The World of Tenneberg is a wasteland, an expanse of mustard yellow sand and blackened rock. Most of its surface sits in enormous depressions that may have once been seas with scattered plateau islands jutting kilometers above the surrounding desert, obsidian pillars silhouetted against a hazy red sky. Five continents make up roughly a sixth of the world’s surface, they raise from the depressions in as dramatic a fashion as the islands, creating ragged near vertical cliff faces as much as five kilometers high and hundreds long. The only features breaking this endless expanse of sand and stone are two small polar ice caps, and the jumble of bloated pseudo-hives that mottle its surface. A formidable imperial presence and a population now numbering in the billions has steadily accreted over the 800 years since the world’s settlement in order to exploit its seemingly inexhaustible mineral wealth. The world is ruled from Hive Koenrich by a Lord Governor appointed for life by a council of the leaders of the Seven Major Houses. Bern, Theot, Hilde, Kreva, Valkena, Astreid, and Solut each administrate from their eponymous hives, and are each specialized in their own particular sphere of the world’s industry.
Of The Houses the first five are recognized as the Noble Houses, established by the feudalistic distribution of power and land by the first Lord Governor, Viktor Tenneberg, to each of his children, their lordship remains a hereditary position with each ruling family tracing its lineage back to Viktor. Astreid and Solut both established themselves following the Succession Wars, a series of brutal civil wars following the death of the ninth Lord Governor, Alastatia II of Theot some 500 years ago. Astreid prior to the wars had been a conglomerate of free merchants operating within the hives of the other noble houses. With the wars devastating the Noble Houses’ militarily and economically, Astreid Harhonzallen organized a pooling of the guild’s resources and raised an army of mercenaries and defectors. She was able to seize control of Hive Pelophon (renamed Astreid), previously held by House Hilde, and established a parliament composed of prominent guild members, the hive’s gentry, and wealthy industrialists. The parliament remains the ruling body of House Astreid, which though named in Harhonzallen’s honor, did not see the establishment of her lineage as hereditary rulers. Mikhail Solut saw a similar path to power, a Baron of House Valkena he had been granted his title and a fiefdom for his excellent record of service in Valkena’s military forces prior to the wars. Frustrated however that he had no direct lineage to the ruling family and thus no claim to higher office he took advantage of the power vacuum left in the wake of the conflict. He raised a people’s army with the promise of better working conditions and more personal freedoms and seized control of mining colonies, military bases, and the proto-hive that would become his capital. Most of the world’s minor houses and a handful of other significant political bodies saw their genesis during or immediately after the war as well, most notably the House Militant.
After the conflict the standing armies of the Houses were at least nominally dissolved, the expansion and militarization of their guards and security has left each with a still significant force, and in their stead the House Militant was formed on the model of the council and lord governorship of the world. Each House provides a tithe of men and equipment to this combined and theoretically neutral army and appoints a general to serve as the senior officer of their contribution and representative of their interests. From this military council an individual is chosen by mutual consent to act as the Marshal of the House Militant and ensure coordination and cooperation of House forces during military campaigns. The carefully constructed balance of power though now teeters on the brink, four months ago Alexus VI of Kreva died after a reign of only 17 years and with no clear successor. The Council of the Great Houses remains locked in bitter stalemate, disasters bearing the hallmarks of deliberate sabotage and covert military action occur with steadily increasing frequency, and fears of another war of succession have created an atmosphere of paranoia and distrust between the Houses. Despite the looming conflict, day to day life goes on much as it has for centuries.
Customs and Culture
The proceedings of day to day life on Tenneberg can be traced to the culture and personal taste imported by the world’s first Lord Governor, coming from a military background he structured a strictly regimented society where one might rise or fall from favor within ones birth caste but only rarely above or beyond their inherited social rank. At current the generally recognized strata are the ruling families of the Great Houses referred to as the High Nobility at the top. The Low Nobles are composed of the periphery members of the Noble families as well as advisors, military leaders, or others favored by the High Nobility that have been granted fiefdoms or semi-autonomous areas to govern, the leadership of the Lesser Houses fall into this category as well. The High and Low Nobility make up roughly 2% of the population. High Managerial positions and wealthy private business owners are referred to as the Gentry, they are generally extraordinarily wealthy by comparison to those below them and educated as well as the nobility but lack a proper lineage to pursue political goals outside of House Astreid, they compose roughly 5% of the population. Below them the lay house members make up the largest single group on Tenneberg at roughly 68% of the population, they are essentially serfs. Rank and file soldiers, craftsmen, manufactorum workers, and servants all fall into this class and though the upper tiers within it may own land most are permanently indebted to members of the Nobility or Gentry. Below them are the unhoused, paupers, underhivers, and the small enclaves of human life that exist outside house authority in the wastes, they are considered as vermin by the rest of the population. They are condemned to a life of poverty and starvation the only escape from which is service in the conscript legions of the House Militant, something significant numbers willingly volunteer for for the guarantee of food and shelter it brings. This predilection to rigidly organized and formal relationships permeates most aspects of life from the family unit, with importance usually being determined by seniority, to religious convictions, the Emperor sits atop a stratified hierarchy of worlds organised by their contributions to his glorious cause with Tenneberg of course near the top. All societies need some form of release though and the population of Tenneberg finds theirs in the spectacular brutality of blood sports. Historically gladiatorial games have entertained the public and been an expedient way of removing criminals and political adversaries from society, their cost and their perception as old fashioned in some hives has seen a recession in their a popularity over the past century though by and large they are still seen as part of the world’s cultural heritage and still take place on most major holidays. In their stead animal fights, mostly using sand skitters (small reptile like organisms taken from the biosphere that exists around the world’s northern pole) have steadily gained popularity. Gambling, drinking, and all forms of excess generally accompany both types of games. For those of more delicate taste the Nobility and Gentry the world over have a love for extravagant theatre productions, currently dramas depicting the history of Tenneberg and famous battles fought by the greater Imperium make up the bulk of the presentation.
Factions and Locales
House and Hive Theot
Currently led by William Heltz Tenneberg, under the title of William III of Theot, House Theot is the fourth largest house by population and the 3rd wealthiest. Its royal family has established and led the house as the world’s primary supplier and exporter of raw materials. Coals, prometheo-chemicals, and a variety of metals are sold to both other houses and offworld traders in vast quantities. Historically the Mechanicus has been a major buyer and the the royal family has maintained close ties with them. The family itself remains one of the more conservative and orthodox of the Great Houses, stressing strict adherence to the imperial creed making them popular with most of the Ecclesiarchy but along with the poor level of education of its laborers, even by imperial standards, the Hive has been left a cultural backwater. The second city founded on Tenneberg it still functions in its original purpose of funneling resources from the surrounding mines into orbit and bringing personnel and equipment to the surface. As the city has grown and sprawled outwards to the point that it is now considered a hive it has overtaken many of the mining and refining operations that were once on its border slowly incorporating them into its own mammoth structure. Some of the Hive’s most recognizable features include the enormous Basilica of His Radiant Glory, the pit, and the Lucian docks in geosynchronous orbit above. The Basilica stands as the largest place of worship on Tenneberg and aside from serving the spiritual needs of the Hive’s residents also serves as the administrative center of the Ecclesiarchy on the world. The pit refers to almost the entire eastern edge of the hive, when Theot was founded it was constructed near a continental edge, as it expanded it soon struck this cliff face preventing further development eastward and forcing the city to sprawl out along it and in a few places now small sections overhang the cliff creating a view that can only be described as awe inspiring. The Lucian docks despite being separated from Theot by several vertical kilometers are considered part of the hive by most, built along with it as a place to load and unload goods from interstellar transports they have grown just as Theot has. They now handle nearly 20% of commercial traffic for the world, mostly composed of the sale of Theot’s mineral resources, and can provide extensive repair and refit options for vessels, they have received the nickname “Theot’s Halo” both from Hive dwellers and ship captains alike for their radial structure.
House and Hive Valkena
The Lord Valkena Luther of Yorke inherited a house that had seemingly long since passed its prime, its territory and holdings sitting at less than half of what it had once controlled. After a slow beginning however his leadership has been the first hope of a revival of Valkena’s power in more than a century with a steady building of inertia behind new industry and construction, in particular the negotiation of a warrant from the Mechanicus to produce a variety of munitions for the Munitorium has generated a steady and significant stream of income. Grand public spectacles played for with this new found wealth have reinvigorated public moral and a general mood of optimism has taken root in the Hive. Those who have had the honor to meet the great lord himself though have nearly all been surprised to find a demure, some have even said permanently sullen or depressed, individual with little apparent aptitude for power or interest in statecraft. Given his stunning success his opponents have long since become convinced it is a calculated ploy that they might underestimate him. His lack of personal charms aside though he has become a popular candidate for the Lord Governorship not for force of arms or wealth but the the possibility that he could manage to do for the entire world what he has achieved for his own house. Hive Valkena has always been an industrial center and though the type of products it has turned out have shifted with politics and interstellar trade its manufactorums have always been the core of its power. Currently the smallest by size and population of the capitals of the Great houses it none the less consumes more coal, and promethium than any other to fuel its ever churning assembly lines. This enormous movement of resources in and products out is handled by a spider web of rail networks radiating out from the hive across the wastes to its mineral suppliers and Hive Koenrich where its goods are lifted into orbit for transport to offworld buyers. The volume of heavy industry has left the hive with a reputation of being particularly dirty and unhealthy but none the less it has become a center for the performing arts on Tenneberg. Its unusually large mid class of managers and overseers having the time and wealth, and given their gloomy surroundings particularly the want, to partake of such distractions. The Lord Valkena has sought to bring this pleasure, and its pacifying effect, to the masses with the construction of an enormous public ampitheatre near the hives core, that gives host to both theatrical events, and a revival of the grand displays of traditional blood sport made all the more spectacular by the Lord’s apparent penchant for exotic, and lethal, xenoforms.
House and Hive Hilde
One of the great industrial Houses Hilde’s power lies in its manufacture of complex machinery. Whereas Valkena has shifted its focus with changing times and Solut has become a jack of all trades Hilde has remained focused and resolute perfecting the assembly lines that turn out engines, generators, and the mining equipment so much of the world’s industry is based on. The Lord Hilde is an imposing figure, broad shouldered and nearly seven feet tall his hulking appearance is only further exaggerated by his custom of wearing a military uniform augmented with a heavy fur cloak. Known for his bombastic speeches and fiery temper he is not a man to be trifled with and if his ascent to power is any indication he has little compunction about the use of force. Heading the the wealthiest and best armed the Major Houses at current he by most measures should have been the obvious successor to the seat of the Lord Governor save for the fact that fate itself seems to conspire against him reaching the position. Scandals questioning the legitimacy of his bloodline erupted mere days before Alexus’s death and gave his opponents time to rally and consolidate their opposition to his ascension. His rail lines have become the targets of bandit raids in the wastes and his exported goods have suffered from repeated acts of piracy in the void, undercutting the financial stability of his House. Rebellions have fermented in his holdings with little to no warning and several of his key backers have died in a series of unfortunate accidents. His frustration growing daily with the course of events it seems only a matter of time before he will refuse to suffer further setbacks and will resort to military action.
Hive Hilde is an enormous structure mostly sealed off from outsiders, its outermost layer being the only section they have access to and composed mostly of merchant houses. Its interior is a vast complex devoted to the production of the equipment, engines, and motorized vehicles that have given the house power. The production of these goods takes place from start to finish within the confines of this closed city from the mining of the raw materials from mineral deposits below the hive proper to the final construction of the components in massive manufactory enclaves, not a hint is given to outsiders as to the methods used.
House and Hive Kreva
House Kreva stands out from its contemporaries as the only House whose major holdings do not lie on Tenneberg; rather the habitable moon of Gul is the jewel of their empire. Orbiting Thorn, the innermost gas giant in the system, the moon is home to fertile soil, large bodies of fresh water and a biosphere relatively friendly to human life, the majority of the moon has been converted to agriculture the products of its fields shipped by Kreva to Tenneberg to feed the enormous population. The relatively young Lady Kreva, Bellara Arichet, is a cunning and shrewd politician. She seems well aware of how strategically important of an asset her services would be should a full scale war erupt and has spent the months since Alexus’s death courting favorable contracts and treaties with the other houses, whether she has any ambition of trying to seize the Lord Governors Throne herself is a mystery.
Hive Kreva is modest in size and appearance compared to the other capitals, the majority of it composed of store houses and processing plants to handle the mostly raw goods shipped in from Gul. Its people have historically adhered to conservative values but Bellara has launched a campaign to modernise and expand the sphere of influence of her House. She has established Universities to serve the nobility of Tenneberg, assigned a permanent envoy to the Mechanicus in hopes of advancing industrial capabilities, and attracted a great number of the world’s scholars and writers to take up residence in the hive with her openness to new ideas. In one particularly symbolic move she has condemned the use of humans in the traditional gladiatorial games of Tenneberg and in her own hive supplanted their use with gaudily decorated servitors that they have earned the nickname, brass fools. The house maintains a small orbital dock above the hive reserved for receiving transport ships from Gul.
House and Hive Bern
House Bern has built its power on biological industry constructing servitors and supplying vast quantities of synthetic nutrients to compete with Kreva’s command of food supplies. For those wealthy enough to afford them the Hive offers the most advanced medical care, juvenant treatments, and bionics available on Tenneberg, the famous longevity of its nobility standing as testament to the quality of their products. The last of the previous generation of rulers, the Lord Bern Thaddeus Mercadian Tenneberg has ruled his house for more than a century. Respected and admired even by his foes he has consistently been a voice of moderation and compromise, and has strived to keep his House a neutral party in the current crises. A wide sprawling and squat Hive its manufacturing is decentralized across its expanse, dotted with storage tanks for chemical and biological products, the machine shops and artisan guilds responsible for producing the mechanical components for servitors and bionics and the vat-clusters that grow biological frames and components. The main spire far off center near the western edge of the structure along with housing the Noble family is home to the hives famed medical facilities and the scholae specialized in training their staff. Beneath the Hive sits an enormous network of natural caves commonly known as the Labyrinth. Officially used as a holding area for hazardous wastes produced by the hives work rumors abound of failed experiments and political dissidents being disposed of within its expanse as well.
House and Hive Astreid
House Astreid’s most notable feature is of course its status as the only Great House not commanded from a hereditary position. Led by a parliament of nearly one hundred and fifty individuals now its internal politics are often derided as a morass of backroom dealings and ever shifting alliances that according to the Noble Houses make it slow to act and an untrustworthy ally. Its economic and military success across the past centuries however paints a very different picture. Since its founding it has constructed the largest cluster of dockyards and storage houses in orbit around Tenneberg, The Astreid Mercantile Exchange, and has used political favors to procure exempt status from various tariffs and taxes on importing and exporting goods. This coupled with a long standing foundation of solid trading practices honed prior to its assertion of self-rule has allowed it to build itself into an economic power house via interstellar trade. In military matters their ability to equip their standing forces with high grade and exotic equipment coupled with a history of raising mercenary forces seemingly from nowhere with their extensive coffers have often proved decisive advantages. The criticisms laid by the other houses are not wholly unfounded though, shifts of power in their internal structure, a much more frequent occurrence for them than any other political force on Tenneberg, often result in dramatic shifts of their alliances and policies on the world stage and with most of their military fielded by wealthy individuals rather than the central government poor coordination has more than once hamstrung their effectiveness. As plenipotentiary to the Council of the Great Houses Sebastian of Nericassa is currently the public face of Astreid, possessed of a slight form but a sharp wit he is generally well liked at home and abroad but is seen as only a mouth piece with little actual power by most of Tenneberg’s political figures.
Hive Astreid is a patchwork of trading houses, factories, and venues for any kind of entertainment and distraction that money can buy. Structures built in varied and clashing styles from local stone, and imported materials alike create a gaudy maze as intricate and difficult to navigate as the political alliances of the parliament, all constructed at the whim, and to the personal tastes of powerful families and figures within the hive. Many of these monuments have long outlived the individuals that ordered their creation, retrofitted for some new purpose by new owners; others will soon be torn down in an ongoing cycle of building and rebuilding. The only permanent features of the hive seem to be its docks in orbit above and the grand bazaar at its core. Everything from street vendors peddling goods from handcarts to enormous galleries staffed by hundreds can be found in this enormous expanse of free trade.
House and Hive Solut
House Solut has been subject to some of the most dramatic shifts of power to befall any of the great Houses, adhering as strictly to a policy of hereditary succession as the Noble Houses but without nearly so large a royal line established to draw rulers from Solut has seen complete incompetents ascend its throne for lack of a better choice, as well as ingenious and Machiavellian figures who might have been sidelined by the politics of a larger family. Although it has achieved a relative stability over the past two centuries the trials of its past have driven it towards a policy of internal self-sufficiency less some new catastrophe cost it significant measures of its external holdings again. Vladimir Korusson is the current Barron of Solut, a titled retained as a snub to the posturing and courtly procedure of the Noble Houses, and has presided over a slow but steady improvement of the House’s economic position, he has found few allies in the Council of the Great Houses though leaving his ambitions for the Lord Governorship a fanciful notion. He is said to be a stoic man who is slow to trust, a loyal ally to his friends, and a patient foe when it comes to taking vengeance on his enemies. He has kept largely in line with the policies of Mikhail and his other predecessors of seeing to a better life for his citizenry though this is very much a relative matter. Hive Solut itself is the youngest of any of the Great Houses’ capitals but thanks to periods of explosive growth seen under its more successful rulers it is by no means the smallest. An unusual design by the world’s standards the structures foundations grew around and up one of Tennenberg’s island plateaus in the Tharkolt Depression, leaving the Hive with a spine of natural stone rather than a grand spire. Industry has since mined into and through this natural core with hablocks, factories, and businesses filling in the tunnels as they grew creating a twisting maze of intersecting passages that even by the standards of a hive city are an ill planed jumble. This layout has made it a common joke that of all the structures referred to as hives on the world, it is the most appropriately so named, most Solut natives take the comment as an insult implying they are vermin. Industry in the hive is far more organized than its streets though and thanks to the policies of the past two centuries the most diversified of any of the Great Houses, mining, refining, manufacturing and a nascent biological technology enclave put the hive on the cusp of the self-sufficiency it desperately wants. Though their products are often not as efficient or elegant as those of their more specialized neighbors a strong sense of pride amongst its citizenry ensures a large internal market for goods and services with excess raw materials, much to the chagrin of House Theot, making up most of the Hive’s exports.
Hive Koenrich stands as the only Hive on the world that does not belong to one of the Great Houses. It is officially the capitol of Tenneberg and serves as both the seat of the Lord Governor and the headquarters of the House Militant and more importantly to the politics of the world is a neutral location for the Council of the Great Houses to convene. The hive is composed of a central spire housing the offices of the Lord Governor and enclaves of the various Imperial ministries present on the world, including permanent representatives of the Munitorium, Administratum, and Mechanicum. The hive Proper is divided into 7 “concessions” each given by the Lord Governor in his great magnanimity to one of the Great Houses to maintain and use as a diplomatic center to the other Houses and the greater Imperium. The Hive’s industry goes towards sustaining itself and its populace most of whom lives within one of the concessions and accordingly swear fealty to its lord. A sizable dock in orbit over the hive provides service to ambassadorial needs as well as acting as a point for the trade for goods of houses not possessing their own orbital facilities.
The House Militant
The House Militant has maintained peace on Tenneberg for nearly five centuries standing in between the Great Houses and preventing anything larger than border skirmishes from manifesting. Currently headed by Marshal Konrad Goeslar restructuring of deployments over the past few months have betrayed his fear of a new war of succession breaking out. Dead Hand units have been recalled to Koenrich and the tithed men of each house have been dispersed to posts as far from their homes as possible. Commanders with strong ties back to the ruling families have been deployed into the waste on campaigns against the notoriously elusive bandit and raider enclaves that operate outside house rule. Whether this attempt to centralize dependably loyal forces and to occupy potentially rebellious ones will be enough to prevent the Great Houses from ignoring treaty and recalling them to arms in the service of their lords remains to be seen.
The Dead Hand
The Dead Hand is a small independent set of units within the House Militant, serving a combination role of storm trooper and commissariat duties. Members are recruited solely from the conscript legions on the following basis. Firstly those individuals resourceful enough to survive and distinguish themselves in the suicidal tasks often given to conscript divisions show an unusual aptitude for combat. Secondly that they are motivated enough to serve a world that by and large despises them with such vigor ensures, with mental conditioning, unusual loyalty to their commanders. Lastly that they are without ties to the Houses and though loyal to their world that they still despise their oppressors keeps them all too happy to turn their weapons on their Housed brethren should the order be given. Historically they have been deployed as squads attached to the command staff of House Units forming their body guard and an ever-present reminder of loyalty to the Marshal not their house. Their massing in Koenrich over the past month has seen many interpretations. The de facto heads of the Dead Hand are currently the “Mamzel” Lucretia and her immediate subordinate Lieutenant Saule Marquebius Lafayet.