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“The deck of cards, and the body of the Grafin were never found. Or if they were, the authorities never admitted it.” – Travel Diaries of Lucius di Firro, 559.M41
Records of the first colonisation of Carthusia are lost to history, but the few historical records left from the time of the Regency suggest continuous inhabitation for several millennia prior to Durovera’s Crusade. In a quiet backwater of Subsector Primus, the planet is noted as having fought a brief and token resistance to Crusade forces upon their arrival in 026.M41, and surrendered to Durovera’s banner as soon as the Imperials achieved void superiority.
The surface of Carthusia is a low-average 65% oceanic, with most of the ground terrain approximately inhabitable. Owing, however, to a unique set of geological circumstances and a very high water table, the surface is almost universally wet and marshy, with most buildings constructed on stilts or elaborate plascrete platforms. Civil engineering in Carthusia is a cut-throat battle with the forces of gravity and erosion; the planet’s engineering colleges turn out brilliant minds every year who will spend their lives fighting the slow sinking of their home cities into the lagoons and swamps beneath.
Most of the cities sprawled across the planet’s surface have solved the problem of ground transportation in the wet and swampy environment through a system of transit canals, from tiny ‘alleyways’ permitting only human-powered coracles to vast shipping lanes several hundred metres in width. Wheeled transportation is rare and mostly useless on the surface of Carthusia; for agricultural uses, most farmers used many-limbed “wader” machinery with wide, spread mechanical feet which will not sink in the soft mud of the terrestrial surface.
Owing to the high water table and difficulty in carrying out large-scale mining operations, it was declared by one former Governor that “Carthusia has no resources of note in great quantity; but what it has, it has in great quality”. It exports small quantities of several rare minerals, fine and unique works of art and jewellery from the artisans of the lakeside cities, blown glass, single-barrel vintage Amasec and all manner of luxury products.
Among the rare mineral resources Carthusia boasts are deposits of the materials necessary to manufacture the psy-active crystal wafers used in the Emperor’s Tarot. The capital, Vecchio, is famed throughout the Sector and beyond for its Ecclesiarchy-licensed manufactora, where conventional artists, bonded Psykers and Ministorum priests toil together to create, active and sanctify the decks. The status of the Tarot in the city has taken on nearly mythical qualities; it is said that should one wish to purchase a rare deck – no matter how esoteric, unique or criminal – one will always find it in Vecchio.
The city is popular among the nobility of Subsector Primus as a holiday venue, and the great Gothic edifices of the Grand Basilica and Arbites Overprecinct in Vecchio are permanently surrounded by sightseers and pilgrims eager to catch a glimpse of the famous architecture. The Overprecinct itself is ever-busy – the local Arbites unusually watchful in recent years, perhaps fuelled by the rumours that several of the organised crime gangs responsible for smuggling and narcotics trade across the Sector have their headquarters among the quiet and watery lanes.
Tourism particularly booms during the biannual Carnivale, a festival which bears superficial resemblance to the Festival of St Khan-Hattilik on Korimesta. The Carnivale sees costumed revellers – most attired after the iconic images of the Emperor’s Tarot, and many, though not all, masked – take to the streets for six nights of sanctioned revelry and drunkenness, followed by two days of sober contemplation and penance for the sins of the past year. There are a vast number of local superstitions and myths concerning the consequences of dress, behaviour, and the use of the Tarot during the Carnivale, not to mention a hundred tales of late-night supernatural appearances in the mist; the local Munitorum sees all of these as heterodox fancies, and spends great effort attempting to stamp them out.
The majority of Carthusia’s population is human, but there is a sizeable population of sanctioned abhumans present in the deep marshes of the planet. Correctly called Homo sapiens marfaius, these semi-aquatic humanoids are distinguished by their eerily long limbs and digits (often webbed), flexible joints, large, darkened eyesockets and vestigial gills.
The Psyker population of the planet has remained low-average since the incident known in hushed local whispers as the Sanctioning of Carthusia in the early 510s.M41. Following a surge in Psyker births in the population, the planetary government failed to promptly report the surge to the Ordo Hereticus. In response, Lord-Inquisitor Thane and several seconded Imperial Guard regiments carried out a vast search-and-destroy mission on the planet, rooting out all unsanctioned Psykers and burning them in great sanction-pyres, leaving none for the Black Ships. The records of the Sanctioning are highly classified by the Inquisition, and even the names of the Regiments involved purged from Imperial memory; but the terrible incident lives on in dark local legends.