The Belkazanthe formed in Ex Tempore during the chaotic years of the earliest arrivals. The core was what would become the priesthood, a technologically advanced and expansive society of freethinkers and heretics from their own original timeline. In Ex they set out to form an ideal society. They gained much influence through their automated defense systems and openness to accept new recruits, but were eventually thwarted in their attempts to control Gog-Owza and were more or less banished into Laxitas Traba Oriens, where they developed their unique skyfaring culture to its fullest. Since then they have expanded by recruiting many Homo sapiens members, and currently are Fygjikha of Conventus Lamplandae.
The Belkazante are defined by their religion, which is somewhat unusual as a religion: they are militantly anti-spiritual. Although Belkazanthe are agnostic on the existence of supernatural beings (they just assume they do not exist until proven otherwise), they regard spiritual yearnings as morally evil. Spirituality, the seeking to experience a deep otherworldly meaning, is to Belkazante an escape from the real world and its true pleasures. At best it is just an escape into a mental wonderland, at worst a force dragging people away from truth and actuality. Instead the body and pleasure are good – to fully enjoy one’s body and maximize one’s pleasure is the only true good life.
The central concepts of Belkazanthe are their complex vision of the body, the true meaning of hedonism and their definition of wholesomeness. Something is wholesome if it leads to sustained pleasure or the potential for sustained pleasure. Hence many designer drugs and life extension treatments are wholesome. Overall they tend towards an utilitarian approach in most situations, trying to maximize happiness either individually or for the greatest number of people. Similarly Belkazanthe engineering tends to rely heavily on finding optimal shapes and methods – to make something suboptimal is embarrassing.
Serenity, balance and nobility are the greatest virtues. True pleasure requires a controlled mind that can receive it in the best way, and this is true nobility. The priesthood also has an unusual virtue: cruelty. While citizens are expected to be mild and serene, and generally do behave very pleasantly, the priests are sometimes expected to make harsh judgments or perform cruel acts. The reason is that this cruelty creates the holy pain that intensifies pleasure – when a priest tortures a pet, the compassion, love and attachment felt by its owners are intensified and hence help them experience even stronger pleasure. Cruelty is a religious tool, not a goal in itself.
Time is regarded as cyclic: just as the universe expands and collapses, so does every time: one’s life, the history of a city or the events during the day. Instead of worrying about tomorrow, make sure that your life today is maximally pleasant.
Belkazanthe look down on misers, since they do not achieve their hedonism efficiently and think they cannot sustain it without their resources. Blasphemy – either directed towards the priests or towards the sacred pleasure principle – is also unacceptable and usually treated with therapy. Citizens who experience anger or hate against the priests when they fulfill their duties also tend to hold in their feelings, since they are unbecoming and ungrateful.
Belkazanthe society is a theocracy controlled by the priesthood. Outside the priesthood it is an informal adhocracy, while the priests are organized into a strict hierarchical system. To ensure both loyalty and pleasure the priesthood provides large amounts of overt and covert drugs to the citizens – happiness inducers, spirituality inhibitors, various aesthetic hallucinogens, pain defenses and social conditioners.
The priesthood has eleven branches. The first and second are regular priests, tending the faithful and supporting them in their everyday striving. The difference is mainly in what ceremonies they perform. The third branch deals with the overall health of society, dispensing drugs and acting as a friendly inquisition. The fourth branch is law enforcement and rehabilitation. The fifth and sixth branches oversee the activities of the first and second and the third and fourth, respectively. The seventh branch deals with outside contacts, recruitment and advertising the Belkazanthe faith. The eight branch deals with schooling. The ninth branch in turn controls them. The tenth branch deals with ”grand expressions”, major festivals and religious quests. Finally the eleventh branch controls the other branches and acts as the executive and highest religious power.
The family structure is polygamous, with line marriages. Social status is not linked to family; members of the family of a high ranking priest do not experience a major increase in their own status. Children are reared in shared pools by one or more line marriages. Children are seen as investments in the future.
Law enforcement is mainly rehabilitative: if somebody misbehaves they should be corrected. This is usually done through chemical and nanotechnological therapy. Enforcement for citizens is strict, although the laws are fairly narrow and easily obeyed.
Critics have suggested that Belkazanthe is just an excuse for the priesthood to ruthlessly control their followers, but closer scrutiny shows that the vast majority of both citizens and priests are devout believers in Belkazanthe. Doubts and cynicism are rare, and when they occur they are treated – especially in the priesthood.
Belkazanthe society is extremely long-term oriented. Traditions, history and ceremonies are important. Although it is in its current form just a few centuries old, it draws on far older traditions from many different timelines. Rituals, special quests and long virtuality passion plays are common. It is very cohesive and stable.
Belkazanthe mainly live in the skycities of Laxitas Traba Oriens, enormous floating geodesic spheres, diamond balloons, chandelier cities and other unusual flying buildings. Originally a solution to deal with the lack of arable land and steep landscape of the Laxitas, it soon became a point of cultural pride to own a flying building. The most common form are held up using a nanofactured diamond sphere containing vacuum, closely followed by the grand hanging cities that extend from the roof or huge geodesic spheres held up by the heat of the city. People use personal flyers between the buildings or nanotech wings with microturbines.
The automated defense system is the greatest asset of the culture. Details are extremely sketchy, but it appears to have been constructed in the home timeline of the first priests and employs technology not accessible to them in Ex today. It consists of many tiny flying ”fireflies” that follow people around, monitor the environment and quietly hide on top of objects. The fireflies form a powerful distributed intelligence that can respond quickly to any threat. Each firefly is a picotech device able to both project energy beams, distribute nanoweapons and if necessary detonate a tiny antimatter charge contained inside. The fireflies reproduce using available matter as needed. Although the priesthood likes to pretend they control the system it is actually entirely autonomous. Exactly what programming it has is unknown (even to the priests, although presumably the highest echelons know some of the system’s origin), and it might not be entirely trustworthy.