Hive world, eight hundred days standard from Scintilla, the main population and manufacturing focal of the rimward territories of the sector. Malfi is a semitropical, gloomy world of overbuilt hives and habitations ledges. Its population approaches that of Scintilla and it subsists on its engineering and metalwork industries. Malfi has a grudge: it believes it should be the sector capital world and venomously protests the supremacy of Scintilla.
Certainly, with its super-continental hives and eradication of natural landscape, Malfi resembles a Solar hiveworld far more than any of the other worlds in the sector and its claim for capital eminence seems reasonable. However, politics and demographics are fickle mistresses. Scintilla is better placed to provide a centre of effective governance for the sector. Early regimes, following the Lord Angevin’s campaign, made their headquarters on Malfi but the province has spread out since then. Despite its efforts, Malfi remains a border world, colossal in both its consumption and its production. It satisfies itself in commanding the Malfian subsector, ruling the territories rimward and spinward of Scintilla. The subsector governor, Jendrous Kaffiq, answers only to Lord Sector Hax himself. Malfi is a seat of the Administratum and several chief banking houses. Its nominal ruler is the Eminence Glydus Matriarch.
Malfi is – and this may be the very reason the sector rulers passed over it – a place of the most infernal intrigue. It is impossible to count the courtly factions vying for power and the ear of the Matriarch. The central palace is a labyrinth of chambers and anterooms, a warren that, so proverbs say, many have entered and subsequently died trying to find a way out again. Guides may be procured to steer a visiting party through the warren of Malfi’s central palace: they cannot be trusted. Every act and motion of Malfian life is about dissemblance and intrigue. Hire the wrong guide and you may be damned to years of squabbling diplomacy and sudden duels. It is said of the Malfian palace that ‘life has a thousand separate doors’ and this is no exaggeration. Entering Malfian society, one enters a world of complexity and deceit. Few emerge alive.
The Calixian Conclave, which supports a district office on Malfi, regards the world as a particular hotbed of dissent and heresy. Apart from the many political factions and underground groups (many sponsored or run by Malfian noble houses) that support and promote Malfi’s usurpation of the capital world role (it is worth noting that three times in the last two centuries, Malfian dissenters have almost triggered open civil war with Scintilla), the excessively secretive and disingenuous society of the Malfian hives propagates many sects and cults. These groups find it ridiculously simple to conceal themselves within Malfi’s layered, elaborate culture of falsehood and deceit. They also find the hive citizenry to be a fertile source of amenable, pliable recruits. In recent years, the Conclave has become aware of two particularly active sects, whose reach is now spreading beyond Malfi.
The Masqued, this ‘cult’, which has strong connections to an alarming number of noble houses, is believed to have grown directly out of Malfi’s culture of intrigue. Its original architects took the concepts of falsehood and subterfuge to their limits and arrived at the cult’s guiding tenet: that nothing is what it seems. By extension, human life and the Imperium is a deceit, and Chaos itself is the truth. The Masqued believe that the ‘civilised Imperium’ wears a mask of refinement and devoted duty, beneath which lies man’s natural affinity with the lurid machinations of the Warp. They believe it is simply a matter of time before the mask falls away and mankind’s true nature as a Chaotic species is revealed.
The Masqued revel in licentious, debauched behaviour and delight in extremes of falsehood and mendacity. All cult members are anonymous and wear, at their gatherings, grotesque and colourful masks derived from the styles worn at courtly masques and entertainments. The Masqued boasts, in its membership, a shockingly large number of nobles and high-born, for whom the cult is a mere extension of their courtly world, intrigue taken to its natural conclusion. It is likely many of them have no real concept of the dark truth lurking at the centre of their compact. More a deviant secret society than an actual cult, the Masqued have avoided censure for a number of reasons: they have connections and influence; they are almost impossible to identify and target; they offer no palpable threat as yet. The Masqued do not seem to be striving to achieve anything: their activities are more a broad excuse for licentious, orgiastic behaviour. Attempts made by the Calixian Conclave, in the most part abortive or unsuccessful, to infiltrate the order have revealed that the cult seems content to meet and worship, waiting for ‘the inevitable’ to happen. They seem to show no desire or intent to bring about a chaotic revolution, as they regard it as a preordained fact. It is known that Caidin himself regards the Masqued as a ‘dilettante order’, a grouping of deviants rather than an active threat, and therefore not a priority target. However, given the potential membership of the cult, and the wealth, resource and influence that implies, if the order ever did decide to become more proactive, it would be the richest and most insidious cult in the Segmentum. For this reason, several key figures in the Conclave believe it should be dug out and sanctioned without delay.
The range of the cult’s activity is alarming: suborders and satellite lodges have been noted on Scintilla, Sepheris Secundus, Iocanthus and many other high population worlds in the sector. Traces of it have been found as far away as Cypra Mundi, and Eustis Majoris in the Scarus Sector. It goes wherever the noble houses of the Imperium have influence. Some say it has links all the way back to Terra. It is also chilling to reflect that, in the last three decades alone, four high-level operatives, each of unimpeachable character, sent by the Inquisition to infiltrate the cult, have later turned up as bonded members. It is an alluring, seductive order.