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A Most Unfortunate War

This article originally appeared in the July 2012 issue.

Part 1

Historical Note: The Luriani War is one of the forgotten wars of the Imperium, barely known outside the Domain of Gateway, it was received scant attention from Imperial authorities even at the time. However amongst the Luriani it is an immense source of pride, where they managed to humble the might of the Imperium. Ralpiamm Garintylil (Armistice Day, 347) marking the end of the war is a holiday on most Luriani worlds and Igo Garintylil (Iguu Day, 267) is their usual day for the remembrance of war dead. The war itself was very fiercely fought and one of the bloodiest of the Pacification Campaigns. The ferocious and fanatic nature of the fighting is a major factor in the delicacy with which the Imperium now treats Luriani sensibilities.

188th of 2024 (014-93)1: The Battle of Rurur

I sat in my chair, my harness chaffed and I was bored. “So why are we doing this yet again?” Manoeuvres were supposed to have finished days ago. Siish looked peeved. “Because Sherin Adtmral2 didn’t like the way we did it the first three times.”

“Siish, the Adtmral never likes the way we do it.”

Lekhtenant, it’s Kaptan if you please, though it wouldn’t kill you to say sir.” I could hear the irritation in his voice, Mmarislusant3 are always so stuffy.

“Sorry Kaptan, sorry I mean Sir” I mimed choking to death. Jane was sniggering by the main engineering console.

“I'm sorry too Lekhtenant. Now, you are about a baish’s leg4 away from charges. So quit playing the irpel5 or I’ll choke you to death myself!” Siish’s patience and tolerance of us never ceased to amaze me. Besides, you can’t choke a Luriani6 to death.

Siish put on his best don’t push me any further voice: “Now dinkir, if you would be so kind as to set course so we can get this over with and go home!”

“Yes Sir! At once Sir!” I even saluted for good measure, Jane could control herself no longer and burst out laughing.

Siish was not amused; his voice was sickly sweet: “Lekhtenant, will you kindly see me in my ready room when we are finished.” I’d pushed too far; I’d be cleaning out the waste tanks for a week, most likely. Siish then looked over at Greg: “Number One, Alexon Komant appears to suffering from excess exuberance. I believe a jog ’round the boat deck later might help her work some of it off. I’ll let you decide how far.” Jane shot me a look that would kill. Definitely too far.

Shadta was on sensors “Sii... I mean Kaptan, I'm detecting multiple jump exits?”

“What?” Siish had been caught by surprise “Where?”

Probably another of old man Sherin’s surprises, he liked to keep us guessing. ‘Maintain combat efficiency, prepare for anything, the Imperium could invade any day.’ Oooo scary, the evil Imperium was coming. He’s what the Verasti Dtareen7 call a hawk.

Shadta got it quickly, always sharp: “Between red and blue.”

Ora spoke, she sounded frightened. “We have an emergency priority message from flag: ‘Not part of exercise, intruders hostile, set condition red, weapons free, engage at will. Pae Verasryn8 ravel tan shi, may Verasryn smile on you.’”

Siish look stunned, then started barking orders “I want confirmation on that, Ora, and I want it now!” All pretense at formality was gone, but none of us were playing any more.

Martinez to flag, request you confirm.”

Siish was still barking orders “Bring up screens, drives to maximum, weapon safeties off. I want range and targeting ready, if they confirm we go in. So make me proud ami9.” There were definitely ships out there; I was already plotting intercepts, I could see Shadta drawing lock on potential targets.

You could hear Ora trembling: “Siish, they’ve confirmed, the code is valid.”

It was real, they were coming.

The Toblin’s bridge was quiet, the monitors showed the jump field was decaying, they’d be arriving soon. Commander Godaval studied his crew, they were relaxed, calm, it was just another routine cruise to them. But Godaval was concerned. The fleet had been sloppy going into jump, they’d be spread well over an hour coming out. You shouldn’t walk into to somebody’s living room with a loaded gun lightly, especially when eighty percent of those somebodies are hot-headed maniacs. Of course it was all just a show, a bluff, show them the mailed fist in the velvet glove. And it was all over some words, a family of worlds. The Protectorate was quite willing to join the Imperium, they just wanted a guarantee their family of worlds would be kept intact. Apparently the discussions over exactly what this meant got rather heated and it was agreed to allow a little time for tempers to cool. That’s when Archduke Ishargi10 came up with his plan, a quick tour of the Protectorate while their fleet was dispersing after manoeuvres should soften their position. Duke Sirean had called him a fool, playing with fire, but most agreed if carefully coordinated the risks were minimal. Engineering spoke “Field collapsing, exit imminent sir.” Commander Godaval was cautious “Bring up external cameras, I want to see what’s out there.” A brief view of the sanity tearing ripple of jump space, then clear. The XO was first to speak “My god, they’re on fire!”

326th of 2024 (152-93): End of the ‘Luriani Rampage’

Duke Sirean looked over the latest reports. It was an utter disaster. The Protectorate had ripped Ishagri’s fleet to shreds at Rurur11, then fanned out and overrun the frontier. What was left of the Ley Fleet had been destroyed before they even knew there was a war on and Fornast was being wiped out piecemeal. Vital worlds surrendered without a fight, at best token resistance on the rest. The navy those fool admirals had dismissed as a undisciplined rabble before the war was now handing those admirals backsides to them on a plate. The Luriani were running riot over three domains12 destroying bases and communications wherever they went. And those admirals kept looking for the ‘main thrust of the invasion.’ And the huge joke was, there was no invasion. The Protectorate’s strategy was purely defensive. It was a classic move, disrupt the rear areas and keep your opponent off balance while you form a solid set of defensive lines. It’s just Ishagri had let the Protectorate form their lines in Imperial territory. The Luriani would raise hell as long as they could and wait for the counter-attack. They’d have to grind them out of every metre of space they took. The idea was simply to let the body count force negotiations. Of course the Protectorate’s mistake was to assume they would negotiate. All Aamku13 could talk about was avenging his father and the prestige cost of talking while they held Imperial ground would be judged too high14. This was going to be a nasty war, very nasty.

36th of 2025 (227-93): The Battle of Gaisaaru

They built their ships like a gabalail15, big and hard to kill, but lumbering and slow. And they put jump drives in them, why the hell did they do that? Why waste that much space in a liner16? They seemed to have trouble manoeuvring in more than two planes at the same time. They came at us at Gaisaaru, past the front line and smack into us. It was a beel17 hunt, we flew rings around them and they died. I’d watched as one those big gabalails flipped end over end till it hit the atmosphere and burnt up. It made me sick to the stomach; this wasn’t war, it was murder. Even Siish was crying as we watched it. Siish had scheduled a dance18, he likes to get at least one in a week, but none of us felt like celebrating. It wasn’t only the battle, but Greg and Jane were leaving. Greg had his own ship now. Command might be having to split crews to man the new ships, but they’d never split up a matched couple.

The music was pulsing and people were dancing, I saw Ora with Oloku, there’d be babies there, soon, I’d bet. Greg and Jane were locked together as usual, I envied her sometimes. “So Greg, who was the irpel that called your boat Cleon Two? What kind of name is that?”

“Greg Kaptan to you, Lekhtenant.” He put on his best I’m oh so important voice “And you say it Cleon the Second. It’s an ex-Impie ship, one of the ones we captured at Rurur. We need every ship we can get in the line, so they’re refitting them.” The idea of Greg and Jane in one of those flying coffins chilled me to my soul.

Jane could see the look in my eyes “Don’t worry deary, Enli’s going with us, he’s almost as good a pilot as you.”

Cleon the Second is a stupid name too.”

“One of their Emperors, apparently, deary.”

“Well, they should have changed it.”

“Bad luck, deary, bad luck. We Verasti Dtareen get to keep our traditions, too, remember?”

“Jane, darling” Greg always called her darling when he wanted something.

“Yes, my love?”

“You know, there’s nobody singing at the moment, darling.”

“I do believe you’re right, Greg, there’s nobody singing.” Jane already knew where this was going, but she’d put up a show first. I chimed in “Yes, Jane, nobody singing”

“I could make it an order, darling.”

“Yeah, you got a squad of Guards19 handy, my love? Okay, I will sing, but,” and she turned to me “you, deary, have to dance with my darling Greg.”

We lost ourselves in the dance and music and forgot awhile the horrors that awaited.

Greg and Jane left next day, along with almost a quarter of the Martinez’s ami to form the cadre of the Cleon II’s ami. We weren’t the only ones, Command was having to raid tami all over the fleet. An ami is a family, you shouldn’t break up a family.

93rd of 2025 (284-93): The Darant Strategy

Sector Admiral Phitos Darant was having a bad day, he had reports up to his neck giving him suggestions on what was needed to stabilise the situation. What was actually needed could be summed in two simple words—‘more ships’—and he had been summoned to ‘advise’ the fool Archduke he had to answer to now. The aide-de-camp showed him into Aamku’s sumptuous office. “Ah, Phitos, so how goes the war?”

The fool knew very well how it went, he got all the same reports Darant did. “Poorly, I am afraid, Your Grace. Our offensive was broken at Gaisaaru with heavy losses,” and by heavy he meant nearly crippling.

“And the rear areas?”

Why did he play this game? “The situation is grave, Your Grace; we have rebellions on a number of worlds, the raiders are still operating and...” he tired of the game, “...we need more ships! They’re running riot, inciting rebellions on at least ten worlds and we’re too thinly spread. Next time they hit us they’ll roll right over the top of us again.”

Aamku seemed shocked by Darant’s candour “Darant, there are no more ships. There are issues on other fronts as well, a campaign in Massila, revolts in Lishun, Vargr in Corridor and don’t get me started on Antares. Even if I went cap in hand to Artemsus, there are no more ships.” His eyes fell to the ground “I know; I’ve already asked. Darant, what are we to do?”

Darant sat heavily. “We need to secure the rear areas first. There’s no chance of concentrating sufficient force to break through until we deal with the raiders and rebellions. Split up several cruiser squadrons into individual units. A single cruiser is more than capable of dealing with a raiding group and they’ll cover more ground that way. Most critically we need intelligence to find where the raiders and supply dumps are. After that, pure weight of numbers will win it for us.”

Aamku pondered, “I think you may be right, Darant; do it. And pass the word down the line, get this job done.”

125th of 2025 (316-93): Raid on Pirese

It had been close, damn close, but we were safe. They were learning; I suppose that was inevitable. Their cruisers weren’t patrolling in groups any more, which made the raiders’ lives much shorter. Bad thing. So Command has started attaching a liner to a handful of raider groups. The idea apparently is something like cruiser sees raiders and goes ‘yummy’, then liner goes ‘hello, guess what?’ and smack! no cruiser. It works for the most part, too. The only problem is the liner doesn’t have anything to cover it if it goes bottomwards. Run into something bigger than you and you got to dock with your jump shuttle and get clear with nothing but five raiders between you and it. That gets messy, we’d already lost two liners that way and it was our turn to play. It had all gone fine till we got to Pirese. We jumped in, cautious like Siish likes; the system seemed clear, so we dropped. We went to hit the main world when they appeared. Three armoured cruisers, way too much for us to handle. Siish managed to take out one, but we needed to get clear. I should have known he was up to something.

“I have an idea. De Maris Vebant, if you would be so kind as to relinquish the chair to Number One.” Siish had made me his number one when Greg left, a Komant now doing a Komanda’s job.

De Maris was confused “Kaptan?”

“Fine pilot that you are, no one is as good as my dinkir, so if you please.”

I took the chair; what was he up to?

“Now dinkir, that nice gas giant over there: Do you think you can get us into its atmosphere and out the other side at maximum G?”

I laughed; he was insane—you do not take over six hundred thousand cubic metres of badly damaged ship into an atmosphere at speed. “I can but try Siish.” You could see the faces on the bridge turn white.

“I thought you might, dinkir.” So that was Siish’s plan, bet the other guy wasn’t as crazy as he was and lose him in the atmosphere, probably a safe bet.

So there we were, a hypersonic mountain hurtling towards imminent disintegration. “Now dinkir, fast and steep—but I would appreciate it if we stay in one piece.” I don’t know how, but I managed it, a glowing fireball straight in one side and out the other.

We made it back to our lines, but the Martinez would need months in dock. They gave Siish the Silver Cross20; I think they should have given him a smack ’round the head for being a lunatic. They gave me the Protector’s Gallantry Medal as well. Siish came to me after the ceremony. “I have something for you, dinkir.” He looked sad; I was puzzled. He handed me my next orders. Command of the Lucknow, a raider. “You’ll be leaving us, dinkir.”

I hugged him. Then I kissed him. I don’t know why.

There were tears in his eyes “Now, dinkir, you are not to get yourself killed and that is an order.”

I saluted “Yes, sir.”


1. Luriani Dating: The Protectorate calendar was introduced in 1454 Imperial during the First Luriani Protectorate. It uses the same 365-day year inherited from the Rule of Man as the Imperial calendar and starts dating from the foundation of the Luriani Cultural Region by Empress Juliana on 174 1932 Imperial. Unlike the Imperial calender it does not feature a zero year. Imperial dates are given in brackets.

2. Admiral (later Fleet Admiral) Kamees Sherin, senior commander of the Protectorate forces during the Luriani War. One of the most controversial characters of the war, regarded as a hero by the Luriani at the time and acknowledged to have been one of the finest naval commanders of the Pacification Campaigns era. His reputation was tarnished by his post war political ambitions and extremist positions. Later analysis generally hold him to be equally as responsible for the war as Archduke Ishagri.

3. Mmarislusant: One of the four branches of Luriani culture, the Mmarislusant are descended from Vilani colonists left on Luriani worlds during the Long Night. While somewhat influenced by Luriani culture, they retain much of the traditions and language of the original Ziru Sirka (Vilani Empire). The differences between Mmarislusant and Vilani are very slight and predominantly linguistic. However both the Luriani and Mmarislusant choose to see the two as quite distinct.

4. Baish are a tiny eight legged flying reducer endemic to much of the Ley and Fornast sectors.

5. irpel: Standard Luriani word usually translated as fool or clown (plural tirpel).

6. Luriani: An aquatic minor human race native to Daramm in the Ley sector. Noted for their achievements in arts and music. They have reputation as being emotional and unpredictable. While human, they are not interfertile with other branches of the race. Their adaptations to the aquatic environment include the ability to remain without oxygen for up to an hour and sensitive lines of nerve ending that detect minute changes in pressure. This heightened sense of touch forms a central part of most Luriani social interactions. Their society is built around tight knit family and communal bonds. The Luriani’s natural affinity for a three dimensional environment has lead them to be greatly valued as pilots and astrogators.

7. Verasti Dtareem: Descendants of Terran soldiers and administrations stranded on the Luriani worlds during the Long Night. They have absorbed much of Luriani culture, but are distinct from it. They, together with the Mmarislusant, form the bulk of the Luriani administrative structure.

8. Verasryn the Guardian, one of the major Luriani deities. The others are Basijk the Smith, Daramm the Mother, Aryn the Minstrel, Mrai the Huntress, Sesh the Traveller and Yasant the Teacher.

9. ami: Standard Luriani word meaning family, it was also used within the Protectorate Navy to refer to a warship crew (plural tami). It and yassin (children of) form the roots of virtually all Luriani words relating to groups and nations.

10. Archduke Ishagri of Gateway, killed at the battle of Rurur. At the time seen as an incompetent and sole instigator of the Luriani War. Ishagri appears to actually been a competent, if uninspired commander who was let down by a combination of poor political judgement and simple bad luck.

11. The Battle of Rurur was one of the worst defeats ever suffered by the Imperial Navy. Arrival in the Protectorate required a maximum jump for the fleet and Ishagri was aware of the risk of being caught in potentially hostile territory with empty jump fuel tanks. He had elected therefore to set the arrival point very close to one of Rurur’s gas gaints, intending the fleet to refuel immediately. Unfortunately, not only had Admiral Sherin extended manoeuvres, the exercise he was conducting was opposed refuelling over that gas giant. Ishagri’s fleet had the bad luck to arrive between the two Protectorate forces. Many Imperial captains, realising the situation was utterly hopeless, choose to surrender their vessels rather than face certain destruction. The full extent of the disaster was not known until several months later when a handful of battered vessels finally managed to escape from Protectorate space.

12. Three Domains: One of the major problems faced by the Imperium throughout the war was that, unlike the Protectorate with its single command structure operating on interior lines, the Imperium never had a unified command. The war was always acknowledged to fall under the purview of the Domain of Gateway, but the battlefield actually spread over three domains (Antares, Gateway and Sylea). No effort was ever made to unify the civilian administrations and it took over nine months before the Archduke of Gateway was given even limited military control over the portions of the Domain of Sylea (roughly a quarter of the Fornast sector) where the war was actually being fought. The shattered Ley Fleet was never reinforced and no attempt was made to advance from Antares. This prevented any threat to the Protectorate’s vulnerable flanks and allowed them to concentrate their forces on a narrow frontage facing the weakened Fornast Fleet.

13. Archduke Aamku of Gateway, son of Archduke Ishagri.

14. prestige cost of negotiation: The regions adjacent to the Protectorate had only been recently integrated into the Imperium and resentment at incorporation was not uncommon. Indeed during much of the war, the Protectorate would exploit this restlessness to incite uprisings and tie down considerable Imperial forces.

15. gabalail: Large species of whale native to Daramm. They, and several other Terran marine mammals, were transplanted to Daramm by the Ancients at the same time as the Luriani. It is believed they served as the model for many of the modifications to the Luriani.

16. Liner: A Protectorate term for a ship designed to stand in the line of battle. Unlike the Imperial Navy’s jump capable battleships, Protectorate liners relied on a jump shuttle to provide strategic mobility. An early form of the battlerider concept.

17. beel: A herd animal common on Luriani worlds, regarded as easy to catch.

18. Music and dance are central to the Luriani psyche; they could not imagine a world without them. Virtually all Luriani music features the human voice and is strong and upbeat. Luriani dance is always as partnered and usually very intimate and sensual.

19. Protector’s Guards, served the same role as Imperial Marines.

20. The Silver Cross (SC) was the second-rank Protectorate award; it ranked below the Star for Valour (SV) and above the Protector’s Gallantry Medal (PGM).


The official language of Imperium at this time was Sylean Anglic, though Vilani and other varieties of Anglic were common. The Protectorate had two official languages, Luriani Anglic (also known as Lurglic) and Standard Luriani. Approximately 70% of the population spoke Standard Luriani as their first tongue and this was the default language of the Protectorate, though childhood exposure made virtually all citizens bilingual. In addition to these two official languages, the Mmarislusant retained their original tongue of Old High Vilani, instruction in which was compulsory in all Protectorate schools. The Luriani and Sylean dialects of Anglic were broadly mutually intelligible, but Lurglic had picked up Standard Luriani’s strong tendency toward metaphor making direct translations problematic.

Note for Referees: In game terms, Sylean Anglic and Luriani Anglic default to each other at -1. Similarly, Modern Vilani and Old High Vilani also default to each other at -1. Skill level 3 indicates native fluency, level 2 gives accented fluency, level 1 is strongly accented competency and level 0 indicates familiarity.

Protectorate Rank Structure

Protectorate rank was technically bilingual in Lurglic and Standard Luriani, but by the time of the Luriani War the Lurglic forms were essentially obsolete. In contrast to Imperial tradition of prefixing the title to the name, the Protectorate titles were suffixed to the name. Below is a table of Protectorate ranks with their then-contemporary Imperial equivalents. Some Standard Luriani titles were abbreviated; these abbreviations are bracketed after the full title.


Luriani Protectorate Ranks and Imperial Equivalents
Rank Military Title Naval Title
Standard Luriani Imperial Equivalent Standard Luriani Imperial Equivalent
Enlisted Ranks
E-0 Rekhot None Rekhot None
E-1 Piaviadt Private Sesharyn Spacehand Recruit
E-2 Vebee Korpail [Vebpail] Lance Corporal Gisesharyn [Giaryn] Spacehand Apprentice
E-3 Korpail Corporal Yosesharyn [Yoaryn] Able Spacehand
E-4 None Lance Sergeant None Petty Officer 3rd Class
E-5 Serganet Sergeant Bayanshet [Bashet] Petty Officer 2nd Class
E-6 None Gunnery Sergeant None Petty Officer 1st Class
E-7 Mmier Serganet [Mmieret] Leading Sergeant Gibayanshet [Gishet] Chief Petty Officer
E-8 Serganet Majkor (ia) [Seror] First Sergeant Yobayanshet (ia) [Yoshet] Senior Chief Petty Officer
E-9 Serganet Majkor (cee) [Seror] Sergeant Major Yobayanshet (cee) [Yoshet] Master Chief Petty Officer
Officer Ranks
O-0 Kadt Officer Recruit Kadt Officer Recruit
O-1 Korneet Second Lieutenant Ensin Ensign
O-2 Lekhtenant First Lieutenant Vebee Lekhtenant [Vebant] Sublieutenant
O-3 Kaptan Captain Lekhtenant Lieutenant
O-4 Majkor Major, Force Commander Komanda-Lekhtenant [Komant] Lieutenant Commander
O-5 Kolnel-Lekhtenant [Kolant] Lieutenant Colonel Komanda Commander
O-6 Kolnel Colonel Kaptan Captain
O-7 Mrigadeer Brigadier General Kommadtur Commodore
O-8 Geenal-Majkor [Geenor] Major General Vebee Adtmral [Vebmral] Fleet Admiral
O-9 Geenal-Lekhtenant [Geenant] Lieutenant General Reer Adtmral [Remral] Sector Admiral
O-10 Geenal General Adtmral Grand Admiral
O-11 Marsheel None Felet Adtmral [Femral] None