By Paul Monteleoni

The inside truth of the despised Decados.

The Decados are not the great rivals of the Hawkwoods. The Hawkwoods are far too arrogant (or well-bred, as they would put it) to acknowledge anyone as ignoble as the Decados to be their great rivals. The Hawkwoods hold the Decados in contempt, crush them bloodily whenever they hint at interfering with their business, and spend most of their time gaining glory in little feuds with their true great rivals, the Hazat. The Justinians, however, have never been able to do the same. Although once a Royal House, the Justinians have fought with the Decados from time immemorial, and they find themselves completely frustrated by the mantis villains, who sealed off the jumpgate to their homeworld, sending them tumbling to minor status, and thwarted every attempt they made to rise. The true story, however, behind their grudge, behind the Decados' remarkable success up until now, and that villainous house's oncoming inevitable downfall is known to few.

The Book of Lands (see above) itself, written by the friar St. Jovan on Cadavus in 2724 to resolve many disputes about the ownership of various tracts of land. It was given, upon Jovan's death, to Earl Balan Gremnyr Trusnikron (the person who had won most of the disputes). For years it stayed with the Gremnyrs and was revered and expanded upon, becoming, much more than a mere record of land ownership that it was originally, a huge repository for claims and grudges. Back then, the Trusnikrons were staunch allies with the Hawkwoods, the Justinians, the Uriens, and the Gesars and there was much interbreeding and mingling of families between them. The Trusnikrons then were much like Dwarves, rugged and fiercely-territorial folk who were staunchly xenophobic and held to their grudges and their claims with an almost psychotic fervor. This book was a powerful and venerated relic, and it gave the Trusnikrons much of their considerable political clout, as they were seen as arbitrators and judges for all types of claims, even those which could not possibly have been written in the book. Everyone believed in the power of the book, and saw it as a sort of mystical mandate for the nobility.

In 2818, the Decados seized Severus from House Gloucester. In those days, such rises and falls of minor self-proclaimed nobles were nothing unusual, but the next move of the Decados was. Jakob Decados himself, seeing the need to gather for himself some legitimacy, orchestrated a plot to dishonor the Gremnyrs, "expose" them as frauds and villains, and forcibly wrest the Book of Lands from them as they fought amongst themselves. This he accomplished, and he brought the Book of Lands to his newly-built ducal palace, and used its mystical reputation as a fašade of legitimacy for the Decados' expansion. Without the Book of Lands, the Trusnikrons found themselves homeless almost supernaturally suddenly, and, having lost their relic of lands and grudges, became the unaligned, apolitical wanderers and beastmasters that they are today. Ven Lohji had an encounter with Jakob Decados, as she traveled through Cadavus with the Prophet on his way to meet the Vau. Ven Lohji, then, was on her great errand to distribute the four Odes to the Khellastomia, the Odes to the great Stones of Immortality (Earth), Strength (Fire), Wisdom (Air), and Destruction/Prophecy (Water). She had already given the Ode to Immortality to the Hawkwoods, the Ode to Strength to the Chauki, and the Ode to Wisdom to the Prophet. As the Prophet was resting, Ven Lohji went to walk the world, looking for a worthy recipient for her last Ode, the Ode to Destruction/Prophecy, and she came to the keep of Jakob Decados.

The story of their meeting is quite esoteric, and has been all but completely stamped out by Decados agents in the days since. Ven Lohji came to the house of Jakob Decados, who took her in and listened to her tale that she bore the last of the Odes, her race's gifts to the humans, and was but looking for a worthy recipient. He, greedy for more treasures to bolster his legitimacy, lied to her about his claims and his worthiness, trying to use the Book of Lands to show how deserving he was.

Ven Lohji, inscrutably, gave him the Ode to Destruction. She then chastised Jakob for trying to steal legitimacy. The curse that she gave Jakob was that he and his line, being the vilest example of what happens when people only think of the world in terms of Lands or Grudges, should live out their lives as examples of that, always living in the future from the other houses, as a living prophecy, a warning to them of what they would become if they coveted merely the Book of Lands or Grudges. It is this meeting, and this chastisement, that made the Decados as they were. Then Ven Lohji, her final task of distributing all of the Odes done, turned and walked away, leaving the Prophet to voyage to the Vau. Despite, or perhaps because of, this meeting, the Book of Lands remained on Cadavus, and was fought over viciously by various houses, but with the authority of the Book, which many believed in, and with their natural talents for deception, the Decados always managed to maintain possession of it. Finally, in 3310, the Justinians, who knew some of the grudges of the battered and demoralized Trusnikrons, championed their allies and sought to seize the Book once and for all. They declared war on the Decados, (the Hawkwoods meanwhile were busy in major struggles with the Chaukis, Uriens, and Gesar), and stormed Cadavus, razing the entire continent of Carthage to the ground, and hurting the Decados grievously.

The Ode to Destruction and the Book of Lands fell into the possession of Duke Octavius Antonius Justinian after he slew the ancient and cybernetically-maintained Jakob Decados. Unfortunately, the Duke's victory was short-lived. His forces savaged by a campaign of sneak-attacks orchestrated by Jakob's military genius, he was forced to flee with his prize, intending to inspire the Trusnikrons and all of the other houses to destroy the usurpers. Unfortunately, the Decados had managed to insinuate one suicide agent, Cassius, onto the bridge of the Calphurnia. Cassius succeeded in crippling the starship as it headed toward the jumpgate. The Calphurnia crashed into the frigid waterworld of Tiber, and there remained the Ode to Destruction and the Book of Lands.

In 3921, a Midlothian Inc. corporate survey team found the Calphurnia. The Ode to Destruction was delivered to their central offices in Fiorina for study, and eventually placed it in the SkyNet Citadel for storage (and safekeeping, as the Republic spiralled into chaos). They also undertook the task of transferring all of the data in the Book of Lands to their central data bank, the only surviving node of which would eventually be the Fiorina SkyNet Citadel. In 4076, as the Second Republic lay dying, the Universal Church finally honored Jovan as a saint and the Book of Lands as a relic, in a political move intended to give some legitimacy to the estate of the nobility, though in later days, the authorship of the book would fall to St. Lextius.

The Justinians and the Decados have continued their enmity to this day, though the Decados only gained the upper hand when they sealed the jumpgate to the Justinian's homeworld of Paradise. The jumpgate has since reopened, but existing jumpkeys there no longer work due to data drift. The Justinians now, one of the more powerful minor houses, still nurse memories of their former glory, and some of the wisest whisper that one day, St. Lextius will return with the Book of Lands, which will open up the gate to Paradise. And then, united with purpose, the Justinians will be able to finally close the ancient circle of grudges, destroy and consume the old and dying House Decados, and assert themselves as the fifth Royal House in their place.

Now, the Book of Lands is still held with the Ode to Destruction in the Second Republic's Fiorina SkyNet Citadel, a tower in a Second Republic city completely submerged beneath the Toscano Bay on Byzantium Secundus' continent of Harmony, guarded by automated defense systems controlled by the partially defective Autonomous Intelligence Robert 6.3000. The Book itself has rotted away into an empty cover enclosing so much pulp, but Robert 6.3000 remembers its exact contents. Not only that, but he also has enough astronomical information to make an accurate jumpkey to Paradise...