No one rules Footfall, not truly. The masters of the most successful of Footfall’s concerns nominate an individual who is referred to as the Liege of Footfall. By tradition the Liege disburses offerings of stone and supplies brought by Rogue Traders. However, traditionally a Liege is subservient to any who bears a Warrant of Trade. This makes even the least Rogue Trader higher on the pecking order than the Liege of Footfall, though in practice, this can prove difficult to enforce. However, a Liege is only Liege for so long as he can defend his position, and many have been leaders of murderous scum, employing cruel guards and ruthless enforcers to make their will known. Each was the latest criminal to have killed his way to what he thought is the top of the heap, realising too late just how wrong he was.
The true powers of Footfall are shadowy organisations, any one of which will murder a Liege who strays beyond his traditional role. Prime amongst these are the owners of Footfall’s gambling dens, bordellos, and the wealthiest traders and smugglers whose wealth and position is created by the traffic of explorers and the treasures they return with. Beside these are other, more secretive powers such as Crew Brotherhoods who spy and who report back to the Administratum, Navis Nobilite, Adeptus Ministorum, or Imperial Navy paymasters. Others include agents of the Calixis Sector’s Drusus Marches Sub-sector, crime barons, and gossip mongers. Their trade is information, and they are largely the reason that Footfall still exists.
Over a hundred groups and thousands of individuals make their home in Footfall, each with its own goals and purposes. If there is one constant in Footfall, it is that power is fragile and can be quickly overturned. The wise of Footfall remember that the victors of today are the slaves of tomorrow and the vengeful assassins of the day after: memories are long, and misdeeds repaid in kind.
The disparate members of the Black Brotherhood live from day to day as hired thugs and violent thieves, its members identified by crude black tattoos made using the traditional, painful lowdecks method. Collectively the Black Brotherhood knows much about the movements of vessels in the Koronus Expanse, but Thrones must change hands to hear any of it. Due to their trade as thugs, the Black Brotherhood is most closely tied to the workings of the Kasballica Mission on Footfall, though they are open to hire and manipulation by any with coin or cunning enough. Proud as sin, but with little effective leadership, the Black Brotherhood sometimes find themselves the tool of more cunning players.
The Narco-tribes of Footfall are blood descendants of men and woman brought back from worlds within the Koronus Expanse, mingled with the blood of those who have come to Footfall from the Calixis Sector. The culture and traditions of the narco-tribes are a feral melting pot of strange drugs, heathen rituals, and violent contests of fighting skill. Narco-tribe drugs affect perception and memory; many narco-tribesmen live all their life in a world removed from reality, and are dangerously unpredictable. Each nacro-tribe is distinguished by the patterns of scars made of hot brands on the faces of tribesmen. There is great rivalry between narco-tribes of different skin-brands, and violence and bloody vendetta are common between them.
Few things scare the hardened scum of Footfall like the Seven Witches: hidden psykers who curse the fates of all that cross them. Few know anything more of the Seven Witches and their servants, but some powerful Rogue Traders have sought them out for counsel, or so that they will augur what awaits them in the Expanse. The witches never leave their inner Sanctum. However, on occasion their silent and implacable guards appear at the Liege’s Court bearing scraps of soiled parchment. These missives contain demands and cryptic warnings of doom the powers of Footfall treat with great seriousness.
The Kasballica, a great shadow-conclave of Drusus Marches crime barons, watches the exploration of the Halo Stars with interest. The so-called Cold Trade in xenos artefacts (such as rainbow-sheen materials from the Dead Worlds of the Egarian Dominion) spreads from the Koronus Passage to run throughout the Calixis Sector and is a fountain of wealth for Kasballica factions. The crime barons send trusted retainers into the Maw to cultivate Rogue Traders and ensure that a sufficient cut of the Cold Trade flows into their coffers. The Kasballica Mission in Footfall consists of skilled negotiators, ruthless enforcers, and merchants of forbidden goods and services. If the price is right they can provide, purchase, or arrange transport for almost anything.
The Obsidian Emporial is a bidding house of some fame in Footfall and the greater Koronus Expanse. Run by the mysterious and quite discerning Intercessors, the Obsidian Emporial provides a select few individuals with a place to sell items or information too rare and valuable for a trade-deck stall. The Intercessors organise auctions and manage deals, payments, and collections. Often, unless they wish otherwise, neither the buyer nor the seller will even know whom the other are. The Obsidian Emporial does not wield any obvious power in Footfall. However, none of the other factions are willing to cross it, and those few whom have failed to pay their debts to the Intercessors eventually and inevitably vanish.
The Tutors are a cabal of slavers and probable Heretics who fled to Footfall long ago and have made it their primary centre for their business — the acquisition, re-moulding, and selling of the finest and most specialised human slaves available. Cruel and methodical slavers, the Tutors use a variety of methods within their fastness of the Red Schola to break and then educate slaves to be sold as tongueless savants, spies, bodyguards, and ritual torturers.
A small clan of this secretive Voidborn Death Cult came to Footfall in 795.M41, in the wake of their persecution by the Inquisition in the Calixis Sector. As well as serving as killers-for-hire, the Astral Knives’ doctrine is to ritually assassinate those whom omens and the Emperor’s Tarot indicate to be corrupt, so as to preserve the God-Emperor’s protection on those who must brave the Warp. Since coming to Footfall, the cult has quietly flourished, and has gained a shadowed reputation as a faction both dangerous and powerful. As such, the Astral Knives are cultivated as contacts by many of those who know of their existence, often in the hopes that a steady stream of rich murder-compacts will prevent a sacrificial fate befalling them in turn.
Especially fervent members of the sanctioned Drusian cult of the Ecclesiarchy whose origins lay within the Calixis Sector, this extremist orthodox Imperial faction believes that the Angevin Crusade of Saint Drusus is eternally taken up by the faithful, and to stop at the present boundaries of the Drusus Marches Sub-sector is an unforgivable heresy. Fiery Preachers in black sackcloth robes, the Drusians are a common sight in parts of Footfall, extolling the masses to press ever onwards and even going so far as to petition Rogue Traders to carry Imperial colonists and missionaries out to found new worlds dedicated to the service of the God-Emperor in the Koronus Expanse. The iron nature of the Drusian creed is unbending and draws them into conflicts with many of Footfall’s other factions, including the Tutors — who have in the past culled the Drusian Missionary flock to stock the Red Schola with fresh slaves.
Heretics who reject orthodox Adeptus Ministorum teachings sometimes seek out xenos beings, believing them messengers of the God-Emperor, keepers of lost Imperial legacies, or potential converts to the True Faith. Visionaries of this ilk have made their way to Footfall over the centuries, establishing small and short-lived sects that eventually merged to become the True Path of xenos-worshippers. The theology of these adherents is fractured and ever-changing, and few will ever have the chance to meet with the objects of their worship, as the True Path is much reviled and often persecuted by the other factions of Footfall and the Expanse.