Non-Humans in Sacnoth Dominate Space
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2022 issue.
The following essay, by Rorik Vestason Raaby, Sharudkarin Professor of Sophontology at the University of Ny Kalmar on Gram, appeared in the Júlí 47 D.E. issue of Adventurers’ Digest, a periodical published by the Anderspress News Service meant to bring the work of academic researchers to a more popular audience, with a focus on topics of interest to those following Sacnoth Dominate exploratory efforts. The essay has been supplemented with excerpts from the journals of scientific corps members of the expeditions which first encountered the respective non-Human peoples.
When the Founders arrived at Gram there were a handful of Dolphin colonists among the original settlers but even though the oceans of Gram proved hospitable the Dolphin population was not large enough to sustain itself. Aslaug Bolgefanger, the last Dolphin in the Sword Worlds, died on Gram in 153 F.E.—4274 CE by the Old Terran calendar.* For more than six decades after Bolgefanger’s death there were no non-Humans in Sword Worlds society. (While there has been some interaction with Darrian and Zhdantian traders in recent years these peoples seem to be non-Terran branches of Humanity like the Vilani.)
With the explorations of the Pilgrim, Sepireld and Danuuz frontiers Sword Worlders have once again encountered non-Humans. There are now four sophont peoples known to inhabit Sword Worlds space and its surrounds: the unpretentious Sepirelding of Sepireld, the primitive Heodening of Dainslaf in the Danuuz frontier, and in the Pilgrim frontier the mysterious Lungefisking of Curtana and the peculiar Leddyring of Quernbiter.**
* Note on Sword Worlds calendars: When Gram was settled the event was marked with a new calendar system. The Founding Era (F.E.) calendar begins with Year 1. (The Old Terran “Gregorian” calendar was maintained for dates prior to the Founding Era, with no efforts made to connect the two dating systems.) When the Sacnoth Dominate was formed the Dominate government again established a new calendar system, beginning the Dominion Era (D.E.). Founding Era dating continued to be used for dates prior to the establishment of the Sacnoth Dominate, resulting in two distinct calendar eras: Founding Era from the settlement of Gram—in the year 4122 of the Old Terran calendar—to the establishment of the Sacnoth Dominate—in what had been 214 F.E.—and then Dominion Era restarting at Year 1. With the shift from Founding Era to Dominion Era, the calendar system became similar to Old Terran “era name” systems which numbered calendar eras from the year of accession of each successive hereditary monarch.
** Note on Sepireld, Dainslaf, Curtana and Quernbiter: When the Imperium began to expand into Sword Worlds space, these worlds were identified in Imperial astrographical documents respectively as “Spirelle”, “Saurus”, “Faldor”, and “567-908”.
The first sophonts to be discovered were the Sepirelding, encountered by the Namsmann Expedition, sent by the Dominate to explore the worlds of the Trailing frontier—as the Sepireld frontier was then known. Located just four parsecs from Biter, the world called Sepireld by its inhabitants is home to nearly a hundred million sophonts. Sepirelding have proved to be an enigma, friendly enough to the members of the Namsmann Expedition and to other Sword Worlders who have visited Sepireld in the years since but seemingly uninterested in off-world affairs. Sepirelding technological accomplishment is comparable to that of the Dominate though spaceflight is rare—there are no off-world settlements in the system—and no capability exists for interstellar travel. Since the Sepirelding were first encountered only a few score are known to have travelled off-world.
Sepirelding society is global in nature though there does not seem to be a single planetary government. Most governance happens at the local level and there are few institutions or organizations which are truly global in scope.
The Sepirelding have permitted a Dominate diplomatic embassy on Sepireld but no Sepirelding embassy has been sent to Sacnoth, nor even a consulate established at Biter. The economy of Sepireld seems to be self-sufficient and despite several formal and informal trading missions to Sepireld there has been little interest in commerce with the Dominate. Exports to Sepireld have been limited to small numbers of luxury and novelty goods though exports from Sepireld of processed resources has grown steadily.
World Survey Report: Sepireld (excerpt)
Smaller than Humans (generally a meter or so tall and massing 25 kilograms or more), Sepirelding are humanoid with one remarkable exception: wings, the middle pair of the six limbs—the other two pair serving as arms and legs. Wings can span three meters or more though Sepirelding are apparently flightless. Sepirelding are scaled with greyish coloring interspersed with variable black patterns. A thin, prehensile tail is of similar length as the legs.
The Sepirelding head is elongated, with a protruding mouth and two large, compound eyes. Above the mouth are a pair of small nostrils; auditory apertures are on each side of the head. Outsized teeth suggest omnivore/gatherer origins. A small ridge runs from the nostrils to the back of the head. Fingers flexible and fully-opposable while the feet are digitigrade, with a sort of talon.
Females lay several eggs at a time which hatch after approximately 60 days. Infants require constant care for their first year.
There are at least six physiological sub-groups of Sepirelding distinguished by differences in size and common skin patterns. Though all sub-groups are fully integrated into society it appears that certain social roles tend to be reserved for specific sub-groups.
Sepirelding have a single language, with substantial regional variations. Sepirelding and Humans can reproduce only minimal amounts of each other’s speech though most of each’s speech seems to be within the range of the other’s hearing. Thus, for Sepirelding and Humans to communicate directly both must understand the other’s speech.
—Videnskabsmand Isgerd Roriksdatter Rath and Fänrik Silvio Valbrandsen Haten, (First) Trailing Frontier Exploring Expedition
The Heodening of Dainslaf were discovered by the Linuuska Expedition, a private venture launched from Morglay. Located in the Danuuz rift, Dainslaf is home to tens of millions of non-Human sophonts. The Heodening have a primitive, pre-metalworking civilization concentrated in the temperate regions of the world. There is great regional variation in socio-political structures across the world but clan or tribal relationships tend to prevail.
Most Heodening societies seem to be nomadic hunter-gatherers though some indications of proto-pastoralism have been observed. The absence of communities practicing settled agriculture means that few Heodening are available to serve as a native workforce. Thus, most resource extraction efforts require an off-world labour force though some Heodening have been employed as porters, guides and translators.
Heodening have been generally receptive to contact with Humans—after an initial wariness—though the stark differences in civilizational levels and technological accomplishment mean there is little opportunity for trade. A handful of Heodening have traveled off-world though they have generally been unable to act autonomously, relying instead of Human colleagues to help them to get along in Sword Worlds society.
Few Sword Worlders have learned Heodening languages, relying instead upon local translators who have learned our language. These translators are often sought after among Heodening eager to interact with Humans though at times communications between Humans and a given group of Heodening must go through several different translators as the Heodening who can speak with Humans may not understand the language of the Heodening who are trying to communicate.
Ecologists’ Report: Dainslaf (excerpt)
Heodening are Humanoid and of similar size to Humans with males, which are generally somewhat larger than females, massing about 100 kilograms and standing nearly two meters tall. Heodening are scaled with dark greenish-blue coloring with different shadings among sub-groups in different regions. Heodening have a powerful tail which extends nearly two meters, often resting on the ground for additional support.
The Heodening head is elongated as compared to Humans, with a protruding mouth and two, very Human-like eyes under large, boney ridges. There are a pair of large nostrils above the mouth and a pair of auditory apertures on the sides of the head below the eyes. Heodening omnivore/hunter origins are suggested by their large, sharp teeth. Heodening hands have five short and powerful fingers with heavy claws and feet are digitigrade and also clawed. Heodening females bear live young which require constant care for their first year.
Heodening cultures are generally nomadic with tribal groups migrating seasonally with food prey. Hunting predominates though some Heodening practice pastoralism or even rudimentary agriculture. Interaction among different tribal groups is common with conflict rare, usually occurring in instances where food resources have been disrupted.
There are a variety of Heodening languages with those from different regions apparently mutually unintelligible. Heodening and Humans can reproduce only minimal amounts of each other’s speech though most of each race’s speech seems to be within the range of each’s hearing. Thus, for Heodening and Humans to communicate effectively each must understand the other’s speech.
—Keung Rosason Heiberg, Scientist-Adventurer, Linuuska Expedition
The Lungefisking of Curtana were discovered by the Acharya Expedition, sent by the Dominate government to explore worlds along the “spinward trace” of the Pilgrim frontier. Lungefisking are perhaps the most enigmatic non-Humans encountered by the Dominate, both seemingly oddly-suited for their world’s ecology and determinedly reticent about contact with off-worlders.
The Lungefisking civilization includes settled and nomadic tribal groups engaged in primitive agriculture and animal husbandry. Little is known about governance or other social structures of Lungefisking society, with details being derived from examination of abandoned artifacts and remote observations of Lungefisking settlements.
The Lungefisking agricultural and other activities occur only at night. Lungefisking have rarely been observed in daylight and only at a distance—or via remote sensors—in those instances when lone Lungefisking have been seen moving about during the day. Settled Lungefisking take to their communal homes during the day while nomadic Lungefisking spend their days in smaller, portable shelters.
Cremation, undertaken in an elaborately ritualized ceremony, seems to be a widespread practice which has made it impossible for Dominate explorers to examine Lungefisking remains. It is unclear whether these ceremonies are indications of a Lungefisking religious practice or perhaps have developed in response to community health concerns.
Visitors to Curtana have had no success in communicating with Lungefisking though remote recordings of Lungefisking speech suggest that their language(s) might be readily understood by Humans without artificial assistance. Because of the absence of communication with the Lungefisking efforts to translate recovered written artifacts have also been unsuccessful.
World Survey Report: Curtana (excerpt)
Lungefisking are humanoids similar in size and mass to Humans. They are apparently bisexual and viviparous but seem to have evolved from amphibian forbears. Hands and feel are webbed and a small dorsal ridge or fin runs from the back of Lungefisking heads to the end of their short tail. Lungefisking eyes and mouths are much larger than those of Humans and their large nose gives the appearance of a sort of beak. Like most creatures on Curtana their finely-scaled skin varies from grey to various shades of blue.
While Lungefisking typically inhabit Curtana’s sparse coastal and riparian regions the only evidence of water habitation is a primitive shorline aquaculture which generally occurs in concert with limited, more traditional early agriculture and nomadic pastoralism. Most Lungefisking societies are nocturnal with individuals seldom active in daylight. This nocturnalism sets the Lungefisking apart from most large animals on Curtana except for those species used as herd animals and domesticated beasts of burden.
Lungefisking are usually heavily clothed in primitive textiles which made detailed observations of their anatomy difficult. Creamation appears to be a standard burial practice and highly ritualized. No Lungefisking remains were recovered by the Expedition.
Due to their extreme reticence, members of the expedition were unable to communicate with any Lungefisking. Recordings of speech made via remote sensors indicates the language has a sophisticated verbal structure. It occurs at frequencies easily understandable by Humans but in the absence of substantive interaction translation was impossible. A handful of specimens of dried clay and plant-based materials were collected which show evidence of multiple pictographic writing systems though again translations were not possible.
—Videnskabsmand Padraig Kareelasen Thornom and Videnskabsmand Ingjald Pedarson Eberlein, Second Rimward Frontier Exploring Expedition
The Leddyring of Quernbiter were discovered by the Tygalfsson Expedition, sent by the Dominate to explore worlds along the “spinward trace” of the Pilgrim frontier. With a very thin atmosphere, a warm climate and a hydrosphere which covers only a fifth of its surface, Quernbiter is the unlikely homeworld of sophonts. Geological evidence also suggests Quernbiter may have suffered a major tectonic catastrophe some ten millennia ago. This global disaster may have had a devastating impact upon Leddyring civilization.
Quernbiter is home to approximately 200,000 Leddyring. There seems to be a single Leddyring civilization comprised mostly of communities of farmers and herders. A primitive mechanical capability produces finely crafted artifacts, including the cleverly-designed prosthetics which enhance the ambulatory capabilities of some Leddyring.
Leddyring society is semi-pastoral, with most sophonts living in small settlements. A religious caste seems to dominate most ruling functions, with the limb prostheses widely apparent among religious figures and a small warrior caste. Primitive mechanical artisanship produces tools and devices which are finely ornamented. These social and technological accomplishments, unusual for the relatively small global population, may indicate a society in the later stages of a civilizational decline.
Leddyring communicate using a complex combination of sound, gesture and touch which is difficult for Humans to understand or to replicate. Thus communication with the Leddyring has been rudimentary at best. This challenge is further complicated by the fact that Leddyring writing skills are underdeveloped apparently due to the challenges of translating the complex Leddyring language into effective symbolic representations.
World Survey Report: Quernbiter (excerpt)
Leddyring are bilaterally symmetrical octopods, massing about 200 kilograms, measuring under two meters in length and standing about one meter high. A large, ovoid head at the front of the body includes vision, auditory and olfactory organs, a mouth and breathing apertures. The forward pair of limbs function as manipulators with the other limbs used for ambulation. Some Leddyring have been surgically altered to enable the use of prosthetic leg extensions which increase height and enhance speed. Leddy-ring have short, coarse fur which varies in color from deep reds through light browns.
Leddyring are bisexual and oviparous with children reaching adulthood in about eight standard years.
A mechanical, pre-industrial Leddyring civilization is centered in the mountainous region west of the world’s single ocean. There are indications that a more extensive Leddyring civilization in the distant past may have suffered from one or more planetary-scale natural disasters. There seems to be a rudimentary Leddyring central government based around a religious class, with semi-pastoral groupings prevailing farther from the central region.
Given the small population of Leddyring it is not unexpected that there seems to be a single, global language but what is most remarkable is that the language appears to have multiple non-verbal elements communicated through gesture and touch. Additionally, much Leddyring speech occurs at frequencies which are inaudible to Humans. What is audible is generally loud and high-pitched with sonic sensors needed to detect the full range of Leddy-ring speech. These challenges have made all but the most rudimentary of communication difficult.
— Videnskabsmand Kćrir Sharikson Kisi and Lřjtnant Hauk Sigefredson Menéndez, Fifth Rimward Frontier Exploring Expedition
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The Sepirelding are the Droyne settlement on Spirelle (Sepireld) but, of course, Professor Vestason (writing in 140 Pre-Imperial) doesn’t know this;
The Heodening are the Saurians of Saurus (Dainslauf);
The Lungefisking are either the “devolved” ancient Darrians or the Otarri of Faldor (Curtana) (the piece is written so that it could be either, if the devolved Darrians are ‘dressing up’ as ill-suited-to-an-arid-world amphibians for some lost reason); and
The Leddyring are the Shriekers of 567-908 (Quernbiter).