Liir - Prester Zuul Alliance

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Liir - Prester Zuul Alliance

The Liir-Zuul Alliance is an emergent Faction consisting of the core Liir civilization and their newly adopted co-citizens, the Prester Zuul. Although other races may be permitted to live peacefully within Alliance-controlled space, they are not permitted to hold positions of great political power or grave moral responsibility, and are barred from military service.

The Liir race dominates this faction technologically and provides the majority of its leadership in Civil planning, Research and Diplomacy. Prester Zuul take active roles in the military, and may serve as Admirals, high-ranking Naval Officers and Intelligence advisors, and even governors of Alliance planets.

The leader of the Liir-Zuul Alliance is a mysterious Liir known as the Black. None of your Admirals will ever call you by this title, however. Instead they will address you as "Elder", if Liir, and sometimes "Eldest", if Zuul. When you play Sword of the Stars 2 as the Alliance, you are playing as the Black. Some members of the Zuul race have begun to see things differently. Led by a single Zuul known as the Deacon, these rebellious Zuul have rejected the divinity of the Suul'ka and adopted a new way of life. Instead of serving the Suul'ka, they have joined with the Liir to form a new faction called the Liir-Zuul Alliance.[1]

With the identity of the Suul'ka confirmed as renegade Liir Great Elders, it seems as if the Prester Zuul have never-the-less allied with the race that created them. Not He Who Shapes but his descendants fighting for their own survival.

The Black

The Liir conceive of space and the universe in general as a black ocean. This sea of existence surrounds, births and destroys all of the systems and planets within it. Members of their interstellar navy are called Black Swimmers, because they spend their lives swimming in these strange waters. The leader of their civilization and the ruler of the entire Alliance is the Voice of the Void, also known as the Black.

The Black is rumored to be a massive and ancient Liir, a Great Old One similar in size and power to the Suul'ka. They say that he is dressed in the last battlesuit built by the Liir people, and that he ascended into the void not to live forever but to die...but not before taking all of the previous Suul'ka with him.

The Black is the leader of the Liirian navy, the Voice of the Drowned, Liir and Prester Zuul alike. Although Liir admirals and advisors are able to hear the Black's telepathic communication and speak to him, they have not seen him face to face since the very early days of the Rebellion against the Suul'ka.

The majority of Liir know only that the Black is a Great Old One, and so powerful that his Voice can fill the gulfs between the stars.

The Liir Rebellion

The current Liir-Zuul Alliance and its multi-system empire are a direct result of the Suuligi War. Approximately three hundred years ago, two Suul'ka, the Bloodweaver and the Siren, made a joint decision to eradicate the Morrigi race. The Siren chose to attack directly, unleashing the full power of her coercion on the Morrigi fleets and using her Screamers to attack loyal Morrigi warships and worlds. The Bloodweaver, ever the scientist at heart, preferred a more subtle approach. He used the war as an opportunity to test his latest experiments, and attacked Morrigi worlds and outposts with various biological agents, including his recently engineered proto-Zuul.

The agony of the Morrigi species during the course of this genocidal onslaught was enormous. The mass suffering of their species was so extreme that it was actually telepathically audible to Muur, then the Voice of the Liir homeworld. Communing with his former mate and several other older Liir, Muur shared the vast echoing shout of pain that he heard echoing across the stars, and asked a simple question: what was to be done?

Many options were considered and discarded, including a species-wide suicide pact in which the oldest Liir on Muur would end the lives of all the younger Liir as quickly and painlessly as possible, and then self-terminate. Although this idea was attractive to many, in that it would not require the Liir to harm other living things, it was eventually rejected.

After hearing all arguments, Muur descended into the depths for an hour of silent contemplation. When he rose again to breathe, he announced that the Liir race could not render itself extinct in good conscience until all of the surviving Suul'ka had first been eliminated.

Ultimately, all of the changes which have taken place in the Liir way of life since that moment are the result of this one ethical decision.

The Birth of the Liirian Empire

When the Liir Rebellion began, Muur was the eldest and strongest true Liir still in existence. He had made up his mind to rise from the waters and go out into the Black Sea himself, in order to end the Suul'ka phenomenon. Further, he determinded that the ancient Liir way of life must come to an end.

The peaceful cyclical existence of the Liir, comfortable though it might be to the majority of his own people, was exceedingly dangerous to other life in the universe. The periodic emergence of Suul'ka was an insupportable price to be paid for the pleasure of maintaining their cultural traditions. Each Great Old One rising from Muur was potentially immortal, and could torture and destroy billions in the course of an endless reign of terror. This cycle had to end, and the only way to end it was to embrace change at a scale undreamed by previous generations.

Muur determined that all Liir, not just the Great Old Ones, must be willing to rise in armor to swim in the Black Sea. Many Voices and many Choirs must come to exist on many worlds, scattered across an expanse of many stars. Once the power of the Choir was thus dispersed, no single Voice--not even his own--could ever completely control all the Liir people. The entire species could never again be made wholly subject to the whims of a single mad despot. Even if one Voice went mad, other Liir would have Voices and fleets at their disposal. They could act in concert to eliminate and contain any new Suul'ka before it could travel far.

This being said, Muur himself would be compelled to rise from the waters of Muur to confront the currently existing Suul'ka directly. Not only did he wish to destroy them, but it was necessary that they be placed on the defensive and distracted, in order to buy his people time to industrialize and build the first fleet of youngster ships.

Only Muur was old and strong enough to even hope to challenge a single Suul'ka in battle. And even he, no matter how well girded and armed, would never be able to eliminate all of the existing Suul'ka by himself. He would need the children to work, to fight, to find allies among other races wherever possible, and to help him hunt the Suul'ka in all the dark places they might hide.

The rest, as they say, is history. Muur was girded in a suit of armor and rose to become the Voice of the Black Sea. The second Eldest of the Liir home world became its new Voice. While the first Liir ships were designed and built, the Black silently hunted in the darkness, finding and killing one Suul'ka after another.

The Origin of the "Derelicts"

The artifacts once known as the "Alien Derelicts" (Human designation "Black 9") were in fact fragments of Suul'ka armor, typically taken from the helmet and nose cone regions. This debris resulted from battles between the Black and one of several Suul'ka. He is known to have personally executed over a dozen Suul'ka personally during the opening months of the Rebellion. The Black was able to attack and kill most of his early victims before they were even aware that he had risen from the waters of Muur; they frequently learned of his existence only moments before they died.

Berserk with loathing, the Liir emperor stripped his fallen foes of armor and hurled their broken bodies into the nearest gravity well, frequently a gas giant or sun. Only one of his intended victims survived a first encounter, and the Siren suffered significant injury as a result of combat with a near-equal. The bleeding and tissue damage to her brain has sharply curtailed her coercive ability, and it may take years for her to recover her former abilities--if she ever does.

Black Swimmers

The broadest administrative and cultural division of the Liir Alliance is the separation between Black Swimmers, who serve in the Liir military and live the majority of their lives in space, and civilian Liir who are essentially planet-bound.

Black Swimmers require an enormous amount of societal support from non-military Liir in order to pursue their mission. Technologically savvy Liir who have embraced the modern age to help the Black Swimmers in non-violent ways have become Steelsingers, a category which includes engineers, scientists, diplomats, academics, traders and even some colonists.

Liir who join the interstellar navy in the past often did so against the express wishes of their families, friends and Elders. It was not uncommon for them to be disowned and ostracized entirely. More often, those Liir who decided to become a "Swimmer in the Black Sea" would be given a funeral rite before they entered the service. This ritual is still practiced before Drowning Day.

Black Swimmers in basic training quickly learn how to communicate in fleetsong and read steelsong symbols. They are trained in the principles of their drive systems and weapons, and drilled in combat tactics and manuvers.

More importantly, they are trained in many mental and emotional shielding techniques designed to protect telepathic combatants. These disciplines allow them to cling to sanity and remain on task under extreme conditions. This training is necessary for all Black Swimmers, but it is considered more essential to Liir trainees than to Prester Zuul, who appear to be biologically and culturally more resilient in the face of combat stress.

Black Swimmers also pick up the philosophy and mindset of the Alliance warrior through daily telepathic contact with other warriors. All else is learned by experience, as in any navy.

Drowning Day

A lifetime of service among the Black Swimmers begins on "Drowning Day". This is the day that the new recruit dons a spacesuit and first fills his lungs with oxygenated liquid medium. The psychological impact of the first few hours, during which both Liir and Zuul must learn to intake liquid rather than pure air, are extremely powerful and emotionally devastating.

Prior to Drowning Day, many Liir undergo a funeral ceremony. They lie very still in the water and allow loved ones to circle, sometimes for hours, singing mournful songs and touching them one last time. The funeral procession then carries the unresisting body of "the Departed" to the Naval base and remands the recruit to the custody of the Black Swimmers.

New recruits often need to be restrained during the Drowning process, lest they injure themselves in the instinctive struggle not to allow the cold fluid to enter their lungs. Even those who can retain physical control find the experience very emotionally traumatizing. Drowning is an overwhelming death experience, a rite of passage which creates a clear schism between the past and the future. Thereafter, it is relatively easy to re-arrange patterns of thought and behavior, and hammer the raw recruit into an Alliance warrior.

Retirement

After Drowning Day, it is universally understood that a Black Swimmer is no longer a Liir in the usual sense of the word. Like the Black himself, he has died, departed from his former life. From that point onward, the new recruit will not behave as a Liir normally would. He will learn the ways of the Black Sea and carry out missions which no living Liir could countenance.

If a Black Swimmer wishes to become a Liir again, he must go through a re-birthing ceremony and be slowly re-integrated into Liir society via a long process of purification. The horrors he has seen and done must be cleansed from his body and soul. He must learn to swim and sing again as a Liir, and in part this must be achieved through re-distribution of the pain and guilt he experienced in war.

In the past, unfortunately, not every Black Swimmer was able to reintegrate into society. The Liir were occasionally involved in genocidal conflicts, forced to kill the entire civilian population of some enemy worlds. The Black Swimmers who piloted assault shuttles were most deeply affected, as they were exposed to the fear, pain, rage and death of each victim telepathically, at close range.

They could not always cope, and a few of the crews who had seen too much of the wrong kind of action never returned home. When they were eligible to leave the service, they chose to "decommission" their own vessels by piloting them into the corona of the nearest star...with all hands aboard. They understood that they could never become Liir again. By ending their lives, they continued to shield their people from the horrors of war.

Since the advent of the Prester Zuul, such suicides are no longer common. A Liir who cannot carry a particularly painful memory and does not wish to carry to his Elders can always call upon the services of a Sin Eater.

Voices

On their home world and in other settlements, the Alliance populations are telepathically unified into world governments. Each world is led by the oldest and/or strongest telepathic mind resident upon that world. This individual is known as the Eldest, regardless of biological age, and in matters of importance the Eldest is also the "Voice of the People" for that world.

Every Alliance planet has its Voice. This leadership role is so fundamental to Liirian culture and civilization that it is common for the "Voice of Muur" to be addressed simply as "Muur", the "Voice of Biima" to be called "Biima", and so on. This conceptual linking of the Voice, the People and the Planet itself (in particular its Biosphere) is a major ideological component of Liir civilization.

Famous Voices

The Eldest Liir of any given world is also its strongest telepath and telekinetic, and thus the leader of the population. When a Liir becomes a Voice, he or she abandons any personal name and identity which can before.

The Voice of the ancient Liir home world is called Muur, which is also what the Liir call their planet. His name in the Liir language literally translates as "Ocean". Of all the Great Elders still bound to a living world, he is the oldest.

Biima is another Great Elder, the Voice of the colony on a Liir planet of the same name. Unlike many Great Elders, she maintains a feminine persona. Her name in the Liir language means "Shining Pearl".

One of the first Elders to depart from Muur to serve as leader on a new colony in the early 24th century, Biima helped to design and construct the armor of the Black before he rose to battle the Suul'ka. Well versed in Psionic defense and subterfuge, she is a master of the game called "Hide the Thought" and second only to Muur in age and power among the Elders scattered across the stars.

Steelsingers

Liir who specialize in science, academic disciplines, mechanical engineering and industrial work are all called Steelsingers, because they must learn Steelsong, the Liir written language, and use it in their daily work. The Steelsinger label is most commonly applied to the industrial labor workforce, however, who do the majority of heavy and dangerous work associated with a star-spanning civilization.

Steelsingers build fleets and stations, and their most elite are selected to serve aboard starships as emergency repair crews. As a workforce they are relatively young Liir between the ages of 50-200, like this young mechanical engineer.

Like Black Swimmers, Steelsingers often wear protective suits.

Prester Zuul

"Prester Zuul" is a general term for all Zuul citizens of the Liir-Zuul Alliance. The name derives from the ancient Human legend of "Prester John", a mythical king who was said to rule over a great civilization, hidden in the midst of a dangerous wilderness.

Rumoured to be a living descendant of three sacred magician-kings, this generous and virtuous lord ruled over a fabulous realm which contained many marvels and terrors. Prester John and his subjects kept these sacred things hidden from the eyes of the world, protected unwary travelers from harm, and often rescued those who had lost their way in the wilds.

The Prester Zuul regard themselves as the modern inheritors of this ancient duty. They are an island of redeemed souls who have risen from the midst of the Horde, and taken upon themselves the duty of building and defending a shining kingdom.

The Deacon

Born within the Zuul Horde at the end of the 24th century, the Deacon rose in rank through his gifts as an [link=Horde_003a][Imperator] to become a powerful raider of Independent worlds. From his Cruiser the Amnach he led his minions to unleash a reign of terror on any and all Liir, Hiver, Human and Tarka colonies not frequently visited by defense fleets.

As he collected slaves for the Horde, the Deacon also began to experiment with the art of Inquisition, picking through the brains of his new captives to find information which caught his fancy. As he sifted through the memories and ideas of his victims, he found himself increasingly interested in the subject of religion: he was especially drawn to the Neo-Catholic religion, which was practiced by many Human Independent colonists he consumed.

Weaving together a patchwork of these stolen shreds of consciousness, he became the first Zuul to create a purely personal identity, taking the name "Deacon" to give a label to his newly formed ego. His quest became an increasingly dangerous obsession, and the Deacon began to specifically hunt for more and more Neo-Catholic victims to devour.

The Deacon was captured at the Battle of the Jade Mirror in 2438 and became the "guest" of Sol Force Intelligence for many years, held in their interrogation cells, where he was known as "Subject 51". His escape from Sol Force custody in 2460 and return to Zuul space as an evangelist marked the beginning of the Prester Zuul movement.

Origins of the Prester Zuul

The Deacon remained a prisoner of Sol Force Intelligence for several years, from 2438 until the height of the Zuul War. During his confinement, he meditated extensively upon his own life history, up to and including the Battle of the Jade Mirror and the years of his subsequent incarceration. Initially consumed by remorse and regret, he waited for many years believing that the end of his natural life was eminent, and that the best he could hope to achieve with his remaining time in the universe was to do no further harm.

When a decade passed without any significant deterioration of his health or physical condition, however, Deacon realized that his physiology was no longer that of a normal Zuul. He had been significantly altered by his brief encounter with a Liir warrior and healer, who had altered his biological and psychological make-up. He was fated to live considerably longer than the normal span allotted to his race. Further, he had been gifted with knowledge and insight which was available to no other living Zuul, and his psionic abilities were increasing with age.

Galvanized by a moment of spiritual clarity, the Deacon realized that he had time enough to effect significant change in the universe. If he was willing to confront his people with the things that he had seen and learned, and share the knowledge he had been given, many more of his people might turn away from the Horde way of life and be saved. His own encounter with Liir and Human telepaths had significantly changed both his body and his mind. The same transformation, in theory at least, might be achieved by any Zuul, given the proper assistance.

Even greater things might be possible if the Zuul could find a new homeland. If generations of Zuul could be born, live and die completely free of the Horde and its cruelty, they might become a great force for good.

Soon thereafter, Deacon engineered his own escape, taking with him several Zuul prisoners that he converted to his cause. Using Human puppets to assist in the early stages of their flight, the Deacon and his followers fled Sol Force-controlled space and plunged into the heart of the Zuul War. Within months they had gathered a rag-tag fleet of Zuul converts and a few battered ships. Now began a harrowing journey through enemy-held territory, fighting to reach Liir-controlled space.

Within two years Deacon and his converts reached the outer perimeter of the Liirian Demesne, where they were met by Black Swimmers and the Black himself.

The Prester Zuul had come home.

Shepherds and Sin Eaters

Prester Zuul males have all of the psionic abilities which are common to their race, but they express themselves very differently in the Liir-Zuul Alliance than they do in the Horde. A Zuul with a powerful will in Horde contexts becomes an Imperator, a master who specializes in controlling slaves. In the Liir context, such a Zuul becomes a Shepherd, and serves as leader to the largest group he is able to command.

The most powerful Shepherds can serve as Fleet Admirals or even become the Voice of a world. Shepherds do not command legions of puppets or slaves, but provide inspiration and strength to their followers. They are community leaders, well-loved and well-respected within the Alliance, not only by Liir and Zuul citizens, but by civilians of other races.

Like their Horde brethren, Prester Zuul males also retain the ability to remove information from the mind of a sentient being. The same gift which makes a great Inquisitor among the Horde Zuul can create a Sin Eater within the Liir-Zuul Alliance.

This skill is not needed in Research and Development, as the Liir species already has a well-developed community of scientists. It does still have its uses, however, some of which are darker than others. A Sin Eater can be used for intelligence work, if he is willing to put his formidable talent to work for the Alliance. More importantly from both the Liir and Zuul perspective, however, is the work that Sin Eaters do in psychotherapeutic contexts.

Many veterans of the Black Swimmers have experienced significant combat stress over the past century, and are deeply traumatized by the things which they experienced during times of war. Because Liir do not sleep and do not possess a subconscious mind, they lack some of the emotional and mental resilience of species like Humans, Tarka or Hivers. Dark memories haunt them and do not fade with time. It takes significant effort to hide this pain from other Liir, and the need to do so creates distance and alienation which makes daily life even less bearable.

A Sin Eater can be very helpful to those suffering from such traumas. By removing some memories, either for a short time or permanently, they give the Liir victim a chance to heal. Although the Liir remains aware that it has received terrible mental wounds, it is able to relate to other Liir again and receive some of the loving communion which is essential to health.

Prester Zuul Coteries

Unlike the Horde Zuul, a Prester Zuul coterie is a carefully tailored product of nurture and care in early childhood. Prester Zuul do not release their infants into the wild unsupervised, but take a continuous interest in the development of Zuulings and older children.

Adult female Zuul are encouraged to provide meat, warmth, protection, and affection to their young during the early cycles of growth. When these cycles are completed, the children are placed during daylight hours into care facilities that segregate them by sex. There males take an interest in the education of both males and females, providing infants with food, shelter, toys and games to encourage healthy growth of both minds and bodies. When dusk comes, the children are released to return to their mother, where they can nestle warmly and receive food, protection and simple affection.

As children reach the pre-adolescent phase, male and female groups are introduced to one another and new coteries form naturally by mutual selection. Adolescent males are encourage to regard their coterie bonds as permanent and to treat their mates as valued companions rather than simple chattel. Prester Zuul females are much more likely to develop and maintain higher motor skills and to learn to perform complex tasks without supervision than Horde females. They also serve as a reservoir for memory and emotion, if the coterie leader is a Sin Eater.

Prester Zuul Swimmers

Prester Zuul serve in many roles in the Alliance military, depending on their native abilities. Sin Eaters are often involved in Intelligence operations, and strong Shepherds can hold many command positions, even rising to the rank of Admiral on some occasions.

For the most part Zuul serve in less glamorous roles. They have volunteered to crew the Battle Riders of the Alliance, and often the Rider complement of any Cruiser, Dreadnaught or Leviathan are specifically designed and built to be manned primarily by Zuul. They also serve as Assault Shuttle pilots, and the crews of Boarding Pods. Wherever the enemy must be confronted at closest range, a Zuul will be there.

References

  1. http://uk.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/sword-of-the-stars-ii/news/6328523/sword-of-the-stars-ii-lords-of-winter-the-new-faction-revealed?mode=previews&page=2