Sword of the Stars - GURPS
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Of the sentient species still living in this sector of the galaxy, the Morrigi are one of the most ancient, and have the longest recorded history of interstellar travel.
Morrigi display a mosaic of biological traits loosely associated with reptile, mammal and avian life forms. They appear to have evolved from an arboreal omnivore. They still consume a varied diet, but the emphasis on protein and fats suggests that the earliest ancestors may have been ambush predators. Physical traits are expressed differently by males and females of the species, but the sexual dimorphism observed may be only partially biological. A great deal of the divergence between sexes may be caused by cultural practices which significantly shape the bodies of male and female Morrigi in very different ways as they develop from infancy to adulthood.
The basic Morrigi torso is long and serpentine, with a length of approximately six meters from nose-tip to tail-tip in the largest female specimen found to date—males appear to be significantly smaller in all cases, reaching a maximum length of three meters. There are eight limbs along the length of the body. Two pairs of grasping limbs are found on the upper torso, each with opposable digits and a broad range of motion through shoulder and wrist. The third limb pair evolved into a pair of wings at some point during Morrigi evolution, likely when they were far less massive creatures; this wing pair extends to a wide span in the male and still allows him to achieve short bursts of atmospheric flight. The wings appear to be vestigial and useless for flight in the female, but may retain some emotive or display function in social settings, a phenomenon which has been observed in other xeno-sentients (Nguy Sen, 2415).
In both male and female Morrigi, a pattern of reptilian scales covers the body. Scales have developed a feather-like consistency over the wing pair, and similar feather-scale plumage is observed on the head and tail; the latter scales are highly colorful in the male and appear to serve a social display purpose. A fourth limb pair above the tail marks the end of the organ cavity and is armed with a larger and more robust set of grasping claws. The prehensile tail extends for a considerable distance, sometimes nearly doubling the length of the body, and in the male of the species is sometimes arrayed with an impressive second fan of display plumage.
Both male and female Morrigi have an elongated skull with a brain volume of over 2000 cubic centimeters and a sharp beak. The eyes in both sexes are large, arrayed toward the front of the skull to allow for binocular vision and excellent depth perception. An array of rods and cones allow them to see contrasts, movement, and a full spectrum of color, with some extended range into the infra-red. The Morrigi retain a tapetum lucidum as well, suggesting that they may have evolved originally from a lineage which foraged and hunted in low light as well as full light conditions.
Internally, the Morrigi possess an unusual cardiovascular system, with four functioning hearts and four pairs of lungs arranged along the length of the body. The organ cavity in both sexes is armored by a long pectoral girdle which anchors over seventy rib sets, and behaves very much like a second spine; this pectoral spine mirrors the interlocking structure of the dorsal spine, but is wider and more loosely joined. The largest heart-lung pair in the Morrigi body cavity is found in the upper torso, just below the uppermost limb set. A second less robust pump is found below the second limb pair, with a third large and powerful heart just below the wings. A final heart and lungs are found above the final limb set, serving to pump blood to and from the prehensile tail. Along with the trachea and alimentary canal leading from the head, there are an additional eight subtly hidden breathing orifices are arranged along the body; apparently these can be consciously opened or sealed by a Morrigi which chooses to “hold its breath” for any reason, including occasional forays into the water.
Both male and female Morrigi are highly intelligent and possess some psionic ability, although this ability is expressed very differently in the two sexes.
Psionics: Glamour, Terror and Resistance
The Morrigi as a species have a well-developed set of Psionic traits, including Empathy, Psionic Resistance, and Lesser Glamour. Empathy is evenly distributed throughout the population, but the other traits are expressed differently between males and females.
The Morrigi Glamour effect is predominantly a male trait, likely caused by the fierce social competition for mates within the species. Over millennia, male Morrigi appear to have developed a capacity to attract and lull other creatures via an unusual form of Psionic camouflage. Under the influence of the male Morrigi’s “Glamour”, the victim’s brain will spontaneously produce an image of “beauty” or “grace” that might normally be associated with desirable male companionship. This effect may be sharpened to an extreme if the victim is biologically female, causing the Morrigi to appear, at least briefly, as an extremely attractive male of her species, although generally this illusion will be strangely still equipped with wings and may even be in flight.
The primitive origins of this ability are fairly easy to discern, as the male Morrigi’s Glamour provides a clear advantage to a hunter in lulling prey, and a clear advantage versus predators in preventing attack. The female version of this ability also derives from a primitive origin. A female Morrigi’s Psionic ability, when used, causes a spasm of unreasoning fear and a strong desire to flee. While the male’s Glamour is chiefly used for camouflage and attraction, then, the female’s ability is used to intimidate and repel—this may have been a powerful selective advantage for females who were able to drive potential predators away from their nests and young.
Psionic Resistance is also a common trait among Morrigi females. This ability allows her to identify her own mate and distinguish him from rivals who might otherwise take advantage of the opportunity to mate with her, or take the resources which are gathered for her own mate and biological sons. Many males find the most irresistible mates are those who “see through” them the most easily; this is a sign of high Psionic Resistance and is highly prized, possibly because the alliances they represent will be neither easily gained, nor easily lost.
Male and Female
The heart and soul of traditional Morrigi culture has always been the complex relationship between males and females. Each of the two sexes has its own way of life and a widely different realm of social concerns. Female Morrigi are traditionally land-bound, and have developed a terrestrial hierarchy based on ownership of bounded planetary property. Industry, the use of capital, the control of physical resources and the building of urban environments are all traditional female concerns.
Male Morrigi are stellar nomads, and have developed a nomadic hierarchy based on control of vast regions of space, trade routes, and access to desirable areas—including the privilege of descent to court available females for rights of marriage and economic alliance.
This curious division of society has created a complex web of dependence and exchange between the two sexes. Beyond the need to come together for mating and propagation of genes, male and female Morrigi are dependent on one another to meet crucial economic and political needs. Morrigi females depend on their relationships with allied male fleet groups to fuel the economy with needed resources and trade goods, as well as to provide defense for their vulnerable worlds and assert power within the political system. Morrigi males depend on their relationships with female corporate fifes to build, arm, fuel, provision and repair the starships which are simultaneously their lives and their livelihoods, as well as provide them with a steady supply of new tribesmen.
Bridal Treasure and Marriage
Over millennia, the Morrigi have evolved elaborate courtship rituals which establish and maintain these social, political, economic and sexual relationships. On the broad social level, female Tribes strive to build and maintain the cities, colonies and shipyards which make them attractive to males, to achieve a steady flow of male traffic and alliance. Morrigi females often build impressive structures to assert their prowess as artists, architects and scientists, presenting these impressive monuments as evidence of tribal power.
By contrast, male Tribes develop their fighting skills in order to give a good showing in inter-tribal competition and war. Trading and navigation skills are also developed to the maximal extent, and male Morrigi compete both within the tribal group and more savagely with other tribal groups to seek the most beautiful and exotic item from the most far-flung world to offer females as evidence of their value as Traders.
The Morrigi lust for unusual objects is a strong motivating force within their society. Items from distant planets are sought, exchanged and avidly collected by both male and female Morrigi as fetishes of power. Temples which collect and display these objects are sacred, representing the ultimate expression of tribal identity and the union of male and female groups. A sufficiently rare and precious object can cement a rite of marriage between thousands of individuals, male and female, who belong to the corresponding tribes.
On the individual level, both males and females of the species are considered valuable mating partners if they evince high intelligence and Psionic ability. The physical beauty of the male is highly prized, as is “charm” (the ability to project a powerful Glamour), speed and martial ability. Females are valued for wealth, intelligence, skill and Psionic Resistance.
The Traditional Traveler and His Token
It is impossible to distinguish between male and female Morrigi at birth, and female Morrigi place equal parenting effort into all infants until the period of fledging, which occurs roughly three years after the female’s leathery eggs are laid and hatched. At fledging, the bright colors and highly contrasting scales of the male are usually immediately obvious, and other sexual characteristics linked to the sixty-third chromosome also appear. At this point, the males are separated from their sister clutchmates to await Ascension.
On the arrival of the next stellar fleet, the Morrigi mothers who have given birth to males will offer their fledged sons to be “carried aloft”, if they approve of the Travelers. The ritual of Ascension is generally a tense moment for all parties concerned, as male tribal leaders can be quite ruthless in negotiation before they accept new fledgling males aboard their ships. The atmosphere is somewhat more relaxed if the fleet believes that the fledglings under review are their own sons, but if they have not mated before with the females in question, they may demand heavy payment or promises of future support as a “dowry” of sorts. Accepting an infant into their ranks as a tribesman confers a parental responsibility on the group. The boy must be nurtured, educated, and allowed to advance within the ranks; this can apparently be more difficult if the infant does not show characteristic plumage of the tribe.
Once accepted into the flock, a male Morrigi begins training immediately for his responsibilities as an adult. Education includes rigorous training as a pilot and a combat specialist, as well as a traditional review of the liberal arts. Upon passage through adolescence and an extended series of proving rituals, a fully-fledged Morrigi tribesman achieves a minimal competence in personal and armed combat and spacemanship, and will be expected to acquit himself well at his station aboard any ship, whether he works in the galley, the guns, or commands the fleet.
It is additionally important from the Morrigi perspective that he learn calligraphy, languages, astronavigation, and familiarize himself with the philosophy, songs and literature of his own people, and whatever other races are known to his Tribe. Achieving this state of education and decorum is necessary in order to be considered a “civilized person”, and perhaps worthy to Descend once as an adult into the company of females.
In order to be able to Descend, a Morrigi must have earned something of worth to offer to a potential bride. The desire to Descend in the Morrigi male is a complex one, comprised of equal parts sexual desire, ego and will to power. It is through Descent that males develop economic and strategic relationships with their female counterparts, and it is how they maintain their own genetic heritage, through sons and daughters who form a legacy of blood. In order to Descend, however, a male must have a ritual offering in hand. This ritual tribute is called a Token, and seeking and crafting his Token is often an exercise in personal creativity, personal expression and personal courage.
The Ancient Traveler of Wiira
The archaeological evidence unearthed on Wiira is perhaps the most dramatic evidence of the danger and personal risk which an individual Morrigi might be willing to undergo in order to acquire a valuable Token. The pilot of the crashed vessel recovered from a deeply buried strata had clearly been collecting early Liirian artifacts from the surface of Muur. The ivory weapons, ornaments and playthings recovered from the hold of his single-man starship were of a type common to the Liirian Neolithic. Carbon dating of the startlingly well-preserved remains of the pilot confirm that he had become the victim of a stellar mishap over four thousand years ago.
The Woman of Daam’to
Of the four major xenoarchaeological sites associated with the Morrigi, the most dramatic is the famous “Wyrm of Daam’to”. Discovered in the dry salt wastes of the continent of Lok, the Daam’to salt mine had preserved the physical remains of fourteen Tarka and one Morrigi female in a state of natural mummification for many thousands of years. It was excavated in the Tarkasian year 9087, and the associated artifacts have been on display in the Imperial Museum of Lok for several centuries.
Piecing together the ancient site report with the items still held in curation at the Lokran capital city of Ku’Galu, it would appear that the individuals found in Daam’to were killed when a section of the salt mine collapsed, burying all fifteen individuals under many tons of salt and rock. The Morrigi, judging by its skeleton and equipment, would have been a well-developed adult female. Parts of her skull, left wing, dorsal and pectoral spines were recovered, as well as three thick longbones, and there are many fragments of metal which were likely part of some sort of protective armor.
The Tarka group consisted of six females, seven adolescent males and one Changed male, the latter of which was armed with an impressive bronze spear and a warhammer of the Ku Dynasty. The remains of three of the females and four of the adolescent males are heavily scorched, as if they had been subjected to partial immolation.
Taken in context with other archaeological finds and current knowledge of Morrigi territorial wanderings, the Woman of Daam’to raises a number of disturbing questions. It is an indisputable fact that there is no creature in the fossil record of Old Terra, Kao’Kona, Tcho’to-pre or Muur which possesses the mosaic of traits common to Morrigi males and females. Nonetheless, creatures with a striking resemblance to Morrigi seem to have cropped up repeatedly in the legends, art and iconography of all four species. All four species have at least one word, (and sometimes words is several languages) for “dragon”—these words almost immediately spring to mind upon seeing a live Morrigi for the first time.
Some “dragons” in the legends of all four species were interested in collecting treasure, and are often depicted enthroned upon massive beds of precious metals, art or gems. In other cases, divine winged visitors appear to have exercised profound influence over political and religious leaders, and even to have established some sort of domination over a historical population, as in the “Feathered Serpent” legends of Old Earth and Tcho’to-pre.
It seems possible at this sitting that ancient Morrigi visitors may have established outposts, trade, and possibly even imperial control over small historical populations of Humans, Hivers, Tarka or Liir in the past. At present, however, the Woman of Daam’to is the only direct evidence for this hypothesis.
Leadership among the Travelers
Morrigi fleets are tribal meritocracies based on ability and achieved status. The “Khan” of any given gathering of Morrigi is established by right of his accomplishments, not least in leading fleet actions. “Khan” is an all-purpose term based on the Morrigi verb “aaneia”, “to lead”.
Ranks other than khan are not necessary among the Ascended. In any given group there is a khan and then there are those who listen and follow. The only major rank differentiation that can be gleaned from their language is a prefix which distinguishes the Morru Qu’aan from other khaanigi—the Morru Khan leads all the people, at all times, whereas a “zo’khan” leads the people who are present at the time, provisionally, because he is the worthiest among them.
Roughly translated, “zo’khan” might be taken as “king-for-a-day”, as the prefix “zo” indicates the present time, like the English word “now”.
Hierarchy is so inherently understood within Morrigi ascendants that any time there is more than one Morrigi male in a given locality, it is understood where the two of them stand in the scheme of things. For example, if there were three Morrigi in a group, it would be automatically understood which was the present leader and who, if the present leader was to be killed, would replace him as the responsible party. There is not any specific word for “rank” among the Morrigi, however; the closest they can come to this concept as applied to their own people is “aanigi’dha”, “worthiness-to-lead-people”.
Rather than a multitude of ranks, the Morrigi have many terms for accomplishment, with any given male able to acquire and accumulate these accomplishments over the course of a lifetime. Those males who are most accomplished tend to be those closest to the khan, if not directly in line to lead themselves, and they represent a pool of knowledge and ideas which the khan will freely access when he so desires.
The natural Morrigi lifespan varies from 200-400 years, but the rule of one tribal group over others can last considerably longer, so long as all Morrigi feel their interests are best served by the arrangement. Khanigi of any individual tribe come and go. It is understood and accepted that the khan of any tribe is the greatest among them, and the one who has the greatest “aanigi’dha”. There may be a direct genetic relationship between one passing khan and his successor, i.e. father to son—but more often the relationship is indirect, and the former khan would be genetically a grandfather or an uncle at best, if the two are directly related at all.
Women are the traditional land-owners of Morrigi society, and males typically cannot inherit land or exercise rights to land tenure except through their female relatives. While a woman recognizes a male as her relative, he may call upon her for financial and material support; if she abjures him, he is without resources.
The term of respect for the female governor of a Morrigi planet is Kthonia, “She Who Owns the Land”, or De Meter, “Mother of the World”. Meter (“mother”) in general is a respectful term, but small children will address their female parent as Mete, “Mommy”. An adult male or female Morrigi addressing the female biological parent would call her Delphyne, “Womb”.
The leader of a female Tribe is called Anaxa, “the Leader”, the feminine equivalent of the male term Khan. Females who have lived over 400 years are usually called Semne, “Revered One”, unless the person speaking is the same age or older. Women may serve as priestesses, and all female Tribes maintain an ancestral cult for their female ancestors, just as male Morrigi maintain an ancestral cult for the Travelers of their own Tribes. Such a funerary priestess would be called Hagnia, “Holy One”, or if she was gifted with the rare prophetic powers of an oracle, she would be named Pythia, “Prophetess”.
Women who excel in building and manufacturing are typically called Technea, “Mistress of Work”. In sciences there are many titles for women, but the most common is Phosphora, “Light-bringer”.
When addressing any woman who outranked her within the Tribe, a Morrigi girl would address her as Megale (“Greater-than-I”). The word Potnea (“Queen”) is seldom used for living women, as it is typically used to describe Goddess figures and women of immense power. In the court of law, a legal specialist or judge may be addressed as Thesmia, “Law-giver”.
Finally, a woman with a particularly powerful feminine empathic attack is called Daimea, “Terrifying One”.
Kragodai: the Infamous “Screamers”
The word Kragodai in the Morrigi language is a masculine passive plural: literally it means “those who are made to scream”.
Morrigi warriors who were enslaved by the Siren during the Suuligi War were given this name, because their screams were a symptom of the Siren’s coercion. Although her control over her victims was otherwise complete, the Morrigi warriors sent to kill members of their own species would sometimes let out piercing, terrifying shrieks before they struck a killing blow.
It is said that the cry of the Kragodai was the last desperate struggle of the still-living warrior, trapped within the icy tomb of his own skull. Unable to control his body and voluntary speech, the screams of the damned soul locked inside the enslaved shell would still sometimes ring out, savage and insane, as if to beg his mother, wife, child or comrade to run.
The damage caused by the Kragodai who attacked Morrigi worlds and fleets is beyond calculation. Millions of civilians died, and the vast majority of Travelers who stood to defend their loved ones were either killed by their former brothers or enslaved by the Siren in their turn. The apocalyptic loss of life, knowledge and infrastructure may take centuries to recover; the damage done to the Morrigi culture and way of life may never heal.
Famous Morrigi: Atreus the Bloody
In the Year 15,899 a contigent of Morrigi Travelers returned from an undisclosed mission to find their race on the verge of extinction.
The Bloodweaver and the Siren, driven from this sector by the first hunting sortees of the Black, could not be found and attacked by the returning Travelers. Once-glorious worlds which had stood as bastions of learning and culture for millennia lay shattered beneath the onslaught of the Kragodai, and the Screamer fleets lay shattered in system after system, broken by the brutal guerilla warfare and ambush tactics of Penthesilea the Blind.
Developing worlds which had just begun to show promise were stripped and barren, destroyed by Zuul infestation. Returning to the systems they had once called their own, trying to gather their dead and bury their brothers and friends in the tombs of their honoured dead, the Travelers were further enraged and grief-stricken to discover that many of their ancestral monuments had been despoiled by Human, Tarka, and Hiver explorers.
The overwhelming flood of outrage, grief, pain and veangeful wrath found its voice in Atreus, the Khan of the Thivani Tribe. Mustering the remaining warships of his Travelers, he unleashed a reign of terror, smashing any colony or fleet of the Human, Hiver and Tarka exlorers he encountered, and slaughtering thousands of colonists who had settled in systems formerly held by the Morrigi.
His unrepentant butchery of civilians of many races earned him the title “Haimateos”, “the Bloody”.
Atreus was slain in single combat by Tokhta the White in 15,986.
The Sisters of Victory
Traditional Morrigi society does not allow females to become Travelers, and accords little respect to women who possess traditionally masculine virtues. A “proper” Morrigi female may excel in many fields, including mathematics and sciences, architecture and industrial engineering, music and the arts…but the traditional feminine virtues, however laudable, do not include martial skill or military genius.
For this and many other reasons, the defense of Morrigi space by its female population during the Suuligi War is known as The Great Shame by traditional Morrigi. The humiliating loss of Morrigi males who became Kragodai was deeply traumatic, not least because it was poorly understood, but the militarization of Morrigi women was equally upsetting to many. Several female Tribes rose to defend the Morrigi civilization against the Screamers and the Suul’ka, building their own warships and weapons to do so. For their pains they earned the name Harpeizanae, “Snatchers”, because they are said to have torn out the hearts of their own husbands and sons.
The leader of the Harpy fleets during the Suuligi War was Penthesilea Alaia, “Penthesilea the Blind”. When the Suul’ka attacks ceased, she and her sisters were exiled permanently from Morrigi space. Tried for Harmatia (“blasphemy”) and murder, they were convicted and banished by Atreus the Bloody in the year 15,930.
The names of the Sisters of Victory were thereafter struck from public records, public speech and public memory. Their fight for the survival of their race, rather than being celebrated as heroic, was remembered only by downcast eyes and shamed silence.
Nonetheless, somewhere among the stars the Harpies are still flying, their ships painted with defiant colors and blazoned with the mocking badges of the woman warrior.
Famous Morrigi: Penthesilea the Blind
Born in the year 15,600, Penthesilea was the daughter of a Kthonia, the World-Queen Hypatia. She was also wife to the celebrated Khan of the Myrmidon Tribe, Akhilleos the Swift. Happy in her marital alliance, she was also a gifted musician and sculptor whose works were much sought in Morrigi noble houses.
Her life was torn asunder in 15,731 when her husband Akhilleos and his Travelers were enslaved by the Siren. The women of her home world never dreamed they could be attacked by the ships that they had built with their own hands. Bombarded and burned from orbit by their husbands, brothers and sons, the few survivors in the ruins looked up in horror to see their men descending in armor to personally attend to the last details of the massacre.
Armed with the spear and rifle she had been crafting for her beloved, standing in the broken ruins of the palace in which her mother and children lay dead, Penthesilea met Akhilleos face-to-face. With his first blow he blinded her, but in his shrieking madness he had forgotten that his wife was the designer of his Ascension armor. Bleeding badly, blinded and suffering, Penthesilea managed to launch her husband’s drones against him with a verbal command. Simultaneously she struck, relying on her sharpened Empathic senses to drive the spear home, and discharged a fatal bolt of plasma through her husband’s hearts.
In the weeks that followed, Penthesilea donned a cybernetic helm to compensate for her lost vision and led the armed evacuation of many Morrigi worlds. She and her Harpies left many cleverly designed traps in their wake, designed to slow and harass the enemy to allow women and children more time to escape.
After the disappearance of the Suuligi, she was summoned to the Dancing Ground to be accused of blasphemy and judged for leading women in war. Upon the orders of Atreus the Bloody, she and her Harpies were banished and departed from Morrigi space in 15,931.
Famous Morrigi: Hekate of Thiva
Hekate of Thiva was born a Pythia, a rare woman with the gift of prophecy. She lived quietly within the precincts of the temple at the top of Mount Rhea for centuries, looking into the sacred smoke for pilgrims from many worlds. In exchange for her visions and advice, she asked only that offerings and donations be made to the Cult of Rhea.
For the poor, such an offering could be as simple as a flower laid upon the altar or an evening of prayer. From the wealthy, offerings could be much more costly and elaborate. From the powerful she took the greatest tribute of all: humility. It is said that she once demanded that Chagadai the Black spend a day and a night with a broom and a mop, cleaning her temple floor, in return for a vision into his future.
In the year 15,730 Hekate looked into the glowing smoke of the brazier and saw two great shadows blotting out the stars. Her attendants rushed to her side, terrified by her shrieks and her thrashing. In the grip of her dire gift, she echoed the tortured screams of the Kragodai.
When at last her vision ended, Hekate’s wings were badly broken and her vocal chords were torn. Nonetheless the word went out across all of Thiva: the men of the Myrmidon Tribe were coming, willing slaves of a terrible destroying Goddess from the stars…a woman made of ice.
Thanks to her early warning, the women of Thiva were able to flee in advance of the oncoming Suul’ka and their armada of Screamers. Since her death in 15,803 there has not been another Doomsayer born to the Morrigi people.
Famous Morrigi: Sopheia of Aegina
Sopheia of Aegina was raised in the shadow of the greatest Hekademi in the Empire, a center of science and learning so renowned for its brilliant minds that it was called the Pharos Demeos, “the Lighthouse of the People”. Her mother was the Phosphora of Physics, a high ranking scientist, and her father a common Traveler.
It is said that Sopheia was sold to the Harpy fleet in payment of a blood debt, one of many young women who were offered by the planet-bound Tribes of Aegina to replace Harpies who had fallen in battle while defending their system. It was the first time that such a debt had ever been paid in female conscripts: all such debts in the past had been paid with male children, usually delivered before the age of 20. By contrast, Sopheia and many of her companions were well over 50 years of age, fully fledged maidens who had begun to think of marriage.
Conscript or not, Sopheia became infamous for the clever and exceedingly vicious weapons she designed during the Suuligi War. When the Sisters of Victory were banished, she did not abandon them. The words she spoke, when she refused to renounce her new Tribe, echoed the feelings of many departing Harpies:
“I would sooner live in exile than in shame.”
Religion Among the Morrigi
Morrigi religious beliefs are best defined in terms of animism, the belief that all living and non-living things are imbued with a “spirit” and a rudimentary consciousness. As is typical of sentient species, the Morrigi tend to model their cosmology on their own social structures; they ascribe personality traits to all living and non-living things, and they tend to arrange the even non-living things into Morrigi-like hierarchies and “Tribes”.
In chemistry, for example, Morrigi tend to group the elements of the periodic table into “Tribes”, each of which has a “leader” whose prominence is explained in terms of prevalence or importance. Noble gases are called the Tribe of Helium, and the alkali metals are the Sodium Tribe. When explaining chemical interactions and ideas to young children, Morrigi teachers may appeal to simple metaphors. They may explain that sodium chloride is the product of a marriage alliance, that Hydrogen is the Morru Khan of the elements, or that Carbon is a wealthy woman with many husbands and children. It is common in early primers to explain that carbon monoxide is lethal to most oxygen breathers because it is “Glamourous”, and fools hemoglobin and myoglobin in their blood into “mating” with the wrong molecule.
The spirits of most living and non-living things are not “worshipped” in the usual sense of the word; they are not venerated as deities and they do not receive prayers and offerings. It is understood that most Morrigi are unable to communicate with deeply alien spirits like those of trees, mountains and rivers directly. Nonetheless the Morrigi are encouraged to respect them as living things, to address them with verbal courtesies, or expect to suffer occasional consequences. Poems, stories and legends often include an unexpected moment of communion with a normally neutral spirit, which may intervene on behalf of the hero or heroine at a crucial moment.
The exception to this general rule are the stars and planets upon which Morrigi stake territorial claims.
The Cult of Rhea
Living worlds to be colonized by Morrigi women are regarded as female, and upon landfall the leader of any colonial group will perform rituals intended to bond her to the planet and transform her from an ordinary woman into a Kthonia, a planet-queen. A temple to Rhea, the Goddess of Terraformation, is built and maintained on every Morrigi colony world.
The priestesses of Rhea serve many spiritual functions, and are present whenever new ground is broken to build the foundation of a home or to prepare wild terrain for cultivation with crops, food animals and orchards. Perhaps most importantly, however, priestesses of Rhea are advocates for the planet upon which they live. The Cult of Rhea studies and monitors environmental interaction very closely on every Morrigi world, and the Kthonia of any given world is obligated to renew her vows to Rhea and to the planet every year. The priestesses of Rhea must be heard whenever they request an audience, because they speak not for the Morrigi occupants of a world, but for the planet itself.
Thanks to Morrigi religious cosmology, it is generally understood that if Rhea and Her daughters (the planets) are not respected, the consequences will be dire. Morrigi women do not willingly dispose of their dead by any method other than burial, and even the ashes of the dead are not considered properly buried until they are interred in the earth: burial enclosures must be made of stone or mud-brick and a mound of earth is typically raised over the burial place of any woman of real importance.
The Cult of Hastraios
Morrigi males cultivate a sacred relationship with the stars. They worship the “Burning Brothers” much as Morrigi women worship their planets, although they recognize that the stars seldom need literal, physical protection, except from very rare and terrible enemies.
According to legend, even the principles of their Void Carver drive system came as the result of a conversation between a particularly gifted Traveler and a star that loved him, and whispered its arcane secrets in his ear.
Travelers study the stars and their relationships to surrounding systems and galactic terrain from early childhood. Boys and men are encouraged to memorize the details of every star system they have visited, and to maintain personal logs and diaries which encode what they have learned.
Tribes form territorial relationships with entire systems through a sacred bond with the local star, and maintain their overall relationship with the stars through the Cult of Hastraios, the God of Astronavigation. Shrines to Hastraios exist in every Morrigi star port, but larger temples are maintained in naval bases and other male-dominated environments.
The most relevant temples built to Hastraios are the Tholos tombs, where Morrigi Tribesmen bury their dead.
The only universal religious practice of the Morrigi is ancestor worship, which helps to cement personal and group identity for both male and female Tribes. In general, every Morrigi upon his or her death is believed to become an ancestral spirit, a protector and guide to descendents of the same tribe.
Ancestral spirits are immortal, and for the most part are free from any pain or need. They bend their efforts to the good of their Tribespeople, however, and can be weakened and dissipated if they run out of the energy which sustains them.
Morrigi strengthen the ancestral spirits by worshipping them, providing them with offerings, and sustaining Tribal tombs in good condition, particular the tombs of the founders of a Tribe. The graves of important female Ancestors are typically marked by a pyramid or a massive earthen mound. An important male Ancestor will be buried in the center of a Tholos tomb.
By showing respect and love to one’s ancestors, Morrigi earn the favor of their “guardian angels”.
Harmatia and Wandering Ghosts
Morrigi who have been convicted of Harmatia (“blasphemy”, any major moral crime) are subjected to a ritual of damnatio memoriae which removes them from public memory. Their names are stricken from public records and their portraits are destroyed, their files are expunged from Tribal data banks and their monuments or grave sites are demolished. Even their physical remains are scattered to the wind, sea or stars.
Ancestral spirits subjected to this treatment become “wights”, homeless, wandering wraiths, unable to remember their former lives and doomed to roam land and stars seeking always for someone who recognizes or remembers them. Morrigi have a particular horror of amnesia for this reason; they associate loss of memory with the vengeful dead.
Wandering ghosts are considered dangerous and potentially lethal, especially if they are extremely old. Over centuries and millennia, such wights become the enemies of all life, determined to find and destroy those who betrayed them.
The reverse situation, in which a living person commits a crime and is abandoned or even punished by the ancestors, is also possible from the Morrigi point of view. Many Morrigi legends involve the overthrow of a tyrant, a witch or some other exceptionally wicked person. In some of these legends, the ancestral ghosts of the wicked person will actually appear in the story as mysterious strangers who have a great deal of information about the tyrant and his habits or crimes.
Such spirits actually help the young hero or heroine to defeat the villain, often by providing key information or a key distraction at a crucial moment. In the end, these mysterious benefactors are sometimes revealed as “guardian angels” who decided to bring about the doom of their own living kin, thus putting an end to a reign of terror which would blacken the name of the Tribe.
A Tholos Tomb is a combination of space station and funerary temple, typically built in a “pure” star system which has not been colonized and has no native form of sentient life. The largest portions of any such station are its three most important sections: a Tribal library, a temple to Hastraios, and a massive central burial chamber, generally the tomb of a particularly important ancestor of the Tribe.
The remainder of the station will be devoted to defenses and a huge number of smaller burial niches, which will house the remains of all other male members of the Tribe. Some niches are extremely small, and house only a tiny glass vial of ash to represent the deceased; others are quite large and contain fully articulated skeletons and many grave goods as offerings. Particularly celebrated Travellers are typically interred in skeletal form, the flesh and feathers stripped from their shining black bones. If the deceased served as a Morru Khan during his lifetime, he is entitled to burial in the central chamber, and his bones will be articulated, strung with titanium steel wire, and mounted on a command pillar of gold and semi-precious stones.
Tholos Tombs are extremely important to the spiritual lives of the Tribes that maintain them, and are also treasure houses of Tribal knowledge; the library of a Tholos Tomb is a repository of all of the personal diaries and records of the Tribesmen who are buried there, and young Morrigi often visit the Tomb to make offerings and commune with these ancestral spirits before making any decision of life-changing importance, particularly proposals of marriage and declarations of war.
The violation of a Tholos Tomb by anyone not a member of the Tribe is a grave example of Harmatia, and tomb robbing is a very serious crime. To take Traveler remains from a Tholos is a form of kidnapping, and the destruction or scattering of those remains is thought to render the spirits of the ancestors homeless, confused and unable to remember who they are.
If a Tholos containing the remains of a Tribal founder is destroyed, the Tribe itself is dissolved, and all members of that group are thereafter stripped of their history, their guardian angels and their Tribal identity. This was the fate suffered by many Morrigi who returned from long-distance missions in the aftermath of the Suuligi War to find that their ancestral tombs had been raided or destroyed by Human, Hiver and Tarka survey teams.
Atreus of the Thivani was one such Tribesmen. He and his men were taken in by the Thivani Tribe when their own Tribe had been eradicated, not only by losing the bulk of the living Travelers, but by the destruction of its ancestral Tholos.
Morrigi Language Dictionary
An evolving list of all known words in the Morrigi language. New words will be added over time.
Aaneia: verb, “to lead”
Aanigi’dha: noun, “Prowess”, “Worthiness to Lead People”
Aegletos, Aegleta: “Shining One”, “Shining Like the Moon”.
Aiskos: Literally “disfigurement”. Shame, disgrace.
Aiskos Megalos: “The Great Shame”, the Screamer War.
Alaios, Alaia: “Blind”
Anaxa: “Lady”, the leader of a female Tribe, equivalent to male “Khan”.
Athligi: “Those who embrace suffering”, those who are willing to be tested
Athlodeon: “Place of Testing”, like the Dancing Ground where the new Morru Khan is chosen
Athlos: “Ordeal”, “Suffering”, “Test”
Choroi: “Choir”. A frequently translation of the Liir name for themselves.
Daimea: “Terrifying One”, a term used for a female with a particularly strong feminine Glamour.
De: “World”, “Land”
Demos: “the People”, the general population
Gerontoi: Male Ancestors
Hageon, Hagnia: “Holy One”, a person with a religious calling
Haimateos, Haimatea: “Blood-stained”, a term for one who kills many.
Harmatia: “Blasphemy”, “Taboo”, a serious moral crime or violation of the social order.
Harpeizanae: “Snatchers”. A pejorative for female warriors.
Hastraios: The God of Astronavigation, and Father of the Stars.
Hekademi: Sites of descent for scholars and scientists, often Sky Cities.
Kepophonoi: “the Killing Apes”. A Morrigi name for Humans.
Khan: “Leader of the Tribe” (male), one who possesses the virtue of leadership
Klaode: verb, “to shatter”
Kragodai: “Those Who Are Made to Scream”.
Kthonia: “She Who Owns the Land”, a term for female planetary governors.
Megalos, Megale: “One Who Is Greater”
Meter: “Mother” (informally for children would be “Mete”, “Mommy”)
Meteroia: Female Ancestors
Morru Khan: “Worthy to Lead the Travelers”. The title for the leader of the Morrigi Tribes in any given period; currently the leader of the Morrigi Confederation.
Paedonai: “The Children”. The Morrigi name for the Hivers.
Pharos: Literally “beacon”, “lighthouse”. Also used for major centers of learning and scientific research.
Phosphoros, Phosphora: “Light-bringer” (scientist)
Pithakoi: “Monkeys”. A derogatory name for Humans.
Potnia: “Queen”, “Goddess”, “Mistress”
Pythia: “Serpent”, Oracle or Prophetess
Rhapsodai: “The Blissful Ones”. Another synonym for the Liir.
Rhea: The Goddess of Terraforming, and generally of worlds capable of sustaining life.
Sarkanai: “Flesh Rippers” (feminine). A Morrigi name for the Tarka, a deliberate pun based on the similar sound of the word to the Morrigi ear and the fierce females of the Tarka species.
Semnon, Semne: “Revered One” (for a person older than oneself)
Storgenoi: “the Family”. Another Morrigi term for the Hivers.
Technea: Mistress of Work
Thesmos, Thesmia: “Law Giver”, a legal specialist.
Tholos Tomb: a space station built to serve as a tomb and funerary temple for a specific Morrigi Tribe.
Yzhe: “One Who Humbles Me”, gender neutral. A term of utmost respect, used for both the finest warriors and the most impressive women. When gendered it becomes a romantic term, “Yzhos/Yzhea”, “One Who Overpowers Me With Emotion”
Zo: “now”, “at this time”