Thaur is a shrine world, the sovereign domain of the Ecclesiarchy in nearly all respects. Unlike other shrine words that boast monumental cathedrals and glorious basilicas to the Emperor or specific saints, it is a world of silent tombs and primeval, overgrown forests. Nourished by millennia of burials, the great trees of Thaur grow thick and tangled, obscuring the graves of the past.
It is said that the graves on Thaur were already ancient when the Great Crusade first reached the region of space that would become the Askellon Sector. In the millennia since, Thaur has become the most desirable resting place for the sector’s nobility, and especially for preachers of the Adeptus Ministorum. Thaur is also home to the graves of numerous saints, some celebrated and revered across Askellon, others all but forgotten.
Most of Thaur’s surface is covered by dense, impenetrable forests and softly undulating hills. The world has no oceans to speak of, but boasts numerous, mostly small, freshwater lakes across its surface. Despite these, water is in short supply on Thaur, which would be a problem were its population larger.
Though Thaur has no major exports, wood from its great forests is in high demand across the sector for nobility and other dioceses of the Ecclesiarchy. This is not due to the quality of the wood, but due to its origin. The soil of Thaur is considered holy, and so this characteristic is also commonly attributed to the plant life which sprouts from it. This is particularly true for trees growing in the vicinity of the graves of heroes of the sector, and even more so those of saints. Wood taken from a beatific sapling can be extremely valuable, and many nobles are willing to donate generously in exchange for such material. Between choice burial plots and wood grown on the resting places of saints, Thaur has a great deal to offer servants of the Ecclesiarchy from across Askellon.
The Great Ossuaria
Thaur is home to many elaborate and unusual crypts, tombs, and sepulchres across and below its surface, but none are as well- known as the Great Ossuaria. Also known as the Great Bone- Tombs, it is only a few leagues’ travel from the Palace of the Wake, home to the Cathedral of the Wake and the habitation of the Lord of the Wake, Jeronius Pyre, and thus making for a desirable location. Over the millennia, its ossuaries have grown larger, taller, and broader, built up with the bones of lesser individuals. For those who cannot afford their own tombs or even burial plots on Thaur, to have their skeletal remains used in the construction of the Great Ossuaria is a highly desirable honour. Though not firmly delineated, it covers an area of many kilometres, petering out some fifteen kilometres from the highest and most grandiose structures.
The crypts and tombs of the Great Ossuaria descend for some distance below ground. Over the millennia, many of these structures have delved deeper and deeper as succeeding generations of the sector’s wealthiest noble families come to their final rest. As a result, the ossuarian crypts have run up against or broken through into the truly ancient catacombs of Thaur, some many millennia old.
Thaurian society revolves completely around death and the caretaking of the dead. From elaborate funerary rites requiring thousands of professional mourners to the construction of massive crypts almost entirely from human bones, Thaur’s inhabitants devote their lives to the dead. The majority of the population are inducted into the Eulogus Askelline at a young age. Those who are not inducted tend to live in small villages near the most popular cemetery sites and grave-complexes or close to the spaceports, where they act as manual labour.
For the most part, these individuals live in wretched poverty and ignorance. Their lack of resources on a low-tech world like Thaur ensures that most have practically no access to technology, and even an electro-candle or auto-quill would be a luxury. Those living in more isolated villages might not have even seen such devices, and view the lights of shuttles descending to the spaceports as angels either retrieving the souls of the dead or delivering them, depending on the local superstitions.
The currency of Thaur is the bone-chip coin. These small discs of human bone are painstakingly scrimshawed by artisans of the Eulogus Askelline. Each coin is assigned a value based on the importance of the person from whom it is carved, according to a complex and arcane system of valuation. With the exception of saints, anyone who hopes to be buried or entombed on Thaur must tithe a small portion of their skeleton for use as currency, in addition to any other payment they make.
The Eulogus Askelline
The bulk of Thaur’s native population are members of the Eulogus Askelline, although a small number of lay citizens live in small villages scattered throughout the many forests that cover the world. The Eulogus Askelline is a massive and byzantine religious order. Though a part of the Adeptus Ministorum, it has many unique customs and traditions. Local differences in the worship of the Emperor are not uncommon amongst the branches of the Imperial Creed found across the planets of the Imperium, but even so the Eulogus Askelline stands apart. Unlike most other sects of the Imperial Creed, it recruits from Thaur’s native citizens almost without exception. Consequently, the order is extremely isolated, and more worldly members of the Ecclesiarchy visiting Thaur might find they have less common ground with the sombre, black- robed priests of this planet of endless cemeteries than they would elsewhere in the Askellon Sector. The Eulogus Askelline comprises dozens of specialised orders, choirs, and disciplines. Some of these maintain broad duties, while others are highly specialised. Most members wear dark robes, commonly black, adorned with holy symbols and other ornamentations. A common style incorporates motifs of death and actual human remains, especially bone segments of various sizes. The higher a member’s rank, the more decorative his robes and the more numerous his accessories. Even then, the Eulogus prefer sombre, muted affectations, and the Lord of the Wake’s finest garb pales in comparison to the ostentation shown by some high Ecclesiarchal figures on other Askellian worlds. Some orders wear more distinctive garb due to their specific duties, in particular the Mournful Guard and Ossuarian Custodians.
The Lord of the Wake
The head of the Eulogus Askelline is the Lord of the Wake, an office currently held by Jeronius Pyre. Due to Thaur’s status as a shrine world, the Lord of the Wake is also traditionally the planetary governor, making him a powerful individual indeed. Pyre has watched over Thaur and its dead for longer than most other servants of the Emperor in the sector have drawn breath, rising through the ranks of the Eulogus to finally become Wakeful Lord. As the most senior member of the Eulogus Askelline, Pyre ensures that the dignitaries, heroes, and true servants of the Imperium are remembered with all due ceremony and ritual. He has reached that age now, though, where he more resembles a walking corpse than a living man.
The Mournful Guard
The members of the Mournful Guard make up a huge part of the Eulogus Askelline. Though their duties and appearance would seem to mark them out as a separate organisation, they are very much a part of the Eulogus, and so are under the command of Lord Pyre, whether directly or indirectly. The Mournful Guard, sometimes simply known as the Guardians, comprises Thaur’s military and law enforcement forces, and is responsible for the duties that fall to both the Enforcers and planetary defences on other worlds. It is subdivided into numerous orders with varying responsibilities, from guarding Thaur against invasion or rebellion, to enforcing planetary law and protecting the blessed dead from tomb robbers, grave robbers, and vermin.
The local units of the Mournful Guard are easily identified by their sombre dark tunics worn over form-fitting light flak vests. Due to the nature of their work, most Guardians are armed with non-lethal weaponry designed to incapacitate their targets, allowing collection and interrogation by the authorities. The force’s signature weapon is the shockbow, an impressive device that launches a low-velocity shock quarrel, allowing the Guard to isolate and neutralise instigating targets at a distance.
The Ossuarian Custodians
The Ossuarian Custodians are the grim protectors of the great ossuaries and bone-tombs and dwell deep within the crypts, rarely seeing natural light. They are highly monastic in nature, approaching all of their duties with solemnity and piety. As they patrol, they weep silently for their charges resting eternally around them, as do all on Thaur who tend to the departed. Only actual humans can be allowed to perform such tasks, as servitors or other constructs are incapable of shedding natural tears in the presence of the honoured dead. Whether repairing crumbling bonework arches deep in the ossuarian catacombs, fending off tomb-robbers, or battling intrusions of Thaur’s native creatures, the Custodians are fully dedicated and implacable.
In keeping with their more ceremonial role, the Custodian uniform consists of elaborate robes of deepest black worn beneath plated armour incorporating actual bone detailing. Their faces are nearly always hidden behind solemn bone masks built into tall, ornate helmets. When on patrol, they bear a long polearm known as an aduroglaive that incorporates a promethium lantern used to illuminate the deep tombs. Each also carries an ossugun, a breach- loading pistol that hold a single powerful, large-calibre round designed to fragment on impact, causing maximum damage to soft tissue while minimising collateral damage to the skeletal structure of the target. Although a great deal of speculation for this exists, there has never been a definitive answer as to why the Ossuarians are concerned with the skeletal integrity of their victims.
The Thaurian Incident
The exact details are unknown to most, but some kind of great calamity befell the venerated world. Currently, a large part of Thaur’s surface remains in quarantine, what the Eulogus Askelline call “The Great Sorrow”.
Whatever the nature of the event was, it almost completely destroyed the Great Ossuaria. The remaining structures and catacombs of the once-massive structure have now been sealed off.
Thaurians and the Eulogus Askelline have entered a great period of mourning and profound reflection. As such, numerous new ceremonies have arisen to pay tribute to “those noble dead who died again”.
See also The Inheritors.