Haloed Bane

IMPERIUM INCIPIT


Soon after the Unity War ended, in 5513 BC (FR 1394), Glowgem was discovered by patrols deployed to the Meidin occupation region. The new planet was riddled with wild beasts and colonization was slow. Sinduin is from a moon in this system. Now, Glowgem in our tongue is Kriavarda, and the denizens of the planet are kriavardatans, but they are often called kriavartans. This is a pun, as varda means "gem" whereas varta refers to a noxious germ. Glowgem is commonly known as the Mother of Heretics (palun nu jechereth), where the word for heretic (jecherir) literally means a bug-person.

There is a saying among Inculae, when we want someone to hurry up with something: “Get it done before the germ temple gets built!” (Ima vartalaga!) The propensity of Glowgems to build a temple anywhere, anytime, for the greater glory of almost anything, is the point of reference here. I will mention the major heresies as they develop, but it would be impossible to mention all or even most of them.

Far more momentous than the discovery of Glowgem was that of the Salbakion System, in the year 5467 BC or FR 1439, in the month of Zishgerion to be precise. My assessment is not born from prejudice –I have nothing against Glowgem– but from the simple fact that Salbakion was not inhabited by beasts but by Inculae like ourselves.

Scholars still debate the location of the sisters’ Urheimat, though I should say the evidence for Gorgo is by far the strongest. Evidently, some of our species left Gorgo and populated several other systems, and then somehow each of our planetary populations was cut off from each other. Either that or our origins are polygenetic, a laughable proposition to most. But here’s the rub: that the ancestors must have been capable of space travel is an inescapable supposition, and yet the most ancient historical records of Gorgo, Silver and the other planets are filled with primitive technology, with the few references to space travel ensconced in myths of wildly variable character.

Salbakion System

No matter... The Reunion of the Sisters was a glorious occasion, only marred by the oracle at Lodonye on the Silver Planet, which proclaimed at the time that this encounter would ultimately doom Incudea. The import of this pronouncement is unclear; subsequent events certainly do not support it.

Salbakion is the third planet in the system, Naxis the fourth. The two have always had a fierce rivalry. In the ancient era and for a long time after, Naxis had the upper hand, but more recent millennia have seen the consolidation of Salbakionite power, crystallized in the fact that today we refer to the system as Salbakion’s and that it is there that the Two-Eyed’s piece was housed, but more on that later.

Silver, Gorgo and company boasted a much greater population and more advanced technology than Salbakion and Naxis, so the incorporation of the latter into Incudea was a peaceful process. Soon enough, a quarter of a millennium later, the new state of affairs provoked an important chain of events in that system and beyond. The powerful democrats in Naxis exiled every single one of their ducal houses to the moon of Little Naxis (Taranaksis). The Naxian Lowborn were remarkably united in resistance to the privileges and ravages of their native Highborn, and had been able to keep them in check for a long time. Incorporation into Incudea proper brought with it the establishment of relations between the Naxian houses and their counterparts in the other Near Systems. The democracy of Naxis was alarmed at the trend and took preemptive action.

Next door in Salbakion, the Highborn debated long and hard what to do about the threat presented by the very existence of that "extreme" government over in Naxis. And it is now that House Malsain steps out of the local chronicles and enters the universal annals of Incudea.

Malsain I had founded her house in Salbakion in the 59th century BC. Her successor inherited her arrogant disposition and even added to it, so much so that she was ostracized from Salbakion in 5512. For about sixty years she dwelt in neighboring Naxis, where the only reason the Naxian houses sheltered her was to spite the Lowborn of that planet. Having heard of the Sisters’ Reunion, she then wended her way to the Silver Planet and Akash, where she died.

The third Duchess Malsain was initially discouraged from returning to Salbakion, but during the panic over the Naxian democracy’s activity, a movement arose in Salbakion to allow her to return and assume leadership over all the Highborn. Malsain III’s return barely lasted a Salbakionite year (88 Earth days). She was accused of masterminding a merger of all the houses and seeking to become a tyrant over the planet. A Malsain tyranny was no better than a Naxian-style democracy, her enemies argued.

Pro-Malsain elements seized the great temple in Salister, but a rapid counter-coup by anti-Malsainites spelled doom for the former faction. Malsain III fled along with a sizable contingent. Unwanted elsewhere, she set a new course and was lucky enough to find a large and climatically hospitable planet: Ikrilath. Alas, the native Ikril population put up a good resistance, though Malsain IV was able to call the remnant of her ducal house (as well as allied nobles) from Salbakion and re-found her family’s empire on a much more solid setting. Indeed to this day the house has an inordinately pervasive influence over affairs in Ikrilath.

The Houses

It is high time I spoke to you in more depth about these noble houses, isn’t it?

The social structure of every sapient species begins with a distinction between so-called Highborn and Lowborn, patricians and plebs, nobles and commoners. The hallmark of an advanced civilization is the implementation of policies that abandon this distinction without necessarily impeding any advantage that the former group might be able to retain, on the basis of merit and actual deeds, over the latter. Every advanced civilization is thus agnostic as to the genealogy, ontology and aletheiology of the ancient social structure. She uses Highborn when they are good, and Lowborn when they are better, because ultimately, in doing so, She is best. Advanced civilization is agnostic about a lot of things and free to use them even when She doesn’t believe in them.

The topic is vast. My treatment of it will be synchronic, not diachronic. I will not cover the origin of the ducal houses, their development, or their gradual (and far from incomplete) fall from power. I will simply cover their structures in general terms, taking advantage of the fact that the houses haven’t changed much in form, it is just that their range of action has contracted.

(I have tried to come up with English names for all of the necessary terms, and will use them throughout even when they’re extremely ugly, but I will also append the original versions of the terms used by ourselves.)

A Ducal House (glor) is, most simply expressed, a group of Highborn Inculae who share the same bloodlines (very rarely, who share a single founder's bloodline.) These Inculae are called Nobles (glorir, gloreth) and they are led by a Duchess (gloralba). Although the house always possesses a certain territory, called a Duchy (glore), birth in the duchy will not make one a member of the house without the proper parentage. A duchy of great size and/or wealth may be home to a huge population of Lowborn Inculae partaking little of the glory of the house. The correct term -seldom heard these days- for Inculae in these circumstances is ducal commoners/lowborn (glorpikemeth).

Being a child of a noble is thus a necessary requirement for being oneself a noble, but this by itself is not sufficient. One must also be born in a particular place, but what that place is varies from house to house. With some houses, a noble must be born within the duchy (and of course of a noble mother). In other, less strict houses, being born of a noble parent within the Incudean monarchy where the duchy is located is enough. One principle common to all ducal houses in recent history is that, when a house possesses ducal territories in a colony planet, birth in the ducal lands there (or anywhere in that colonial monarchy for the less rigid houses) qualifies one for noble status, but automatically disqualifies one from being a high noble (see below).

As an example, consider Galkuin, a member of House Karhalaun on the Silver Planet. Galkuin decides to research ancient Dolentian history, and so she spends a few years on the aliens’ two major planets: Dolentis and Ishdodeth. At Dolentis, Galkuin bears a child. Dolentis is a colony of the Silver Planet and Karhalaun has some of her territories there. But no matter, this house is quite lenient toward her members, especially ones like Galkuin whose work might further the greater glory of the house. So whether Galkuin’s child is born within or without the actual ducal territories, the fact that she is born in the Monarchy of Dolentis, a Silver colony, of a Karhalaun mother, already qualifies her as a bonafide Karhalaun noble. However, she will most definitely not be a high noble.

However, when Galkuin moves to Ishdodeth and bears a second child, things are very different. Ishdodeth is not a Silver colony, in fact this system is a major colonizer with plenty of colonies herself. House Karhalaun has no legal right to any territories here, and the child there is born beyond the house, she is a ducal exile (lit. "beyonder," zuchiakir). (In practice, Galkuin would have made sure to give birth in Dolentis and then return to Ishdodeth to continue her studies, thus making sure her second child remained in the house.)

Every house is split into two important groups, the high nobles (lit. "named ones," flauchameth) -duchess and baronesses- and the ladies (lit. "shielders," grukeneth). The number of high nobles varies greatly from house to house while being fixed within each one (from as low as 10 to as high as the 600s). Every noble who is not a high noble is a lady, and all ladies are exactly equal in rank.

The high nobility, on the other hand, is arrayed hierarchically with the duchess occupying first place. Every high noble has a fixed name from birth, thus the moniker "named one." The duchess always takes the name of the house for her own. Thus, the Duchess of House Malsain will always be named Malsain, the Duchess of House Martopion will answer to the name Martopion, and so forth (the current Duchess Malsain is Malsain XXVIII). The occupiers of the second and subsequent places will have fixed names as well, with the House’s name coming after as a second name or surname. In what follows I will refer to these as baronesses, to illustrate the gap in power with the head of the house, the duchess, although you must bear in mind that each baroness in a house is stricly speaking just as "peerless" as the duchess is. Now, the sequence of baronial names varies from house to house, although there are many similarities in the different lists (the higher the place in the hierarchy, the less variation is found among the houses). Long ago, the Silver Planet’s houses agreed to have 216 high nobles each (216 is 1,000 by our own method of counting) and use the same exact names for these 216. This is the so-called Silver Sequence (Flak Daiche), the first 12 names of which are listed below (with English translations, since one of the characteristic marks of a baronial name is that they have a readily apparent meaning, something common Incudean names do not in general possess).

1. [Duchess' name = House's name]; 2. Malas (Control); 3. Dalion (Bird); 4. Palas (Power); 5. Danges (Origin); 6. Vaze (Heart); 7. Mino (Heat); 8. Rimo (Sphere); 9. Hastur (Chance); 10. Brilon (Womb); 11. Tranash (Fate); 12. Jakai (Greed).

So, if we take House Karhalaun as an a example, the seventh-ranked noble in that house will be the baroness Mino Karhalaun, the ninth will be the baroness Hastur Karhalaun, and so on. The first-ranked noble, the duchess, will simply be Karhalaun (in the present day, Karhalaun XXXI).

The hierarchy of duchess and baronesses is the life of the house. These high nobles are the leaders of the entire group, and power is accorded to each member strictly on the basis of this hierarchy. It might come as a shock to learn that being a high noble is, theoretically at least, a matter of pure luck. When a high noble dies, her place in the hierarchy becomes open. The next member of the house to be born immediately inherits the position. That is all there is to it. Therefore, any of the ducal ladies may give birth to the next duchess, if the event happens to occur just after the last duchess passed away. Conversely, there is no guarantee that the offspring of a ruling duchess will be a high noble at all. In fact, statistically the odds are against it, in all but the smallest of houses.

Be patient with me and think of this gory example: Duchess Malsain and baronesses Malas Malsain and Rimo Malsain all perish in the same accident. Say that Malas dies first by a second or two, then the duchess, then Rimo (instants of death being immediately relayed to Ducal H.Q.). This means that the next noble baby in the house, whether a high noble or a lady, will become the next Malas Malsain. The second baby born will be the new head of the house, and the third one will be Rimo Malsain. If there is no way of determining who perished first, the highest position is filled first, then the second, and so on.

Historically, several houses have toyed with the practice of preventing high nobles from begetting high nobles (whether by forced celibacy or sterilization, or by simply disqualifying their newborns from assuming such titles even if their births have occurred at the required time). The policy has often been seen as a corrective to gross accumulation of power in certain ducal bloodlines. On the other hand, some houses have rewarded certain high nobles by assuring their children up to nth generation will inherit their titles (so called blood duchesses and blood baronesses). However, most houses throughout history have judged it best to leave such matters to fate, even if it is the engineered fate of dark, backstage maneuverings.

Incidentally, while parents of ladies are allowed to give their children whatever names they wish, it is standard practice to attach to their names the word “nu” followed by the ducal name. Marjuin nu Karhalaun would be my name, if I were a lady of that house.

Stars in Space

The Highborn say that they are the stars, and the Lowborn vast, empty space.

The reader might wonder whether these houses will not all increase size by leaps and bounds, considering their power and consequent high fertility in comparison with the rest of the Incudean population. To answer this question we have to look at, not only who is qualified to be a house noble and what rank this individual will be assigned within the group, but also how one ceases to be one. It is actually an extremely common occurrence for a noble to be exiled “beyond the house” (chiak glor).

When a noble becomes of age, she is compelled to offer salutations (grunyauns) to her duchess on a yearly basis. Becoming of age has, again, different meanings in each house. For Karhalaun, for example, it means ascending to the second grade/trinity or reaching the age of 72, whichever happens first. The salutations can range from precious gems and mineral ores in the case of some wealthy houses, to a certain number of enemy body parts in some of the more martial (and less wealthy) houses. The quantity and quality of the “dues” for the salutations is exactly the same for every single noble and high noble, and is constantly being updated and fine-tuned by the more powerful (and hopefully wiser) members of the house. Ducal prestige depends to a large measure on these salutations, which counters the temptation for the unscrupulous to lower and debase the dues so as to keep as many nobles in the house as possible. And of course, the salutations are always one of the main sources of income for a Highborn house. Therefore if, in a desperate time of interducal war (and here I speak necessarily of the distant past, as such wars are unthinkable in our day, and illegal to boot), the powers that be in a house reduce the salutations to a pittance in order to have enough soldiers to continue fighting for her, they are at the same time assuring that no one in the house will offer much for that year (not even high nobles and wealthy ladies) so that what they have accumulated in physical power they will have squandered in financial strength.

If a noble fails to offer the salutations even once, she “goes beyond” and is stripped of membership in the house. The way of return involves garnering an ever larger sum (say, 10 or 20 years’ worth of dues) and offering them as the tribute for a single year. Re-admittance is decided on a case by case basis. Of course, if the readmitted noble fails to pay her dues a few years later, she is again exiled, and a second readmittance will require an even larger sum than the next. I regret to say this is the fate of many a Highborn gambler.

Often, children of these exiles can return to the fold if, after coming of age, they are able to offer up the salutations. Some of the friendliest houses allow even the great-grandchildren (lehenis) of a ducal exile to rejoin the house if they manage to offer the salutations and keep them up every year, beginning with a probationary period. On the other hand, a few extremely strict houses do not allow even the children of former nobles to rejoin. In any case and as can be expected, the numbers of the commoners of noble blood (glorlamians), that is, regular folk ultimately descended from exiles, always eclipses the number of members of a house. Not a few of these are still very proud of their ancestry and yearn to somehow return to the fold. 99.9% or more will ultimately fail to do so.

Houses today have no particular privileges under the law except for these three: 1) use of certain restricted vestments and halos, 2) the right to sponsor popular and profitable festivals, and 3) the right to raise and lead a number of millesimae (regiments) in the Incudean Army (though they have lost the right to decide when and where these regiments may operate, a development which I will note at the appropriate juncture during the course of this chronicle). A fourth, unofficial privilege, is linguistic. The Lowborn are expected to use proper pronouns when addressing ladies (irin/vio) and the term “my temple" (violaga) should be substituted for the name of a high noble. Finally, the duchesses should not be spoken to by commoners at all. Norms vary from house to house, but exiles and commoners of noble blood are traditionally expected to refer to members of the house related to them in even more subservient tones than these.

There is one figure who straddles the line between Highborn and Lowborn: the Steward. Stewards (literally keepers of the realm: dustrimeth) were and are a key element of the houses. The Steward is the only person within the ducal structure who is not a noble (or an exile, though in the case of all-devouring houses with significant holdings in a system, some exiles have risen to become Stewards, e.g. of Ikrilath or Martopion; ideally in the ancient tradition, the Steward should not only not be an exile or a commoner of noble blood, she should not have been born in the duchy in question).

The Steward is the outsider in the house and the counselor to the duchess. Stewards have a great say in the appointing of their successor and, unlike the ones they serve, they are capable of abdicating their position before death. The Steward’s advice is key in the naming of the members of the ducal council (glorvivian). Ducal councils are a key institution, intimately tied to the Steward, designed to circumvent to some extent the two great limitations of the nobility as it exists in Incudea: 1) that one must be born into a house to contribute to its operations; 2) that one’s standing within the house -and particularly among the among the high nobility- is based on fortune and not at all on merit. The council is composed of 1) the Duchess; 2) the Steward; 3) a prescribed fraction of the top baronesses (which from this point on I will refer to as archbaronesses), which number varies from house to house, e.g. in the Silver Sequence usually the first 19 high nobles out of the 216 have an automatic seat in the council, thus one duchess and eighteen archbaronesses; 4) a number of secretaries, officeholders chosen from the high or low nobility (whether a particular secretarial position can be assigned to a lady or not depends on the rules of the house in question). A member of the council by virtue of her rank -an archbaroness, never a duchess- can function as one of the secretaries. The key point to my mind is that by way of the council, a noble who might not otherwise have a large say in the affairs of the house may enjoy one. The saying goes: “The Steward thinks, the House keeps on living” meaning the goodness of the Steward is key to the success and existence of the house (dustrimir zonam, glor mahim rinom).

The “secretaries" (dukimeth la kunchin) are so called because they each carry a "secret" commission dealing with a particular aspect of ducal administration. Some of the most common secretarial positions traditionally include: earth secretary (war), water secretary (finance), air secretary (relations with ducal commoners), fire secretary (religious affairs), light secretary (see below), among others, including aetheric secretaries, which you'd probably dub ministers without portfolios. Esoteric scholars claim several powerful houses have one or more pentagrammic secretaries (experts in sorcery, witches in one word) in their employ, but this may just be a myth seldom imitated by reality, and usually with no significant consequences.

The Steward herself is assigned a retinue of ducal commoners, and she works constantly with the light secretary, who is nominally in charge of the ducal palace but who essentially serves as the liaison between the Steward and the highest ranked nobles.

Let’s take a look at three prominent houses a bit more closely.

Three Houses

Karhalaun

One of the most prestigious Silver houses, although in terms of size it is on the small end of the spectrum. Their power base is in the Gushing Waste, a region in the north reaches of the Silver Planet. Roughly 9 out of the 12 provinces there are within their duchy, the remaining westernmost 3 provinces belonging to their rivals of House Virzian, which will appear later on in these pages.

The southern province of Teiva, the Womb of Scholars, is also in large part under the influence of Karhalaun. The great oracle of Teiva is housed in Lodonye, which is an actual Karhalaun ducal exclave. Some historians argue the house’s gradual fall from visible power belies a gradual rise in power behind closed doors. No doubt their historic association with the great Ransain has been a blessing to them.

Karhalaun's Incudean robe is silvery and quite transparent. Do you remember that Incudean councilors wear no robes? Well, Karhalaun is halfway there, so their fashion is itself a testament to their power. Written on their tabards is an accented letter “k” in maroon (taimuk). This style is peculiar for two reasons: 1) It is rather rare for anything to be written on an Incudean robe; 2) the Teiva script, the only form of writing used in the Silver Planet and the universal standard for the whole of Incudea, doesn’t admit of such accents. In the Teivan, “Karhalaun” should be spelled k-r-h-a-l-au-n. As you can see, that first “a” disappears in the modern script. But Karhalaun’s tabard harkens back to an older method of writing, where vowels (all vowels, not just “a”) in closed syllables would be marked as accents over the initial consonant.

Karhalaun’s conservatism in fashion should not surprise us, as the house is old, significantly older than the flayers themselves. They used to call themselves Nyarfion, but Karhalaun I changed her name to celebrate the Activation of the Flayers. The end result in this case is somewhat unexpected, as the ducal tabard essentially reads ka, which means “salt” in our language and brings with it a host of positive connotations, though some ridicule as well. The house takes it all in stride. Their style of salute is famous, a gesture akin to ignoring everything around them, so they are well equipped to disregard all negativity.

Karhalaun boasts 216 high nobles, as do all Silver houses, and somewhat north of 7,000 members in the first trinity. To be a Karhalaun noble one only needs to be born in the appropriate monarchy, and grandchildren of exiles may return to the fold if they are able to offer the salutation, which in this case is copious amounts of ore.

Martopion

I met the current Duchess Martopion once at a banquet. She strolled into the hall with a sneer, a scowl and two of the largest glotomon (hovering electronic eyeballs, for military use) I have ever seen. Her mint-green robe was broken in two pieces as usual, and the distinctive lack of a tabard meant her torso was uncovered. But I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you whether she sported a fine mid-section or what as her manner of saluting, staring you down with arms raised in a pose that your Marquess of Queensberry would have no doubt appreciated, made me and everyone else too uncomfortable to look her elsewhere but in the eye, cautiously. And I bet I wasn’t the only one truly concerned that the huge glotomon, kept at such near proximity to each other, would end up sparking a fire, singeing the Highborn’s hair and so on and so forth.

Martopion is one of the largest Highborn houses and the most extended house on Glowgem, though their power to effectively influence politics in the system over the long haul is questionable. They are a martial breed, and far more impetuous than cunning. That said, Incudea has much to thank them for as they at least have a zeal for the official truth and have been a constant avenger of the many heretic follies the Glowgem Sisters indulge in.

Martopion originated long ago on Lagash, not on Glowgem proper. Her members eventually took over most of Lagash's moon of Albrajen as well, so that, when late in the 19th century BC Lagash became uninhabitable due to excessive exploitation of the planetary core, they gathered their nobles in Albrajen, licked their blast wounds and proceeded to muscle their way into the capital planet of Glowgem from there. They have been the undisputed queens of Glowgem, at least at the level of Highborn politics, since 1766 AD (FR 8596).

With regard to their fashion, the story goes that when Lagash was starting to show signs of collapse, Duchess Martopion promised she would find a way to reverse the catastrophe. She swore if she failed she would remove her tabard (this was and is what you would call “kind of a big deal”). Well, failed she did and off came the classic Martopion purple tabard. After the duchess had relocated to Albrajen, her nobles stopped wearing the tabard altogether, since it was unseemly for them to sport one if their leader couldn’t. Soon afterward, in other to assuage the hurt of having lost their tabard, and maybe to make the best out of a bad situation and pretend to others that the reason that they didn’t wear a tabard was to make some sort of fashion statement, they broke the ducal robe and turned it into a two-piece.

Martopion has 471 named nobles on her roll, and her “sequence” is different from Karhalaun’s. The first seven names are: Martopion, Malas, Dalion, Palas, Tiar (Fire), Vaze and Mino. Her noble population is estimated to be around 50,000 in the first trinity, all of which must pay their salutations, not with coin, but with a bouquet of "enemy" ears. A noble baby must be born within the duchy, but in Glowgem their holdings are so plentiful that this is an easy requirement to fulfill for any mother.

Malsain

Easily the most powerful house in Incudea today in terms of local influence, House Malsain effectively controls all Incudean government functions within the Ikrilath System (this includes the vassal Phylarchy of Barbed Ikrilath, with jurisdiction over the moons of Magor and Mirrelu). We do not say this out loud but it’s undeniable. Their numbers are staggering: 648 high nobles, 51,200 nobles and roughly 6.4 million commoners of noble descent in the first trinity alone. The figures lay bare House Malsain’s long-held strategy of procreating ad nauseam while maintaining salutations at a very steep level (thus the skewed proportion of nobles to commoners with noble blood), though of course what the statistics do not show is the elaborate network that this house has established to funnel resources to the poorer nobles who are deemed “blessed” by the high and mighty. “Sow everywhere and reap but a twelfth of it,” is what they say (Nyekulam vutarrik, tautiam ul shaimuntres).

Malsain nobles wear shining white robes, and the duchess enjoys the privilege of wearing a double halo of the same color and brightness. The house will turn up again in these pages so we can leave it here for now.

Dolentis and the First War

The final link in the chain of events proceeding from Naxis and Salbakion was our meeting with the Merciless Myriad of Dolentis. Incudea first ran into the Merciless Myriad around the time that the conquest of the Near Systems was completed. Incudean spacefarers under the employ of House Malsain, based on the freshly conquered planet Ikrilath, ran into the Myriad while persecuting those remnants of the defeated Ikril force which preferred escape from their homeland to colonization.

The Merciless Myriad. A species known properly as the Dolens (doles, dolentis), from the planet Dolentis. It is hard for me to put into words the importance of Dolentis to Incudea. It was both Greece and Carthage, first one then the other, to our Rome. We are still living, feeding, off of the lore gained from the Dolens, and it is only a pity that the two empires could not coexist in the universe. Mind you, I am glad we annihilated them.

Dolentian physiology is nothing if not odd. They lack a functional shape as such, being nothing more than a remarkable brain encased in a multiocular mass capable of expanding and contracting to a disturbing degree. They make up for a lack of legs with an ability to hover; they are almost impossible to capture. If you’re not willing to level a city, concluded our officers, then be prepared to see the Dolens escape it.

The Myriad had an extensive empire at the time of our first contact (though they refused on superstitious grounds to call it thus), centered in the Exotic Systems and bordering the Nears. The planet Dolentis himself is less than four and half light-years from Ikrilath (120 of our own Darkion miles).

There was a fixed number of Dolens from time immemorial, though what the number actually was was kept secret. Each Dolens lived for exactly 100 Dolentian years (45½ Earth years more or less) and then died to be reborn again with full awareness of what had preceded (thus evading the need for breaming, which as a parentless race they did not possess). The reborn Dolens would start out in the first grade, and would have to grow in wisdom, as it were, on a higher level than before, to ascend to the higher grades in each consecutive lifetime. You can imagine how full these intellectual storehouses became in time!

If a Dolens was killed before the 100 year mark, it would be reborn when the 100-year mark was reached, just as if nothing had happened. If a Dolens was healthy at age 100 it would immediately die and be reborn. Needless to say, the race was rather unique.

The Dolens built an empire through quiet strategy. They were masters of several grades but even so all of their abilities, third-grade transformations for example, were used for deception and not for open warfare. In general, the Myriad would scout a system and determine which worlds were still unconquered by its dominant sapient species, in other words, what grades were still beyond them. They would then position themselves in the “empty” worlds of the system (similarly to the fork policy used by Incudea later on), and eliminate any stray rivals that ascended to them. Next, they would support and make alliances with lower sapient forms (sometimes even ferrying them from other systems to the target system) and provoke wars with the local dominant species. The enemy was put under great pressure as they would find themselves squeezed: their lower-grade populations assaulted by less wise, yet somehow better-equipped invading races and their higher-grades riddled with Dolentian spies. And their best minds would be cut down as soon as they advanced to a new grade, if they ever got that far.

The Martu Empire, what our historians call the Martu Sub-Empire, was a case in point. This far-flung nation-state spilled as far as the Storm Systems, but was thoroughly under the thumb of Dolentis. The Dolens provided strategic planning, weaponry, ships and even pilots to facilitate the expansion of that cruel and brutish people.

Martu Execution

The Martu Sub-Empire, far from the Near Systems on the other side of Dolentis, was a glaring example of Dolentian manipulation, as the Dolens provided strategic planning, weaponry, ships and even pilots to facilitate that cruel nation’s expansion. The aliens were infamous for assiduously avoiding enemy deaths during battle, only for the purpose of performing vast executions of the new prisoners once "peace" reigned. Note how the Martuta in the image is holding the two-handed laser gun. It is a wonder s/he can make it fire at all.

The Commonwealth of Sisters, meanwhile, was flush with strength after her imperial unification, still within recent memory. She rushed boldly into war with the Dolens and the First Dolentian War (4967-54 BC; FR 1934-46) ended in defeat. The outcome was clear from the outset, but the Dolens were cautious and not at all used to being attacked so eagerly. (Youth is a divine treasure indeed.) After the victory, Dolentis decided to make a partnership with the budding Inculae and help them along in their mental evolution. Their goal was to make of us another subordinate empire. But another cause for Dolentian indulgence toward us surely was our immediate fascination (bond?) with the Dolentian leader, who did not at all resemble other Dolens. We saw him first in images, sent to us after our first defeat, possibly as an invitation to worship him. The ploy was not as crazy as you might think.

The Two-Eyed seemed to be far more similar physiologically to the Incudean race than to the Dolentian. Myriads of theories developed over the centuries among Inculae to account for this anomaly. It was said that the Two-Eyed was just a permamorphed Dolens, but this did not explain why he preferred this form over all others, or why it seemed as if he had possessed the form before ever encountering the Incudean race. Much later on when Incudea began encountering a number of other species that resembled Inculae, many tried to pinpoint which one might have been the inspiration for the Two-Eyed’s transformation. Another popular theory was that the Two-Eyed was not really a Dolens at all, but of extra-Dolential origin. This theory eventually led to the notion that he was an actual god, spawning a massive movement in Glowgem. But that occurred much later.

At first the association proved fruitful. Incudea supplied the Dolens with some of her best soldiers to operate in and often lead Myriad attacks. In return, Incudean scientists were sent for education in Dolentis and Ishdodeth, and barely 50 years after the end of the First Dolentian War the first third-graders appeared among us. At the same time, the Dolens allowed Inculae to expand our own Incudea to our “north”, while leaving the “south” to the Myriad. The universe seemed large enough for both species.

Waving swords and firing guns about was never the Dolentian way, and Incudea tried to emulate their new teachers as best as she could. Gorgons and Hiuronites conquered the Aretin System via a surgical extraction (c. 4880), Trillianites destabilized the climate of and introduced foreign species into Dani in order to neutralize it (c. 4800) and the Silver Sisters eschewed genocide against a recalcitrant population and managed to co-opt it, forging in the process one of the greatest partnerships in the Exotics, in the Incudean takeover of Melgam Glapakins (4610s).

As interesting as all of these historical events remain, for reasons of space I’ll only dwell at length on what is perhaps the most remarkable of these ventures.

The Midnight War

As I’ve already explained, though defeat during the First Dolentian War came as a great shock, Inculae recovered quickly and took up with gusto the task of expanding their borders in the regions of space allotted to them by the Merciless Myriad. The Midnight War refers to the conquest of the Aretin System, a significant event for a number of reasons:

1) Aretin was not that far from the boundary plane with the Dolentian sphere of influence, and Incudea was able to prove to her own satisfaction that Dolentis would not act outside of that sphere, not even on a large planet so close to it; 2) the conquering army was a combined Gorgon-Hiuronite force, and the fact that these planets, which had never been close historically and had fought each other during the Unity War just a few centuries earlier, were able to carry this operation off successfully was a testament to the power and cleverness of the Silver Planet, who sponsored and promoted the endeavor; 3) that the conquest itself was so irregularly accomplished set a precedent for future generations of Incudean soldiers and officers: if one could do what was done in Aretin and get away with it, then anything was possible for the bold and daring.

Aretin had a large and thriving native population of sapient beings: the Aretines. These beings had skin resembling that of Earth marble, they were very thin and strong, and although capable of bipedalism were far more comfortable moving quadrupedally. Their Highborn inserted horns onto their foreheads, the number of the protuberances indicating their place in the hierarchy.

Aretine Noble

The planet was of old ruled by a despotic dynasty. Incudean intelligence had a clear grasp of the workings of Aretine society and politics, and the Council was extremely confident that such a top-heavy system would be easy to, well, topple. However, there was one rather vexing problem: the Aretines could reach the third grade, and the King of Aretin held his court in the world of Isis in the third trinity. At this point in time, there were less than a hundred third-graders among the Incudean race, most of them scholars not at all inclined to test their mettle against anything but the secrets of the universe (indeed, many of them were in Dolentis pursuing studies at the time).

A crude solution presented itself: annihilate the fertile Aretine population in the first trinity and wait for old age to take care of the leadership in the third trinity. It is debatable whether our ancestors had enough ammunition to even accomplish this task back then, but the question was moot anyway because Dolentis had sternly warned Incudea against committing wholesale genocide of an alien species, and Inculae were not itching to pick another fight with the Dolens. Not just yet.

Therefore in 4883 (month of Banuibel, FR 2017) the Gorgon-Hiuronite invaders implemented the following scheme: a large fighting force under Hiuronite leadership was sent to the second trinity to assault the capital planet. In the meantime, a smaller squad under the Gorgons penetrated the capital city of Aretin in first-trinity Briga and extracted the Prince of Aretin, the King’s only son and heir to the planetary throne.

The Prince was tossed in a sack and brought out to the desolate outermost planet in the system, called Great Aretin. In the meantime, 20-odd third graders were sent as envoys to Isitic Aretin. They announced the Prince’s capture and laid out their demands. It took seven Incudean years for the King to even entertain them, as he awaited confirmation of the veracity of Incudean claims (the third-grade Aretines had no way of knowing what was going on in the first trinity until one of their number had ascended first to the second, then to the third grade, and Incudea was not about to give the enemy access to their fledgling metacomm system).

During this long period, the Incudean envoys were in many ways hostages themselves. They were not allowed to leave Aretin or even be replaced by other third-graders. The King toyed around with the idea of a hostage swap, the immediate return of the Prince in exchange for his Incudean “guests”, but the latter were quick to point out that they were quite expendable to Incudea whereas the Prince was quite literally one of a kind.

The first Aretine messengers coming from the lower grades confirmed that the Prince had disappeared and was probably in Incudean hands, but they also informed the King that the invaders had been repulsed in the second trinity and that they were likely not as strong as they made themselves out to be. The information on this point was inaccurate, since the second-grade Incudean force had attacked and withdrawn of its own accord, the intention being to compel the planet to put his outer defenses on high alert in the second trinity, and hopefully to have the Aretines issue commands to the same effect in the form of breams down to the first. The idea was that if the first-grade Aretine forces were concentrated on the perimeter of their planet, then the Prince’s extraction would be easier. Alas, the Aretines took the quick pullout to mean that their species had a chance against Incudea and this optimism infected the King.

Still, the tyrant was not about to lose his only son and heir, so he haggled with the Incudean envoys and agreed to the following demands: incorporation of Aretin into Incudea as an allied system, safeguarding of the Aretine dynasty’s rights and privileges, release of the Prince into Aretine custody and the leasing of Great Aretin as an Incudean base to ward off attacks from any potential common enemies in the future. The King also requested a third-grade Incudean bodyguard, and the Council agreed to look favorably upon the issue. The year was 4876.

Great Aretin

Great Aretin

The treaty was communicated to the Silver Planet and then relayed back to the first-grade squad holding the Prince hostage. And here is where the Midnight War earned its moniker. For Dalion Jurmuin, a Gorgon Highborn and leader of the effort in the first trinity, had fallen in love with the Prince. She requested he be kept back one more night and then released. For their part, the third-grade envoys in the Aretine capital had set up a visual feed through Silver’s metacomm system so that the King could assure himself the next morning that the Prince was being handed over to his people as promised.

Dalion Jurmuin absconded that night with the Prince. When, on the following day, the King stared at the Incudean screen and saw his Aretines in Briga figuratively scratching their heads and waiting for his heir to show up, he grew impatient, then wary. The tiny Incudean contingent in the throne room was put in a seemingly impossible situation. Not knowing where the Prince was, they preempted any retaliatory action by seizing his royal father and taking him into the inner chambers (two-thirds of them were killed in the process of fighting off the royal guards). Details are sketchy, but the King perished within the half-hour. The seven remaining Inculae proclaimed the absent Prince the new King and awaited tensely for a response.

Aretine cannons began bombing the inner chamber area. The Inculae scrambled to generate a low-level Sparker force field to protect themselves, but being cube-shaped it was weak around the eight vertices and the Inculae were forced to block these areas as best as they could. Incudean third-grade transformation technique was only in its infancy, and there was one body less than the number of points requiring protection, but with a lot of switching and swearing the Sparker held until the Aretines stopped firing (the Aretines’ own employment of transformation was limited to size increases for threatening and crushing and size decreases for deception and escape). Cooler heads prevailed as some of the Aretines feared for the Prince’s life and the extinction of the dynasty, so they held back. It is also possible that some preferred the young man to the old King and were not too unhappy about what the Inculae had accomplished.

The Incudean Council dealt with the situation as best she could. The third-graders in Isis were continuously reinforced from the Inculae ascending to that grade, and they forgave and forgot Dalion Jurmuin her escapade. In exchange, she agreed to let the Prince take his throne twenty years hence, in 4856. In the meantime the Aretines were told that the Prince was learning from the Incudean, and even Dolentian, cultures so he would be ready for a triumphant return as an enlightened ruler. He himself obliged by presenting himself on video greeting his people and speaking in the vaguest of terms of his education (in fact he spent most of his time with Dalion in a Jurmuin palace in Gorgo).

In 4859, the Gorgon Highborn ascended to the second grade. Two nights later, the Prince of Aretin was found dead in his chamber. According to Dalion, he had died from love. Some would say the possibility that she ordered him killed so he could not cheat on her was much more reasonable. House Jurmuin was a powerful house in Gorgo and Dalion had many responsibilities. She could have easily met her lover in the Silver Planet within flayer field every so often, but apparently she would not trust him when she should be absent by political necessity.

Inculae had occupied key sections of Aretine space in the first three trinities by now, and so when the announcement that the Prince had died “of natural causes” came, Aretin had no real hope of resistance. Incudea did allow for a distant cousin to serve as a puppet ruler for a few decades, but when he died the dynasty was tossed out for good.

Aretine society deteriorated with the passing on of its native dynasty. During the fourth millennium B.C. Incudea built up Great Aretin as a massive military base, employing millions of Aretines in construction work. The Aretines did not have the sturdy physical constitution required of the work and losses were staggering. Still, Incudea had so little respect for Aretin that she preferred to work the low-productivity inhabitants to death rather than transport better skilled, higher productivity workers from elsewhere. Economics.

Centuries later, it so happened that the Supreme Command (choma kaudor) of the Hiuronite Eternals (grialeth) fell to one named Durtain, a descendant of one of the warriors in the Midnight War, who was very much obsessed with the conflict. She decided that Dalion Jurmuin was a paragon to be emulated, and she decreed that the color of midnight (inaik) would be the standard hue for her elite fighting group, as a tribute to the famous Gorgon. Durtain perished in the Second Dolentian War, but the Eternals wear midnight robes to this day.

Daggers

The phenomenon of personality is surprisingly similar across sapient species, and nowhere are these commonalities more clearly to be seen than in our weaknesses. As Incudea grew in knowledge and power, her children predictably fell to bickering. And it was those who had the most to lose who were, paradoxically through their actions, facilitating this process.

Incudea’s increase went hand in hand with the decay of many of the Highborn houses. Nobles have a traditional form of dueling, a strictly personal affair between two individuals, which escaped all bounds in this period and threatened whole houses. The duel is in many ways a game, one of an extremely long duration, wildly popular among the Highborn especially of Salbakion and Ikrilath, though it could be found wherever Highborn congregated. Its name is “Time Daggers,” and some still engage in it to this day.

The game begins when two Highborn perform a pre-accorded non-verbal sign or gesture simultaneously in each other’s presence. From that point on, the goal of each opponent is to captivate the other with an experience of maximum sublimity (tishvel biondiden). The moment that an opponent has achieved that in the other, she is the winner. The loser at this point agrees to have her throat slashed with a dagger immediately. I hope my description is as intelligible as the practice is nonsensical.

These games can last years and be played across trinities as the two players ascend. The game is considered ongoing as long as each ascension to a higher grade is deemed to have nothing to do with the it. Since triggering a super-sensation of the sublime can often simultaneously trigger, if the experience is linked with wisdom and learning, an ascension to a higher grade, the winner often has to hurry up to deal with her prey before she vanishes to the next grade. In this case, if a winner cannot plunge her “time dagger” in the loser before she ascends, the game is forfeit, a draw. Many have used this particular rule in the duel/game as a loophole, often to the convenience of both parties, in order to stop playing. Officially though, and always according to Highborn cultural canons, resorting to this kind of subterfuge is a great dishonor.

Right around when the 43rd century was giving way to the 42nd on Earth, a Dagger War erupted between Salbakionites and Ikrilath. The fuse that lit this ridiculous struggle was a matter of fashion: a new, extremely popular gesture for starting a Time Dagger contest in Ikrilath was almost exactly the same as the traditional greeting on Salbakion. There was great uproar in the latter planet, but the Incudean Ikrils (not to be confused with the native Ikril vassals) refused to modify or abandon the gesture. Although the number of Salbakionites inadvertently entering into time dagger pacts was tiny, the matter soon escalated. Groups of Highborn from each side would walk into the public squares of opposing cities and issue challenges en masse. Acceptance of each challenge led to almost immediate battle, the game's rules being wholly disregarded. Thousands died in this unofficial war, which certainly had a more serious cause in the fact that, as we have seen, the dominant powers in Ikrilath were by and large descendants of a losing faction on Salbakion. Some grudges were truly old and rancid.

Eventually a new greeting gesture became fashionable in Salbakion and the conflict dwindled and died away (whether the change of gesture was an admission of defeat or not is a point of bitter contention for chroniclers on both sides). During these Dagger Wars the Salbakionites accused Naxis of aiding the Ikrils, though the Naxians could never participate directly since they had banished their own Highborn. Indeed, the only reason Naxis and Ikrilath have always refrained from establishing a comprehensive alliance against a foe equally detested by both is their diametrically opposed political tendencies of democracy and Malsain-led aristocracy.

Following the Third Dolentian War, Incudea forbid Highborn from the same House from engaging in Time Daggers against each other (3050 BC, FR 3831), as it was causing problems in combat with other species (Highborn from a particular unit were usually assigned to the same units in the Incudean Army). Three thousand years later Time Daggers were completely banned in the Silver Planet, and many other systems have subsequently followed suit.

As for the daggers, there has never been a prescribed type for use in the duels, but by far the most popular were the so-called organic daggers (sonyekins kochuden), especially Akashi daggers. These are coated with Akashi worm cells, from a creature in the Akash System which seeks warm blood and expands immediately in order to gulp it; the blade is made in such a way that it expands when the tip or any other part of it touches blood and slices off the flesh very cleanly. Another, less popular organic dagger used is the Asuk dagger, from a similar creature's cells. Here the dagger's blade tip extends in the direction of the warmest point as soon as it touches blood, extending as far as ten inches. The Asuk dagger is easier to use and often proves lethal with a single thrust, whereas the Akashi must be placed at the neck to kill with one strike. The reason for the latter’s popularity is that the intimacy it enforces is considered more refined by the Highborn. The science of daggers is exceedingly rich but I think I’ve written enough for our purposes.

The Monarchies

As important as the acquisition of new space was to Incudea, the aspect of their administration was not something to be neglected either. The fundamental unit concerned is the vloche, which I will call “monarchy” in English, at the risk of some confusion. That is, I speak of a monarchy in the sense that the source of its power emanates from a single point, the representative of the Incudean Council. This “monarch” hails from and may be deposed by the Council and -even when in the good graces of Incudea- has anything but dictatorial power.

The four categories of Incudean monarchies stem from this particular era between the First and Second Dolentian Wars. They are 1) phylarchies (grasekins), 2) enarchies (jusekins), 3) exarchies (hetenens), and 4) neurarchies (rakulens).

Phylarchy

Any monarchy ruled and inhabited mainly by an alien, vassal (sikia) species. It can be a) a sector wholly within a single planet, b) a planet or c) a group of planets within a single planetary system. If a system or a planet is shared by more than one vassal sapient species, each one will as a rule receive their own phylarchy provided there are distinct physical boundaries to work with.

EXAMPLE: The Silver Planet is the Incudean capital planet, but the Zeburaja species has a strong and well-defined nation on the same planet by the name of Oxytania. That area of land by itself constitutes the Phylarchy of Oxytania. The rest of the planet belongs to the Silver Enarchy.

In some cases, a single species on a single planet is resolutely divided by tradition or war or both. Incudea may allow multiple phylarchies to exist in such planets.

EXAMPLE: The single planet of Ava in the Shalath System has a single sapient species (the Avas) and yet is split into three phylarchies because of three factions that abhor each other (the Black, White and Dead Avas).

Ava

Ava

If a single vassal species ruled over multiple systems before incorporation into Incudea, as a rule Incudean administrators will insist on the creation of a separate phylarchy per system. This policy of dioecism prevents the rise of rivalries to our imperialism. On a much more mundane level it simplifies the communications systems of phylarchies immensely.

EXAMPLE: When we conquered the empire of the Glassics, the same extended over four systems. However, Incudean policy established a Phylarchy of Echoglass for the Glassics’ home system and separate monarchies for the other systems. Echoglass was not allowed to keep an intersystemic dominion of its own.

Although frowned upon by the powers that be in Constat as at best a necessary evil, there are numerous cases of Autonomous Zones, that is, either vassal territories within enarchies or exarchies, or lands held by Inculae within phylarchies.

Enarchy

Any monarchy ruled by and inhabited mainly by Inculae, located in a safe zone, that is, a planetary system in which Inculae control most/the main planets. The principal enarchies are located in the Near Systems not far from the Silver Planet, but some exist very far from home.

EXAMPLE: The Silver Enarchy, consisting of the Home System of planets except for the Zeburaja nation on The Silver Planet (Phylarchy of Oxytania) and the planet of Ephocto (a phylarchy under the alien epheboctopi).

Exarchy

Any monarchy ruled and inhabited mainly by Inculae, located in a danger zone, that is, a planetary system in which vassals control most/the main planets. Because of its (at least nominally) precarious situation, the Incudean Council and Army have more of a say in how the monarchy is run.

EXAMPLE: Most of the systems formerly belonging to the Martu Sub-Empire are split between phylarchies consisting of the major Martuta tribes and exarchies whose major functions include the harvesting of local resources and the supervision of this violent race. Such exarchies include Martu, Middle Martu, Lirrans and Ogrenti and many others.

Neurarchy

A planetary system, or group of systems in the same neighborhood, which remains for all intents and purposes uninhabited, usually due to severe atmospheric conditions, recentness of discovery or just lack of interest. Historically, the term was sometimes used as an euphemism for non-Incudean territory, in an attempt to deny the fact that such territories could exist. “Neurarchy” refers to “rule by the nerve center”, the nerves here being the Incudean Council. These monarchies are in principle ruled directly by the Council, usually by way of a praetor (omezumir). Young councilors are often sent out as praetors, and it isn't rare to find multiple sub-neurarchies subject to a single neurarchy. It is the will of Incudea that all neurarchies be ultimately converted into other kinds of monarchies, ideally enarchies, but if not, then exarchies or phylarchies.

EXAMPLE: The most well-known neurarchy is that of Uperjenath, which is anything but typical. The Uperjenathi are given a freer reign due to their key services in the financial arena, as well as for other reasons. I’ll have much to say about these species later on.

Monarchies often span several trinities or grades. The monarch classically resides in the highest grade mainline world which is commonly inhabited in the monarchy (this norm is no longer followed due to Incudean advances, so that most monarchs aside from phylarchs are seventh graders). In the remaining grades s/he has as representatives so-called Voices (mauchikins), one for each grade.

EXAMPLE: The Exarch of Sargica in the Oreon System resides in Kalderon. The government of Sargica in Briga is led by the First Voice of Sargica, that in Eryam by the Second Voice, and that in Halaron by the Third Voice. All of these Voices are subordinate to the Exarch.

EXAMPLE: The Silver Enarch resides in the seventh grade, and she has five voices serving her in each grade below hers except the sixth.

Consolidation and Statistics

It should come as no surprise that Incudea hosts an entire organization whose only purpose is to nurture and look over this rationalized plan for universal administration. The name of the organization is Consolidation and Statistics, which I will hereon out refer to as Constat (Poshso). This department was established in 3540 BC (FR 3346). The basic Constat outfit is a white dress with red accoutrements (gauntlets, boots, tabard). But a human would do well not confuse these functionaries for Red Cross staff members! Constat is easily the most feared Incudean institution, by all vassals and not a few Inculae.

Stories, rumors and conspiracy theorists about it abound. Speaking personally, I feel that at the heart of the “problem” is a resentment by many of the raw power of Constat, and of the way in which their standing seems impervious to criticism. I'll give one example: it is well known that Constat members have the ability to call in Incudean Army troops to deal with any situation they encounter, even in the middle of old enarchies. In contradistinction to this privilege, members of Peace Enforcement (the Incudean equivalent to colonial police on Earth) can only petition for Army aid, and just doing so can mean demotion for the officer in charge, even when Incudea approves the request as valid and reasonable. In a sense, Constat gets away with much because they have no need for a “reputation for valor,” leaving that burden to more traditional military formations like the Army, the Guards and Peace Enforcement itself. They just focus on getting the job done.

Make no mistake, though, instances of Constat bravery are legion. Already in the very first Constat deployment, during the conquest of the Malvrein System (3538 BC), they suffered the loss of a major ship when they could have easily stayed back and let the Army direct the attack itself. This case is celebrated in our history, but Constat’s diligence and efforts are clear from many other cases. I’ll name but a few.

When the Incudean Council decided to transfer enarchical powers from Naxis to Salbakion, turning what was once the Enarchy of Naxis into the Enarchy of Salbakion, the Naxians mounted an all-out offensive (diplomatic, financial, etc.) to pressure the agency into reversing their decision. The pressure was much higher than you could imagine: Naxian Highborn from Little Naxis held several leadership positions within Constat, and the democracy in Naxis offered to restore all of these exiles if they worked for Naxis and against Salbakion. Besides, at least a dozen planets in various systems (the Shiver Planet and Toro most openly) watched the struggle eagerly, hoping that the very principle of "one system, one monarchy" would be scrapped, allowing them to gain some autonomy in their respective regions of space. The Council, torn internally by member factions, let Constat endure the storm alone, and Constat stayed strong. True enough, the Naxians eventually found a loophole: they applied by the droves to come under the jurisdiction of the alien Phylarchy of Naxis, and then promptly, all but in name, took over that institution. But even this, people that know will tell you, was done with Constat’s acquiescence and maybe even at their suggestion. The curious subterfuge is unlikely to be replicated elsewhere and so the administrative principle remains firmly in place. Only a Naxian would hate her neighbor Salbakionite so much as to prefer subjection, even nominally, to an alien species.

The Exarchy of Parasai is a second-tier colony of Glowgem in the Exotic Systems. The system is rich in resources, especially in the soil of its seventh planet, Taramisado. Glowgems have long asked that the exarchy be upgraded to enarchy status, since the main vassal species in the system, the Sanyasatani, have a long history of peaceful relations with Incudea. The change of status would give less power to central organizations (including the military) and allow for smoother exploitation of the resources there. Constat so far has refused to alter the state of affairs, and the reasoning is strong: Inculae in Parasai number half a billion, whereas the tiny winged Sanyasatani number over 36 billion. The imbalance is too great, and there are too many things we do not know about the Sanyasatani for us to trust them completely. Rumors of them being somehow related to the legendary Elves aside, the fact that the Merciless Myriad had no information on the species during its period of ascendancy is very disturbing to Constat and others. The vassals claim they hid from the Dolens, but how can one hide from the Dolens?

The Melgam Glapakins System offers another unusual situation. The Glapachikos are universally trusted, even by Constat, but the latter has always resisted calls for a merger or consolidation of the two monarchies in the system: the Glapachiko-led Phylarchy of Augem Doglapa (based in Melgam Glapakins) and the Enarchy of Melgam Glapakins (based in Pechumirtu). I have been to the system, and I must say that the insistence on keeping a distinction between the two entities is entirely justified by this single supposition, which I dare call a fact: if upon first landing at the main spaceport in Pechumirtu, an Incudean visitor was met, not only by the droves of Incula-Glapachiko couples walking about as she does today, but by a combined Incula-Glapachiko officialdom, with Glapachikos verifying tickets and Glapachikos greeting passengers from the Near Systems as if they were our equals or even our betters, the shock would kill her. As things stand, the situation in Pechumirtu can gradually accustom the visitor to this strange state of affairs, so that after a few days (ideally weeks) she can travel to the main planet of Melgam Glapakins and see how far things have really gone over there.

Closeup of a Glapachiko

Glapachiko

Some of the most colorful issues Constat has had to work with appear in the old Martu Sub-Empire. The populous Martuta are their own worst enemies, they cannot transcend their tribal affiliations and, in short, are not the type of vassal easily constrained by administrative procedure. The Shitabans System is a good example of how Constat’s ingenuity in resolving the Martuta problem. The Priest tribe inhabits Shitabans, the Hebelian tribe inhabits Hebel. The two abhor each other, and have traditionally vied in the most gruesome ways for control of the system. Discovering that both groups worship one of the moons of Jopias, a third planet, Constat established a contest of sorts. Every 216 local years a battle takes place in Dementi, with the winner obtaining the right of primacy over the other tribe. Ever since the contest has taken place, the Priests have won. It is to the credit of Consolidation and Statistics that they have found a way to assure the Hebelians that they are not secretly aiding their foes (whether they are or not is something I do not know, nor really care about). The truly interesting thing to me is that Constat has already declared, and both sides have accepted, that were the Hebelians to win the contest, the two sides would have to switch planets, since a system name change (from Shitabans to Hebel) is out of the question. I suppose at that point the Hebelians would have to call themselves Shitabanites or Shitabans.

When in the wake of the Third Dolentian War, Inculae swept into the vast space dominated by the Martuta, Army analysts concluded the Keth System would make for the best supervision and control post over the Sub-Empire. For this purpose, the billions of Martuta in that particular system were relocated by Constat to a very small moon named Jamas. Over the centuries, this resettlement has been criticized as too harsh, but one is at a loss to find a better alternative. Bize and Jamas are the only two livable bodies in the system, and the Martuta are not Glapachikos; one simply cannot live side by side with them. And knowing as we do that the tribe would not have been accepted anywhere else by other Martuta (the witches take us if we actually resettled them outside of their former sphere, taking over the Dolentians’ mantle) then the only choices left were what was done, or renouncing an effective observation of this warlike species.

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