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“Dreadful climate, delightful people. The subterranean shrines have a particular barbaric splendour. Hard to find a friendlier reception in the Subsector, once you get past the strange appearance of the locals.” – Travel Diary of Lucius di Firro, 580.M41
Human habitation on Shadowglow began shortly after the Great Heresy. When the sector declared for the Warmaster, most of those who remained loyal to the Emperor were brutally exterminated. A few hundred thousand, however – those considered too important to kill, or spared by the influence of an important friend or relative – were permanently exiled to a penal colony hastily established on the desert planet.
Over the centuries, the prisoners and their descendants were wracked by the effects of the planet’s hostile environment. Those who did not fall to the depredations of the thin atmosphere, high gravity, freezing temperatures and near-permanent darkness grew progressively faster and stronger by the generation. The world was nominally administered by the careless and cruel oversight of the Regency Mining Guilds, who sheltered themselves against the elements in sealed habitation domes complete with artificial plasma-fuelled “suns”. The colonists, enjoying no such protection, were forced to retreat to the natural cave complexes dotting the planet’s surface for shelter and warmth. The guilds used those colonists not lucky enough to escape into the desert wilderness as forced mining labour, exposing them to dangerous radiation in the deep yttrium mines which further accelerated changes in the colonists’ genetic makeup.
By the time of Durovera’s Crusade, the planetary population had grown into the millions, and had been so thoroughly mutated by the hostile planet that they were no longer fully human. With their bone-pale hair and hypersensitive eyes, they would still proudly declare themselves Imperial Humans, but were widely referred to as Raivans. Remarkably, despite millennia of oppression, the cave-dwelling culture maintained a stalwart and very nearly orthodox faith in the Emperor.
When the Prosperitas Crusade first sent scouts onto the surface, they were expecting hostility and resistance from the desert abhumans. They were shocked to find the opposite; the Raivans welcomed them as true servants of the Imperium. Armed by a series of covert weapons drops, the population whipped itself into a sudden frenzy of revolutionary violence, overmatching the Mining Guilds’ technological superiority with fanatical force of numbers. The planet’s previous human rulers were swiftly massacred, and Durovera’s standard soon proudly flew from the reclaimed planetary capital alongside the Aquila.
Today, Shadowglow is increasingly cosmopolitan. Its hostile environment means it will never be rich, but the yttrium deposits are still plentiful. The economy is bolstered by visitors making pilgrimage to the great cathedral-caves, with their cyclopean subterranean shrines to the Emperor dating from the time of the Heresy. There is also a burgeoning hunting industry, with Raivan guides hiring themselves out to rich Sector aristocrats and Rogue Traders keen to claim the trophy head of one of the horrible things that inhabit the deep deserts. The planet is a fertile recruiting ground for the Imperial Guard. In many towns, all healthy adults compete in arduous physical trials across the desert hills, with the fittest winning the right to volunteer for recruitment into one of the Regiments.
A peculiarity of Shadowglow’s lunar cycle means that approximately every 10 Terran years, the planet’s permanent eclipse lifts to grant the surface a single day of sushine. This is a great holy festival for the Raivans, who believe that the day represents the Emperor’s light shining upon the planet to cleanse them of their sins. Children born on this day are considered particularly blessed and destined for greatness.
One of the mysteries that remains on Shadowglow is the fate of the horde of looted artefacts and accrued treasure that the Mining Guilds once held. The bulk of the riches vanished during the uprising, with various and contradictory rumours claiming that it was spirited off-planet, destroyed in an ill-fated suicide attack on the capital hab, or hidden somewhere in the deep desert by an optimistic Guild overseer who thought they could return to it.