Monday, 25 February 2013

Slave Pens

Another visit to the never published manuscript of Prisoners and Exiles.

Chainer Slave Pens
“My lord, slavery has been a part of our society since the Fall of the Second Republic. But never has slavery been as profitable and widespread as it is now. In prior years only the nobility had the right to hold other men in bondage, but even a serf has rights and protections bestowed by his lord. Slavery is another matter; these are men and women held in bondage without the rights of even a serf. They are property to be used, abused and discarded.
“Some among the nobility have been known to sell their own serfs into slavery to discharge mounting debts. I consider this the basest violation of the protections required of a lord. A serf is a prerogative of the land, and those that protect and minister to that land might use the serf to do their bidding in return for protection and good management of those resources. To strip a serf of these protections is a violation of a noble’s duty to protect the land and those that tend to it.
Yet in this day I must make note that the ugly work of the Chainers is never done, and in fact is ever more profitable. The demand for an indentured workforce without rights has created a budding market place where this black trade can be plied without interference. I refer of course to the blot on the jump map that is Pandemonium. 
“I myself have traveled to that hellish backwater to witness the crimes of the slavers markets. I have seen men, women and children auctioned like so much head of cattle. I have witnessed a proud man beaten to death rather than walk to the auction block; I have seen families separated and broken apart to be sold into servitude on different worlds; I have seen those purchased by the Order of Engineers being subjected to terrible experiments that wound not just the body but the very soul. I must ask how can this trade be just? How can this trade be permitted in these enlightened times of the Phoenix Emperor?”
-- Sir Rasmir al-Malik, Knight of the Order of the Phoenix, 5006

Slavery has been a part of the Empire since the time of Vladimir I, but until now the numbers of people forced to live in bondage has been relatively low. Since the opening days of the Emperor Wars, the scourge of slavery has increased one hundred fold, fueled during the war years by large numbers of prisoners of war that underpinned the military economics of all the major factions. This reliance on inexpensive labor within the Known Worlds has been a contributing factor the growth of economic power groups within the Guilds for the past fifty years. 
Since the end of the war years the Chainers have been hard pressed to meet demand by conventional means and have turned to alternative methods. Indeed the Chainers have established arrangements with a number of purgatoriums throughout the worlds of the Empire, buying out prisoners that have not been legally sentenced to slavery by a court. Men and women who have received minimal sentences for the most minor of offenses are being sold in to slavery to supply to the demand for cheap labor. Indeed, there are rumors of Chainer representatives bribing the courts to sentence as many criminals to slavery as they can – usually those strong and sound of body. Other reports indicate that Chainers purchase deeds of those sentenced to a few weeks’ forced labour – only to ship them off-world and make that sentence rather more permanent.
The Chainers’ operations, no matter how repugnant, are in fact only bowing to the pressure of demand and market forces. While the vast majority of the slaves have been drawn with the Phoenix Empire, there is also a growing trade in those taken from beyond the Empire. Specifically, the Hazat who, in need to replenish their dwindling war chest, have taken to selling Kurgan prisoners of war to the Muster. But there are others taken from worlds that have no mention on any current jumpmap, giving the Chainers a wider net that the guild cares to admit.

When last I visited Pandemonium, slavery was a relatively minor trade within the local agora. Upon my return after a scant five years’ absence, I have learned that Muster holds no less than three slave camps in the Badlands within only a few dozen kilometers of the Hub. One of these camps deals exclusively with the labor required to erect the Orthodoxy’s most recent Cathedral. I have further learned that each of these camps has a capacity to hold 10,000 slaves either as work force or for sale during the now infamous weekly pageant that has become known as the ‘Festival of Flesh’ or simply the ‘Fleshtival’. 
Everyday ships arrive bearing the Chainers mark with fresh bodies destined for processing at the camps. There is now no way to calculate how many unfortunates arrive on Pandemonium, the Chainer ships no longer land at the Hub’s spaceport; its security inadequate for dealing with the large number of arrivals. Instead these ships have landing zones right in the slave camps.
I tried to speak with the Muster’s chief representative on Pandemonium, Solomon West, but I was declined an audience citing a lack of availability in a busy schedule. Despite numerous attempts to obtain an interview with someone in authority the only comment I was able to obtain was, “No comment!”

Correctional Philosophy
In truth the Slave Pens do not have a correctional philosophy despite what some might claim. Correction is discarded in favor of control. Discipline is rigorously enforced with a casual brutality that speaks volumes about the disposable nature of the slave. The Chainers are not above making an example of one man or woman to deter the others from even contemplating escape. Indeed those that have escaped rarely survive for long, usually dying in the badlands. Even death is not an escape, I have observed hunting parties of Chainers recovering a dead slave and hanging the corpse from the camp stockade to deter others. I must protest this indignity, even a slave is one of the Pancreator’s children and is deserving of the last rites and funeral. I have made my protest known to Chief Solomon West in the form of a letter; as yet I have had no formal response.

From my observations I can say that each of the slave camps is laid out differently, but they do share certain common features. The walls are high and usually built from cheaply available local stone. High watchtowers are placed every 30 meters and there is an inner fence line that prevents the slaves from reaching the other wall. Usually there are guards patrolling the perimeter between the walls and the fence line.
The slaves are accommodated in an assorted variety converted cargo pods, laid out in fenced off blocks. The camp that supplies labor for the Cathedral has only two large blocks segregated along gender lines. The other camps seem to have a more intricate segregation policy used to separate both gender and function of the slaves camped there.
The centre of the camp is a large administration building that I believe is used for processing the captives when they arrive on the packed-earth landing pad on the far side of the building from the converted cargo pods. The Muster guards live in a secured compound within the camp adjacent to the landing pad. I counted as many as three ships arriving in a given day at one of the camps and I can only estimate how many new inmates were received and processed that day.
I must make particular note that sorting of slaves has meant that a large number of those being forced to labor in the construction of the Cathedral are Kurgan prisoners or war. I can only speculate the Orthodoxy considers the construction of a Cathedral to be a penance worthy of these unbelievers. Still large numbers of the Kurgan prisoners are being sold on the open market, though primarily to farming concerns that will keep these barbarians far away from the Hub.
On the day of a Fleshtival the prisoners are sorted and loaded into locked trucks for transport to the Hub and the market. Mercifully this is done in the early hours of the morning before the sun has fully risen, the transportation in those cramped trucks would be hellish enough without the baking heat of the sun to contend with.
In a bid to understand more about the goings on in the camps I attended one of the Fleshtivals and purchased a slave, in trade for all that she could tell me about her ordeals I offered her freedom, initially somewhat skeptical and reticent to speak I did in fact learn a considerable amount about the day-to-day operations of the camps. True to my word I then did release her, but not before I registered the release with the authorities, I have no wish to see her hunted as an escaped slave when she is a free woman.
From what I have learned the camps are now so big that the Chainers are having logistical problems feeding and securing their investment. In fact they are making use of slaves with some degree of literacy to operate the camp processing and administrative functions. They have also instituted an internal police force to maintain camp order.
I have come to believe from the information I have obtained that there is a fourth smaller camp in the far north beyond the Groaning Desert and that this camp is responsible for the irrigation of a farm system that is used to supply the food that feeds the other camps. So far I have not managed to acquire anything but hearsay evidence for the existence of this farm camp.

The Hub played host a weekly market, when merchants and farmer would come out into the streets and set up their stalls in the area around the spaceport. The slave trade at this point was a much more limited affair that it is now. Market days were a minor local celebration, but I guess that even being able to have a market was a major event on Pandemonium after the cataclysms that have befallen that world. At the time the newly arrived Muster Chief Solomon West took the decision that the expense of selling a few slaves at a weekly market wasn’t worth his time and that instead of weekly the Chainers auction block would only be setup monthly. 

Chief Solomon West
A large man of few words and a sour disposition, he is responsible for the organisation and running of the Fleshtival. His bad temper actually stems from his intense discomfort with the job he finds himself doing. He joined the Muster at a young age with the promise that he would get to visit the many different worlds of mankind. As a soldier and a bounty hunter he excelled, until he took one of the team and lost his left leg. Refusing to integrate machinery into his body he has instead made use of a carved peg leg that has given rise to a number of derogatory nicknames for him.
The loss of his leg forced him to take a desk job. Now he is assigned to what he considers to be the arse-end-of-space, to run a slave market. 

When he started out, the Agora was a backwater supplying only a small number of able-bodied slaves to local farms. These days he is at the centre of the Known Worlds’ slave trade, while he takes pride in his achievements he has a growing self-loathing for those same reasons. 

Myra Swan
A slightly built woman with a face blemished with the harsh treatment she received in captivity. Captured and taken from her home world by the Solace Slavers, she arrived in the slave camps of Pandemonium only a year ago. In a trade of fortune she was sold at the Feshtival auction to a Knight of the Phoenix who sought only information from her before turning her lose. Life was not easy in the slave camps and freedom has been no easier, she is alone on a strange and foreign world with only her own wits and a handful of coins the Knight gave here before he left.
Obtaining work was not easy and she has had to resort to thievery to feed herself. In her dreams she can return to the paradise of her home world and she has taken the name of her world as a reminder of who she is and where she is from. Myra contemplates revenge against the slavers who stole her life but instead has built up contacts within the Hub’s underworld, where her talents are appreciated. She has established a small underground railroad to help escaped slaves survive and escape from the Hub.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


Another excerpt from the scrapped Prisoners and Exiles manuscript.

When I wrote this I was inspired by the "The Prisoner", and it shows.

Herukas Custodial Satellite

“Number 12? I am NOT a number! I am a NOBLE of the House Hawkwood and I demand to be released.”
-- Sir Samuel Blake Hawkwood, Rook Agent, upon his arrival on Herukas, 5005

“You are number 12, this number defines you. Your importance, your place in the pecking order, you had a name once, you had a house once, but here none of that matters anymore.”
-- Number 53, former Jakovian Agent, in response to Number 12, 5005

There was a time when the description ‘Imperial Dungeons’ was an accurate depiction, dark underground tunnels, small stone built cells with heavy ceramsteel-bound doors, all deep below the Regent’s palace on Byzantium Secundus. For three hundred years these facilities were at the command of the Regent until a spate of escapes demonstrated the level of corruption of the prison’s warders. Despite several purges it proved impossible to prevent further escapes and the Regent Jing Cho’s own credibility began to look tarnished. Unable to secure the leaks from his own dungeons and on shaky political ground he lost the elections in 4873 and was replaced by his archrival Ivanos Decados.
While it has been widely supposed that Regent Ivanos was behind a number of the high profile escapes as a means of destroying Jing Cho’s credibility, he too suffered a similar string of embarrassments, after which he took action and had his prisoners transferred to Jakovian-run prisons in Decados space. This began a tradition that lasted 50 years in which the Regent would make use of the prison facilities of his own house. This in turn produced jurisdictional problems and a number of diplomatic debates concerning the treatment and holding of prisoners from previous Regents.
When Regent Samar al-Malik came to power in 4923 he did so on a promise to undo the injustices of former Regents. His first act was to order the release of all Imperial prisoners held by the royal houses—in many cases this actually took the form of a prisoner exchange between houses. His second act was to reinstate the Imperial Dungeons but under the authority of the Imperial Eye.
To this day, the Imperial Eye maintains at least three secure facilities now collectively termed the ‘Imperial Dungeons’. The original dungeons under the Imperial Palace were partially converted back from the storage rooms that they had become but are used only to hold prisoners short term, ‘at the pleasure of His Majesty’. Prisoners that are of current interest to Imperial Eye interrogators are housed in a secure panoptocon facility, designed by the renowned architect Ernest Bernard Hawkwood and dug into the bedrock of the Imperial Eye Command Centre on the continent of Aldaia, Byzantium Secundus. The panoptocon permits many to be watched by a few and uses paranoia to maintain control over its population. Nothing can be kept secret nor anything hidden from view, someone might be watching you at any given moment and you will only know if corrective action is required.
Built as a great cylindrical structure, 17 levels deep with the cells placed around the edge of the cylinder. A central access spinal or column runs down the centre of the cylinder with numerous retractable walkways to provide access to each of the detention levels. From the spinal watchers can see into every cell and observe every prisoner, and every interaction between prisoners. The prison is unusual in the known worlds because the inmates are only locked in to their cells during their rest periods, but are otherwise permitted to move freely within their detention level. These privileges can be revoked at anytime.
At the deepest levels of the prison are the isolation cells were the highest risk prisoners are stored and not permitted out to wander freely. This rich social environment is what the Imperial Eye watchers want to observe. Criminals permitted to mix often plot, scheme or give away valuable information when they believe that they are unobserved, but within the panopticon everything is seen and recorded and analyzed.
The third and final part of the prison system is the little known Herukas asteroid that occupies a lonely elliptic orbit in the expanse between Byzantium Secundus and Arden. It is one of 73 known large body asteroids that occupy captured orbits around Solaris Primis
Though Herukas is present on early astrographic charts of the Byzantium Secundus system, a report compiled in 4421 by the Prospectors Guild suggests that the asteroid is not composed of the normal mineral mix present in its celestial counterparts and may even be hollow. That report was quickly ‘lost’ when the Imperial Eye purchased the asteroid in whole from the Guild, and had records amended to state that Herukas has been mined of all mineral wealth. Charioteer records also note the asteroid as being dangerously unstable and to be avoided as a navigational hazard. 
Herukas is actually one of the earliest surviving examples of human space flight technology. Originally a colonial vessel from the days of the zaibatsu, its ancient systems were preserved by vacuum in its millennia-long rest until the Old Guard of the Imperial Eye rediscovered it. For centuries the Old Guard used it as a base of operations until the Prospectors Guild resurveyed it and brought it to the attention of other factions within the Eye. Shadowy deals were made within the halls of power to ensure that the truth about Herukas remained obscured, but the Old Guard lost their sole authority over the asteroid.
When the Imperial Eye were given charge of the Imperial Dungeons, Herukas was already in use as a place of ‘exile and retirement’ for foreign intelligence assets. Herukas is a last dumping ground for prisoners too politically dangerous to set free, but too knowledgeable to simply terminate. 

Correctional Doctrine
The Imperial Eye does not as a rule hold petty criminals; their interest is purely in threats to the Empire, the Imperial Throne and the status quo. As such they detain only the most dangerous individuals at the pleasure of the Emperor. Though the facilities under the Imperial Palace and the Imperial Eye Command Centre are used for conspirators, terrorists and other criminals, only a few choice ‘assets’ are ‘retired’ to Herukas. Officially, every prisoner in that final prison is listed as having been executed.
Herukas is about containing the most dangerous, devious and well-trained intelligence operatives produced by the various spy agencies throughout the Known Worlds. As such it is a prison built without walls, instead it uses mistrust and secrecy to keep its population divided and suspicious, constantly working against each other to maintain a status of inescapable inevitability. Everything is watched, monitored and controlled to break prisoners psychologically and to have them reveal the hidden secrets they still hold from each other and even themselves.
The whole effect of the surreal environment, treatment and psychotropic chemicals acts to break down the prisoners’ connection to reality, loosening their willpower and ability to resist the constant, yet subtle interrogation. Over a period of months or even years they are driven deeper and deeper in to madness and paranoia. Plotting to free themselves, unable to do so without the assistance of others, but unable to trust that their fellow inmates are even inmates at all, and may in fact be their jailors and tormentors—a few have even come to believe themselves to be jailors or perhaps this is simply a ruse to gain an advantage.
When a prisoner is brought to Herukas, his former identity is removed, and all records list them as executed. Each prisoner is fitted with a subdermal locator that doubles as a bug permitting the jailors on Herukas to monitor their every movement and conversation. 

Each is also issued with a small pin button to be worn at all times, again this doubles as a bugging device but it also a small think machine display showing the prisoner’s current numerical designation—these designations are constantly updated and the prisoner is only permitted to refer to himself by his current designation. If conspiracy theories are to be believed, the number represents the prisoner’s relative importance; the lower the number the more dangerous and more closely watched—by both jailors and fellow inmates. The pin button must be worn at all times and failure to do so prevents the prisoner from using almost anything, doors will not open, taps have no running water etc. The pin button is a central tool of control; it permits the prisoner to interact with basic amenities but also ties them to the warped and twisted mind games within the prison.

From the outside, Herukas has the appearance of any large asteroid, pock marked and pitted with craters, its overall form is cylindrical despite its rough surface features. The rock spins swiftly upon its long axis making any attempt to land on the surface hazardous. Upon one of the ‘ends’ of the asteroid is a cluster of cerametal structures, like four great funnels that jut from the rock. These are the remnants of the ion thrusters that once made this asteroid mobile.
Densometer scans reveal that the rock is not solid, but that a hollow core exists, scans for energy can take faint measurements from a reactor core excavated deep into the rock, close to the ancient funnel-like thrusters. But these are the only external signs that Herukas is more than it seems.

The Core
The hollow core of Herukas measures almost 4 miles long and half that wide. Gravity is provided at 0.6G by the spin of the asteroid and supplemented by low yield G-plates to give the appearance of 0.8G. The internal space has been landscaped and terraformed into a number of small islands surrounded by water. Light is provided from one end by a great fusion light that brightens and dims to simulate day and night. The most disconcerting effect is looking up to see thin clouds overhead and land far above—which often causes new arrivals terrible vertigo.
The islands have a tropical ecology complete with birds, insects and fish in the shallow waters. Several villages are placed in tranquil locations across the various islands. On the surface, life appears idyllic, relaxed with more in common with an imperial retreat than a prison. But a prison it is. No one is here by choice and everything is monitored, recorded and scrutinized by the Imperial Eye. Every action, reaction, snippet of conversation examined for hidden meanings, and tiny pieces of intelligence data that might be of use to the agents of the Eye.

The Tunnels
The tunnels interconnect with hundreds of locations in the Core and all the ancient machinery that still survives in the crust of the asteroid. It is through these that the jailors are able to move about and enter and exit the core to carry out their duties and schemes. 

Surveillance Central
The honeycomb of passages link hundreds of surveillance terminals and think machine data storage banks. Once staffed by large numbers of jailors, Herukas is now run on a skeleton crew of only fifty. There is never enough time for the jailors to carry out their proper observations of the prisoners within the core. Instead they play power games designed to psychologically dominate and manipulate the core population, to keep them divided, paranoid and under control.

Ancient Systems
As the oldest surviving example of human space technology, Herukas is a wonder. Although life support and generator systems have been retro-fitted and maintained over the last few centuries, the inoperable remains of the ancient ion drive and jump engines remain. A close examination of these later pieces of tech will indicate that this ship was built in the times before Sathra Dampeners were invented or fitted as standard. Undoubtedly this vessel was a Sathra stronghold but how it came to be in the hands of the Imperial Eye remains a mystery.

Herukas is a place that thrives on conspiracy and secrecy, everyone here is officially dead and the mind games are intended to break prisoners’ minds and crush their spirits so that every last piece of information can be gleaned from them. In truth, this is perverse game of torture dreamed up by a fevered imagination: it operates both as part of the Imperial Eye but at the same time without any oversight or external intervention.
Dramas set on Herukas will be truly bizarre; the prison feels more like a demented playground built long ago by some power mad zaibatsu. It holds far more secrets than any one place has a right to. It has the distinction of being the oldest example of human space faring technology in the Known Worlds, except that the Old Guard of the Imperial Eye have kept its secrets to themselves.

Number 217
The man once identified as Number 4 when he first arrived on Herukas in 4996 is an enigma to his jailors, while a traitor by charge he is not the usual ‘intelligence asset’ to be sent into exile. He adapted quickly to his new life, accepting it as though it were a penance to be endured. Each day the man spends hours in prayer, seeking salvation, begging for forgiveness for his unforgivable actions, and seeking an opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of his Emperor and the Pancreator.
After many years of solitary debasement, Number 217 has taken it upon himself to erect a small chapel and has slowly begun to attract other souls in search of redemption. This has caused some concern among the jailors who fear that his efforts in penance might rebuild some level of trust among his followers. They have placed adversity in his way, but each setback has only made Number 217 more persistent.
In his heart Number 217 still loves his Emperor and friend, he accepts that he is deserving of his fate, but dreams of escape so that he might be redeemed in some final glorious act that saves his Emperor and cleanses his soul in a single selfless act.

The Administrator
If the panopticon and psychological torments of Herukas can be said to be the spark of genius in the mind of a mad man, then that mad man would be ‘The Administrator’. 
Preferring to use just his title and forgo his given name altogether, The Administrator has been a member of the Old Guard of the Imperial Eye since the early days of the Emperor Wars. He accepted an assignment as a jailor on the station because it temporarily removed him from the line of fire, but since then he has never left again, instead simply working his way through the ranks.
He demonstrated the necessity of his brutal games in the service to the new Emperor by providing invaluable intelligence on the disposition of Hazat and Decados forces prior to the Battle of Jericho. This act alone would have been enough to secure him a notable position within the new bureaucracy but what he sought was complete autonomy to conduct his facility in whatever way he saw fit and without outside questions or interference. Now almost forgotten, he is a god in playground of his own design and provided that he continues to hand up useful snippets of information to his superiors, no one will ever question his methods.

Monday, 11 February 2013


Another piece I wrote for Prisoners and Exiles.

Unedited, but perhaps it can be of use to someone out there.

Domed Prison of Hagz

“There are few places as dammed as Hagz. A prison camp on a world where the air is poison to breathe, where even the guards are prisoners under that dome, and as if that wasn’t enough to make it unappealing. The Charioteers have just quarantined the local system as navigational hazard. A prison within a prison, within a prison.”
-- Warden Sadan Kahim, while on leave on Istakhr, 5007


The world of Dahab orbits Istakhr’s sun along with its now solitary moon, Darma, and the debris ring formed from the smashed remains of its second moon, Dora. The Charioteers Guild has marked Dahab as a navigational hazard following the collision of the Najahan Comet with the second moon. The comet struck with the force of a doomsday weapon, splitting the tiny satellite and scattering debris into a myriad of orbits about that world. Fragments of the moon have made impacts upon both Dahab and Darma, causing earthquakes and destabilizing the weather patterns of Dahab’s toxic atmosphere. 
The Hagz prison dome survived intact only due to the lucky chance that it was one the far side of the planet when the comet struck and avoided the worst of the meteoric fragment impacts.
The Dahab facility was originally established as a mining settlement during the First Republic and was later converted into a correctional facility for the detainment of dissidents and prisoners of war during the Ukari War. In the long centuries after the war, the prison population dwindled. Much of the facility became disused and fell into disrepair.
Rediscovered during the Regency, House al-Malik initially used the facility as part of Istakhr’s early warning system and stationed a small garrison there. In time it became a convenient dumping ground for prisoners of war, political dissents and more typical criminal offenders. In 4887 the military moved out of Hagz into purpose-built bunkers beneath the surface and the whole of the Hagz facility became a prison complex.


The dome itself is a huge geodesic construction composed of large triangular plates of ceramglass locked into a ceramsteel framework. The ground level of the dome has four large airlock gates that allow vehicles and personnel to move from the dome to the unprotected landing zone.
Outside the toxic atmosphere comprises a mix of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen and other trace elements. The thick cloud layer helps retain heat from geothermal vents allowing a weird and wonderful toxic jungle to exist. Ground heat and the chemical soup that falls as rain sustain the jungle flora. Plants generally form long convoluted fluted structures that guide the rain down channels so that nutrients can be extracted. 
Animal life is limited to the warm shallow seas and mangroves that form over most of Dahab’s surface. Insects and amphibians no bigger than a few centimeters are regularly encountered. The fish species are more numerous and much larger in size.
Under the dome itself is both the prison compound and the much smaller Warden’s Town. Despite the extra facilities in Warden’s Town, the guards are just as much prisoners as the inmates they police. A regular monthly supply run brings both supplies and new inmates. Those that have completed their time and correctional conditioning are shipped back on the return. Since the destruction of Dora, the supply shipments have become erratic which has caused discontent and in some cases rationing to be imposed. In general, the lack of supplies impacts more on the prison population than it does on the inhabitants of Warden’s Town.
For the wardens there are truly worse places to be assigned than Hagz, despite being little more than prisoners themselves, they can at least bring their families to live with them.
The current administrator of Hagz is Baron Haqkim Ib-Naz al-Malik and it was he who opened the prison’s doors to refugees when the Najahan comet struck and he gave shelter to prospectors and others who made their living in Dahab’s orbits. 
Despite the strain this placed on the facilities and resources, the influx of skilled freemen to Warden’s Town has brought other benefits. What is more, the Charioteer quarantine keeps them there—and gives the Baron new avenues to explore and the opportunities to make something more than a prison from his fief.

Correctional Doctrine
The al-Malik look upon crime and criminality as a social disease, poverty and the desire for things beyond one’s station in life, breeds crime. As a result, anyone can become a criminal and anyone can be cured of their criminality. The al-Malik maintain a correctional philosophy that is very similar to old correctional codes of the Second Republic, though incorporating ideas of social status and responsibility. They are the most forward-looking of noble Houses, and the only one to sponsor prison facilities that organize programs of education and rehabilitation, with a view to reintroducing the former criminal back into society.
Crime is primarily a disease of the freeman class, serfs are considered to be too lowly to have true desires of their own and usually come to criminal behavior through the inappropriate guidance of their civic leaders (nobles, freemen or priests). Criminal behavior by serfs usually leads to a charge against their social betters except in the most extreme cases when justice becomes summary execution, or maiming.
Freemen are at risk to criminal behavior precisely because they are permitted to own their own property. This acquisition of wealth exposes them to the desire to accumulate more, resorting to crime when other means prove unsuccessful. A freeman found guilty of a crime and unable to pay restitution may appeal to the court to be made a serf rather than face custody. 
Nobles almost always escape custody by paying restitution, but in serious or serial crimes a noble may be stripped of his station and remanded to a custodial facility to serve a correctional sentence. As a result the al-Malik have relatively few prisons and those that do exist tend to incarcerate freemen.
Once within the penal system, a prisoner can expect a better standard of living than many serfs receive on the outside. They will be provided with a basic level of education intended to enforce al-Malik social ideas about citizenship and provide the freeman with the skills to perform a trade and become a valuable member of society again

Under the dome, the facility is divided in to two sections the Prison and Warden’s Town. The prison complex takes up approximately 70% of the area forming a moon-shaped crescent about the securely walled off Warden’s Town.

Warden’s Town
A securely fenced-off compound with dedicated access to the west gate airlock. Originally constructed as billets for the Wardens but later expanded to accommodate whole families and all the supporting services that would be required for a small township. Warden’s Town is not fully self-sufficient, but must rely on regular supply shipments. 

Hagz Prison Compound
Designed as an interlocking series of wings and walled-in exercise yards, capable of holding 100,000 inmates in double cells. Specialist facilities exist in the sub basement levels, including isolation cells and educational facilities.

Landing Zones
Only a kilometer to the north of the Hagz Dome is a cleared area covered with permacrete that serves as a landing pad for the monthly supply shipment from Istakhr. A small building next to the landing area houses a small generator and a signal beacon for guiding the ships through the murky atmosphere.

The Old Workings
Deep under the Hagz Dome are the ancient mine workings that were the reason of the dome’s construction, although the ores became uneconomical to extract during the First Republic. The presence of a convict labor force means that ore processing continued long after it ould otherwise have been economically viable. These days the mines are treacherous and unmaintained, leading to random tunnel collapses, flooding or simply the slow bleeding away of breathable air.
There are many rumors about the Hagz tunnels; some speak of escaped convicts surviving in the deep tunnels or worse creatures. Subsidence, tectonic movements and erosion of the rock minerals have opened new caves and crawl spaces into the honeycomb centre of the planet. No one really knows what lurks down there. Some even say that the workings are haunted by the ghosts of those ancient miners who were long ago trapped in cave-ins, unable to rest until their bodies can be discovered and laid to rest.

The Hagz Prison was a closed compound, accessible only to the convicts and the wardens that supervise them. With the impact of the Najahan comet that has all changed, the dome has become a shelter for the many prospectors and military personnel that could not safely escape the fragments of the cometary impact with Dora. 
The normal regimentation of life under the dome has suffered but a new vibrancy is growing. The influx of people has brought tensions and new opportunities. Many are now just as stranded here as the regular convicts, unable to evacuate and forced to make the best of living under the prison dome.
The navigational hazard that Dahab now represents ensures that only the bravest and most foolhardy pilots would risk trying to reach the prison. The regular supply shipments from Istakhr have become erratic and Baron Haqkim has been forced to try and make his inhospitable fief more hospitable and self-sufficient. Ultimately the greatest limitation he faces is that the dome is only so big, and that space within must be balanced between housing the convicts and housing the wardens and refugees. The need for food is leading the Baron to consider all possible ideas, including the processing of indigenous flora to produce edible food pastes and the exploring of the old mine workings seeking other resources and space for expansion.
For those intrepid enough to risk the Dora debris field and venture to Hagz, the place offers a wealth of opportunities. Security has become harder to maintain and several prisoners are believed to be at large somewhere within the dome or stowed away on the few ships to have landed since the destruction of Dora. Engineers and others with technical skills are always in demand to keep the facility operating and the old mine workings offer both a hope for new resources and fear of the unknown.

Baron Haqkim Ib-Naz al-Malik
Baron Haqkim Ib-Naz was once a prominent lord of the al-Malik. He fell out of favor during the Emperor Wars for opposing the al-Malik-Hawkwood alliance. Arguing that his House still had the resources to make a bid of the throne, he made the mistake of leveling an accusatory finger at the leadership of the House, claiming that they lacked the resolve and the political acumen to lead the House to victory. For his damning rhetoric he found himself rewarded with the Barony of Hagz on Dahab--in truth, little more than an exile from the court he once served.
But Baron Haqkim refused to admit that his critique of the House and its leadership had been unfounded. Instead he set out to prove that he was a more visionary and stronger leader than those who held his House in thrall. He took control of Hagz and instituted numerous reforms to build his power base from the place of exile into a thriving fief. His Republican ideals have helped shape the society that is now emerging.
The first reform he implemented was to portion off Warden’s Town and allow the wardens to bring their families with them. This gave him a more balanced population to work with. Secondly he would allow prisoners with useful skills to be rehabilitated into the Warden’s Town community earlier than their often-extensive sentences would permit. 
The disaster that destroyed Dora has been a mixed blessing. While it has made transport and supply difficult, it has also brought his fief closer to the eyes of the Known Worlds and given him an influx of skilled workers to his fledgling society. Hagz itself is operated more like a muster company town than a noble’s fief as fits the Baron’s ideals. Although he has a fief, he has no serfs; the bulk of the population are convicts being rehabilitated for a place in his new order, and every day new faces arrive to answer his call for daring adventurers to help in the current crisis. 
As the only fief holder on Dahab, the Baron has recently added the title ‘Lord of Dahab’ to his title and this addition has so far gone unchallenged in the al-Malik court. The Baron’s star seems to be rising even as his fief becomes harder than ever to reach. The comet has actually been a golden opportunity to raise the Baron’s profile within the House and beyond. His fief has received aid form the House military but the hazard of fragments in orbit has also meant the military listening posts on Dahab have been rendered useless. With the military withdrawal, the Baron has seen the opportunity to scavenge much-needed technology and weapons from the bunkers, some of which is of direct use to Hagz and other pieces are valuable commodities to trade for other supplies and services.

Prospector Kassy Mulaghan
Kassy and her small team of prospectors had been surveying old mineral claims on Dora before the comet destroyed the moon. Her team had just identified trace quantities of Pygmallium in the deepest areas of the planetoid when the evacuation warning went up. Without the time to evacuate further, she identified Hagz as a haven against the impending impact and took her team there for safety.
In an instant her dreams of making a fortune in a Pygmallium strike were wiped out as the comet ripped the small moon apart and scattered it across Dahab and Darma. But all is not lost, in the weeks after the impact she and her team were performing survey operations for Baron Haqkim. Investigating an astrobliff field where hundreds of micrometers had fallen, they discovered Pygmallium deposits, tiny crystallized spheroid deposits spread in a thin layer for miles in all directions, just waiting to be picked up.
Kassy now knows that she is sitting on a proverbial gold mine and that it will not be long before other people discover what she already knows. She has also made an educated guess that fragments of Dora now coalescing into a ring structure around Dahab are also rich in Pygmallium deposits. 
The only real question is how to capitalize on this discovery before a gold rush brings every prospector and a few independent operators to plunder her find. For the moment she has decided that secrecy is the best course of action, but already her team is starting to fracture under the pressure of such potential wealth. The Baron has the manpower to exploit this new resource but that would mean splitting the find with a partner. Yet, it might be preferable to loosing out to the Muster if they try to elbow their way in.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Traitor of Hira

The Prisoners and Exiles manuscript had a chapter titles "the Known Worlds Most Wanted", and was to be a catalogue of the 10 most wanted and desperate criminals in the Empire. Two of these were updates / rewrites of existing characters, the Devil Beliah and Tricinia Isterot.

Adreck Rom – The Traitor of Hira
“You dishonor my name and my actions and call me traitor. But have I not made you a hero? Without me you would be just another soldier doomed to a forgotten death on the battlefield. A hero is forged and tested in trial and adversity and I have given you that. I have tested you, I have made you worthy, I have made this war worthy of heroes. Now that you stand before me we will see how your story will end, in glory or in tragedy. En garde!”
-Adreck Rom to Sir Renaldo Hernadez (deceased), 5006, Hira

“Harden your heart brother, for you will not best me with words alone. En garde!”
-Adreck Rom to Sir Alfonzo Romerez de Vera Cruz (deceased), 5007, Hira

Adreck Rom was born Adreck Romerez de Vera Cruz as the seventh son of the prominent Hazat nobleman Phillipe Montoia Romerez de Vera Cruz and destined to inherit less than nothing from this father’s estates. As a boy he dreamed the dream of all young Hazat, of the battlefield, of fighting heroically, being victorious, and being celebrated as a hero. As a young man he joined the war effort against the Kurgans for his house, dreaming of the great heroics he would perform and stories of his courage that would be told when the battle was won.
Adreck’s first and only posting was not to the frontlines on Hira as he had hoped, but to the Frigate Erasmus stationed in the outer reaches of the Hira system, about as far as he could be sent from the real action. He did see action, not on the battlefield, but in small, unsung boarding actions against insignificant prey, such as a ship carrying Kurgan pilgrims, a lost Kurgan picket, and numerous small scout ships. Two years had passed and Adreck was no closer to being the hero he knew he should be.
An ambush nearly destroyed the Erasmus, the boarding action against them was hard fought but eventually Adreck and the surviving crew drove the Kurgans back. Under his command, the wounded frigate limped back to Vera Cruz for repairs. Instead of being hailed a hero for saving his ship, Adreck was scorned for fleeing the battlefield rather than finishing off the Kurgan raiders. A short period of imprisonment followed while he awaited the outcome of his court martial. The result was a dishonorable discharge from the house military.
The resentment was too much, he had done as his duty demanded, fought where he had been sent to fight and then disciplined for bringing the remains of his ship and crew home so that they could fight again. He felt betrayed by his House, and he resolved to make a sacrifice of himself that no other scion of the House would be so dishonored again.
Using his father’s name, he pulled some strings and took possession of letters of marque authorizing him to hunt Kurgan ships in the Hira system. Adreck also attracted some investment that allowed him to purchase the ruin of the Erasmus and have it refitted and renamed as the Warhand. He assembled a crew of pirates, cutthroats, and thieves with the promise that every member of the crew would receive an equal share of the profits.
Adreck began to serialize his adventures in a series of open letters that he would publish upon his return to port. Within, he documented his own crimes and victories, his sins and those of his crew. Though never likely to win him literary acclaim, they did spark interest in his actions, ideas, and horror at some of his methods. As a privateer he could go where military ships could not, and make deals with whom he pleased, free from the constraints of the chain-of-command. He traded valuable information to the Kurgans about Hazat supply lines and would then lie in ambush waiting for the raiders sent after the convoys. Some whisper that he even carried letters of marque from the Kurgans to attack Hazat interests.
Using Hazat supply convoys as a lure, he would strike form the darkness at the commerce raiders who took the bait. On several occasions his successes cost the Hazat a high price; within a year Adreck was arrested and tried before a Hazat military court, accused of spying and sharing information with the enemy, with his own letters produced as evidence against him.
He and a few loyal members of his crew made a brash prison break, freeing the Warhand from its captors, and running for the Hira system where they would become outlaws. Once in his self-imposed exile from the Hazat, he earned favor by striking at Hazat shipping and later by selling the Kurgans military secrets. By trading Jumpkeys and Jumproad information that again allowed the Kurgans access to the Vera Cruz system he was branded a traitor by the Hazat.
Using his military knowledge to best advantage, he has infiltrated Hazat supply depots, captured or destroyed crucial fuel and food reserves, and coordinated attacks against targets in both the Hira and Vera Cruz systems. 
In 5005, Adreck had his many letters collected together into a book which he then printed and distributed to the Hazat forces on Hira, detailing his exploits and betrayals and causing a series of young knights to hunt him down for the honor of besting the villain he had become. The deaths of these young heroes proved fuel for further letters and in 5007 Adreck’s older brother Alfonzo finally tracked him down to redress the tarnish on the family’s honor. The bodies of other young knights were returned to their families for last rites and honorable burial, according to his open letters, his brother’s body was sent to the Caliph as a gift.
Since the murder of his own brother, Adreck and his crew have been operating almost exclusively in the Verz Cruz system, returning only infrequently to Hira. His raiding of commercial transports has been limited, instead focusing on small military ships. His raids seem to be purposefully designed to increase his own reputation and make him the most infamous villain in Known Space. His collected letters now number in to three volumes and are proscribed under law, but some how his exploits and copies of this ‘adventure journals’ manage to circulate.

Crimes: Piracy, Terrorism, Murder, Theft, Hijacking, Treachery, Sedition, Subversion

Entourage: Adreck Rom surrounds himself only with the most trusted and battle-hardened crew he can find. The Erasmus, renamed Warhand, modified and refitted Scorpion Class frigate continues to haunt the void in both the Vera Cruz and Hira systems.

Race: Human

Quote: “You wanted glory? I and I alone have given you that opportunity. Kill me and you will be a hero, fall before my blade and you will be remembered with honor… you have already won. En garde.”

Description: A tall, lean-faced man with fair hair that has been allowed to grow into a long mane down his back. His eyes are a cold and calculating grey blue that can freeze men where they stand.

Body: Strength 7, Dexterity 9, Endurance 7
Mind: Wits 7, Perception 9, Tech 7
Spirit: Extrovert 7, Introvert 3, Passion 5, Calm 5, Faith 2, Ego 8
Natural Skills: Charm 7, Dodge 10, Fight 8, Impress 9, Melee 10, Observe 7, Shoot 6, Sneak 3, Vigor 7
Learned Skills: Drive (spacecraft) 5, Social (leadership) 9, Streetwise 4, Think Machine 4, Warfare (gunnery) 5, Spacesuit, Speak Urthish, Speak Ukari, Speak Urthtech, Read Urthish
Combat Actions: Feint, Parry-Riposte, Fancy Footwork, Disarm, Off-hand, Wall of Steel, Cloak, Athletic Strike
Weapons: Vibro Rapier (built in shield breaker), Blaster Pistol
Armor: Assault Shield
Wyrd: 9
Vitality: -10/-8/-6/-4/-2/0/0/0/0/0/0/0

Warhand, modified Scorpion Class Frigate
Size Rating: 6 (60m long, 20m wide, 15m high)
Grade: Atmosphere
Engines: Fast
Speed Left / Right
Full thrust 0 / 0
3/4 thrust 1 / 1
Half thrust 2 / 2
1/4 thrust 3 / 3
Full stop 4 / 4
Armament: 2x Grappling Gun (1 port, 1 starboard), 6x Light Lasers (3 port, 3 starboard), 2x Med Blasters (turret)
Sensors: Laser Radar 5
Crew: 14 (captain, bridge crew x2, engineer x2, gunner x9)
Passengers: 14 Marines
Cargo: 100 metric tons
Jumps: 2
Supplies: 3 months
Vitality: 60
Cost: 110,750 firebirds

Description: The Warhand has the physical profile of a standard Scorpion Class frigate, but on closer inspection reveals that the forward gun mount and troop bay have been stripped away and replaced with forward cargo bay. This space can be used for cargo or as a training space for Adreck’s rogues. The interior space has been reorganized to allow for large boarding actions to be conducted through the port or starboard side airlocks.

History: Originally named the Erasmus, Adreck served as a Marine officer aboard her while the ship was on deep space patrol hunting Kurgan shipping in the Hira system. When she was ambushed and most of the bridge crew killed in 5003, Adreck took control of the vessel in order to get his crew home safely. He later purchased her and she was refitted courtesy of Adreck’s investors. Since that time, the Warhand has been sighted in both Vera Cruz and Hira systems and often engaged in acts of piracy against Hazat shipping. 
The open letters written about the deeds of this vessel by its current captain ensure that the ship is one of the best known on the war front. And many, often conflicting, sightings have placed it conducting acts of aggression against both Hazat and Kurgan ships.

Friday, 8 February 2013


Back in 2007, before the Fading Suns Team at RedBrick had even started work on the FS3 concept document, we had been working on a book called "Prisoners and Exiles". A fair amount of work went into the book, but the project never found completion due to some writers dropping out. Most of the work load fell one the shoulders of Alex Wichert and myself, and we were already overdue at that point.

I've recently unearthed a bunch of files that I wrote for that project so I'm just going to post them up here. I should say that much of this material was to be incorporated into FS3 product line and in some cases was rewritten between FS2 and FS3 to reflect changing design priorities.

This material has not been formally edited.

Drexhavel Compound, Kriel

“Kriel? I cannot imagine any sane being wanting to visit such a cursed place. Leminkainen is an abundant world, but somehow Kriel manages to look bleak and out of place, at odds with the rest of the planet. There is an oppressive atmosphere that hangs over the island, like a blanket of sorrow and misery. Things are done there at should never see the light of day, and we turned our backs out of convenience.”
-- Baron Justin Spencer Hawkwood, 5008

The House Dextrite fiefdom of Kriel is a large island, surrounded by the Isalight Sea. Located in the temperate southern polar regions of Leminkainen, the climate is both cooler and wetter than the equatorial regions of the globe. Leminkainen’s hot red star casts an eerie sanguine light and dust entering the planet’s magnetosphere creates a glittering curtain of light over the southern reaches of the island during the winter months. With Leminkainen’s temperate climate, mid-winter rarely produces anything more serious than ground frost, and snow is unheard of even on the mountain peaks.
Kriel should be a paradise, a fertile land of temperate weather and plentiful water with which to grow crops. But instead it is viewed with suspicion and fear. It is a place of terrible horrors and monsters that wear the skins of men. If popular myth is to be believed, then the whole island is a dumping ground for murderers, thieves and rapists. Tales abound of the evil Dextrite overlords who rule this land having spawned beasts that plague the night.
Most maps available of Leminkainen mark the whole island of Kriel as a penal colony; though this is not strictly accurate, the Dextrite lords prefer not to correct this misunderstanding, as it deters unwanted visitors to their lands
The Drexhavel Compound is what most people think of when they hear the name Kriel and most are ignorant of its actual name. Drexhavel has the distinction of being the most widely feared purgatorium outside of Decados space. House Hawkwood turns a blind eye to what occurs there simply because it has a vested interest in being able to dispose of violent criminals and political agitators without getting its own hands dirty. For the right price, Drexhavel accepts any prisoner from anywhere and ensures that they never again see the light of day. As a result, inmates of this horrific place come from all corners of the Known Worlds and the profits from this business have turned House Dextrite’s fortunes as well as allowing them to engage in research that the moral majority would consider distasteful at best and heretical at worst.
The Drexhavel Compound is constructed on two levels. Above ground resembles a prisoners-of-war camp, with its long huts fenced in and guarded by high towers. This facility is reserved for low risk, non-violent prisoners who are allotted into work gangs and used for slave labor in the production of food, manufacturing or manual labor for the benefit of their Dextrite masters. In truth there is little difference between the lives of these prisoners and the typical Dextrite serf, except the right to family and offspring. While it is rare, children born in the compound become the property of House Dextrite and are taken from their mothers at birth. Some say these unfortunates are subjected to debased medical practices, others that Dextrite lords adopt these scions of Drexhavel and raise them as their own.
The second part of Drexhavel is located below ground, obscured from prying eyes. According to Dextrite propaganda the below ground level facility is simply solitary confinement cells for the most demented and violent inmates. No one really knows for certain how far these labyrinthine tunnels run or exactly what they connect to. There is a secure solitary confinement prison just as House Dextrite claims, but there are also medical laboratories that conduct horrific invasive practices upon selected inmates.
It is no coincidence that House Dextrite has a reputation for merciful lore and masters of anatomical and surgical knowledge. Many guilders and even a few of the Amalthean Order come to Leminkainen to study the mysteries of human physiology. Though the Church frowns on such practices, House Dextrite has managed to court powerful allies in the form of House Decados, and numerous minor physick guilds; even House Hawkwood sees the value of turning a blind eye, and most importantly the Inquisition has so far been unable to secure evidence of wrongdoing.
Drexhavel is more than just a prison; it is a great experiment in behavioral control. The lessons learned in the deep laboratories are applied on a wider scale to the House’s serf population to ensure a passive obedience and an inability to rise against their masters and betters. Interestingly, Kriel has almost no freemen population at all, a small number still exist clustered around each of the nobles and providing technical services but even the term ‘freeman’ is seen as a threat to Dextrite supremacy. By definition, freemen have free will and the right to control their own destinies; this is the greatest threat to the Dextrite way. In the ideal Dextrite society all would be obedient and subservient to the House, behaviorally programmed for absolute loyalty to their master. 
The first phase of this grand plan of control was the acquisition of knowledge, the science of behavioral modification, genetic engineering and cybernetic implantation. This has inadvertently placed House Dextrite in a position of authority in medical circles and brought the attention of outsiders seeking to learn from the Dextrite masters. The second phase of the great plan was to apply these sciences and to distill them into practical applications. These have led to the creation of the corsairs and an increased importance for Drexhavel as a dumping ground for criminal waste from the other Houses.

Correctional Doctrine
Despite the claims of House Dextrite, the Kriel facility is not about rehabilitation, it is about exploiting a criminal resource in a manner that benefits the House. The facility makes use of violent, often disturbing, and arcane pharmacological and even surgical interventions to rehabilitate low-grade offenders. This often takes the form of electro-convulsive therapy, lobotomies and behavioral modification through aversion therapy. Those that survive their treatment with sufficient faculty remaining to still function within society are returned as ‘cured’ of their sickness. Most become little more than drooling living husks and are subject to further experimentation, humiliation and degradation.
In the deep facilities, violent prisoners receive even more invasive measures, not aimed at breaking their will or their minds to create placid serfs, but instead to harness their violent and often psychotic urges for the benefit of the House. Through cybernetic, genetic and biomechanical modification, drug therapy and invasive cranial surgery it is believed that these criminals can provide a benefit to the House as soldiers, warriors and corsairs.
Increasingly emboldened by their successes and the growing number of their corsair soldiers, House Dextrite has begun to unleash its experimental warriors on merchant ships that ply the oceans of Leminkainen. Survivors have told tales of great metal beasts ramming and ripping lesser built ships in half or surfacing to disgorge a horde of vicious pirates who show no quarter.

The Drexhavel Compound has been built upon a wide peninsula with sheer sea cliffs protecting three sides. The only approach over land is rough and rugged, requiring horses or other off-road vehicle to traverse. Although it is possible to approach by air, there is no landing strip. Most prisoners and supplies are brought in by sea, although the rocks and shallow channels below the cliffs require a practiced hand in even fair weather. From the timber-built docks, a narrow winding stair has been cut into the cliff face.

Drexhavel Compound
On the surface, Drexhavel looks like more like a prisoner-of-war camp than an actual prison. Inmates live in communal sheds in fenced-in compounds watched over by high guard towers. Prisoners are formed into work gangs who perform menial and manual labor for their Dextrite masters. 

Isolation Cells
Below the surface is the secure isolation wing of the prison. Long detention halls with hundreds of individual holding cells, each tiny cell barely big enough to allow the inmate any room to move. Cold electrical lighting and surgical cleanliness gives this prison a stark medicinal feel over the grubby squalid conditions above.

Tunnel Warrens
A warren of interconnecting tunnels connects all the different levels and areas of the prison.  Some are wide and well lit, while others are only poorly lit and wide enough for a single person at a time. Most follow shallow gradients but some are steep ramps down into the bowels of the ancient rocks. While many were built when Drexhavel was first constructed, others are older still and folklore and legends attach dark tales and ungodly practices to others. How much of this is Dextrite propaganda is difficult to say.

Physick Laboratories
Somewhere deep below the level of the isolation cells are the physical laboratories. There are at least a dozen of these facilities, each geared towards a different type of ‘treatment’. Some resemble modern surgical theaters; others medieval torture chambers, but most are some hybrid of these two extremes. This is where proscribed physick practices are performed on terrified, screaming inmates. Skin is peeled back to reveal bone and muscle, the brain is laid open and electrodes inserted. Strange chemical drips change the balance of consciousness and sanity. This is where traitors reveal secrets and psychotics surrender their wills under the force of cybernetic, pharmacological or genetic experiments, before being admitted to the ranks of the corsairs.

The Workings
Those lesser prisoners that have technical competences are put to work in the deep underground forge works to produce equipment and weapons for the corsairs and their Dextrite masters. Most of the equipment produced is relatively low-tech weapons and armor. But here too are produced replacement parts for the mechanical leviathans that carry the corsairs on their quests for plunder.

The Moon Pool
A huge chamber, half water-filled with a deep-water channel that leads up through the bedrock to the seafloor. It is from here that the metal submersibles are launched and here they return with their spoils. Great lifting machines allow for these subsea ships to be lifted completely from the water to be serviced and repaired. Dock platforms permit the loading and unloading of these vessels though the crews never debark once they are assigned to a ship. The only way off is in death.

Neither Kriel nor Drexhavel are places that anyone with a sane mind would want to visit. Peasant folklore claims that the island is haunted or cursed by the spirits of those who have been incarcerated there and most can tell tales about bizarre hauntings and husk outbreaks.
A lucrative scam in recent years has been the number of fake maps claiming that lost treasures or Ur artifacts could be found in the deep mountainous interior of Kriel. Many fools who paid handsomely for such directions only to see corsairs ambush their expedition on high seas. Even those who have returned have done so at considerable cost, often claiming to have been hunted by strange misshapen beasts, and, to add insult to injury were refused hospitality and turned away from Dextrite estates if they arrived uninvited.
Though the corsairs have raided shipping on the Isalight Sea for over a century their numbers have grown recently as has the risk they pose to merchant shipping all across Leminkainen. The raiders have started to move further afield in search of rich targets to plunder. Depending on the cargo they expect, the corsairs might simply ram or torpedo a merchant ship and recover the surviving cargo from the sea bottom. If they are seeking prisoners they are more likely to surface and board the vessel. Sometimes House Dextrite uses the corsairs to target troublesome nobles or priests that are traveling between ports.

Captain Nemus
A figure of Leminkainen folklore, the legendary dread pirate Nemus has been the scourge of the high seas for over quarter of a century. The man first attained notoriety for a daring raid on the fortified port of Madenport in which his submarine entered the port by stealth to raid a merchant fleet while it was still in dock. 

Since then his great metal submersible has been inspired fear and awe in equal measure. More tales exist than actual sightings, and the raids of other corsairs are often attributed to this daring pirate lord.
In truth Nemus is a Dextrite experiment, an attempt to enhance and induce a tactical instinct into a cowardly criminal. The treatment saw him subjected to torture and drug therapies that ravaged his body while pushing his mind to the limit of sanity. To his credit Nemus embraced the changes that his Dextrite masters instilled into him using his enhanced intellect to plan complex raids with a casual disregard for human life. Over the years he has studied naval tactics and the specific styles of the prominent naval captains who have been ordered to bring him to justice. Often able to second guess what his quarry is going to do his uncanny foresight has given much fuel to the idea that he has made a deal with the dark powers in return for being undefeatable.
For all his callous disregard for human life, Nemus doesn’t squander the lives of his crew and he understands how to motivate and inspire with a mixture of fear and respect.

Count Carsden Hanvel Dextrite
The elite of House Dextrite have a reputation as master physicks and Count Carsden Hanvel Dextrite is no exception. Born the third son of Count Wilhelm Hanvel Dextrite he was apprenticed to his elderly uncle to learn about the medical arts from a young age and expected to fill a lowly position as a physick and interrogator. When his uncle died of an unknown ailment, Carsden returned to his father’s fief but did so with many of his elderly mentor’s journals and notebooks.
Within in the year there had been a change of fortunes, his father’s health began to fail with symptoms similar to his uncle’s and Carsden became his personal physician, ministering to him both day and night. Then both his elder brothers suffered unexplained fates, leaving Carsden the next legitimate heir in line. Since his inheritance, a sequence of unfortunate occurrences has taken the lives of all his younger siblings.
After securing his own ascension, he turned his attention to producing a more perfect and compliant social order. Using Drexhavel as a laboratory, he has concocted and tested a number of biological nerve agents to bring about a compliant and submissive state in his serf population. While other Dextrite lords concern themselves with cybernetics or genetic engineering to build perfect warriors with which to pacify their subjects and enemies, Carsden prefers to bypass the battlefield and the needless squandering of resources and force enemy to become his willing subjects. So far he has managed to build toxins that excite or pacify a subject, but he hopes to take his work further and to establish a delivery mechanism that would allow him to enslave whole worlds.