The Cold Trade in the Antonine Cluster
The pale stars of the Antonine Cluster lie towards the spinward edge of the Carthaxian Sector, their wan light ghosts in the night skies of the sectors more prosperous central worlds. At the centre of the cluster lie two decaying hive worlds, Perdido and Imshee, once prosperous worlds with economies based on the plentiful minerals once found in their star systems. Their asteroids and moons now mined bare, both worlds have fallen into poverty, ancient ties with the Adeptus Mechanicus the only thing keeping the worlds’ foundries from falling silent.
Though the traditional commodities of the worlds are all but exhausted, the secluded location of the cluster and unimportance of its worlds in the eyes of the sector government has created a thriving black market in slaves, mercenaries, proscribed tech and xenos items. The mining of the Perdido and Imshee systems unearthed thousands, perhaps millions, of trinkets, weapons and unknown items of xenos manufacture. Now the Cold Trade in these forbidden items has grown to serious levels, and items are being found as far away as Iricadia, a whole sector away. Amongst the most sought after pieces are the “Antonine Amulets”, jewels of perfect blues, greens and purple set into metal of unknown composition. The purpose of these amulets is unknown, but whether they are power sources, weapons or plain baubles, they are highly treasured, drawing prices that could buy a transport vessel.
For some, the time to eradicate those that would deal in forbidden artefacts is nigh, while others will do anything to protect their trade routes. With the economy of the Antonine Cluster relying so highly on the black market, there are those that would protect the trade even if they disagree with the casual handling of xenos artefacts, lest whole worlds of men and arms be lost to the Imperium. The Mechanicum have a controlling interest in Perdido and Imshee, and the open-minded of their Magi may well have desire of the mysterious Amulets. There are various xenos in the cluster who support and oppose the trade, and the agents of the Eye of Terror are ever at work. The Cold Trade out of the Antonine Cluster is a multi-dimensional entity, at once economical, political and heretical in nature, and its continuing existence or demise is sure to have resounding effects on the Carthaxian sector as a whole.
The Conclave of Nicodemus
The increase in forbidden artefacts infiltrating the sector's principle worlds brought dismay and ire to many Inquisitorial cells, and the Conclave of Nicodemus was called to discuss the need to take action against the Cold Trade. The Inquisition's viewpoint was clear - the Cold Trade must end.
The Gathering Storm
Following the Conclave of Nicodemus, a number of high profile raids on shipping companies and mercantile operations by leading members of the sector's Ordo Xenos contingent and the Imperial Navy spread ripples through the sector underworld. Some destroyed their links to the Trade, but the majority went to great lengths to protect their interests, forming pacts with mercenaries, xenos and renegades. The Cold Trade would not disappear overnight.
The depths of the Antonine Cluster concealed a ferocious war between supporters of the Cold Trade and the Imperial authorities intent on ending it. Naval squadrons blew apart chartist vessels in the void and Inquisitorial Kill Squads hunted criminals in the depths of space stations, while both xenos and renegade reavers sowed destruction wherever they pleased. There is no doubt the forces arrayed should have eliminated the Cold Trade, but behind the criminal fronts lurked a number of influential backers. The wealth of noble families intent on securing artefacts for themselves, xenophilic magi of the Adeptus Mechanicus and a large number of Inquisitors worked tirelessly to ensure the continuation of the Cold Trade.
A Cold Dawn
The efforts of the facilitators in the end was the vital factor in the Cold Trade evading extinction. Dozens of secret trade routes were established, and the Imperial Navy was left chasing shadows. Those in the Ordo Xenos that would see the reign of the xenophiles fall have now taken to eliminating those they suspect of having a major role in the trade one by one. If past experiences are anything to go by, their chances of success are slim.
Real World Notes
The Antonine Amulets was the summer 2011 Inquisitor event at Warhammer world organised by members of the Conclave. It was run by Ruaridh "Van Helser" Dall on July 2nd 2011.