The Misericord

The Misericord is an example of the many Chartist spacecraft that ply the trade routes between Scintilla, Iocanthus and Sepheris Secundus and the other worlds of the sector. It is an ugly and enormous ship, looking like a barnacle encrusted, spacefaring whale, from which jut haphazard clusters of engines and towers, and it trails a long tail of debris like a comet. The Misericord carries huge quantities of trade goods between the client worlds, along with many passengers. Buying passage on a ship like the Misericord is the most common method of travelling between planets. Its round trip - Scintilla/Iocanthus/Sepheris Secundus - a route laid down on the Charter carried by its captains, takes well over a year. Ships like the Misericord are very common in the Calixis Sector and throughout the Imperium, plying a slow, thankless route across the stars. Without the Chartist ships, large swathes of the Imperium would be completely cut off and sector economies would fail. In spite of this, few have much regard for the Chartist ships and their crews are stereotyped as rough, untrustworthy void born with few scruples and fewer refinements. Each Chartist craft needs a Charter that sets out its permitted trade routes and activities and the Misericord’s Charter was signed by one of the earliest generation of sector commanders.

The Misericord is considered an ill omen at any place it docks. There are many Chartist craft in the Calixis Sector but for some reason the Misericord has an especially evil reputation. It is considered very bad luck to marry, give birth or embark on a major venture while the Misericord is docked in system and in the ship’s many centuries of operation, tales have grown up about the dark things that occur while it is in port, such as plagues, tech-failures and the random disappearance of children. In addition, the crew are mostly void born, people who were born in space and rarely set foot on a planet, and the void born, as everyone knows, just aren’t right in the head.

Inside, the Misericord resembles a huge, complex and grotesquely ornate castle. Many different ships make up the Misericord and they each have their own style, which in turn has been embellished and replaced over the centuries. In places where the component ships connect, corridors can become precipitous shafts, rooms can be upside-down and moving from place to place can be very complex, although the void born crew are adept at clambering up makeshift ladders or even leaping pits in the floor. The Misericord’s interior is archaic, with feasting halls, dungeons, cobwebbed processional galleries and many other places that seem to have little connection to the business of the ship or the needs of the crew.

Life on the Misericord is defined by the castes into which the crew are divided. There are dozens of castes, each one responsible for a particular function aboard ship. Crewmen are either born into these castes or assigned to them on the few occasions they join from outside. These castes range from the Scourhand Brotherhood (who scrub the filth from the floors of the engine decks) to the Company of Imbeciles (the ship’s entertainers, consisting of various clowns, actors and storytellers). The officers of the Misericord form their own caste and wear distinctive and rather sinister masks to mark them out from the rest of the crew. Each caste has its own leadership, which reports to the officer caste, and the officers in turn receive their orders from the twin captains Anapollo and Luneros. The captains believe that the caste system is the reason the Misericord has survived for so long and are quick to bring anyone opposing it to trial. Castes are insular and proud, and sometimes they can come into bitter conflict, such as the regular skirmishes between the Lamplighters’ Guild and the Followers of the Wire over who gets to change the glowbulbs. All have their own baffling traditions, from the large wood and paper animal masks of the Obeyers’ Guild (the ship’s lawyers and executioners) to the ritual removal of an ear from every member of the Enginists (who maintain the ship’s temperamental engines). This latter ritual is said to be born of respect for a mythological Enginist of ages past, the heroic Bessimer “One-lug” Jone, who supposedly saved the Misericord from “dire disassemblage and ventation”.

Most crew are true void born and live their whole life on the ship. However, since the castes are not permitted to interbreed, the ship needs new crew members from outside to replenish the gene pool. Some older legends remember the terrible “Age of Six Toes” when a mad previous captain refused to allow new blood onto the Misericord. Crew who join from outside - referred to as “clayfeet” - are both blessed and cursed. They are valuable to the crew and are given the least dangerous duties, but on the other hand they can never be regarded as true members of the Misericord’s crew, and are treated as outsiders no matter how long they serve on the ship.

The castes into which the Misericord ’s crew are organised are insular, specialised and hereditary. It is impossible to change castes and most crew are born into them. Old castes can be dissolved and new ones founded by the order of the captain, but some of the Misericord ’s castes are as old as the ship itself. The ship’s castes include the following:

* The Lords, Siblings and Officers is the full name of the officer caste. Members go everywhere masked, and assist the captains in making and enforcing decisions.
* The Merciful form the ship’s security wing, armoured in archaic plate and mail, and carrying ominous shotguns. They can change from impeccable politeness to extreme aggression instantly, even during the course of a mundane conversation.
* The Suturers’ Parliament is the Misericord ’s body of medical personnel. The Suturers practise their procedures on the ship’s small complement of live animals, so cats, pygmy Grox and other creatures wander around their sick bays and surgeries.
* The Immortals recover the bodies of dead crewmen, conduct void burials and investigate suspicious deaths. They enjoy reminding other crewmen of the fact that one day, they too will require the ministrations of the Immortals.
* The Communion of Ratters is dedicated to tackling the Misericord ’s constant vermin problem. There are only a few crewmen among the Ratters, with the rest of the Communion being made up of old, patched-up ratting servitors.
* The Renders are the Misericord ’s cooks and they are also responsible for raising livestock raised on the ship for food. The caste’s members take great pride in their food and are extremely vocal and sometimes violent in proclaiming the superiority of their personal recipes. No one argues like a Render.
* The Bringers of Silence are the only caste not to have a generally known purpose. They answer to the twin captains and are occasionally seen walking purposefully through the ship in midnight blue uniforms, their faces painted with stars.

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