Haloed Bane

NO MERCY FOR THE MERCILESS


But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before there was even a thought of the Third Dolentian War, of course the Second happened, as well as a few other things besides. On the technological front, for example, the Battle-Roc engine (zatur sampulanrok) first underwent mass production in the 3470s BC. It’s an important milestone, as this engine hasn't been superseded in terms of its optimal combination of cost (primarily in terms of the abundance of the resources needed), speed, durability and dependability. More than that, the military standard for speed measurements in Incudea is known as Battle-Roc 1.0, that is, the speed of a Battle-Roc engine in normal conditions. BR 1.0 comes out to about 67 and half times the speed of light.

Battle-Roc

2nd generation Battle-Roc.

The Rocs were an extremely fast tetrapodal species from the planet Tokumen in the Exotics. They could literally run the whole breadth of their planet in a day, though they still lost to Martuta invaders in a struggle instigated, no doubt, by the Merciless Myriad. A few survivors were relocated to Lorrinuth, but they eventually died out. A couple of them were brought to the Silver Planet for an exhibition/goodwill tour around the time that the engine was developed, thus accounting for the name.

On the administrative front, the all-important Guidelines for Colonization (grailubolins tran brachenma) were hashed out in the middle of the 34th century BC. It might be a boring topic, but its importance is such that you will have to bear with me for a while. Suffice it to say that the implementation of these guidelines is left to the Incudean Council, and not overseen in any way by Constat. What’s too important for Constat is extremely important indeed.

These guidelines formalized for all time the general notion of colonizers’ rights over the colonies, and the particular Incudean practice of extending half those rights over their colonies' colonies (and so forth). It also established the concept of open and closed colonizers, the former of which are in a rotation system that allows them to keep gaining colonies. Closed colonizers, on the other hand, are recognized their present colonies but cannot colonize any new places.

By “colonies” we mean solely enarchies and exarchies. Neurarchies are controlled directly by the Council. Phylarchies are completely autonomous at the present time, by which I mean, more than anything, that they deal with Incudea as a single entity only, and not with a motley collection of local and regional concerns and interests. Even the Incudean Guard contingents which police these vassal regions are from all over Incudea and not from one single colonizing power.

There are currently 12 primary open colonizing enarchies (bracheneth belbar), except for Ishdodeth all of which are in the Nears. They are: Akash, Aurena Green (i.e. the Gorgon enarchy), Daxel, Eluca, Glowgem, Hiuron, Ikrilath, Ildico, Ishdodeth, Salbakion, the Silver Enarchy and the Enarchy of the Revos.

Among the ranks of the closed colonizers (bracheneth tafeter) we can find the Shiver Council (ruling authority of the Shiver Planet, herself part of the Silver Enarchy in the Nears) and the Enarchy of Meidin (Nears), whose single colony is the Exarchy of Ca in the former Glassic space.

Colonies of the primary colonizers are called first-tier colonies (brachenis u shemprisrapen). Colonies of first-tier colonies are called second-tier colonies (brachenis u shaiprisrapen) and so forth. There is no theoretical limit to the number of tiers possible. The Exarchy of Parasai, for example, is a colony of the Enarchy of Silvin, herself a colony of Glowgem. We find the same with Entera, Dani and the Revos.

There is an allowance for colonies colonizing new regions of space, but for such an action to be admitted a particular condition must be met and three steps must be taken. The condition is that:

The system has within it living beings that constitute a threat, defined as either (a) living beings that would provoke Incudean deaths if Inculae attempted to subdue the system, or (b) living beings which, regardless of offensive capabilities, thrive in environmental conditions so harsh as to provoke Incudean deaths in their reduction nonetheless. This condition has been interpreted in different ways by different analysts.

The steps are:

1) The colony announces immediately her discovery of the system and assessment of threat (because of interstellar clouds [berrilins] no technology is available to detect a star outside of a certain vicinity; these interstellar clouds, of a purplish color, only allow for a range for most radars of 2.5~2.7 Darkion miles, or roughly a tenth of a light-year).

2) The colony successfully and singlehandedly subdues (which conditions must prevail on the ground for this to be effective is open to contention, just as is the case for your war in Iraq, for example) the system within three Incudean (=Silver) months.

3) The colony brings in enough colonists (any Inculae, not just from the colony proper) to warrant the establishment of an enarchy or an exarchy. In the last millennium or so the requirement has usually been 725 million in 12 years. If this final step is not completed, the system becomes a neurarchy. In that case, if and when the Incudean population reaches a healthy level, it is assigned to one of the open colonizers.

A colony that thus obtains a colony becomes a situational colonizer (brachenir furra hital). The colony by itself must undertake the first two steps. In practice, however, some open colonizers, Ishdodeth most infamously, have been known to encourage their colonies' search for new systems, then aided and abetted them surreptitiously in their colonization efforts.

The Second Dolentian War

The queer honeymoon between the two great powers north and south ended early in the 33rd century BC, when the first fourth-graders appearing in Incudea discovered to their horror that the Myriad was occupying Incudean territory, including even the extra-flayer areas of the Silver Planet’s own system. The occupation was in violation of Incudean-Dolentian treaties, and more importantly, it wounded Incudean pride. The Second Dolentian War broke out in 3275 (FR 3608). With breathtaking speed an expedition of fifth and sixth-grade Dolens invaded Flayer Field and devastated the Silver Planet. Incudea had never seen the Dolens themselves waging battle, and the psychological shock the sight offered was almost as devastating as the attack itself. If the Myriad had established a mighty interstellar dominion without constantly deploying this kind of prowess, what could possibly stop them when they put everything into their war effort?

I’d rather not provide details of how the Dolens operated. Let's just say that several more such expeditions forced the Silver Planet to surrender. The Council called on all Inculae to bend the knee to Dolentis, but several systems resisted. The struggle finally concentrated on Ruspalis, an Akashi colony at the outer limits of Incudea which took in thousands of important refugees (as well as their assets) as Dolentians forces advanced. In 3269 (FR 3614), after a particularly devastating attack, Ruspalis finally submitted to the Dolens.

Ruspalian flower

Ruspalian flowers were well-liked before the war, but they “exploded” into popularity afterwards, when the radiation from Dolentian weaponry threw their size, color and aura into overdrive...

The Dolens made a single concession, agreeing to pull out of the Home System in the fourth trinity. Incudea for her part was forced to forgo any future occupation of space in the fourth grade or beyond, outside of the core systems of Incudea (Home/Silver, Gorgo, Glowgem, etc.). This meant that, for example, if an Incula ascended to the fourth grade in one of the Exotic Systems belonging to Incudea, she was forced to relocate immediately to the Near Systems. Incudean expansion capabilities were thus terribly impaired, and an intense demographic pressure, along with a myriad social and political troubles, was put on the heart of Incudea. But that wasn’t all. The heads of 36 powerful Highborn houses were ordered to attend a ceremony in Ishdodeth, the sacred planet of the Dolens, to sign the terms of the treaty. Appearing before the Two-Eyed and his viceroys in each trinity, they were suddenly seized, their throats slit and their bodies burnt. The sacrifices served as signatures, it turned out. The Council back home deemed Incudea too weak to wage another war at the moment, and simply accepted what had happened.

It could have been worse. Some among the Dolens desired to destroy the flayers around the Silver Planet, but the sharpest of them judged the anomalous characteristics of flayer field, along with the resulting concentration of authority in that area, as Incudea’s Achilles heel, and thought it best to leave it intact. In the final analysis, Dolentis could have utterly destroyed Incudea at this point yet decided against it.

It would prove a colossal mistake…

The Third Dolentian War

Incudea abided by the onerous terms of the treaty until 3102 BC (FR 3779), when for a third time she declared war on the Dolens. The relatively long (at least as measured in Dolentian life-cycles) and extremely quiet peace caught the Myriad off guard. Dolentian intelligence reports consistently indicated the great majority of Inculae were simply not interested in fighting any longer, which was true enough, but Incudean plans for vengeance were hatched in the one place Dolentian intelligence was weakest, the same place where Dolentis was hated above all: the Silver Planet.

Ambaun VI and the Army

Ambaun VI and Army representatives

The main reason the Silver Sisters decided on war again was that the they had finally devised a plan to foil Dolentian penetration of Flayer Field... The declaration was followed by a call to the Highborn houses to assist the struggle in every way possible (in previous conflicts, the houses had kept some of their troops on hold, or fielded them independently of the Incudean Army). The houses complied and Army numbers swelled. The Lowborn marveled as duchess after duchess handed the red Key to her Larder (gis lanjuden), symbolic of a duchess' power to feed the members of her house, over to Incudean Army officers in a series of public ceremonies held throughout Incudean space. In other words, the duchesses were loaning their soldiers, without negotiations or conditions, to Incudea for the duration of the matriotric struggle against Dolentis. Even houses whose leaders were not sacrificed at the end of the Second War participated wholeheartedly. That said, since the Dolens had slaughtered select houses from every major system, planetary public opinion everywhere was so strongly pro-war that, once the Silver Planet raised the clarion call, few houses could have withheld their full support even if they had wanted to.

Dolentis’ response was to command the dissolution of Incudea and declare that he would aid any Incudean planet that wished to assert her independence from the “tyranny” of the Silver Sisters. One thinks that many a powerful duchess might have risen to the occasion if her predecessor hadn’t been slaughtered at Ishdodeth in the last war, or, if she hadn’t, at the thought of the wrath of the Lowborn descending upon her people if she failed to act.

The Dolentian expedition sent to punish the Council, even as the writing blades were still cooling down on the declaratory document, blew up as soon as it entered the flayer field, since the perimeter had been, if you'll permit the expression, booby-trapped. Then the debris was sucked by a machine devised for this very purpose (and masked as a scrap collector during construction). The move effectively netted Incudea several higher-grade Dolens, as the dead fragments of their bodies were held in containment chambers to keep them trapped when they were reborn.

The explosion damaged one of the five flayers, however, and a few surviving Dolens were able to clear the field in the confusion before the damage was repaired. The event was a catastrophe for the Silver Planet as the trinities decohered haphazardly (this being the Second Collapse of the flayers; the First Collapse had occurred during the Unity War at the hands of the Meidinish), but the Dolentian expedition was effectively neutralized and the Myriad was unable to take advantage of the situation before repairs had been completed. Dolentis attempted to negotiate the release of the hostage corpses, and Incudea used this time to reach out to the houses and prepare for an all-out struggle.

The Myriad engaged in psychological warfare during this time. An Ikril-type warship (momba nen ikril) appeared over Ikrilath in 3101, for the first time in decades. The ship was quickly neutralized and investigators found no life-forms on board. The damage had already been done, however, as the native Ikril population in the planet rebelled against their Incudean colonizers. The rebels expected Dolentian help but it never came. Suppression was bloody, but ultimately successful.

Ikril-type Ship

Ikril-type

After these first contests, Incudea fought the Myriad in the first three trinities and defeated them decisively. Once it was clear that the outcome of this struggle was not cut and dried like earlier ones, the Myriad found that their allies in the lower grades were just as likely to fight for Incudea as for them. Dolentis and surrounding systems (including Ishdodeth, the religious heart of the Myriad) were occupied within 12 years (3100-3088 BC) in the first three grades and Dolens found there were systematically captured when they appeared in Briga, and killed or kept in detention, then killed again when reborn.

Incudean administration made deep gains at the expense of the Highborn during this war, particularly in 3050 (FR 3831) when it was able to ban Highborn members of the same house from playing Time Daggers against each other. Since several units in the Incudean Army were constituted by members of single houses, the argument was made that the ban was necessary to solidify wartime operations. There were many cases where a ship crew belonging to House X or Y would find itself unable to sail out because the navigation engineer had murdered her captain, or vice versa, right on the eve of battle. Time Daggers were still tolerated between houses.

Time constraints prevent me from detailing every single action (and speech, Ambaun VI’s "parable to the soldiers" being taught in our schools to this day) but allow me to bring up the Hiuronite Eternals here to daub on a little color on this black and white chronicle.

We’ve heard of the Eternals before, already in the Unity War and briefly in the person of Durtain, who fought bravely in the Second War. Well, the Eternals’ Supreme Commander in the Third War was Senhain the Red (meik shul Senhain, so dubbed for the color of her hair). A photocopy (ijilheike, what you would call a photograph more or less) of Senhain before a gut-smeared wall in Sully was destined to become the image of the war to all of those in successive generations who only learned their history from their schoolbooks.

Senhain the Red

Senhain poses for the photo in the midnight robe of her order, and both her shield and her fatgun are the exact same color. Even her eyeshadow is midnight-hued. Her bright red hair is complemented by the thick brown fur around her neck. The fur is no simple ornament. Hiuron’s native species had welcomed Inculae in the distant past, and both races had coexisted quite peacefully. Hiuronite fur was practically indestructible, and the families of dead Hiuronites would bequeath to Inculae their loved ones’ furs as a token of friendship. A plague wiped out the Hiuronites in the early sixth millennium BC and ever since that time these “eternal furs” have been owned by the Hiuron Authority (Hiorrongleil). Since the Incudean population of the planet continues to grow, and yet the number of furs remains constant (in fact, it actually dwindles ever so slowly from thefts and losses) they are precious indeed. Only the commanders and officers of the elite Eternals have the great honor of wearing these furs to battle. Loss of a fur means, at least in theory, death to an Eternal.

Senhain the Red smiles at us, even as the dark background causes us to shudder. Red, orange, green are splattered on the wall after the fashion of your Jason Pollock in New York City. We do know that, immediately after, the walls would have been cleaned and the Dolentian remains carefully stored for containment, but the bravery of the Supreme Commander is undeniable. The Eternals pride themselves for their little shields and big guns (grukenis taron he geitins albon), though detractors call them little hands and big heads (dioserins taron he nalbakins albon), in other words, unkind and self-absorbed. Still, their battle record is impeccable and they were credited with a signal breakthrough in the second-trinity Storming of Sully, the capital of Dolentis, during the course of this war. It is from that time that Senhain’s famous copy was taken.

But the struggle was far from over. As well as things were going in the lower grades, the war situation was very different in the fourth trinity. There, the Dolens had the upper hand in the Exotics due to the treaty restrictions in the Second War and Inculae were beaten back on all fronts. Ironically, however, Dolentian policy had encouraged the concentration of all fourth-grade Inculae into a few areas near home. Whereas under normal circumstances Incudea might have stretched her sources too thin in exploring what to her was an exciting new trinity, now the Myriad found itself attacking a few tough, densely populated and well defended Near Systems. When the Merciless Myriad gathered his higher-grade forces to muster a final, overwhelming attack on the flayer field in the Home System, the issue of the Two-Eyed’s fate became paramount.

With Incudea controlling Dolentis, Ishdodeth, and about half of the known universe in the first trinity, the Dolens feared that their leader would be captured as soon as he died and was reborn in the first grade, which had by now turned into an Incudean backyard. There were two options left to the Myriad: execute a mass suicide together with the Two-Eyed so that he would have adequate protection when he was reborn, or take over the Silver Planet and assure his rebirth within Flayer Field. The first option was frightening to the Dolens. The first trinity was swarming with Inculae in the North and Martuta in the South (who, although technically still Dolentian protégés, could not in this moment of weakness be relied upon), and in any case Dolentian bodies were quite vulnerable at birth, so if Incudean troops stumbled upon the reborn group too soon it would end in a massacre anyway. The second option seemed to make more sense until someone pointed out that it would only take the destruction of a single flayer to collapse the field and ruin the plans. The enemy Council would surely swallow a Third Collapse if she could snag the Two-Eyed in the bargain.

As the year 3041 rolled along and the Two-Eyed became 93 (Dolentian) years old, the Dolens estimated that conquest of Flayer Field would not occur until after his death at 100. With their backs to the wall, the Merciless Myriad surrendered. Never in the history of Belkaun was the virtue of collective leadership so evident.

During negotiations, the Dolentian emissaries revealed that a plan to permanently poison the Home System in the fifth trinity (and thus doom Incudea’s evolution or force them to leave their capital system) was vetoed by the Two-Eyed himself, purportedly out of mercy. It is unclear to what extent this news swayed the Council when considering terms. The Myriad was absorbed into Incudea and the Two-Eyed was allowed to live in peace in Dolentis with an Incudean Guard to make sure he kept to the terms. A third of the Dolentian hostages in Incudean hands were delivered, the rest had reportedly escaped to parts unknown.

The question arose as to what would happen when the Two-Eyed ascended to the fifth grade and went off where Incudean eyes could no longer see him. The two parties agreed to postpone the issue for ten years to allow the various planets to concentrate on rebuilding after the war. As it turned out, the issue was resolved well before the ten years had expired.

End of the Merciless Myriad

Barely three years after the end of the Third Dolentian War, the Council made an announcement that surprised all: they had discovered how to prevent a Dolens from being reborn. Not just then, but years past.

Testing had begun back in the 3050s BC, on the unfortunate hostages of the flayer field attack at the inception of the conflict. The treatment involved cutting up a Dolens’ body into eight pieces, no more and no less, and keeping these pieces apart from one another. Each piece had to be kept at least one Dolentian mile from all others, this being in fact the very origin and mystical significance of the “Dolentian mile” standard used by the Merciless Myriad. What led Incudea to do research along these lines remains a mystery, but it is evident they kept their discoveries secret in the final years of the war to lull the Myriad into signing a peace treaty.

Dagger in hand

As you might have guessed by now, the Dolentian hostages that never made it home had not, as Incudea claimed initially, escaped. They were being held, in a dismembered state, at various facilities in Briga. And now the Council declared it was her will to perform the same treatment on a number of important Dolens and on the Two-Eyed himself, who had being recently reborn, and who, to the disappointment of many of his Incudean fans, was confirmed to share the classic infant physiology of his people.

The actual task of dismembering the Two-Eyed was granted to Malsain XI, the ten-year old Eryamite scion of one of the most powerful Highborn houses of all time: House Malsain of Ikrilath. Malsain XI had just ascended to the second-grade, and the timing of the ascension (coëval with the young Two-Eyed’s own, who was lost for a few nervous hours in Eryam but who thankfully, to us, had ascended within the same architectonic structure he had been staying at in the first grade) was deemed auspicious.

Malsain XI was flown to Ishdodeth in the Dolentian Sacred System. The Two-Eyed had been transferred there from Dolentis both as a security measure and as an act of humiliation. Dolentian custom held it taboo for the Two-Eyed to ever step into the Sacred System and it was believed that the mere notion of his residence there would demoralize the Dolens and prevent them from organizing rescue missions, since the would-be rescuers would be force to see the blasphemous sight with their own dozen-odd eyes.

The Ikrilathian Highborn wanted their leader to use one of the planet’s native daggers, but the Council held firm and Malsain XI was persuaded to wield an Akashi ceremonial dagger, a more universal Incudean symbols, instead. Her handlers had never allowed her to see a picture of the handsome permamorphed Two-Eyed so she wouldn’t pity him or worse, fall in love with him. And she performed her task in spectacular form, slashing away with precision and strength, according to the unanimous report of the eyewitnesses. Years later, Malsain XI revealed she had sneaked a picture of the lovely Two-Eyed into her room, and had slept with it for years before ever being awarded the honor of dismembering him.

Malsain XI

Malsain XI on a tour of Ishdodeth’s Neurocrypts. (We find her face somewhat marred, already at the tender age of 10, by that infamous Malsain frown.)

The Council gifted the pieces to the Silver Planet, Gorgo, Meidin, Salbakion, Eluca, Glowgem, Ikrilath and Ishdodeth. These planets became known as the Big Eight, and have kept the name down to the present time. For Meidin it meant rehabilitation after a millennium and a half, brought about in large part by the fact that her technicians had been deeply involved in the ploy that thwarted the enemy expedition at the beginning of the Third War and paved the way for Incudean victory. The distribution also sealed once and for all Salbakion’s ascendancy over her rivals in nearby Naxis. The Naxians demanded their own piece, but the risk of holding two in the same system (Salbakion and Naxis weren’t much more than a Dolentian mile away from each other), coupled with the argument by Incudean colonists in Ishododeth that their new home had a poetic right to a piece, conspired to bring the final one to the latter instead.

The treatment of the Dolens was not only effective, but also extremely painful to its sufferers. Every 100 Dolentian years, when it was time for each Dolens to die and be reborn, each of his pieces would scream in agony for several seconds before falling silent again until the next century had passed. Tucking the Dolens’ pieces in underground chambers was enough to block the sounds of most, but the Two-Eyed’s screams could not be silenced. Those up close could just make out the single word "mercy" (tresi) emanating from the howling mass, even from pieces that had nothing to do with his mouth. Inculae mocked the fact that the leader of the Merciless Myriad was now begging for mercy. One could say that the Myriad was finally truly Mercy-less.

Instead of relocating the Two-Eyed’s disturbingly vocal body pieces to less populated systems in the Exotics, Incudea set up festivals every 100 Dolentian years, with throngs coming to hear the Two-Eyed scream and, in many cases, to scream along with him. Since the major festivals up to this point had come under the purview of the Highborn houses, the move was another shift in the balance of power away from the nobility and toward the centralized and meritocratic Incudean administration.

Before continuing with the postwar era, allow me to bend the chronology and bring this particular tale to its final conclusion. Peace between Inculae and the remnants of the Merciless Myriad lasted just over a thousand years. There was a Dolentian phylarchy in Dolentis, and ten others in various systems of what used to be their empire. (No Dolens or Dolentian institutions of any sort were allowed in Ishdodeth, and the phylarchical population in Dolentis paled in comparison to the new Incudean enarchy there.) Around the year 2000 BC, the first fifth-graders appeared in Incudea. They immediately surveyed the fifth trinity in the Near Systems, not wanting to have a repeat in the fifth of what had happened in the fourth grade during the last war. The area was clear of Dolens. Pro-Dolentian heretics, fond of wearing repulsive helmets resembling the alien foes, were about the only concern facing Incudea. And needless to say, they were quite easy to spot once their persecution was officially sanctioned in Glowgem and elsewhere.

For many years the small planet of Sabaino in the Home System had hosted military exercises in the various grades. In 1945 BC (FR 4925), a large percentage of the new fifth-grader community gathered there for elite training. It was then that a small host of Dolens surprised them and exterminated all. What followed was a small-scale conflict known to Incudean historians as the Dolentian Half-War. Contrary to all fears, the Myriad was too depleted in the fifth grade to really pose a threat, and the “war” ended by 1940. Seven out of the eleven Dolentian phylarchies were disbanded, supposedly on the basis of evidence that they had aided and abetted the Sabaino Massacre, but in fact to concentrate the Dolentian populations and minimize the threat to Incudea. After three and a half wars, the Myriad’s fortunes had finally run out.

There were always those who wished to revive those fortunes. In 1907 BC, Incudean authorities unearthed a conspiracy in the Phylarchy of Dolentis which aimed to retrieve the pieces of the Two-Eyed. Most worryingly, the conspiracy was aided by the pro-Dolentian cult in Glowgem. Members of the so-called Mercy Heresy (the Glowgem capital’s name is Tresi, i.e. Mercy) believed that the Two-Eyed was the Incudean creator god, that he had long ago deserted his chosen race of “brides” (when a believer died, they taught, she entered the Two-Eyed’s bedchamber) because of their sinfulness, and adopted the Dolens as a result. Now the heretics believed that by freeing and reassembling the Two-Eyed they could regain the god’s favor. Particularly troubling for Incudean authorities was the cult’s teaching that the greatest sin the race had ever committed was the construction of the flayers around the Silver Planet.

The situation in Glowgem, a planet of vital economic importance to Incudea, became so volatile that the Two-Eyed’s piece there was finally moved to Johochir, the most isolated of the planet’s three moons. The Phylarchy of Dolentis was disestablished, and the Dolens were altogether expelled from their ancestral region of space altogether.

There is but one last part to the story. When the first sixth-graders appeared in Incudea, there was again some apprehension that they would be attacked by Dolens hiding in some distant corner of the universe. Far from it, not only was there no longer any Dolentian presence in the sixth trinity, it was a sixth-grade Incudean scientist who figured out the formula to “burn” Dolentian pieces and kill the creatures for all eternity. And so in the year 1577 BC, thirty-four centuries after the beginning of the First Dolentian War, Incudea burned the Two-Eyed’s pieces across seven planets and one moon amidst much pomp and pageantry and neutralized the Dolentian threat forevermore. The precise date of the Great Burning (vanulfuma albon) was the 4th Lunaria of Varabel, FR 5288. Sadly for Incudea, during the next flayer century many of the new sixth-graders began to turn and resist her from within. The Upa Rebellion had begun, a topic I am certainly not in a rush to cover.

The Poles of the Silver Planet

At a strategic level, the greatest revelation brought by the Second Collapse of 3102 BC was the inadequate configuration of the metacommunication grid in the Silver Planet. As the only major surface area within Flayer Field outside of Morgan (the moon was initially off limits for developments due to religious sensibilities and only later became the site of a major simulation centroid), the Silver Planet was jam-packed with the equipment necessary to keep Incudea glued together in all the trinities. During the Dolentian Wars the emphasis on communication construction was on protection, both coarse physical and fine technological. But the effects of a collapse were and are unpredictable in the full sense of the word: sensitive equipment lying about everywhere, debris ending up in people’s very homes, sometimes still functioning.

The security risk was too high. The Council ordered engineers to consolidate the grid in larger areas, and work on developing smaller and more plastic material of the type that could collide against other instances of itself without failing and exploding. The adopted solution involved converting the two planetary poles into comm grids, so that over a fifth of the planet would be covered by these two special zones, with the remainder totally grid-free. (The Silver Sisters boast that no other planet has sacrificed more for Incudea, surrendering so much territory to her maintenance; a lover of Gilmain’s novels would likely retort that plenty of alien planets have given up the ghost to serve her, Lagash for example, but I don’t think anyone in the Council ever quotes Gilmain favorably; come to think of it, I suspect none of them even read her).

In the North the task was easily accomplished, as conditions were not fit for much else and the land was already clear. The South Pole was much more amenable to life, and this meant that a massive relocation was required.

Silver South Pole

The Silver Planet's South Pole

The Silver South was to a large extent the domain of a single house called Manlaun (or Manlaong). Throughout centuries of living there, Manlaun and other settlers within the sway of that duchy had developed their own physiognomic and linguistic peculiarities. With regard to the former, they grew epicanthic folds, since the icy silver of the southern pole had a deleterious effect on Incudean eyes. At the same time, their hair grew darker and darker. Linguistically, they bent and twisted the language (because of the icy wind, it was said), so that for example they pronounced all d’s as z’s, all r’s in clusters as u’s and all their au’s as ao’s (their final n was also pronouncedly velar, against the Incudean norm). Interestingly enough, southern pole Inculae bear a strong resemblance to the Guang.

The Council did not tell the southern polars to just pack up their bags and go. There was official support toward resettling them in Notun at the edge of the system. However, there the house split into three groups (the Three Branches, Mir Akton), squabbling over who was the rightful new duchess. The candidate recognized by Incudea (which, according to the other two, had tampered with the birth detectors in question) led what has come to be called by outsiders as the First Branch of the Manlaun. The Second Branch, led by the descendants of supporters of a rival candidate duchess, eventually moved in bulk to the Floodhome region of the Silver Planet. The Third Branch, initially the smallest group of the three, has since flourished from their new-found home in the big island of Sauvatron (by them pronounced as Saovatuong) over in Aurena Green. The Third Branch insists on calling themselves Manlaong, while the other two have standardized their speech as they have gradually become less idiosyncratic.

The Poles of Stability

Those of you interested in biology will be flabbergasted to learn that the changes I just noted with regards to the Silver polars did not come as a result of Darwinian natural selection. Instead, what you humans call Lamarckism was responsible; the inheritance of acquired characteristics is the fundamental mechanism of biological change in our universe. Random genetic mutations do not occur in Belklaun (the only mutations are technologically-imposed, though Inculae ban these abominatechs). Lamarckism does piggy-back on a natural selection of sorts, but the variation at play in populations is not at all random (that is, if a particular bloodline has adapted favorably toward a change in the environment, their progeny will be larger and more successful, eclipsing other bloodlines). Let’s take as an example the polar eyes mentioned earlier. It is understood that the reflection of all the ice hurt Incudean eyes, and the wiser Inculae learned to squint and pressure their eyes so that generation after generation the muscle tissue became harder and larger, and today these Inculae have narrower-looking eyes.

There are limits to Lamarckian change, however. Each species has its own boundaries, i.e. there is a certain trait space (fendakirra) out of which a species cannot escape without abominatechs. No matter how much a particular family of Inculae may flap their arms, they will not sprout wings, not even after a million generations, because wings are not within the Incudean trait space. This space is not, let us be very clear, a homogenous blob of possibilities. These limits behave in particular ways that depend on the species in question. Scientists have discovered that there are poles of stability (roiriangotoshins) for each biological trait (or, more often, for each group of related traits). A species may have, for example, three poles of stability for general physiology: a long, lanky type; a short, stocky type, and a middle, sturdy type. Through the influence of training (or breeding) across generations, members of the species might shape their bodies deliberately or otherwise so that they fall, say, between the first and third pole. However, this configuration of traits will be unstable. Lack of training will mean a reversion to either the first long type or the third middle type. And children of mixed descent will likely gravitate toward one of the poles as well. The poles themselves seem to be indestructible. Thus, a species in catastrophic circumstances (e.g. where the air has rarefied to the point that only tall people are able to receive sufficient air to breathe, thus meaning the entire population will gravitate toward the first pole in our example) may all end at one pole for one or more trait groups (tronderins fendaia) but the potential for the other types will remain there, hidden, and those traits will rise to the surface again if presented the opportunity. In the case of Inculae, while biologists have a very solid grasp of an array of trait spaces, traits and limits (vlesikins) for Incudean bodies, there is no grand unifying theory for it all. Some search for it, most give up the task as hopeless, or more to the point, meaningless.

Another important aspect is hybridism. Some species can interbreed, but their progeny is sterile (similarly to the situation on Earth). One crude way to define a species is to say that two beings belong to the same species if they can have grandchildren. This is crude and inapt since, for example, Dolens cannot have grandchildren with each other (or with anyone else, for that matter) and are still clearly one species (though some Incudean scholars refuse to accept even this exception, adducing the Dolens are unique individuals, or what amounts to the same thing, arguing that each of them constitutes a separate species like your angels according to St. Thomas). Also, in some species, certain members with very distinct phenotypes (poles apart, literally speaking) cannot successfully procreate either. In the end, a more sophisticated approach would be to say that two beings belong to the same species if they share the same set of trait spaces (shusha nu fendakirrans), though in some cases only a long period of observation and/or downright manipulation might be required to ascertain the fact.

Dividing up the Spoils

Not three centuries had passed since the colonization guidelines had been handed down when they were put under great strain. The Dolentian Empire was so enormous -the sacrifices to overcome him had been so stupendous- that it would have been quite unreasonable not to expect a mad scramble for mastery of the various systems.

That the Martuta Empire or Sub-Empire constituted such a large portion of this region simplified things somewhat, as the creatures from Martu were so disgusting to Inculae that all of their territories felt “tainted” to the Sisters. Here, an orderly splitting and taking of possession was easier to accomplish. 26 phylarchies were eventually established across 15 systems. The reason for the discrepancy in the two numbers was that the virulent hatreds among the various tribes were a harder bone than even Constat could chew.

The most coveted systems were those closer to the Nears, in particular the capital system of Dolentis and the sacred system of Ishdodeth. The official guideline formula was almost applied to Dolentis, and the best sources state that the planet would have fallen to Ildico in this case. However, after long negotiations, the Council agreed to make Dolentis a first-tier colony of the Silver Planet. The suffering from the Second Collapse was reason enough. In retrospect and viewing the conflicts with Dolentis as a single thread, I think it’s fair to say that rebel Ruspalis had an even better “emotional” claim, but it itself was a colony and her mother, Akash, had succumbed along with the others.

All eyes shifted to Ishdodeth, and heads ached all over. Three years after the Two-Eyed had been treated the issue was still unresolved. One gets the sense that the only enarchy with enough power to impose her will here was Silver, but having gobbled up Dolentis even she would have been vanquished in the arena of public opinion (sampuljanshe nu mauchikins) if she went for seconds. In the end, the only possible path was taken: Ishdodeth did not become a colony of anybody’s, but a primary colonizer herself (the 11th, as the Revos would not join the club until the 23rd century BC).

Ishdodeth

Ishdodeth

Ishdodeth did not under her former masters have a capital city, but an Incudean one was immediately founded with the fitting name of Destiny (Tranash). I say fitting insofar as the enarchy was destined to be a headache for years to come. There is a freshness to new nations flush with power, something as natural and inevitable as it is annoying to more established peers. Lavoisier and Filboin could both tell you that everything new is but a rearrangement of the old; ecco Ishdodeth. The Incudean population in the system was mostly military and mixed, and what you would call the officer class was formed in a large degree of sisters from the Exotics who had been displaced by the Myriad’s regulations from the Second War. Although technically applying only to fourth graders, you can understand how gradually these had a trickle down effect, so that newly minted second graders in the far Exotics would seek to come closer to the Gryphon’s Edge (that is, the threshold to the Nears).

Any relief that the more democratically minded Councilors might have had at seeing the rise of a colonizer without a nobility was spoiled when several native houses rose in the planet. We now know that these activities, taking place as they did immediately upon the conclusion of the conflict, were often planned well in advance. The birth of House Trolhoin is typical, if only because so many others emulated it with varying degrees of success.

Trolhoin was born in the Oreon System, but her family left after the Second Dolentian War had made many nervous about a possible Targan massacre with Myriad approval. After bouncing around various systems, she became a soldier and eventually ascended to the third grade, reaching the rank of colonel (nano). She was 173 when the Third War ended, having participated honorably in the mop up campaign to take Halarene Sully, on the heels of Senhain’s memorable assault, and then not so honorably in the ensuing garrisoning of the city, where she was accused of gambling and picking fights with the Highborn, leaving at least four of them dead in duels over the span of a few decades.

Despite all appearances, something about the Highborn must have enticed her, for as soon as the war ended we find her summoning her staff in the millesima (hotres, a regiment, under a thousand soldiers in the third trinity) and proclaiming a new house, with herself as duchess of course. The lighted glorioles could be seen for miles, especially since back then the stupid rule that members of a unit could vote to bestow halos on their peers and officers was still in effect. Trolhoin did at least nod to her Lowborn origins by picking a garish orange (feik) for her ducal color, something no Highborn in her right mind would have done.

Trolhoin I

Trolhoin the First, better known at the height of her career as the Horror Hatched by Oreon, would have without a doubt elicited in Earthlings other monikers, such as the Halloween Menace, or, perhaps, Look at What the Black Cat Dragged In

This being Belklaun, effective succession to the house was left to Trolhoin’s daughters and nieces (and her regimental staff's daughters and nieces) in the first grade, but the transactions were handled easily enough. I imagine there was a lot of gnashing of teeth in the Army and the Council, but House Trolhoin and others were clearly here to stay, and perhaps it was better for these newborn Highs to fill the void than from the likes of Solsian and Malsain to step in somehow.

The Newcomer's Expansion

Armed and ready Ishdodeth stepped out into the worlds to claim her fortune. She had a young and vibrant capital city, her own houses, her own battle hosts, but she as yet had no colonies. The Council addressed the situation by agreeing to provide her with the first two systems that turned up, forcing poor Ildico to wait again.

Nango, a rather lonely northern system about halfway between Uperjenath and Malvrein, became Ishodeth’s first. The main planet had a thriving ecosystem full of oval-shaped flowers (nango means oval) and a species of rather clever drakes that would eventually become the primary cross-triniarian eyes and ears of Incudean soldiers in the upper trinities, where the mechanical glotomon cease to function due to Merlisian’s Law. Aside from that, resources were scarce and no sapient species were found.

The second colony turned up in 2970 (FR 3910), and it wasn’t very promising either, even though the first eager explorers from Ishdodeth dubbed it Revelation in anticipation. The system was deep in what had been the Dolentian sphere of influence, Inculae had never heard of it and no Dolentian military activity had been detected in the vicinity.

There were first-grade sapients living on the third planet, transparent beings which tended to shift into various observer-dependent shapes, so that two Inculae staring at the same figure would see two different things, each of them related to their own prior experiences. They could not speak but were clearly able to understand the Incudean envoys. The “conversation” was slow, but upon hearing the words “Dolentis” and the “Myriad”, the natives had a strong reaction. The Dolens had been here once before, clearly.

The natives brought out exquisitely detailed drawings of the Dolens, and it is said that one of the envoys literally fired her fatgun at the first picture she saw, taking it for real. The natives seemed to find it all very amusing, the envoys not so much. The alienologist in charge finally took a rock, placed it in front of her, pointed to her interlocutor, then at the rock, and finally placed her left boot firmly on the rock.

It wasn’t a glorious moment in the history of Incudean diplomacy, but most scholars believe that the message got through. The natives’ response was to point to their pictures and walk menacingly toward the alienologist, who prudently took her boot off the rock. Translation: the Revelation aliens believed that Dolentis would come to rescue them. Before departing, the lead envoy saw fit to explain the political situation. Not knowing or even caring if the natives could truly grasp the concepts presented, she declared in so many words that Dolentis was no more, that Incudea was the new boss in town, and that they had two local days to submit or else. The locals did nothing and an invasion force was immediately prepared.

The conquest of Revelation was a confusing affair, but not a particularly hard one, not until the soldiers with their glorioles were celebrating victory (Trolhoin’s brood more than anyone, one gathers) and the ceasefire order was given. At that point, amid the sudden darkness from the extinguishing of hundreds of glorioles, a rumbling was heard. Enormous hands ripped through the surface of the planet and began grabbing and tearing soldiers to pieces. The Army was able to withdraw in good order, and ships were brought in to carpet bomb the planet.

Revelation was secured in that same year of 2970. Painstaking interrogations of the smaller natives (none of the larger ones were ever taken alive) revealed some startling facts: the Dolens had had a presence in the system for thousands of years, but they had never imposed any burden of note on their vassals; around the year 3065, thus after the fall of Sully in the first three trinities, the few Dolentian ambassadors had left the system altogether, not without informing their hosts that Revelation was being granted “full ally” status (sesichir pranyaiter) and that all they had to do was key in a particular password on a magic stick or wand if they ever needed the Myriad’s aid against invaders; said wand was a long, black object the natives had hidden in a vault during the Incudean invasion, and the new exarch was able confirm personally that the thing was empty, a toy and nothing more.

The reasonable conclusion, hinging in part on elements of Dolentian physiology which I have yet to relate to you and which you’ll forgive me from for passing over even now, is that the Dolens had trouble with the subterranean giants of the world and preferred to keep the place at arm’s, or stalk’s, length. Once they knew that Brigandine Revelation was lost to them and that Incudea would come by eventually, they decided to maximize the chances for bloodshed on both sides. In short, the Dolens were and are bastards, but I think we’ve already established that.

Whatever value the planet of Revelation might have had was blown to smithereens in the environmental catastrophe that was the programmed extirpation of the giants. The fifth planet, Kuni, had plenty of precious metals, but not enough to assuage the feelings of Ishdodeth, who bemoaned the rotten luck of her colonial venture so far.

But the former sacred planet did not give up. She immediately sent explorers to find new space to conquer, with a total disregard for Incudean principles, and also did her best to rebuild Revelation. For the latter, it was essential that all giants be disposed of, as there were signs that at least some remained deep underneath. Since for us Inculae, burrowing equals Glapachikos, it was natural for Ishdodeth to request that a team of the vassal aliens be brought to Revelation to help take care of the problem.

The Enarchy of Ishodeth made the request directly to the Phylarchy of Melgam Glapakins (Augem Doglapa today), trusting that the Glapachikos would not dare refuse them. The vassals, either because they were overly cautious, overly clever, or both, deferred officially to the Enarchy of Melgam Glapakins in Pechumirtu, which happened to be a first-tier Silver colony. The enarch proceeded to reject the request. Ishdodeth insisted, citing Incudean regulations instructing monarchies to share specialized resources in situations of great stress. Giant hands coming out of the earth and scooping people was certainly very stressful. Melgam Glapakins retorted that the ‘Chikos were vassals, not resources, and Ishdodeth took the matter to the Council, claiming precisely the equality of the two.

Thus in 2963 we have one of the more interesting debates the Incudean Council had in the immediate postwar era.

Vassals and Resources

Exchanges and purchases of vassals were not uncommon at this time. The enarch’s motivations were likely her monarchy’s attachment to her vassals and a distaste for the upstarts from Ishdodeth. As for the Glapachikos themselves, word was that they had a superstitious dread of the Myriad and would rather have nothing to do with Sisters that had reportedly imbibed the "fumes" of the abominations’ accursed planet. It’s possible that the Silver Planet herself was exercising some pressure as well, ready to put a damper on Ishdodeth’s power, which she was in many ways responsible for. Then again, granting rights of movement, or lack thereof in this case, to vassals would have seriously hampered the organic well-being of Incudea, no matter how faithful the Glapachikos had been so far.

The leading Councilor from Ishdodeth was a fourth grader, but the new enarchy opted to have Ildain, a junior (third-grade) Councilor, present the case. The fiery Ildain spoke for a full 4 flogo (six Earth hours plus) and did what any competent advocate of a cause on the right side of the written law does: trivialize her own side's trespasses, berate the other side’s sins and universalize the case in the Kantian manner: what would happen if we allowed everyone to do as Melgam Glapakins had done? She concluded with an answer to that question:

“A disaster. We fought and died to defeat the Merciless Myriad. The germs have been expelled from our body. May our organs not now turn against each other.”

There was no cheering (Council meetings back there were not the fun affairs of today), but heads nodded and eyes turned to the group from Melgam Glapakins. Their leader remained seated. After what seemed like a millennium’s worth of seconds, she gestured to one of her assistants, another third grader to match Ildain, and had her speak instead. This is what she said:

“Approximately 14 minutes ago we received a message from the Enarchy. The Glapachiko Expeditionary Force contingent in Great Aretin has completed its tasks in that planet and is eager to assist you in Revelation. The Enarch sees no problem.” Whether deliberately or from pure nerves, the junior Councilor sat back with such force her console picked up the plopping sound.

Glapachiko Expeditionary Force

There was a collective sigh of relief. Great Aretin was several dozen Darkion miles closer to Revelation than Melgam Glapakins was and the Glapachikos there were well-seasoned and of good reputation. The Silver colony had not only conceded the point but gifted Ishdodeth with veterans who would be able to start working the problem sooner and more efficiently than expected. And Silver had saved face in the meantime.

Still, the Ishododeth group was all in a bustle. The leader and the others were all trying to calm Ildain, who had already sent in a request to speak again, on a countdown of a half-tonji (four Earth minutes), making it clear that she was about to spit fire. She ended up calming the others down and when her time came up simply said:

“We thank the Enarch and request that the Council express herself on the principle of the case.” And then she sat down, but very slowly, deliberately so.

There was nothing else to do but respond to the petition. Twelve Councilors selected randomly had their say. They started off in hesitant tones, but the general drift was clear, and like a rising wave they began to question more and more Melgam Glapakins’ refusal and side with Ishdodeth. A Glowgem asked, rhetorically perhaps, whether or not the Glapachikos had reproductive cycles so rapid that just a dozen of them sent to Ishdodeth would instantly constitute a strong force for the task at hand. An Elucan Councilor even brought up the issue of what she termed “a fairer distribution of the Dolens,” since the Dolentian phylarchy assigned to Eluca had a measly 50-odd Dolens. She answered murmurs to the effect of “What could you possibly need more Dolens for?” with the words “That’s not the point. It’s a matter of principle.”

The end result was that the Summarizer in charge for the day pontificated about the need to share resources equally, vassals included, and the wisdom of yielding to requests promptly and openly in order to preclude what would otherwise become the inevitable next step: a systematic mechanism for cooperation on selfish terms, turning the Commonwealth of Sisters into a business partnership, in other words, a sham and a shadow of her former self.

Melgam Glapakins was allowed one last rebuttal, but they knew a stand here was hopeless and returned the time unused. Soon after this, a committee was set up to study the best way to deal with such requests in the future, and gradually the Council moved to de-link the phylarchies from their Incudean supervisors in the same system, and instead have Incudea be collectively responsible for each vassal monarchy. This is the way things are to this day, though of course neighboring enarchies and exarchies retain some influence on affairs in the vassal states.

The Great Aretin Glapachikos did their bloody duty in Revelation, and were relieved immediately after, as officially they were a loan. The enarchy did send a well-stocked group of Cloud ‘Chikos as a poor substitute, though I must say that not knowing this race very well I am not exactly sure what is wrong with the cloud variety.

True Detty

Forty years had not yet passed when Ishdodeth’s roving ships found a new planet to colonize, one that was finally truly worth the effort: True Detty.

True Detty is a massive place, today one of the most important first-tier colonies out there. It has everything; cities of outcasts, universal sanctuaries with de facto Incudean sanction, coexist side by side with enormous military installations and some of the wealthiest commercial hubs anywhere.

Two moons, Kastabras and Triumph 31, are of vital importance. The first is virtually wholly a research facility, and the second houses one of the Big Six simulation centroids.

The capital of True Detty is Starbody (Terelfaus), known as the Queen of the Exotics (Vuilijil askar). Starbody refers to a Dolentian concept. Dolens believed that they had starbodies, perfect forms of which their bodies are copies. Whenever a Dolens died, according to this conception, their true body (the starbody, that is, quite literally, a star) would generate a new copy, which would become the next reincarnation. True Detty colonists’ decision to call their city Starbody is thus in the tradition of Dolentis and a rather rebellious, risqué decision with regard to Incudean politics.

And that says it all. True Detty was a true daughter of Ishdodeth, painfully so. Colonization guidelines stated in no uncertain terms that new worlds found by primary colonizers were subject to the cyclical assignment formulas. Ishdodeth had no right to True Detty, even though it took hold of the planet swiftly and thoroughly (the place did not possess a native sapient species at the time of Ishdodeth’s occupation, though wild beasts and flowers roamed aplenty.) However, as explained earlier, a colony could incorporate such a new land if she discovered and reduced it on her own.

Taking advantage of this clause, Ishdodeth announced to the Council that it was not her but Revelation, her own colony, that had engaged True Detty. It is fair to say that most Councilors heard this claim in frank disbelief. Just a few decades ago Revelation was undiscovered, and now they were being asked to believe that these amazingly precocious colonists had stumbled upon this planet close to 300 gigamiles away and subdued it just like that. Subsequent reports that among these glorious conquering forces were to be found a number of former members of House Trolhoin, who had been exiled beyond just in time to establish a brand-new house in True Detty (an existing house could extend herself to a new colony, but not to a colony’s colony), made the story sound even more preposterous.

There was a lot of grumbling in various circles, and the particular requirement of immediate announcement of a discovery hails from this time, precisely to prevent any poisonous switches (egiomans zuidori), as this type of practice became known. To assuage the bitterer folk, Ishdodeth -technically, Revelation- agreed to keep True Detty nobleless, with the predictable emigration and re-integration into the house of several Trolhoin operatives. I might as well tell you right now that around 1577 BC, amid all of the celebrations of that critical year, True Detty was allowed to become a first-tier colony of Ishdodeth. Revelation had never been able to constitute herself into a vibrant community and thus it was better for everyone if Ishdodeth and True Detty were more closely bound together.

Ishdodeth's Internal Incident

But let's return from this past's future. At the time of which we speak, Ishdodeth was so far from being chastised by the criticism she had suffered that, rather than stopping her ceaseless searches for new systems, she improved the way she went about them, making sure the missions were led by trustworthy True Dettians, with a sprinkle of Revelationals, so that, were a new discovery to be made, the deed would not be so blatantly traced back to the greedy mother planet. I speak theoretically, though. All eyes were on Ishdodeth and any additions to her own empire, no matter how sleekly accomplished, would be blatantly obvious to all.

Practically every detail relating to the events that follow is disputed, so I will give you what I consider the most accurate account as far as I’ve come to understand it.

Ishdodeth’s minions came upon the Maratania System in 2848 BC (FR 4031). The Maras were among the Merciless Myriad’s best-liked vassals, and Incudea had had (limited) dealings with them when both species were subject to the hegemony of the Dolens. The location of the Maras’ home planet had never been disclosed to Inculae, though, and during the mopping-up campaign in the second phase of the Third War and thereafter, Incudea had found no Maras, only their signature “flowercomputers.”

Mara closeup

Inculae knew that the Maras had a particular type of psionic ability (kasai) known as mindwriting (giluma u empar). Maras cannot write as Inculae or Humans can (their physiology is, in Earth terms, closest to that of the genus Equus), but they can write in their minds, and then send written messages to each other via a sort of telepathy, by which the recipient sees the actual writing before his very eyes. Significantly, the aliens long ago managed to harness the power of certain flowers only found in their planet so as to turn them into reservoirs of mindtext. These are the so-called flowercomputers (fleinalterins). The Dolens had evidently transplanted them elsewhere and employed Maras to operate them and extend their communication network. All of these were destroyed by the advancing Incudean forces.

The preceding is pretty much all that Incudea knew about the Maras. We didn’t know that they were an extremely anarchical race, so extreme in their liberties as to make Naxians look like Malsain nobles in comparison. We also didn’t know just how treacherous they were, and the Incudean discoverers of the planet were reckless enough to attempt to use this proneness to treachery for their own gain.

The Maras had only reached the first two grades at that point (today they can ascend up to the fourth). The Inculae occupied the third trinity and opened negotiations in the first two. Two things became immediately apparent, the first being that the Maras were fully aware of the course and outcome of the last war with Dolentis. The fact that they had not sought a meeting with Incudea but had chosen to enjoy this new independence was a baseball strike against them. The second thing was that they seemed willing to terminate said independence and bow down to Incudea.

The Maras’ readiness to submit militated against Ishdodeth’s core intent of incorporating the system into their budding colonial domain. True Detty, the official discoverer, was bound to report the find to the Council, and the only way she could keep the system to herself would be if the locals resisted and were then subdued. A peaceful occupation meant that another one of the open colonizers would end up with the Maras. Ishdodeth and True Detty coveted the potential of these aliens and their flowers, and were not about to let this happen.

So the Inculae and the Maras struck a deal: they would fight a mock war for a period of 5 local days (6 Incudean) and end with the natives’ surrender to True Detty. The Dettians pledged in return to treat the Maras as allies in all but name. The Mara leader who brokered the deal was known as Prasomartiga, and he was more than willing to bequeath a list of his rivals for the Inculae to take care of during this "mock war". Those rivals could hardly communicate what was truly going on to Incudea at large because, as I pointed out earlier, the flowercomputers throughout the whole South had been annihilated. Prasomartiga was an excellent breamer, as indeed are all Maras, and he was able to get his first trinity friends on board with the deal in no time.

Pretending to fight a war was and is close to treason, but Ishdodeth and True Detty went at it with relish. At that time, Incudean forces were always equipped with a gadget known as SICTO, or Sensory Integration Crew Transmission Orderer. The Orderers relayed what was experienced both physically and mentally by each soldier. The Dettians had no trouble with this requirement because, as theirs was originally an exploring party, nobody had an Orderer at hand. And naturally, the short war was calculated to end before duly-equipped reinforcements arrived at the scene.

Everything seemed to go according to plan. The Maras were subdued in the pre-accorded time (the only blood shed being that of Prasomartiga's enemies), and the Council approved True Detty’s claim, though some of her members threatened to open an investigation into Ishdodeth’s role. Prasomartiga announced a great feast in Eryam to celebrate his upcoming appointment to the post of phylarch. His Incudean accomplices were of course invited. Since it is difficult for even the most diplomatic of Inculae to tolerate the sight of tetrapods eating, the feast was held simultaneously in separate chambers, one for the sisters and one for the Maras.

Upon the Maras’ orders, the intolerably naïve Inculae were assassinated, not a single one escaping. A good number of the highest placed Inculae in the first trinity were massacred as well. And it all occurred a few days before the three-month limit for True Detty to control the system was to run out. Devious planning with perfect execution, one cannot begrudge Prasomartiga that.

Technically, the matter had gone beyond Ishdodeth and her minions. The Council called an assembly of forces and counseled the Inculae already in the system to pull out. Prasomartiga immediately sent envoys to Incudea, denouncing each and every one of Ishdodeth's plots and schemes, and asking for some sort of negotiation. Alas, Ishdodeth refused Incudean instructions and proceeded to attack the backstabbing Maras.

Ishodeth’s Internal Incident lasted until 2844 (FR 4035), Prasomartiga having happily met his demise the previous year. The incident was pure chaos and if you wonder that any Maras were able to survive at all then I should tell you that the aliens very cleverly played Ishdodeth and her colony's colony against each other, so that at times Mara factions participated alongside Ishdodeth forces against the True Dettians. Prasomartiga hatched the strategy, and there were many to follow it once he perished. The incident was the worst instance of Inculae shedding blood against one another since the Dagger Wars several generations earlier.

Reconnaissance of the third trinity proved unfruitful, as the Maras had rearranged the land and its features so that neither the first nor the second trinity resembled the third. In 2846, True Detty coaxed a number of Mara prophets into declaring the outermost planet in the system, Bluesong (Pik Ledui), the land promised to Maratania in the old scriptures. The object was to lure local factions supporting Ishdodeth to that inhospitable planet. Wary of the prophecy (Bluesong was about as distant from the image of a promised land as one could get) but still hesitant to disregard it outright, for nothing else than to keep their more gullible or pious adherents pleased, the faction leaders did attempt an invasion of Bluesong. Their forces split, the pro-Ishdodeth Maras were beaten on both fronts and True Detty’s grandmother had a hard time keeping up with her granddaughter.

The incident ended in a stalemate. The Council, content with seeing Incudea control the system at little cost to herself, had spent those years debating what to do when the dust cleared. The decision was finally made to give Maratania to Ishdodeth, with the solemn vow to deny her any new colonies until the first sixth graders appeared in Incudea, and then only one, others only to be provided after Inculae reached the seventh trinity. Nobody at the time suspected that these events would occur so soon one after the other. Looking back, it was a great deal for Ishdodeth.

As for the Maras, you could say that their treachery ultimately backfired. After all was said and done, Ishdodeth declared with no small amount of malice that they were backing the prophecies made during the incident, and on that basis forced the Maras to leave their ancestral home and establish a new one in the “promised land” of Bluesong. Thus the proud aliens were banished, no doubt with outrage in their hearts. Still, they have been employed with good results in a number of campaigns, the quashing of the recent Targan rebellion being a good example.

Glapachiko and Mara

Glapachiko and Mara head back to base after a long day in Aymian Targa. The Lampau moon watches over them.

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