Dross is a feudal world of primitive religion and feral tribes. “Discovered” by the Rogue Trader Nejo Skylax, it is among one of the harder worlds in the Heathen Star to reach. This is due in part to the inexplicable storms that rage across its surface, boiling off into space itself. The storms are not born of the warp or seemingly of any known science, but have the power to wreak terrible damage on any ship that draws too close. Many a captain has meet his end trying to make a landing on Dross, only to be lost with all hands as his ship’s systems fail and it plunges down into the turbulent atmosphere. For the primitive tribes, however, such bounty from the Sky-Father (as they refer to their primitive god) is always welcomed.
The planet Dross appears on most of the Imperium’s maps of the Koronus Expanse. It was named by the Rogue Trader Nejo Skylax, who claimed to have established trading contacts with its savage tribes, and learned the name from them. According to Nejo’s writings, the name has various meanings in the debased tongue of Dross’s natives, the most common being “Land of the Sky-Father,” and “Place of Banishment.”
Nejo Skylax is the only explorer known to have visited Dross and returned, writing about his experiences. Over a dozen expeditions to the world have been declared over the centuries. How many such missions actually took place is not known for sure, but it is certain that no others returned.
The Storms of Dross
The reason so many expeditions have apparently failed to return is that the planet Dross is entirely engulfed in a storm of unknown type and origin. The storm is not tied to the Immaterium, but beyond that, ship-born augers are unable to glean any other information. Only a remotely piloted or tethered probe sent in to the raging storms is likely to have any chance of taking such measurements, and if any such probes have been launched, it is likely that none have returned.
The storms cover the world’s entire surface, and extend thousands of kilometres into near space. The raging energies are capable of inflicting catastrophic damage on vessels attempting to pass through them. In places the storms rage so fiercely that shuttlecraft are incinerated by boiling plasma, crushed by pressures more often found in the depths of the deepest oceans, or barraged with crippling radiation.
These are the worst effects of Dross’s storms, yet even the quietest regions inflict such debilitating interference upon a shuttlecraft’s systems that delicate cogitation systems melt and the interference stuns the most robust machine-spirit. This is the real reason so many expeditions have been lost at Dross—although most were able to avoid the worst of the storms, interference shut down all advanced systems and forced the shuttles to land in an unpowered glide. Only one man – Nejo Skylax – ever succeeded in such a prodigious feat of piloting. The remainder burned up in the atmosphere or crashed far below on the surface.
The surface of Dross is strewn with the wreckage of vain attempts to penetrate its storms from any number of explorers, pirates, and smugglers. Xenos ships have also fallen afoul of the storm. These range from ships of Eldar or Ork manufacture, to those built by the hands of long dead and forgotten races. Needless to say, such wrecks would offer a highly desirable prize to any who could salvage them.
What the Explorers may well discover at the conclusion of their visit, is the storms are a direct result of the presence of the Nexus Point upon the surface. The wraithbone structure marking the Nexus Point was damaged long ago, celestial energies bursting forth through the fabric of reality and encompassing the world around it.
The surface of Dross is arid with very little in the way of plant life. There are seas, but these are shallow and poisoned, and the only life they support is equally poisonous. The most striking
features of Dross’s surface are its huge rock stacks, formed from volcanic material through some unknown process of erosion. Millions of these formations cover the world’s entire surface, and many are several kilometres high. Needless to say, any pilot skilled or lucky enough to have survived an uncontrolled planetfall is hard pressed to avoid smashing straight into one of these mighty natural features. In fact, the bases of many are strewn with twisted wreckage.
The Tribes of Dross
Despite its inhospitable climate and environment, Dross is home not only to a range of auto – chthonic life forms, but also to a human population. According to the writings of Skylax, these are savage and feral, and divided into hundreds of small, ever – warring tribes. Each tribe claims as its home the largest and most defensible rock stack it can capture, which is hollowed out in to a formidable rock fortress. From these strongholds, the tribes sally forth in order to battle over the wrecks of the many vessels that have descended upon their world, which they believe to be sacred – bestowed by their god, the Sky – Father.
The Shrines of the Sky-Father
The Sky-Father forms the central figure in the religion of the tribes of Dross. The priests preach that the Sky-Father created the tribes, but banished them to Dross as punishment for some long-forgotten wickedness, for which the tribes must atone until the Sky-Father returns and bestows his forgiveness.
The priests believe that the many wrecks that plummet from the skies are the gifts of the Sky-Father. They covet highly what artefacts they can recover intact from the crash sites, seeing the most innocuous object as holy relic. The more intact wrecks are made into shrines, and adorned with the symbols of the natives’ religion. At one such shrine, for example, the remains of a long-dead pilot have been preserved with resin – soaked fabric wrappings. In another, a broken aquila has blood offerings made before it at especially auspicious times.
The Shrines of the Sky Father are not only sacred to the priests, they also form a measure of the power of the tribe that controls them. The warriors of each tribe fight continuously for possession of the most sacred shrines, and daub them in the blood of the defeated. Only when all of the shrines are in the possession of a single tribe will the peoples of Dross prove their strength and earn the forgiveness of the Sky – Father, so the priests teach. To date, no single tribe has come anywhere close to such a position, and so the ancient religious war continues unabated.
The Forsaken of the Sky-Father
The people of Dross exist in a state of barbarism, and their entire society is founded upon the principle of adoration of their lost god, and of constant warfare in his name. They wear scant clothing, much of it made from crude cloth woven from the fibre of the gnundha vine, one of the few forms of plant life to prosper on Dross. Much of the people’s sustenance is also derived from this plant, and its fruits are distilled to make the potent but vile liquor known as gnundha blood. This concoction is imbibed during the almost-daily rituals the priests convene. If consumed in great enough quantity, it is capable of bringing about a euphoric state in which the
priest can, apparently, commune with the distant Sky-Father. Nejo Skylax makes mention of this weird brew, stating that he was required to consume it as a sign of his worthiness to speak with the priests, and likened its effects to those of Dusk Lotus, a highly-poisonous drug.
The Dross Nexus
The Dross Nexus is located in an equatorial zone dominated by the world’s rock stacks. As the Explorers approach the world, they immediately see the storms raging around it, and extend into nearby space, even to the extent of engulfing the world’s three small satellites. A Hard (–20) Common Lore (Koronus Expanse) Test reveals only one explorer – Rogue Trader Nejo Skylax – is known to have ever returned from the world’s surface, but many others have apparently perished in the attempt.