The Ascendancy is the setting of Peter van der Walt’s forthcoming science fiction epic, Majesty. If you want background information or have an interest in worldbuilding, this section of the website is for you. Orient yourself by watching the Prologue To Majesty video – a future history that will get you up to speed – immerse yourself in some lore and detail on the Colonies or the Noble Houses – or just explore at your leisure.
After the Apocalypse – the sudden and complete destruction of the human home worlds – the remnants of humanity have been sojourners. The wandering tribes of mankind have created some colonies – but at the center of our survival is the Life Fleet. The Queen of humankind has two missions: to spread human biology and culture through the universe, and to take revenge on those who attacked us during the Apocalypse. Central to the Queen’s mission is the Life Fleet – and central to the Life Fleet is Flagship.
The Flagship is mankind’s greatest feat of engineering. The size of a small moon – Flagship holds not only the institutions and structures of Her Majesty’s Second Establishment – but the sum total of our species’ ecological, intellectual and cultural wealth.
Flagship is not a single structure but several distinct structures, held together by giant cables connecting the various sections. Indeed, when travelling through deep space, every ship in the Life Fleet is tethered to the cables and thus become part of the same structure.
The Queen and her Guard reside in the Citadel. The Twelve Noble Houses and the Realm’s finest citizens reside within the Four Rings (the interior surface area of the Rings is the size of Switzerland) – placed just in front of the Citadel. Extending from either side of the Citadel – two Naval Platforms – housing the independent and competitive Red and Blue Navies. Far to the front of the Citadel, the Eye – a vessel equipped with thousands of sensor arrays as well as the headquarters of the Realm’s Holy Church. Far behind the Citadel trails the Antimatter Plant and Drive – the most abundant source of energy in all of the Realm and the source of the power of the Monarchy itself.
The First Ring
Red Navy Fort
The Second Ring
The Third Ring
Blue Navy Fort
The Fourth Ring
The Twelve Noble Houses of Flagship
“For those alive at the time of the Apocalypse, the very concept of aristocracy was unthinkable. Theirs was an egalitarian age – or at least one that pretended to be such. After the total destruction of civilization – and all its precedents – the survival of the species required the kind of sacrifice not possible for those driven merely by self-interest. What was required, went far beyond petty motives like advancement, reward, recognition or happiness. The twelve groups from which the new aristocracy arose were a dozen among a few hundred such groups… and yet was only these twelve willing to perform this greatest service yet required from the sons and daughters of men. It was their sacrifices and their contributions that made the Life Ship, the Life Fleet, and the survival of humanity possible. Everyone worked, everyone made a contribution. But none could deny that their contributions were critical. At first, the early heroism carved out a space for these families, deemed worthy of mankind’s collective respect. Their continued role in the mission entrenched them. And then, as time passed, fifty, sixty, seventy generations: mankind once again found itself with an aristocracy. This aristocracy had the benefit of all of human history. Wealth beyond imagination. And a purpose integral to the continuance of human life, and human culture. Such is the new aristocracy.”
– Helene Arynikk, A History of the Life Ship’s 12 Noble Families
Few in the Realm have not heard at least some of the stories of House Zoskiar’s explorers and scouts. The Zoskari, known also for their work with metals, were famous throughout humanity’s old worlds for their ability as scouts. More than the technical skills for exploration – the Zoskari had a unique willingness to explore. They seem more comfortable on the edges, far away, alone in dark places no others dare to visit.
They first emerged as a distinct people when workers from Mercury in the Old Earth system, Alpha Centauri and the outer reaches of Tau Ceti formed a distinct culture in iron and metal processing platforms. They were skilled shipbuilders, capable of constructing or adapting vessels even as they travelled. It was this ability, their notable courage, and their willingness to search when things seem hopeless that made them one of the Noble Houses of the four rings.
After the attacks of the Apocalypse, only seventeen vessels remained. The number seventeen remains sacred to the Zoskari to this day. From these vessels, the Zoskari moved quickly – charting the fields of the Nahur asteroid belt, and indeed first finding the sun Arca.
As the best remaining engineers, biologists and strategists of mankind began to build the Life Fleet at the sun Arca, it was also the Zoskari that played a crucial role in the Ingathering. Many people alive today are alive because their ancestors were lucky enough to be found by Zoskari scouts, and brought in with the remnants, so that mankind could unify, and continue.
Today, the Zoskari continue to serve in high-risk missions involving searching and exploration. Before the Fleet moves, the Zoskari spearhead movements in the most promising directions as it searches for the required resources among the stellar bodies and systems.
They are known as being passionate people, warm and inviting, courageous, friendly, energetic and quick-witted. Their bravery is not something they speak of – others call it that. They term it ‘honour’ – although some at times get irritated with them and call it ego.
They were the first of the noble houses to be given title to land on one of the four rings… and their land is a contrast to them – an icy, cold place, with glaciars, mountains, forests, tundra and steppes covering most of the 3,300 km² of their domain.
There is their capital, sometimes known as the Red City, a sprawling network of crimson monuments and low-rise concrete structures, officially known as Amedra.
From a fortress in the centre of Amedra, and from various Noble Estates scattered throughout their territory, their patriarch, Duke Arvin, oversees his family. The Duke has a wife, four sons, three daughters, and the extended family is counted as 137 souls.
“Imagine, for a second, the implications of such complete destruction, on every sphere of human civilization, and the human psyche. No religion, no philosophy, no ideology could stand in tact – with the holy cities and humanity’s most closely held ideas and convictions obliterated and incinerated instantly, with no regard and no discrimination. For centuries mankind fought wars for their beliefs – and here came some external enemy, casually wiping it all away as if millennia of suffering and sacrifice and development was no more than dirt on the surface of a mirror. At once, and suddenly, everything, was gone. And the means to survive at all was by no means certain, let alone the capacity, and the will, to rebuild. That first generation, to their eternal credit, did rebuild, however; and in three generations they created an Establishment that was a defiant answer to the destruction of our species. It required adaptation – like never before in history – and the formation of new ideals and new ideas, forged by practicalities and necessity itself. The Ingathering made survival possible – but it did not make the Establishment inevitable. For that to have happened, it required the unfaltering devotion, sacrifice and relentless commitment of surviving peoples, not least of which were the blistered sons and daughters of the Namactoun.”
– Helene Arynikk, Devastation: The Apocalyptic Context Of Establishment
Many think of the Namac only as warriors – these fierce, confident and passionate people have traditionally added significant numbers to both Navies – but there is more to House Namactoun than merely their skill in warfare. Indeed, their skill with numbers have made them almost as famous for being bankers, mathematicians and accountants – and many of the most respected clerks and clerical workers throughout the realm hail from the Namactoun.
The Namactoun are sometimes called ‘The Marked’. The Namacs came from three warships and ten patrol vessels, the crews of which had deep roots to both Mars and Earth. During the Apocalypse, these vessels were outside the obliteration zone – but the radiation from the blast, as well as the genetic mutations among the crew gave the Namac a very distinctive appearance. Their skin tones are either very dark or very light, depending on the conditions of the light they find themselves in. Many among them amplify their distinct appearance by wearing their hair tied up in lush, long manes.
The Namac were critical in warding off pirates and outlaws as the survivors gathered at Arca – and they played a critical part in the logistics of gathering in humanity, finding resources and constructing the Lifeship. Their patrol vessels became some of the first ships of the Navies, with five given to the Red and five to the Blue Navy, and their warships were eventually melted down and became part of the hull of the Lifeship itself.
Namactoun is one of only two landlocked territories in all of the 12 houses. It is bordered by House Zoskiar’s to one side and by House Aman on the other. While the lower regions consist of various smaller villages and towns in open steppes or in thick forests, the rocky upper regions hold stone- carved walled cities, including their austere, monolithic, symmetrical capital, Tahomargh.
The House is ruled by Duke Bhraw, whose wife passed away. He has five sons, and the extended family number 231.
“What could be more fitting, then, for the Four Arks which brought earth’s genetic inheritance to the LifeShip to be Amani? It was clear that all precedent was gone, and the future would have to be constructed entirely – it could not be a mere continuation of mankind’s past. Man would have to evolve into something new and something different… but it was African scientists and engineers and it was the Four Arks of Aman that ensured he could walk with many of the species that evolved alongside him to that point. House Aman had been transplanting and cultivating ecologies for centuries. Our fleet of Arks once numbered in the tens of thousands. Now Four Arks was all that remained of all the species, plant, animal, fungus and microbe, with which we shared common planetary ancestry. Mankind took its first steps on our continent… and now once again our continent would be there at the beginning of the new man. There are Four Rings on the Life Ship… because there were Four Arks.”
– Duchess Akko, First Matriarch of House Aman, Reflection On The Foundation of Jabali
House Aman’s history stretches back all the way to Old Earth – where the Amani family were aristocrats long before the creation of the new Noble Houses. The family controlled a substantial operation that brought species to the Old Colonies. Their expertise in genetic engineering and adaptation, and the transplant and cultivation of ecologies to new worlds and artificial environments, were legendary – not to mention crucial for the creation of the LifeShip and its Four Rings.
Four Amani Arks were all that survived the Apocalypse. They’d been on their way to testing facilities on the very margins of human space when the attacks happened. Had it not been for these Four Arks, we might have lost nearly every species from our home planet except for our own. The genetic libraries of the Four Arks ensured that we had, or could have, every species of plant and animal that was once on our planet. This changed everything. When the Arks arrived at Arca – the mood changed from utter hopelessness, and the idea for the Life Ship – now feasible – was born.
Known for their strength, optimism, humour and generosity, the Amani people are an amalgamation of different groups that settled in the ancient Amani homeland to work in the industries owned and operated by the Amani family in Africa. While their territory on the First Ring is in a cooler climate, their giant hothouses and domed terrariums still represent the greatest wealth and variety of genetic diversity in all the Realm. They are still renowned as biologists, geneticists, farmers and preservationists, and their nurseries and facilities are scattered throughout. Their capital city, Jabali, is known as the Sacred Garden – and its thousands of yearly visitors are invariably moved to tears when they first see it.
The House is ruled by Duchess Furahana, who has three sons and three daughters. The extended family counts 453 among its members.
“The problem remains, essentially, one of supply lines. It is not resources that is scarce – the building blocks of all we need, metallic, chemical, surround us in every direction in bountiful superabundance. It is as common as the space which holds it. Nor is the problem of gaining access to those resources, or utlising them. We can do all of it, often without human intervention, putting our mining drones and our construction platforms to work. The problem is fundamentally one of scheduling. The near impossible task of deciding which resources are needed, and in which quantities, in relation to each other, and trading off the various combinations of resources processed against each other – so that life sustaining conditions for the fleet at Arca is not interrupted even as we build the future of our species. Such problems, however, is not new to the Hataibor. It is precisely the same problem we encountered on the Jovian Moons and on the surface of Neptune. It is the exact same problem we had at the Relay Station of Centauri. Hataibor has the heart. Hataibor can build. It is just the scale that is new.”
– For Jvpiter Gave Us Our Steam, Shon Kiagenjigai
It is said: “If the Hataibor can’t build it, it can’t be built,” and “If the Haitabor can’t live there, no one can.” Indeed, the proud and strong people of House Hataibor once settled some of the harshest environments in the old solar systems: the Jupiter and Neptune colonies, as well as several other difficult, even improbable stations, bases and settlements throughout the Old Civilization. The reputation of the Hataibor as strong, dependable, stubborn and enduring people is as famous as their hardiness as settlers of untamed places, and their work in constructing megastructures. What is often overlooked is their skill in power generation (their origin being Jupiteran, after all). Hataibor technology powered many of mankind’s earliest explorations. Without the vast megastructures and docks of the Hataibor, the Lifeship could never have been built.
At the time of the apocalypse, the surviving Hataibor all came from a single floating megastructure – the construction platform Enki 278 – and the fact that so many survivors came from this house is testimony to the scale of their engineering.
The Hataibor also built some of the earliest vessels that used centrifugal gravity to mirror earthlike conditions within.
As impressive as their automated ships, workdrones and superstructures are – the are perhaps more notable for their physical strength and endurance – as no amount of technology or steel can ever completely replace human labour.
House Hataibor is now one of the twelve landed noble houses on the Four Rings of the Lifeship – and their territory is in the Inner Portside Ring, alsongside Houses Tesaban and Vlalis. Their territory stretches from the Second Ocean in the South to warm deserts and temperate grasslands. The coastal desert settlements and wide plains of the interior are popular with visitors – and the distinctive, sturdy multigon shapes of their buildings make their capital Enkdambul one of the most recognisable on the Rings. The Hataibor language continues to exist alongside the common and Royal Languages, and the word for Duke is Shon. The House is led by Shon Shagitai, who has a wife and three concubines, fifteen daughters and twelve sons. The extended family number is 289.
The Steel Angels
“So drastic and sudden was this reversal, that it gave rise to the famous metaphor, used throughout the Realm in the original Royal language: ‘Nahur Attarevyaer’. For centuries humans from the First Civilization ignored the sea of asteroids as impassable, impractical, dangerous and with no benefits with which to reward exploration. Then suddenly the Sea of Nahur became a shield against the Nemesis – a crucial component of human survival. So dense was the asteroid ocean that it obscured all behind it. Hence, ‘Attarevyaer’ – to go back when you least expect it, after conditions changed, thereby turning what was once useless or insignificant into something of utmost importance.
The Sea of Nahur – arguably – did prevent any final extermination efforts by the Nemesis after the Apocalypse.
But it was a dangerous ocean to cross, and it required pilots capable of pushing their vessels into acrobatic feats. It was lucky then, for the survivors, and a great many of the later refugees, that the Tesabi were around.
With their small frames, they could handle accelerations and gravity defying stunts no other pilots in human history were capable of. They could speed towards an asteroid – be gripped by its gravity – and speed towards it faster than any vessels moved ever before… and then dive, or redirect, or pull up, or turn away at sharp angles – at the last minute. Today, many in the Realm know the Tesabi for their beauty or their hospitality. But nearly every one of our ancestors renowned them as pilots.”
– Helene Arynikk & Pallboh Ghove, In The Sea Of Nahur
It is interesting that the Tesabi were among the first to live in artificial environments, even before the Apocalypse – and yet are the only people who can trace their lineage back to two specific tribes of Old Earth. Physically small, these descendents of ‘Greeks’ and ‘Phillipinos’ are well suited for rapid acceleration, agile feats of deep space flight and sudden changes in gravity. Members of the two tribes merged as a result of coincidence… the Tesabi migrated from old Earth and become one people as colonists of a relay station, from where they worked as pilots for hire.
Today, they continue service as pilots – but they are perhaps more famous for their tourism, their wines, and their physical beauty. They are also known as a gentle, loyal, and practical people.
The original station of the Tesabi was destroyed during the Second Iridium War – and they scattered throughout the old colonies. Centuries of existence as a distinct people, and cultural and social connections – proved hard to erase, however. Just before the Apocalypse, there was finally a movement underway for the Tesabi to reunite on a new station – and the first ships of Tesabi were on their way to New Relay – on the remote edge of Centauri sector – when the attacks destroyed their dreams of reunification along with the rest of humanity.
The Tesabi commander Aristades (whose name was given to one of the Colonies of the Realm) was leading a convoy of ships at the time: ten carriers, four freighters, and thirty seven smaller ships. After meeting at Arca, only a few Tesabi initially joined the efforts of to build the Lifeship, while others went looking for more survivors. When it became clear there was no hope for survival away from the Arca Effort – they returned, bringing with them larger numbers of survivors than anyone knew was still alive.
Today, the Tesabi is based on the Inner Portside Ring – and they enjoy an immense variety of climatic zones, with deserts and grasslands, temperate zones, forest and grasslands, Mediterranean portions and even some jungles. The Tesaban Twins peninsula is one of the most popular tourist areas in all of the Realm. The capital, Atini, houses some of the oldest artistic and cultural treasures of humanity, and the settlements along the Arkiadoson River is a spectacular sampling of post-attack Second Civilization architectural styles.
The Tesabi are led by Duchess Mirikitri, who has a husband, three daughters and four sons. The extended noble family number 219 souls.
“The strictly technical challenges then, were easy. Letting the rapid rail system cross from connecting corridors into a ring seamlessly, alternately dimming and brightening the glassteel to give the appearance that the light inside the rings came from an orb instead of a coil, and achieving perfect 1G with the use of centrifugal gravity. These are finite, precise, exact, predictable mathematical matters, that can be proved once and replicated over and over with ease. The real challenges – the far more difficult challenges, were cosmetic. How to create a sense of our destroyed home world on rings that curved around and up – with the horizon effectively rising up instead of falling off. The human eye can see for 30 kilometres, roughly. At every point on the rings, then, we had to build various and varied interruptions to the eye – and features that led perception away from the walls and the ceilings of the rings, and toward the beautiful environments we crafted. With the introduction of the oxygen circulation systems and a workable water cycle for each ring – we were as close as we could get. And for 1,400 so far – this design has proved enduring.”
– Janos Behmel, Engineering The Four Rings
Throughout human history, people have lived in natural or artificial environments. The Vlalens were the first to essentially combine the two – and they are the ecological sculptors that turned the interior of the Rings into habitats and environments that closely matched what earth was one like. House Aman may have contributed the plant and animal species – but the mighty oceans, the peaks and valleys, the rivers and shorelines of the great Houses were built by House Vlalis.
Serious, independent, disciplined and tenacious, House Vlalis built their homes on the outskirts of systems and between worlds – perfecting the art of shaping terrariums fit for human habitation at scale. Their renown as ecological engineers, constructive geology and environmental science remains as legendary as ever. At the time of the apocalyptic attack, the surviving Vlalens came from three separate missions, dispatched in three separate directions. They rapidly combined their missions, in total forty-five ships, and joined the other survivors at Arca.
Along with the other Houses, they contributed their unique skills to build the Life Ship – all of the terrain features within the rings can trace their workmanship back to Vlalen engineers. However, House Vlalis was also instrumental in helping others to learn how to live in artificial ecologies. Many of the survivors at Arca were completely unfamiliar with centrifugal gravity, and their expertise at living sustainably within constructed ecologies were crucial.
Their skills also explain the rich variety found in their territory, the ‘highest’ and ‘lowest’ points within all of the Rings can be found in Vlalen territory, as well as the largest archipelago of islands. Their capital, Haisem, also brings together a staggering variety of constructed natural features.
The House is ruled by Duchess Ilna, who has two husbands, fifteen daughters and two sons. The extended noble family number 321 souls.
“From shoots that grew at first – in the emerald isle and also that of the rising sun
A hundred million battles already lost and won – when the children of Hitocae
Arrived at Arca – not on capital ships – but a free fleet of a hundred thousand
Across void sky.
And upon the folk who gathered there did impress
Adapting to the black truth
Rather than fantasies of redress
The children of Hitocae
Already known and working among the many
Brought forth the few
To yet manifest multitudes
Like unto Eire and Nippon of Old”
– The Ballad of Ulstear
Whereas many of the Houses are known for one or two things, the Hitocae are known as generalists, who have nevertheless distinguished themselves in fields ranging from warfare, to trade, to settlement, to scholarship. Originally from gravitational settlements like Lagrange points or well outposts, they have had established relationships with most of the peoples going back to the times before Arca.
They are versatile and curious, and other than their oval shaped eyes, there is very little that makes them recognizable. They vary in physical and psychological traits. Perhaps they are best known for their adaptability – the Hitocae make excellent partners, and they have lived, fought, worked and died alongside others for many centuries. To this day, there are more of the Hitocae living in the fleet, colonies and Central Station City than within the confines of House Hitocae’s formal domain. There are even rumours – unproven but persistent – that an outpost of Hitocae still dwell at Arca.
The Hitocae integrate so well that many of them are considered members of other houses. When among their own, they have rich traditions stretching back to Old Earth. It is an interesting feature that the integration does not go both ways – those who are not born Hitocae are seldom accepted as Hitocae, while Hitocae who leave the Hitocae become whatever group they integrate with.
Their home terrain is a swirling peninsula jutting into the Third Ocean – with miles of unspoiled beaches and pristine bamboo forests and beaches. The Hitocae enjoy living on islands best – and their capital city – Shiosha – is built on a string of islands instead of on the mainland.
From the Jade Pagoda on a mountain overlooking Shiosha, they are ruled by Duke Ayedo, who has a wife, four daughters and three sons. The extended noble family number 435 souls.
The Mystical Jurists
“It was very hard for ancient oaths, religions and traditions to survive the attacks. With Earth gone, all sacred cities and places and artefacts were eternally lost. All prophecies concerning humanity’s ascension to heaven from earthly life – disproved permanently and all vows rendered utterly meaningless. It was brave and brilliant thinkers alone who saved mankind’s souls by establishing a Church that could encompass all the broken and bruised beliefs of our ancestors, and yet continue its mission into a future never imagined even by our greatest seers and most respected prophets. Everything had changed. Every faith was at risk of completely vanishing – unless it radically reinvented itself. Except for the mystics of the Santuli – whose traditions were so adaptable – that to many outsiders it seemed their traditions and convictions barely skipped a beat.”
– Meliohs Kathande, The Creation Of Humanity’s Church
House Santuli: Ancient, steeped in traditions that predate the realm and rich in vibrancy, colour and tastes. Social, fair minded, diplomatic and gracious, the Santuli are known throughout the realm as peacemakers, judges, artists, scholars, artists and technologists.
Once, they stretched in small pockets throughout the colonies – often as independent traders – and they could be found on freighters and merchant vessels up and down the routes of the Solar reach. The Santuli are also a pious people – they have religious traditions that predate the Church – and their mystics can be found teaching ancient traditions not only in the Church Orders but as Teachers for Hire.
The Santulians came to Arca on four great colony ships – as well as embedded throughout the other survivors. The Four Colony ships provided many resources that were critical in the early days, as the Lifeship was still being built, and as more survivors arrived. The Santulians built their one thousand spires of their capital city – the Realm’s only Sacred City – in the delta and jungles of their one peninsula.
There, they invited others to come – and there they settled.
The Santulians have a complex society, highly stratified and highly specialised – with rules and unspoken codes others seldom understand and they never disclose.
Two peninsulas jut up, and three major inlets of sea bring the Third Ocean far inland. Santuli is between Hitocae and Shanrani – yet its topography makes it insular in many ways. The famous beauty and ornate extravagance of the thousand spired city, Sanasala, invite pilgrims and seekers from all over the Realm – either to strict, quiet contemplation or ecstatic festivals – and the city is warm, humid and in a dense jungle in a river delta. While this is the common view of all of Santuli, the truth is that Santuli has very varied terrain.
They are ruled by Duchess Geeta, who has a husband, a daughter, and three sons. The extended noble family number 312 souls.
Children of the A
“It only followed naturally that the unprecedented hardships we faced in the early days of creating the Fleet was borne best by those most accustomed to enduring hardships. And none were more used to austerity, and ascetism, and bearing suffering, and being obedient to the point of death – than the children of the A – who would obey the commands of their A even when the tasks were both suicidal and hopeless. The Shanrani are followers – they follow instinctively, innately, fanatically. It is for this reason that their A – an autocrat uncommon among any of the other Houses and rare even among mankind’s ancient tribes – continue to command power and respect even as their unforgiving system is frowned upon by others.”
– Ganlos Amene, People of the Mountain
Ancient, brilliant, disciplined – the Shan are a people unlike any other.
Their ancestors came from old Earth and settled wherever there were underground complexes to settle – they worked as miners and planetside construction crews, their small bodies tougher than many several times bigger than them. Yet, when most think of the Shan, they don’t think of the millions of nameless ones who have always worked among humanity, but the rare geniuses whose calculations and blueprints laid the foundation of the Lifeship.
The Shan are deep, imaginative, original and uncompromising – and they have endured when many others have given up. They have, at various points in history, been known to practice polygamy – when they need to shore up numbers for a great war or dangerous effort. At other times, they have been almost monastic as a society. The have immense reverence for their Duke or Duchess – and they follow commands, often without hesitation, even when it puts their lives in danger. They range in appearance, but have very black hair as children that turns silver in their thirties.
The Shan is an amalgamation of old earth tribes, first united when the automated transport of low skilled workers malfunctioned and marooned several tens of thousands in abandoned habitats. They quickly adapted, often under brutal leadership, often facing great calamities. Several generations of starvation made their frames smaller than most – but they have remained resilient and strong.
The Duke or Duchess is known as the A (pronounced Ah) – and the current Duchess, A Sa, is a descendent of the first A. The A’s predate the Duchies – but were seamlessly integrated into the Nobility with the Establishment.
Many outsiders find Shan architecture bland, or even depressing. The capital city of Yehn has been described as ‘an ugly collection of concrete blocks, built in a swamp’.
Wherever one goes throughout Shanrani, there are these blocky buildings and statues of the A. The Westernmost coast – the West Coast of the first peninsula, across the third strait to Shantuli, is open to visitors, and there, the cities are less drab and stocky.
These are beach paradises, with all-inclusive resorts and seedy towns. But the rest of Shanrani is kept only for the Shan, and only the most loyal are allowed close to the A in Yehn.
Duchess A Sa rules the Shanrani. She has one husband, seventeen consorts, three daughters and five sons. The extended noble family number 410 souls.
“What soon became apparent was that a number of invisible, incorporeal structures would be as important – if not more – for the survival of the species than our feats of engineering. The truth was that no amount of technology, moral certainty or passionate engagement or belief in a cause was enough to turn a collection of tribes into a society and a disparate group of survivors into a civilization. What was required for Establishment was something altogether more fundamental… and some might say more boring. The key ingredient was the ability to set up, and maintain, institutions. Along with their language becoming the common tongue, it was this ability to create lasting efficient institutions that was the biggest gift of the Bolishians to mankind.”
– Helene Arynikk & Janos Behmel, Built To Last
Bolishians – for all their variety, and all their complexity – are perhaps best known for their languages and their institutions. Their languages tie the old and the new civilisation together. The old civilisation in the form of Standard – the Volapuk that was most widely spoken throughout the old colonies, and still spoken by the people of the fleets and colonies. And the creation of Ashicivis – the Royal Language, and the language of the Monarch, the Church and the Nobility. Bolishians are expert at restoration, preservation and maintenance – and they run maintenance on most of the Lifeship, and large parts of the fleet. They are stoic, sentimental and protective – and their mastery of institutions and pageantry held much of the early realm together.
The Bolishians were the second to arrive at Arca – a fleet of seventy free ships and three frigates arrived – and together with the Hitocae – they lay the foundation of the rescue, relief and ingathering efforts. The Bolishians skill at administration and bureaucracy made them a vital partner at establishing some sort of order.
The Lifeship was built largely without their help. But when it came time to look at the interior of buildings, and urban planning, and creating communications and transport networks within – they played a critical role. Indeed, without the Bolishians, there would have not been an Establishment – they wrote the first laws, and the first Queen, Anna, was mainly of Bolishian descent.
Today, they continue to serve throughout the Realm, as administrators and maintenance workers.
Green and rainy, Bolishia was built to be comfortably cool and conducive for agriculture, fishing, and woodlands. The capital is Bay City – where the Bay City University welcomes students from throughout the Realm. It’s elite schools in the interior trains the children of the nobility, and the towns range from quaint villages to towering examples of the advanced.
Duke Padrik rules the Noble Family. He has a wife, a daughter and two sons. The extended noble family number 124 souls.
The Secret Keepers
“How is it that the intense, broody people could also be passionate lovers or ice-cold killers? The secret may lie in history more than genetics. As rulers – sometimes tyrants of Tau Ceti – we Darads built an impressive civilization. But it was underpinned by violence and rule by fear. The artists and thinkers and dreamers were subject to warriors – who protected them, but also demanded loyalty and deference. The Darad character has always been many things at once – but nearly always, it is kept in place by a strain of detached cruelty and secrets – private secrets, group secrets, trade secrets, martial secrets and the secrets of others.”
– Kaiaeryan Mabos, Reflections of Tau
Lean and lithe, the Darads are a people with highly evolved motor skills and coordination. They have made their names – and their fortunes – with bio-machine integration. They are passionate, resourceful, stubborn, brave – and often secretive. They have thin and athletic builds, but vary in appearance, although they can often be identified from their very dark, almost black eyes.
Daradan society always functions on two levels – the visible, and the invisible. On the surface, they are like most people. In reality, the Darad nobility run the show with ruthless efficiency, with dark rituals and blood rites dating back to their tyrannical empire in the days of Tau Ceti.
The Daradan Nobles have gained some notoriety for being greedy among the powerful and connected – but civilians dare not say this.
The Darads, more than any other, remember the old days before the attack. They were born of warriors – the abandoned forces of the losing side in the Second Iridium War – that united to become a single people on Tau Ceti.
There – despite the best efforts of Old Earth and other diplomats – they resented the interference – they slowly grew their influence by supplanting the power structures of others. By the time the attacks occurred, all of Tau Ceti was under their political control.
The Darads sent out ninety vessels from Tau Ceti in total to scout, and begin infiltration, of neighbors. Four of the survived the attack and came to Arca. It is their biomech that drove many of the innovations in metamaterials – critical for the building of the Lifeship.
Landlocked – with high mountains forming a ring around a central network of valleys. Grandiose angular edifices perched from cliffs. Pyramid, A-Frame and Triangular homes and buildings form cities that are laid out like Tau Ceti’s Old Fortresses.
They are rules by Duke Phadyairan. He has a wife and only one son, having lost his eldest son. The total noble family number 339 souls.
The House Of The Houseless
“Some could point to genetics, others to lineage, yet others to shared histories or myths. The crucible of the universe has many ways to burn and scorch human souls into collective groups. And yet its greatest extermination produced heat sufficient to unite all as one species, but with nary enough room for each to stand as one with a tribe of their own. Then we let it be known that we will be the people for those who had none. That our house will be the house of the houseless, the voice of the voiceless, the palace of orphans. Through us – nameless multitudes could claim a lineage of their own. Through us, we shall collectively write a future as yet unwritten, as a distinctive people yet to be defined.”
– Duchess Homeria, Who Shall Have Them?
House Iopai is the only Noble House that formed at Arca. Several distinct groups came together and cooperated in order to gain access to the privileges of the nobility. Whoever acted heroically or nobly, among the throngs, and needed a reward – to them were given title in House Iopai. As such, House Iopai has had a mixed reputation.
Pirates, mercenaries, robbers, thieves – in ancient times, perhaps. Now, the Iopai are officers in the Navies, the Constabulary, the Church, assorted services. They are affectionate, empathetic, wise and artistic. They are loyal and brave.
But still… there is a dark underbelly that they just can’t shake. Not to mention a tendency towards antisocial behavior, and depression. The Iopists rise and fall according to tides that none can name or predict – and after several generations doing better, it seems the downslope has arrived.
For a while, the other houses looked down on them (the Daradan still do) – but over time the House has surprised them all. They fight for the survival of the Realm because they are truly of the Realm, they have no other history, and know no other heritage.
As for their genetic lineage, the Iopists are the wild card – the joker in the pack. This sometimes has positive consequences. Sometimes this has negative consequences.
Their territory reflects this variety. Set on one of the cooler Rings, House Iopai nevertheless enjoy a staggering variety when it comes to terrain and ‘natural’ features.
Right now, the Duchess Rhomda, having survived the excessive lifestyles of her predecessor, and having watched the Daradan erosion of her influence, wealth and holdings, is descending into madness. Her son (Evorf) knows this, but is powerless to stop it. Besides, his ties to the Caravans and criminal syndicates keeps him too busy to worry about House business. Duchess Rhomda also has three daughters. The total number of souls in the extended noble family is 287.
All dates use the Second Establishment Calendar, which divides history into Before the Apocalypse and After the Apocalypse. Humanity used to have several different calendars and methodologies of keeping time. As parochial traditions and pre-Apocalyptic religion’s authority were erased by the destruction of all habitats and all sacred sites, the risk was that humanity would lose all sense of continuity. The Church – a multi-religious hierarchy – was established to ensure the transmission of at least some relevant ancient traditions. The Second Establishment Calendar was established to provide for the continuance of a universally accepted time scale. There are 24 hours in a day, 364 days a year, except every four years, when it is a leap year, and there is 365. There are twelve months, and four seasons. The cycles of the lightcoil of Flagship represent Official Time throughout the Realm. The Apocalypse occurred early in Year 0. The remnants of humanity gathered at Arca from year 0 to year 15. Anna I, the First Queen – who announced the Second Establishment and the completion of Flagship – came to the throne in 42 a.A.
Pre-Apocalypse to Second Establishment
The first human walks on a body other than the homeworld Old Earth itself.
The entire home solar system is considered settled, with flourishing societies from Mercury to Neptune, as well as the Oort Cloud and smaller dwarf planet settlements.
The establishment of the first permanent settlement at Proxima Centauri.
The first permanent settlement established at Tau Ceti.
The Laser Highway Lines are completed, connecting the Sol, Centauri and Tau Ceti societies and facilitating large scale commerce and exchange between the various outposts of the First Establishment.
An unknown – and clearly vastly technologically superior species – destroys the Three Civilizations. An artificial sun is created just outside of the Sol System. It is then hurled into the Sun – destroying all planets, floating structures, vessels and settlements along the way, and continues in a hooklike trajectory until it has done the same thing at Centauri and Tau Ceti. Mankind’s civilization is instantly and effectively destroyed. The only survivors are on a few scattered points of the Laser Highway, and a few survey, scouting, scientific and settlement vessels outside of the zone of total destruction. The Earth Nebula is formed and becomes a fixture in that sector of the Galaxy.
Having found and consolidated a suitable hiding and recovery space, survivors assist other survivors to assemble at the sun Arca, behind the asteroid field known as the Sea of Nahur. The final headcount of the last official Arca Survey, numbers the human species at 32,435 individuals.
The groundwork for the future of the species is laid during two separate events. First, in early April, Father Erasmus leads an assembly of the remaining religious leaders and believers and organizes the Human Ecumenical Church – the forerunner of what would ultimately become the Church of the Realm. It is a voluntary organization providing medical, educational, pastoral and ritual assistance to whoever requires it, regardless of background. In August, the representatives of what would become the Twelve Noble Houses, as well as 138 other powerful leaders, meet to discuss the best prospects for long term survival. The ‘Wandering Fleet’ model is unanimously adopted.
Representatives of what was to become the Twelve Noble Houses meet secretly in February and appoint a team of genetic engineers with the instructions to construct an enhanced human that could handle the demands of neural integration with the future Flagship and serve as Queen.
8 – 39 a.A.
Flagship is constructed. Erasmus becomes the First Patriarch of the Church of the Realm. Royal Law is codified. The Twelve Noble Houses are formally established. The first queen is born and raised to be prepared for her duties on the throne. Minor dissent and skirmishes are dealt with.
Age of Anna I (42 a.A – 100 a.A)
Although Anna I was the shortest lived of the Human Queens, her strong will and determination and tireless service turned the Life Fleet from an experiment to an enduring civilization. Anna I transitioned humanity from an Aftermath civilization – primarily dealing with the consequences and implications of a devastating Apocalypse and a tragedy of unprecedented scale and scope – into a civilization actively reinventing itself for the future. The rules, systems, procedures and institutions she launched remain with us to this day.
Anna I takes the Throne, announcing the Second Establishment, the Life Fleet, the Mission of the Monarchy, the Twelve Noble Houses, the Church of the Realm, the Two Navies, the Royal Guard, The Royal Constabulary, Royal Law and the Second Establishment Calendar.
A moral and artistic movement known as the Reinventionists gain prominence throughout the Fleet. The movement is most prevalent among painters, sculptors and composers but includes literary figures and dramatists as well. Characterised by bold conceptual leaps but rooted in strict realist depiction, the most famous expressions of the movement is perhaps the Decathlon, a series of ten murals by the painter Aythnemme, and which still adorn the Central Plaza of the Terminus in Central Station.
The Royal Guard and Royal Constabulary prevents an insurrection in the Fleet, arresting 39 ship captains and changing the way that Royal Law deals with differences between ships in the fleet.
Age of Eleanori I (101 a.A – 378 a.A)
The first Queen with a long lifespan, the Age of Eleanori saw numerous developments. While none of the three attempts at creating colonies during her reign were succesful, life for those in the Fleet improved drastically under her rule. Many ships of the fleet unsuitable for permanent habitation were either upgraded or replaced – and the requirement that every human was entitled to at least 11 months at earthlike gravity each year became part of the Royal Law. Eleanori consolidated the work of the preceding Monarch, and most of her focus was on making the Fleet a long term and livable success. During her reign there were three distinct artistic and philosophic periods, the Early and Late Stoics, and the so-called Silent School.
The monolithic and brutalist art and literature of the Early Stoics become prominent. Philosophically, there is much focus on service to the community and unflinching loyalty to needs of the species.
The ’11 Months Clause’ – which effectively forces every ship in the fleet to provide permanent or near permanent gravity for their passengers, becomes part of Royal Law. It would take another 50 years to completely implement, as ships were replaced and converted.
Artisitic expression relaxes somewhat, becoming more varied. Duty to the species is replaced with concepts of individual honour. The age is best remembered for the power and drama of the composer Garhon – and also the many ill-fated attempts to create colonies.
In response to the bombastic and strong-willed approach of the previous age, the Silent generations focused on introspection, contemplation and turning away from the overt and the external. Art became simplistic and abstract – and minimalism was the order of the day. In contrast to the arts and philosophy, it was an era of great technological advancement. Perhaps spurred on by the failures of the colonies, it was a time of great doubt for humanity.
Age of Cartha I (379 a.A – 500 a.A)
Cartha became Monarch as the Silent generations reached an extreme level of abstraction – an artistic and philosophic school interested more in the conceptual than the practical, known as the Abstractionists. The movement failed to produce much of its own, but it did seem to successfully sweep aside convention and tradition – making way for a rebirth and rediscovery of variety and ecelecticism during the second century of Cartha’s reign. Of the three attempts at establishing colonies, one was successful. Cartha herself seldom communicated with the people and isolated herself a great deal. Speculation was rife that she was deeply unhappy, leading to the term ‘Cartha the Tragic’ – a descriptor that may or may not be accurate. What is far more verifiable is that Cartha was a very strict enforcer of laws. She also introduced sweeping reforms to legal processes several times – once dismissing every Judge in the Fleet from their positions.
388, 401 & 412 a.A.
Cartha’s attempts at colonies – first Eden, then Civissa, and finally SV-3 – a colony that thrives to this day.
The last of Cartha’s legal reforms are completed. Cartha made all ships, structures, settlements and individuals that derive benefits, power, commerce, trade or resources from the Fleet subject to Royal Law. Judges also now had 30-year term limits.
As Cartha I stepped down and relinquished the Throne to the next Queen, the Church of the Realm celebrated the first half a millenium of the Second Establishment. There was a great festival, displaying much art, creativity and scientific advances. At the festival, the Church also unveiled its new hierarchy and reorganized structure under the great organizer, Patriarch Etruske.
Age of Messanee I (501 a.A – 749 a.A)
Messanee’s reign is characterized by a revival and optimism – in stark contrast to the period preceding. Whereas humanity struggled to make peace with and settle into a nomadic existence before, it was during the reign of Messanee that this new reality seemed to be accepted – even enthusiastically embraced. Hers was an age of ambitious public works – improvements to the lives of people in the fleet, the creation of natural retreats where everyone in the realm were entitled to go two weeks every year, and a public art drive that saw an explosion of painting, writing and music. Messanee found two colonies and her age included two radically different but hugely beneficial philosophic and scientific movements – first the Constructionists and then the Naturalists.
Foundation of the colony of Baskos.
The Age of the Constructionists begin. Scientifically, several new advances were made in a wide range of disciplines. New additions and improvements were built and added to the Fleet. Philosophically, the movement stood in direct opposition to fatalism and cynicism – it believed strongly in self-directed action being the main driver of improvement.
The foundation of the colony of Solan. Messanee only attempted the establishment of two colonies – but both were successful.
The Age of the Naturalists begins. What the previous movement did for science, engineering and machinery – the Naturalists did with the biological sciences. It was during this age that the two nature preserve platforms were established – and earth-creatures long kept in the Queen’s genetic libraries were resurrected.
Age of Anna II (750 a.A – 999 a.A)
Anna II’s reign started with two tragedies, and yet her era is best remembered for its rapid growth in wealth and improvements to the living standards of people throughout the Realm. During her time on the throne, there were no less than three different philosophic/artistic movements – and most of what is today considered great art was produced during this time. Under Anna II’s rule, Central Station was expanded from a dock and rail terminus into a fully fledged city – built right at the center of the Life Coil and between the Two Inner Rings. The Realm’s Stock Exchange, GENDEX, was established under her rule.
In order to minimize dependence on single contingencies and optimize the chances of survival of the Fleet, two distinct, independent and competitive Navies were established at the very beginning of the Realm. There has always been some friction between the two Navies (outside of the Life Fleet zone, which is under the sole control of the Royal Guard and where any military conflicts or skirmishes are forbidden). The Navies have fought skirmishes before, and have consistently tested each other in various domains of combat. This has periodically resulted in minor loss of life. The Vespasi Incident of 751 involved one such combat exercise gone wrong. An Admiral of the Blue Navy destroyed a small moon while troops of the Red Navy were still on surface. It was claimed that the event was an accident. However, in a subsequent Royal Trail (a court martial could not be used as both Navies were involved) found that ‘in several instances there was evidence of malice’. 2,400 Red Navy Mobile Infantrymen were killed. The incident caused a bitterness between the two Navies that remain to this day.
An attempt at creating a colony was unsuccessful, after infighting between Noble Houses caused large scale equipment malfunctions. While the tragedy of the Colony Havnem saw the death of 1,900 civilians and it has become a much-used extreme example of Noble House excesses and inefficiencies, the incident indirectly led to the rise of a commercial class of free citizens and egalitarian access to capital markets via the Gendex – ten years later.
A philosophical movement known as the Wielders makes rising through social ranks a virtue. The result sees the growth of a powerful class of free merchants and traders gain influence on Flagship and on the Realm. One consequence of this movement was the creation of an enterprise known as the Caravani – merchants who travel up and down the laser highways and facilitating trade between the colonies. The Caravani today are a distinct people – subject to Royal Law but often outside of Royal jurisdiction, and with a currency of their own.
Foundation of the Alphya colony. In stark contrast to the previous attempt, it is described as the most succesful colony establishment on record. The related GENDEX boom creates much new wealth. It becomes the model for colonization.
The Subdual movement begins to dominate the culture. The movement draws on the silent, understated strength of the Queen during tragedy and becomes Realm-wide tendency to understate, be discrete and offer minimal expression.
The Expressives school rebels against the subdual movement. Also known as the Revenge of the Nobles, this movement was characterized by the overt, even ostentatious display of wealth and power. While the merchant classes would remain and the Gendex would continue to be open to all, the nobles quietly bought most of the exhange and created a strong hold on future colonization efforts, as well as colonial resources. While their efforts were successful, their attempt to take on the Caravani in a trade war backfired badly – and almost no nobles are engaged in inter-colony trade logistics anymore. The Caravani, by contrast, now controls 96% of this trade, with the remainder being small free citizen operations.
Age of Anna III (1000 a.A – 1386 a.A)
Anna III found no new colonies, nor did she oversee any major additions or upgrades to the Fleet. Her reign was focused on consolidation – ensuring that existing colonies had the resources they need to grow; improving and expanding the laser highway and communications networks within the Realm; centralizing and simplifying power structures within the Government and upgrading institutions. In particular, she improved the Royal Guard and Constabulary – while pressing both Navies for increased efficiency. Anna III also let the Fleet cover more distance than any other monarch, causing some to speculate that the Royal Government finally knew where the species that attacked mankind during the Apocalypse was located.
The Revivalist Movement celebrates the history of mankind since the Second Establishment, imparting added symbolic significance to historical events since the foundation of the Fleet. The artisitic movement is very diverse, applying an eclectic mix of modern customs and techniques to historical subject matter. The philosophic movement fully embraces the Fleet as the basis of human civilization, rejecting nostalgic notions of planetary civilization or ancient ideologies. Denounced by some as conformist, there is resistance to it in some of the colonies.
Known as ‘the Quiet Milestone’ – most people were unaware of this until ten years after the fact. On this date, the physical space of human civilization became almost exactly three times as large in totality as the total physical space of the three civilizations of the First Establishment. A full third of the space was added to the Realm by Anna III’s incessant movement forward.
Age of Anna IV (1387 a.A – Present, 1502 a.A)
Her Majesty Anna IV came to the throne 115 years ago. With Aris, she is about to establish her second colony, having established Aristades a little over a hundred years ago. Queen’s ages are described in retrospect, and future historians will have the final say about her reign. Generally, the Revivalist movement continues to be important in the Fleet, but it is rapidly losing influence in the colonies. Her Majesty also conducted the first full survey since humanity left Arca.
Foundation of the colony of Aristades.
The Great Anna IV Survey is completed. It shows a total population of 41,000 along platforms, relays and stations of the laser highways, 3.2 million in the colonies and 7.2 million in the fleet. Humanity as a species is therefore around 10 and a half million strong. At the Arca Survey a thousand five hundred years ago, we numbered a mere 32,435 individuals. We also now control nearly four times the territory we did at the height of the three civilizations of the First Establishment. This provides indisputable evidence that the Mission of the Monarchy has been, and continues to be successful.
Present day. The Fleet arrives at Aris and prepares to find the latest colony.
Atlas Of The Realm
The Realm consists of the Fleet, the Colonies and the Laser Highway that connects them.
The Life Fleet
Foundation: 42 a.A.
Founding Monarch: Anna I
Population: 7.2 million
Products: Culture, Technology, Biology, Government
"Life At The Front Of Civilization"
Foundation: 1502 a.A.
Founding Monarch: Anna IV
Foundation: 1400 a.A.
Founding Monarch: Anna IV
Locus: Domus & Thades
Products: Manufacturing, Research
"The Twin Ring"
Foundation: 855 a.A.
Founding Monarch: Anna II
Population: 1 million
Products: Agriculture, Mining, Gasses
"The Vertical World"
Foundation: 656 a.A.
Founding Monarch: Messanee I
Products: Manufacturing, Research, Technology
"The Net Of Advancement"
Foundation: 511 a.A.
Founding Monarch: Messanee I
Population: 1.2 million
Products: Food, Aquaculture, Chemicals
"The Basket Of Life"
Foundation: 412 a.A.
Founding Monarch: Cartha I
Products: Mining, Minerals & Metals
The Laser Highway
Number Of Main Stations: 6
Number of Relay Stations: 6,500
Products: Transportation, Storage, Logisitics
PETER VAN DER WALT
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