Learn from history? I am history!
Study nothing except in the knowledge you already knew it. Worship
nothing except in adoration of your true self. And fear nothing except
in the certainty that you are your Enemy's begetter.
The trahans is a fairly humanoid species, with a highly complex and ancient
society dating back tens of millennia. Of all the aliens encountered so
far, they are the most understandable and human. But they still confound
The number of the central pillar is 253677126780 = 22345176113
which is a formalism easy to remember for the 2 columns (awe before
their multilinkages!) with 4 circulation vessels in a 1-step around the
hexune brain and the three glands of Sn-Ta. Verily, this is the optimal
factor of the body.
Traha once had a moon, which came within the Roche limit approximately 7 million years ago and was torn apart into the current ring system. The result was a mass extinction due to the long meteor rain; even today the landscape has many overgrown craters and the nights are occasionally filled with celestial fireworks. As the climate fluctuated and ecosystems extended and receded in the wake of the impacts, adaptability became a much favoured trait among most higher animals. Some families of species found completely new ecological niches and quickly expanded across the planet.
The Trahans evolved as a semi-aerial herbivore, not unlike the terrestrial fruit bats. They lived in the dense equatorial forests that slowly emerged, jumping and gliding from tree to tree on skin flaps. Their body is six-limbed with flexible skin flaps between the limbs on both sides and sensors on the spindle-shaped trunk. The top part of the trunk ends in a short head/proboscis with a long, dextrous "tongue". Their appearance is not unlike anteaters or tapirs, but their eyes are located where the neck should be on a terrestrial creature and the mouth on the chest. The reproductive organs lie in a pouch near the centre of the body. They breathe through breathing slits located on the "neck". The lungs run along their back, protected by two segmented ribcages on which the limbs are affixed. The whole body is supported by two parallel spinal columns. The brain runs as a central pillar through the body core. As they developed, their flight abilities declined and their three-thumbed hands became more dextrous. They walk on two or (rarely) on four limbs, using the front pair of limbs for fine manipulation and the second pair for heavier manipulation (some also use their proboscis and tounge). Modern Trahans stand around 1.6 meters tall.
Trahans have two sexes, although the differences are relatively small and hermaphroditism is not uncommon (this is a remnant from their evolutionary past during the mass extinction, where hermaphroditism made it easier to find partners and restore the population after a local disaster). Trahan females become fertile once a year and give birth to an embryo in a tough, flexible sack which is carried by either or both parents. As the embryo develops, it begins to demand a special form of chewed fruit pap which the parents produce (hormonal changes make them exude various antibodies and special nutrients for the child in the pap). Gradually it becomes a small Trahan, which clings to its parents until it can walk on its own.
The skin flaps are commonly decorated with paintings or jewellery, when not covered with clothing. Piercings have a long history among Trahans, ranging from utilitarian fastening points to elaborate artworks. Today they are used in certain social groups (such as the Naresh gardeners, Capital librarians and the Imperial Guard), but not in others; many old and complex social customs surround them. The body is covered with a short, beige, slightly rough fur with a subtle striped texture. In the remote past, regional differences existed, but they have largely been erased through global interbreeding despite occasional eugenic or aesthetic attempts; today it is very rare with unusual furs and individuals having them are often treated slightly differently in both positive and negative ways.
Trahan blood is a clear sticky liquid (oxygen is transferred using haemotitanin, an analogue to haemoglobin using titanium instead of iron). As it coagulates, it turns into a yellowish white (the Trahan version of "red as blood" would be "creamy as blood"). They have two tube-like hearts running along the brain inside the body.
Trahan biochemistry is terrestrial in many ways, but the proteins use some amino acids not used in terrestrial life and a wide variety of hydrocarbons instead of many fats; Trahan food is sometimes a bit too oily to human tastes. A human can survive for short periods on Trahan food, but will in the end lack essential amino acids, vitamins and fats (as well as getting an upset stomach). To the Trahans the situation is roughly the same. Some human fruits and berries are tasty (if slightly irritating), others are utterly unappetising and bizarre.
When a person attends one of the Ledges of the Dead, they either look
among the living or at the falling stars.
Trahans are highly social beings, even more social than humans. Compared to humans they have developed the systems in their brains that handle social perception, modelling and interaction much further. Trahans can easily understand extremely complex social situations with ease, and find most human soap operas or theatre plays fairly simplistic (not necessarily without merit, but simple when it comes to the social side). They also have excellent three dimensional spatial memories and abilities.
Unlike humans the Trahans are not very instrumental in their thinking; they are great when it comes to practical action and quite clever in improving tools and objects, but they have a hard time inventing new tools, making tools for making tools, or machines that act independently of themselves. Trahan thinking seems to be much more "here and now" centred than human thinking. Trahans see things as they are, not as how they should be (which is a more human trait). This means that they can learn a lot about something without feeling the urge to seek an explanation; doing that requires a deliberate decision. That doesn’t mean they aren’t curious and interested, it is just that most of their curiosity is directed towards the "Trahan angle" of things. They do not "jump out of the system", but would rather improve the system as much as it possibly could.
They are very social beings, with strong awareness of rank, style, relations and customs. Rudeness is regarded as truly low, a sign that somebody is an inferior in both spirit and rank. Social networks are even more important than among humans, and belonging to the right "branch" is essential. While humans have a fairly top-down social hierarchy, Trahans have many nuances of rank, authority, prestige, merit, credit and vigour forming a multidimensional social world. A leading couple usually dominates Trahan groups and societies; together they represent the fertility, power and breadth of vision necessary for rule. They are surrounded by their own "branch" which supports and helps them, while other branches ideally complement the leading branch with other functions (but in practice of course ambition can make the political games mindboggling even to Trahans).
Human have a past as hunter-gatherers, and the archetypal hero for humans is the brave hunter-warrior. The Trahan equivalent is instead the clever scout team, able to search the unknown and bring back useful knowledge. Another subtle psychological difference is that humans lived on the open ground, and hence tends to look around and downwards, while Trahans lived mostly in the tops of trees, making them more aware of things above too and distrustful of being on the ground. Being "on the ground" means that you are vulnerable to predators or enemies above. To a Trahan, an open landscape is not beautiful, they instead prefer a three-dimensional environment.
Trahans are usually not very warlike; they prefer at most heated debates to violence. But once they shift to an aggressive mood they tend to pursue their enemies with single-minded hatred and cold efficiency. Overall, their emotions tend to "lock in" when they become strong enough, something that has driven much history, philosophy and religion. A passionate Trahan is not going to switch off his or her passion easily; passions can last for years or more in extreme cases. This has made Trahans somewhat cautious about strong emotions, most put great value in keeping their moods in check and regard emotional people as slightly worrying. Most Trahan societies have tried to limit the spread of passions through various means.
The Trahan outlook on the universe seems to be very accepting, almost trusting. They have developed many religions; mostly dealing with how to fit in with the cosmic forest and its meaning, as well as various mystical/moral cults based on emotions. Since they lack the human tendency to anthropomorphise things they have never conceived of spirits or gods, and the idea of an afterlife is directly contradicted by experience. Their need for meaning and explanation is fulfilled by philosophies instead of religion (as well as elaborate customs and traditions). Just as the average human knowingly or not is influenced by a long religious tradition, the average Trahan is influenced by a long philosophical tradition. Many common exclamations are actually philosophical expressions (such as "Las-Tannssn!", "modality transgression!", which is a common response to certain jokes). Overall the philosophers and priests seem to regard each other as something totally independent; philosophers deal with how things are, priests with how to experience it.
Trahan love-life is almost ridiculously romantic by human standards: selecting a partner is of tremendous importance both career-wise, status-wise, socially and emotionally. The Trahans have developed more ideas about love than anything else, and it forms the basis for influential philosophies. Instead of the western idea of the One True Love, modern Trahans believe in the rational synergetic love: partner selection can be achieved by following complex strategies (of course encrusted with tradition and literature) encoded in certain love-philosophies. It is a questing process, where all aspects have to be weighed together, potential partners courted and of course much emotional tension experienced. Hermaphrodites are often envied and pitied, since they have a much larger range of potential partners to choose from. Unmarried young Trahans form a very distinct group, attending many special dinners, parties and retreats to find the right one.
Once Trahans pair (Trahan marriages are of course extremely elaborate affairs) they settle down. Couples are in many cases regarded almost as a composite individual, making career and building contacts together. It is practically impossible to get anywhere as an unmarried person, and the loss of a partner is a cause of tremendous grief and quite often suicide. Re-marrying is common; it is done among other widows or widowers; they form a second distinct group. Especially in the higher classes the widowed are an important factor, a group of potentially influential but also desperate Trahans competing for re-marriage: at the imperial court the widowed have from time to time been the real force behind the throne. Currently the imperial rules give them ceremonial but formally non-political duties; they are guaranteed a cozy but constrained life, trying to limit their influence and scheming.
Since Trahan sexuality is periodic, it is very different from human sexuality.
Most of the time Trahans are asexual (in fact, they consider humans seriously
sex-obsessed). Prostitution is extremely uncommon. Phase differences in
the sexual cycles between partners cause much problems. This is especially
troublesome if the partners are separated from each other, and many Trahan
institutions make sure couples are promoted or sent on missions together.
Today "out of phase intramarital syndrome" can be treated by counselling
and hormone treatments, but a popular view is that couples with unsynchronised
cycles are not really meant for each other. Another effect of the importance
of hormonal cycles is that communal synchronisation is important: groups
of Trahans working closely together often tend to synchronise, something
that is taken as a sign of mutual cohesion. This makes it desirable not
just to match one's cycles with a high-status group, but also that many
groups try to adjust their cycles towards some respected phase. In some
periods of history synchronisation have been a highly politically charged
issue, and many traditions and views still linger. Many branches have
internal rules or norms for this; tempers can still flare due to various
conflicts or over-synchronisations that disrupt the group.
The rhythm of the 98th dynasty can be compared to the rhytms
of the 87th and 34rd dynasty in speed, but the timbre is more
similar to the 93rd and 46th. The counter-echo will
however be remembered as a variation of the subcities, which leads to
a fascinating question: will we see a 47-finale or a canon-like recursion
to the straight dynasties?
The ancient Trahans were small tribal groups wandering through the equatorial forests, gathering fruit and other edibles. Some were scouts, searching for new sources of food, threats and paths for the tribe to wander. Others were more specialised towards efficient gathering of fruit, defense, rearing the young or organising the tribe. Their oldest inventions were various traps to defeat predators or competing groups; controlled fire and stone tools were actually a relatively late discovery in Trahan pre-history.
Trahans have had a recorded history of over 10,000 years. During this time their planet has been ruled by several dynasties of rulers, as well as several interregnums where different parts have been independent empires. The oldest records are from the near-mythical first dynasty, a forest state on Kalarr that emerged to dominate the continent. The dynasties changed, but around 6715 BC the twelfth dynasty conquered the whole planet. Since then history has been a long succession of dynasties, breakdowns, rulers dominated by their councils, dictatorships, near-democracies, theocracies and much else. The term "dynasty" more describes a period of the same form of government than the rule of the lineage.
The first 15 dynasties were relatively low-tech, and dominated mostly through trade, marriage and intrigue. Gradually the technological level picked up, and around the 18th dynasty (6300 BC) the Trahans achieved their first industrial age. It nearly ended in a total disaster when pollution and the greenhouse effect wrecked the biosphere; being dependent on fruits and other slow-growing plants the Trahan societies suffered starvation and chaos. The 20th dynasty emerged as a technocratic control society, but in the end its elaborate rationing system and protection programs failed and civilisation crashed into anarchy.
The restoration took over a century, but 6000 BC the 21st dynasty slowly emerged from the ruins. For a long time Trahan societies were again low-tech, but much of the functionality was restored. As civilisation developed it reached a watershed with the 34th dynasty, where the concept of plexing and metaphilosophy was first formulated in a strong form. Since then all Trahan philosophy has been integrated into huge frameworks, each new insight adding to the whole rather than competing with all the other possibilities.
The second rise towards the technological heights occurred during the 41st – 45th dynasties (around 3150-2650 BC), where spaceflight was achieved, massive land reshaping projects and experiments with intelligence enhancements undertaken. The 45th dynasty ended when a number of passion cults took control over large areas; the following war devastated the planet as badly as the first ecological crash. For a long time small groups struggled to survive, slowly rediscovering the huge libraries and protected cities as the ecosystem returned.
The 46th dynasty was a period of consolidation and growth, becoming the most long-lived dynasty (over 1200 years, from 2464 BC to 1252 BC). It was a theocratic society, dominated by a huge bureaucracy obsessed with clarity of emotion, thought and action. As it began to suffer from severe resource shortages, it founded the undersea subcities to mine the ocean floors. When the theocracy fell, the loyalists retreated to the subcities and continued their hierarchical society. Over the next 500 years the planet was split between the surface and undersea empires, in a state of permanent conflict that was dominated by low key warfare and intense philosophical conflict. In the end, after much suffering and heroic diplomacy the Grand Arch of the 49th dynasty and the Purifier of the New 46th dynasty committed a pact-suicide-marriage, formally reuniting the Empire into the 50th dynasty. The torch was passed on to further dynasties of all kinds, ranging from democracies and fascist states to network societies governed by axiomatic rules. Some dynasties prospered for centuries (especially the Online Emperors of the 78th dynasty), while others collapsed after a brief reign.
The 87th dynasty (1806-1885) was perhaps the closest thing Trahans can ever got to anarchocapitalism. The economy became dominated by huge corporate networks, not as much megacorporations as a complex web of interconnected and allied small companies acting together. Gradually the society became more and more fluid for economical reasons, but the Trahan mindset couldn’t handle it. In the growing chaos new philosophical solutions were suggested, and networks began to specialise and become more of social units. Gradually the 87th dynasty was replaced by the 88th dynasty (1885-2057), which could perhaps best be described as a caste society. The old networks became professions, guilds and organisations encompassing all life for their members. It was a stable, rigid society that persisted despite repeated attacks from passion cults. However, the inefficiencies and territoriality of the castes became ever more limiting, and a counter-movement began among the academic elite. In a series of "memetic coups" they subverted the caste system, and in the end made it crumble as people flocked to their new vision. The 89th dynasty was born.
Citizens, remember to give your representative-advice to your local
election tip - resolving the great issue accommodate the towers with the
dams and will plex your tax net.
Trahan society is baroque by human standards. Everybody belongs to overlapping networks ("branches" and "circles"), various organisations and hierarchies. The reason for this is the Trahan multidimensional social ranking - while trahan A is over B depending on seniority/merit, B can be over A when viewed by political power and both could have totally incomensurable forms of honor. To handle this Trahans organise themselves, which helps formalise the often contradictory rankings.
The branches form the basis of society. While many are little more than social networks where the members help each other, many have a more formal structure, with their own elaborate greetings, internal names and stories (the closest human analogy would be fraternal orders). Branches can be organised around everything from family, living place, education, philosophy, religion, political leanings, economical gain, aesthetics, job or nearly anything else. Joining often requires a social effort both from the Trahan wanting to join and the members of the branch who have to accomodate the new member; leaving is often a serious loss of prestige for everybody involved (there has been some cases of crimes being comitted just to minimise the honor-losses of a quit).
The local branches within an organisation constantly deal with each other, jockeying for position, competing and cooperating depending on philosophy and issues. Organisations that contain branches tend to be run by councils containing representatives of them all, striving to achieve consensus and represented by a leading couple. Often compromises and specific solutions developed to balance the power persist long after the branches involved have disbanded. Socially adaptive Trahans use them, and they become institutions of themselves. Over time, Trahan organisations grow organically like great coral reefs encrusted with traditions, loopholes and compromises.
As the different dynasties have passed, truly flexible and stable organisations remain unchanged and slowly accumulate. The Empire is not so much a political group as the conglomerate of institutions that have cohered together. The dominant philosophy and overt organisation changes, but the institutions merely adapt.
It is instructive to study farming to understand just how complicated Trahan society is. Farming is a much more influential aspect of society among Trahans than among humans. The reason is not a different technological level; Trahans have a fully industrialised society where only 2% of all Trahans are involved directly in agriculture. The main reason is that Trahans live from fruits that mainly grow on large trees. Since it takes decades before a tree becomes a good producer, farming has to be long-range and requires major investment. This in turn favours big and stable organisations, as well as making land very valuable.
The Farmers Associations have traditionally a strong position, both representing the land- and tree-owners (not necessarily the same people), regulating trade and doing ecological work. There are four major classes of tree-farming.
The first, House-Treeing, corresponds mainly to the fruit production of private gardens, decorative trees and the plants growing on buildings. House-Treers do not have the same strong organisation as the others, but still have much to say on urban planning and ecology. The College of Urban Ecology is highly influential, both in tending and planning new buildings: they have to work as local ecosystems and produce good fruits. The House-Tree associations often manage much of the infrastructure in cities, having taken on other roles such as building maintenance and planning (this has also made them important players in the ongoing "Tashn Issue").
The second class of tree-farming is the Imperial Trees, the farming that is part of the historical or administrative structure of the Empire. Often surrounded by complex rules, religious or historical ceremony and highly idiosyncratic, they are highly organised into many guilds, orders and local groups with widely varying styles. The Capital Treeline Planners are for example an ancient mystical order handling certain ornamental trees according to secret rules, while the Area 4 Gardeners keep a certain garden (the ceremonial garden of Sanchch, where the administrator-philosopher realised the principle of Imminent Awareness and later celebrated the official dynasty-suicide of the 68th dynasty) identical the year around.
The third and fourth classes are the major fruit producers, the Trehsch-Trss and the Nass-Trss (roughly "liberated-networked farmers" and "associated farmers"). The differences are mainly structural and tax-based. The Trehsch are networks of collaborating farmers each specialising into different forms of farming and doing work for each other, while the Nass are unified groups where one group tends one area the year around. These in turns have complex subdivisions and classifications, mainly due to seniority, guild-like rules and historical traditions. The Trehesch and Nass adapted differently to the current dynasty, and both have different branches of the Tree of Election. The Trehesch are more conservative and a bit on the Reformist side, while the Nass have flowered during the current dynasty and hence are strongly Loyalist; however, there are several Nass corporations with intense Reformist leanings that want to break free and form a separate branch of the Tree of Election – this is resisted both by the Trehesch and Nass, but supported by the Loyalists of the House-Trees associations supporting an imperial solution of the "Tashn Issue" (a political jumble that even many Trahans find bizarre). To complicate matters some of the agricultural groups have special ties to the underworld, both economic criminality and drug production.
Other institutions have developed in a similarly baroque and stable form.
An important profession is the path-pointers, people who can tell you where to go to achieve something (for example which department handles your kind of issue, which branches would have an interest in a certain cause or just how to get to a certain place); a bit like human fixers and go-betweens (which also have Trahan counterparts, of course) but mainly just information-givers. Path-pointers are usually very specialised on a certain field such as economic bureaucracy, other path-pointers, Capital geography, a certain branch-nexus, the underworld or a family-web. They have to spend much time and energy keeping their information and personal networks active, and some can charge outrageous fees for their services.
Trahan criminality has some superficial similarities with human criminality. Theft, trade in restricted goods and services, tax evasion, bribes, murder and many other crimes are similar to their human counterparts, even if the views on what is valuable or illegal may differ. Crimes of passion have a completely different tinge; while fairly rare among humans and usually done on the spur of the moment, Trahan crimes of passion (be it hate, love, fear or curiosity) are both more common, more elaborate and more feared (as well as more fascinating). A passionately vengeful Trahan can remain hateful for a long time, building up a gruesome revenge (even if his or her thinking is of course clouded) and then strike out with unrelenting fury. This also goes for serial killing and mass murder, and since passion can be transferred the job of police psychologists is extremely important.
One category of crimes that exist among Trahans is social criminality. Being highly social beings, social interactions and connections are a form of capital which of course means some can gain advantages at the expense of others. This ranges from various forms of intrigue and emotional manipulation, over blackmail, rumormongering and threats of ostracism from favoured groups to manipulation of partner meetings, careers and branches. There exists several forms of social crimes which appear strange to humans, such as "gratitude forcing" (putting somebody into a very deep state of gratitude through manipulations and gifts, essentially making the victim the slave of the patron) or "marriage control" (to force somebody into a marriage) or "branch division rationing" (an elaborate form of confidence game where a social network if fooled into certain economic, political or taxation deals putting the power over the deals into the hand of a small group of people, who can then force the network into buying itself free in order to avoid disruption caused by the underlings of the criminals). Some organised crime groups use corrupt path-pointers to direct people to branches or organisations they run, or to cause disruptive fluctuations in customers ("Most honored departement logistics supervisor, it would be very unfortunate if there was some overload in the number of registration requests just before the yearly accounting, wouldn't it?").
Since Trahans are highly social, it is natural that the underworld is much more organised than among humans. Organised crime completely dominates serious criminality, and has many branches into legitimate government. On the other hand, there exists many specialised crime groups and networks, with old and elaborate traditions regulating how they might interact. The idea of self-restraint in the underworld is important; due to some very baroque but long-standing deals there are legitimate and official channels to the government. In fact, there is even a liaison from the Katleeb Metanetwork (a form of crime union) to the Imperial Police to deal with unacceptable criminality (for example passion cults, which many of the crime networks refuse to deal with).
Trahan media are of course a major factor of power, and the current dynasty realised that very early. In fact, it largely came to power by co-opting the media, and they are an integral part of the Imperial System now. While some independent media exist, they are largely inconsequential. Trahans mainly get their information from the two forms of television. One form, the screen form is used mainly for more abstract information, education, news and art. The other form is based on placing two hemispheric viewscreens on the eyes, and used for entertainment and other stuff that seeks to immerse the viewer in the experience. The media organisations provide what people want or need, of course with the restraints needed to keep the Empire mentally healthy. Direct censorship is rare, but self-censoring is extremely common. Print media are also big business, especially since no modern Trahan home is complete without a library that express the family philosophy (even if these books are never read). Newspapers have largely been replaced by send-on-demand television and newstainment shows.
Do not let your branch-branch dissolve, but plex it with friendship
and respect so that the share-community will prosper and counterplex the
base-nature of the branches.
Their current society is not unlike Confucian Chinese, with an elaborate system of customs, ranks and obligations dating back into the remote past. The pace of Trahan society and politics is rather leisurely by human standards.
Ceremonies, exchanges of symbolic gifts, small-talk and long dinners are commonplace; even the most ceremonial human societies are nothing compared to Trahan society. The ceremonialism is the result of millennia of social evolution, the need of dealing with a world-wide society teeming with people, forming a stable social context and of course the Trahan tendency to socialise and maintain traditions. Trahans have a hard time not trying to integrate strangers into their social context, not doing so makes them uncertain and worried (in cities and other situations where there are too many people to learn to know, group ceremonies are held to provide a context). There are of course rude or informal Trahans, but it is an even greater social handicap than among humans. Also unlike humans, Trahans seldom feel the need to let go of their inhibitions and politeness – even a Trahan intoxicated with Rarraschas will behave politely (if erratic).
Current Trahan bureaucracy is not that fond of paperwork; although in the past administrations have ruled through red tape and complex forms, Trahans prefer a personal or social touch. Instead of sending documents to bureaucrats, personal meetings are often necessary. Important matters have to be resolved over long sequences of meetings/dinners and discussions, often taking weeks and involving inviting representatives from other groups to reach a consensus. This has made the Trahan administrative complexes more like huge meeting places (often with extensive recreation facilities) than terrestrial cubicle-labyrinths. The introduction of wearables have however made the ritual exchange of elaborate digital business cards almost as cumbersome as human paperwork.
The Trahan Empire covers the entire world, and has done so for millennia. To Trahans this means that having two political units is simply impossible; the definition of the Empire has become "all Trahans". Some Trahans might be opposed to the current administration or even have their own (deliberately or due ignorance), but they are all part of the Empire and the understanding is that the proper order of things is to have a single administration and philosophy (even if this may be deliberately divided into different sub-polities). The arrival of humans did not change this. Instead the concept of Trahans was extended to include humans: humans are just another kind of Trahan (which anyway means "human being" to the Trahans), and hence naturally a part of the Empire. This actually includes off-worlders too, although nobody has yet come up with a satisfactory way of handling the administration. It is not a question about arrogance, the Trahans understand the situation quite well, but the idea of having several totally independent and philosophically incompatible nations is simply ridiculous to them. In the end, there can only be one system even if it is flexible and changeable.
While Traha has no nations other than the Empire, and regional differences have tended to wash out in the face of global communications, there are still distinct cultural differences among Trahans just as vivid as among humans. The cultures are structured along the lines of social strata, organisation and profession. Already the languages of different professions and organisations show noticeable differences, and local customs can often be quite bewildering to Trahans from the outside (for example, the Capital city ecologists are known to be extremely clannish, having many exotic rituals and secret branches that isolate them to the rest of society and give them an air of unapproachable authority/philosophical unassailability).
Trahan philosophy is extremely complex, due to a long history of speculation and insight, all carefully kept and developed. The basic idea that has emerged is the concept of plexing; there are many correct ways of viewing the universe, and they all mesh together into a great interlocking web. If something doesn’t fit the amassed web, it is either erroneous, misinterpreted or suggests an unknown aspect – it has to be considered and examined very carefully. Trahan philosophers often examine how different historical views fit together with each other and current events, using a rich vocabulary of metaphilosophy.
Trahan literature is immense, ranging from onomatopoetic word poems to multivolume historical epics. Since Trahans more easily handle social relations than humans, Trahan literature often includes very many protagonists and complex social relations only subtly alluded; reading it is very hard for humans. The Chronicles of the Grinding Stone of Na, one of the most famous epics in Trahan literature, deals with the rise of the 45th dynasty and the decline of the independent airwarrior-class, has 57 main characters and a storyline distributed over ten generations, in a number of alternative histories. The Trahan tendency to think in terms of what is real and here and now makes real fantasy literature scarce; very little fantastic literature exists. The closest match is the "what if" novels, where the consequences of a change in history are explored; many are of course satires or used to further explore the subtleties of events.
Trahans love histories and do their best to preserve traditions, books and the wisdom of the past. Overall they have been described as pack rats: they try to store and preserve everything with the least value, almost as if they had an instinctive fear of loss. Their cities are filled with great old buildings carefully restored or improved libraries and historical places.
During the long history many great cities have been built, often as extensions of the old. The architecture is complex, usually highly three dimensional (Trahans have excellent 3D visualisation abilities) and with to a human odd aesthetic ideas. Skyscrapers and huge arcologies are common in order to save space. In rural areas building are often built carefully into the forest or integrated in specially bred banyan-like trees that become part of the house. Subscrapers, underground "skyscrapers" extending downwards into the ground are common in certain areas. Indoors, ladders are the most common way of moving up or down, and in large buildings elevators are ubiquitous. Many cities have extensive local railways, often running small commuter taxis for just ten people.
A Trahan home is often highly three-dimensional. A common design consists of a number of platforms linked by flexible bridges or rope ladders hanging from the ceiling, with attachment points so that possessions can be hung from them - it is very flexible, easily reconfigured to suit the owner's tastes and space-saving. Many Trahan apartments simply consists of a big open space which the tenants fill with floors to suit them. Another popular design involves a central branching pillar, onto which floors can be affixed. Everything is open, and much care is spent on lines of sight and decorating roofs and floors.
The Capital of the empire is just called Capital; it has been used with a few interruptions for over 8,300 years, and by now it is a jungle of ancient skyscrapers, palaces, libraries and monuments. It is located on the west coast of Kaalrr, extending almost 430 kilometers north-south. At the center lies the Imperial Palace, essentially a city-in-the-city extending into the surrounding city in a branching pattern of historical buildings, imperial departements and monuments. Another focal point is Capital University, a similar sub-city partially branching into the palace grounds.
Capital University is not just the oldest and largest university on Traha, but also a political powerhouse. In the various "colleges" the future politicians are groomed, and the academic leadership holds a powerful position in the Ttree of Election. Travel to the University is by tradition restricted to students there, but a tradition has emerged where one course is never completed, making the person elibigle for the rest of his life.Sometimes thae couse is formally completedas a part oif the suicide festivities.
Games are popular, ranging from the Lscharr, a three-person chesslike game played on a triangular board, to elaborate roleplaying games blending over into theatre or formalised storytelling. Sports are also important, especially team sports such as Ssnee-Ssna. In Ssnee-Ssna two team compete climbing around in a dense "forest" made of branching pipes, gathering symbolic objects and trying to sabotage for each other using special hollow staffs. The sport is popular, and has several series of games leading to the highly watched and political plays in Capital. Individual sports involve flying (using hanggliders or ultralight extensions of their skin flaps; this is regarded as a highly erotic sport), navigational games (both in the countryside and the city) as well as games of dexterity practically impossible for humans to follow: four hands opens up whole realms of juggling and eye-hand coordination, and Trahan nimbleness makes these games fast. On the other hand, swimming is not very popular, regarded as a strange things by everyone except some coastal communities.
Trahan are fruit-eaters, complementing it with vegetables, small animals and fish. Over time, a large variety of fruits have been bred, ranging from the "bread and butter" Scrarran over the popular Kee to the subtle and overpriced Snall-Lans. The Trahans can spend just as much time debating the relative merits of different kinds of Kee as human wine specialists, each having their own well-thought and deep-seated opinion on exactly which flavour nuance makes the fruit from their favourite district supreme. Eating is often done while doing something else. Most people carry a fruit pouch as part of their clothing; dinners are social rituals rather than normal parts of daily life. Cooked food has (as expected) also many forms, ranging from simple servings of diced, mashed, marinated or stuffed fruit over jellies and foams to the elaborate "imperial potions" of herbs, fruits and fish that are served at the court (overall Trahan cooking tends to be too soft for a human taste). Among the xenocreole cooking is tricky, as humans and Trahans need different food and cannot eat certain foodstuff the other want. Often the two species cook together, but make separate dishes with some shared ingredients.
Drug use is a complicated matter among Trahans. Certain drugs are completely accepted, others highly forbidden. The legality depends mainly on whether they incite passionate or socially destructive behaviours; addiction is regarded as a secondary problem by the current government. The most common drug is the Sas-Nesch-Rraach, a spice produced from certain "fishes" and added to foods. The result is a pleasant sensation, a slight loss of memory and deep relaxation. It is very popular, and different forms savoured at festive occasions. Another important group of drugs are various molds that grow on certain fruits; the legality of these vary, but most are regarded as fairly benign with the exception of Rraachnatrte, which induces feelings of extreme love and is regarded as highly dangerous and asocial. A large number of designer drugs exist, and the underworld and various cults are making a thriving business in grey area substances. Some of the most disturbing drugs are the Nanen family of parasites, small wormlike animals that burrow beneath the skin and produce chemicals that produce various psychological effects in the host. It is uncertain if the Nanen evolved naturally (some similar species are found in the wild) or were actually developed sometime in the past; the cultivation of Nanen has been forbidden for millennia, but the use continues. Individual Trahans have highly different views on the suitability of different drugs, and in many cases the discussions about drugs are more emotionally charged than the drugs themselves.
Trahans have a very negative view of insanity. Many forms of mental illness, especially their counterpart of psychotic states, are taboo in civilised society. Emotional illnesses and passions are unsettling (and fascinating), but delusions and lack of control are taboo – something that must not happen. If somebody goes insane, it is a failure from their side, from society and from nature, an ugly reminder of basic flaws in existence that most Trahans do not want to be faced with. This is why forms of mental illness that can not be dealt with using therapy, drugs or surgery are usually hidden away or even quietly euthanised (since they no longer are connected with reality, they are already dead by Trahan standards).
Trahans have never believed in any afterlife, but have matter-of-factly regarded death as simply the (often undesirable) ending of life. Trahan funeral rituals are instead affirmations of their life philosophies and ways of helping their families and branches cope. The bodies are simply cremated and the ashes spread, but the ceremonies can become extremely complex, expensive, time consuming and require the presence of many relatives. Over time the various priesthoods, counsellors and experience-managers have gathered together into the Ledges of the Dead, where the ceremonies are held. The are semi-independent principalities scattered across the planet, marked by immense plant-covered minarets or pillars (the highest, the Country Wall of Schertn, is 2582 meter high). The Ledges are powerful institutions, but utterly neutral in all political or social questions, often to the extreme of being utterly evasive about anything but emotions and philosophy.
Suicide is a common cause of death, and often viewed as something positive.
When Trahans feel they have lived too long or achieved their greatest
goals, they often decide to commit suicide using traditional suicide drugs.
This is especially common among recent widows/widowers, even if double
suicides are not uncommon. Many Trahan suicides are public affairs, where
relatives, friends and contacts visit the would-be-suicide to take farewell
or finish all business; these suicides are spectacular parties as the
would-be-suicides give away gifts and spend their remaining money on making
the living happy. Some of the Imperial suicides are planned months ahead,
follow ancient protocols and have heavy media coverage. One problem is
chain reactions when especially loved people end their lives and cause
followers to do the same; traditional suicide speeches often warn against
this and entreat the loved ones to continue.
That? Just a 69th dynasty supercomputer.
Technologically the Trahans are at a roughly industrial level, with renewable energy, global radio, sophisticated selective breeding and advanced materials. Many old technologies are archived but not used for various reasons. For example, after the fall of the 87th dynasty large scaling computing fell out of favour; it is still known, but simply not used (however, the introduction of human wearables is changing all that).
The once wild forests where the Kee and Enene fruits grew have repeatedly turned into cultured forests, been decimated by droughts, war or mismanagement, replanted and restored from time to time. The planet has overall fared relatively badly in the temperate and tropical regions, where the natural flora and fauna has been nearly extinct except for a small number of cultured species (with a myriad variants) and some pests. Human biologists are working with Trahans to restore some extinct species and biodiversity, but it is hard work.
Energy is supplied mainly from renewable sources such as geothermal energy, hydrothermal OTEC plants and wind power (all fossil fuels are long since used up, and nuclear power was never discovered). Especially the ocean trenches around Snrr provide enormous amount of energy as well as algae for agriculture in the cold water upwellings. The empire has shown interest in human fusion power, but the introduction has been limited since administrators realise it makes the empire dependent on Helium 3 from the humans; as long as Trahans cannot produce it efficiently fusion must remain a complement.
Transports are mainly done using electric hovercraft vehicles, railways criss-crossing the continents and boats. Air transport is rare, although zeps are used for lifting heavy loads or reaching isolated areas. Heavier than air aircraft exist, but are very rare due to the need of efficient fuels. Current aircraft are extremely aerodynamically efficient, and are fuelled by very expensive synthetic fuels. Their main uses are military applications. Above most areas ultralight unmanned solar-powered planes circulate, acting as communication relays (this network is the last remnant of the 78th dynasty global communications nets).
Trahan weapon technology actually lies ahead of human weapon technology except for the information component such as C3I systems. They have Gauss rifles, using magnetic fields to propel bullets at very high speeds, as well as sophisticated nonlethal weapons using expanding foam. Since there have been few major wars in the last millennium, most of the weapons and technology is hidden in bunkers and old storage, but overall Traha likely has the most weapons of all planets in human space. The Imperial Army (more correctly, the war branch of the police force) is currently quietly introducing human C3I systems. Overall, the Empire is not advertising its know-how, and usually lets human see antiquated or ceremonial weapons.
Another area where Trahans are ahead is climate and weather engineering. The OTEC plants in the seas can influence local weather by pumping cold water to the surface or not, and this has been exploited to both suppress hurricane formation and to regulate rainfall. Microwave arrays and cloud seeding are used to break up or fatten clouds over selected areas. The methods are not magical and doesn't work under all circumstances, but are efficient enough to give most of the continents a noticeably better weather than they would otherwise had.
A final aread Trahans have mastered well is optics. They have developed a powerful "language" for constructing optical systems of all kinds, ranging from clever optical fibers to building-sized light systems. Instead of electronics active optics is used in many Trahan designs, making them more robust (an invulnerable to EMP). Using sophisticated mirror and lightchannel systems the interiors of the huge arcologies and subscrapers are provided with sunlight.
While the Trahans during the 42nd dynasty achieved spaceflight, the venture
ended fairly shortly due to internal political problems and the problems
of maintaining space installations around a ringed planet. For most of
their history the Trahans have concentrated on what could be called the
sciences of design: art, architecture, crafts and making working systems
for agriculture, city management and daily life. The real strength of
Trahan technology lies in design. Trahan technology works to a
much larger extent than human technology: glitches and breakdowns are
much rarer, the function is exactly tuned to what is needed and usually
quite simple to understand. They are masters of appropriate technology,
never using too much or too little for the job. Their ideas tend to be
simple and elegant, freeing up time and space for making practically everything
xenobaroque pieces of art – the functions of their devices are simple,
the appearance the opposite.
Beneath the Arc of Heaven, in the Capital, at the Plaza of Formal
Regard, the permanent Xenological Comission announce the following decisions:
First, that the beings called humans have been successfully plexed according
to the laws and philosophies of the glorious 89th dynasty of the empire.
Humans do go home!
Since the first encounter in 2127, Trahans and humans have learned from each other and adapted to the quirks of the other side. The process has been far from smooth - at several points serious mistakes has been made, and there are still sizeable groups that think the species cannot share the same society and will forever remain alien to each other.
The Victoria Treaty of 2150 does not just regulate human-Trahan relations but contains the philosophical ideas that humans and Trahans are really of the same kind. This integration has both helped the relationship between the species, but also led to a number of quirky bureaucratic problems (are humans eligible for the Tree of Election?) and some subtle threats (if humans are a kind of Trahans, the colonies are really outlying parts of the Empire).
To the Trahans, humans are uncultured, stressed and disorganised; ever groping towards perfection but always getting sidetracked by shiny new toys or ideas. Many Trahans think it is important to educate humans, and there has been several drives for sending out missionary-teachers to help the humans.
The Victoria humans see the Trahans as the majority; they are aware that
they are a small minority on a planet totally dominated by the Trahas
for the last ten millennia. Some react with an inferiority complex, trying
to outdo Trahans and Trahan culture at all costs. Others accept it, and
instead seek to become more Trahan. The Xenocreole and moderate Victorians
instead try to combine and plex the cultures, whith the Xenocreole opting
for a close collaboration and the mainstream a more regulated meeting.
The issue has been stalking the five previous administrations, and
none has dared even challenging the base after carefully evaluated deliberation.
Will we see a similar climb from present responsibility from our honoured
council, or can the gardeners of our ethics again raise the twilight banner?
In any case, our branches will be eagerly attuned to the outcome and perform
our proper act.
The current state on Traha is a planetary empire, ruled by the couples of the 89th dynasty. The political system is complex, with many ancient customs and holdovers from past dynasties. A council of influential officials selects the imperial couple; its position is not unlike a terrestrial presidency where the president has significant but not unlimited power. The councillor couples are in turn selected in other ways from subcouncils governing various functions and areas. For example, regional councils elect the continental administrators, while the Chief Organiser Pair is the most senior couple of the imperial administration. The whole structure is called The Tree of Election, and is based in the current Nasstschsch (governing philosophical paradigm). The Tree structure is a web of compromises, holdovers, clever power balances, bureaucratic concessions and local democracy – the details are extremely involved and keeps the Imperial political designers busy. The overall effect is to promote competent, ambitious Trahans towards high office while balancing different opinions and groups. Certain organisations and offices provide a quicker way, but are more limited, while the long way up is more uncertain but flexible.
The system of having couples holding office means that career-minded Trahans need to find a suitable spouse, and that if one of them dies the remaining person either has to re-marry or step out of office. In the imperial court there are many well-respected widowers and widows playing a subtle role in the background, either trying to find a partner to get back into politics or scheming in the background.
The empire is divided in a complex system of regions, organisations and departments. Many are fairly independent, but the imperial couple has a profound political influence by their strong media presence and the imperial agencies. Of special interest are the Harmony Police. The Harmony Police works to preserve the stability and order of the empire, not to fight actual crimes (that is left for other agencies). To this end they influence society using the amassed techniques of philosophical engineering, infiltration and rarely subtle pressure. Currently they are especially after cultism, trying to make society less passionate and more rational by defusing the cults, directing their energies into harmless directions such as sports, art or bickering. Censorship is regarded as gauche, the empire is run gently but skilfully.
In Trahan politics, there is a polarisation since time immemorial between the Reformists and Loyalists. The Loyalists are the groups supporting the current paradigm and its institutions, while the Reformists either want to modify it (the Near Reformists) or change the paradigm altogether (the Far Reformists). Loyalists are not necessarily happy with the current rule, but accept its philosophical premises and want to work through the system. The border between Loyalists and Near Reformists is rather blurred, and change as new ideas are incorporated into the empire. What distinguishes Near and Far Reformists is that Far Reformists have fundamentally different philosophical views on how society should work – to implement them the dynasty needs to be radically changed. Since Trahans dislike contradictions and confrontations, even the most radical Far Reformists usually try to couch their ideas in language and forms similar to the current Nasstschsch and show that they are better in all respect. Only the most extreme and dangerous Far Reformists such as passion cultists refuse this and opt for confrontation.
The current regime has a fairly unified Loyalist block, dominated mainly by various ambitious branches and persons trying to climb upwards and promote their interests rather than divide over ideology. It has served the Imperial Couple well, but over time the Reformist block has grown ever more rapidly due to the humans. New ideas from the humans have shaken the traditional order, despite the attempts from both the imperials and humans to keep the situation calm. Right after first contact a humanist fraction emerged among the Trahans, enthusiastic about human fashions, ideas and technology and forming a basis for some Reformist groups. Over time the humanists have gained in economic and political power through their collaboration, worrying purists who see humans as threatening the social order. Several academic networks have begun a huge project of "translating" human culture, causing endless debate and controversy around certain areas; the Permanent Imperial Xenological Committee is in constant session dealing with how to handle sensitive problems and what areas to "concentrate less on". The emergence of xenocreole has especially caused trouble, as it doesn’t fit in with the current philosophical systems and exploits the cracks between human and Trahan culture in ways traditionalists can’t follow. Overall, the humans are forcing more and more Loyalists into the Reformist block in order to help or oppose humanism.
Another dividing factor is the "Tashn Issue". Tashn is a form
of taxation dependent on living in certain historical building complexes
(a sizeable fraction of the population does). While Tashn was originally
intended to pay for their upkeep, it has been diverted to many other projects
and the original meaning diluted. This has in turn produced a thriving
business of "tax evasion" through moving which the Empire has
tried to limit, with the result of ever more complex and resilient tricks
being developed. The Trahan taxation system is extremely complex and so
riddled with potential loopholes and traps that tax evasion is becoming
a significant threat to imperial stability, and reforming taxation is
nearly impossible without upsetting millennia-old institutions. The most
unusual thing is that since Trahans to a much larger extent than humans
feel a need to maintain public goods part of the evasion money is diverted
into Tashn Foundations, local foundations to maintain the complexes and
other public goods. The Empire is faced with the problem of either trying
to reclaim the money from the Foundations, and then hurting the public
works it tries to maintain as well as becoming highly impopular, or trying
to limit tax evasion by streamlining the system which immediately runs
into huge bureaucratic and political issues.
Humans speak funny
Trahans speak with snorting, hissing and vibrating voices from their breathing slits. Many of the sounds are very hard for humans to imitate, and vice versa. The different breathing slits can be used to create subtle pronunciation effects that are important in conveying emotional content. While talking in stereo is possible and a popular trick, it is not used in normal speaking.
Trahans have had many languages, but ever since the Logocratic Experiment of the 63rd dynasty there has been only one main language (the Experiment was the deliberate attempt to impose mutually incomprehensible artificial languages in different provinces to create a divided and easily ruled empire; the logocracy failed spectacularly even if it did wreck havoc with language); global communications and a centralised empire has promoted the emergence of Trahan. Within different communities and professions such as philosophy, medicine, technology, branches of government or businesses terminology has however evolved for a very long time, and independent sub-languages specific for the fields have persisted for millennia – they may not even belong to the same language group as main Trahan. Of course there are some regional differences; a Trahan can readily hear that somebody is from Kaalrr, Na, Snrr or the oceans.
Trahan voices tends to produce mainly alveolar consonants and has a fairly low number of vowels, but the repertoire is extended by the different sounds made when inhaling or exhaling the sound. The tone and rhythm is relevant for meaning too; when writing Trahan using human characters a detailed orthography is used, but in most applications only a rough (usually still hard to pronounce) abbreviation is used. The language is agglutinating (syllables or affixes have individual meaning and put together), but many common words have been abbreviated. The language has no strict division between adjectives, nouns and verbs - the same word can be used to denote both something, what it does (modified using various affixes) and its properties. Na may refer to the continent, being of or related to Na or Na as a historical process - the context determines what sense works, and they can often be mixed. Overall, the meaning of most words is highly context-dependent, an isolated word often lacks meaning. On the other hand it has a very strict order in the sentence structure, including several types of clauses - some constructions force the speaker into going into extra explanations, politeness or roundabouts (even if everyday Trahan cleverly avoids it). It has a very rich vocabulary of social relationships, which are often used to denote even non-personal things like physics or philosophy.
Writing exists in many forms, the most common ("the imperial style") consists of a phonetic script with symbols denoting different sounds and their style suggesting subtle nuances of volume, timbre, intonation and mood. It is written both from left and right, changing direction at the edge of the paper (boustrophenonic writing); the phonemes look like small knots and loops. Another important form of writing is the simplified ideographic script, a remnant of the 75th dynasty which reformed many old writing systems and philosophical concepts; the ideographic script is mainly used in hardcore philosophical deductions. The interplay between the angular ideographs and the looped phonemes are often used in weaving together complex visual diagram/sentences. Calligraphy and hiding texts in the design of objects is a popular art, and decorated fruits with poetry (and scented inks) a valued form of gifts.
They have had number systems usually based on six, seven or twelve. Modern Trahans use the duodecimal system, but the septal system was in use up until the 69th dynasty.
Trahan names are selected according to several systems. The most common consists of randomly combining syllables (usually as a kind of game/ceremony by the parents and their branch); some groups use parts gathered from an area such as history or a science to produce new names. Another system creates descriptive names (like Sshna-Tre, "Long skin flaps"). It is rather common to have many nicknames and functional names; titles and achievements are often combined with the name, creating a kind of "wardrobe" of names trahans can use in different occasions.
Trahans in Alternity
Free broad skills: Athletics, Acrobatics, Knowledge, Administration, Culture and Interaction.
Trahans have a –2 bonus for climbing and all skills where having six flexible limbs come in useful. Trahans have a –1 bonus to escape and resist damage from falling.
Trahans naturally have the advantage ambidextrous; however this only makes it possible to use both sides in parallel, the ability to use all four hands independently must be taken as a ambidextrous perk.