A series of popular old Star Trek
novels by Diane Duane
, focusing on the Romulans, or as they call themselves, the Rihannsu. The books fleshed out Rihannsu culture and history in some detail—and in a quite different direction than what ended up becoming canon.
The books are:
- My Enemy, My Ally (1984)
- The Romulan Way (1987, with Peter Morwood)
- Swordhunt (2000)
- Honor Blade (2000)
- The Empty Chair (2006)
The first four books were re-released in Omnibus
form as The Bloodwing Voyages
. While a lot of the actual events were jossed
by later developments in the live-action canon, much of the background worldbuilding
done in this series was borrowed by the writing team of Star Trek Online
Tropes in the Rihannsu novels include:
- Action Girl: The norm for Rihannsu women in most cultures. It’s mentioned there are actually more women than men in t heir military.
- Action Mom: Ael t’Rllaillieu has an adult son and is still a capable fighter.
- Affably Evil: Praetor Eveh tr’Anierh — one of "The Three", praetors who dominate the Tricameron and funded the research into mind-control at the cost of many Vulcan lives — is nonetheless polite, Nice to the Waiter, and very courteous to Arrhae.
- Alien Blood: Arrhae has been altered to have green blood, like all Rihannsu and Vulcans. When she contemplates being able to go “home” to the Federation, she thinks of bleeding red again… and immediately after, that it now seems like an odd color to bleed.
- Alien Sky: The skies of ch'Rihan and ch'Havran are green-gold in color, with the other planet sometimes visible.
- Antagonist in Mourning: When the Travelers heard of Surak’s death, many of them actually did mourn him — especially his old pupil S’task.
- Antagonistic Offspring: Ael’s son Tafv secretly plots against her in the first book- not for power, although that would've been a side effect of his plot, but to take revenge on her for ceasing her defence of his cousin, who was then exiled and declared Unperson.
- Arms And Armor Theme Naming: When they’re not re-using the names of the Journey ships, the Rihannsu tend to use these types of names for their warships. Examples include Cuirass and Gorget.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Ael becomes the Empress at the end, after winning a civil war.
- Badass in Distress: The whole crew of the Intrepid, in the first book. They’re extremely competent Starfleet officers- especially their captain, Suvuk, who’s something of a war hero- but they also all get kidnapped and have to be rescued.
- Band of Brothers: The core crew of Bloodwing is a Band Of Sisters And Brothers. Then Tafv betrays Ael, and the fallout from that betrayal continues throughout the series. The Enterprise crew also qualifies, of course, as does the crew of the Intrepid from what we see of them.
- Becoming the Mask: Terise, to the point where she thinks of herself by her Rihannsu name, Arrhae, and feels a considerable dissonance when reminded of her old life.
- Beneath the Earth: The Ysailsu resistance- which includes most of the planetary population of an established Rihannsu colony- has retreated into the vast Saijja Caverns, a network of caves so deep that they cannot be accurately scanned from space, and which have never been completely mapped, even by them.
- Best Friends In Law: Averted to tragic effect. Ael is close friends with Chief Surgeon t’Hrienteh. It turns out that t’Hrienteh was in love with Ael’s son Tafv, and intended to marry him… but after Tafv’s death, t’Hrienteh vowed revenge on Ael and began acting as a spy for her enemies, ending in Ael killing her as well.
- Big Bad Triumvirate: The antagonists of the book are the Three, three (out of twelve) praetors who have come to dominate Rihannsu government. Despite some disagreements, their alliance lasts as long as their power does.
- Brutal Honesty: The writer Lai i-Ramnau tr'Ehhelih practiced this. Combined with his sour view of his people, it made him very unpopular; he was killed and his books banned in most parts of the Two Worlds.
- The Cavalry: At the end of the first book, Constellation and Inaiu arrive to bail out Enterprise, Bloodwing, and Intrepid against some Rihannsu warships.
- Chekhov's Gun: The 4D chess machine in the rec room on the Enterprise that contains a small built in transporter to move the pieces. It's later used to beam overloaded phasers into the middle of Rihannsu boarding parties attempting to capture the Enterprise for real during the climax of the first novel in a I Did What I Had to Do way as it was the only way to retake control of the ship.
- Conflicting Loyalties: Ael tries not to put her people in such situations, considering it a matter of honor not to put them in situations they might not be able to handle. However, in the first book, Nniol has to choose between family loyalty and his loyalty to his commander, when Bloodwing and Enterprise face the ship his sister is serving on. He chooses his commander… and is disowned by his family as a result, except for one brother who holds that he made the most honorable choice, and that their sister would've done the same.
- Con Lang: The Rihannsu language. Out of universe, it’s a partial conlang created by Diane Duane (originally she was going to do a Romulan dictionary to match the old Klingon one, but that project wasn't successful...) In universe, it was created by the Declared when they left Vulcan, as they wanted to leave behind as much as they could of their homeworld.
- Continuity Nod: In a flashback, Terise Haleakala wonders if she should transfer back to the Excalibur rather than become an agent on ch’Rihan, reflecting that while the war games it has scheduled don’t sound fun, they also sound a lot less dangerous than deep-cover work. The entire crew of the Excalibur perished in “The Ultimate Computer”; Terise would have died if she hadn’t stuck with the supposedly more perilous assignment.
- Conveniently Close Planet: Averted, sadly for the Travelers. Because they got their star charts from the Space Pirates that they had just spent many years fighting, they assumed that those charts were likely misleading and they definitely didn't want to go to an area the pirates were likely to visit. So, they headed purposefully into a barren region of space, and most of the planets they found were uninhabitable. By the time they found the hospitable worlds they ended up settling on, they’d been searching for many years and most of their ships had been lost.
- Cool Sword: The S'harien, named after the Vulcan and Rihannsu equivalent of Masamune are the finest blades ever made in their shared history. The Rihannsu originally had five, three were destroyed in battle and one was lost leaving just one used as symbol of imperial power. Naturally, Spock also owns one.
- Cosmic Horror: The Iruhe, a race of “intellivores” who devoured the minds of whole starship crews- and later learned to move their planet at will to devour whole planetary populations. They appear in The Romulan Way, where the Travelers get off lightly in losing just two (of eighteen) ships- that’s about ten thousand people. The Iruhe lure in passing starships by projecting the illusion of each species' ideal planet, which worked perfectly on the crews of T'Hie and Corona, before devouring the minds of the crew and passengers and crashing the ships into their planet's seas. What saved the other ships was that after their meal, the Iruhe fell into a torpor and that they let the illusion fall for the third Rihannsu ship entering their system, Sunheart. Sunheart's crew had no idea what was going on, but saw that their ships had apparently been destroyed, so they turned around and fled before the Iruhe "woke up", warning the rest of the Travelers on their way out. The Iruhe themselves are never seen, although the fact that Iruh's seas are composed of methane implies they likely aren't humanoid. It’s stated that the Organians did something about the Iruhe (no one knows what, although it appears to have been quite final), apparently before the present-day events of the book. However, Duane’s Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Intellivore has them as the villains a century later.
- Cynicism Catalyst: The Duthulhiv/Etoshan invasion was this for S’task; he went from Surak’s most devoted student to his greatest opponent, because after seeing the kind of dangers the wider universe contained, he no longer believed that a pacifistic Vulcan could survive it. Tafv’s cousin’s fate was one for him as well.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: The Rihannsu aren’t human, and their values can be quite different from human ones; additionally, they’re based on the society of Ancient Rome, and like the Romans think nothing of conquest and slavery. And then you get to the point where they lack the concept of doing anything for someone else’s good- you do things for the good of your own honor. If you’re competent about it, the action ought to benefit everybody’s honor, but you’re supposed to be thinking of your own.
- Deuteragonist: The first book has two leads- Jim Kirk and Ael t’Rllaillieu. In the second, it's McCoy and Arrhae t'Khellian.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Ael believes that her sister-daughter’s punishment for her failure in “The Enterprise Incident”- exile and being declared Unperson- is this.
- Driven to Suicide: Rihannsu politicians can be removed from their positions only by their deaths; the positions are also hereditary, unless there is a lack of heirs or some question of dishonor. However, constituents may express their displeasure with their representative by sending them their swords…
- Drowning My Sorrows: McCoy at the end of The Romulan Way, after minor character Ensign Luks's Heroic Sacrifice. As the owner of the drinks cabinet, Ael puts a stop to it.
- Dude Magnet: Arrhae. She’s extremely beautiful by Rihannsu standards, and after the events of The Romulan Way, she’s also a rather romantic figure as well as holding political power, so she gets still more suitors. On the other hand, few of her admirers play any role in the plot.
- Enemy Mine: The premise of My Enemy, My Ally The enemies in question are Captain James T. Kirk and kre'riov Ael i-Mhiessan t'Rllaillieu, old foes who have always dealt with each other honorably and now have common cause.
- Expecting Someone Taller: Kirk is surprised that Ael t'Rllaillieu- who he had known by name and actions, but never seen- is a very small woman.
- Famous Last Words: S'task, to Vriha t'Rehu: "The beginning is contaminated, and force will not avail you, or it."
- Fantastic Naming Convention: A Romulan's formal name is composed of a given name, a locative indicating their place of origin, and a clan name which is passed matrilineally. So, for example, Areinnye ir-Menhei t'Sei means "Areinnye, from the Menhei region, of the clan s'Sei." This is a mouthful, of course, so in common usage Romulans default to a simple first name, last name arrangement (explaining the simpler names used in the shows), under which the aforementioned personage would be Areinnye Sei. More information here.
- Fantastic Racism: The Rihannsu towards... everyone else. As an example, their name for the Federation literally translates to "Them, from There"; their name for the Klingons is "More Of Them, From Somewhere Else."
- First Contact: The Vulcan people had their First Contact with the predecessors of the Orion Pirates. It went very, very badly, and was the main trigger for the Sundering. Thanks to their records of this event, the Rihannsu were inclined to think the very worst of the next aliens they met- who happened to be the Federation.
- First Name Basis: Ael addresses many, though not all, of her crew by their first names. May play into the fact that she’s A Mother to Her Men, as well as to Rihannsu conventions that equate a ship’s captain with the head of a noble House.
- The Ghost: Ael's niece, the unnamed female Romulan Commander from the TV series, is repeatedly mentioned and very important to Ael's and Tafv's motives, but never appears.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: Vriha t’Rehu, although very little is made of the fact she was a woman. In fact, while her reign turned the Rihannsu firmly against lone rulers, it also increased the number of women in the military and the government.
- Hereditary Republic: Senate and Praetorate positions are almost always hereditary (the exception being if there’s no clear heir or if there’s dishonor involved). So the Rihannsu government is by an aristocratic council system, with the constituents having only the power to pressure their representative to commit suicide if they’re doing a poor job.
- Highly Conspicuous Uniform: Averted in the first book due to the following exchange during the mission briefing for the assault on the research facility between the the Enterprise's Chief of Security Matlock, Ael and Kirk.
"Commander", the dark young man said to Ael, "what color are the halls in that station going to be?"
"White, mostly or bare-metal silver."
"Captain", Matlock said to Jim, with a faintly ironic expression, "I don't think it would be wise for us to attempt a board-and-storm operation dressed in bright blue and black, or gold and black, or green and black-or especially orange and black. Everyone in the party would stand out like zebras in the snow; and as for my people they might as well have targets painted on them.
"Noted, Mr. Matlock. Order light gray battle fatigues for everybody."
"Already done, sir," said Matlock, just a little sheepishly. "Quartermaster's working on it now."
- Holding the Floor: In the second book, McCoy demands Right of Statement and demonstrates the fine art of the fillibuster until Naraht arrives.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: In The Romulan Way, only the history chapters have titles—the present-day chapters don't. And Honor Blade begins with Chapter Six, although this is because it was originally the second half of Swordhunt, which was split in two at the last minute.
- I Have No Son: Nniol’s family not only disown him but declare him Unperson because they believe he may have killed his sister. Particularly heartbreaking if you remember from My Enemy, My Ally that he actually did everything he could to avoid being in a situation where he’d have to fight the ship she was on- in Rihannsu terms, he actually acted with perfect mnhei'sahe.
- In My Language That Sounds Like: When Ael hears Kirk’s first name, she bursts out laughing and begs him not to make her explain what it means. She does tell him at the end of the book, and he starts laughing as well.
- In-Series Nickname: The younger members of Ael's core crew call her "susse-thrai," after an animal on one of their homeworlds that resembles a wolverine. The Three disparagingly refer to opposition Praetor Gurrhim tr'Siedhri as "Farmer Gurri".
- Ironic Echo: S'task uses phrases that recall his old mentor Surak a few times, despite having turned his back on him and left the planet because of their disagreements. First, he uses Surak's "cast out fear" while contributing to an Internet-analogue discussion that turns into the dominant Rihannsu religion (yes, really); and later, his last words echo Surak's own philosophy that beginnings must be clean.
- Kangaroo Court: In The Romulan Way, when McCoy is tried before the Romulan Senate for spying. McCoy proceeds to turn it on its head, using his Right of Statement (granted by Romulan law and allowed to reinforce the impression of legality) to gain time and lampshading the situation (even stating that the Klingons would have given him a fair trial) until The Cavalry, including a Horta (who, being a silicate-based lifeform who appears being made of Earth and invulnerable to disruptors, the Romulans mistake for an Eldritch Abomination) and commander Ael, who humiliate the corrupted Romulan leadership and sets in motion a revolution.
- Karmic Death: It's the violent "old Vulcan" he tried to preserve that kills S'task in the end.
- Kill Sat: The Rihannsu have a system of these surrounding their homeworlds. When originally built, they were unreliable- there were too few of them, and they were so badly programmed that they sometimes fired on their own ships- but the system was revamped and made effective after contact with the Federation.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Ael believes that Tafv's betrayal was the natural consequence of her actions.
Ael: It is not a question of blame. It's merely the way the universe is, the way the Elements are. Become careless with fire, and sure enough, fire will burn you. Do treachery, and treachery will be done you. Kill, and be punished with death. All these I’ve done. Now I pay the price, in my own flesh and blood.
- Like a Son to Me: In a poem discovered after his death, Surak addressed his estranged disciple S’task as his son.
- Meaningful Name: Rihannsu are great believers in the importance of names. Some notable examples:
- The name of their species means "the Declared", referring to their decision to leave Vulcan.
- Ael means "winged", which ties back both to her ship's name (Bloodwing - also a symbol of her family) and her Element of Air.
- Arrhae’s name means a servant that deserves a higher position. At the end of the second book, she's promoted to Senator.
- Vriha- the title-name of an ancient tyrant- means "highest".
- Rihannsu believe that a ship takes the power of whatever it's named after for better or worse. The Enterprise being named after the spirit and history of the entire concept explains why the ship has seen so much action and glory but also so much sadness and loss.
- The Vulcan swordsmith S'harien chose his name- "pierceblood"- to reflect his opposition to Surak's reforms. It's also a suitably Meaningful Name for his famous swords.
- Meaningful Rename: In Rihannsu history, the early tyrant T'Rehu renamed herself as Vriha t'Rehu- not only giving herself a Meaningful Name, but changing her name from one that could pass for Vulcan to one that strongly resembles a modern Rihannsu name. Terise/Arrhae has a serial case of this, with her name changing as her situation in life does. Terise Haleakala-LoBrutto becomes Arrhae ir-Mnaeha when she went undercover as Rihannsu slave, then gained a House-name when her new owner freed her (becoming Arrhae ir-Mnaeha t'Khellian) and finally she is granted an entirely new new House-name when she's promoted to Senator as Arrhae i-Khellian t'Llhweiir.
- The Mole: In the later books, there's a spy for the Three in Ael’s crew. It turns out to be her old friend Dr. t'Hrienteh, who was in an unmentioned-til-then romantic relationship with Tafv.
- A Mother to Her Men: Ael to her crew on Bloodwing. She actually calls them her children sometimes.
- Named After Their Planet: The Federation calls them "Romulans" after the placeholder names of their planets- Romulus and Remus- originally intended only to be used until they found out the proper names of those worlds. In their own language, the Rihannsu named their planets after themselves: ch'Rihan, planet of the Declared (that being the meaning of "Rihannsu," the name they chose for themselves when they left Vulcan), and ch'Havran, planet of the Travelers (a name they used later during their journey to find a habitable world).
- No Pronunciation Guide: When not straight-up The Unpronounceable, Rihannsu names are still hard to say because of this.
- Number Two: Ael's second in command is her son, Tafv. After his betrayal and subsequent death in My Enemy, My Ally, her third in command Aidoann becomes the new Number Two on Bloodwing.
- An Officer and a Gentleman: Ael is An Officer And A Lady- honorable, courteous, and tries to avoid involving innocents in her battles.
- Offing the Offspring: Ael kills her son Tafv for his betrayal; although it's made clear he would've died in a few days from his injuries, a Mercy Kill was not the objective.
- Oh My Gods!: The Rihannsu characters frequently swear "Oh my Element" and variations. They can also swear by the Sword in the Empty Chair- or just the Sword; everyone knows what they’re talking about.
- Only Serves For Life: Gurrhim tr’Siedhri lampshades this. “Once a senator in ch’Rihan, always one—while you breathe, anyway.”
- A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: Or rather, "I have lost my best pupil to madness." S'task, the first of the Rihannsu, was originally Surak's most fervent disciple.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Rihannsu are definitely this, sometimes to their detriment. In the first fifty years after colonisation, they managed to halve their population through war- almost beneath viable numbers.
- Rags to Riches: It used to be relatively common for a servant who had distinguished themselves to be elevated to the nobility. At the end of The Romulan Way, Arrhae goes from housekeeper (and former slave) to senator, with a completely new house-name created for her.
- Ramming Always Works: At the beginning of the war between the ancient Vulcans and the Space Pirates who would later become the Orions, S'task rams a pirate ship into their mothership, escaping in a lifepod before the impact. Ensign Luks does this to allow Bloodwing- with McCoy aboard- to escape at the end of the second book. Sadly, unlike S'task he doesn't have a means of escape to hand.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Ael to the entire Rihannsu government at the end of Book Two.
- Red Shirts: Averted in the first book - see Highly Conspicuous Uniform above.
- Renegade Splinter Faction: In The Romulan Way, it’s explained that the various factions on the Journey have evolved into very different cultures- with the result that there can seem to be several different Romulan Star Empires, all behaving differently to different ends. The best example of this trope comes from the East Continent of ch'Havran, whose nations descend from from groups of people who were forced to go on the Journey against their will and subsequently drew lots to settle in an isolated, inhospitable area, where they had little contact with the rest of their world, let alone ch'Rihan. At their best, they overthrew the Ruling Queen and then didn't set themselves up as tyrants in her place. At their worst, they’re primarily responsible for Hellguard- the horrific colony world where Saavik was born- as well as numerous atrocities in the first war with the Federation.
- Reverse Mole: Arrhae is a Federation deep-cover agent. Other examples are Vaebn tr’Lhoell, now deceased, and Ffairrl, Arrhae’s steward on Gorget, who's another altered human.
- Scotty Time: Subverted in the second book, during the fight between Bloodwing and Avenger. Ael wants to go into warp; her chief engineer tells her he needs seven minutes, and she replies that she isn’t sure she can give him seven seconds. The engineer doesn’t pull off a miracle. Ensign Luks tries to create a diversion, but the cutter he’s in is damaged, so he decides to ram it into the enemy’s ship, taking them out at the cost of his life. Then they get Bloodwing’s warp drive back online.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: H'daen tr'Khellian refuses a hefty bribe from tr'Annhwi, who wanted McCoy handed over to him for "revenge".
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Lyirru tr'Illiallhlae gets away with his excesses because he has connections in both the Senate and Praetorate- most prominently his wife Hloal, who is one of the mid-tier Praetors.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Ael betrays her government because they’re pursuing a project she feels is morally reprehensible.
- Sequel Episode: Ael and Tafv's backstory is heavily tied to the TOS episode "The Enterprise Incident"- as is Tafv's motivation for turning traitor at the end.
- Shout-Out: It’s mentioned that there’s a planet just barely inside the Rihannsu side of the Neutral Zone that is almost richer in dilithium than Direidi. In Swordhunt, a Klingon refers to a "Thought Admiral".
- Sleight of Tongue: Nveid uses this to slip a data chip to Arrhae.
- Someone to Remember Him By: In flashback, Ael regrets that Tafv's father did not live to see his birth.
- Space Romans: The Rihannsu culture has a strong resemblance to the Romans on Earth, which is even lampshaded. However, the effect is exaggerated by the Federation names for the people, their planets, and the translations of their ranks.
- Star Killing: In the backstory shown in both The Romulan Way and Spock's World, it's widely believed that the supernova that destroyed the capital of the Inshai Compact, leading to the collapse of the Compact into anarchy and the emergence of the Etoshan and Duthulhiv pirates who made so much trouble for Vulcan, was caused by a sunkiller bomb. A Rihannsu superweapon that does this becomes a plot point in the final book.
- Theme Naming: Grand Fleet ships are typically named after either the original generation ships of the Journey from Vulcan to their new homeworlds, or after the gear of an armed, armored, and possibly mounted warrior. Meanwhile, the capital ships built by the Ship-Clans are named after the families who crew them, for example Kaveth and Tyrava.
- Think Nothing of It: Ael doesn't want thanks or rewards from Vulcan or the Federation for her actions in the first book, because she didn’t do any of it for them.
- Thicker Than Water: Played with. In Rihannsu culture, the loyalty to one’s ship and captain is supposed to overrule all others. However, one character is actually disowned by his family for putting his loyalty to his commander before that to his relatives, and fighting on the other side of a battle that killed his sister.
- Unholy Matrimony: Lyirru tr'Illialhlae, a bloodthirsty military commander, and Hloal t'Illialhlae, a nasty lesser Praetor, although they don’t appear in the same book.
- Unperson: A name being thrice written and thrice burnt makes that name’s bearer Unperson in Rihannsu law. The government does this to traitors and disgraced officers such as Ael’s niece, and eventually, Ael herself.
- Uriah Gambit: Ael’s enemies in Command try this. They promote her away from her loyal crew on Bloodwing, put her in command of a small task force, and plan to order her to her death... in a way that would start a war between the Federation and the Klingons. She expected it- aside from the set-up war, which came as a shock- so she's able to evade their plot.
- We Are Struggling Together: This is actually the ideal state of the Rihannsu government- all those Senators and Praetors are supposed to spend lots of time infighting, because that discourages tyranny. Unfortunately, the system doesn't actually prevent a small cadre from assuming effective control of the government.
- We Used to Be Friends: Surak and S’task were very close before S’task repudiated Surak’s philosophy. Despite their real and severe personal differences, they never did stop caring for one another.
- When Life Gives You Lemons: The saying is quoted in The Romulan Way. The Rihannsu version is "When a sword shatters, take its fragments back to the forge"- which Arrhae prefers, saying it has more dignity.
- Who Needs Enemies?: The Rihannsu and the Klingons are technically allies, but by present times the alliance—which was based on mutual fear and hatred for the Federation- has decayed badly enough that the Klingons are openly raiding Rihannsu worlds . Even before the current hostilities, the alliance did the Rihannsu little good- no Rihannha in the series has anything kind to say about the Klingon-built warships the treaty obligates them to buy, and Ael recalls that her son's father was killed in a so-called misunderstanding with the Klingons, several decades before the main story.
- Worthy Opponent: Ael considers James Kirk to be this... which is why she seeks him out when her friends and allies among her own people fail her. Kirk feels much the same way about Ael.