and more dangerous the hive becomes. Middle hivers labour in sweltering workshops bathed in the heat filtering down from the sun, plagued by sunbeams that sweep through the hive during the day and burn exposed skin. The outermost layers (known as the Hiveskin) are hellish; it is almost too hot to breathe and hivers are bathed in sunlight so potent it can make those caught in it blacken and shrivel up in a few minutes. Layers of hovels cling to the top and sides of the hive, too flimsy to completely block out the deadly sun or the frequent lethal sandstorms. Worst of all, the heat is relentless, easily hot enough to kill those not adapted to it. The hiveskinners scrabble like scarabs across the outermost layers to avoid the worst of the sun as it moves overhead during the day. They are a sunburned, sand-scarred lot who survive by hunting the hardy fauna that dwells here including dangerous Scaldbats and mildly poisonous Fingerburner Beetles. Many wear improvised, iridescent armour suits to reflect the sun, so that they themselves resemble human-sized beetles.
Trade within Hive Tarsus
Hive Tarsus manufactures very little. Instead, its middle hive is dominated by the Goldenhand, a vast complex of trading halls and auction houses held like a great golden nugget in the heart of Tarsus’ city-web. The Goldenhand houses a massive, infinitely complex financial market where commodities are bought and sold at a dizzying rate, and enormous amounts of money and goods change hands hourly. Traders representing both planetary and sector-wide houses buy, sell and try to swindle each other. The Goldenhand never shuts and is constantly thronged with people yelling out offers and curses in a complicated trader’s code called Goldentongue. Most traders are accompanied by armed bodyguards, since the application of violence or even assassination are recognised tactics for gaining the upper hand. Activity in the Goldenhand is extremely intense, with few who work there lasting very long before they are burned out. Many is the man who has lost a fortune for his noble patrons in the Goldenhand and chosen to walk to certain death into the desert to do penance for his failures.
Activity in the Goldenhand is regulated by two bodies. The first is the Goldenhand’s own staff of auction masters and functionaries; dressed in browns and brass, their faces painted deep gold, they look appropriately enough like a part of the Goldenhand itself. The second group is the Administratum. The Adepts of the Administratum’s Goldenhand Consular Taskforce (under the leadership of the energetic and surprisingly goodhumoured Consul Sevavin) forms the largest concentration of adepts on Scintilla and probably in the whole Calixis Sector. They are a familiar sight in their stark grey uniforms, contrasting with the outlandish fashions of the various noble traders, and are never jostled or threatened as they go about their business. The adepts are considered above the violence that flourishes between the other traders, partly because they represent the interests of the God-Emperor, but mainly because they have the very best protection in the form of veteran soldiers from the Death World of Mortressa. The Adepts’ purpose in the Goldenhand is to ensure that the tithes handed over to the Administratum from the hives of Scintilla do not consist of inferior goods with inflated values, and to maintain awareness of all the major deals going on among the planet’s noble houses. Another important player is House Krin, one of the great sector-wide noble houses, which revels in its reputation as “Drusus’ bankers” and can arrange banking and massive loans to anyone confident that they can pay up when the time comes. The Adepts of the Administratum are based in a building of gold and glass suspended over the Goldenhand’s largest trading hall, while House Krin’s household troops protect the family’s complex of vaults and safe rooms just beneath the Goldenhand.
Hive Tarsus’s trade dominance is due to the fact that the planet’s orbital docks are geostationary above the hive. It is said that Tarsus is the “lungs and stomach” of Scintilla. Vast wharfs and warehousing/handling vaults dominate the middle hive, pulsing with the import and export of goods. There are said to be chambers the size of cathedrals in the dense heart of Hive Tarsus, packed with crated goods never claimed or shifted.