“Beyond today, when this vessel breaks the atmosphere, you are all Yasha. Some have already had this caste placed upon you by the Sa-Raaya for crimes against Harmony. Others of you have chosen to sacrifice your birth caste in service to the Athirova. A Yasha is one who has lost their way. But as beings within whom Harmony and Disharmony forever struggle, you are the only Athirova fit to travel beyond our holy world and face the Disharmony that waits to be quelled between the stars. Outcastes and saviors will you be. Only the impure may purify the galaxy.”
The Athirovan Conclave
Primary Species: Rhashax (plural: Sa-Rhashax)
A note on pronunciation: The letter X in Nenhae (the primary language of spacefaring Rhashax) represents a beak click that isn’t possible to replicate for a human. It is normally pronounced by humans as a palatal click, similar to that in some southern African languages on Earth.
Species Class: Avian
The Rhashax evolved from large, flightless, pack-hunting raptors similar to the extinct moa of New Zealand.
Species Traits: Weak, Talented
Athirova make up for their relative physical frailty by dedicating themselves totally to their native martial arts, and strive for excellence in all occupations.
Sa-Athnava, “The Truths”, is a nearly universal guiding spirituality followed by over 90% of all Athirova
As the Sa-Raaya decree that any who leave Ayaal become Yasha and abandon their caste, Athirova are reluctant to move to other worlds.
Homeworld: Ayaal (Tundra)
Though largely a frigid world, Ayaal has a great biodiversity even in its northerly climes. The heart of Athirovan civilization is in the Nenhah Highlands wrapped around the Athir Mountains, a raised plateau in a taiga region near the tropics. The equatorial temperate zones are also home to large population centers, while the areas closer to the poles support smaller, migratory, indigenous groups that make up most of the religious minorities on Ayaal.
Governing Ethics: Militarist, Spiritualist
The original Athirova from which the Conclave takes its name were small groups of warrior monks restricted to sparse mountain regions. Their deep reverence for the Harmony of the self, one’s environment, and one’s community mixed with extreme dedication to self-defense martial arts still guide Athirova society to this day.
Nothing in Sa-Athnava specifies that only Rhashax can become Athirova, and thus the Conclave is willing to accept new devotees of all sentient species with open wings.
Government Type: Theocratic Oligarchy
Ayaal is governed by a council of spiritual gurus, the Sa-Raaya, “Wisest Ones”, elected from among the brothers and sisters of the various Athirovan monastic orders who oversee each local parish. While the Yasha operating off-world have some degree of autonomy, they still must follow directives from the Sa-Raaya with absolute obedience.
“Athirova” began as the name of a monastic culture dwelling in the backwater Athir mountains near Ayaal’s tropics. Dozens of attempts to conquer them during Ayaal’s bronze and iron ages failed, as their dedication to martial self-defense and ideological purity, combined with the harsh terrain of their homeland, made their towns and monasteries unassailable. They leapt to prominence on the geopolitical scene roughly 3000 years before FTL, when a monk named Athanivxi went on a great pilgrimage across the world to understand the nature and cause of Disharmony. He eventually compiled his conclusions into a set of philosophical works called Sa-Athnava, “The Truths”, which became the most influential holy text on Ayaal.
The spread of Sa-Athnava eventually led the ruler of the powerful Nenhah Kingdom to invite Athirovan monks to his court as advisers. He adopted Sa-Athnava into his lifestyle and made it the official governing philosophy of his realm. It was then that a split began to occur. The king of Nenhah wanted to use the battle prowess of the Athirova to subdue his enemies, but many of them refused military service in offensive campaigns, as they believed such aggression was a crime against Harmony. Some of the Athirova, however, accepted his offer, bending their theology to frame these wars of conquest as preemptive strikes against Disharmonious foes who would one day threaten their way of life.
This strategy would eventually turn against the king’s descendants, as the monks that made up the Royal Advisory slowly demanded more power and eventually took over the government of Nenhah. Members of the old ruling dynasty were relegated to mere figureheads, while the Athirova prosecuted religious war to bring all Ayaal in line with Sa-Athnava by force. The next few centuries, which saw the spread of Nenhah and Athirova civilization across the world accompanied by the sound of guns and the smell of black powder, is remembered as the darkest time in the history of Ayaal.
As the Athirova stood at the threshold of the Industrial Age, the Rathishash, “Awakening”, swept across the civilized world. In the wake of war and plague and a “little ice age” that caused starvation for thousands, many followers of Sa-Athnava began to speak out against the highest spiritual authorities, calling for a return to the core, founding principles of Athanivxi. This new wave of thought sparked a further century of brutal conflict that saw entire cities wiped out and trenches piled with the dead. In the end, however, the reformist faction prevailed. Adherents of the old order were branded Yasha, “Those Who Lost Their Way”, placing them at the bottom of a new caste system established to ensure such great Disharmony would never be allowed to triumph again. The victorious Athirova created an elected governing council called the Sa-Raaya, “The Wisest”, to oversee a new, golden age for Ayaal.
Culture and science flourished. All was well until roughly 400 years before FTL. One of the Sa-Raaya declared himself a new Prophet-Emperor, Athanivxi’s terrestrial successor, and sought to overthrow the Sa-Raaya in favor of a more autocratic regime. The conflict was even more devastating than the War of Awakening, and though the Sa-Raaya and their tribal allies eventually triumphed, many at all levels of society were left in a state of spiritual crisis. If the Sa-Raaya had brought Harmony to all their people by casting down the Yasha, how could such a thing have happened? How had such Disharmony still infiltrated the hearts and minds of so many faithful?
It was then that the Athirova began looking to the stars. They concluded that the ultimate source of Disharmony must lay beyond Ayaal, and they would never be able to end its influence without venturing outwards. Since exposure to the forces of the void had the potential to fill the spiritually pure with greater Disharmony, it was decreed that only the Yasha caste (and anyone willing to undergo a ritual to become Yasha as a sacrifice to the greater cause) would be allowed to travel outside planetary bounds. Thus, the Yasha became tragically heroic warriors for the cause of Harmony, venturing into the unknown to seek and remove the very spiritual torment that made them outsiders among their own.
The Athirovan people will not cease in their mission until all Disharmony has been stopped at the source and true Harmony has been brought to the galaxy.
We’re excited to share this unfolding space opera with you. Galactic Chronicles: Stellaris begins the week of May 9. Read more about our galaxy.