Haloed Bane

MARCH OF THE SISTERS


A: They say pain is mortal, even shorter lived than our very bodies.

B: And that is precisely why I would kill myself. Lest time passed and I forgot you.

A: You would seek the arms of another, you do not deny it.

B: I do not, and because I would, I will not, I refuse, and that is why I am ready to follow you into death. Before oblivion set in, I would end my own life. I do not want to forget.

A: But you deny your own nature by this act. If you know you would forget, you might as well do so. If your love is not as pure as you would like it to be, why then die for it?

B: If I die for it, it plunges into the dark river with me and in doing so becomes pure enough for me.

A: And what of all the joys you would miss? You would close yourself to a whole new lover, a bright new world ready to be discovered.

B: I will strangle that world, I will deprive it of air.

A: To come face to face with a beautiful new universe!

B: I will strangle all the universes, I will suffocate them, I will crush the worlds before they begin to spin and sing their songs. Is that not what we do in any case?

A: What?

B: Strangle other worlds, crush them, deprive them of air before they sing to us…

(Gilmain of Roundice: Lovers’ Lovers, first staged 1605, banned 1621)


On negative Julian Date 806496.8796322 of your world, which is to say, at a few minutes before three in the afternoon, Earth standard time, of the seventh of December in the 6922nd year before the Christ, whose era is reckoned most common and zeroless, the Transoptical Flayers were activated in the Silver Planet and our worlds changed forever. It was without argument the greatest event since our glorious creation, and while many no longer believe in the Creatrix, we all believe in the race by Her created, whose future glory, upon Activation, was by no means guaranteed to us, but was there for the taking if we pushed for it. And we did.

But you don’t know what the flayers are, or what "worlds" actually means. It’s not that complicated, really, once you know the terminology.

The Cosmology of Belklaun

1. Dimension (suvail) – This concept is new for us, and it only came into use when another dimension (Earth’s universe) was discovered. Before that discovery, we simply thought there was only one cosmos. Now we talk of two dimensions: yours and ours (your dimension we also call the new dimension and the other dimension). By the way, the discovery occurred back in 2002 AD.

2. World (mancha) – Our dimension is called Belklaun, and it is a contained multiverse, a fact easily grasped, since antiquity, by our higher beings. Each of the universes in this multiverse is an instance of that matrix, and we call the instances worlds. The initial (speaking temporally) configuration of each world is exactly the same, but the histories are different. Somewhat different, as certain constraints prevent large deviations from occurring in any one world.

Recap: there are now two known dimensions: our multiverse and that newly found universe where you are. Our multiverse has several worlds, universes, whereas yours has only the one. All of the worlds in the Belklaun dimension are physically similar to each other. For example, there is a planet Ildico in the world of Kalderon. But besides Kalderonian Ildico there is also a Brigandine Ildico (in Briga), a Chanegrine Ildico (in Chanegra) and so on.

Now, how many worlds are there in the Belklaun dimension? The official view of Incudea is that there are 21 worlds. The 22-world theory and the 3-world theory both have a substantial number of supporters, but Incudea does her best to quash these heretics and no doubt one day she will silence them utterly. 21 worlds is dogma and truth.

Here is a diagram of how the 21 worlds actually work:

Pathways between Worlds

The arrows indicate the pathways (joitakins) between worlds. The letters are the initials for each world’s name. The seeming correlation between the Latin Alphabet and the sequence of worlds is only apparent, a deliberate by-product of the transliteration scheme adopted. The first row is constituted by Aym, Briga, Chanegra..the second by Deleon, Eryam, Floy and so on. The numbers on the left mark each of the succeeding levels or grades (favikins): from the first all the way to the seventh. The three worlds in the same grade form a trinity (minshi). [A, B, C] constitute the first trinity, [D, E, F] the second trinity, and so on. There are also names for each of the vertical groups, known as worldlines (minshihika). The middle column of worlds [B, E, H, K, N, Q, T] is called the stemline (jensi or jensihika). The other two columns are called sidelines (teneikans). The column starting with A is called the left sideline and the one starting with C is called the right sideline.

“Lateral movement” within a trinity, for example between Briga, Aym and Chanegra, is relatively easy. Folk in Belklaun learn to do it as you learn how to ride a bicycle or play the hula-hoop. The process takes a couple of seconds and involves mental concentration on the desired destination along with a physical gesture of some sort. Different races resort to different gestures and there’s debate as to whether anyone can train themselves to use any gesture or whether there are physiological or spiritual constraints on each race. Blinking and nose-twitching are common methods. (Would the U.S.A. television program Bewitched be an appropriate reference?)

“Vertical movement” along the various grades requires wisdom (udias) and is much more difficult. Each species seems to have a cap on the grades they can achieve, with Inculae (i.e. the Incudean race) and very few others being able to reach the seventh grade. That said, even a good number of our own people never move up beyond the first grade.

Vertical movement along a line is also involuntary and irreversible. A young talented woman like Sinduin might one day find herself transported from Briga to Eryam. Soon enough she’ll be able to travel between her new world and Deleon and Floy (by lateral movement), but she can never go back down to the first trinity. Later on she might be in Deleon and achieve enough wisdom to move up to Ginaras. As a third grader, she’ll be able to access Halaron and Isis but the six worlds below her will be inaccessible forever. (Sinduin, our scout on Earth, is currently a fourth grader.)

Ascending a grade also grants the individual certain skills (or abilities, or magic perhaps, but of a natural sort). It’s similar to leveling up in a game. Verbal commands or spells are required to activate these skills.

There is an extremely significant exception to everything that has been stated up to now, and it has everything to do with the reason for our discussion: the Transoptical Flayers. The flayers are mechanical devices developed by Incudean scientists and what they accomplish is easily explained if we keep an eye on the diagram above: the flayers collapse each of the three world lines. This means that the seven stemline worlds become one mega-world, and the same thing occurs to the two sidelines.

The flayers are five, and they generate a pyramidal field that only operates over the Silver Planet (our capital planet, the Conciliar Home) and her immediate vicinity, but the consequences there are stupendous. People from all the seven grades can live together, but they still keep their separate abilities or skills.

Let me just give one quirky example of how the flayers shape Incudean destinies. The Incudean Armed Forces guarding the Silver Planet and its environs are grouped into two major services: a home force (Home Fleet, Glenvadis) and an outer force (the largest component of which is the First Trinity's Fleet of Light, Ijilvadis). The Home Force operates within flayer field, the Fleet of Light outside of it. The composition of these two groups is totally different. The Home Force is massive and it boasts all sorts of people (first graders through seventh graders, excluding the sixth). The outer force is split into several units, one per each grade. This is a must!! Imagine what would happen otherwise. A spaceship leaves the Silver Planet to do battle elsewhere. The captain is a fifth grader and most of the crew are second and third graders. At the beginning everything is fine, but once the ship has cleared flayer field all of a sudden the captain disappears from everyone else’s eyes, and the second graders get split from the third graders. Everyone suddenly ends up in different worlds (the ship, by the way, might pop up relatively unscathed in all of those worlds).

By now you're probably thinking that it would be pretty tough to be a universal empire if every time you conquered a new planet you had to take it over 21 times, once per each so-called world! Well, Incudea is nothing if not practical and her thinkers have developed a strategy called the Fork (pute). To explain how it works I’ll use the example of Ephocto, which happens to be in the same star system as the Silver Planet.

Imperial Fork

Since this planet is beyond flayer field, it exists in all 21 worlds. In other words, there are instances of Ephocto in each of the worlds. However, the alien Epheboctopi that inhabit the planet never ascend beyond the second grade (i.e. they’re not the wisest of races). This effectively reduces their scope of activity to the six worlds of the first two trinities.

Incudea allows the Epheboctopi to live more or less freely in the two stemline worlds available to them [B, E]. Incudean troops will never station themselves in Brigandine Ephocto and Eryamite Ephocto. Instead, the Inculae set themselves up on the sideline worlds [A, D, C, F] and bar them from the Epheboctopi. Since the stemline worlds are usually the most attractive and peaceful places to live in Belklaun, this is seen as a nice concession to the vanquished people. At the same time, if there were any troubles or rebellions in the stemline worlds, it would be very easy for Incudean troops to laterally move into those worlds to deal with them.

In addition, Inculae will establish themselves in the stemline worlds above those accessible to the locals, but only up to the fifth grade (worlds H and K in this example). The reason is not to control the locals (since they can’t ever go there) but to prevent other powers from quietly sneaking into Ephocto.

It looks like a fork, does it not? To recap: for every planet that Incudea conquers, they will usually: a) let the locals continue to occupy the stemline worlds that their race can access, b) occupy the corresponding sideline worlds, and c) occupy the stemline worlds above those in (a), but only up to the fifth grade. In this way only seven worlds instead of 21 see the need for Incudean troops (it’d be six if the Epheboctopi weren’t capable of reaching the second grade). There is a wide consensus that these Incudean Forks provide for an optimal use of resources.

NOTE: You might be wandering why Incudean troops won’t occupy the sixth and seventh stemline worlds. The reason is simple. Sixth graders are invariably rebels against Incudea so Incudean troops in the sixth grade simply do not exist. As for the seventh grade, the number of alien beings that attain it are very few and practically all of them bear an unshakeable love of peace, if not toward Incudea, so there is really no need to worry about occupying any planet in that particular trinity.

Flayer Reckoning

The Activation of Flayer Fields having initiated a new era, our calendar was adapted accordingly. 6922 BC became Year 0. The Silver Planet’s year (317 Silver days, each day being substantially longer than yours, so that the year ends up being somewhat longer than 369 Earth days) became the standard Incudean year.

Each year (vune) is divided into 5 months (tiondo). The third month is considered a short month (tiondo senteter), the others are full months (tiondokins terniter). Each full month has 66 days (bitasha) grouped into 11 weeks (asha) of 6 days each. The short month has only 53 days grouped into 9 weeks, where the last week is a short week (asha senteter) of 5 days. Here are the month names with their etymologies:

1) Banuibel = Outer Gryphon (from the old notion that time begins and ends with a gryphon)

2) Tarteika = Tarte Line (in this case, the thread of the year belonging to said goddess)

3) Tolmarika = Tolmar Line (in this case, the thread of the year belonging to said goddess; note that her full name is Galriatolmar, which means Broadport)

4) Zishgerion = Dark River (from the notion that, to reach the good end, one must swim in the dark river)

5) Varabel = Last Gryphon (a variant form of the name: Varaprisbel)

The six weekdays have their own names (funnily enough, all of them can be made to begin with the letter L in English, though not in our language), as follows (speculative etymologies included):

1) Light (Ijil) = cosmologically speaking, everything begins with light according to the ancients. We now know the ancients were wrong and light is a byproduct of the activity of the pentagrams integral to the structure of water. Associated with the great goddess Tarte.

2) Lunaria (Morganflash) = The Silver Planet’s single moon of Morgan or Priestess is said to feast on this day, thus Morgan’s banquet (This day is very frequently abbreviated as Flash).

3) Loiteneva = compound of two words: loi and teneva. Tenevas are snake-like beings in the Silver Planet. A particular type of teneva rolls up into a ball when it is about to strike (a tactic diametrically opposed to what similarly shaped creatures may do on Earth). It is somewhat unclear why these creatures are honored in the week, but it is though that primitive Silver sisters might have seen them as metaphors for the passage of time, and possibly even worshiped them at some point.

4) Love (Nema) = A day traditionally associated with Galriatolmar.

5) Lance (Berraush) = In order to honor the Good Knights, this name was ordained during the 27th benefactress’ reign early in your 9th century B.C. The name remained after the True Knights were established. This “lance” is really any sort of pole weapon.

6) Letrigech = Etymology and meaning are a mystery, but it would most definitely be bad luck to replace or even shorten the name.

The five days of the short week in Tolmarika are called holidays (belbauva) and have special names, which are: 1-Tradition Day (Hilashuva), 2-People Day (Glidiahuva), 3-Ransain Day (Ransainuva), 4-Army Day (Chianauva), 5-Incudea Day (\Kanvioruva). A popular way of naming fingers is to call them in a similar manner, from pinky to thumb: hilashchu – glidiachu – Ransainchu – chianachu - kanviorchu, where chu means finger.

NOTE: The first two days used to be for Highborn and Lowborn respectively (names were literally High Day and Low Day). This thinking has abated somewhat, though the Houses still engage in many a peculiar activity on Tradition Day. Ransain Day is used to celebrate fallen heroes and important personages.

This calendar is most accurately known as Flayer Reckoning or FR (Grimirkrasa, Gro.Kro.). As an example, the first day of the first month of the first year would be:

Informally: First Light of Banuibel, 0 (Shemprisijil nu Banuibel, 0)

Somewhat less informally: First Light of Banuibel, FR 0 (Shemprisijil nu Banuibel, Gro.Kro. 0)

Formally: First Light of Banuibel in the Year 0 according to Flayer Reckoning (Shemprisijil nu Banuibel u Vune 0 gauduk Grimirkasa)

Ceremonially: First Light of Banuibel in the Year 0 since the Activation of the Incudean Flayers (Shemprisijil nu Banuibel u Vune 0 dauki Rachunflama nu Kanviorgrimeth)

The period, in human reckoning, from about 7000 BC to 5000 BC, was one of great expansion for Inculae, as they consolidated their mastery over the Near Systems and began to reap the benefits of Silver’s technological triumph. Much of the culture and lore of the Pre-Flayer era was lost or discarded in the race for glory and the passion for modernity. Traditional institutions survived at great cost, as much as the loss of their original character in the opinion of some. It's easy to forget that the High Priestesses of Elomara, seen in our time as the ancient and hallowed defenders of the Tarteist faith, first became established on New Year's Day in the 543rd year of the Flayer Era (6373 BC). Thus, as a reaction to all of the changes occuring. If true religion had still been strong, there might not have been a need for this sort of powerful authoritarian figure.

Our people's expansion suffered a shocking, but ultimately temporary, setback during the Unity War. While awful, the conflict culminated in the foundation of the great commonwealth of sisters, Incudea.

The Unity War

This struggle (5555-5530 BC, FR 1352-1377) brought about the actual birth of Incudea as an Empire (Incudea = Empire, for more on this see this page), so it is an essential subject if one is to understand the state of Belklaun in the present time. I will skim through the major events of the war, beginning with its causes and concluding with some thoughts on its repercussions. Since the war occurred over seven thousand years ago, I will begin the series by attempting to bridge the gap between the geopolitical landscape then and the one in the present time.

Let’s begin in the present and work our way back. The Big Eight planets are the hegemons of the Incudea-ruled universe. Each of these planets is in a separate system. Seven of the eight are part of the Near Systems in the heart of the universe, while the eighth is farther away in the Exotics.

The Incudean race began exploration of the Exotics around 500 years after the end of the Unity War, so for now we can immediately drop discussion of the eighth superplanet of our time and concentrate on the Big Seven in the Near Systems. Here is a map of the Big Seven (Gorgo is in the Aurena Green System):

Situation in 5555

Situation in 5555 * YELLOW: Unity Forces BLUE: Friendship Forces RED: Undiscovered

On the eve of the Unity War, the community of Inculae included four major planets: Gorgo, Eluca, Meidin and the Silver Planet, plus a number of minor planets and moons. All of these planets formed a Council (vivian) which had an advisory function toward her members but not much more. The four major planets contributed 10 councilors each, and there were 15 seats allotted to the remaining planets and moons. There were thus 55 councilors in all. Here is a detailed breakdown (P = planet, M = moon, C = country, A = alternation between two members):

Entity System (Modern Name) Council Seats
Eluca-P Eluca 10
Gorgo-P Aurena Green 10
Meidin-P Meidin 10
Silver Planet-P Home 10
Hiuron-P Hiuron 3
Akash-P Akash 2
Chusui-C Daxel 2-A
Keipa-C Daxel 2-A
Cisrevo-P All the Revos 2
Elomara-C Aurena Green 1
Hulgoin-M Akash 1
Ildico-P Ildico 1
Malpica-M Eluca 1-A
Toro-P Eluca 1-A
Transrevo-P All the Revos 1
Trillian-M All the Revos 1

The alternation of seats between Chusui and Keipa in Daxel, and Malpica and Toro in the Eluca System, took place every 33 Gorgon weeks, or just under a Silver year. Chusui and Keipa were constantly at war so splitting their two seats was not a possibility: members of these countries could not sit together at the same table.

The Council was housed in the Silver Planet to take advantage of the flayer field's unusual properties, which allowed first and second graders to sit in mixed meetings. The metacomm system, which would have allowed for cross-trinity calls, was very much in its infancy. Gorgo had seriously considered establishing her own flayer system but many scientists believed they were volatile and some claimed there would be serious long-term effects on the health of any population subjected to its influence.

The important thing to note is that each power was considered independent and treated as such, though minor places were in some cases de facto subject to the Big Four. In addition, Eluca was the product of joint Silver-Gorgo colonization in the not so distant past, so although independent and free, the planet had factions of colonists with strong ties to their respective home planets.

Although nowhere near as important a fact, it might interest you to know that Councillors in those times wore a neck ruff the color of which indicated the Councilor’s home territory. Red, for example, was Gorgo’s color. Today's Incudean Councilors wear nothing at all.

Gorgon Councilor Sinduin

Let me round off by discussing the other planets/systems in the picture and their status around the time of the Unity War. Glowgem was discovered immediately after the Unity War, but it was only very slowly colonized throughout the years due to its harsh environment and the savagery of her beasts.

The Salbakion System was the center of another great Incudean culture at this time, though plagued by the incessant rivalry of its two major planets: Salbakion and Naxis. Even the name of the system has been a source of much contention. As odd as it sounds, the Salbakionites and Naxians, on the one hand, and the original conciliar planets (Gorgo, the Silver Planet, etc.) did not at all know of each other’s existence until after the Unity War.

As for Ikrilath, at the time of the Unity War it was populated by her native inhabitants, the Ikrils. The planet would be discovered and conquered for Incudea around 5100 BC by exiles from Salbakion. This in turn would lead, in a roundabout way, to the Dolentian Wars, but we will deal with those conflicts later.

Causes of and Leadup to the War

Put bluntly, the ascendancy of the Silver Planet was the ultimate cause of the Unity War. Since the Activation of the Flayers her fortunes had gradually improved. To be sure, the advantage of having a flayer field was nowhere near as marked as it is in the present time, since back then Inculae only lived in the first two trinities (first: Aym,Briga and Chanegra; second: Deleon, Eryam and Floy), but it was there and it increased with time.

Silver held only 10 of 55 Council seats, but her influence was far stronger than those numbers would suggest. The Council invariably met on this planet, and the locals would often manipulate (through gifts and/or threats) Council votes. In addition, Silver promoted the use of the Council as much as possible. She would submit herself to arbitration even when it wasn’t necessary, simply to set a precedent. Rival planets like Gorgo would then look uncooperative by comparison when they insisted on settling their affairs privately. Minor planets and territories began to look to the Silver Planet, as their Councilors became addicted to casting votes at the Council. Last but not least, the planet with the most seats after the Big Four, Hiuron with 3 seats, happened to enjoy great relations with the Silver Planet and would automatically side with her in almost every vote.

From the perspective of the Silver Planet, most of the Incudean planets in this age were clustered together “in front of” her. The planet of Akash, however, lay close “behind”, at a single light-year from Silver, and she was whispered to be “the dagger aimed at the Silver sisters’ backs.” Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a good map for perspective. Notice Akash’s position:

Silver and Akash

Legend had it Akash had originally been a daughter colony from the Silver Planet in the distant past, but her inhabitants guarded their freedoms very jealously. Akash had assiduously developed good relations with other Council members like Gorgo and Meidin, and refused to toe the Silver line.

In 5594 BC, the duchesses (heads of the Highborn houses) of Akash arrested one of their own, Duchess Hulgoin, and gave her a choice: accept exile in one of Akash’s moons or have her throat slashed. Hulgoin had ruffled too many feathers during her rapid rise to power and was now forcibly ostracized. The Akashi duchesses lived to regret the move, as Hulgoin now used her new home as a perfect base from which to launch open assaults on the planet.

This Akashi civil war ended in 5576 with a deal brokered by the Silver Planet. Hulgoin’s moon would cease attacking Akash forevermore. In exchange, Akash had to surrender one of her three seats at the Council to Hulgoin’s moon, which became for all intents and purposes independent of the planet. The deal was extremely unpopular in Akash, and almost as unpopular in Gorgo, where it was seen as Silver’s most brazen attempt yet to divide and conquer her rivals. One of Gorgo’s councilors had suggested an allied invasion of Hulgoin instead, but her colleagues would not back the plan since most likely the allied fleet would have been led by none other than Silver. As it turned out, Silver politicians immediately established the most cordial relations with Hulgoin’s moon. Akash had been weakened, her blade no longer as dull.

Situation in 5555

An Akashi soldier (left) faces a Hulgoin infiltrator. Akashi of all Modes and factions have a universal preference for close combat over firefights.

The spark that lit the war was a Silver proposal at the Council in 5556 for a more perfect Unity among all of the sisters. The proposal was vague, but nobody had any doubt in their minds that this new Unity was meant to take place under and give legitimacy to the leadership of the Silver Planet.

And it became apparent very quickly that the Silver Planet meant business. Silver agents lobbied zealously for the proposal among the minor planets and territories, which accounted for 15 of the 55 Council seats. In the most egregious case, it was said that Silver was discussing with the aliens of Revo (remarkably similar to Inculae, but distinct nonetheless; “cousins” at best and certainly not “sisters”) the possibility of participating in this new Unity, while at the same time assuring Incudean colonists in neighboring Cisrevo and Transrevo that the Silver Planet distrusted the accursed Revo aliens and would do all she could to contain them (Transrevo and Cisrevo had one and two Council seats respectively, whereas outlandish Revo had no representation, cf. table above).

Flayer year 1351 came amid much apprehension. Incudean sisters across the many planets and moons had a choice to make: become an Empire, a Silver Incudea, or break all contact with that powerful planet and risk her fury.

It would not be at all accurate to claim that only the Silver Sisters were interested in a deeper union between the various planets. There was no shortage of unity-minded individuals in Gorgo. The Gorgons had supported the establishment of the Council and had for all intents and purposes managed to gain more seats therein than any other planet, since Elomara (the sacred Gorgon site on the neighboring planet of Aurena Green) had received her own seat separately from the 10-seat Gorgon contingent, effectively giving them 11 seats in all, one ahead of Silver, Eluca and Meidin.

Moreover, the trend within Gorgo was toward integration. The single Gorgon continent of Painuria had dozens of Highborn Modes, but more and more the various intermodal rivalries were derided as petty squabbles, and gradually Gorgon enterprises were organized under the all-inclusive “Painurian” name and not along modal lines. Thus, for example, Gorgon contribution to the colonization of Eluca included not only modally sponsored colony ships but also Painurian colony ships, which represented Gorgo as a single unit.

That said, there was no way that Gorgons would accept Unity under Silver rule. Although the Silver Planet did attempt negotiations with a few disgruntled duchesses in Gorgo, early in 5555 BC the planet agreed to vote as one bloc in the Council against the Unity proposal.

In Eluca’s case, the planet was divided into Silver and Gorgon factions, corresponding very closely to the colonial origins of her various inhabitants. The Elucan character was and is peaceful, and Elucans would have loved nothing more than to go along with whatever Gorgo and the Silver Planet agreed on, but sadly for Eluca the two great powers were never to agree. Elucan Councilors were quite evenly split for or against the proposal, and the prospect of civil war was as worrying as it seemed unavoidable. Eluca’s last major act before war broke out was to approve a proposal allowing each of her Councilors to vote her own mind if and when the Unity proposal actually came to a vote. It never did.

Meidin isn’t often mentioned in present-day discussions in Sinduin’s universe, but she was a great power in ancient times. Meidinish culture was committed to (obsessed with might be the better term) the pursuit of knowledge through technology. In fact, Meidinish technicians had formed the nucleus of the team that had developed the Silver Planet’s transoptical flayers. These same technicians died soon after the flayers became operational, and relations between the two planets never really recovered from the affair.

After Gorgo announced that she would vote against the Unity proposal, the citizens of Meidin decided it was time to seriously consider the issue. Meidin possessed three electronic “advisers”, the pride of Meidinish engineering, on which they often relied during difficult times. They put the following question to the advisers:

“Would it be better for Meidin to seek further Unity with her sister systems or remain Friends?”

The first adviser replied it would be best to remain Friends.

The second adviser replied Unity would be best for Meidin.

The third adviser replied that the answer would depend on the sisters’ intentions (in particular the Silver Sisters’) which were still not entirely clear. The Meidinish were disappointed with this “draw”, but before long the third adviser addressed them again. It added that since the future was uncertain, it would be best to remain Friends, since as Friends they could always seek further Unity, whereas once joined, a move away from Unity would mean the loss of Friendship. After some deliberation, the leading citizens of Meidin accepted the third adviser’s argument and announced officially they would not support the Silver Planet’s proposal. The lines were thus drawn between two sides, which would be known henceforth as Unity and Friendship.

Those lines were crossed immediately.

At the same time as the three advisers were being consulted at an open ceremony on the Meidinish capital of Pipuris, a group of ships was detected entering the Meidin System. Meidinish officials could not establish communication with the unidentified vessels at first, but as soon as the third adviser’s initial “inconclusive” pronouncement was announced, a garbled message to the effect of “Apologies, off course” was picked up by Meidin. According to Meidinish accounts broadcasted far and wide during the war, after the same adviser declared itself against Unity the mystery ships returned and willy-nilly bombarded the capital, leaving before Meidinish ships could scramble for defense (for all of her scientific prowess, Meidin was severely lacking in strategic and tactical military planning).

The official Unity view was that their ships, there simply on a duly-announced observer function, were struck by manless vessels controlled by the same adviser who counseled against them. The truth may never be known, but the results are clear, and that is what matters.

Gorgons claimed Silver ships were to blame. The Silver Planet claimed it was a ploy to make them look bad, and ridiculed anyone who would suggest that they would risk a sororicidal war for the sake of a mere proposal. While Meidin unsuccessfully tried to solve the case, pro-Silver Elucans rushed a vote in their planetary assembly with most Gorgo supporters absent and declared the planet for Unity, proposing at the same time a boycott against Gorgon and Meidinish goods until they “ceased conspiring against the larger community”. Soon thereafter a clash between Gorgon and Elucan ships in the vicinity of the Revo System caused a great deal of outrage on both sides.

It was time for war.

The Eluca Campaign and the Space War

The population of Eluca was split, and both war factions believed control of the planet was vital for their success. The Friends reckoned victory here would force the Silver Planet to go it alone against three major opponents, a situation which would probably persuade her to desist from her imperial dreams. Supporters of Unity were of a similar mind, and believed that the planet must be won at all costs. For three years the Unity War was fought solely within and around Eluca (5555-5552 BC).

Most of the Elucan surface was perfectly dry, with water concentrated on a limited number of ice mounds, hills and mountains. The colonists in Eluca used to build their cities on these ice areas, and work the dry lands from there. In order not to damage these critical stores of ice, the Elucan combatants agreed to confine the fighting to a single strip (see the diagram of the initial situation below) of extremely dry land between the Silver colony of Urmurel and the Gorgon colony of Gozens. Gozens’ huge size was counterbalanced, strategically speaking, by the presence of a second major Silver colony further south in Nadomar. Each side had only two legal entry points (O’s in the diagram) and a starting borderline was drawn in the middle dividing the Unity forces in the southwest from their Friendship counterparts in the northeast.

Eluca Campaign

The proceedings, protocols and formulas were all very refined, and throughout the campaign trade between Gorgon and Silver colonists continued farther east, but actual war within the strip was brutal. The soldiers had a saying: “Banui ika, selter; justi nu ika, feltes.” Translation: “Outside the strip, bread; inside the strip, dead.”

The agreement was that the fighting for the strip would continue until one side surrendered, and then the whole planet would support the victors. After three years Unity defeated the Friends within the strip, but what happened next is still in dispute. Either the Friendship forces refused to surrender, forcing Unity to overrun the strip and launch an attack on Gozens, or they did surrender but were ignored. After a bloody last stand by a Painurian army defending the gates, Unity entered Gozens and claimed the planet, this time for real. Despite orders from the Silver Planet to prevent escape, the Elucans allowed Gorgon ships to retrieve thousands of pro-Gorgon denizens and flee the lost planet.

Defense of Gozens

The resettlement of the Elucan exiles was not welcome back in Gorgo and a a peace movement among the common classes was born. The Gorgon Highborn did their best to quell the movement by, among other things, arming the exiles and organizing them into a Friends of Eluca force, then shipping as may of them out as possible.

A fifteen-year battle for open space had begun. The Friends divided up leadership over the world fronts as follows: Meidin took charge of Aym and Deleon (the left sideline worlds, whose physics are most amenable to the workings of high technology), the Friends of Eluca ran Chanegra, and Gorgo led the struggle in Briga, Eryam and Floy.

True to its name, the Unity faction was much more centralized under the leadership of the Silver Planet. It is easy, however, to forget about the many allies that were key in the fight. Hiuronites performed ably, especially the elite group of Eternals. Daxel, having rapidly switched from one side to the other at the start of the conflict, did well, though truth be told the psychological impact of the change of sides was likely her greatest contribution to the Unity cause. The Akashi left a bigger mark, forced to give full support to Unity after the reduction of Eluca. Dislike for the Silver Sisters was so strong on Akash that planetary authorities there organized round-robin hand-to-hand combat tournaments as a basis for recruitment. The lowest ranked one-sixth of combatants were shipped off to battle. These Akashi losers fought twice as bravely as other units, since they felt a need to erase the shame they had brought on themselves through their poor fighting records back home. Many of the more successful Akashi combatants in the war never returned to Akash, finding employment in flayer field or out in the Exotics.

Recruitment in Akash

The Unity forces gradually gained the upper hand, especially in the stemline worlds, with Silver generals becoming very adept at fielding combined forces that played on the particular strengths of the various units. Once again the Akashi excelled in this area. Their spectacular dashes into (and onto) enemy shields forced Gorgon technicians to develop new shields with retractable spikes. But then many an Akashi was able to time their approaches, pivot off of the spikes (whether by foot or hand) and strike elsewhere among the enemy.

In the left sideline, Unity took a defensive position, tacitly accepting the might of Meidinish technology. Although the number of key installations and military formations in Aym and Deleon was very small, Meidin’s control of the area allowed it to blink into the stemline and conduct surprise attacks on Unity forces. However, for this sort of trans-world, para-trinitarian operation to yield permanent successes, deeper and better cooperation between Meidin and Gorgo would have been required. Alas, both planets were very different in temperament and their respective leaderships distrusted one another.

And so after eighteen years of war, Gorgo decided the situation was hopeless and concluded a peace treaty with Unity. The planet herself had been unscathed in the conflict, but a few skirmishes just beyond her system and a total failure to even penetrate the Eluca System, let alone reclaim that planet, weighed heavily on the Gorgons. Officially, the Unity proposal was shelved for sixty-six years.

However, Meidin condemned the treaty as a face-saving ploy and claimed Gorgons had already agreed in secret to Unity under Silver hegemony. The war was not over yet.

Meidin against All

It took a further seven years for Unity forces to defeat Meidin. Throughout this time Gorgo sent a token troop force as she concentrated on rebuilding, amid criticism she was in fact biding her time to possibly join the Friendship side once more. It came as a shock how furiously Meidin fought against all odds, so much so that millennia later, when Inculae debated the potential risks of invading totally surrounded Revo, those arguing for caution had Meidin and these terrible years in the front of their minds.

It was a time when the Meidinish unleashed their most advanced weapons, which they had hoped not to have to use. General Arsenuin, the one voice in the wilderness advocating for their deployment since the beginning of the conflict, finally had her day. One of the greatest weapons was the cordship (momba konseia), an enormous unmanned warship guided purely by the nervous synapses of a single controller who kept physical contact with the ship through a single silver cord (that is, the controller would walk on the ground, armored and shielded, while the ship soared miles ahead). This mind-machine construct allowed for the cordship to possess far more sophisticated control and weapon systems than its counterparts in the second trinity, bypassing the issues relating to Merlisian’s Law.

Meidinish Cordship

Merlisian’s Law is a fundamental truth of our dimension. It means that technological capabilities deteriorate, and sapience flourishes, as one ascends the trinities.

I’ll explain this all-important law by bringing up Sinduin of Albrajen, our agent on the ground in your world for the last decade. A fourth-grade Incula in your 21st century (our 90th), she relies mostly on handheld weapons, her transformation and telekinesis skills, and the natural motive capabilities of her Zeburaja aide to do battle. And yet here we are talking of massive ships and complicated technological battle systems seven thousand years before her birth. What gives? Has Incudean science devolved in the interim?

Not at all. Let me quote from the great scholar Merlisian herself:

Just as the bodies of the wise grow in strength and skill as they ascend the worlds, so does the very air around them deteriorate and fall to pieces. It is as if that gained wisdom demanded payment, and unwilling to exact it on herself, the body pushed the debt outward on the environment. Ships and technologies become more difficult to handle, systems break down, the world grows more primitive, more ready for the doom of one-on-one battle…

In short: the higher the trinity, the more capable sapient bodies become and the less capable technological machinery becomes. This inverse relation between a sapient species’ powers and the usability of technology as one ascends the trinities is especially evinced in the Great Chasm (favirravur) between the third and fourth grades, but gaps like this exist at every single shift. The gigantic simulation centroids that still function well in the second grade are impossible in the third; the relatively unsophisticated war vessels deployable in the third are too unstable to exist in the fourth. And even machinery that can still be built and operated in a given grade might break too often to be cost effective.

Warfare in the first two grades yields primacy to technological weaponry. Warfare in the third grade has a shared primacy between technological weaponry and pre-technological weaponry (lances, swords). Warfare in the fourth and fifth grades gives primacy to pre-technological weaponry. Warfare in the sixth and seventh grades gives primacy to hand-to-hand submission combat (giboma), because by then there is simply no other way to neutralize your worthy rival.

Bodies do not only grow stronger as grades are attained, they develop abilities (what we call jaisai) that would appear magical or supernatural to the average Earthling. Each of these grade abilities is in essence a capacity to transform something. Incudean scholars stress the need for wisdom to propel these advances, and therefore tend to speak as if each ability is not really an acquisition of a power so much as an awareness that said power was already in the individual’s grasp. They speak thus of a gradual awareness of malleabilities (vinonglaiglarins).

Advancing to the second trinity awards one the awareness of malleability of sensation, which allows the body to tweak and even reverse pleasure and pain, provided they have originated in external sources, at will; the third grade brings awareness of the malleability of the self, or shape-shifting; the fourth brings the malleability of space, mostly telekinesis though teleportation has been reported; the fifth the malleability of communication, allowing the individual to insert her thoughts in others and even read another’s thoughts, just as long as these are strongly directed toward her (love and fear being the best media); the sixth is the malleability of ability, by which is meant a denial of the abilities of others at every level; the seventh malleability is kept a secret for security reasons.

Merlisian’s Law is relevant to the Unity War insofar as Meidinish cyborg- and human enhancement-technology sought nothing less and nothing more to bridge that gap. By uniting body and machine in a plethora of ingenious ways, Meidin was forcing science and technology to ride along with Incudean mind-bodies into a higher trinity. For better or worse, all of these investigations and their fruit were stopped and rolled back after the defeat in the Unity War. Our assessment collectively as a species was that the possibilities of a catastrophe when playing these games were far too scary.

In the twenty-first year of the war, two cordships penetrated the Silver Planet’s planetary system in Eryam and began to ravage its outer reaches (beginning with the eighth and last planet Notun). The two controllers would constantly blink in and out of the three worlds, confusing Silver defenders. Eventually both controllers were killed (one of them suffered a suicide attack by a Silver pilot) but in the meantime a group of Meidinish gliders had reached the Silver Planet herself and sabotaged two of the flayers; the cordships had been nothing but massive decoys. What happened next is called by Silver historians the First Collapse (shemprisgrituny).

The instantaneous cessation of Flayer Field caused massive havoc and confusion. One of Silver’s most influential councilors at the time was a second-grader with a first-grade lover, and the Meidinish attack effectively separated the two; salacious rumor had it that the separation occurred at the most inopportune of times, with grave consequences for Meidin, as the councilor developed a visceral hatred for the Friends.

The collapse was followed by earth-shattering news: Meidin had just activated her own set of flayers and set up her own flayer field around the planet. On the one hand, this is something that could have been expected, as Meidinish technicians had played a key role in setting flayers around Silver a millennium and a half earlier. But Silver intelligence had no inkling that this would happen just now, and the timing hurled Unity partisans head-first into despair. It looked like the war would last for far longer, there was talk of Gorgon ship movements in the direction of Eluca and an imminent defection to the Friendship side. But just then the tables were turned…

…by the Zeburajas. Third-grade Zeburajas (Incudean historians disagree whether the action was done in coordination with Unity forces or on their own initiative) had hidden themselves in orbit around Meidin, something easily arranged since no Inculae occupied the third grade at this point. Soon after the new flayer field kicked in and the trinities merged in the region of Meidin, these four-footed warriors (led by the chief of Clan Hexahorn) proceeded to bombard and destroy three of the five fresh-new flayers. The chaos that ensued was aggravated by a massive first-grade Unity fleet that wasted no time in appearing and establishing itself permanently in the Meidin System.

The Zeburaja contribution to this phase of the struggle went even deeper. The first-trinity Unity Fleet in Meidin received orders from Incudean second-graders via Zeburajan breamers. That is, second-grade Zeburajas in the Home System would be entrusted with data and relay it in breams to their first-grade children stationed with the fleet near Meidin, who would then explain to the Incudean officers what needed to be done. The fleet, one must add, was financed in no small part by the forlorn councilor mentioned earlier.

Situation in 5555

The Chief of Clan Hexahorn was the unrecognized quadrupedal hero of the Unity War. He led the Zeburajan fleet responsible for the collapse of the Meidinish flayer field. If not for that blow, the Meidinish Friends may very well have prevented Incudea’s establishment.

I have yet to explain what Zeburajas and breams are. For the former, please look up the species Bos primigenius indicus of Earth, as the resemblance in physiology, and, dare I say it, character, is remarkable. As for the differences, you should know that Zeburajas are sapient and that they are capable of triggering nuclear decay in the atoms at the tips of their horns as a defense mechanism. They call the resulting projectiles doom arrows (navikins tranashter), think of them as gamma rays. And yes, you currently have one of these fellows in your midst...

Breaming is a particular kind of dreaming experienced by many sapient beings in Belklaun at one time or another. A bream is like a dream, but the content of a bream is the past day’s activities of the breamer’s parent/s, when the parent/s inhabit a higher grade of existence. For example: If I live in Briga, my father lives in Eryam and my mother in Halaron, it is possible that I may bream of what my father did in Eryam last night, or about what my mother did in Halaron yesterday morning, or a mixture of both. Breaming always include a certain amount of noise from regular dreams, and thus the content can be very deceiving. Each of the sapient species has different aptitudes for breaming, and the same goes for individuals within one species. Some members of some species can bream every night (and might be hired as professional breamers) whereas others may bream only once or twice in a lifetime (usually on the first sleep after a parent has ascended to a new grade). Breaming is very important in the history of a species because it usually gives the first inkling of the existence of multiple grades to those who stay behind. Some species practice bream-feeding, that is, the practice of doing certain activities over and over in a single day, or focusing very strongly while doing them, in the hopes of inducing breams in one’s progeny in a lower grade. The practice is not considered scientifically valid by some.

Significantly, Inculae cannot bream. Neither can Dolentians, but the reason for that will become more than obvious to you once you learn about them.

Back to the conflict at hand. Three years after the Hexahorn strike, twenty-five years after the war had begun, Brigandine Meidin surrendered to Unity forces. Silver psycho-statisticians (experts on judging the capacity of an individual to advance through each grade and the nature and quality of spatiotemporal events that will likely trigger each successive step, iatarsodontureth in Horgothic) roamed the capital city of Pipuris in search for locals deemed to be on the brink of ascending to the second grade. They would seize these people, tell them what doom awaited their planet if their brethren in the second trinity did not yield soon, and then did their best to trigger the ascension. After several of these witnesses had popped up in Eryam and horrified the population with their stories, Meidinish authorities approved a general surrender. The war was over, the Incudean Empire was born.

Genetic engineering and certain forms of higher Meidinish technology were permanently banned as abominatechs (vemorins dofudor). The three oracular computers were dismantled and destroyed. Someone thought to ask one last question of the second one: “Whether the reason Unity was preferable was because of the might of Silver?” and the answer was “Yes, better Unity amicably, even forced, than through conquest.” The Meidinish representation in the Council was reduced and the planet would never rise, in matters of force, to be anything but a middle power at best. Immediately after the war, the sideline worlds were closed on Meidin, and though the right sideline was reopened 50 years later, the left sideline was closed until about 3,000 years ago.

After this time the Silver Planet, her flayer field restored, was clearly top bitch in Incudea, Gorgo’s power slowed for awhile but remained considerable, Eluca saw a golden age that did not last long, and Meidin faded into obscurity for several millennia.

I am a Gorgon, and though there are elements of this history that hurt me in the recounting, I can see that it has all been for the best.

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