World Building / The Starborn
In-World, taken from Dominic Aeson’s Treatise upon the Peoples of Getae
…Among the many wonderful and mysterious inhabitants of Getae, the Starborn, or Nehzaria, bring to mind images of grandeur, majesty, pride, and ambition among the people of Getae, and rightfully so. While many of their rivals choose to either ignore or downplay their accomplishments, it must be said that were it not for these celestial beings Getae would be a considerably different place. Their story and the human story are intricately linked, and any attempt to study one invites study of the other.
Any understanding of this mysterious and sometimes reclusive people requires a considerable degree of background as to their past accomplishments as much as their physical selves. The first fact to establish is that the Starborn believe they are the oldest intelligent species of our planet, and that once, despite the bitter rivalry of other peoples, they were the unquestioned masters of much of Getae’s surfaces. The modern condition, politics, religion, and even physical form of the Starborn are all intricately tied to this one racial conceit.
The oldest of Nehzaria legends claim that they were “spun out of the celestial threads” at the core of the Sphere, a fanciful way of describing spontaneous generation within the Heavenly Storm. Over centuries they drew further and further to the Interior surface of the Medigetan Desert, drawn to the crystal fields that dot this otherwise inhospitable realm.
These first Starborn would have been barely recognizable to any contemporary person. In the era of their birth they were amorphous, protean masses of semi-solid light and magical energy, devoid of gender, matter, or even individual personalities. The entirety of their race existed at this time as a single gestalt consciousness with nearly no conception of individual “self.”
Armed with this unique single-mindedness, as well as considerable natural powers in the physical and supernatural realms, the race began the construction of a great city of crystalline spires and pylons. This capital, which eventually became known as Luminosse, formed the epicenter of an emerging Starborn empire. Eventually, drawn by curiosity, the Nehzaria emerged from the Interior through the Great Fault. The allure of the light proved stronger than their ties to the Interior, and soon the new arrivals had begun to expand across all three of the central continents.
In their expansion the Starborn encountered many of Getae’s intelligent species, but it was with the humans of Omidia that they were to form a lasting, and at first peaceful, bond. Awed by these majestic beings of light, primitive humans sought the companionship and the guidance of the Nehzaria, who, in turn, became fascinated with these curious creatures of matter. What emerged over several human generations can best be described as a paternalistic Starborn hegemony, rather than a true conquest, but the effect was the same. Human merchants and diplomats became a common sight in Nehzaria cities.
This interaction proved remarkably prosperous for both races, but it laid the seeds of change in their societies. Over the course of time the Starborn began to realize that contact with the humans was changing them. Their protean bodies had begun to stabilize and crystallize, becoming more and more solid, and strange blocks were beginning to form in the gestalt that hindered the easy transmission of knowledge. Rather than expel the humans from their society, a step none of them was willing to take, they came to the conclusion that a central locus of the gestalt was necessary, a guiding community who could manifest the will of the race. Several hundred Starborn were selected at random and granted the ability to control the flow of directives in the gestalt.
This new supervisor class was originally intended to police the gestalt, but over time it became necessary for them to do more than simply direct the will of the race. Shaping it became necessary, and to communicate the desires of others these new Archons, as they were termed, began to associate more and more closely with the human arrivals. Finding that humans could not easily relate to a gestalt consciousness they assumed individual names and began to further stabilize their forms towards a humanoid likeness so as to better deal with others. At the same time, the will to communicate with the gestalt became more and more crucial to the task of the Archons, who trained themselves to further enhance their individual willpower.
The next step, and perhaps the most crucial, towards the modern Starborn was, according to Nehzarian history, almost single-handedly the work of two heroic Archons, Adrian and Gabrielle. Newly elevated to the Archonship (and thus young as separate personages), these two Starborn had served almost entirely as delegates to other races and generals in the field, much of their reign focused on war with the emerging Black Empire of the Xivhari. It was Adrian and Gabrielle who led the forces of the Nehzaria-human alliance to victory in the Siege of Chzoroth.
Due to circumstance and duties, these two remarkable leaders had even become as familiar with outsider society as to keep company with them on a basis of individual friendship. This was a strange and unusual step even for Archons, who in their training of their own wills had for the most part become isolated and even vaguely selfish. Their actions had ceased to be merely communing with the gestalt, and had instead become a tyranny over it, non-Archon Starborn reduced to unquestioning, unthinking puppets of their wills.
Adrian and Gabrielle’s associations with non-Nehzaria caused the changes already undergoing within all Starborn to accelerate within their persons. Fascinated by the interpersonal relationships of other races, they were particularly entranced with the outsider notion of specific love. Each found the notion admirable in others, but their next step was even more radical. In their infatuation with outsider concepts of love, they began to feel such emotions themselves- specifically, directed towards each other.
The first Nehzaria romance in history caused an irrevocable metamorphosis in both Adrian and Gabrielle. Formerly, all Starborn had been completely asexual, reproducing for the purposes of procreation. In their discovery of love, Adrian and Gabrielle also discovered sexuality and gender. Adrian absorbed the trait of masculinity, and Gabrielle the trait of femininity. The slow adoption of individuality was complete.
Perhaps unfortunately, however, the developments Gabrielle and Adrian underwent rapidly spread to other Starborn through their nature as Archons. Like an epidemic the Change, as it came to be known, spread rapidly across the Nehzaria population despite repeated, desperate attempts on the part of conservative local Archons to halt it. Chaos and confusion spread in the Change's wake, as a people entirely unprepared for individual identity grappled with their new selves and each other. The Starborn empire, an institution dating back generations, was reduced to feuding city-states and petty kingdoms, all greedily seeking wealth and power.
No other Starborn realm has ever surpassed this first empire.
Modern Starborn are about the same size and shape as humans, composed of a semi-solid, luminous substance. They mimic, in general, human features such as flesh, facial features, humanlike sexual differentiation, and even the presence of ‘hair,’ in reality strands of harmless plasma. While their bodies are no longer entirely protean, they retain the ability to reshape their bodies to some degree, altering the shape, texture, color and nature of their limbs and features, as well as solidify at will into a hard, crystalline substance or revert back to normal. A common use of the former power is to grow wings for limited flight. Some extremely rare Nehzaria are born without a natural hue’s glow, and instead radiate dark purple, blue or black tones, but most have more natural chromatic hue ranges. Such “dark” individuals are generally viewed as auspicious and sometimes ominous signs; a Nehzaria’s hue range is generally taken as a sign of their character.
Strictly speaking Nehzaria do not have natural organs, but their bodies have evolved similar functions to humans due to subconscious mimickry. Their only crucial organ is the roaring energy core at the heart of their being. While they can subsist on as little as light and fire, they also can consume food and drink in a normal fashion.
Nehzaria reproduce as humans do, but with several quirks as a result of their unusual nature. Their fertility rate is relatively low, and to maximize the chance of a child’s conception the parents may mate occupying the interior of the same crystal. Successful conception results in the creation of a new miniature energy core within the mother, which over the course of several years grows into a child despite no apparent loss of mobility for the mother. While Starborn do retain the ability to reproduce asexuality through fission, this is a shunned and secretive practice. Because such children are born in adulthood, retain all the memories of their parent, and such births usually kill the parent, they are generally considered illegitimate and only produced in response to great need.
A Starborn lifespan can extend for hundreds of years. They mature physically within a decade of birth, but are not granted full social privileges for at least three times that length. Starborn death and funerary rituals vary according to several distinct religious families.
Politics And Religion
Nehzaria cities are sometimes isolated from each other by hundreds of miles and often hidden in some beautiful but seemingly wild location. As they require less food than other creatures they do not clear large swathes of farmland and tend to favor areas humans could not easily inhabit- snowy mountainsides, cliffs, lonely islands, or primeval forests are common haunts. Yet ties between them are actually quite close, for using magic they can communicate over vast distances, and their strange flying crystal-caravans can cover huge swathes of territory almost unnoticed. Starborn leaders and nobles take a variety of strange titles, such as Exarchs for war leaders, Archon for supreme commander, Quaestor for local nobility, and so on. While they may eagerly interact with others they always do so on their own terms; to be permitted free rein in a Starborn city is a supreme honor for an outsider.
There have been three major Nehzaria religious “factions,” though in truth the term philosophy would be more accurate, as all three worship their nebulous Creators, rumored to dwell within the Heavenly Storm. All three date back to the Change, the collapse of the first Nehzaria Empire. Between them these three faiths encompass the basic attitudes of Nehzaria society, both towards each other and towards the outside world. In truth, these three groupings are the basis of Starborn inter-community ties, each dreaming of establishing an imperialistic hegemony over Starborn society, and seeking to woo as many communities as they can to its banner.
The first faith, known as the Path of Reconciliation, has waxed and waned as the fortunes of the Starborn people swing back and forth. This particular philosophy holds that the Nehzaria were never intended to develop individual identities, and that individuality itself can eventually be removed. Adherents concentrate on their protean powers and strive to maintain an asexual, nearly identical appearance, dressing alike and displaying no unusual ambitions or traits. They attack their hated individuality at every opportunity, and indeed display relatively little freedom of thought. The Path of Reconciliation seeks, ultimately, the complete reunification of the Starborn people into a single gestalt once more.
The true devotees of Reconciliation are the Purified, Starborn who have managed through their studies to dissolve their individual personalities altogether, melting back into the amorphous group-minded beings the Nehzaria once were. The Purified make all decisions for those Reconciliants who still maintain individual selves, and those who follow Reconciliation are taken to them upon death to be consumed in their purging gestalt.
Radically opposing the Reconciliants are the followers of the Resurgence, a militant and expansionistic faith. Much like the Reconciliants, the Resurgents’ numbers swell and diminish depending on the fortunes of world affairs. While they also look to the past, their admiration is not directed towards the communion of the Nehzaria race but rather towards its temporal power. Resurgents seek to rebuild the great Empires of their past and celebrate individual pleasure and fulfillment. Their ideals are not the mass of the Nehzaria gestalt but rather the powerful and free-willed Archons, who bent the population to their wills for the good of all.
Resurgents do not have an institutionalized clergy, but rather idolize any one individual of powerful will and merit. Those who demonstrate such powers of mind and body are termed Lucifers, and are empowered by the community as a whole with spiritual potency. Dying Resurgents willingly dissolve themselves into a Lucifer or his or her favorites, eager to be subsumed into such a powerful will. Sometimes a Lucifer may rise thus to such heights as to be termed a Lumen- a savior of the faith and a living embodiment of the community. Unfortunately, Lumen are rare- one or two may appear in the life of a Nehzaria- and their emergence can be a time of remarkable heroism or a reign of terror.
Occupying a middle ground is the Path of Amours, the teachings of Adrian and Gabrielle, designed to curb the excesses of individual ego. This faith is steadier in numbers and more ecumenical in tone. Amourists celebrate the individual, but they also idolize the emotion of love itself. They point to the Change as an overwhelming testament to the power of two peoples’ love for each other, and teach that love alone can change the world. Not only romantic love is celebrated, but filial and civic love as well- it is the intrinsic connection itself that gathers power, rather than any specific form thereof.
Amourists are the least politically ambitious of the Starborn faiths, focused on personal meditation and fulfillment. Like Resurgents it is a clergy of merit- individuals are nominated to clerical positions by the will of the community and their own deeds. Amourists also champion the cause of Starborn interaction- on an equal footing- with other non-Nehzaria, and are of all the groups the most concerned with relations between Nehzaria and other species. Dying Amourists hope to return once more in spirit to the Heavenly Cloud, where they will be united with the Creators, the source of love.
One crucial fact must be understood about the Starborn- most of their physical needs are derived from crystal and sunlight. Physical food and drink are a luxury, not a necessity, and their considerable command of magic and massive wealth of lore allows for a much higher standard of living among the Starborn than is typical among the average human. Many of their cities continue to exist in much the same splendor as the empires of the past, and though their numbers are diminished, this may even help to more lavishly distribute wealth. Starborn may fight over pride, over dominion and ideology, but not, generally, over livelihood.
As the needs of the body have easily been filled by all the support systems and their physiological advantages, the Starborn have a great deal of leisure time to fill- with political activism and aspirations, schemes of trade and economics, honing of martial and magical might, cultivation of the mind and body. It is probable that much of their political and ideological strife, their philosophical search for meaning, and willingness to champion causes comes from quite simply having so much time on their hands.
The average Nehzaria is well-read and literate, having been raised from birth in a relatively luxurious environment. He or she prizes his family and personal honor almost above their own life, and Starborn matters of honor are complex, dependent upon webs upon webs of intrigue and dignity and connections and customs. These traditions are especially strong among the Resurgent movement. It is perhaps understandable that so many young Starborn seek their fortunes among the younger races, often simply to escape and so thoroughly cement their honor that they no longer have to play the game.
Nehzaria of both sexes dress in relatively scant clothing and carry only what gear they need. They have a peculiar fondness for crystals, within which, as beings of light, they sleep, soak in sustaining light, and channel their own powers. Crystal is also the center of Nehzaria industry, as they have learned to shape, harden or soften, and forcibly grow it in response to their needs, even in such bizarre forms as crystal-cloth. For this reason they seek crystal like most other peoples look for gold and iron.
Militarily, the Nehzaria have always favored mercenaries of other races, supported by small, elite cadres of their own folk. Their mobility and grasp of both warfare and magic is considerable, and their services are hotly prized in an ironic reversal of their former patronage of mercenaries. A Starborn force is a disciplined and fierce cadre of warrior-mages, fighting with the ferocious zeal of crusaders against their enemies.
This is a pretty basic overview of the Starborn, but you'll notice it's mostly fuzzy with historical details beyond the basics. That is deliberate. I'm leaving this open for additions and eager to see what, if anything, people do with this civilization. Ideas can be discussed on the forum.