Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Vuldrok Star Nation

The Vuldrok of FS3 might seem to have expanded, but simply many of the formally independent barbarian worlds with a significant Vuldrok population have been reclassified as Vuldrok worlds. I also added in world descriptions for Abydos (from a Vuldrok perspective) and Hemvald (a Vuldrok world mentioned in FS1 but later forgotten when the Vuldrok were written up in detail).


Vuldrok Star-Nation
The Vuldrok Star-Nation is a loose alliance for tribes with loyalties that shift and change as one thane (independent ruler/”chief”) rise and another fall. The fractured nature of the Star-Nation makes diplomacy between the Phoenix Empire and the Vuldrok challenging, as each thane must be negotiated with individually. The result is an unsteady peace, punctuated with rogue thanes making raids against merchant shipping and Hawkwood worlds.
The fractured Vuldrok will swiftly unite when threatened or when called by a particularly powerful or charismatic warlord (thane of thanes, often claiming a world). The Vuldrok people values freedom, and abhor centralized government and authority instead favoring a more chaotic tribal organization. Lesser thanes often war with each other over lands and wealth. Those with greater lands and power form pockets of relative political stability amongst an otherwise balkanized peoples.

History of the Vuldrok Star-Nation
Vuldrok sagas and epics trace the culture back to the waning days of the Second Republic, when the worlds of Frost, Wolf’s Lament, Fingisvold, and Raven were unraveling their allegiances to the overextended Republic. Vuldrok mythology tells of mighty thanes vying with the Second Republic’s armed forces, while the few surviving historic records tell of a more peaceful and political rebellion. 
Independence seems to have been in the blood of the proto-Vuldrok peoples (sometimes called the “Wersa” cultures in historic records). These four worlds were originally settled by Diasporan pioneers escaping the overly centralized, bureaucratic rule of the core worlds. On these new planets, independent free-zones offered shelter and self-government to various disenfranchised groups: persecuted minorities, religious fringe groups, and experimental colonists united by a love of independence. In general, criminals and mercenary groups found homes on Frost, while pagans, pre-reflective Judeo-Christians, free-zone advocates, and Native American revivalists, settled Raven and Wolf’s Lament. Bands of libertarians, rural communists, poet utopians, hardened adventurers, and isolated scientific communities settled Fingisvold. Hargard was settled from Shaprut, where the Ramakrishna dynasty founded a neo-Hindu kingdom that has since lost land to conquering Vuldrok, and is now confined to the continent of Vijayanagar.
Initially these remotely populated worlds were allowed their independence, and since their populations’ tax base were small, they soon slipped quietly off the radar of policy makers. Over time, pirates began using these ignored worlds as bases for raiding core world space lanes. The jumproads were threatened but the Second Republic was unable to effectively muster police forces in the face of increasing unrest on the core worlds.
Well-known in this period was Gudmund the Great (3880-3941), a pirate leader from Wolf’s Lament, fascinated by the ancient Viking culture. He created the first Althing after the ancient Icelandic model and revived the Norse and Old English languages in an attempt to reshape the planet’s culture. Gudmund achieved limited success, but a result of his endeavors was a socio-economic situation favorable to piracy and raiding, and Gudmund’s example helped unite the rebellious fringe societies against the Second Republic.
The Republic Senate mobilized to enforce law and order among the fringe worlds, and to make an example out of them. However, when Republic forces came to Wolf’s Lament to subdue the revolt in 3997, they were met by an alliance of 12 thanes forged at the Althing. Invading troops met fierce battle with the thanes’ forces, and the thanes’ space fleet appeared from hiding and engaged the Republican ships. Desperate fighting commenced on the ground and in space, but the Republican attack was forced to retreat. Retaliatory raids against Republican worlds followed for months, but these were feints to hide the greater purpose – a massive fleet gathering to fight its way to the heart of the Republic. Byzantium Secundus was now weak, having committed too many ships to enforce its will on the frontier, and in 4000 the capitol world fell to the rogue-world fleet. Victory was short-lived though, as the Ten Royal Houses, allied with the remnant of the Republican forces, liberate Byzantium Secundus. The Ten then claimed Byzantium Secundus and the Second Republic ended in flame and slaughter.
Fearing renewed attacks by the noble houses, world after frontier world sealed itself off from the jumpweb. The closing of the Hargard, Twilight, Collier’s Landing, and Hira Jumpgates shut numerous other worlds out from the larger jumpweb. For a time the proto-Vuldrok worlds maintained a semblance of peace before their technology base declined. Eventually they began invading neighboring worlds, establishing a raiding culture, and more worlds closed their jumpgates to keep the Vuldrok out. In the 4400s, the Vuldrok peoples began expanding in earnest, pushing deep into proto-Kurgan space to conquer and colonize, something which further enforced raider and warrior society. However, they soon found the conquered proto-Kurgan lands more trouble to hold then what it was worth. But defeat on the Kurgan worlds did not dismay the Vuldrok Star-Nation, and raids on lesser worlds and princedoms in their vicinity continued; their prowess, confidence, and coordination increasing with each victory. 
In the early 4500s, the Star-Nation was nearly united, for the first and last time, into a single empire under King Froljir the Ill-Fated (4469-4548). In 4525 the jumpgates leading to the Known Worlds were flung open, and with the sacking of the St. Hombor Monastery on Leminkainen, the Vuldrok made their first impression on the Known Worlds. Leminkainen endured heavy attacks, while minor raids were suffered by Vera Cruz via Collier’s Landing, and King Froljir came close to carving a Vuldrok empire out of the Known Worlds. According to Archbishop Pietro of Aragon, the barbarian fleet “darkened the stars, spreading wrath and ruin to all worlds”. Simultaneously, Froljir’s daughter, Freya Firestorm (4492-4537), who led a campaign against the Kurgan worlds to keep her father’s back free, died a fiery death in a massive space battle. Also in 4537, Vuldrok forces reached Byzantium Secundus to pillage the once capitol of the Second Republic, and the Star-Nation seemed unstoppable to the disorganized Known Worlds. Then in 4540, the scion of House Alecto, Vladimir began uniting the Known Worlds under his Phoenix banner, and after the first minor victories his efforts gained momentum. In 4547 Vladimir, together with Tethys forces, defeated the thane Ragnor Thorsonn who had invaded Tethys, robbing King Froljir’s of one of his Chief Lieutenants. The decisive Battle of Firefrost of 4548 was fought between King Froljir and Vladimir’s forces in Gwynneth space, and it cost King Froljir his life. The thanes previously loyal to King Froljir seized his worlds, dividing his kingdom into numerous chiefdoms, and never since has a thane attempted a second unification of the Vuldrok. The Great Althing fell to ruin, and the Vuldrok again warred with their neighbors and each other, falling back into their squabbles. So great had been their onslaught into the Known Worlds and Caliphate space, however, that their enemies had no strength to retaliate.  
Apart from scattered raids and border skirmishes with the House Hawkwood (from 4770 onwards), the Star-Nation’s presence ceased in the Known Worlds for almost 450 years. A few major conflicts took place between the Kurgan Caliphate and the Vuldrok Star-Nation, but effectively ended when the jumproad between Frost and Antioch (a neighbor system of the Caliphate) was closed in 4791. In 4860, Symbiots were first encountered as the shapesifters invaded Fingisvold space, but were turned back as the world uncharacteristically united in defense of all. In 4890, the Vuldrok Star-Nation felt the full pressure of the Symbiot menace as the shapeshifters conquered Abydos and converted the population. Symbiot pushes into Vuldrok space followed, but the Symbiot advance was halted in 4897 by powerful Vuldrok sorcery that barred their access to Vuldrok space from Abydos. The Symbiot invasion of the Regency border worlds three years later, which started the Symbiot War, was likely a direct result of them loosing access to Vuldrok space.
The Star-Nation’s brush with the Symbiots had worked as a unifier and a test of prowess, and again the Vuldrok culture was whipped into a warrior-frenzy as battle thirsty thanes bent on conquest joined forces and sailed against the Known Worlds. The resurgent Vuldrok Star-Nation began harrying the Hawkwood worlds, but the combined Regency-Hawkwood forces struck back in 4992 and forced the barbarians back across the border.
With Emperor Alexius I’s power firmly consolidated, the Vuldrok have not been able to return to the Phoenix Empire in force. Still, a defensive force has been building for nearly two decades now, and many thanes and freemen have flocked to the banner of mighty shaman-thane Greolf the Grim who is arguing for a second unification against the new threat which is the Phoenix Empire.

Current Relations with the Phoenix Empire
Vuldrok raiders still make forays into the Phoenix Empire, seizing merchant cargos and assaulting isolated monasteries and villages on Leminkainen and Ravenna. Princess Victoria, the current Head of House Hawkwood, has yet to award these scattered raids any priority, instead differing to Alexius I’s diplomacy. But dissent is growing within the House and strong voices, including that of Duke Alverax, are calling for rearmament to face the barbarian threat. The Vuldrok of Hargard have benefited from trade with the Phoenix Empire and are content with keeping trade relations instead of returning to raiding. This has resulted in the Hargard thanes growing in power, in turn causing friction with other members of the Great Althing on Raven and infighting between Vuldrok worlds is on the rise. Minor thanes routinely rise swiftly into prominence, only to fall to the ambition of others the following seasons.
The Vuldrok are heathens and do not heed the word of the Prophet, instead venerating pagan gods and ancestral heroes. Though every Vuldrok tribe hold individual beliefs and religious practices all seem to be colored by Gjarti traditions, with some also mix in a dose of Zuranism. Universal Church missions in to barbarian space have managed to established scattered foot-holds of converts, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule. The heretical sect known as the Preceptors is active on Hargard and holds greater sway than the Orthodox teachings, being strongly entrenched with the native House Ramakrishna and held in high regard by Warlord Eldrid the Wise, thane of Hargard.

A Star-Nation of Independent Peoples
The Vuldrok tribes represent different cultural identities within the overall tapestry of the Star-Nation. 
Drenjar: The greatest and most populous of all the Vuldrok tribes, the Drenjar cultural is rooted in the pirates and raiders of the late Second Republic era, who exported their ideals from Frost to other Vuldrok worlds. Much of the language and culture identified today as “Vuldrok” is actually Drenjar. When the thanes rebelled against the centralized authority of the Second Republic, a good half of them heralded from this tribe. 
The Drenjar have a deep and abiding need for freedom, but also carry the notion that things are fated by unseen forces in the universe. While the gods may aid you at times, even they are powerless once your doom has been decided. They are a martial people, taking pride in the manufacture of weapons, their personal appearance, and strength.
Lakol: Lakol people descend from Native American revivalist settlers of Wolf’s Lament who sought to preserve the ways of their ancestors. To this day they continue to follow a blend of beliefs (Native American, proto-Vuldrok, Oban, Ukari and others) that meshes well with Vuldrok paganism. 
The Lakol have long been a friend to the wild places of their worlds and it was the Lakol who facilitated that both the wild life and the Ishkin got representation in the Great Althing. Many of the Lakol turn from hunting to raiding and are known to make fierce and deadly adversaries.
Zetol: Formed out of a melting pot of cultures, the Zetol are second largest tribe. This tribe holds spiritual beliefs that the universe is composed of many great spirits but that each is merely a mask for the one true god. The Zetol practice a bewildering array of local customs and venerate a myriad of personal spirits to whom offerings or appeasements need to be made before undertaking any action.
Of all the Vuldrok, the Zetol are the most democratic and offer the most rights to slaves. Their laws state that a slave can only be held in bondage for seven years before it must be set free and accepted into the tribe. 
Skey: The Skey are a people who fled from the lost world of Ufor when it was overrun by dark forces (48th century). Typically short of statue and dark of skin, they rarely interbreed with other Vuldrok. As a people their creation myths suggest that they were removed from Urth and relocated to their world during human pre-history. They Skey form themselves in to fourteen different clans that are characterized by a spiritual totem animal.
The Skey chiefs are unusual in that they are often among the poorest of their peoples. It is their tradition that the chief is responsible for all his people and must provide for them. They are known to throw great feasts at which they will give away most of their possessions to those in need. In return they receive the loyalty and aid of their subjects.
Maghtaw: The Maghtaw are the descendants of those tech enclaves that endured the Fall. They managed to survive through superior weapons and trading their understanding of technology. Over the centuries their tech knowledge has been shaped by their spiritual callings as they developed from scientists into shamans. In their worldview all objects, including inanimate ones, have spirits, and these must be appeased before a repair can be attempted. Some of these beliefs and taboos offer an element of safety to the technician; others simply seem to be bizarre to those uninitiated in their mysteries.
Not all Maghtaw are tech-shamans, but status within the tribe depends on technical lore. There are few raider captains who would not wish to have a Maghtaw tech-shaman aboard his ship.
Rekgold: The Rekgold are the rulers and merchant princes of the Vuldrok city states. Despite having the greatest wealth and the most impressive fleets, this tribe is actually considered the lowest in terms of status. It is the Rekgold too who have profited the most from the unsteady peace with the Phoenix Empire, although many Vuldrok raids are actually sponsored with loans from the merchant princes.
Tovki: Tovki is a lesser-known Vuldrok clan, but one that is rising in prominence due to their reputation as animal handlers and trainers, and as beastfriends. Some even say the Tovki bred with their beasts to form a kinship and their warriors are renowned as berserkers capable of taking a bestial form in battle.

Vuldrok Culture Skills
Culture skills for Vuldrok Star-Nation mirror those of the Phoenix Empire. A barbarian character would be expected to have Culture (Vuldrok Star-Nation), Culture (Vuldrok tribe), and Culture (home planet). There are barbarian holdings on many worlds outside of the Star-Nation, including Leminkainen, Khotan, Eridol and Lamorak.

Vuldrok Restricted Skills
Some skills are listed as restricted to Noble, Church or League in Fading Suns 3rd. Ed., but these restrictions doesn’t really apply to the Vuldrok. A Vuldrok character is free to pick the skills Helm, Tech Redemption and Thing Machine. But the Etiquette skill is still restricted and must be learned under Tutelage Contract benefit.

Coins and Barter among the Vuldrok
The lack of a universal currency hinders any Vuldrok drive for unity. In the absence of proper coinage the Vuldrok use barter or booty in the form of universally-valued treasure such as precious metals or minerals. Therefore, service and loyalty is rarely bought among the Vuldrok, instead there is a well-established tradition of gift-giving and hospitality. Still, local coinage is often minted for the use within a given community or region, and the merchant princes of Rekgold cities accept only Rekgold minted coins. Some Vuldrok accept Imperial coinage, and many accept foreign Vuldrok coins, although the value afforded these varies greatly from region to region, planet to planet, and indeed from merchant to merchant. The value of individual coins aside, goods in the Vuldrok Star-Nation tends to be of similar value (and therefore abstract cost) as corresponding items in the Phoenix Empire, except that technology can cost two or three times it’s firebird value.

Hierarchy
Vuldrok territory is defined by nations, which serve as the main cultural and social identifiers between clans. The nation holds various domains, each ruled by a thane. Most Vuldrok domains have two thanes, the War Thane and the Law Thane, although the War Thane position has long since come to dominate. Below thanes stand the jarls, chiefs and kinglets who are vassals to the thanes. Subordinated to the jarls are the freemen, any person who owns his own life, ranging from homeless wanderers and common artisans, to wealthy merchants, independent landowners, shamans, and other members of society. At the bottom of Vuldrok society toil the thralls, un-free men and women who might enjoy some status and respect (especially if they are specialists of some kind, being educated or knowing a particular trade), but many are true workforce slaves. 
At the very top of society are the Warlords, often ruling over entire planets or other vast domains, and who are often, especially in peacetime, confusingly referred to as thanes (as with the Thane of Hargard for instance). The title of King has been awarded only once to a Vuldrok ruler, Froljir the Ill-Fated, and although his rule is often admired, the freedom-loving Vuldrok usually despise the concept of a single master for all. The title of “Great Thane”, a king in all but name, is sometimes claimed by would-be unifiers and leaders of other thanes, carrying much the same privilege as kings but lacking its cultural stigma. 
Contrary to what one might believe, warriors do not hold a special privilege in Vuldrok culture. However, since successful raiders tend to acquire wealth, martial prowess and power tend to go hand in hand. The same goes for shamans, priests, and beastfriends, who are certainly respected for their weird powers and insight but hold special powers in society, instead the successful occultists tend to accumulate gifts and favors which translate into political influence and prestige.

Erdgheist – Vuldrok Religion
Several belief systems merged to create Erdgheist, the religion predominating Vuldrok worlds. Many of the original Diasporan settlers of Vuldrok worlds were pagan revivalists and religious dissidents practicing a broad variety of pre-reflective fates. But the principle source from which Erdgheist sprang was Gjarti, itself a pagan revivalist religion founded by Edgar Vollmak in the 27th century. Many of the early settler communities on Wolf’s Lament and Raven were farming utopias that practiced Gjarti. Erdgheist has no known historic starting point and it seems to have grown and absorbed religious concepts in its environment more or less at random. Still, Erdgheist was an established belief and practice by the time of the Vuldrok invasion of the Known Worlds in the 46th century, and the thrust of its development probably took place in the early decades or centuries of the New Dark Age.
Due to the vast variety of spiritual concepts and groups of worshipers found on each Vuldrok world, and the numerous guises the deities wear in different societies and locations, it is only possibly to speak of a Vuldrok religion in general terms; details differing between regions. Religious specialists come in a variety of forms in Vuldrok society, among them wise women, temple priests, fakirs, sorcerers, spirit conjurers, but they are most often known as shamans (sometimes shramana) no matter their function, practices, or level of initiation.

Runecasters and Beastfriends
Vuldrok religion and spiritual traditions are not as formalized as the Universal Faith of the Phoenix Empire or the El-Diin of the Kurgan Caliphate, making room for a variety of different, often conflicting beliefs and practices in the Star-Nation. Although nominally part of the Erdgheist faith, Beastfriends and Runecasters work with self-contained systems that do not directly rely on the common Vuldrok myths, ceremonies, and pantheon of deities. Still, rather than seeing Runecasting and Beastfriendship as separate spiritual systems, most Vuldrok regard them as alternative paths of the greater Erdgheist faith.
Beastfriend Path: Beastfriends are solitary holy men and women who often live in the wilderness, and they are found primarily in the Tovki Nation. Some are associated with specific rural communities, acting as protectors and advisors to the villagers, but many roam the wild places and shun the company of people. Beastfriends, as the name implies, associate with animals, learning mystical powers and sacred truth from their animal companions and the voices of the wilderness to which the civilized are deaf. An initiate Beastfriend chooses a totem animal and starts to study it and experience the world from that animal’s perspective. As he starts to familiarize himself with the type of animal in question, he develops occult powers over these beasts. Adepts gain full mastery over their totemic animals and may influence other beasts as well, and they can sometimes borrow certain characteristics or traits from their totem. Many also train specific animals to be their companions and familiars. Increasingly, the Beastfriend adopts more and more of the totem animal’s traits, growing wilder and wilder, and gradually turning from master of beasts to a man-beast himself, until he is finally able to physically change into the form of his totem animal through what is called a “Warp-spasm”. These werefolk are seen as powerful warriors by other Vuldrok and are greatly respected, and many regard them as semi-divine. 
Vitki Path: Runecasters, or vitkar (sing., vitki) manipulate ancient Anunnaki sigils and glyphs (“runes”), calling upon the awesome creative, changing, and destructive powers of Anunnaki science to produce occult effects. There seem to be no limit to the effects available through runecasting, although fathoming and internalizing a single rune requires considerable effort and sacrifice, including self-mutilation, giving up other occult powers, shedding mental faculties and memories, swearing oaths, and much more. There is a saying in the Vuldrok worlds “Be wary the maimed man, for what he has sacrificed in body he has gained in spirit.” And “casting” a rune and wielding its power is very complicated and hazardous. Still, even the rawest vitki pupils elicit awe and fear wherever they walk in Vuldrok society. Both luck and ruin accompanies a vitkar, and others either court or shun them for it. The ability to become a vitki is not in everyone’s make-up. Vitkar themselves argue the question of natural talent versus nurtured learning but all they can say for certain is that not all applicants can work runes, regardless of desire and perseverance. Runecasting and runecasters are extremely rare, and no other occult school, whether psychism, theurgy or even antinomy, can be said to be as difficult and as rarely practiced.

Erdgheist Magic, Beastfriend Powers and Runecasting
Vuldrok Theurgy will be detailed in an upcoming supplement, together with Vuldrok Runecasting and Beastfriend powers. For now though, you may assume that Vuldrok theurgists use equivalents of the Universal Church rites found in the Player’s Guide. Some Nations use certain types of rites more often than other Nations, such as Drenjar relying heavily on martial rites and Lakol relying more on rites concerning wilderness survival and animals.
If a Beastfriend adept character is required, the gamemaster may assume she has telepathic contact with her familiar, can borrow defining traits of the totem animal (a serpent’s poisonous bite, a cat’s night vision, a dog’s superior sense of smell, etc.), and at higher levels they may shapeshift into the form of their totem. 
Runecasters are extremely rare and should seldom be allowed as player characters so no rules are given for them here, although Runecasters will be developed in a future supplement. They typically know only a few specific runes (Rune of Traveling, Rune of Making, Rune of Knowing, etc.), but if the caster is powerful enough and willing to make great sacrifices, there are few limitations to the effect he can produce with his runes.
The gamemaster should use the above information as guidelines to build Vuldrok occultists in his game. However, as already stated, much more shall be revealed about these arts in a future sourcebook.

View on Foreign Faiths
The Vuldrok people are usually tolerant and curious about the gods and ceremonies of other peoples, and one religion is rarely understood as contradictory to another. As there is little everyday power to be gained from knowledge of the mysteries and teachings of Vuldrok sects and temples, disputes over different views on creeds and dogma are very rare. Each nation and region has a slightly different interpretation of what the deities and powers are and what the mysteries and teachings mean, and this is not seen as any reason for conflict. Indeed interpretations and views are fluid in Vuldrok society and a community who finds that a the newly arrived foreign shaman’s words make as much sense as the established local customs and ideas, might very well adopt some or all of the shaman’s teaching. Still, there is one type of religion the Vuldrok peoples fear and loath – the revealed truths of Zebulon.
Vuldrok religion has proven resilient to missionaries from both the Universal Church and the Caliphate El-Diin, although scattered concepts and pieces of theology have been absorbed in many local communities. This has roots in the Vuldrok people’s fanatic craving for freedom, which excludes monolithic hierarchical religio-political institutions from finding support on Vuldrok worlds.
In the 46th century, however, a form of Zebulon’s teachings arrived with slaves from the Kurga Caliphate and the Known Worlds. Although they would have been bitter enemies of faith in their homeland, as slaves the Known Worlders and Kurgans found common ground in their religions with shared roots in Zebulon. This new Zebulonie faith also merged with several marginalized colonies of existing believers, particularly certain pre-reflective monotheistic faiths, to challenge Vuldrok religion. Fevered followers, whipped up by the oratory of Brodhund the Firespeaker, a converted Vuldrok thane, desecrated several holy places and temples on Frost and Raven, leading to blows between armed bands of Zebulonites and Erdgheist followers before the matter was brought before the Althing on Raven. 
Tharbad the Wise, a lawgiver thane famous for his tolerant decisions and clever compromises, agreed to mediate in the dispute if all parties would follow his counsel. All concurred and Tharbad retired to meditate beneath the sacred yew tree Yggdril before returning with the answer. “Slay the thralls of Zebulon,” Tharbad said, “for there will be no peace in our lands until this is done.” As the words left his lips the killing began and great slaughter fell upon the Zebulonites. Only scattered communities of Zebulonites now remain on Vuldrok worlds, tolerated and protected by various services and skills the local thanes find valuable. These groups rarely own land, surviving instead as craftsmen, scholars, healers, and investors for neighboring communities. To further aggravate the Vuldrok opinions of Zebulonite faith, the difference in Caliphate and Universal Church theology often confuse the Vuldrok about the Prophet’s message and nature, and they believe his followers are crafty liars who produce whatever theological arguments they need to win their way.

Erdgheist Sacraments
Erdgheist is a much less organized religion than the Universal Faith, and the adherents are not as dependent on having divine grace dispensed to them by priests. Still, there are central rituals in the Vuldrok religion that only ordained “priests” (servants and keepers of holy sites) and shamans may perform for the pious. These are not theurgical or miraculous acts, but rather acts that require certain schooling and insight to perform effectively, and they bestow aid in everyday life as much as to the soul. 
Cult Mystery: Sacred mysteries are not as important in Vuldrok religion as in its root-religion Gjarti, but some temples do practice local mysteries for the initiated. Central to these cults is the special place the members assign themselves in the grander scheme of things (the keepers of certain secrets, the shepherds of some rites, those charged with a special assignment in life or the afterlife, and so on), and the unorthodox interpretations they often hold of key elements of some aspects of the general theology or the myth and teachings of a specific deity. 
Dream Interpretation: Dreams are important in the Vuldrok religion, for through dreams the spirits and deities may sometimes bestow insight, give warnings, or answer prayers. Also, dream interpretation is one of the principle ways of divining one’s destiny, which is required if one is to have any chance of changing it. 
Transformation to Adulthood: A rite of passage is usually an elaborate affair in Vuldrok society as a youth sheds the trappings and follies of childhood and take his or her place among her adult peers. Difficult and frequently dangerous tasks are demanded on the would-be adult, often including physical and/or spiritual journeys climaxing in insight gained through excruciating pain or physical and/or mental exhaustion. When successfully completed, the youth is “transformed” into an adult by being equipped with clothes, decorations, and trappings of his adult profession or career. Childhood clothes, toys and other belongings will often be destroyed or buried, and sometimes the person sheds his or her childhood name for an adult (and permanent) name related to his or her divined fate or other characteristics. Branding, tattooing, ritual haircuts, scarification, body piercing, and other forms of marks are commonly bestowed on the young adult Vuldrok. 
Divine Audience: Vuldrok frequently worship their deities in the forms of temple statues or images, believing that the deity depicted is mystically present in the statue or temple art. Pictures aren’t simple decorations in Erdgheist temples, but rather iconic representations empowered with the deity’s presence and characteristics. One may therefore be given audience to the deity in the temple by petitioning the local priests (and paying a fee of course), in hope of receiving divine guidance and instruction. In almost every case a ritual specialist of some sort acts as a go-between, channeling messages to the recipient, interpreting auguries on her behalf, explaining the meaning of dreams experiencing while sleeping before the divine image, or simply assuming the role of the deity or its oracle while in a trance. In other instances the divine image or statue may be carried out of the temple and taken on a journey, for instance to visit other neighboring deities or holy sites, or a sick thane or other powerful individual in need of aid, or to be venerated in public displays and processions for the masses. It is also quite common to carry effigies representing a deity or some characteristic of prowess (frequently a phallic idol) into battle. Audiences with a deity is taken very seriously by Vuldrok, even though “the deity” was just a crude representation of its divine nature and principles, and most regard such a meeting as just as real as an audience with a thane or other dignitary, an opportunity to ask for council and aid in return of giving vows and performing sacrifices. 
Observing the Seasonal Festival: Regular season festivals are observed in Vuldrok communities, although the exact times and practices varies greatly between regions, worlds, and communities. Typically it involves celebrating deities associated with the season in question, recitation and/or re-enactment of relevant myths and tales, ritual sacrifice of proscribed offerings, and an orgiastic feast. The spirits and deities are considered to be present at these festivals, even if their idols are not (although some idols often are). The night following a seasonal feast is considered particularly enchanted, a time when deities may visit mortals in the flesh or mischievous spirits wreak havoc in the settlement if left unsatisfied (i.e. if food offerings were not left for the spirits of the night). The lord and lady of the house will frequently leave their bed vacant in case a deity should visit the home during the night, and young maidens must be locked away less a frivolous god might take advantage of her.
Passing: When a dead Vuldrok is to be cared for and spirited off to the next life, he is either destroyed in a fire, dumped at sea (or a star or gas giant in space), or buried in a mound – always accompanied with examples of his prosperity in life, items he hopes to retain in the afterlife. The sacrament part of Vuldrok funerals include the performance of prayers and prayer songs by the officiating holyman (priest, shaman or even runecaster), and the whispering of messages and greetings to the other side into the deceased’s ear by his friends, family, and loved ones. Grave goods and any gifts that mourners wish to send with the dead on his journey to the hereafter, are blessed by the holyman, making the items effective in the afterlife. Interestingly, Vuldrok religion does not require this “sacrament” to be performed for the dead (although it must be cast for grave goods to follow the deceased), for the dead is thought to reach the hereafter no matter how his passing is. However, standing naked and poor before the deities and one’s ancestors would likely be a bit embarrassing for most Vuldrok.

The Erdgheist Pantheon
The Erdgheist pantheon of deities originated on Frost and Raven, but also gathered elements from neighboring worlds. Akin to Gjarti traditions, Erdgheist recognizes numerous gods and spirits, each one a personification of some spiritual power or concept often mixed with very human traits. In Erdgheist mysticism all deities are seen as mystically linked with the One God, the creator who is beyond dualities and who is both the source and the negation of all things. Each Vuldrok world has many deities particular to it, and as a whole the Erdgheist religion is a shifting pantheon of divine powers. 
This adaptive religion permeates the Vuldrok culture and some worshippers are quite philosophically sophisticated, although El-Diin and Universal Church theologians argue they practice a simplistic paganism akin to demon worship. Erdgheist does recognize demons (Deofol or Nithelm), but teach they are hostile forces bent on destruction that are better avoided. Demons are thought to be subject to the dark thane pair, Earmscapa (“Misery creator”) and Scyldig (“He of Guilt”), who rule over the night and all shadowy places. Only a fool or an evil man would succor such vile powers.
Although the Erdgheist pantheon contains a myriad of deities a few rise above the others in popularity and universality, a few of the most common being: Kurmda – the God of Battle; Egla – Voice of the Void; Gjarti – Universal Mother; Satrar – The Siren of the Void; Ultasht – Goddess of Love; Unter – Chief of the (jump-)Gates; Vinnspara – Goddess of Healing.

Domain of the Vuldrok
The Vuldrok Star-Nation dominates an area of the jumpweb beyond the territories of House Hawkwood, and raiders have traditionally entered Known Worlds through the jumproads between Hargard and Leminkainen or Twilight and Ravenna.

Abydos
Star: Myl (white dwarf star)
System: Myl’s Belt (1.0-2.5AU), Abydos (3.2AU; 6 moons), Parmol (7.38AU, 7 moons), Sulvus (12.45AU; Askat), Imorat (23.65AU, 3 moons), Corvus (40.36AU; 46 moons), Balwindom (75.21AU, 82 moons), Kishol (80.6AU), Tactum (147.3 AU), Gates Watch (256.48AU), Jumpgate (257.11AU)
Jumps: Frost (warning: Vuldrok world), Eridol (warning: Barbarian world), Nemetus (warning: Symbiot world)
Capital: Hella (Warlord Svardk the One-eyed)
Resources: minerals, ores, forestry, agriculture
Exports: None
Important People
Warlord Svardk the One-eyed (born 4936): An old warrior who has survived numerous encounters with the Symbiots. He came to Abydos as a young man seeking glory and fortune, and found both in abundant supply. Now as an old man he has risen to be recognized as a Warlord and he still leads his men into battle. Some say that Svardk willingly gave up his eye to a runecaster in return for the ability to recognize Symbiots, certainly he has an uncanny knack for spotting their mimics and infiltrators. Others whisper that he himself is a caster of the runes.

Overview:
Abydos, once a secondary world in this system, barely able to sustain life, is now a green and blue world with extended ice caps reaching into the mid-latitudes. The equatorial zone is temperate, bearing primordial jungles, and life was imported during the Second Republic’s terraforming.
When the Second Republic discovered Abydos space (c.3700) it was the ruins on Parmol, once the primary planet that attracted their attentions. In a distant past, Parmol had been the home of an advanced alien civilization, but when Myl, then a red giant star, collapsed into a white dwarf, all life on Parmol, and most life on Abydos, as annihilated. The proto-world of Abydos was a harsh and with only the most primitive single celled organisms thriving in its primordial seas. Terraforming began late here (c.3800) and the first colonists lived with the promise that their descendants would inherit a new world. When the world was lost in the Fall, the terraforming engines continued to function long after the colony had died out. When the Vuldrok discovered Abydos in 4821, they found a world ready for exploitation. The Symbiots arrived in 4890, converting many of its inhabitants, and the world has remained a battleground ever since. The Vuldrok Star-Nation faced the threat of being overrun by the Symbiot menace, and in 4897, Gundar the God-Possessed arrived from Raven to wreak ruin among the Symbiots. A warrior-shaman, Gundar enjoyed success against the Symbiot invasion and managed to rally the Vuldrok nations against the common enemy. As ships from a thousand thanes flooded into Abydos space to bring battle to the Symbiots, a small scout ship from Frost detached to land on the jumpgate’s surface, carrying the Runecaster Holgoth the Maimed and a small retinue. Realizing that it was only a matter of time before cancerous Symbiotism spread throughout the Star-Nation, Holgoth sacrificed himself to the cold and non-pressure of space and wrought a powerful rune upon the jumpgate that barred active jumps of Symbiots and Symbiot Tech out of Abydos space. The Symbiots lost some of their incentive to fight for Abydos, and the flood of invaders died down to a steady stream, and for the last century or so the tides of war has continued to swing back and forth between Vuldrok and Symbiots. Gundar returned to Raven and gave his war loot to the gods of the Valley of Mist, and then retired to live out his days as a simple hunter and father. 
Abydos is a world where Vuldrok warriors prove their mantel and carve out domains for themselves, and no tribe or nation has so far laid claim to it. Here, the Symbiots are regarded as a worthy foe and many honor the “demon-weed people” for giving them the chance to prove themselves in battle. 
There has never been a census on Abydos, and no-one knows for sure how many Vuldrok lives here, however, it there are likely not more than 10.000 permanent Vuldrok residents here. Every year a handful of ships arrive with new warriors, but most of them either die on the battlefield or return to their homeworlds when they have sufficiently proven themselves. Some decide to stay, however, and these are regarded as both honorable and mad by most other Vuldrok.

Fingisvold
Star: Swidor (yellow-orange star)
System: Holt (0.77AU), Fingisvold (1.93AU; Heaf, Fruma), Tintreg (6.57AU), Yldra (17.8AU; 7 moons), Grama (28.88AU), Jumpgate (39.17AU)
Jumps: Wolf’s Lament (warning: Vuldrok world), Novgorod (warning: Vuldrok world), Epiphany (warning: Barbarian world)
Capital: Tungavatn (Amara Ironblade), Eyrrograd (Sigurdur Dragonslayer), Schild (Bolstadr the Brave), Geonost (Captain Jack Carpenter)
Resources: minerals, ores, fossil fuels, forestry, aquiculture
Exports: weapons tech, fine arts, foods (marine), precious metals
Important People
Warlord Amara Ironblade (born 4933): The current leader of the planet, Amara was nominated Warlord of Fingisvold by the former Warlord Jahn Fire Orisha, who united the world following a devastating world war between vying thanes from 4945-4964. She rules over the most factious Vuldrok world, but her strong political savvy has kept the planet independent. Amara’s rule remains the shakiest of all the major warlords, and she depends on maintaining strong alliances between numerous thanes. 
Thane Sigurdur “Dragonslayer” Thingholl (born 4942): Leader of the Thingholl, traditionally proud and independent thanes who were the last to submit to Jahn’s rule half a century ago. Thane Sigurdur is in strong opposition to Amara Ironblade’s schemes for planetary unification. Sigurdur views the alliances as a necessary evil, and he has pledged to keep Thingholl free, putting out feelers to the only other planetary thanes of any power – Bolstadr the Brave. Sigurdur got his epitaph “Dragonslayer” after slaying an Ice-Drake (huge warm-blooded carnivorous reptiles with feathery hide living in the uplands) early in his rule, and the bones have been carved into his thane throne. 
Thane Bolstadr the Brave (born 4896): Bolstadr is an old War Thane who has seen more battles and raids than most warriors in Vuldrok space, and has the scars and wealth to show it. In his old age, Bolstadr has grown less interested in martial life, instead relying on good leadership, management, and aggressive economic strategies to ensure that his thanedom is thriving. He has strong ties to the Maghtaw Nation and has invested heavily in the volcanic ash industry, harvesting the ash produced by the many volcanoes on his land and exporting it as prime soil and fertilizer to all who pay, off-world thanes and even Phoenix Empire merchants. Young warriors in his lands often complain that their war thane has retired and become a businessman, robbing them off opportunities of glory and raiding, but Bolstadr enjoys the love and support of the great majority of his people. 
Captain Jack Carpenter (born 4976): Some want nothing to do with the entangling alliances of Fingisvold. On the equatorial island of Merfaran, a temperate paradise with the old city of Geornost, stands Cap’n Jack’s Republic. Cap’n Jack started life as a Hawkwood serf from Gwynneth who joined the local planetary guard during the Emperor Wars. Captured on a Vuldrok raid, he was sold into slavery on Hargard, but due to his proficiency with weapons he was soon elevated to become a raider by his master. He rescued his master from four axemen during an enemy attack on his headquarters, and for his bravery Jack was freed and took to pirating, eventually rising to command his own ship. He then set up his own pirate utopia on Fingisvold (4995), under Articles of Freedom, and any slave who finds sanctuary there is freed and may vote in communal decisions. Here everything is permitted as long as it does not harm one’s neighbors, and trade in contraband is strong. Although supporting religious freedom, the Preceptors sect is the unofficial faith of choice in Cap’n Jack’s Republic.

Overview:
Largely an ice planet, Fingisvold’s has three continents, Thingholl, Myrkfell, and Leidvollor, each surrounded by seas of ice. The two moons, Healf and Fruma, pull violently at the planetary tides, making beach cruising and shore activities dangerous. Settlements often hug the shoreline, but great efforts (dykes, pole-cities, dams and breakwaters) are taken to tame the violent sea and unpredictable tides. Winters here are long and harsh, followed by slight springs and brief summers barely long enough for calmer seas to prevail along with short harvests. The cloud cover is thick, adding a gloomy, mysterious element to the icy world that contributes to the grimness of the natives. 
Discovered in 2853, Fingisvold was originally populated by frontier farmers and solitary hunters. During the Second Republic several scientific stations tied to local industry and energy research were set up on Fingisvold. The population was split between the native farmers and hunter-gatherers and the scientific communities, but relations were relatively peaceful. When the Second Republic came to an end, however, the scientific communities and industrial towns banded together in the face of growing barbarism, and made themselves as invulnerable as possible to the raising martial powers – these gradually developed into tech-shaman centers. During the 43th century, the local barbarians allied with the Drenjar Nation and conquered the tech-shaman cities one-by-one between 4255 and 4292. The tech-shamans were absorbed into Vuldrok culture, becoming the Maghtaw Nation (c.4290). Fingisvold remained balkanized passes through the hands of many thanes. An important ruler was King Froljir, who conquered the world in 4527 and set his sons, Ufi and Hafdan, as warlords of Fingisvold. When the Symbiots struck in 4860, Fingisvold was united under the Zetol priestess Mambo Ibo (4847-4899). When Warlord Ibo died in 4899, Fingisvold became a battleground between the rulers of Wolf’s Lament and Frost, warring for Vuldrok unity, and the planet was devastated. Warlord Grettir the Great (4875-4924), who had assumed the throne of Fingisvold when Ibo passed, eventually allied with Frost and drove off the forces of Wolf’s Lament at the Battle of Seven Streams (4912). When Gretti was slain by his own son in 4924, Fingisvold fell back into the hands of local factions. Eventually, Warlord Jahn Fire Orisha won control of the planet in 4964, passing it on to the current warlord, Amara Ironblade, when he died.
Fingisvold is a world independent of outside powers, although Amara’s rule remains the shakiest of all the major Vuldrok warlords, depended on maintaining strong alliances between numerous thanes. The prestigious military college, Kurmada’s Might (founded in 4533), attracts students from across the Vuldrok Star-Nation.
As the bulwark against the Caliphate, Fingisvold’s inhabitants, counting just over 23 million, are particularly proud of their battle prowess and martial culture. The people of Fingisvold were always independent but rarely united under a common planetary warlord. Folk legends hold that the Myrkvolk (“Dark Folk”) spirits move in the low visibility and fogs, sometimes helpful, sometimes hostile.

Frost
Star: Asjhar (small blue white star)
System: Steoora (0.81AU), Frost (2.15AU; Offrain), Hyrde (22.15AU; Trum, Swidost, Tobrecan, Weard), Granite (30.88AU; 52 moons), Lostfall (36.21AU), Jumpgate (48.63AU)
Jumps: Khotan (warning: Barbarian world), Lamorak (warning: Barbarian world), Wolf’s Lament (warning: Vuldrok world)
Capital: Hostogrod (Warlord Greolf the Grim)
Resources: industry, ores, forestry, fossil fuels, aquiculture
Exports: refined ores, lumber, foods
Important People
Warlord Greolf the Grim (born 4963): Great grandson of Hafdan the Red, Greolf the Grim is the most powerful thane in Vuldrok space. He rules Frost as his personal realm, other thanes serving as vassal kinglets. He is both a powerful warlord and a proficient shaman, qualities inspiring much fear in his enemies and allies alike. His military victories are attributed to supernatural aid, and his intelligence gathering is unparalleled. He seeks to resurrect the Vuldrok unity of his great-grandfather, cementing alliances around him to withstand the pressure of Questing Knights and the Hawkwyrd hordes he is certain will follow in their wake. Greolf is rumored to harbor dreams of becoming the second king of the Vuldrok, something he himself denies although his war machinery and growing control of the Althing speak otherwise. He also desires to move the Great Althing from Raven back to Frost, but has so far not been willing to spend the political capital it would cost to pull it off.

Overview:
Frost is a world held in a cryogenic state, and only in the equatorial region is there a change of season with the slackening of winter’s grip. Three great continents, Torden, Hrefnawu, and Norskjerne, only poke out from beneath permafrost during the brief change of seasons. In the height of summer, the Manneskinn Sea becomes a hazard of ice flows that endangers shipping.
Hardened hunters and obscure religious groups from Wolf’s Lament settled Frost sometime between 2900s-3100s. The first settlers seem to have found raiding necessary to survive, and they were the forefathers of the Drenjar Nation. When Frost joined the Second Republic, the planet was theoretically under control of a governor, but this soon became the elected seat of the strongest pirate captain. After the Fall, the pirating culture of Frost swiftly spread to other worlds, and Frost colonists established themselves forcibly on Wolf’s Lament, while Lamorak and Khotan often suffered raids. At home Frost remained largely in strife with various pirate lords warring against each other, occasionally capturing the entire world for themselves for short periods before being toppled by another. Frost was finally united in 4860, when the Symbiots pushed into Vuldrok space. Hellish battles were fought on Frost herself, and the death toll climbed high among the defending natives. Using the excursions of the Symbiot menace as an excuse, Frost began to solidify power away from local communities into the hands of powerful thanes. By the 4900s, six families were carving princedoms out of the freedom-loving kingless society. Hafdan the Red, Prince of one such family, defeated his strongest rival and cemented a series of alliances which soon left him in control of the entire planet. Looking outward, he began a series of wars to cement Vuldrok unity, but his plans fell to ruin at the hands of Orin On-Arm of Wolf’s Lament. In 4987, the shaman-trained Greolf the Grim, claimed the title of Warlord and cemented his domination over the world. 
Frost’s capitol is Hostogrod, found near the equator north of the “green zone”, the fertile lands which form the power base of Greolf the Grim. North of Hostogrod lays the Vanskel Mountain Range a region renowned for its skilled warriors. In the southern hemisphere lies the continent of Torden, claimed to be the original home of the Drenjar. Sjarmborg is the greatest city, from which ships leave to pray on other worlds nearly every season. This violent place is full of warriors, pirates and fierce tradesmen. The local thanes resent the rule of Hostogrod, remembering when Frost’s leaders once ruled from Torden. 
Frost, steeped in Drenjar martial culture that values personal prowess, ambition, and courage, is home to some 41 million Humans. There is a sizable Ukari community, descendants from Republican Ukari shock troops left behind in 3997. They live in huge cavern-cities underneath the mountains, and have largely reverted to a primitive life.

Hargard
Star: Vijar (large yellow white star)
System: Ayodhya (0.40AU), Fyren (0.85AU), Hargard (1.56AU; Hattan), Sigefest (2.78AU; 2 moons), Vrindavan (6.01AU; 43 moons), Udal (12.32AU), Aesir (23.57AU; 12 moons), Diyan Dine’e (34.87AU), Jumpgate (48.99AU)
Jumps: Leminkainen, Khotan (warning: Barbarian world), Abydos (warning: Symbiot world)
Capital: Achiharta (House Ramakrishna), Elfhome (Vuldrok)
Resources: industry, ores
Exports: weapons tech, starships, refined ores
Important People
Thane Eldrid the Wise (born 4969): The greatest thane of the Jyandholm continent is the warrior maid Eldrid. She remains neutral in Hargard political matters and might hold the key to the balance of power. Every major faction on Hargard, including Queen Sura Ramakrishna, and Thane Sigfaddir Firestorm, courts her, while ambassadors from the Phoenix Empire actively seeking her alliance. She also harbors many Preceptor priests and communities. Some have even whispered that Eldrid is a convert to the Pancreator’s faith through the Preceptor missionaries from the Bishopric of Ostmark.
Thane Sigfaddir Firestorm (born 4949): This great thane rules the northern continent of Ostmark and has long been a scourge to the Phoenix Empire. He holds many lesser thanes to him by blood kinship and oaths, and his lands have grown rich through plunder. Firestorm is seen as the most likely Hargard thane to rally the next incursion against the Phoenix Empire. Curiously, Sigfaddir shows considerable respect for the Preceptors and has been known to extend his protection to the Bishopric of Ostmark permitting them to govern their own lands in peace.
Queen Sura Ramakrishna (born 4960): Queen Sura is the current ruler of House Ramakrishna and the continent of Vijayanagar, and she is also represented in the Great Althing on Raven. Queen Sura has put out feelers to Emperor Alexius I but is worried by the power of the Universal Church, and she fears that a cultural conquest would destroy the unique civilization of Vijayanagar. Queen Sura has recently become aware of a distant branch of the Ramakrishna family on Shaprut, and work is progressing to establish formal contact between the Hargard Ramakrishna and their Shaprut cousins.

Overview:
Great oceans cover Hargard, populated by four continents. In the south-western hemisphere sits Vijayanagar, with its tropical and temperate forests; while other continents possess large tundra areas with some conifer forests and high, inaccessible mountain ranges.
First colonized from Shaprut in the late 29th century, Hargard (then called Rauhina) was ruled by the Ramakrishna noble dynasty that still holds considerable economic and political power on this strategically important Vuldrok world. During the Second Republic, House Ramakrishna maintained their economic and political dominance, albeit it was now senatorial rather than feudal. During the rebellions that ended the Second Republic, the world tried to remain independent, but its position on the jumpweb, between the central government and the Rogue Worlds made this difficult. Then, in the mid-41st century, rebels closed the system jumpgate and forcefully colonized the world. Early in the 44th century the jumpgate opened again as Vuldrok raiders came to Rauhina, and by now no jumpkeys leading back to the Known Worlds remained on the planet. In the late 45th century the House Ramakrishna was forced to withdraw to the continent of Vijayanagar, leaving the rest of the world to invading thanes, who renamed it Hargard. In 4524, King Froljir seized Hargard and used it as a base to stage his invasion into the Known Worlds the following year. Since then the house has allied with lesser thanes against greater ones to maintain independence. The Nizdharim came to Hargard in the late 49th century, and first official contact between them and the Vuldrok was in 4842. Even though trade flourishes with the Nizdharim, relations are troubled and distant.
Hargard, sometimes called “Vuldrok” by House Hawkwood, has long been a staging area for Vuldrok raids into Hawkwood space and beyond. About ¾ of Hargard belongs to Vuldrok thanes, while the continent of Vijayanagar is the domain of House Ramakrishna; a portion of the southern Ostmark continent is held by independent Sreumar principalities which’ culture is a curious blend of Vuldrok and Ramakrishna. Also, in the south of Ostmark, Phoenix Empire culture is thriving among the Vuldrok thanes and the Sreumar princes. The region has been a hub for the Vuldrok slave trade for centuries, and captured Universal Church clergy have slowly managed to spread their faith in their captors’ lands. By the turn of the 47th century there emerged a Bishopric of Ostmark, currently ruled by Bishop “Little Father” Roland shepherding half a million souls. The Church of Ostmark has evolved its own ways, but not so much as to be unrecognizable to the Universal Church.  
With a population of over 84 million (including Obun, Ukari, and Nizdharim colonies), Hargard is the most populous world in Vuldrok space. The majority of the Vuldrok are Drenjar, with a smattering of Lakol and other nations. Although a religiously tolerant world, the strange Human cult that emerged soon after the twelve-tentacled Nizdharim settled in Hargard’s oceans in the late 49th century, the Dark Pool Fishers, has caused much concern. Although a very small cult operating in secret among costal populations, people fear them for worshipping dark Nizdharim gods.

House Ramakrishna
Heirs to a highly-cultured society, nobles from this Hargard Minor House pride themselves on their civility and keen learning. They know little about their Phoenix Empire peers (especially their relatives on Shaprut who have long since been absorbed into House al-Malik), but do respect the Hawkwood who can stand their ground against the Vuldrok hordes. However, they are extremely disturbed by the Inquisition, which they see as a monstrous organization (their view based solely on Temple Avesti “missionaries”). Open intolerance is in their eyes a trait of the uneducated, for being able to turn the other cheek has prevented much violence with the Vuldrok. 
While retaining much of the house’s original culture, heralding from the Indian subcontinent of Urth, there has been some intermarriage with Vuldrok of various ethnic stock over the centuries. For clothing, they prefer silks and soft loose-fitting fabrics, embroidered with beautiful patterns and decorations, often worked with gold and silver thread. Fencing duels are not popular among them, and instead they rely on contests of poetry, musical compositions, and learned debates to prove the better noble. They are not pacifists however, but prefer to use the noblemen’s monopoly on violence to enforce their rule and secure social stability rather than for resolving differences between nobles. Violence is an inferior trait after all, and nobles should rise above the ways of the unwashed rabble. 

Hemvald
Star: Heitr (orange star)
System: Smar (0.37AU), Mikill (0.82AU, Blar), Hemvald (1.17AU), Hilfa (3.8AU; Ein, Tveir), Verjak (19.43AU, 47 moons), Hyrr Belt (21.7-43.1AU), Vig (51.4AU, 1 moon), Jumpgate (60.01AU)
Jumps: Khotan (warning: Barbarian world)
Capital: Einheim (Ghorav the Unbearable)
Resources: minerals, ores, agriculture
Exports: None
Important People
Warlord Ghorav the Unbearable (born 4969): The only son of a thane, Ghorav sought to bring glory to his family by making war upon the neighboring tribes of Hemvald. Through conquest after conquest, he eventually rose to seize the planetary throne by virtue of his strong arm, his stout heart, and the stunning body odor from whence his nickname derives. Finding thaneship too boring, Ghorav spends little time on Hemvald, preferring to lead more profitable forays into Hawkwood space. He has learned to dominate others and influence his surroundings by making people uncomfortable in his presence, as merchants and aristocrats often make hasty decisions to escape his company and opponents forfeiting to the smelly giant rather than engaging in his favorite past-time – wrestling.

Overview:
Hemvald is a cold world with great tracts of sub-arctic desert covering the land. During the night temperatures plummet and the moisture in the air turns to frost, but during the day the temperature raises enough to make it bearable, although liquid water is only available in the equatorial regions. Hemvald also has a slightly higher gravity then the Urth standard (1.16 G). The reason Hemvald is so inhospitable is that Heitr is an unstable star, made even less stable with the fading suns effect. It undergoes regular periods of intense solar activity every 3 to 7 Urth years, inducing what is considered ‘summer’ by the occupants of Hemvald. When the intense solar storms begin, technology is unreliable and must be stored underground to prevent damage, and launching raids becomes impossible as starship instruments and engines take damage and regularly cause electrocutions and other accidents to the crew. During this time Hemvald starships are grounded, hidden away in caves or under artificial mounds where their energy shields are kept at full power to protect the delicate machinery and volt mechanisms. As a result of this semi-regular solar cycle, Hemvald effectively becomes a Lost World for the duration of the ‘summer’. Still, ‘summers’ are times of rejoice on Hemvald for during this time the desserts bloom, plants and small animals awaken from hibernation and the temperature rises those critical few degrees to make ice into liquid water. 
Hemvald was first settled during the Second Republic (c.3950), having escaped explorers for centuries. The first people to arrive found the place unpleasant, although remarkably it was suited for human life without terraforming. When the problems of Heitr were discovered (costing the lives of many of the initial settlers), scientists began formulating strategies to tame the sun and rise Hemvald’s temperature artificially, but the huge expenses required and the relatively low resource yield of the system meant that little practical work was ever initiated before it was too late and the Second Republic fell into chaos and disbanded. Hemvald became a pirate colony to Frost (c.4100) but was left to its own devices when the greater Vuldrok culture started to form. In some respects then, Hemvald is the freest of all Vuldrok worlds as it is the last system to be conquered and the first to be abandoned by expansionist powers. 
Hemvald is a footnote in Vuldrok culture and history. It is of little strategic value, has few resources, and Heitr’s erratic solar storms cripples space travel for long periods of time. Mineral resources on Hemvald and in the star system could be exploited at an industrial level, but the impracticality of these solar storms, which strike with little warning and travel at near the speed of light, has so far kept investors at bay. During the long “Fimbulwinter”, which lasts between 3 to 7 Urth years, the only means of sustenance for the people of Hemvald is off-world raiding or living off of food hoards and cave fishing.
Life on Hemvald is hard, small settlements huddle in this tiny strip of sub-arctic “wetlands” waiting for the erratic summer to come and melt the topsoil and lakes enough to allow cultivation. The inhabitants of Hemvald, less than 2 million in number, tend to live in dwellings cut into valley cliff faces or dug into the ground.

Khotan
Star: Mingxing (yellow to yellowish white)
System: Cebee (0.245AU), Zim (0.6AU), Khotan (1.23AU; Braun, Urza), Rudolpho (2.573AU; Celnar), Kilnaucht (6.32AU; Fromm, Sendor), Gelvo (12.6AU; 32 moons), Samhain (22.57AU; 17 moons), Kenji (37AU; Nubix), Sadolo (51.2AU; Smid), Jumpgate (71.5AU)
Jumps: Frost (warning: Vuldrok world), Hargard (warning: Vuldrok world), Hemvald (warning: Vuldrok world)
Capital: No planetary capital (various local rulers)
Resources: ores, minerals, Second Republic technology
Exports: slaves, refined ores, metals, weapon technology
Important People:
Thane Thagdar Stormhorn (born 5000): Thagdar was still a child when his father captured the high city of Stormhorn. Now he is the thane of a city perched high above the valley floor on a spindle of rock. From his vantage point Thagdar has grown wealthy by selling the services of his clan to the highest bidder, and by acting as mercenaries in the various wars between the city states. But Thagdar is not blinded by plunder, instead weighing each job carefully to assert its risk and gains, and not just in terms of the coin it brings in. He often sells the services of his kinsmen for tech, or for his pick of the slaves captured in battle, many of which have useful knowledge.

Overview:
Khotan is covered in plateaus and valleys, with vast plains of hard-packed dirt stretching between them. It has no oceans, but two large saltwater seas exist in the northern and mid-latitudes. Rain-deposited lakes and streams dot the plateaus, running into the valleys and underground reservoirs below. 
Discovered soon after Hargard (c.2900), Khotan was left unsettled for centuries due to the enormous cost of terraforming the world. Neither did the planet see much industrial development as its mineral wealth was buried so deep it would be prohibitively expensive to exploit using the technology and science know-how of the Diaspora. But with the rise of the Second Republic, Khotan attracted new interest. Its proximity to Byzantium Secundus, together with its considerable mineral wealth, made Khotan valuable enough to be given a priority charter for terraforming and industrialization development (c.3500). Life on Khotan remained uninviting however, forcing the central government to devise a new settling scheme – non-violent criminals were offered early parole in return for voluntarily colonizing and mining. Mining efforts were restricted when evidence of Anunnaki terraforming came to light (c.4000). Khotan presented colonists with some peculiar problems, as veins of magnetic bedrock minerals garbled radio communications, although this did not affect the high plateaus. Second Republic high-tech tachyon communications mended some of these problems however, but by then the elite (“highfolk”) had relocated to the plateaus, leaving the less fortunate (”lowfolk”) to live for without much communications infrastructure on the plains and valleys below. Other dangers inhabited the lower lands as well, including wildlife, flood dangers, and rock and mudslides, so the tradition of the mighty seizing the plateaus and the meek the valleys and plains continued throughout the Second Republic. When the Fall happened, Khotan was cut off from the Republic, trapped in a barbaric space. Civil war spread throughout Khotan, and without their central backing the once-mighty highfolk faced enraged lowfolk bent on tearing down their ivory towers. Some plateau cities resisted the rabble while others fell, the once-mighty chased down onto the plains and valleys below. This spelled ruin for both factions, for the lowfolk were unable to maintain the cities and the highfolk lacked the training to thrive in the wilderness. Even the highfolk who managed to remain in their plateau cities experienced cultural and technological decline, as the economy, the exchange of expertise, and available resources were swept away. Slowly however, a semblance of order began to manifest as highfolk cast low managed to administrate and organize their neighbors, and the lowfolk risen up and remaining plateau-highfolk maintained degenerated societies in the cities. Still, wars, slave raids, and looting were commonplace, and soon Vuldrok forces also descended upon Khotan to plunder. In 5002, the Jarl Eystein Stormhorn of Frost, conquered one of the plateau cities and made himself thane. His claim of thanedom was accepted by the Great Althing on Raven in 5006, but Eystein fell prey to an assassin on the journey back to Khotan and his young son, Thagdar inherited his realm.
Khotan is a world divided, with more than a thousand local rulers competing for resources and prestige. A coalition of plateau cities, The Sovereign Sky, is trying to establish an international society of sorts on Khotan, but they hold little power outside their immediate city states. Another plateau state of note is Gonjeen, a munitions industry community ruled through military dictatorship with strong trade relations with certain off-world Vuldrok thanes. Gonjeen is the rival both of The Sovereign Sky and the thanedom of Stormhorn, and it is also paranoid towards the military power of the Phoenix Throne, its small Starfleet carrying standing orders to destroy any envoy of the Phoenix Empire. 
The some 13.5 million inhabitants of Khotan are divided into highfolk and lowfolk, with the distinctions signifying both social standing, political power, living conditions and actual physical environment – the highfolk live at the top of great plateaus, heirs to the material wonders of the Second Republic, while the lowfolk eke out a harsh existence on the plains and valleys below. A third group, the “underfolk”, hide away in the planet’s ancient terraforming tunnels and mining shafts, composed of strange misfits and Ukari clans of unknown numbers.

Novgorod
Star: Fron (orange-red star)
System: Rapuchel (0.40AU), Minsk (0.8AU), Novgorod (1.03AU; Ursus), Kabatchni (4.83AU), Illyana (10.36AU; Kervon, Mitusk), Torosk (32.23AU, 24 moons), Cirili (45.6AU; rings, 43 moons), Jumpgate (62.72AU)
Jumps: Fingisvold (warning: Vuldrok world)
Capital: Kornir (Warlord Gurvis Gormluck)
Resources: minerals, pearling, forestry, agriculture
Exports: foods, lumber, woodcraft, luxuries (furs, Know Stones)
Important People
Warlord Gurvis Gormluck (born 4981): The current Warlord of Novgorod is Gurvis Gormluck, a nephew of Larag Voltr who established the first successful colony on Novgorod. The world is only nominally part of the Vuldrok Star-Nation, as Gurvis’ domain actually consists of only the small Kornir colony (although he claims the entire world). Gurvis has grand ambitions for “his” world, and has sent envoys to all the major Vuldrok worlds, as well as to Leminkainen, promising title and land to anyone who can tame a patch of Novgorod land and run it as his vassal. In return for vassalage, Kornir will support new settlements with practical aid, information, and schooling. So far though, few would-be settlers have answered his call.

Overview:
Novgorod is a wet hell. The globe is covered in a peaceful green canopy, the jungle extending to all latitudes. Beneath the canopy death stalks in countless forms, and staying on top of the food chain is a full time job here. Animals are classified not by species or family but by how it hunts and kills; tusked, fanged, taloned, poisonous, acidic, electrical, winged, chameleon, or combinations thereof. Within this rainy nightmare, however, are rich resources to be harvested, including: exquisite pearls beyond price, high-quality furs both stylish and resilient, the shimmering Know Stones (said to reveal if the bearer lies or is in love), and the unique hycla wood (highly shapeable hardwood).
Vuldrok colonists discovered the planet sometime in the 4700s, and for centuries this world was considered too dangerous to colonize and was often used for dumping political adversaries. Thane Shavjh the Usurper is said to have marooned all his father’s advisors here when they rebelled against his rise to power. Since then, many hardy Vuldrok settlers have tried to tame the wilderness, but the ecology is severe and allows little time for farming and community building. The minor Tovki thane Larag Voltr, who was fleeing from a vendetta on Fingisvold, together with the runecaster Sigful Stormhair, established the first successful Novgorod settlement in 4903. The two exiled men, together with their households, initially sought only a temporary lair where they could rebuild their strength. But although life on Novgorod was very harsh, returning to Fingisvold meant certain death to the exiles, and the planet’s riches proved very valuable for the two. The Tovki settlement Kornir was established near a freshwater lake, and Sigful Stormhair cast powerful runes to cleanse the area of local fauna, turning the soil around the town barren and dead, the settlement sustaining itself primarily on the fishing. Soon the settlement began adapting their Nation's forte to this world: the domestication, training, and breeding of wild animals, securing them a foothold on the harsh world. Across the lake from Kornir, a makeshift spaceport was chiseled out of the jungle, and today the spaceport still has but a few facilities. A few rotting hulks of dead ships cluster around the blackened clearing used as makeshift buildings and cannibalized for spare parts.
The some 225,000 Vuldrok that call Novgorod home are all Tovki, but they lack representation in the Great Althing on Raven. In fact, other Vuldrok rarely visit the planet and only a handful of merchants make annual trips there, even though the population is eager to trade and have hoarded large stocks of native goods. It is rumored however, that a secret Lakol colony has been established somewhere on Novgorod, for whatever reason.

Raven
Star: Beorte (small white-yellow star)
System: Mere (0.39AU), Fen (0.78AU), Raven (1.2AU; Raven’s Catch), Rune (2.93AU), Fire (11.72AU; 2 moons), Syllicran (18.03AU, 23 moons), Snow (24.55AU), Claw (29.93AU), Jumpgate (37.03AU)
Jumps: Wolf’s Lament (warning: Vuldrok world)
Capital: Vasteria (Thane Healfdane)
Resources: ores, agriculture, industry, ancient ruins
Exports: refined ores, Ur artifacts, politics
Important People
Thane Bjorn Warbringer (born 4965): Bjorn is a warlike Drenjar thane who rules the Habicht continent and the coastal areas to the south-west from the city of Sverd. He is a rare advocate for a unified Raven, preferably with him as Warlord, and Bjorn has openly allied with Wolf’s Lament to facilitate his raise to power. Bjorn is not popular at home, ruling his people with brutal force, but he is a brilliant strategist and enjoys blind loyalty from his well-equipped raider forces, veterans for countless battles and raids.
Thane Hersir the Hairy (born, unknown): This Tovki thane rules a large realm west of the Dawn Mountains, centered on the city of Nodan. He is a beastfriend and several “Warp-spasm” warriors (werefolk) serve as his bodyguard. Hersir has greater ambitions and have allied with Frost in the hopes of becoming the dominant thane or even Warlord of Raven. 
Chief Aljira (born 4935): Aljira is the chief of the Skey community on Raven, settlers of the off-world raiders who befell the planet in the 4850s before the Skey were admitted as a Star-Nation in 4890. He rules the region of Skaholm south-east of Vesteria, from the city of Pitukan which he shares with several Rekgold Nation merchant princes. Aljira is slowly building a small raider fleet in space while keeping its purpose a secret. 
Thane Kolfinna (born 4968): The continent of Majan is divided between Drenjar and Zetol peoples and ruled over by Thane Kolfinna, elected Warlord of the joint territories of Majan. She is one of the most powerful thanes of Raven, ruling over a land rich in grain harvest, maritime resources, and mineral resources, and many predict she will cast the deciding vote if a conflict erupts on Raven.
Chief Anpeto (born 4920s): Anpeto is the chief of the Lakol population on Ishto, and rules over a semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer culture with a strong warrior tradition. His realm is at war with Bjorn Warbringer of Habicht, having acquired almost half the Drenjar continent through diplomacy and intelligence war. His scouts and agents are said to be the best on all of Raven. 
Guttorm the God-Crazed (born 4959): Guttorm is the chief priest or pontiff of Raven and steward of the great Myrdwood (“Murder Forest”) in the northern Thule.  The only entrance to this region is found at a break in the Ur-mountains guarded by the Valley of Mists, where the rune-inscribed Elder Monolith overlooks the lands below. Here Vuldrok priests and seekers go on pilgrimages to speak with the spirits and learn wisdom. Guttorm is often forced to travel on official errands, and when away from Myrdwood and the holy tree Wiftyr his mood is unpredictable and bordering on insanity. It is said he ages a year for every week he’s away from Wiftyr, regaining his health on the first night spent meditating at its feet when he returns. Although a central character to Vuldrok culture, Guttorm is not the least bit interested in martial conquest and glory, preferring prosperity through stability and growth, and he is a sworn ally of thane Healfdane of Vasteria. Still, the omens of the ruin that will befall the Star-Nation if the Hawkwyrd is not kept at bay troubles him greatly. 
Thane Healfdane (born 4870): A merchant-prince thane of the Rekgold Nation, Healfdane is the ruler of the capitol city of Vasteria where the purple-copper roofed Great Althing stands. He generously provided the land and materials to build the Althing, knowing that his prosperity would grow with increased trade and travel to Vasteria. Indeed, the city is now a microcosm of Vuldrok culture, with many holy sites found throughout the city drawing in tourists.

Overview:
A cold world with extended polar caps, the face of Raven is dominated by a super continent and three other great island continents. The equatorial zone is temperate but much of the rest of the world is sub-arctic. The soil of Raven has a peculiar yellow cast to it, and the world has many Anunnaki sites.
Raven was settled in 2899. The first to arrive were explorers and scholars driven to map the strange terraformed valleys and mountain ranges created by the long forgotten Anunnaki. Next came the settlers, for the most part herders, farmers, and small mining operations, and these built the first towns around the scientific exploration outposts. Though Raven always attracted those with spiritual interest in studying the great Anunnaki monuments, it was not until c.4100 that Govan Glitterbeard deciphered some of the ancient glyphs and became the first runecaster. Shaman Rurik the Rune-Wise united Raven under his rule (c.4450), and codified the early Erdgheist religion. In 4991, the Great Althing of the Vuldrok was moved from Frost to Raven, when Frost and Wolf’s Lament were locked in a bitter war. In 4992, the priest Ravgid heard the gods cry out in the Valley of Mists, and the sacred tree Wiftyr wept blood. The gods professed that a protector deity had perished in the deep Myrdwood just as it muttered “Beware the coming of the Hawkwyrd.” The omens were swiftly spread to other Vuldrok worlds, and Raven’s thanes are eagerly consulting the shamans for signs of what the future might bring. 
Raven is the spiritual and cultural center of the Vuldrok Star-Nation, although populated with fierce warriors. All the Vuldrok nations are represented on Raven, with the Drenjar and Lakol predominating. The planet is warmer and more arable than other Vuldrok worlds, making it an important food exporter. Merchant princes grow abundant crops near small city-states, and the Zetol ply the seas for marine food. Throughout its history, Raven has stubbornly maintained a neutral position when other Vuldrok worlds fought, only occasionally being united by a warlord or conquered by off-world warlords. However, the planet has been instrumental in rallying people and resources to fight against common enemies of the Vuldrok, such as the Caliphate, the Symbiots and the Phoenix Empire. Over the last century, Raven-based shamans have regularly issued prophecies of dire warnings against outside aggression.
Some 51 million Vuldrok live on Raven, and outsiders are discouraged from visiting. Here, it is said, dwell the gods, as well as the leading priests and shamans. Actually, Vuldrok do not speak much about Raven to off-worlders, and keep silent on matters they consider most holy. Shamans from all the Vuldrok nations call upon deities and spirits here, and old warriors who have not found honorable death in battle often come here to die. In addition to being a world of mysticism and sanctity, Raven has an unusual influence on newcomers, especially near Anunnaki sites, which includes inducing heightened dreams and frequent anxiety attacks. The locals often speak of the Ealdhwic, the ancient people, who appear in the mist hunting ghostly shapes, leading some to fortune and others to sudden death.

Wolf’s Lament
Star: Ate (yellow-orange star)
System: Wiyakpa (0.69AU), Wolf’s Lament (1.01AU; Luna’s Tear), Shadow Bride (2.87AU), Hamund’s End (5.4AU; 7 moons), Atheling (12.17AU, 41 moons), Akicita (23.82AU), Jumpgate (43.28AU)
Jumps: Eridol (warning: Barbarian world), Frost (warning: Vuldrok world), Raven (warning: Vuldrok world), Fingisvold (warning: Vuldrok world)
Capital: Althing (Warlord Wakan Mato)
Resources: agriculture, ores, forestry
Exports: food, refined ores, luxuries, lumber
Important People
Warlord Wakan Mato (born 4950): The current Warlord of Wolf’s Lament is Wakan Mato (“Great Bear”) of the Lakol Nation, who rules from Vanaheim in alliance with Helga the Brave. Great Bear allows for the freedom of the nations on Wolf’s Lament, but stands united against Frost. He worries, however, that the Vuldrok’s old foes from beyond Hawkwyrd space are becoming too strong. He is reluctant to take up the fight as he fears opening his flank to Frost, but he has called for a defense tax to increase his military might and to buy some time. He has started listening to the advice of Captain Soekin of the Zetol Nation as a counterweight to Helga. 
Thane Helga the Brave or Hrith (born 4966): She is the second most powerful thane on Wolf’s Lament and serves as a kind of prime minister and foreign minister to Warlord Wakan Mato’s presidency and internal ministry. Like the warlord, she is Lakol. Helga urges Wakan Mato to fight the Hawkwyrds, but the warlord wonders if this can be done without the aid of the traditional enemy Frost. Helga is urging Wakan Mato to become the next unifier of the Vuldrok, Frost be damned, and it is largely through her that Fingisvold and the other worlds feel the might of Wolf’s Lament. 
Captain Orisha of Soekin (born 4952): Captain Soekin is the leader of the Zetol Nation on Wolf’s Lament, a semi-nomadic group of ocean and island dwellers entrenched along the equatorial seas. A veteran of the Leminkainen raids in the 4980s and 4990s, Soekin enjoys much respect and popularity on Wolf’s Lament, and currently has the ear of Warlord Wakan Mato. He is a well-known Kurgaphile, but whether he advocates diplomatic relations with or raids against Caliphate worlds is not known.

Overview:
Wolf’s Lament among the most hospitable of the Vuldrok worlds, hosting great forests and plains in the northern hemisphere, and arable land, jungles, and huge islands in the south. The world swarms with creatures and many plants, most of which are indigenous. 
Wolf’s Lament’s (originally called Seepcombe) was discovered in 2609. The initial settlers died out over the course of two generations, and a second attempt was made in c.2800. This group claimed descent from Native American cultures and attributed their success on Wolf’s Lament to their nature-friendly way of life, their spirituality and their respect for and bargaining with the creatures and spirits of the world. Eventually more off-worlders arrived, attempting to recreate romanticized versions of ancient Urth cultures, such Celtic, Native American, Australian, and Oceanic cultures. Under the Second Republic more drop-out communities settled on the planet, bringing a smorgasbord of beliefs and traditions, including pacifism, free love, organic farming, neo-paganism, Obun philosophies, naturist, and more. It was on Wolf’s Lament that the minor pirate leader, Gudmund the Great, called the first Althing (c.3935) in response to Second Republic land redistribution reforms, which instituted the first coordinated raids on the central worlds. When Republican forces arrived to quell the uprising on Wolf’s Lament, they found an organized rebellion that turned back the mighty Republican fleet. Wolf’s Lament rapidly became the most powerful Vuldrok world, and throughout its later history it has fought other worlds to extend and retain its influence. When Hafdan the Red – Unifier of Frost, began his drive for renewed Vuldrok unity under him as “Great Thane” in 4947, it was the warlord Orin One Arm of Wolf’s Lament who successfully destroyed his conquest in a long war, ending with both warlords dead in battle in 4955. This civil war led to the Great Althing being moved from Frost to Raven. 
All the different Vuldrok Nations can be found in numbers on Wolf’s Lament, living together in relative harmony. The fertile conditions of Wolf’s Lament make it the grain basket of the Vuldrok Star-Nation and crops grown here support fully half of the populations of the other Vuldrok worlds. The traditional enmity with Frost runs deep on Wolf’s Lament, and many fear the two worlds will war again in the future. The world also fears “Hawkwyrd” aggression which will either unite the Vuldrok Star-Nations (costing Wolf’s Lament its independence) or tear it apart. 
Wolf’s Lament has a population of some 47 million people, and is also home to an indigenous sentient alien race named the Ishkin, living in the deep forests or in alien ghettoes. There is also a large Ukari minority on this world, descendants from soldiers left behind by the Republican forces defeated in 3997. These people, called Ondvolk (“Evil Folk”), are an independent nation with representatives in the Althing. There is also a much smaller minority of Obun here, the Svartfolk (“Black Folk”) descended from captured slaves, enjoying the same rights as the Ondvolk.

Ishkin
The Ishkin is a sentient marsupial species native to Wolf’s Lament with a primitive culture, which might have been spurred by the initial human settlers during the Diaspora. They stand about 4 feet tall when upright, but can run on all fours, and they have a remarkable camouflage ability making them almost invisible when standing still. Their bodies are covered with thick fur, the hair composed of thin, hollow fibers capped with a translucent jelly, allowing light and images from one side of the Ishkin’s body to be captured and funneled through the fur to the other side, effectively rendering it invisible to the human eye. Their hands have slender fingers for fine-manipulation, including opposable thumbs, evolved to dig for worms and insects in the ground and behind tree bark. 
Today the Ishkin have their own representative in the Great Althing, and are considered a Vuldrok Nation of their own. Many Ishkin have forsaken their wilderness homes and live among or near human settlements. The young are typically enamored by human tools and technology, and some have successfully joined the Maghtaw Nation. But not all Vuldrok appreciate the Ishkin; many are suspicious of them and their sneaky ways. Some Ishkin do not recognize rights of property, and gleefully “borrow” whatever items intrigue them and only rarely give them back. They fail to see the distinction between pirating – glorified by most Vuldrok – and cunning stealing, and many Ishkin enjoy careers in the criminal underworld.

Ships of the Vuldrok
As raiders and pirates the Vuldrok use whichever ships they have access to, refitting freight haulers and science vessels, as well as captured crafts to serve as raider ships. In addition, the Vuldrok have been manufacturing their own starships since before the Fall of the Second Republic. 
Typically their native ships take a spear-like form, often with a long slender hull topped with an angular primary hull. The drives are mounted to the rear of the frame, far from the command deck that is mounted on the primary hull. This long and slender design is intended to make it harder to hit from the front as the ship approaches the prey, the drives and other vital systems placed to the aft far protection.
Surprisingly, Vuldrok ships are often considered “under armed” by Phoenix Empire standards. Vuldrok raiders are minimally armed as the intention is to raid or capture prey vessels, not obliterating enemy crafts in battle.  Raiders are typically armed with a grappling gun and a turret-mounted weapon. The Vuldrok preference for close-combat fighting leads their ship designers to forgo gun decks in favor of turret-mounted weapons capable of striking an enemy ship regardless of the ship’s position and maneuvers.
Vuldrok reliance on added armor plating for protection, a concept otherwise by Second Republic designs that relied heavily on energy shields technology also makes their ship designs quite unusual.

Myrkwyrm Class Raider
The Myrkwyrm is classical spear-form raiding vessel employed by the Vuldrok on their incursions into the Known Worlds. Its design is ancient yet effective, and was first manufactured during the early Second Republic with the emphasis on cheap and simple construction. Produced in the heart of the proto-Vuldrok worlds, the hull made little use of advanced technology and focused instead on components and systems that could be manufactured by a low level tech base.
The Myrkwyrm was mass-produced in the early days, but since the Fall their construction has become an artisan process. The overall design specification has changed little down the centuries, but some common upgrades and refinements exist, including the “Langwyrm”, a ‘stretched’ variant intended for bulk haulage often mistaken for a separate class of vessel entirely.

Hull Size: 3 Structure: 40 Armor: 8
Drives: Fast (2 months), Jump drive (3 jumps)
Crew: 2 Command Crew, 2 Gunners, 3 Personnel
Sensors:  5AU
Weapons: 2x Grapple Gun (1x starboard gundeck, 1x port gundeck)
Shields: 1/1
Cargo: 10 tons
Passengers: 6 (1 bunkroom)
Power Signature Acceleration Shields
Standby -1 none 0/0
Port +1 Standard 0/0
Cruise +3 Fast 1/1
Attack +5 Fast 1/1
Maximum +7
Benefits & Afflictions: Lander [5], Maintenance (Decent) [5]
Benefice Cost: 41pts

Leidrhauk, modified Myrkwyrm Class Raider
The Leidrhauk is a heavily modified Myrkwyrm class raider, its spear-like prow re-designed with boarding docks and a fusion cutter. The fusion cutter was designed to cut through the ceramsteel of a ship’s hull, allowing the raiders to disgorge into the enemy vessel without needing to pass through the normal airlock choke points. The boarding dock forms an airtight seal while it is attached to the enemy ship.
Despite its size the Leidrhauk has been a successful raider for many years, often operating alone, targeting solitary merchant ships. The squad of hardened Drenjar Nation raiders aboard the ship loyally follows the ship’s master, Kreolg Hauksbane, in search of fortune and glory.

Hull Size: 3
Structure: 37 Armor: 8
Drives: Fast (2 months), Jump drive (2 jumps)
Crew: 2 Command Crew, 2 Gunners, 3 Personnel
Sensors:  5AU
Weapons: Grapple Gun (1x fixed-fore), Boarding Drill (fixed-fore), Light Battery (turret-dorsal fore)
Shields: 1/1
Cargo: 10 tons
Passengers: 6 (1 bunkroom)
Other Systems: Boarding Drill (1SP)
Power Signature Acceleration Shields
Standby -1 none 0/0
Port +1 Standard 0/0
Cruise +3 Fast 1/1
Attack +5 Fast 1/1
Maximum +7
Benefits & Afflictions: Lander [5], Maintenance (Regular) [3], Boarding Drill [3], Stealth Capability [30], Poor Jump Capability [+3]
Benefice Cost: 67pts

Ashalverdak, modified Myrkwyrm (Langwyrm) Class Raider
The Ashalverdak is a modified Langwyrm vessel. The build of this ship is better suited to bulk haulage than raiding, though these ships are sometimes used in support small raider fleets as the interstellar equivalent of a pack mule. The Ashalverdak is occasionally fitted to carry large parties of Vuldrok warriors when intending to raid planetary settlements rather than shipping. Currently captained by Rekgold merchant princess Clerona the Golden, so-called because of her reputed wealth. In 5005, Clerona set out to make a profit exploiting the new-found stability of Phoenix Empire markets, passing through Hawkwood space to seek riches deeper in the Phoenix Empire. Instead of heading for Byzantium Secundus, Clerona soon found herself in al-Malik space and these worlds’ culture and technical marvels have made her wealthy beyond her dreams.

Hull Size: 4
Structure: 50 Armor: 8
Drives: Standard (3 months), Jump drive (3 jumps)
Crew: 2 Command Crew, 2 Gunners, 4 Personnel
Sensors:  7AU
Weapons: 2x Medium Blaster (1x turret-dorsal fore, 1x turret-ventral fore)
Shields: 2/2
Cargo: 60 tons
Passengers: 12 (2 bunkroom)
Power Signature Acceleration Shields
Standby +0 none 0/0
Port +2 Standard 0/0
Cruise +4 Fast 1/1
Attack +6 Fast 2/2
Maximum +8
Benefits & Afflictions: Lander [5], Maintenance (Decent) [5], Advanced Sensors [4], Fire Control (Short) [5]
Benefice Cost: 59pts

Lyndwyrm Class Frigate
Another typical Vuldrok design, the Lyndwyrm is commonly employed as a command vessel in small raider forces. The primary hull features a double-pronged prow with the command deck mounted high between the prongs. This is attached to the secondary spear-shaft hull by a docking collar that usually doubles as a weapons hard point.
A number of ‘standard’ variants of this class exist, including a heavily armed gunboat and a large troop transporter, and many are outfitted with drop tubes for deploying warriors for ground raids. 

Hull Size: 5
Structure: 60 Armor: 8
Drives: Standard (3 months), Jump drive (3 jumps)
Crew: 4 Command Crew, 4 Gunners, 10 Personnel
Sensors:  5AU
Weapons: 3x Medium Batteries (2x turret-dorsal fore, 1x turret-ventral fore)
Shields: 2/2
Cargo: 20 tons
Passengers: 6 (1 bunkroom)
Power Signature Acceleration Shields
Standby +0 none 0/0
Port +2 Slow 0/0
Cruise +4 Standard 1/1
Attack +6 Standard 2/2
Maximum +8
Benefits & Afflictions: Lander [5], Maintenance (Decent) [5]
Benefice Cost: 64pts

Frofjaw, modified Lyndwyrm Class Frigate
The Frofjaw is a recent construction, paid for by the spoils from raids conducted during the latter days of the Emperor Wars. It was commissioned by Thane Frafnor Steel-Face of Hargard, to serve as his personal command ship. The vessel is heavily armored and capable of delivering a withering barrage of fire from its prow-mounted batteries. The internal accommodations are sufficient for Steel-Face’s personal guard, and include an enlarged command deck that doubles as the thane’s throne room and audience chamber.

Hull Size: 5
Structure: 60 Armor: 8
Drives: Standard (2 months), Jump drive (3 jumps)
Crew: 4 Command Crew, 10 Personnel
Sensors:  5AU
Weapons: 5x Medium Batteries (5x fore gundeck)
Shields: 2/2
Cargo: 35 tons
Passengers: 6 (1 bunkroom)
Other Systems: Throne room adjoining the command deck (2SP)
Power Signature Acceleration Shields
Standby +0 none 0/0
Port +2 Standard 0/0
Cruise +4 Fast 1/1
Attack +6 Fast 2/2
Maximum +8
Benefits & Afflictions: Lander [5], Maintenance (Good) [9]
Benefice Cost: 66pts

Mordjor, modified Lyndwyrm Class Frigate
At first glance, the Mordjor appears to be a typical Lyndwyrm vessel, until it opens it gun ports that is. Contrary to common Vuldrok wisdom, this vessel has been modified with port and starboard gun decks which are almost undetectable until the covering panels opens.
The captain of the Mordjor is Kalaxe the Firestorm, a renegade amongst his own people who is known to prey upon ships in both Hargard and Leminkainen space. Kalaxe and his ship have a reputation for destruction, and he is one of the few pirates to deliberately scuttle looted vessels, seemingly reveling in the destruction he causes.

Hull Size: 5
Structure: 55 Armor: 8
Drives: Fast (1 months), Jump drive (4 jumps)
Crew: 4 Command Crew, 8 Gunners, 10 Personnel
Sensors:  6AU
Weapons: 8x Light Batteries (4x port gundeck, 4x starboard gundeck)
Shields: 2/2
Cargo: 15 tons
Passengers: 6 (1 bunkroom)
Power Signature Acceleration Shields
Standby +0 none 0/0
Port +2 Standard 0/0
Cruise +4 Fast 1/1
Attack +6 Fast 2/2
Maximum +8
Benefits & Afflictions: Lander [5], Maintenance (Regular) [3], Extended Jump Capacity [5], Advanced Sensors [2], Sophisticated Sensors [5], Wanted Vessel [+5]
Benefice Cost: 80pts

Vuldrok Sinners & Saints
Ragnald the Red
The son of a minor thane, Ragnald lost his ancestral lands on Frost in 4987 when he supported the losing side in a civil war. Escaping with a handful of his most loyal warriors, Ragnald spent the next few years raiding independent worlds near Vuldrok space, eventually making his way to Leminkainen during the finale years of the Emperor Wars. In poor shape after battling the Decados fleet, the Hawkwood ships could put up little fight. Ragnald made planet-fall and filled his ship with stolen riches, retreating shortly before reinforcements could arrive. 
He settled on Hargard and took a wife, who gave him many sons. This life was not for a warrior however, and the call to raid soon again heated Ragnald’s blood. He gathered his warriors and made an extended trip into the Phoenix Empire, intending to return laden with riches. His conquest was ill-fated however, for the Hawkwood fleets were in better repair now and Ragnald’s losses were heavier. Forced to abandon his grand plan to sack Byzantium Secundus, Ragnald limped back to Hargard. 
He dreams still of battle and glory, but age is taking its toll and he can no longer see as clearly, his armor feeling heavier than it used to. Ragnald’s warriors have diminished after his last venture, many choosing trade rather than conquest as a means to enrich themselves. The occasional raiding expeditions Ragnald still leads into the Phoenix Empire, are now limited to raiding poorer outlying settlements.
Quote: “If someone attempted to steal our god’s treasures, we would form a shield wall and fight to the end!”
Description: A tall, powerfully built man, Ragnald dresses in battle gear and furs, and carries a flux sword inscribed by a Vitki Runecaster. He wears protective amulets around his neck, and beneath his furs reflective scales of armor shines through. His beard and hair has turned to grey with his advancing age.

Dex: 4 Vig: 7 Vitality 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2
Wit: 3 Wil: 5 Fatigue 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2
Int: 2 Pre: 6 Reputation 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2
Faith: 4
Skills: Athletics 5, Beastcraft 3, Command 6, Culture (Hargard) 5, Culture (Frost) 4, Culture (Drenjar) 4, Culture (Hawkwood) 1, Culture (Phoenix Empire) 1, Culture (Vuldrok Star-Nation) 4, Deception 2, Dodge 4, Fight 8, Gambling 3, Gunnery 6, Influence 3, Inquiry 7, Lore (Jumproads) 4, Observe 6, Shoot 6, Sneak 3, Survival 3, Throw 3
Benefits & Afflictions: Poor Vision, Barbarian (Vuldrok), Wealth (Average), Vengeful
Gear: Chainmail armor and furs, dueling shield, flux sword, knife, lance pistol

Groa Yavildbjorg
A shaman from Wolf’s Lament, Groa has been on the move her whole adult life, searching for meaning, purpose, and glory. She left her Lakol tribe within weeks of being established as a shaman at her coming of age, initially searching for other teachers to bring her occult insight, but soon she decided that wisdom was not found in mysterious powers alone. She began roaming all over her homeworld, following an undefined calling for enlightenment but finding only bread crumbs of insight, and so, four years later Groa took to the void. 
For ten years Groa traveled the width of Vuldrok space searching out major religious centers and remote communities alike, drinking down whatever trickle of insight she could find. Finally Groa joined a raider-merchant heading into Hawkwyrd space, hoping to find some wisdom among the strange outsiders. What she found was many new and strange ideas, some thought-provoking and enlightening while others were obviously flawed and degenerative. On Leminkainen she befriended a Hawkwyrd nobleman who put her in contact with a tribe called the Invisible Eye, and this tribe paid her good money to tell stories about her homelands. On Velisamil Groa spent several seasons studying Obun philosophy and spirituality, and an Eskatonic priest she met on Delphi took her to Pentateuch where she spent a year, finding no answers but learning how to structure her mind and ask questions. She then visited Holy Terra, the holy-world of Hawkwyrd space, learning many new things and seeing countless marvels – also visited the parks and natural reserves that her guide insisted were the lands of her ancestors’ ancestors. 
A few years ago Groa realized she had drunk her fill of Hawkwyrd wisdom and began longing for home. She has grown worried over the military might of the Phoenix Empire, however, and certain omens and portents she has red warn against future Hawkwyrd aggression. Three years ago, just after turning 50, Groa began gathering information on the Phoenix Empire while keeping up a fa├žade as hippie-tourist. She plans to return to Wolf’s Lament in a couple years, and put her insights into Hawkwyrd culture to practical military use. She does not intend to lead or even join in war against the Hawkwyrd, instead desiring to put her expertise and skill to use as a diplomat.
Quote: “What fascinating stories you bring of your homeland, my Hawkwyrd friend. What more can you tell me?”
Description: A short plump middle-aged woman with thick long dark hair (often braided) and flowing “hippie”-like clothing. Groa also wears a novelty hat, an ancient Second Republic Smart Cloth baseball cap embroidered with the Goqawine company logo, which she bought off a Charioteer merchant once. Her complexion is a soft brown (or “red”), but her eyes are pale green, almost yellow, speckled by the dark spots  that makes them even more striking, giving her “witch-like” eyes according to some.

Dex: 4 Vig: 3 Vitality 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2
Wit: 5 Wil: 4 Fatigue 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2
Int: 5 Pre: 7 Reputation 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2
Faith: 6
Skills: Athletics 2, Beastcraft 4, Culture (Hawkwood) 2, Culture (Ishkin) 4, Culture (Lakol) 7, Culture (Leminkainen) 3, Culture (Phoenix Empire) 4, Culture (Universal Church) 3, Culture (Vuldrok Star-Nation) 7, Culture (Wolf’s Lament) 5, Deception 4, Dodge 2, Fight 2, Influence 6, Intrusion 3, Lore (Church Saints) 2, Lore (Erdgheist) 7, Lore (Holy Terra) 2, Lore (Jumpweb) 4, Lore (Leminkainen) 4, Lore (Pentateuch) 3, Observe 5, Ritual (Erdgheist) 6, Sneak 4, Survival 3, Streetwise 5, Throw 2
Theurgy: (The Erdgheist equivalent of) Consecration, Safe Journey, Bless the Crops, Patron of Beasts
Benefits & Afflictions: Barbarian (Vuldrok), Guilty, Secret (Spy), Severe Stigma (dark spotted iris), Short, Wealth (Average), Well-Travelled
Gear: Loose “hippie” clothing decorated with fake pearls, sea shells and fringes, Smart Clothes – Cap (changes color with the environment), pipe and tobacco, sling bag (with cooking utilities, blankets, and other travelling gear), Mitchau Protector (light revolver)

Vuldrok Raiders (generics)
Only a relatively few of the Vuldrok one can encounter in the Phoenix Empire are raiders. Most are instead traders who engage in opportunistic raids only when times are hard. The threat that a Vuldrok thane might rally a fleet and seek to capture as much loot as he can stuff into the cargo holds is, however, an ever-present danger.
Vuldrok raiding tactics are relatively simple - get close to the target vessel as quickly as possible, grapple it and send in the boarding party. They will seldom scuttle a ship, preferring instead to capture its passengers and cargo, or even commandeering the entire enemy starship. Many raiding fleets are composed of mixture of ships pillaged from different sources, and it is not uncommon for the Vuldrok to use stolen Hawkwood and Kurgan vessels. Sometimes these ships are also used as bate to lure other ships into an ambush.

Vuldrok Raider Captain
Dex: 5 Vig: 7 Vitality 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2
Wit: 4 Wil: 6 Fatigue 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2
Int: 4 Pre: 6 Reputation 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2
Faith: 4
Skills: Athletics 5, Command 5, Culture (Hargard) 2, Culture (Wolf’s Lament) 4, Culture (Phoenix Empire) 1, Culture (Vuldrok Star-Nation) 5, Deception 3, Dodge 4, Fight 6, Gunnery 4, Helm 4, Influence 3, Observe 4, Pilot 4, Sneak 3, Shoot 4, Throw 3, Tech Redemption 4, Think Machine 3
Benefits & Afflictions: Barbarian (Vuldrok), Wealth (Poor)
Gear: Chain mail armor, vibro axe, heavy revolver

Vuldrok Raider
Dex: 4 Vig: 6 Vitality 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2
Wit: 4 Wil: 4 Fatigue 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2
Int: 3 Pre: 5 Reputation 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2
Faith: 2
Skills: Athletics 4, Command 1, Culture (Hargard) 1, Culture (Wolf’s Lament) 2, Culture (Phoenix Empire) 1, Culture (Vuldrok Star-Nation) 3, Dodge 3, Fight 5, Gunnery 4, Helm 4, Influence 2, Observe 3, Pilot 4, Sneak 3, Shoot 4, Throw 2, Tech Redemption 3, Think Machine 3
Benefits & Afflictions: Barbarian (Vuldrok), Wealth (Poor)
Gear: Chain mail armor, shotgun, axe