Exarchs of Dusk: Titans
- 1 Game
- 2 History
- 3 Politics
- 4 Gazetteer
- 5 Databank
You are the proteges of Exarch Lockwood, one of the three Exarchs to call Narbonilla home. As such are you are tasked to do essentially anything he asks. Assassination, theft, tea service, espionage, counterespionage, diplomacy . . .
He is your boss. He probably doesn't look like Moff Tarkin, but you never know. He has the following traits:
- Bastion World - The Rmasters had several worlds deep in the Great Wall terraformed and colonized; these were heavily fortified by the Interim Conclave during the civil war to be unassailable rear areas. They proved to be too much for either rebel or republican forces to take and are the de facto capital of the remnants. Having one of these are your territory grants you greater access to resources but also puts a target on your back - be it by foe or friend.
- The Fleet - The fleet is the traditional base of hard power among Exarchs, particularly in context of the buildup after the Rmasters departed. While sadly depleted after a decade of conflict and a subsequent decade and a half of collapse and neglect, there is still a strong esprit de corps among the loyalist elements.
- Flagship - The battlecruiser was the largest warship that the Mastery built in series, but larger were constructed every so often. Each one was unique and likely has a storied history, though more than one was secreted away in the bastion worlds as part of the Absolute Defense Fleet and never came without a great league of combat for the entire civil war.
- Conclave Confirmed - For your loyal service and demonstrated skill, you received the coveted position of Exarch sometime in the years before things went south. The archetypical Exarch.
- Gardening - Time spent in a garden has a salutory effect on the psyche, letting one relax and concentrate the way being in an office or command bridge does not. Well-tended personal grounds are also an impressive tool to show your confidence and security to others.
- People - You have made a careful study of what makes people tick and how to cultivate talent. This may or may not help you select the most loyal, but this has definately given you an eye for talent - and knowing when to discard a failing subordinate.
Please post short concepts (one sentence to one paragraph) and I will generate rules as appropriate. Ideally all characters would have reason/skills to mostly be in the same scene, but we can discuss ones that have sidekicks for battle duties. Assume that if necessary, a transport or combat ship with crew can be provided. As Lockwood does not have magi backing, any etheric abilities are low at best.
Also consider what, if any, epic level elements to your character; a cyborg reconstruction, a network of contacts, a mecha or space fighter, paratroop elite goons, magical training, etc etc.
Early Mastery Period (0000-0250 MM)
The earliest years of the Mastery are opaque even today, with few reliable sources available. Ironically (or not) this era is actually less well understood than the preceeding High Imperial period; much of the Early Mastery Period is more myth than history. With that said, it is considered settled fact that the Mastery's initial expansions were in this period, including both wars of conquest and peaceful annexation expanding the Mastery's borders and population. The War of the Alliance is generally seen as capping this period.
War of the Alliance
Five centuries ago, the Mastery fought what may have been the most significant war of the entire pre-Conclave history. While the truth of the matter has been obscured by generations of hagiographical rewrites, some basics can be understood. The Mastery engaged in a war with a group of states that possessed their own pre-Ragnarok weaponry and potent magics, though ultimately insufficient to emerge victorious against the Mastery's close-Sanjaks. Furthermore, the war occurred at least in part via the planetary godspaths that connect a number of core Mastery worlds. The conquest of Malazkand may have been the proximate cause of this war, as surviving records do paint a picture of conflict on that world where Mastery troops were the defenders.
High Mastery Period (0250-0500 MM)
The High Mastery era is generally considered the Mastery's 'golden age', an age of peace, prosperity and unquestioned hegemony and perhaps not surprisingly, many more historical sources. While not without its share of conflicts, with the exception of the two-year Ironhold war they were also either minor or so peripheral that they barely impinged on the Mastery as a whole. This is not to say that the Mastery did not expand its borders but as known space as a whole tumbled to its post-Ragnarok nadir those new additions might as well have been using bows and cavalry (and in many cases were) for all they could accomplish against hyperalloy-clad man-machines and impact-armored clone mamluks.
The Ironhold War is the only war outside of living memory that has a significant corpus of both primary sources and scholarship, quite possibly because having opted to not assimilate the Ironholds in the wake of the Mastery's victory they could not conduct their usual historical whitewash.
The Ironholds proper were and still are a collection of dwarven holds bored into a drift of asteroids, these follow a regular two and a half year orbit through a gas cloud. This gives them three seasons; Summer, Gas and Winter. Having once served the Gods, Ragnarok left them both spiritually adrift and lacking in some of their former knowledge. Having been on the Mastery's borders for over a century, they had more than sufficient time to salvage and relearn what they could and use that to construct a defensive force built with crude but effective technowizardry. While the dwarves of the Ironholds were hardly ones for political boasting, they were confident that despite the inefficiency of their production methods they would be able to hold off the forces the Mastery would send at them.
The war that ultimately came, an unfortunate confluence of overconfidence, stubbornness and face-saving, proved this to be false. Expecting that they'd be able to blunt and overcome any initial forays and sue for peace, the Ironholds were unprepared for the determination of the Clone-sanjaks and their supply depth. The outcome was never in doubt, though the dwarves held on for a full 29-month year with all their wits, grit and arsenal of defenses and dirty tricks. In the end the Mastery offered an olive branch, offering the Ironholds peace. Even then some of them wished to fight on but cooler heads saw there was no victory to come.
Another case of Rmaster tendency to rewrite or simply bury inconvenient history, for centuries the Ramases Uprising was treated a historical footnote where a group of local defense forces rose up in a misguided uprising against the Mastery. Only recently has the truth been uncovered; the Ramases Uprising was in fact an entire clone-Sanjak that went rogue. As surprising as this may be, the Mamluks are not mindless servitors as amply demonstrated by the Barzam Sanjak's actions.
Two and a half centuries ago, the Mastery had already grown to encompass most of what are considered 'core' worlds today and the central Archonate government had stabilized after some of the more unsteady decades prior. It was in this golden era that the Mastery turned its gaze towards the vast bulk of the Great Wall, long aeris incognito since Ragnarok. Occasional explorers had attempted to chart the vast murky depths of the Great Wall but it was far too much for a few scattered individuals to ever make headway. It would take the resources of the Mastery to properly scout the Great Wall and even so, it was only the nearside that was meaningfully visited. These missions were known as the Tyndall Missions after the Archon promoted specifically to direct them.
More than one ship was lost to the hazards and mysteries of the Great Wall, but enough interesting, valuable or simply novel places were found over the decades of exploration to justify the expense and difficulties to not just the notoriously fickle Rmasters but their pennywise advisors as well. In addition to the local wonders, the Tyndall Missions also managed to discover several passes that allowed the Mastery to expand to the widdershins side of the Great Wall, something of such value that Archon Tyndall was granted a second lifespan.
Late Mastery Period (0500-0685 MM)
The Late Mastery period is considered to effectively start with the discovery of the path through the Great Wall in 0492 MM, but the opening of the Tyndall-discovered Shroud worlds to settlement in the centennial year of 0500 MM is generally taken as the dividing line between the High and Late period. While the Mastery as a whole carried on much as before, the critical difference is that the Late period saw increasing peer competition as the Mastery expanded into the Verge, a situation that the Mastery had henceforth not dealt with.
Three decades of work had generated some fairly impressive maps of the accessible Shroud, with recently-commissioned warpships able to brave the storms and rough ether. Rugged navigational buoys anchored at key locations provided nagivational fixes that were otherwise difficult to take in the murk and stagnant flows. With these, it was possible for civilian craft and crews to make regular trips through this otherwise perilous area of space. As such, the Rmasters decided to allow vetted pioneering and settlement into the Shroud.
By far the most important of the worlds opened up were to eventually become known as the Bastion Worlds; Narbonilla, Hadrian and Hadel. The first two were in an elongated bubble of relatively calm skies while Hadel was even deeper into the Great Wall. As such, so long as ships could make the stormy crossing through the Shroud's massive banks (increasingly manageable with a new generation of large warpships) travel between most of the important places therein posed no real issues.
Withdrawal from the Verge
There is no hard date upon which the Mastery can have said to have withdrawn from the Verge, though it is generally accepted that by MM0690 the Mastery was politically disengaged from the Verge; a revolt on Samara in MM0688 snowballed to an overthrow of the existing government. Attempts by the Frontier Fleet to intervene were stymied by a lack of support for an expensive intervention so far from home and the Barzum Sanjak - busily pacifying even more distant Mizum - studiously refused to commit its own troops to restore order on Samara. Frontier fleet patrols steadily if imperceptibly dwindled across the next half-decade, until suddenly Frontier fleet ships were seemingly no longer stationed at places such as Avonlea but merely paying port visits.
For centuries, the Mastery of Suns was the greatest empire in known space, ruled by the mysterious, unaccountable and above all fickle Rmasters. For all that its distant rulers acted seemingly on whatever their whims took them, the Mastery was a time and a place of stability in the wreckage of a post-Ragnarok galaxy. For some, it was even a golden age when order replaced chaos and centuries of isolation was replaced by connection. Great works of art were commissioned and even greater works of industry were accomplished.
Unfortunately the Mastery was not to be eternal. The Rmasters departed perhaps five decades ago, leaving for parts then-unknown. The Mastery carried on much as before under the Archons and Exarchs, but with no higher power to answer to the bureaucracy was left to fend for itself. Had the Archons been a bit less ambitious or simply a bit more complacent the Mastery would likely have coasted under a caretaker government for decades or even centuries. Instead, existing cliques turned into conspiracies, particularly after a number of well-placed Archons formed a new governing body. The Interim Conclave was unofficial - officially - but this was seen as a step too far for some. The seeds of rebellion had been sown.
One of the tragic ironies of the collapse of the Mastery was that most (though it must be said, not all) of the figures involved both saw themselves as, and in truth were, loyal to the Mastery. This fraticidal dispute was to be over how best to navigate a now-uncertain future.
The Mastery was crafted to be essentially self-running, which suited the Rmasters just fine as they had little interest in the daily grind of managing an empire spanning dozens of significant worlds and many more marginal. It was a self-maintaining machine to cater to whatever whimsy seized the Rmasters. Unfortunately, this machine began to seize up as those directly in charge of it began to scheme against each other. For the average being on the street this was invisible past perhaps a creeping malaise. It was the Verge where the Mastery's dysfunction was most apparent, with many forces withdrawn to fleet bases, key syststems or to protect the interests of well-placed Archons leaving a power vacuum that soon filled with all manner of riff-raff.
These two decades also saw the creeping replacement of Archonic authority with that of the Exarchs; the Exarchs were originally a military position running parallel albeit subordinate to the Archons. Under the Interim Conclave, the Exarchs were seen as more loyal and consequently they became the favored way for the Interim Conclave to exercise power. By the time the Call to Reform was issued, they, not the Archons, were the executor's of the central government's will.
Issued by the Interim Conclave after having determined that it was unlikely that the Rmasters were ever to return, the Call to Reform promised a massive permanent renovation to the Mastery. While believing their position was firm, the Call to Reform was very much a step too far both among the now-diminished Archons and, more importantly, the being on the street. Public trust entered a tailspin and increasingly heavy-handed responses led into a downward spiral towards repression. While many worlds carried on as they had before, the Mastery had fallen into civil war. This period of increasing strife lasted roughly a decade, broken only with the completely unexpected arrival of the EEF.
The EEF - the Emmerseian Expeditionary Force - was a mission of revenge by the distant republic of Emmersei, a place barely exiting in the Mastery's navigational maps never mind any political awareness. It was to be discovered that the Rmasters had departed for that distant place to retrieve, by force if necessary, an artifact of ancient power. And then, years later, the Emmerseians made a long-distance astral fold into Rubicon space at the heart of the Mastery to put an end to their attackers. Little did they realize that Rubicon had long been little more than a pleasure world and a pro forma capital for the Mastery. Expecting to knock out the heart of their assailants, they instead found themselves ensconced on a supine world of artists, hospitaliers and courtesans surrounded by a rising civil war.
With the members of the Interim Conclave mostly trapped on Rubicon and taken into custody by the EEF, the centralized Mastery rapidly dissolved. A number of loyal Archons and Exarchs attempted to fight off the EEF and protect the Mastery but ultimately it was to be futile; a house divided itself cannot stand. Others proclaimed themselves petty kings and lords, yet others made common cause with the Emmerseians. Conflict raged with the thunder of battle-lines and the knives of assassins.
By five years ago the multisided war was over in any meaningful sense; years of military conflict had sapped the carefully hoarded forces of the various Archonates and Exarchates while the EEF struggled to make good its own losses. The wreckage of the Mastery of Suns settled into a number of successor polities, some large, others small, almost all uneasily sharing a hot peace.
Exarch Lockwood is the governor of Narbonila, one of the sadly-reduced remnants of the Mastery that still exists in the Shroud. While only the most hard-line still seriously believes in the return of the Rmasters, Lockwood is among those that still claims direct descent from the Mastery.
All dates in the Millenium Magisterium (MM) calender, the official dating scheme used by the Mastery.
- 0001: Apocryphal founding date of the Mastery
- 0125: Aproximate age of oldest verified Mastery records
- 024x: War of the Alliance
- 044x: Ironhold War
- 045x: Ramases Uprising
- 0471: Tyndall Missions Launched
- 0483: Narbonilla discovered
- 0500: Shroud opened for settlement
- 0684-0686: Steppe War
- 0685: Interim Conclave
- 0688: Samaran Revolution
- 0693: Cordoba War
- 0702: Call to Reform
- 0707: Start of civil war
- 0719: Arrival of EEF in Rubiconspace
- 0719-0723: Great War
- 0723: Treaty of
- 0728: Current Day
The Mastery (or as it is often referred to today, the Legacy Mastery or Rump Mastery) is much-reduced from the glories of the High Mastery era, laying claim to a half-dozen inhabited system and twice that in shoals, drifts and otherwise outpost systems. The preceeding two decades of conflict has also hardened it; for all its faults the Mastery was generally a comfortable place to be that placed greater emphasis on artistic achievements than military ones. That is no longer the case and many public displays are a thin veneer over a populace scarred by war.
The Legacy Mastery still maintains nominal claim to the former territories
La Force Expeditionaire d'Emmersei
The Congress of Suns
The Bastion Worlds
The Bastion Worlds are a number of planets deep in the Shroud - the spinward whorls of the Great Wall - that were discovered during the Tyndall Missions and subsequently settled. During the civil war and subsequent EEF invasion they were the stronghold of the loyalist forces, their last redoubts and ultimate stronghold. In the course of these conflicts the actual defensive strength of the Basion Worlds was never seriously tested, though more than one raid suffered heavy losses in these strongly-secured systems.
Originally dismissed as a world of slim value thanks to its rugged geography and harsh global winter climate, the gas-shrouded world of Narbonilla spent a couple decades being visited by few more than naturalists, alpine sports enthusiasts of the most serious sort and equally serious game hunters wanting to trek through the trackless taiga in pursuit of the world's furred fauna. This only changed when one of the Rmasters was taken with the world's winter beauty, specifically in the Romi Bay region. This structure is the inundated remains of a volcanic caldera several dozen kilometers across, dating to prehistoric times and thankfully long extinct. The heavily incised oval depression makes for a natural bay while numerous springs and geysers generated as groundwater is heated and returned to the surface dot both Romi bay and the surroundings. Local ocean currents also contribute to the Romi Bay microclimate, making it surprisingly pleasant - albeit often foggy - relative to much of the rest of Narbonilla.
The presence of one or more Masters on Narbonilla on a regular basis meant that the trappings of civilization and government would inevitably follow. In the process of installing the various high-fidelity communication equipment suitably for a Rmaster that it was discovered that the Narbonilla system was, at least by the standards of the Shroud, naturally sited in a zone of excellent astral transmissivity. This made Narbonilla an opportune home-away-from-home for both the Masters and their advisors. Far from the bustle of the court on Rubicon, those on Narbonilla could nonetheless remain conveniently connected to the main communication trunks of the Mastery. Over the years many branches of government set up satellite facilities in the Romi Bay area, often in a disguised attempt to get away from the inecessant politicking and interference at court. By the time the Masters vanished, Romi Bay was itself a bustling city of significant size and a significant satellite bureaucratic center, Rubicon itself having been increasingly relegated to ceremonial purposes. The decade of civil conflict only accelerated the centralization of bureaucracy in the heavily defended Bastion Worlds. Thus, when the EFF did an astral jump into Rubicon they achieved not a devastating decapitation strike on their enigmatic enemies, but the seizure of a world full of artists, courtiers and scholars. The real business of running the Mastery was happening on Narbonilla.
In the debased current erra, Narbonilla has become the de jure capital of the Mastery as well as its de facto one, with much of the Absolute Defense Fleet permanently assigned to the system.
High Sofia is Exarch Lockwood's seat of power, a large orbital city home to more than two and a half million people. Of fairly representative late Mastery construction, High Sofia consists of several dozen hexagonal plates, each one forming the foundation for one or more large pyramids. The ones on the topside are mostly made of polarized glass used for towers and parks while those on the underside are instead monolithic structures.
Originally intended as a modest industrial center to supply goods for Narbonilla's growth, High Sofia has long since expanded vastly beyond these humble origins into a city unto itself.
The minor world eventually known as Hadria was discovered within the tenebrous outer drifts of the Great Wall during the course of the Tyndall missions. Combining a relatively fast rotation and significant axial tilt, Hadria is a relatively inhospitable world of strong winds and sharp seasons despite being nominally habitable across much of its surface area. The unfavorability for potential settlement along with its relative inaccessibility made it a favored location for a number of deep security sites, generally of the sort where the Mastery had something they'd prefer buried far, far from anyone who would likely stumble across it.
Considered a hardship posting for much of the fifth century, policy changes saw the relocation of various sensitive installations to the world and growing civilian settlements of dependents, leading to more general economic growth. By the time the Interim Conclave came to power, Hadria had a modest but self-sufficient population living in various fortified - against the wind as much as anything else - towns and cities. Hadria's development accelerated towards the end of the second decade of Conclave governance; always ruled not by an Archon but by an Exarch, Hadria's position deep in the Shroud made it ideal for a stronghold of Conclave power. Like the other Bastion worlds many loyalists were relocated to Hadria as the Conclave consolidated its power and significant industrial strength was brought to bear for purposes both civilian and military. The civil war only accelerated this and Hadria was a fortified world by the time the EEF astrally folded into Rubiconspace, the World of Walls was protected by vast fixed fortifications and elements of the Absolute Defense Fleet.
One of the deepest worlds that is not surrounded by vast storms or immense deserts of stagnant ether, Hadel is a brilliant diamond buried in the Great Wall as even by more conventional standards it is a fairly congenial world. This, of course, means that by the standards of the worlds enveloped in the drifting gases and turbulent whorls of the Great Wall that it is a choice slice of paradise and the single most populous of the Bastion worlds as well as being the breadbasket for the remaining Mastery in the Shroud.
Hadel has no oceans per se, its gently rolling topography instead home to innumerable lakes and seas of limited salinity. The world-forest covers all but the polar tundra, though a low equator-to-pole temperature gradient means even the poles are not glaciated. Megalithic ruins dot Hadel, relics of prehistoric, nonhuman but as-yet-unidentified habitation. Hadel is moonless, though the airglow from the thin gas that fills the system gives it no true darkness, only perpetual hazy days and twilight nights. As a consequence of these, Hadel's seasons are all but nonexistent and it has a year round (if mild) growing season.
The forgiving climate of Hadel meant that it drew many settlers willing to make the long trek through the Shroud and a strong frontier ethos developed among its inhabitants over the generations. Even today Hadel is relatively poorly urbanized with only a few truly major cities seperated by fields, forests and lakes. Much of the population instead lives in small and medium towns and a not-insignificant number are believed to have essentially gone 'off the grid' and vanished into the hundred million square kilometers of protected forest.
Continent-spanning mutant rose bush Holds Stalisk's Dark Crystal, a mysterious artifact believed to be a fragment of a god.
Gate to the Transwall Reaches
Accurately if sardonically named, Dark Passage was the grimy jewel of the Tyndall Missions. This was due to the discovery that it lay astride the first accurately mapped, stable route through the Great Wall. This discovery of a star way directly to the widdershins side of the vast and opaque nebula reduced travel time by an order of magnitude, from months to weeks or even days. It consequently and directly opened up what soon became known as the Transwall Reach (and later Reaches) to further exploration, colonization and conquest. Despite the fact that this storm-wracked area of space was lightly inhabited, it was rich ground for expansion
Rubicon, the former capital. Believed to be an ancient Atlantean world - albeit a highly peripheral one - Rubicon was isolated for centuries inside the wayward gas drifts at the edge of the Great Wall. Six and a half centuries ago when a clique of powerful mages took over the world and these mages, the Rmasters, used it as the base from which they would build their empire.
Much of the history of Rubicon is lost or otherwise inaccessible, as over the centuries the Rmasters turned the waterworld into a playground for their ideas of an ideal society. By the arrival of the Enmerseian Expeditionary Force, Rubicon was an idyllic pleasure-world of cloned artists and artisans with all heavy industry banished to the far side of Rubicon's sister world Lucania.
The unexpected arrival of the EEF via astral fold threw the system into disarray, particularly given that the world had been essentially running on bureaucratic inertia as the actual business of running the Mastery had mostly moved to the far more well defended system of Narbonilla. With only a relatively token clone-sanjak defense force to hold the presumably protected center of the empire, Rubicon's bewildered inhabitants were 'liberated' after a few short battles. As the new home base for the EEF, the industry on Lucania was put to work and the locals - most of which were but dimly aware of warfare beyond the abstract - were recruited for additional troops and support staff. Even before the end of the war, soldiers from the EEF were intermarrying with the inhabitants of Rubicon, injecting a dose of vitality into a culture that had grown moribund and cosseted.
While the Rmasters took much of the most sensitive (or sentimental) material with them when they departed and the Interim Conclave put many others in more protected locations, it is believed that there are still many relics of a half-millennia of sorcerous rule hidden away on the world.
- System traits
- Planetary Twins (Water and Fire)
- Minor Bodies
- Traits of note:
- Ancient World
- Cult of Victory
- Mystic Haven
Malazkand was one of the earliest Rmaster conquests, having been taken almost half a millenia ago when the clone-sanjaks brushed aside the unprepared local defenders in an abbreviated campaign. While initially resentful of the conquest, the inhabitants of Malazkand were treated fairly by the distant Rmasters and over the generations began to accept the loss of autonomy. By the fall of the Mastery of Suns, Malazkand had become the factory floor of the Mastery and produced a disproportionate share of the commercial goods for the Mastery's billions.
Liberated after a fierce siege by the Grand Alliance late in the War of Liberation, the loss of Malazkand's industry set the remaining Rmaster Pashaliks on a death spiral towards defeat. Unfortunately for the Grand Alliance and the EEF in particular, Malazkand was a diffident ally at best and after the conclusion of the war, quickly established in no uncertain terms that they would be charting their own path forward in the post-Mastery era.
Today Malazkand remains the most important economy in the former Mastery worlds, a trade hub of significance with ties to Thetis, Alexandria and even down the winding Appian Way to Mizum. Relations with the EEF on Rubicon remain complicated, with various opinions regarding liberation, usurpation and competition colliding.
- System traits:
- Perfectly Normal system
- Flare Star
- Earthlike World
- Traits of note:
- Dissatisfied Population
The Air Battle
For centuries the Mastery could be effortlessly confident in possessing dominance in the air; gun-dories, armskiffs and wyvern raiders were incomparably outclassed next to the archeotech-built man-machines of the Mastery's clone-sanjaks. Those few opponents that could measure up in some manner of quality were unable to match the quantity that the Mastery could put to the field. This overwhelming capability meant that in many cases the Mastery's battlewagons never needed to fire their guns in anger past the occasional ground support mission, the man-machines sweeping enemy warships aside.
This situation only changed once the Tyndall Mission charted routes through the Great Wall. Unlike the weak, small or backwards states the Mastery had absorbed or vassalized, the Verge had - or at least bordered - states capable of developing counters for the Mastery's weapons. Some, such as Moldoveanu, began their own crash programs to copy the Mastery's aerofighters and man-machines as much as possible. Others, such as the UAN, instead opted to invest in massive anti-air defenses while long-horizon programs matured. Even so, the archeotech of the clone-sanjacks could still not be matched.
It is in the past century that the Mastery can truly be said to have lost its air dominance; the inevitable fruits of dedicated research and espionage by opposing states, a stagnant tech base that made only minor improvements, the proliferation of archeotechnology from other sources and the general, slow closure of just what was considered 'archeotech' and what was broadly-understood and widely-available all conspired to erode the Mastery's advantage. By MM0600 the technology of the clone-sanjaks was seen as ahead of the curve but no longer impossibly so. By MM0650 it was matched by various other states and moreoever, the Mastery's loss of all the clone-sanjaks in fact meant that in some fields it was behind. In MM0728 the Mastery is greatly reduced, coasting on the broken remnants of its old military-industrial complex and what it has managed to patch together in the previous five years of peace and stuck in the unenviable position of being behind those it was once supreme over.
Military of the Mastery
For generations - centuries, even - the military might of the Mastery was split between multiple and often overlapping organizations. The Clone-Sanjaks were the elite forces of the Rmasters but they were not monolithic formation; each one was its own self-contained military unit with deep sky, aerospace and ground forces. On top of this were the other military units subordinate to the Archons and Exarchs as opposed to the Rmasters; in addition to planetary defenses which answered to local authority at different periods there were between two and seven different fleet organizations under the overarching authority of the Mastery's Summed Fleet. The structure used in the Conclave era featured three main forces; the Grand Fleet, the High Skies Fleet and the Frontier Fleet, though the operational divisions between the first two have effectively ceased to exist in the current era. The Frontier Fleet still exists but is a shell of its former self, having suffered under the civil war-era retrenchment with much of its operational hardware reassigned to the High Skies Fleet.
As a final note, it should be remembered that ultimately all of the following design families were not exclusive to any one fleet arm. Individual ships can and often were moved between fleet arms to suit tactical or strategic demands; the Named Fleets were simply components of the Summed Fleet.
The Grand Fleet was the primary battlefleet of the Mastery, particularly during the Conclave era when the Clone-Sanjaks were reduced and a citizen-centric military came to the forefront. The mission of the Grand Fleet was straightforward; it was to be a powerful force of capital ships capable of overpowering any enemy with both numbers and mass. As such, the Grand Fleet had a heavy bias towards slower, powerful capital ships and organizationally was a relatively inflexible structure. The Grand Fleet was not granular; it was normally not structured to operate in more than one to three seperate stellar systems at a given time, nor was it structured to act far from major fleet bases.
During the civil war the Grand Fleet played a small role as its organization and materiel was ill-suited towards the amorphous conflict of raiders and corsairs. This was particularly acute after the strike on the Laguna Clara anchorage by seperatists; the loss of multiple dreadnoughts to imported dive missiles was a blow to morale and directly led to the movement of much of the Grand Fleet into the more protected Shroud. By contrast, its ships fought with distinction against the Enmerseans in a series of great clashes that attrited both forces. Today, the Grand Fleet is split between Narbonilla and Hadrian, though a number of dreadnoughts can be found orbiting other worlds.
Traditionally, ships and fighters of the Grand Fleet were painted in a shade of dark fern green, though Fleet Green tended to be used as a default color across all branches. Most still wear this color, with Fleet Green being something of an emblem for the Mastery's remnants as a whole.
The weapon of decision for the Mastery's starfleets and the hard core of the Grand Fleet, the classic dreadnought has not changed significantly in conception for several centuries. Modern dreadnoughts are larger, faster and better-equipped, but the fundamentals of a heavily-protected warship bringing large-caliber weapons to bear against the enemy has not changed since the reintroduction of warp drives as opposed to clumsy ether sails. While larger warships were constructed for the Mastery (and unfortunately other states), dreadnoughts were generally among the largest that could be built economically and en masse. The term 'battleship' for these ships is commonly used outside the borders of the Mastery; the UAN and distant Moldoveanu both field strong fleets of such ships.
While a surprising number of dreadnoughts have survived, with a few additional having been constructed in the past few years, they mostly act as extremely heavy guardships today.
Far smaller than dreadnoughts, rams were the other common hull type in the Grand Fleet. Fast and armed with a mixture of small-caliber, rapid-firing guns and energy torpedoes they were and still are essential escorts and strikers. While fully capable deep-sky warships, they are relatively spartan ships by design and do not have the same unrefuelled radius of action of their rough equivalents in the High Skies Fleet. As such, they were more tied to either fixed bases or tenders - neither of these a problem for the Grand Fleet which by design rarely operated far from substantive logistics. Foreign navies generally label such craft 'destroyers' or sometimes 'frigates'.
As a nomenclature note, the term 'ram' dates back several centuries to a style of fast attack ship built to carry early plasma torpedoes into the thick of enemy defenses and anchorages. Evolution has since seen them become the ships they are today.
Battlecraft - the collective term for fixed or rotary wing aircraft, combat mecha and the like - have long been used by the Mastery and its opponents. Operating as a large force, the Grand Fleet was supported both by fixed-base and naval aviation assets; the fleet carriers were built for just this purpose. With mutual exhaustion having reduced so many combatants to using cheap, easy to replace aviation as opposed to long-range warships the surviving fleet carriers are seen as increasingly valuable as opposed to simply adjuncts.
High Skies Fleet
While the Grand Fleet was undeniably powerful, it was ill-suited towards operations on the long edges of the Mastery or indeed much of anything that wasn't massed fleet-on-fleet combat. For these purposes the Mastery maintained the High Skies Fleet. This force was organized in small squadrons that could easily be spread around the Mastery's borders as required, moving rapidly to hot spots, to reinforced weakened sectors or to exploit gaps. As such it was commonly seen as the more dashing of the arms.
The High Skies fleet was critical in the civil war, with its ships and crews worked hard during that decade of intercine warfare. Much of the war materiel built during that time that did not end up in the hands of planetary defenses (or squirrelled away to the Absolute Defense Fleet) went towards the High Skies fleet. The fall of Rubicon was a rupture point for the HSF though; the reputation for gallantry of the previous decade and their host of new frigates was nothing when suddenly faced with an enemy that could rely on massive local superiority to reliably defeat them in pitched battle.
Today though the High Skies fleet, long parcelled out into squadron formations, has effectively been dismembered with individual squadrons and any semblance of overarching command is quite nonexistent. Many of the former ships and formations of the HSF have been absorbed into the local fleets of successor states and even in the legacy Mastery they mostly serve individual Exarchs. A few squadrons have even gone private - or rogue - under charismatic commanding officers.
Historically the High Skies Fleet used a shade of cadet blue as their main emblem color though a spectrum of medium-saturation blues has been used at various times and places. The role the High Skies Fleet played in the Conclave and civil war era has associated the standard color(s) with internal policing.
The mainline ship of the High Skies Fleet is the frigate, a rather vague and all-purpose term for ships ranging in size from 5,000 tons to 100,000. The functional definition is that frigates are all warships designed for long-endurance deployment in solo or small squadron environments. Additionally, frigates are generally capable of transporting at least some troops and/or aviation assets and are optimized for high cruising speeds. Not surprisingly, frigates tend to be similar if not identical to the ships used by the clone-Sanjaks.
The smallest frigates are the Protected and Unprotected varities, generally massing below 10,000 tons, often substantially less. These fill the roles of scouts, raiders, escorts and light assault, along with secondary roles such as minelaying and picketing. Considered the hardest working ships in the fleet, it is well-earned. In foreign service, these tend to be considered 'light cruisers' though the explosive growth in escort size/capability in the Verge sees even a fairly typical Verge 'destroyer' be comfortably comparable in tonnage to a protected frigate.
For all their advantages, lighter frigates are only so effective in combat and the Armored Frigate is a design style in the 10-20,000 ton range. Not significantly larger than their smaller cousins, armored frigates mostly pack on the tonnage in added armor and other defenses, along with uprated engine rooms to push four or five thousand tons of belted chogokin at a respectable speed. The largest armored frigates are quite respectable combatants, verging on being light capital ships. Comparable ships can be found in many foreign navies as 'heavy cruisers'.
For pretty much any frigate beyond 25,000 tons, the term Battlefrigate is used. These are as large or larger than dreadnoughts, though with no improvements in combat performance. Instead, the tonnage goes towards massive engines and auxiliary space for troops and aviation; the largest battlefrigates are quite explicitly built to be one-ship task forces and captaining one was long seen as perhaps the most prestigious posting in the entire Summed Fleet. While it is tempting to mirror battlefrigates to foreign battlecruisers, this is a false comparison. Battlecruisers such as the UAN Dadube are pure combat platforms with none of the expeditionary capabilities built into battlefrigates.
The Frontier Fleet is now almost defunct, having been steadily attrited by conflict, platform age and reassignment to the HSF. While sharing many similarities with its sister/parent service, the Frontier Fleet adopted its own way of doing things in the large and poorly-developed Verge. Ultimately however as the Mastery abandoned the Verge in a bid to retrench, the Frontier Fleet's mandate no longer existed and it mostly persists out of a combination of inertia and stubborn resistance by several Verge Archons; in practical terms the Frontier Fleet is now solely supported by (and exists for) the Mastery-settled worlds in the Verge.
More forward thinkers criticized the reduction of the Frontier Fleet as long experience in the Verge had given them a particular can-do attitude, one well suited to the challenges of the Verge. Most notably, the Verge was in the middle of a rapid technological evolution and many of the most advanced concepts in the late Mastery originated with the Frontier Fleet or, more often than not, in Frontier Fleet contractors. Many of these contractors were also playing both sides and more than one embarassing scandal saw Mastery-commissioned equipment leak to one or more Verge states - or vice versa. Having this pipeline of innovation necked down to a straw as the Frontier Fleet was mostly folded back into the High Skies fleet was a loss to the Mastery.
The Frontier Fleet's equipment was normally painted a carmine firebrick shade and to this day ships and other items in that color turn up with surprising regularity, almost inevitably as singleton survivors from the civil war. It has seen a resurgence in popularity among individual Exarchs and, ironically enough, survives as a ubiquitous shade on the shipping container used by several significant Verge transport companies.
A fairly significant amount of Frontier Fleet hardware was never pulled out of the Verge. Some of it was gifted to the locals, others sold (a strongbox of currency being far more portable than a hundred aerofighters), while yet others went rogue, were stolen or simply got lost or abandoned in situ. The same could be said of many Frontier Fleet officers, the most famous being Jorgan's Raiders. That which remains in the hands of the remaining Frontier Fleet units is jealously hoarded
Similar in general concept to High Skies Fleet battlefrigates, battlecarriers were somewhat unique to the Frontier Fleet with a much heavier focus on aviation capabilities. Large and relatively robust capital ships well-suited to independent operations, a number were recalled to the Bastion Worlds and taken in by various Exarchs. Many battlecarriers were constructed with nuclear powerplants, a feature generally not worth the added cost, complexity and tonnage in the more tightly-packed Mastery core worlds. While all existing battlecarriers are upwards of twenty years old (with the median more like fourty), the flexibility of these ships has seen several proposals tabled to lay down new hulls.
Guided Missile Frigate
A design that actually originated in the Verge, guided missile frigates (or normally just missile frigates) appeared somewhat over half a century ago to help bolster the Frontier Fleet's defenses against aerospace craft. Various treaties and agreements had kept Verge naval developments in an embryonic state, but the same could not be said for air forces - in many cases something not even seriously considered when the treaties were drawn up. A number of small frigates were refitted with heavy anti-air batteries to provide a defensive 'bubble', but it soon became clear that more extensive modifications were required.
The first missile frigates were just heavily modified protected frigates with large portions of their arsenals razed and replaced with both missile-handling gear and extensive radar suites, but purpose-designed ones were soon commissioned.
The Absolute Defense Fleet
Never an official Named Fleet, the Absolute Defense Fleet was nonetheless very much a real thing. Formed to defend the Shroud Security Zone and the loyalists therein, the absolute defense fleet swelled during the civil war as many dreadnoughts and command ships were moved there to both act as a powerful reserve and to ensure that they did not fall into the hands of rebels. The fleet-in-being aspect became acutely important with the EEF fold to Rubicon and after getting a couple of bloody noses, the absolute defense fleet and the EEF settled in to mutual stalemates, neither side willing to deploy deep enough and heavier enough to break the other's defenses. While such a military situation is fundamentally unstable, it ultimately ended with an armistice as opposed to an apocalyptical confrontation.
While the absolute defense fleet never had an official color, with most of its ships being the fleet green they arrived in, a number of ships were (re)painted charcoal or bone white.
Miscellaneous and Unclassified
The Mastery also possessed vast numbers of lesser craft for the multitudes of secondary and support tasks an interstellar empire needed. Some of these were organized and used by planetary guard formations, others were universally used across
Modified frigates, mostly built by removing half of the engine rooms (still giving them acceptable fleet speeds) and replacing them with bunk space for dragoons, assorted landing craft and often light armored vehicles.
Small armed craft, sometimes used as armed couriers and other times for 'gunboats' when larger ships are overkill or busy elsewhere. Commonly operated from planetary bases.
Gun-Dories and Armskiffs
Armed smallcraft, often carried on board larger ships. Not as capable as aerospace craft, but cheap, reliable and can carry quite a useful tonnage for their size.
As the power and number of the Mastery's clone-sanjaks waned they were slowly but steadily replaced by citizen-centric forces. In the Verge they were already supported by the Frontier Fleet but as even before the Rmasters had vanished from the public eye the Mastery was supporting an irregular border force - the Cordoba Army. This was under the nominal control of the Foreign Legion and like the parent force the Cordoba Army was made up mostly of those not native to the Mastery. A typical cross section included exiled Gaels, Avonlean revolutionaries, Canarian thrill-seekers, Zoryan dissidents, freed thralls, prisoners offered clemency in exchange for service, would-be pirates and many others. Equipped with a variety of equipment but typically a combination of captured/ceded Gael hardware and older Mastery weapons plus whatever else the Cordobans could scrounge, the Cordoba Army was relatively lightly equipped but generally well-versed in its usage. As the name implies, the Cordoba Army was primarily a ground force and mostly travelled on hardened freighters or loaned warships, though by the Danu War it had a modern air corps and even a small, respectable warship wing.
The Cordoba Army always had a difficult relationship with the Frontier Fleet, with the Cordobans seen as bullyboys for hire and the Frontier Fleet prissy busybodies. While they would work together when ordered to do so, in any other circumstance they would ignore the other as much as possible. This became particularly acute under the Interim Conclave where several Archons with demesnes in the Verge further backed the Cordoba Army, and for perhaps a decade the Mastery effectively had two parallel military commands in the Verge, albeit one substantially smaller than the other. This was the Cordoba Army on the eve of the Danu War, the war that would see it suffer its gravest defeat.
With the Gaels collapsing into conflict and the crown fleet deadlocked above Gael Crucis, the militant commanders of the Cordo Army saw the Impireachd's outer territories and client states as ripe for retaliation if not outright conquest. The richest of these was Danu, a system that itself could rival any other for wealth but who's states collectively only had a palty military thanks to most of a century of protection by the Gaels. The Avonleans of Fand were not caught unaware though and along with their allies in the Onogoro Islands managed to turn what might have been a victory lap smash and grab into a war of aerial attrition in Macha's moon system, a war that ultimately could only end one way.