For Icon worshipers across the horizon, including the Church of the Icons and the Order of the Pariah, it is traditional to cremate the dead, except those revered as saints. Their holy bodies are preserved so that their spirits may continue to find a way to the horizon and continue their good work. One of the many heresies that the Nazareem’s Sacrifice were accused of was their insistence that every initiated member of the cult was a saint. To the horror and disgust of other societies, The Nazareem’s Sacrifice no dead cultist was cremated. Instead the “beautiful dead ” were interred on Charnel Ships, which constantly plied the Dark between the stars.
Nazareem Charnel Ships were never designed for atmospheric entry. Generally class four of five, they were serviced by shuttle and supply ships. Their main hull took the form of an ancient boat lying on its side heading, keel first, into the Dark. Two huge archaic graviton projectors extended rearwards. The macabre “cargo” was kept externally, the vacuum of space desiccating and preserving the bodies of the saints while giving their spirits the opportunity to commune with the Dark Between the Stars. The structure that holds the dead is a scaffold frame between the graviton projectors, which can be expanded as more bodies are added. It is built around the entrance to the hanger, so that cortege shuttles could pause on their way into the hanger to inter the saintly cargo in their appointed place on the scaffold.
When the Horizon turned against the Nazareem’s Sacrifice in the early years of the Portal Wars, it was considered a matter of both faith and hygiene to instruct the Legion to seek out and destroy every Charnel Ship that the Sacrifice had launched. It is doubtful whether this task was completed. With the arrival of the Zenith, the Legion gradually became distracted by other tasks. There are rumours of ships of the dead still playing the space lanes.
And there is at least one still in operation.
The Almudakhir is hundreds of years old. No one knows its yard of construction, and some have suggested it may have been built in orbit around Al-Ardha itself in the First Horizon. How it survived the purge is unknown.
Almudakhir features ancient glyph-type 8 point armour had predates the sort used by the Order of the Pariah. Apart from being very hard to actually look at, the armor can negate all damage from an incoming attack. (This generates 2 DPs for the GM. If the attack is a torpedo attack, 3 DPs are generated. This effect can be used only once for regular attacks and once for torpedo attacks in a spaceship combat.) Like every Charnel Ship, it carries its cargo externally, there are around 1250 tons of corpses in the scaffolding that project from the aft of the vessel, between two old and outsized graviton projectors. In theory, if there is a revival of the sect, and many more adherents to inter, the cargo scaffold could extend even further. A cloistered arboretum of remembrance sits below the base of the cargo scaffold. It’s a long, square walk with a number of stopping places – benches, tables and chairs or water features. Looking up, the plexiglass ceiling reveals the ranks of the dead stacked high above. (The artificial gravity of board is orientated so that aft is “up”, and “down” points to the keel of the ship and the direction of travel.)
The arboretum has become the defacto social space for the crew, because the crew quarters are 20 basic “coffin style” bunks with shared facilities. There is also, of course a Stasis hold, which as usual for a ship this size, holds up to 60 people in Stasis. The bridge is on the lowest deck, at front of the vessel. The consoles are set around a large round plexiglass viewport, set in the floor, which can be disconcerting to visitors as the ship appears to be falling through space. The original Nazareem’s Sacrifice chapel, with its cadaver clock, is still in place, but to disguise the true nature of the ship a more normal, nine Icon chapel has been retrofitted around it. Access to the cadaver clock is now through a secret door in Dancer’s alcove. None of the crew actually know what the cadaver clock does, so many mysteries of the Sacrifice were lost in the Purging. Close to the false chapel is a chapel of rest, which had been fitted out to do double duty as a Medlab.
Other modifications to the vessel include a number of weapon systems. There is a torpedo launch system, currently stocked with four ancient antimatter torpedos. Given that this ammunition costs almost a third of the value of the ship, the crew are advised to use them only as a last resort. Even more recently, the vessel was fitted with a data pulse system and an accelerator cannon.
The current crew have not yet explored the entire ship, but they do know there is a workshop and a hangar, which contains a vessel specially commissioned for their mission.
The Clave of the Nazareem’s Sacrifice which sponsored this mission have commissioned a modern class II shuttle craft to act as the ships shuttle, and its public face. In an effort to disguise the true nature of Almudakhir and it’s crew, the Clave ordered Kharon from the Chelebs shipyard of Mira, heart of the Icon Church. It’s living quartets include four coffins and more standard cabin. There is a concealed section in the hold, for the transport of illicit cargo such as stolen relics. It’s only defence is an auto-cannon. Designed for atmospheric entry, it leaves its more macabre mothership hidden in the dark of space.
Kharon is equipped with a ship’s intelligence to make it semi-autonomous, capable of operating without a pilot if required. With its brand new, precise, thrusters it is very capable flier. However it takes its mission to hide the true nature of its crew and protect them from exposure very seriously, which can make it somewhat more obtuse than obedient.
Together these two ships, and their crew are on a risky mission. Emboldened by the discovery of a copy of a book once thought lost, A Soliloquy of Sacrifice, and Council’s decision to publicly release the text, the Sacrifice Clave hidden on Zib have repurposed the Almudakhir to seek out other Claves around the Horizon, and especially to recover the knowledge and artefacts that, since The Purging, have been hidden or lost for generations.