King of Kings
Hive Sibellus is the oldest city on Scintilla, almost certainly predating Angevin’s invasions. Its immense, eight thousand kilometre-wide bulk dominates the coastal plains and lowlands of the northern temperate landmass. Where its enormous, multi-layered skirts touch the coast itself—in a five hundred kilometre belt—they spill out over the black granite cliffs like shelves or glacial ridges. Sibellus has twice the population of its “twin” Hive Tarsus.
Like almost all Imperial hives, Hive Sibellus is composed of an extraordinary conglomeration of architectural forms. Countless generations have added their own embellishments and every available surface is crammed with gargoyles, frescoes, columns and mosaics. The hive spire is a jumble of glittering wonders, while the middle hive—and even the underhive—is composed of long-fallen statues and temples to wealth and power. The middle hivers live in rickety tenements built inside the shells of great mansions and basilicas, and trudge to work each day through avenues formed by fallen statues. The underhivers live in buried hovels built into the eyes of great stone heads or clustered around the broken columns of fallen temples.
The sprawl of the hive is at its most spectacular along the rugged coastline. The hive looms—indeed, spills—over towering black granite cliffs, which are lashed by ferocious seas during the stormy season. The Lucid Palace, a city in its own right, stands on a massive column of rock rising from the sea just off the coast, connected to the hive by a single, cyclopean, stone processional bridge, as well as by countless smaller rope bridges and a fleet of ferries which transport strong-stomached passengers across the debris-strewn waters. Hundreds of rickety elevators scale the cliffs and the rock column on which the palace stands, and the hovels of ferrymen and fishermen cling to the rock face like barnacles. The bulk of Hive Sibellus itself rises up many times the height of the cliffs, casting a permanent shadow over the headland and the waters.
Hive Sibellus is Scintilla’s power centre and every noble house on the planet seeks to have its own estate on the hive spire. These estates form an extraordinary riot of architectural styles, from stern fortresses to gilded pleasure palaces. The spire is constantly growing, the new estates built on the remains of the old, and so a noble house must constantly strive to embellish its own estates to keep up.
Antiquity is everything in Hive Sibellus. A family draws prestige from the number of ancestral generations it can trace and even the newest estates look like age-weathered bastions of tradition. Hive Sibellus’s nobles are intensely competitive and demonstrate their superiority through the magnificence of their estates as well as the antiquities they collect, from artefacts excavated from the deserts and jungles of Scintilla to works of art from across the Imperium. Most estates conceal a high-security gallery or museum, which sometimes holds extremely valuable and illegal items, like xenos artefacts or even dangerous proscribed texts. The streets of the hive spire are constantly busy. Hive Sibellus’ noble fashions are spectacular, impractical and perpetually changing, and the nobles travel the streets of the spire accompanied by large retinues of servants whose primary role is to look impressive.
The streets in the spire are very safe thanks to the large private armies that guard every estate and the efforts of the Magistratum to man checkpoints, which regulate the people coming in and out of the hive spire. Violence in the spire, apart from trials by combat and sanctioned duels, is rare—the crime that most nobles fret about is burglary, since their collections or artworks and relics are so important to them. Tales of impossibly skilled cat burglars are a staple of Hive Sibellus’ folklore and many of those tales are true, since there are a great many things worth stealing in the spire of Hive Sibellus.
Hive Sibellus’s middle hive is dominated by manufactories devoted to heavy production and the enormous blocks of cheap, warren-like housing for the factoria workers. The traditions of the hive spire filter down to the middle hive, with many hivers collecting curious objects to beautify their meagre homes, aping the extraordinary fashions of the spire nobles or even keeping crudely stuffed dead relatives. The middle hive’s factories and tenement blocks are built among layers of compressed mansions and statuary, making it a confusing and dark place of collapsed finery.
Somewhere deep amongst the fragments of vast statues and toppled remains of great temple-mansions, the middle hive becomes the underhive. Composed of countless compressed layers of the city above, Hive Sibellus’ vast underhive is impossible to navigate and prone to frequent collapse. Underhive settlements huddle in the few stable areas, separated from one another by endless deadly warrens where hive-quakes and cave-ins are a constant threat. Many settlements are completely isolated, their inhabitants hunting underhive vermin to survive and having no idea that there is a hive city above them at all. It is not unknown for nobles of the spire to sponsor heavily-armed expeditions into the underhive to dig up coveted artefacts from Scintilla’s past or to explore the tombs of a family’s distant ancestors.
Hive Sibellus’ most extraordinary single landmark is the Lucid Palace, which houses the magnificent court of Sector Governor Marius Hax. The Lucid Palace, and the vast column rising from the waves on which it sits, is thought to be much older than Hive Sibellus or indeed, anything on Scintilla. The palace resembles a vast flower of stone, its granite petals overlapping to form its huge dome and the many archways used as entrances. The palace is draped with hundreds of banners representing the institutions of Scintilla and its noble houses, and having a banner fluttering from the palace dome is an honour that some will murder for.
Another spectacular landmark is the Bastion Porphyr. This slender tower of purple-black stone is the tallest point in Hive Sibellus and the headquarters for Scintilla’s astropaths. Scintilla’s Astropathic Choir consists of about half a dozen astropaths, the largest concentration of these powerful psykers in the Calixis Sector, led by Senior Astropath Xiao. These astropaths are the only means for contacting other sectors and without them the Calixis Sector would be cut off from the rest of the Imperium. Anyone who wishes to use them to send a message must personally climb the apparently endless spiral staircase up the tower and make their request personally to Senior Astropath Xiao. Each astropath has a different method of visualising and sending messages, and they spend their lives amid the draughty belfries of the Bastion performing intensive mental exercises and studying the tomes of symbolic code. Aside from a few servitors to assist them, no one lives in the Bastion other than the astropaths. The other most notable landmark in the hive is the Tricorn, the palace of the Inquisition. A dark and austere trio of linked towers at the northern end of the hive sprawl, the palace is the headquarters of the High Council of the Calixian Conclave, which is to say that it is the administrative seat of the Inquisition in the sector. Since earliest times, the Inquisition has often convened and empowered a conclave of its members for each sector of the Imperium. Each sector conclave is ruled by a Lord Inquisitor of unimpeachable merit, selected and appointed by the High Lords of the Inquisition on Terra. For the past two hundred years, the Lord Inquisitor of the Calixian Conclave has been Aegult Caidin. Though respectful of the Lord Sector, Caidin answers to no one except the distant High Lords. From the Tricorn Palace, he supervises and directs the general policies and activities of the Inquisitors under his command, as well as individual specialist cabals of Inquisitors sent upon “special circumstance” missions. The Lord Inquisitor is seldom seen in public. It is said that he keeps his true likeness secret, even from close aides and allies, so as to be free to operate unmolested and unrecognised. His true age is not known. Lord Inquisitor Caidin chairs the High Council of the Calixian Conclave, a ruling body of seventy senior Inquistors drawn from all three Ordos, which orchestrates and monitors the Inquisition’s work throughout the sector territories. Estimates suggest that over eight thousand Inquisitorial personnel toil in the officio of the Tricorn, from lowly scribes to archivists, from savants to specialist Tech-Adepts. A small but potent army of Inquisitorial troops is garrisoned at the Tricorn and dedicated starships of the Inquisition are permanently stationed at high anchor above Scintilla for rapid response deployment. It is also suggested, but unconfirmed, that the Tricorn possesses its own astrotelepathic choir. In times of great crisis, the Officio of the High Council Calixis can call upon the help of any Imperial Adeptus it requires. The general multitudes shun the Tricorn, regarding it as a place of fear, peril and downright evil, though largely this is because the average citizen has no real grasp of the work and duties of the conclave. Nevertheless, to be seized by the Inquisition and carried to the Tricorn for questioning is a grim fate that few ever return from.