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Once a peaceful and prosperous Shrine World, Vallum has found itself in the last fifty years on the forefront of the Archenemy’s battle lines. After a series of connected systems fell to the Enemy, leaving it as the last strongpoint remaining for the strategic defense of Polarnus station and its surrounding nebula, Vallum was forced to turn itself from Ecclesiarchy pilgrimage site to defensive bastion almost overnight.
With a limited water supply and arid terrain, consisting mostly of dusty and rocky deserts with occasional fertile belts surrounding small river valleys, Vallum has never been a naturally hospitable place for human habitation. During its heyday as a pilgrimage site, the traditional Ecclesiarchy barges would cross the vast reaches of space with millions of gallons of water in their cargo holds – donations from the reverent Faithful of the Sector. These water tithes were used to irrigate the smallholds and public gardens of the world, breeding the famous Vallum roses. Pilgrims walking among the Temple gardens would be transported by their heavenly scent, reportedly “sweeter than the rarest incense and stronger than fine Amasec”.
The rose gardens are gone to dust and dead briars now. A few example of Vallum roses survive, in the hothouses of the Sector’s Nobles and the research laboratories of the Magi Biologos, but they are an astonishingly rare luxury. Ownership or public display of a Vallum rose is a status symbol of immense potency. The symbol of the rose survives in the world’s Imperial Guard regiments, who bear it proudly in their heraldry. Instead of gardens, the temple-cities of Vallum are now criss-crossed with training grounds for the regiments whose eternal task is the defence of this world and its vital overwatch on the warp transit routes into Subsectors Primus and Tertius.
The world is heavily fortified by the armoured regiments of Fleet Arm Geryon, and Captain-General Brianna Twine and her staff are regular visitors to the capital city Lashkar. The staff, who are headquartered at the nearby Polarnus Station, have an uneasy relationship with the Planetary government – led, in a hangover from the planet’s history as a Shrine world, by a council of Ecclesiarchy clerics who steadfastly refuse to elect a single spokesbishop. Despite this, the Ecclesiarchy council has been anything but lax in transforming its population from pious laity to lethal fighting force; every able adult on the planet is a member of one of the regular or reserve Regiments, and the local planetary forces take great pride in matching and defeating Captain-General Twine’s armoured forces in training exercises held in the barren reaches of the southern continents’ vast deserts. The Vallum regimental speciality is the savage defense of small, easily mobile defensive positions; a great deal of their early training was conducted by Raivan instructors borrowed from the Shadowglow regiments, and this shows in their keen grasp of insurgent tactics and ruthless exploitation of enemy weaknesses. With minor enemy incursions now occurring on a near-monthly basis – all so far successfully repelled – the government of Vallum has privately accepted that occupation is a matter of “when” not “if”; and are determined to give the Archenemy forces as bloody a nose as humanly possible when the inevitable comes.
The skies above Vallum are far from defenceless, however, and an attempt to land a force of any substantial size on the planet will have to break through an elaborate orbital security network. Made up of Fleet Arm Geryon battleships under the overall command of Group-Captain Albinus Beaumont, heavily manned orbital defence stations, autonomous Mechanicus drone lance arrays and a series of vicious minefields hidden among asteroid belts, the Vallum defence network is a work of art. Group-Captain Beaumont’s last orders from the previous Warmaster, prior to her death at Henlock, were reportedly to “fill the Void with razorwire and let them see it glitter”; he has taken her at her word, and the network is such that even the most determined assaults on Vallum have resulted in no more than a handful of luckless enemy troops making planetfall – swiftly dispatched by the planetary forces below.
Most of Vallum’s wildlife is reptilian and insectoid in form, with locusts growing up to nine inches in length and a particularly lethal variety of viper commonly found lurking in desert caves. As a result, despite the heat, the Vallum regiments’ uniforms tend to include sturdy ankle- and wrist-length coverings in dusty browns and grays. Most Vallian children are named after Imperial saints; the planetary tradition gives children “birth names”, which they use until their age of majority, when they are formally inducted into the Imperial Cult and choose a second name, prefixing it to the first. Thus a child named Thor might become Drusus-Thor, or Arabella-Thor, on their majority. Vallian naming conventions typically regard the Saintly virtues and example to a young Imperial life as more important than questions of sex or gender. Woe betide the visiting Geryon armoured commander who thinks to snigger at a woman named Corvus-Sebastian; he is likely to find his tank’s dust shields mysteriously fail when the next sandstorm rolls in.