- "Do or die, when love ran dry,
And soldiers clutch their wounds and sigh.
We don't quite see eye to eye,
But Throne help us, we love her!"
- —Chorus of the popular Deck-Song When Love Ran Dry
New Korinthos, the so-called "Crown Jewel" of the Periphery, is, in reality, anything but beauteous to behold; a barren, radiation-scoured desert periodically broken up by inhospitable salt flats and mazes of jagged fossilized coral. The devastation that the Amphra wrought upon this former Agri-World is practically all-consuming, yet its inhabitants cling to its dusty wastes with a desperate fervor. For to abandon this world would be tantamount to conceding defeat to the xenos, and that is something the Imperium will never allow, no matter how much the Korinthosi suffer for it.
The planet that would come to be known as New Korinthos was originally colonized by a wave of settlers hailing from the nearby Riga System, specifically the Hive World of Mazul, in response to the planet's growing overpopulation crisis. Due to the environmental similarities between the two planets, Administratum surveyor teams had concluded that the transition would be the least jarring for the seafaring Mazulites. Thus in 095.M39 over 5 billion Imperial citizens, roughly one-eighth of Mazul's population, were transported to their new homeworld over the course of several years.
Christening the planet Korinthos, after a similarly waterbound Terran city-state of pre-Imperial antiquity, the colonists quickly set to work establishing their new home as a prominent Agri-World. Hydroponic arcologies sprung up across the planet's titanic oceans, exacting a rich bounty of sea life that was then processed, canned, and then shipped back to the Niero Sector by way of the newly-named Riga Borderlands.
This period, lasting from 108.M39 to the early days of the 40th Millennium, is largely considered to be Korinthos' golden age, in which resources were plentiful and business continued to be profitable, with blossoming economic wealth ensuring a decent standard of living amongst the Korinthosi citizenry. The planet even garnered a reputation as a sort of "everyman's paradise", where hard work was rewarded with just compensation and life went on unmolested by the many horrors of the galaxy. Granted, if left to its own devices no doubt Korinthos' population would have continued to swell until it too faced the same overcrowding situation as its parent world, but alas whatever future it might have had was abruptly aborted when the Amphra arrived.
The battle that would later come to be known as the First Siege of Korinthos did not go well for the Astra Millitarum at first, for the Amphra were masters of amphibious warfare and quickly gained a foothold on the planet, resulting in a hard-fought campaign in which the Imperial Guard only barely managed to repulse the crustacean xenos. Unfortunately, the warlike Drays of Clutch Bloodwake were loath to concede defeat to what they considered an inferior prey-species, and thus released upon the beleaguered world the deadliest craft of their War-Artisans. They referred to these Exterminatus-grade munitions as Lsskorrai, the "Eaters of Skies", but years later the Adeptus Mechanicus would saddle it with a more technical classification: the Ionic Ignition Bomb.
One of these devices was enough to set an entire city alight, but a mass bombardment unleashed a calamity of biblical proportions. The air itself caught fire as Korinthos' ionosphere was supercharged with unstable nuclear particles, flash-frying entire continents in blinding flares of light and heat. Even after the thermal hell-storm finally abated, those precious few survivors that had sought shelter in underground bunkers and coastal caverns where treated to another sky-bourne onslaught, as the condensed remnants of the planet's oceans released bolt after bolt of lightning in a world-spanning thunderstorm that would rage for a solid year before mercifully abating.
From that fateful day forward, the memory of that apocalyptic event would be forever ingrained within the cultural identity of Korinthos' precious few remaining inhabitants. Forevermore, it was known simply as The Scorch.
In the aftermath, the Imperium would revisit the burn-scarred shell that was Korinthos twice, once to construct a forward military base that was ultimately undone by the treachery of the xenophile Caebolgs, and yet again after the Xenocide had messily concluded. The Revanchist Initiative, Magos Antiochus' dream of stoking the fires of a moral revival from the embers of a humiliating stalemate, saw new life breathed into the dead planet. In the name of symbolic victory, the Adeptus Mechanicus spared no expense in this grand reconstruction, their coffers already swollen with mineral wealth pried from the surface of Gilgamesh.
Massive terraforming engines not seen since the days of the Great Crusade flown in from light years away, atmospheric purifiers that funneled millions of tons worth of airborne toxins out of the planet's atmosphere and into the void. Underground caches of unspoiled groundwater were located and pipe-knotted distillation centers built upon them, providing clean drinking water. Hive Cities began to spring up, layer by layer, sprouting from the abandoned foundations of former settlements, and metallic mag-rail lines began to spiderweb the vast deserts provide easy transportation between them. Within the span of a few years, the foundations for a new society were laid, and all that remained was the matter of repopulation.
New Korinthos, as it was now being called, represented a unique opportunity for the Cancridrean Periphery fledgling Administratum; a means of dealing with the millions-strong refugee population displaced by the Xenocide. Practically overnight and with the Mechanicum's blessing, hundred upon thousands of asylum-seeking citizens were drawn from all corners of the Periphery and deposited upon their new home. Some went gladly, all too happy to escape the confines of the cramped evacuation centers that they had been sequestered in for years on end. Most, however, did not relish the idea of spending the rest of their lives on a dismal dustball of a planet and resisted, in some cases quite strenuously. Regardless, none were given much of a choice in the matter, and the grand sector-wide exodus that would become unfavorably known as the Korinthos Exile has since been associated with a multitude of horror stories, in which panicked refugees are supposedly abused and even attacked by the Adeptus Arbites sent to "escort" them.
Almost a millennia later, New Korinthos has survived but never truly thrived. Its "symbolic" status has fostered a growing resentment from the rest of the Periphery, as its continued relies almost entirely on goods and materials imported from offworld, and said status has allowed it to persist with a relatively low Tithe-Grade for a planet of its type and population. There is even a growing movement to have the neighboring world of Descillion declared Sector Capital, New Korinthos' detractors even going so far as to suggest the wholesale abandonment of the planet. Fortunately, said threats have insofar been empty ones, though that hasn't stopped the rest of Periphery's citizenry from saddling the Korinthosi with such detractive slurs as "leeches" and "wasters".
- "The sands have teeth. The cliffs have eyes. The towns lack trust. The wind tells lies."
- —The Dust Trader's Mantra
Post-Scorch, most of the surface of New Korinthos was reduced to little more than a rad-blasted wasteland, the once-fertile grasslands having been reduced to dusty scoria-ridden plains and the oceans hollowed out into sandy lowlands occasionally broken up by outcroppings of stony, sun-bleached calcium, remnants of Korinthos' formerly massive coral reefs. These deposits, known locally as "Dune Teeth" or "Bonetrees", vary in size, from lone spires no larger than a small hab, to forest-like expanses of dead coral that cover entire swathes of desert. Other natural features of the lowlands include toxic salt flats, fused-sand glass pits, and the titanic bones of the great pelagic leviathans that once roamed the watery depths.
The highlands, by contrast, tend to be more desolate in terms of scenery but far more habitable. Essentially massive mesas that at one point were island archepeligos, the Imperial inhabitants of New Korinthos eke out a frugal living amidst the detritus of long-derelict fisheries and coastal depots. Outside of the major Hives these scrap-metal shantytowns are quite common, but not nearly as destitute as one might assume, for all are interconnected by the Mesh, the planet-spanning network of mag-rail lines originally installed by the Mechanicus during the Revanchist Initiative. This system of suspension bridges and tram-tunnels that effectively interconnect the Korinthosi settlements is so expansive that it can actually be seen from orbit, like a wire-thin net of geometric patterns, gleaming silver in the light of its sun, Illus Major. Its often remarked that the Mesh is the only thing that keeps the planet from truly falling apart, hence the name.
- The Whistling Sea - The largest of the reef-remnants is the Whistling Sea, which takes up a good quarter of the planets western hemisphere, bordering the pass near Hive Augustus. Named for the peculiar sound the winds make while billowing through its pitted bows, the Whistling Sea is quite the formidable natural barrier, as while passing through it can shave weeks off of lowland passage to Hive Zephyrus, Augustus' sister city, its interior is littered with the bones of Dust Traders and Bandits that had become hopelessly lost within its jagged, labyrinthian expanse.
- Ingram's Refuge - According to local legend, during the Siege of Korinthos wealthy fishing magnate Marius Ingram supposedly constructed a massive undersea bunker to keep safe both himself, his family, and his egregious wealth during the Amphra's invasion. There, the Ingrams secreted themselves away, eating, drinking, and engaging in all manner of debauchery even as their homeworld burned. Its said the God-Emperor himself looked upon their callous disregard for their fellow man and in His disgust levied upon their entire bloodline a baleful curse. The exact details of this divine punishment and the gruesome and often ironic deaths of the Ingram clan tend to vary depending on who is telling the story, but all agree on one thing: somewhere, out in the deep desert, is an abandoned stronghold filled to the bursting with the spoils of a more prosperous age. All they have to do is find it...
- Dead End - Ramshackle slums-towns are fairly common bordering the labyrinthian layout of the Mesh, a holdover from the original construction camps utilized by the Mechanicus during the mag-railway's initial construction. Isolated hideaways for the desperate and destitute, these shantytowns rarely persist long enough to be of note, much but less named. But, in recent years one particular settlement has garnered a reputation as a haven for New Korinthos' most unsavory elements. Crawling across the landscape like a scrap-metal tumor, built directly adjacent to the cliffside ruins of a collapsed suspension bridge lies Dead End, one of the few places beyond the reach of the Mesh. Stories vary as to just how the eponymous rail-bridge was destroyed- ranging from a catastrophic tram-reactor meltdown to a failed attack by a particularly ambitious Bandit-Tribe- but whatever the case, Dead End's severance from the greater transit system has made it a popular hideout for criminals, outcasts, and mutant reavers alike.
Though the planet still maintains a fairly standard "Goldilocks" orbit around the yellow sun of Illus Major, the Amphra's ionic bombardment effectively terraformed Korinthos overnight, atomizing the local environment into a caustic smog and irradiating the topsoil until nothing remained but an infertile layer of dust. It wasn't until the Revanchist Initiative's purifier engines effectively filtered out the worst of the airborne impurities did the planet even become remotely habitable, and even then, the massed greenhouse effect had permanently raised global temperatures from relatively temperate to arid in the extreme. To this day, daily temperatures on average range anywhere from 38 to 43 degrees Celcius during the day cycle, cooling only incrementally to around 32C during the night. During the height of the "summer" season, recorded temperatures reportedly reach dangerous highs of up to 48C.
Luckily for the inhabitants of New Korinthos, when the planet reaches its furthest orbital zenith from the sun there does exist a sort of "winter" period. This is an approximately month-long season marked by lower global temperatures and culminating in intermittent cloud cover from which sporadically showers of cooling mist, the closest thing to rain the Korinthosi ever experience. Known as the Emperor's Balm, this week-long event is often marked by fervent religious observances and celebrations, as the inhabitants give thanks to the God-Emperor for this blessed, if short-lived, reprieve and prepare for the start of the new year. There is even a local superstition that children born during the Balm, referred to as Mistborn, a marked by the holy downpour for great success and fortune in later life.
The planet also suffers from strong and often deadly windstorms, the result of the regional temperature differences that often affect the sandy lowlands of New Korinthos. Kicking up massive clouds of sand, powdered calcite, and fused-glass shards, these Shear Winds are capable of stripping unprotected flesh from the bone in a matter of minutes. Even after the storms have abated dangers still linger, as the inhalation of Shear Wind residue often results in razor-sharp particulates becoming lodged in the soft tissues of the lungs and esophagus. This condition, known as Red Lung, is typically characterized by labored breathing, persistent coughing, blood-laced spittle, and in some severe cases even fatal internal hemorrhaging.
Flora and Fauna
Most of New Korinthos' ecosystem was artificially re-introduced to the planet by the Mechanicus, seeding the landscape with gene-altered variant organisms in order to revivify the otherwise lifeless barrens. However, of the hundreds of strains released by the Biologis genetor-teams, only a few managed to both literally and figuratively take root, the rest either quickly succumbing to the harsh environs or mutating beyond all recognition thanks to lingering pockets of radiation. A few of the more successful or remarkable species include:
- Bore-Mites - Bore-Mites are an artificially created miniature arthropod species genetically tailored by Mechanicus Genetors for the dual purpose of maintaining New Korinthos' atmosphere and clearing out the skeletal remnants of its now-lifeless coral reefs to make room for further construction. They accomplished this was by creating an invasive species that persisted on a diet of pure calcium, digesting the alkaline metals while filtering and atomically re-structuring the coral's carbonate elements into pure oxygen, which they then release through a series of organic carapace-vents as a waste product. In this way, the billions-strong population of Bore-Mites effectively acts as the planet's lungs in lew of any dominant strain of flora. What the Mechanicus did not account for was the Mites' response to lingering radiation levels, resulting in dozens of instances of accelerated evolution, culminating in the birth of dozens upon dozens of subspecies that infest the planet to this day. At present, baseline Bore-Mites still follow the basic body plan of six legs, a small tooth-lined mouth equipped with multiple sets of mandibles, and a horseshoe-shaped shell perforated with fleshy vent-orifices, with the overall size and shell coloration distinguishing the variant species.
- Lamina Weed - Another attempt by the Mechanicus to fill a vacant ecological niche post-Scorch, Lamina Weed is a hybridized species of flora, part mycelium, part briar-like vine. It plays the role of New Korinthos' dominant scavenger organism, prowling the wastes in roughly spherical bush-like structures propelled by local winds until it comes across a corpse, its barbed thorns sinking into flesh and breaking off as the remainder of the Weed tumbles elsewhere. Meanwhile, the miniature spore colonies contained within each serrated stipule break free of their protective casings and begin to propagate within the carcass, devouring its remaining organic components in order to give life to a new host of nascent Weeds. Eventually, nothing remains except bleached bones and a new crop of thorny stalks, growing in bunched "Tangles" of five or six before breaking off, once again propelled by the winds to seek out new cadavers in which to breed.
- Barker - Likely some mutated phenotype of cavern-dwelling chiropteran, small populations of Barkers where discovered dwelling within New Korinthos' coastal cave networks during the planet's initial re-colonization, their irradiated gene-pool eventually stabilized through generations of domestication and eugenic breeding. Renowned for their usefulness as trackers and attack animals, Barkers stand at roughly 4 feet tall, resembling bipedal, flightless bats with hunched simian frames balancing on blunt-knuckled fists that propel them forward with surprising speed. Their name comes from the distinct yipping noises they make in order to facilitate their formidable echolocation, their massive, elongated ears picking up even the slightest return reverberations from nearby objects or individuals. Criminals and bandits alike have learned to be wary of these trademark cries, as once loosed on its target, a Barker becomes a dervish of needle-teeth and heavy digging claws capable of carving gashes into flak-plate.
- Fisher King-Worm - Also known as Spearworms or Devil Crowns, the Fisher King-Worm is the undisputed alpha-predator of New Korinthos whose mere existence continues to baffle xenobiologists across the Periphery. Theories regarding how exactly this bizarre organism came to be range from it being the evolutionary descendant of some form of post-Scorch tubeworm to the Amphra beast-mistresses having introduced the King-Worm into the ecosystem as early as the First Siege of Korinthos. Whatever the case, the King-Worm typically dwells within outcroppings of Dune Teeth that break up the planet's sandy wastes, appearing from the outside to be nothing more than a circular arrangement of rocky whitish spires emanating from a central roughly circular "hub-stone", forming an almost crown-like structure (hence the name). Draw too close, however, and the tips of said spines will suddenly rocket forth, attached to a muscular tether of glistening red tissue, its jagged tip striking with enough force to pierce plasteel. Once it has speared its prey, the tether snaps back into place with the swiftness of a serpent, impaling the unfortunate victim upon its protruding spine. It is unknown if this "response" is the King-Worm's method of feeding, self-defense, or other some other unknowable behavior, as exact details of their biology are scarce. Their porphyry-like exoskeletons are remarkably durable, impervious to blades and small arms fire, leaving high explosives the only tried and true method of killing them, an approach that leaves precious few remains viable for study.
Society and Culture
- "Get this, a fifteen-percent tariff on imported promethium for free traders, goes down to ten if you're Mechanicus-backed, then goes down to nothin'-at-fraggin'-all the moment some Chartist stooge flashes the minders a Cartel Sigil. I worked damn hard for my commission, and now I'm gettin' my margins slashed all cause I'm not some inbred lackey?! Bastard leeches..."
- —Harnon Octarus, Captain of the Hauler-Frigate Copernicus
The upper crust of Korinthosi society more resembles a corporatocracy than it does an aristocracy, with the only true "noble" bloodline being the figurehead Van Dragen dynasty, who rule only in the most obligatory sense. On New Korinthos, wealth and status comes not from who you are but rather who you know, the remainder of the planetary elite being a capitalistic hierarchy with deep-seated connections to the Chartist Houses, the Gilgamesh Mechanicus, and any number of free traders and merchant fleets that ply the sector's warp-lanes. By effectively controlling the supply of fresh resources and materiel to the planet, this loosely aligned oligarchy of shipping magnates, water-barons, Mesh-Station overseers, and other business managers have maintained a stranglehold on New Korinthos' so-called "free market" for generations. As one might expect, this allows the Uphiver population a much higher standard of living, granting them luxuries such as running water, enviro-controlled habs, an access to personal transports such as atmospheric gilders and auto-carriages.
Unfortunately, this relatively small facet of the population tends to be the one that interacts with offworlders on a near-daily basis, cultivating the long-established stereotype of all Korinthosi being greedy and stingy creatures, obsessed with their own betterment above all else. It doesn't help that the Chartist Houses actively prop up the Van Dragen regime and by proxy the Uphiver populace through their economic support, providing essential supplies such as fresh water, foodstuffs, and other basic amenities in return for near-limitless clout within the Periphery's political landscape.