By Caedmon

House Justinian left in the Known Worlds was too desparately struggling for survival to pay much attention to their own records. In the approximately four-and-a-half centuries since, the old descriptions have become corrupted to that described in LotKW in large part because the actual Duat system was so unique that the reality never occurs to anyone seeing references to it in older records.

In the following, I have deviated somewhat more from "canon" than I normally like to do when adding to background. According to LotKW, the lost homeworld of House Justinian is Paradise with 3 moons, not three planets with a single moon in a binary system. My presumption is that when the jumpgate closed, that part of House Justinian left in the Known Worlds was too desparately struggling for survival to pay much attention to their own records. In the approximately four-and-a-half centuries since, the old descriptions have become corrupted to that described in LotKW in large part because the actual Duat system was so unique that the reality never occurs to anyone seeing references to it in older records. And faced with a plethora of names: one system (Duat), two suns (Aten, Ra), three planets and a moon (Atlantis, Lemuria, Mu, and Arcadia), etc, the remnants of House Justinian have focused on the particularly nostalgic "Paradise." the beautiful capital and former center of their power.

The Duat System

Ruler: House Justinian (Emperor Nomos XVI Justinian)
Cathedral: None (The Wandering Flame sect)
Agora: The Citadel (the Commune)
Garrison: 8 total for system (Atlantis: 7; Lemuria: 3; Mu 2)
Capital: Paradise (Lemuria: Erewhon; Mu: Fantasia; Arcadia: Oberon City)
Jumps: 2
Adjacent Worlds: Sutek (dayside); Dashwood, Ming, Orestes, Hecate (nightside); Artemis, Grail (parallel)

(The Duat system is a Lost World. The above is based on what was known at the time of the Fall. Which jumproutes are actually open and, of those, which have known coordinates will depend on how the Duat system is to be introduced to the game. In the following history, it is assumed that all the jumproutes are open but only the coordinates for the Orestes and Sutek systems are known, and then only to the inhabitants of Duat)

Solar System: Ra [Duat A] Ahmose 1, Atlantis (Arcadia) 2, Lemuria 3, Asteroid Belt (the Hyksos) 4, Hatshepshut 5, Ramses 6, Seti 7, Tut 8; Aten [Duat B] Menes 1, Narmer 2, Mu 3, Snefru 4, Khufu 5, Thutmose 6

Tech: 5/6 (while Duat tech levels are generally comparable to other throneworlds in the Known Worlds, in certain areas, e.g., biotech, they are further in advance while in others, e.g., think machines, they are no higher than 4)

Human Population: over 4 billion (Atlantis: 3 billion; Lemuria: 1 billion; Mu: 20 million + rough estimate 200 million Mux; Arcadia: 50 million) Alien Population: ? (no accurate census of the Shroud, small [c. 100] Obun/Ukar enclave on Atlantis, IT on Mu) Resources: masterwood, octocrystal, silk, ivory, pharmaceuticals and innumerable other botanical products (including food), biotech Exports: currently none. If full contact is re-established with the KW or the Caliphate any of the above.

Systemscape: Duat's stars are a small red giant (Ra) and a large white dwarf (Aten). The two, with their attendant planets, have concentric orbits around the point in space where the jumpgate floats, stationary relative to both. The jumpgate is thus on the edge of both systems. Aten (and therefore Mu) has a slightly smaller orbital radius than Ra. This means that while the standard times apply for travel between Atlantis or Lemuria to the jumpgate, those times can be reduced by 10-20% for the transit between Mu and the jumpgate. It also means that in approximately 3,000,000 years the Aten system will move close enough to the Ra system to begin causing severe gravitic disturbances in both.

Ahmose and Menes are both small sun-blasted rocks similarly to Mercury. Ahmose is known to have an extensive cavern network, possibly artifical, under its surface but the extreme temperature has prevented any but the most superficial examination. Menes has a single, 300-foot tall obelisk of octocrystal on its equator. Its purpose is unknown. Narmer is a waterless, airless rock approximately the size of Urth and has never been of any interest to anyone. Hatshepshut is very similar to Mars. It was considered for terraforming several times, but with three other habitable planets already in the system, the project never went beyond the speculative stages. The Hyksos were extremely mineral-rich but had been largely mined out by the 38th century. A few wildcat prospectors continue to scrape a living out among them. Ramses, Khufu, Seti, Snefru, and Thutmose are gas giants and listed in order of size with Ramses, almost twice the size of Jupiter, as the largest. All have multiple moons with 13 known mining colonies, all dependent on artifical habitats. Finally, Tut, another lifeless rock, has a highly erratic orbit. Twice in the system's recorded history this orbit has shifted between the stars, making it a most unusual navigation hazard.

Atlantis and Lemuria are approximately two days apart throughout the majority of their orbits (assuming an "average" ship able to travel up to 10% of the speed of light). Tween Station (officially Benjamin Verden station but hardly anyone knows that) is set in an orbit about Ra which keeps it approximately a day out from each of the planets. A late Diasporan constrution, Tween Station was major interstellar trade hub before the Closure. It remains busy with intrastellar traffic, but large portions have been mothballed. Recently, the Nomos has had some of those sections reopened, and the station's function as a construction yard is growing by leaps and bounds. Travel from Atlantis or Lemuria generally takes twice the time of a trip to the jumpgate (2 weeks in an average ship) but depending on current orbital positions that time can be reduced to as little as week or increased to over a month.

From Atlantis and Lemuria, Aten appears as a small but bright moon, visible even during the day. Aten is a dim star, however, and even at noon, Mu appears twilit. On the other hand, Ra is almost as bright in the Mu sky as Aten so the twilight is nearly perpetual.

Since 4653, the Nomos has maintained a heavy cruiser at picket station guarding the jumpgate. As might be expected, it has a reputation as the most boring detail in the Duat Navy. Crews are accordingly rotated regularly. The cruiser also carries a scientific detail. Unlike the military side, posting to the "on-the-spot" jumpgate research detail is a high honor for scientists.

Landscape

Atlantis is significantly larger than Urth but with a lower density giving it a gravity very close to human normal. Over 90% of its surface is covered in ocean, although its greater size means that it still has plenty of inhabitable land. This land is composed of two small continents (both about the size of Australia) and innumerable archipelagos. Most of Atlantis is tropical in climate except in the far polar regions. The sheer amount of water in the seas maintains a remarkably consistent temperature across the whole planet. The more populous of the two continents, Ch'ing-t'u, is located directly on the equator and is approximately equally divided between cultivated farmlands and rain forest, as are most of the islands. Hyperborea, in the far north, is decidely mountainous with extensive old-growth forests and is one of the few areas on the planet that sees snow as anything but a freak event. While Atlantis has been relatively stable throughout the period of human habitation, most of the planet's thousands of islands are clearly volcanic in origin.

Atlantis' sister planet, Lemuria, is, by contrast, a cool, arid world with little signs of geological activity. It's oceans are smaller and shallower than Urth's, much less Atlantis', and its landmasses are predominantly great, flat stretches of either plains or desert. Several great rivers (Lethe, Ouroboros, Red Nile) and their tributaries have carved impressive canyons or even networks of canyons in some areas but these are almost the only deviation in the planet's uniform landscape. Lemurian weather is harsh, with high winds blasting around and around the planet and months of no precipitation followed by six feet of precipitation (rain or snow) in a single day or two. The planet also has an odd, fluctuating magnetosphere which produces magnificent lightning storms. The walls of the larger canyons display a number of ruined cliff-cities. Though the ruins have been exhaustively studied, little is known of their inhabitants-and if the Shroud remember anything, they aren't talking.

The distant sister, Mu, is a cool, dim world with enormous ice-caps. Like Atlantis, much of the surface is covered in water, but the average depth is no more than 5-10 feet with the land poking out in small hummocks and mounds. The land and shallows are filled with swamps of an amazing variety of fungi, the highest form of life on the planet. The 'depths' and channels are clogged with a multicolored variety of algae. Mu has almost no rain cycle; the place of weather is taken by floating clouds of flourescent spores. These clouds can be found at all levels of the atmosphere, creating both a navigational hazard (as they clog intakes and block visibility) and a health one ((breathing a spore cloud can produce any number of exotic diseases, including purple rot, saffron melt, and rainbow pox complete with bursting, multi-colored pustules). Mu has no native animal species more advanced than insects. The bulk of the Anunnaki remains in the Duat system are to found on Mu. Covered as they are by forests of twenty-foot high toadstools and fields of flourescent mold, many are still unexplored.

Paradise's moon (Arcadia) is only slightly larger than Luna but somehow manages to maintain a thin atmosphere (equivalent to the high Andes of Terra, humans can survive in it but non-natives have difficulty with extended physical exertion). It has its own unique ecosystem, the weak gravity allowing developments impossible in more Earth-like environments. The delicate and exotic beauty of the Arcadian jungles was a Republic-wide tourist attraction before the Fall.

History

Chronology

Colonization

The Duat system has one of the longest human histories in the Known Worlds, beginning in 2332 when scientists in the employ of the DeWeinz cartel uncovered the codes for the route connecting it to Sathra's Boon. DeWeinz, a mining cartel based in South Africa, had been a major loser in the race for New Mecca (its ship had barely lifted off of Luna when the IOPEC ship first landed on the planet), and it acted quickly to exploit this new opportunity. Operating with the greatest possible secrecy, DeWeinz had its first colony ship organized and waiting by the time the initial survey ship returned with the good news: not one but three habitable planets along with an asteroid belt and multiple gas giants to mine.

DeWeinz realized that it would require considerably more than one colony to defend their new acquisition from claim-jumpers, and the cartel quickly initiated a heavy recruitment program for the new worlds. Atlantis was simple. DeWeinz could pick and choose among applicants, including many of the finest minds in the fields of biology, planetary ecology, and medical research, and small villages soon sprang up across the planet, each centered on some aspect of the burgeoning DeWeinz industries.

The sheer attractiveness of Atlantis, however, made it more difficult to recruit for its sister planets. In the case of Lemuria, this problem was overcome by offering potential colonists vast tracts of land for tiny investments. And so the Lemurian frontier was settled by rugged individualists and their families who built huge plantations tied to DeWeinz only by its monopoly over shipping to and from the planet. But even such concessions were not enough to attract colonists to Mu. In the end, DeWeinz solved its problem by recruiting convicts. Treaties were signed with national governments and any convict willing to sign a contract with DeWeinz would have his sentence commuted to life on Mu-a deal many would come to regret in the constant struggle with the voracious fungi of the planet. DeWeinz planted exactly three colonies on Mu: Mudville (for violent offenders), Fantasia (for white-collar and political prisoners), and Slithy Tove (for those who fell in between).

The next two centuries were a period of almost uninterrupted growth and prosperity for the inhabitants of the Duat system. The population of Atlantis increased steadily, the planet's incredible biological diversity providing not only most of the necessities of life but an embarrassment of trade goods, from megaspider silk to the cure for cancer, granting the Atlanteans one of the highest standards-of-living in human space. Lemuria remained sparsely populated, but that population was composed almost entirely of wealthy land- owners whose great plantations provided basic staples like grain and cotton to over 10% of the human population. Even the Muens had little reason to complain. Although their planet remained one of the most inhospitable yet settled, and the DeWeinz cartel maintained many of the original regulations (including, for example, extensive travel restrictions) even after the flow of convict-settlers dried up around 2400, the exotic Muen flora was, in its own way, almost as productive as the Atlantean. Accordingly, DeWeinz was willing to invest heavily in the planet, so that while Muen life was hard, it also had it comforts.

Independence

The Sathra Insurrection and its aftermath had little visible effect on the Duat, except for a general increase of the number of "native" Atlantean and Lemurian pilots in the local space forces, as Terran pilots were removed in the initial purge or transferred to fill the resultant voids elsewhere. DeWeinz did, however, feel the repercussions losing planet after planet to spreading wave of Diasporan independence until, by 2600, the Duat was the only profitable system remaining to the cartel.

DeWeinz had grown fat and lazy on the profits from its interstellar holdings, and long-term panic took hold in its boardrooms as its losses grew. The company was unable, or at least unwilling, to simply accept the losses and move on. It was also unable to retrieve what it had lost. And so it decided to make up the loss by squeezing what it had harder, despite the mutterings of cooler heads about killing the golden goose.

Of the three planets in the Duat system, it was Atlantis which felt the increasing taxes and demands most strongly. Atlantis' economic strength was centered in biological research, and projects might take years or decades to reach their pay-off. But under the new regime, DeWeinz was unwilling to wait: new research was ignored while the demands on old projects were doubled or tripled-regardless of the ecological sense. Focused on biology and ecology from the beginning, the Atlanteans had always had a strong "Green" ethic and a love for their beautiful planet, and they resented the damage "foreigners" who had never set foot on their planet were doing to it. Added to that, while their productivity was going up, the Atlanteans saw none of it-in fact, their standard of living began to decline as DeWeinz took a larger and larger chunk of everything. And when they protested through their Colonial Parliament which had been responsible for domestic affairs for centuries, DeWeinz emasculated that institution and even began to apply some of the regulations of Mu to Atlantis, regulations everyone knew were created to control criminals.

The last straw for the Atlanteans came with the institution of the Outer Planets' Mining Act in 2617. Atlantis was a wealthy planet, but it was metal- poor. This had never been a problem as mining in the Hyksos and outer planets more than supplied Atlantis' needs. But under the Mining Act, products from the mines could no longer be sold directly to Atlantis. Instead, everything had to be shipped back to Terra, from which it could be reshipped to Duat's inner planets, with DeWeinz taking its cut on both legs of the transaction and practically doubling the price of metals on Atlantis. Three months after the promulgation of the Mining Act, the Colonial Parliament declared Atlantis independent with Speaker of the Parliament Caleb Justinian as Provisional President.

The Justinian clan was one of the oldest and most powerful families on Atlantis, able to trace itself back to the very first shipload of colonists and through them to the royal lineages of the Zulu, Swazi, and Xhosa tribes on Terra. They owned outright three of the largest archipelagoes on Atlantis and had extensive properties and investments throughout the planet's economy, as well as a distinguished record of service. Despite all this, Caleb showed no indication of joining the ranks of the growing Diasporan nobility. He promised his people a Constitutional Convention and, as soon as the war was completed, free elections.

The DeWeinz response was swift. They could not afford to lose the Duat System, and so they called in every debt owed them, promised whatever they had to, and brought half the First Republic fleet against the Atlantean revolutionaries. That Fleet was still recovering from the Battle of New Istanbul, though, and proved unable to achieve a definitive victory. In the end, it settled for blockading Atlantis, an action aided by the fact that Lemuria had not joined the Atlantean revolt and thus provided an in-system base for the Republican ships. For the next three-and-a-half years, most of the activity of the war occurred in the outer planets with the smaller Atlantean fleet practicing hit- and-run tactics on the mining installations.

This impasse was finally broken by an impatient Republican commander who sought to decapitate the Atlanteans by dropping a hydrogen bomb on the capital city of Landing. That bomb killed not only President Caleb but his entire cabinet, the vast majority of the Congress, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, and over 200,000 Atlanteans. Twenty-three hundred years later, Atrocity Day is still commemorated by the Atlantean as a day of mourning for the dead and silent meditation on one's own mortality (though few remember the day's origin).

The Atlantean population was stunned and leaderless. But the DeWeinz- Republican coalition lost days waiting for further decisions to come back from Terra. And into that window of opportunity stepped Major Faith Justinian, President Caleb's youngest daughter. The widely-respected and charismatic Faith, commander of the Atlantean's (and before that of System Defense's) fighters, was able to unite the armed forces under herself. Then, leaving her staff to restore order on Atlantis, she set out for Lemuria.

There, under conditions of extreme secrecy, she met with the Landholders' Council, a committee composed of the wealthiest plantation owners which had long determined domestic policy for Lemuria. The details of that meeting remained secret, but between offered concessions and arguments which played on the Landholders deep commitment to their own lands, lands, Faith pointed out to them, which were currently held only at the sufferance of the DeWeinz corporate leaders, Faith emerged from the meeting with a commitment of the Landholder's to join the battle for independence.

The most important of those concessions involved a promise that under any future government of the Duat system, the Lemurians would retain their domestic autonomy. More importantly, Faith confirmed this promise by adopting the noble system. Each landholder was made a noble (rank dependent on the size of his plantations) with properties entailed to his descendents in perpetuity. Faith herself adopted the title Queen of the Duat, and, to seal the deal, was betrothed to Solomon Verden, son of Eli Verden, newly created Duke of Cockaigne and head of the Lemurian Noble's Council. Their first child, and all subsequent heirs apparent to rule of the system, would bear the title Prince of Lemuria. (During the Dark Ages, this was adjusted somewhat to parallel the common usage in other houses; the head of House Justinian was a Prince rather than King and the heir apparent became Grand Duke of Lemuria).

Armed with her new alliance and a full squadron of Republican ships captured while they were grounded at the Lemurian spaceport for resupply, Queen Faith returned to the battle. In a series of lightning strikes and ambushes which were still studied in Second Republic military academies, she shattered the blockade of Atlantis and cut the Republican supply lines to pieces. In little over a year, the First Republic had had enough. DeWeinz was effectively bankrupt and the rest of the Republic was unwilling to sacrifice anything (or anyone) else to recoup its fortunes for it. Republican forces withdrew from the system, and Queen Faith declared victory.

In the wake of the victory, Faith actually fulfilled some of her father's pledges, allowing the people of the Duat a plebiscite on her declaration of monarchy, a plebiscite she passed with an overwhelming majority. In the future, House Justinian would derive great pride from the fact that their monarchy had been voluntarily chosen by their subjects. The House further legitimized its rule through a constitutional monarchy in which they shared power with a representative House of Commons and House of Lords.

As a final footnote to this period, the planet Mu had been largely ignored by both sides during the conflict, to the detriment of a population heavily dependent on artificial support to survive their environment. When the war ended, the inhabitants of Slithy Tove and Fantasia were more than happy to accept the new Duat government. But, the third settlement, Mudville, was found mysteriously deserted. At the time, no explanation could be discovered for the sudden disappearance of a community of over 30,000 people (so sudden that one day radio traffic with the other cities was normal and the next morning they received nothing but static and continuing automated systems).

Contact

Humanity had been in the Duat system for well over 4 centuries before they realized that they were not alone. In part, this tardiness could be ascribed to the concentration of Lemuria's sparse human population on the planet's great plains, while the native sentients preferred the arid deserts and the high caverns in canyons whose rivers had long since dried up. But a much larger factor was the sheer alienness of the beings known as the shroud.

Early surveys had noted the shroud as a biological oddity, but with so many biological oddities to explore on Atlantis and Mu, there had been little follow-up. The shroud was categorized as a mildly dangerous parasite, individuals who strayed into their territory took precautions against contact, and that seemed to be that. Until one night in 2731 when the amateur xeno- archeologist Alistair Verden failed to take proper precautions while camping in one of the planet's cliff-ruins.

The shroud are communal entities, each made of hundreds of individual organisms known as strands, simple creatures whose closest Terran equivalent is the earthworm. Physically, strands resemble silver-gray threads between one and three-feet in length. Through a process never fully explained but clearly dependent on the odd electrical patterns of their home planet, strands are able to float in the air though their actual mobility is severely limited and largely determined by local air currents. They are attracted, among other things, to the electrical fields of living beings and when they detect such they attempt to land on their prey. They then emit a weak electric current which is generally enough to stun small animals and microscopic cilia surrounding their mouths pierce the skin to suck out the blood and nutrients on which they subsist.

Strands are also attracted to each other and when they meet they use their control of their electric fields to bond. Clumps of strands, now known as shrouds and resembling large pieces of cloth as the strands weave themselves together, retain their flying ability and in fact have greater control over their movement as they adjust their shape rather like sails. They are also able to deliver greater shocks and hunt larger prey. Shroud rarely kill their food, however, preferring to latch onto the back of a larger creature (generally appearing as a cape or cloak). Their cilia bind them to their host and sustain them. All this was known to humanity from early on. The two facts that escaped humanity were that, first, strands joined in a shroud are not merely cooperating but interlinking their nervous systems until sentience and self-awareness are achieved, and, second, the cilia of a shroud not only feed off its host but interlink with the host's nervous system. This linkage does not allow actual control, but it does create a direct link between the "mind" of the shroud and that of its host. In the case of normal animals, the shroud is able to influence much as a human would control a superbly trained horse or dog. In the case of sentients, complete communication, the equivalent of both telepathy and empathy, results.

Alistair's return to civilization with his new symbiotic partner was a system- wide sensation. Initial human reactions were decidedly negative, even after extensive scientific study seemed to confirm that the relationship was symbiotic not parasitic and that the shroud hanging from Alistair's shoulders was not some insidious alien puppet-master. Adding to the distrust was the fact that human-shroud communication was found to be impossible outside of the symbiotic bond. Among themselves, the shroud communicate with minute fluctuations in their electromagnetic field, and this language has consistently proven untranslatable into any human system of referents.

In the end, though, Alistair and his partner, whom he called Legba, proved effective advocates of the new race. It did not hurt that a generation earlier the Verden had been assimilated as a cadet branch of House Justinian and, as heir to the Duchy of Cockaigne, Alistair was one of the most powerful men in the system. Even more helpful was the simple fact that the needs and wants of the shroud are so alien as to cause almost no conflict with humanity. In fact, lacking any recognizable technology or material culture and incapable of communicating with anyone but their hosts, the shroud were generally viewed, particularly among non-Lemurians, as odd pets rather than symbiotic sentients. Under Alistair's influence though, first the elite and then the common people came to accept their uncomplicated coexistence with the shroud. Further, it soon became clear that most shroud had little interest in bonding with human beings. In the end, their pickiness and the fact that the most of the initial bondings were among the highest society of the Duat, made it somewhat of a status symbol among Lemurians to be selected as a host-although the criteria which would lead a shroud to select an individual human to bond with were never quantified (when asked, the shroud simply respond that the electricity generated by certain individuals "tastes" good).

Contact, little over a century later, with IT proved much more controversial. Since at least the mid-twenty-sixth century, colonists of Mu had been experiencing "the Creeps." This condition began with eerie nightmares which sufferers described as full of psychedelic colors and feelings of being watched but no other referents. As it progressed, the feeling of being watched, of another presence, would increase to the point of physical weight and even pain. Furthermore, the sensations would begin to bleed into the waking hours, accompanied by a crawling sensation which seemed to cover the body. The sensations and resultant sleep deprivation would produce hallucinations, psychosis, and, finally, death from exhaustion. Muen scientists were at a loss, even after discovering a direct correlation between the intensity of the Creeps and psychic potential. Their best theory was that the disease was a psychosis induced by the planet's alien environment and reinforced by the background fears and unease of the rest of the population. The only known cure was to get the sufferer off-planet, generally to a sanitarium on the Atlantean isle of Nevernever.

Discovery of the true cause began in 2844 when a small team of technicians servicing survey buoys in the deep wilderness were approached by a naked and strangely-colored man who introduced himself, in broken Urthish, as "Far- hunter Jonz" and further informed them that he had been sent by "IT to make talk with other-people." Returned to Fantasia, Jonz was found to be as human as he appeared (more actually, since mold growing subcutaneosly gave his skin an alien "camouflage" patterning). Further tests revealed that he was genetically descended from individuals who had disappeared from Mudville at the time of the Revolution.

Jonz knew nothing of Mudville. In fact, he seemed unaware that his people might have any history apart from Mu. But through him, the Duat learned that the descendents of Mudville survived, living in Stone Age villages scattered through the unexplored wilderness of Mu. And, according to Jonz, they worshipped a being they called simply the IT, a being who now wished to study the "other-people" more directly.

The scientists studying Jonz did not take his talk of IT very seriously. He was clearly a superstitious primitive following a shamanistic religion in which hallucinogens (extremely common in the flora of Mu) played a major part. Accordingly, they ignored his warnings that IT did not want IT's people approached-all interaction was to be at IT's discretion. Instead, now knowing what they were looking for, the Muen authorities found a community of the primitives (named Mux to distinguish them from the civilized Muens) and mounted a major anthropological expedition to study them.

This expedition noted two things almost immediately upon entering the village they had discovered. The first was that the Mux went about their business, completely ignoring the intruders. Only Jonz would speak to them and he now limited himself to warnings about the wrath of IT. The second was that village life was centered around a giant scarlet toadstool of a previously uncatalogued type and which Jonz clearly thought of as representing his god. The expedition ignored Jonz renewed warnings, and on the first morning after their arrival reported a sudden increase in atmospheric spore levels. Thirty minutes later, every member of the expedition was dead.

Review of the tapes transmitted by remote cameras showed the Mux going about their morning routine, still ignoring the anthropologists one moment and the next overrunning the scientists in a berserk wave which included every member of the tribe-even toddlers of one or two could be seen gnawing at legs and biting into throats of those knocked over by the rush. The scientists' technological advantage apparently meant nothing to the Mux; one elderly man, his legs burnt off by a laser dragged himself forward with his hands to choke out the life of the gun-wielder. And when all the scientists were dead, the Mux stopped pushed them, their transport and all their equipment into a nearby sinkhole before going back to their routine as if nothing had happen. Three weeks later, Jonz, who had been a full participant in the attack, showed up at a frontier station as if nothing had happened. The only explanation he would give was that "IT told them to leave."

This did not, of course, stop the authorities. Another village was found and another expedition sent. This expedition began by burning not only the central toadstool but any other bit of native flora that was not well-catalogued. That expedition perished exactly as the former had. Not only that, but two hours later, a thousand miles away, a hoard of Mux descended on an experimental farm and killed everyone there as well. A third expedition included a telepath specially recruited from Atlantis. Immediately upon reaching their target, the telepath tried to make contact with the toadstool on the suspicion that it was a sentient being. The telepath died digging out his own eyes and screaming over and over, "IT's not just red! IT's everywhere!" The telepath's companions withdrew immediately and that was the end of attempts study either the Mux or IT directly.

That did not stop House Justinian from putting all their considerable resources into studying what they could find out indirectly. And meanwhile, Jonz and two other Mux who joined him after the second expedition peacefully endured every test the authorities ran on them and happily answered any question-although their frame of reference was such that it was a long time before Duat scientists began to make sense of it. The final conclusion was that IT did indeed exist and was a sentient being; furthermore all the evidence indicated that IT was physically immense, effectively covering most of the planet-opinion divided, and remained divided even at the height of the Second Republic, over whether IT was a collective intelligence like the Shroud, composed of a variety of individual fungi, or whether it was single decentralized fungal organism composed of microscopic filaments extending for mile after mile and symbiotically (or parasitically) connected to a variety of other Muen fungi.

The relationship of IT to the Mux also remained a mystery. Clearly IT had some kind of mental control over them, though whether that control was psychic, chemical or a combination of the two remained a question. And despite continuous vigilance for it, no case was ever found of a non-Mux (either than, presumably the original inhabitants of Mudville) being controlled or influenced by IT. Even cases of the Creeps ceased after Jonz made first contact. Psychics never feel quite comfortable on Mu, but their sanity was no longer endangered-as long as they did not attempt to make mental contact with any of the local flora. And what IT gained from the Mux was also a mystery-as one Dr. S. C. Phillipi put it, "What does an ecosystem want? What does it need outside itself? As well ask what the Pancreator wants from us."

This was the same Dr. Phillipi who, in 2903, proposed the Genesis Theory which put together certain obscure theological statements of Jonz with the discovery by some of the earliest investigations that cell cultures from the one red toadstool ever dissected as well as certain other flora closely associated with IT contained genetic material totally unlike any other found on Mu (even compared to the rest of surrounding genes) and otherwise particularly characteristic of humanity. Dr. Phillipi argued that while IT may have existed as an organism prior to human settlement of the planet, it was not sentient. Sentience came over the course of several centuries as Muen settlers died and their genetic material was absorbed into the matrix of the Muen ecology; however alien IT was, IT was also humanity's first child.

House Justinian originally tried to keep the unfolding discoveries about IT secret, but the news proved big to contain. And in the decades following the initial revelations about IT, emigration from Mu surged. But original predictions that no Muen would remain on the planet unless all native life was eradicated proved exaggerated. In part, this came from the simple principle of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. After two decades of interfacing with the Muen scientific community, Jonz and his compatriots disappeared back into the swamps, and that was effectively the end of regular contact between the Muens and the Mux. The Mux no longer hid themselves to the degree they had prior to contact, and travelers into the deep wilderness occasionally encountered them: sometimes the Mux simply ignored these intruders, other times they proved willing to communicate or even trade (always for 'worthless' objects like glass beads or pieces of chalk, the Mux never showed any interest in technology beyond their own Stone Age tools). But as long as Muens did not linger in the vicinity of one of their villages, the Mux and IT seemed content to ignore the rest of the universe.

The Prophet and the Church

But another important factor was the growing faith of the Prophet whose evangelistic travels brought him to the Duat in 2820. The Prophet, with his full retinue of Virtuous Disciples, remained in the system for three years, spending time in the outer-system mining colonies and Lemuria as well as wandering the islands of Atlantis. His visit is best remembered, however, for his "Sermon in Paradise," delivered on the Speaker's Rock (The "Rock", actually a carved podium, was placed in front of Manse Paradise, the residence of the head of House Justinian, by King Marcus, Queen Faith's grandson. The Rock, and the tradition that any individual may mount it and say whatever they wish with no legal repercussions, has survived 2300 years and three complete rebuildings of the Manse. Of course, the Rock is also a holy site due to its association with the Prophet, and use of it for blasphemous or heretical discourse is likely to have results no less fatal for their lack of legality).

Preserved in Lextius 32-34, the "Sermon in Paradise" is generally considered an epitome of the Prophet's "Compassionate Teachings". For the inhabitants of the Duat, though, it also came to be regarded as a veiled prophecy: "So look at and not upon your brother, and look at and not upon your sister. For when you see them, then does the Light of the Pancreator flow from you to them, and all Creation rejoices in the ongoing act of creation. You have heard it said, 'Wisdom is known by her children'; but I say to you that the child of Wisdom is Wisdom, and the child of Foolishness, Foolishness. Truly, when the Light shines forth from you, then it also shines upon you, and as you give, so shall you surely receive. You look about you, and there is great darkness, but I tell you that it is because your eyes are blind. Do not be afraid. Look, and you shall see. Shine forth, and you will know. Quest after the things of God and you shall receive yourself. The seed of humanity has been cast upon the waters of infinity, illuminated by the Celestial Sun what glorious plants shall not grow therefrom? Do not fear, but let the Light shine from one to the other, that all may be one in the Light of the Celestial Sun. For I say to you, that the child of Light is Light."

The Prophet's teachings found fertile soul in the Duat, and by 2850 when St. Palamedes officially founded the Universal Church, an estimated 150,000 inhabitants of the system belonged to one organization or another devoted to the Prophet's teachings. By far the largest of these was the Community of Light, founded by Soterios Justinian, a younger son in a line closely related to that of the reigning king. As a young man, Soterios heard the Prophet deliver the "Sermon on Paradise" and was so inspired that he spent the next ten years following the Prophet on his interstellar travels before returning to Atlantis to found the Community. Soterios had met and become close friends with Palamedes during his time among the Prophet's retinue, so when Palamedes issued his call to unite the followers of the Prophet in the Universal Church, Soterios, as leader of the Community and then first Archbishop of Atlantis, was among the first to respond. The charismatic Soterios was able to unite the most of the Duat's followers of Zebulon behind the Church (perhaps a quarter initially chose to align themselves with St. Amalthea's rival organization instead), and the Universal Church was soon growing throughout the system.

In the next century, that growth would explode. For those seriously disturbed by the news from Mu, Patriarch Palamedes' anti-Ukari rhetoric struck a resonance; but for others, in fact the majority, the key factor was Abp. Soterios. Despite his deep, personal friendship with Palamedes which lasted until the two hierarch's deaths, Soterios remained an independent thinker whose unfailingly optimistic and maximalistic interpretation of the Prophet's message was to permanently set the tone for the Duat Church (in later years, this strain would come to be called Mahayana Orthodoxy). To his death, Soterios considered the passage of the Doctrine of the Unethical Alien as his greatest failure; on the other hand, among his successes could be counted the integration of Sanctuary Aeon into the Universal Church, a process for which Soterios had served as the chief Orthodox representative. Soterios was also the first to connect the words of the Prophet and Dr. Phillipi's Genesis Theorem. Under his influence, many of the citizens of the Duat learned not to fear IT, but to look upon it as a challenge and an opportunity. In fact, as the thirtieth century passed its turning mark, the emigration from Mu shifte to immigration to Mu-though most of the immigrants were not foolish enough to disturb IT, many clearly believed that what IT needed was to see the Light of the Pancreator shinging from human to human, and it too would eventually be brought into the Universal Church's web of Light.

Soterios' other great achievement was to permanently bind House Justinian and the Church. In 2960, King Marcus and his two children died in a tragic flitter accident. As Marcus had no siblings, the throne (and house leadership) had to pass to a more distant line. The two individuals with the clearest claims were Duchess Uhura Justinian, Soterios' niece, and Duke Eusebian Justinian, who happened to be married to the Baroness Izanami Li Halan, a known Sathraist. Soterios threw the support of the Church, which now claimed a slim majority of the system's population (excluding Mux) as members, behind Uhura and whether it was that or distrust of Eusebian's Li Halan ties, the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly in support of Uhura. The vote in the House of Lords was much closer, but they too confirmed Uhura, and so she was enthroned as Queen with her aging uncle as her foremost adviser.

Four years later, the Duat found itself at war with House Chauki over the planet Dashwood. Ruled by a coalition of minor houses, the people of Dashwood had been shocked to realize that the old-growth forests which covered their planet included a species of sentient tree. In response, the Dashwoods had turned to House Justinian, particularly the retired diplomat Benjamen Verden, who had made his reputation as the first successful human diplomat to the Vau. Benjamen, and his shroud partner Ariel (generally ignored by historians, but consistently credited by Benjamen as the determining factor in his acceptance by the Vau) accepted the request and led a large contingent of Justinian diplomats and scientists to Dashwood. One of their first achievements was to set aside large preserves where the native sentients (known as slowoaks) could exist undisturbed by humanity. House Chauki, which had extensive logging interests on the planet, accused Benjamen and House Justinian of infringing on their rights and attempting to covertly take over the planet. After a series of increasingly inflammatory diplomatic encounters failed, the Chauki launched an invasion. House Justinian responded by sending their own forces.

The war lasted for four years and ended with House Justinian triumphant and Dashwood annexed to their rule. It was also perceived as a victory for the Church, because the Chauki war effort had been strongly supported by the Li Halan, support which public sentiment (and official propaganda) magnified into a Sathraist vendetta for the failure to put Izanami on the throne. Immediately prior to the decisive Battle of Underwood, the Justinian commander, General Leontius (Uhura's son), reported seeing a vision of a flaming jumpgate around Dashwood's sun and hearing the words, "In this sign prevail." Leontius immediately had a jumpgate added to his standards, and by the end of the battle had pushed the Chauki forces completely off Dashwood soil. Accordingly, on the day Queen Uhura announced victory, she also declared the Universal Church the state religion of House Justinian's domains-an announcement sealed by the miraculous repose of Soterios videocast to the entire system. The smiling, 161-year-old hierarch had been seated behind his niece during her victory speech. As it approached its end, he suddenly looked upwards and laughed, then burst into flame. The flames consumed his flesh in seconds, but left no mark on his robes or the chair in which he had been seated. Within the year, Palamedes had declared his old friend a saint, and the foundations were laid for a new planetary cathedral dedicated to him.

Though the same legal documents which made the Universal Church the official faith of the star-kingdom of Duat guaranteed a continued right of the individual to freedom of religion, there was little doubt from that time forward that the Duat was a stronghold of the Church. When Sts. Malcolm Justinian and Godfrey de Moley (a minor house on Dashwood) swore to protect the jumproute to Yathrib and ended up founding Brother Battle, they were following in the millennia-old tradition of their families. And in the early years after the Li Halan conversion, it was not unusual for them to be referred to as the "Hinayana Justinian", a term which has generally been forgotten since the collapse of House Justinian in the Known Worlds at the end of the Barbarian Invasions.

Economics and the Second Republic

On the economic front, the Duat continued to fulfill the promise of its colonial days, growing to rival such interstellar hubs as New Istanbul (Byzantium Secundus), Criticorum, and Liberty (Leagueheim). The most important factor in this growth was the biological cornucopias of Atlantis and Mu from which the scientists of the Duat derived a steady stream of new products. While other systems would eventually learn to copy such items as synthsilk (derived from Atlantean megaspiders) and Lypee-55 (first synthesized from Muen splendormoss) from their own resources, the Duat was able to maintain a steady edge in biological technologies; a success which fed upon itself as the Duat became a magnet for the finest human minds in such fields as biochemistry, microbiology, and pharmaceutical medicine.

To consolidate and maintain this technological edge, House Justinian established the Citadel in 2922. Officially titled the St. Xenophanes Institute for Advanced Bioresearch, the Citadel took its popular name from the imposing nature of its housing: Old Grandfather, at 20,198 ft (33,247 from the seafloor) the tallest volcano on Atlantis. State-of-the-art labs and containment facilities were built directly, and often deeply, into the sides of Flora, Fauna, and Watzis, Old Grandfather's three constituent cones, while subsidiary building formed a scattered but significant town on the volcano's flanks. Together, the complex formed the single largest institution devoted to the biological sciences in the Known Worlds.

As much an organizational concept as a place, the Citadel was run as a scientific collective (later historians would use the term "proto-Guild"). While requirements for admission to the Citadel were high, once a scientist was accepted as a fellow of the Citadel, he had complete freedom of research and an impressive budget with which to work, since the collective received a significant portion of any the profit from every breakthrough made by one of its member. Having established the Citadel as a private enterprise, House Justinian also received a percentage of the profits, while the remainder went to the scientist himself. The concept proved a resounding success. Sanctuary Aeon founded a combined monastery-hospital (St. Nektarios) near the lip of Watzis so that its most gifted healers could keep abreast of the latest medical technology, while one study performed at the height of the Second Republic, claimed that the labs of Fauna alone had produced more Changed than any ten planets combined.

Even before the founding of the Citadel, the success of the planet had forced the government to impose strict immigration controls. But even with immigration controls, the population of Atlantis continued to grow steadily, reaching a high of 6 billion by the end of the Second Republic. To accommodate so many, while maintaining a consistent policy of infringing on the native flora as little as possible (developed through an unusually high level of ecological awareness among the general populace combined with a sound grasp by House Justinian of exactly where the wealth of their planet came from), the government began building floating cities-some of which were eventually accommodated 10 million people-using the same technology other planets were putting into space stations.

On the other hand, though Mu was in many respects as important to the Duat economy as Atlantis, its population grew only very slowly and remained concentrated in the cities of Fantasia and Slithy Tove. To compensate the population for the general inhospitability of their surroundings, House Justinian filled these cities with extensive and beautiful public works, so that Fantasia soon became worthy of its name with Slithy Tove not far behind. A similar situation could be found on Atlantis' moon, Arcadia. While Arcadia was not nearly as inhospitable as Mu, most humans found its low gravity uncomfortable, so that while its odd biology was harvested it remained a largely rural environment with Oberon City its only real urban area.

Lemuria of course shared in the prosperity of its sister planets, but prior to 2875, this was mainly through its immense farms and ranches which provided the majority of basic dietary staples for the rest of the system. The population remained low, primary the original noble families (many by this time absorbed into House Justinian) on their plantations, and a small number of agricultural employees. Erewhon, the capital, was the only city and even that was somewhat of a courtesy title. It was Benjamen Verden's encounter with the Vau that changed that.

Among the unique products of Lemuria is prismjade, a stone similar to Terran jade except for it dingy gray natural color and anomalous reaction to electricity. When exposed to an electrical current or placed in an electrical field, prismjade begins to fluoresce in random patterns and colors throughout the visible spectrum. For example, applying the same current which normally runs a light bulb to a fist-sized lump of prismjade might produce a pulsing scarlet which slowly dims through the spectrum to a steady forest green through which arc moving streaks of gold which multiply until the entire rock is gold at which point they dissolve to reveal a pattern of shades of blue spiraling into the stone. Even an electrical field as weak as that on the human body will produce limited coloring in prismjade in contact with the skin. The overall effect is generally quite beautiful and harmonious without being repetitive, and prismjade had been used from very early on as a decoration for Lemurian architecture, where the planet's own overactive electrical activity generally keeps it chromatically active, and as a semi- precious stone in jewelry. There was some off-world market for it as a curiosity, but never enough to justify the fairly high cost of mining the hard stone.

When Benjamen Verden went amongst the Vau, he did so wearing his wedding ring, carved from prismjade. And during the talks he was able to initiate, he discovered that the Vau were not only aware of prismjade (apparently having a source somewhere within their hegemony) but valued the stone very highly. When this discovery became public, of a resource in humanspace which the Vau not only valued but were willing to pay well for, it generated a "gold rush" on Lemuria. As the main spaceport, Erewhon became a city respectable even by Atlantean standards, while new settlements sprang up, primarily on the borders of the great Lemurian deserts. While the old noble families controlled the plains, the deserts had remained essentially unwanted and unclaimed. The old colonial "homesteading" laws were still on the books, and a prospector who found a prismjade mine could use this proof of productivity to legally claim the land for pennies on the acre. Relatively few such prospectors were truly successful of course, but each such success story drew more, while the failures and their descendents settled into the growing urban areas to form Lemuria's first true lower- and middle-classes.

Since the deserts were also the favored terrain of the shroud, this change in the Lemurian population also affected humanity's relationship to the alien race. Among the truly frontier-minded, those who struck out into the deep deserts for extended periods, the shroud soon came to be regarded much as it was among the old nobility, and there was little doubt that a shroud companion was an aid in surviving-many even claimed they could sense the location of prismjade. The growing urban population, however, had little exposure to the shroud. "Wild" shroud avoided these concentrations of human technology, so direct knowledge of the race and symbiotic bonds tended to remain limited to the separate classes of the nobility and sandrats, while the common Lemurian knew of them only through rumor, legend, and innuendo. Under these conditions, the shroud began to develop a sinister reputation, one compounded by what was seen as their predilection for the "have's" as opposed to the "have-not's."

In addition to fortune-hunters, the Vau's interest in prismjade also attracted scientific (and political) inquiry. House Justinian (among others) sponsored several studies trying to discover what the Vau saw in the stone. Diasporan science however came up empty; unable to either explain the stone's luminescent properties or synthesize the stone in the lab, scientists were also unable to find any unique usage for the stone. It made pretty colors, that was about it. Humanity did somewhat better in the Second Republic, when certain of the more esoteric studies of prismjade were fundamental to the various theories of endoplasmic vibrotopology. Still humans never were able to find a practical application of these theories. The Vau, of course, refused to give any explanation despite their willingness to pay quite well for the stone.

Two final things can be mentioned as contributing to the Duat system's impressive economic strength. One was the neighboring planet of Orestes, which had been added to House Justinian's domains in 2687 through the marriage of its ruler, Duchess Kassiana Soros, to the Crown Prince Shaka Justinian. Their eldest, Alexander Justinian, would eventually follow his father on to the throne while his brother, Kobe, would assume their mother's title of Duke of Orestes and headship of Soros as a branch of House Justinian. The planet would eventually (3300) turn out to be a source of Pygmallium.

The Duat's other advantage was location (location, location) in the jumpweb which gave it 7 jumproutes and placed it only two jumps away from both New Istanbul and Liberty. Its own strength allowed it to treat with these two mercantile powers on roughly equal terms until 3500 when the two merged . At that time Republican sentiment, driven by the Church and the ideals of a universal cooperation of humanity, was already strong in the Duat, and the leading members of House Justinian recognized that their proximity to the new government gave it little choice but to join or be absorbed. Accordingly, Duat and its subsidiary systems (Orestes and Dashwood) were among the first to join the Second Republic.

Because the Duat already possessed a strong democratic tradition both in its Parliament and in local government, adjustment to the Second Republic was fairly painless. Though House Justinian retained its extensive lands and its stake in the Citadel, the powers of the monarchy were reduced over the next century-and-a-half until the king was little more than a figure-head, though one that was able to claim considerable affection and honor from the populace as proved by its weathering two plebiscites on its abolition. The power of the House of Lords was also reduced, though it did retain some real power unlike the monarchy. And, despite criticism, the Duat's old legal linkage to the Universal Church also remained. Other worlds might veer off to chase the latest mystical fad while others scornfully rejected all experience of the numinous, but the citizens of the Duat were happy with the humanistic, pragmatic faith of their fathers.

Divestiture and the Fall

In histories of the Fall, perhaps no leading figure of the Ten is as overlooked as Nathan Justinian. In an age which produced such colorful figures as St. Emanuel, Patriarch Anchises the Ethical, and Prince Roderick Hawkwood and his lover Milanza Goforth, the quietly intellectual and occasionally pedantic Nathan was not a great general, gifted orator, or figure of romance. He was an economics professor who turned out to be a gifted administrator with a firm understanding of Realpolitik.

Nathan left academia to ascend the powerless Justinian throne in 3930, after his mother Queen (later St.) Faith III abdicated to enter St. Palamedes Monastery. Prior to his coronation House Justinian, while not so staunchly pro-Republican as Houses like Chauki or al-Malik, had been generally content with the status quo. They were, after all, part of the galactic core and as such buffered from the breakdown which was already affecting many of the outer worlds. Nathan, however, saw this as a purely temporary respite and immediately threw the enormous resources of House Justinian into Divestiture. By 3957, he had essentially succeeded in retaking most of the functions of government (from policework to education to waste disposal) both in the Duat and on Orestes. Indeed House Justinian was in many ways more powerful now than it had been prior to the Second Republic, for, having bought its authority from the Republican Senate it was no longer answerable to the local Parliament for its administration of that authority.

With the reins of power firmly returned to his hands, Nathan adopted a two- pronged policy. At home, his watchword was self-sufficiency. As the end of the millennium approached and more and more worlds went Rogue or even disappeared off the jumpweb entirely, Nathan worried that the fracturing of the Second Republic would lead to a total breakdown of the jumpweb and the interconnected economy of the time. Under his supervision, construction of a shipyard on Tween was begun, and Pygmallium from Orestes as well as other rare resources was collected and stored. Perhaps more importantly, having acquired authority over the bloated bureaucracy the Second Republic called its civil service, Nathan began to dismantle it and the urban underclass dependent on it, by moving these individuals to farming villages in unused land on Lemuria and Mu (though the Muen settlements were built close to the existing cities with plenty of provision for contact and aid).

Though Nathan did not use generational contracts, he did revive certain colonial era regulations restricting the ability of people to move off the land without proof of "economic viability", a move which would eventually produce the pragmatic equivalent of serfs. While these laws had generated rebellion a millennia-and-a-half before, Nathan's use of them was generally well-received; first, because their initial application was to those who did not, in fact, have any other means of support besides the public dole, and because of the growing Universalist sentiment which preached return to the land as a good thing. Though Patriarch Anchises would not formulate this as the Doctrine of Universal Inheritance for another century, the thought was already circulating, and lacking the later heavily anti-technological stance of the eventual doctrine, it fit very well with the long-standing Mahayana traditions of the Duat.

On the interstellar level, Nathan's policy was to save as much of the interstellar community as possible. He initially made overtures to the Republican Senate and the al-Malik, but it quickly became clear to him that the Republicans had too much invested in the current system and too many debts owed to various commercial interests to have the will for the drastic changes he believed necessary to stop the hemorrhaging of worlds. That left, him, somewhat reluctantly, in the anti-Republican camp.

Throughout the final decades of the fourth millennium, there was a steady string of meetings, both secret and open, between the various noble houses. Upon occasion, these meetings focused on what should be done about the Republic. More often, the meeting began with the question: the Republic is finished, what do we do next? Throughout, Nathan worked as a facilitator. He expressed little interest in the "next" but focused on the "we", feeling that any plan which maximized the number of worlds involved had to be better than anarchy leading to an endless splintering of humanspace into isolated pockets of humanity and devolution.

When the Rogue Worlders (whom Nathan considered too disparate both in culture and jumpweb location to ever form a cohesive group) took New Istanbul, Nathan was instrumental in forming the forces of the Ten into a workable coalition rather than simply disparate forces using the rebels as an excuse to begin overt battle over the remnants themselves. Not everyone appreciated his work, however. The lack of any personal agenda aside from cooperation gave him a flexibility to work with disparate houses, but also left suspicious minds seeking something more concrete. His proposal of a regency while the Ten were still consolidating their victory over Byzantium Secundus was roundly rejected, since no other house except possibly al-Malik was willing to consider giving up their newly acquired sovereignty. Nathan then shifted to supporting Prince Roderick Hawkwood's attempt to become an Imperial power, an attempt which foundered with Roderick's suicide. Nathan's support then shifted briefly to Mitrophan Alecto whose own attempt was cut short by the loss of one of House Alecto's planets to jumpgate terrorism. Seeing no other realistic contender to centralize authority, Nathan finally accepted that the loose confederation of the Ten was the best he could hope for for now and retired to Atlantis, leaving as many enemies as friends.

Foremost among these enemies was the Church, for while Nathan had good relations with the Mahayana clergy of the Duat, his relationship with a string of Hinayana Patriarchs had been decidedly strained. Convinced that contemporary troubles were a direct result of human short-sightedness and selfishness, he had little patience with the Church's growing anti-technology rhetoric, seeing it as just another example of that short-sightedness. On one infamous occasion, he went so far as to invite Patriarch Adrian II, in a rare display of public anger, to "come live with the Mux for a few months if you think non-technological societies are so wonderful." He had opposed the Second Republic's adoption of Orthodoxy as its official religion, predicting (accurately as it proved) that such a move would lead to more worlds withdrawing from the Republican community. Accepting his losses, he had said nothing when the Ten decided to continue this policy, but he also worked in coalition with the Decados and Li Halan to insure that the Orthodoxy's attempts to gain even more power, perhaps even to make itself the central power Nathan was otherwise promoting, failed. A personally distasteful alliance, Nathan was motivated by the firm belief that too powerful a Church would lead both houses (and possibly the al-Malik as well) into breaking away to become, at best, Rogue Worlds. However, the association with such names would hang on Nathan for the rest of his life.

The Dark Ages

While Nathan's maneuvering had helped to keep the Church from actually founding a theocracy, he could do little to prevent its gathering strength in the millennial chaos caused by societal collapse and the newly revealed fading suns. And he might consider the anti-technology stance a simple answer to complex questions, but many people like simple answers and swelled the power of the Hinayana Patriarchs. Urged on by the Patriarchs, populations across the Known Worlds engaged in purges of technology, aliens, and often anyone or anything they feared or did not understand.

The Duat, on the other hand, had been largely spared such disruption. The occasional demagogue would try to stir up the mob or a terrorist would launch a strike on the computer networks, but the system's long tradition of steady Mahayana Orthodoxy and general prosperity even in the midst of the Fall kept such events isolated; particularly since Nathan had little compunction about turning such rabble-rousers into new recruits for the serf-villages, leaving their jobs for more productive members of society. But then in 4079, Ustir II promulgated the Doctrine of the Cleansing Flame which enshrined the pogroms in Church doctrine and canon law. The Duat tried its best to ignore the new doctrine, but the system simply contained too many targets for the fanatical fury unleashed throughout humanspace: on Mu, humans worshipped an alien fungus as a god; on Lemuria, a cryptic alien race infiltrated humanity while showing no signs of devotion to the Prophet; and on Atlantis could be found the Citadel, center of some of the most godless Invention and meddling with the Pancreator's biological creations in the universe. In 4100, Patriarch Benedict III declared that if the populace of the Duat was too neglectful of their faith to do their duty, then others would do it for them; and he began gathering a crusade to bring the Cleansing Flame of the Pancreator to the Duat.

Though House Justinian still had many friends in the Church, these friends could do little to help; the Hinayana held the power, and would have leaped at the chance to purge Mahayana who tried to defend IT or the Citadel. The best the Mahayana branch could do was to protect House Justinian itself, as long as the house did not provoke the Patriarch further by resisting the Purge. Some members of House Justinian argued that they should close the Duat's gate before the crusade arrived, but this idea was anathema to Nathan who had spent his entire political career trying to hold the jumpweb together. So when Benedict III arrived with his forces (heavily subsidized by the Hazat and other houses which hoped to benefit from the humbling of House Justinian), House Justinian retired to their manors, leaving the Church with a free hand.

Nathan himself died as the first troops debarked the Patriarchal flagship Phlogiston for the Citadel. Official accounts say that the 201 year-old prince died of a heart-attack brought on by the emotional stress, but among themselves, the Justinian believe that he took poison, committing suicide to protect the House from the personal animosity he had stirred among the Hinayana and in attempted atonement for the coming deaths he had not managed to prevent. Though official Church disapproval of Nathan would keep it quite for four centuries, private veneration of the man was widespread on the Duat. And once the Duat jumpgate closed, cutting the Duat off from the Known Worlds, St. Nathan the Just became one of the system's most venerated saints.

Ironically perhaps, of all the Duat worlds, Mu emerged from the Purge with the least damage. Not quite brave, or foolish, enough to go down to the planet themselves, the crusaders were content to engage in orbital bombardment of every known Mux settlement, demonstrating that they had failed to grasp the true nature of IT. IT, on the other hand, demonstrated its sentience by making no response at all. Though communication between IT and the civilized segment of the Duat was still practically non-existent, it was clear that IT recognized that IT's enemies were not associated with the Muen settlers, for IT never launched retaliatory strikes against them. Instead, IT had sent the Mux into hiding even before the starships arrived, and both they and IT returned to virtual invisibility for the next few centuries.

The shroud did not fare nearly so well. Indeed, Lemuria was the only planet on which the Purge received significant local help, as long-smoldering suspicion of the Shroud and their elite partners among the urban lower-classes was fanned by the presence of the Patriarch into great mobs which initiated just the sort of cleansing so many other worlds had faced. Of course, dwelling in the deep deserts and as often as not floating singly as strands, most of the shroud were inaccessible to these zealots, but those shrouds who had paired with human beings were much more accessible. Known shroud-bearers, including many nobles, were dragged from their houses and burnt in the streets. Others died merely for wearing the wrong-colored cloak, and still more died for no other reason than that chaos ruled. By the time the Patriarch withdrew from the system, the relationship between shroud and humanity had been thoroughly destroyed. In the following centuries, the shroud would remain in their inaccessible lands, avoiding all contact with humanity until they became nothing more than a legend to many. Beyond this, the human society of Lemuria was itself in shambles, and House Justinian would spend years restoring order. Much of the automated farm machinery which had run the planet's great plantations had been destroyed, and famine would kill millions throughout the Duat before the planet could adjust to the new realities of the Dark Ages.

In the end, it was perhaps Atlantis that suffered the worst. Originally, the cleansing's only real target on the planet was the Citadel. The Patriarch arrived, however, to find the institution empty: the scientists had fled into the general populace taking as much with them as they could and releasing most of their experimental subjects to hide in Atlantis's innumerable islands. Benedict responded by unleashing a reign of terror on the whole planet. While House Justinian pleaded ignorance, bands of zealots roamed the planet seeking their prey. While some of the escaped scientists and genetic experiments were caught, many more died on simple appearances. Being too tall, too short, too pretty, too ugly, or simply being described as odd by one's neighbors brought charges of "Changed" and execution, while an entire elementary school and its staff went up in flames when zealots discovered petri dishes in classrooms. Benedict III seemed to expect these tactics to convert the Atlanteans to proper Hinayana principles, and he was enraged when instead of cooperating the Atlantean populace began to actively resist his troops. In a final orgy of destruction, his ships fired those floating cities he considered most recalcitrant. A dozen sank, and the death toll could be counted in the hundreds of millions.

This final atrocity proved enough. Prince Sawa, Nathan's heir, came forward and with the Metropolitan of the Duat called for a synodal judgment on Benedict's actions, a call supported by a number of royal houses. Benedict's own allies realized he had gone too far. Benedict died suddenly, reportedly of a heart aneurysm, and his Syneculla recalled the ships. With Benedict gone and the actual destruction of the cities hung on an "overzealous" subordinate, the Hinayana managed to hang onto control of the Patriarchate, but the purging of the Duat was a high-water mark for the most conservative elements of the Church.

In the aftermath of the Purge, Prince Sawa abdicated the throne, taking full responsibility for his House's inaction, and retired to Lemuria. There he founded the Monastery of Ven Lohji in the midst of the Desert of Sheba, leaving the task of rebuilding the Duat to his sixteen-year-old daughter Hippolyta. Known as "the Superior" (due in part to pervasive rumors that she was herself a product of the old Citadel) or "the Ceramsteel Bitch," depending on the history, Hippolyta succeeded well enough that by the end of her long reign the Duat was again one of the foremost systems of the Known Worlds, though unmistakably fallen from its Republican greatness. Her first priority was the economic disruption, particularly the failure of the Lemurian farms, to solve which she introduced serfdom on a major scale. Building on Nathan's program of relocating non-productive members of society, Duat serfdom did not depend on generational contracts. Serfs retained many rights, including trial by a jury of their peers (though the local lord did serve as judge) and the ability to vote for members of the House of Commons (which was however, reduced to a purely advisory role), but they and their descendents were also bound to a specific task (usually a cultivating a certain plot of land, but including other tasks ranging from fishing villages to street-cleaning) unless they could prove they could be more productive elsewhere (effectively this worked much like the buying of one's contract on other planets). In return, the nobles of House Justinian guarantee their serfs protection. Application was somewhat draconian but produced remarkably little dissent, in large part because protection from famine was one of the offered guarantees and one the populace desperately needed as Lemuria adjusted to the loss of its farming machinery.

For those not covered by the new serf-laws, Hippolyta also revived the Citadel, though in a decidedly different form than that destroyed by Benedict III. Renamed the Community of Freemen (and generally known as the Communion), the organization now embraced not only those scientists who had survived Benedict's cleansing but crafters and merchants of all stripes. The Communion was granted a charter to use the old Citadel's island as a free city ruled by the guild's dean and consuls. Members of the Communion who lived elsewhere were still considered citizens of the Citadel, and a complicated case law grew up of when Communion members were subject to local law and when to that of their guild. The guild itself was still answerable to the Princess, who acted as a final court of appeals and had the right to remove deans or consuls, but in return it was granted a monopoly over most commercial activity in the Duat. In the following centuries, the Communion would prove a continuing sore point between House Justinian and the growing interstellar guilds who disapproved both its subordination to House Justinian and its local monopoly. The guilds tried but were never able to either convince the Communion to throw in its lot with them against the House, or to convince the House to loosen the Communion's local monopoly-Princess Hippolyta's system was simply too beneficial to the two parties, and the system's continuing wealth was simply too much for the interstellar guilds to reach a necessary consensus to force their hand with boycotts or intimidation.

While Hippolyta's domestic record was strong, House Justinian received a major setback early in her reign with the loss of Dashwood. House Hazat, taking advantage of Justinian's weakness in the wake of the Purge, began pressing the old Chauki claims to the planet, and there was little the main body of the house could do about it. The Dashwood Justinian and their allied minor houses put up a spirited defense, but the inevitability of House Hazat's victory was soon apparent to all. In 4111, Duke Ambrose Justinian called on the Hazat to meet with him to negotiate the terms of surrender. Duchess Gabriella Garcia Andrea Justus de Guernica agreed and took the opportunity to send a number of her ships back to Aragon to rearm and resupply just in case negotiations broke down. That convoy was the last word anyone heard from Dashwood as the gate was closed down immediately after its jump.

The Hazat, of course, blamed House Justinian, but there was little they could do about it. They were still consolidating their hold on Sutek, and the Duat, however weakened, was too much of a challenge for them to take on immediately. House Justinian in turn was quite willing to return the hostility for the loss of their planet, creating a smoldering feud that would last until the Duat's disappearance from the Known Worlds. When the Hazat, a few decades later, turned their attention to Vera Cruz, the strengthened Justinian were quite happy to support House Alecto against them with both men and arms. Hippolyta further strengthened this alliance by marrying her heir, Irina, to Count Basil, nephew of Prince Constantine III Alecto.

Though alliance with House Alecto would prove the most enduring and influential, Hippolyta also strengthened House Justinian's ties to a number of other houses, particularly Hawkwood, Windsor, and Li Halan. Under Irina these ties would finally allow House Justinian some measure of vengeance for the Purge, as it was she who, in 4235, brought together a coalition of nobles to end Temple Avesti's ongoing depredations. Though the Patriarch Adrian III was able to save the Temple, the point had been made. The period in which the Church could indiscriminately set the course of civilization in the Known Worlds was over; for the future, the nobles and the Church would have to reach accommodation.

Vladimir

When word of the Barbarian Invasion first reached the Duat in 4525, Prince Desmond the Generous is said to have rubbed his hands in glee. Lured by the Duat's peace and prosperity, he had begun to have visions of an Imperial Crown, and he quickly sent over half House Justinian's space forces to aid the Hawkwood against the Vuldrok, expecting the aid to force Hawkwood support when he made his move. The next year, Vera Cruz too began to face barbarians, and Prince Desmond sent even more ships to that system, privately adding the Alecto and hated Hazat to those who would owe him. Accordingly, the Duat was guarded by only a skeleton garrison when the long-lost jumproute to Ming opened in 4529 and the Kurgan Caliphate launched a full-scale invasion of Atlantis.

Within a month an army of some 300,000 Kurgans had been deposited on the two continents of Ch'ing-T'u and Hyperborea, and the next waves began to bring in colonists. Perhaps the only thing which saved House Justinian was that the Kurgan generals seemed unfamiliar with the tactics necessary to taking a water world. They quickly conquered the two continents, but the vast majority of both the Atlantean population and resources was to be found on the islands and floating cities, kept safe by Atlantean naval dominance and an apparent unwillingness on the part of the Kurgans to simply bomb these potential conquests out of existence from orbit. Thus when Prince Nicephorus (Desmond had been killed vainly trying to stop the first wave) returned from Vera Cruz with a significant portion of the Justinian space-fleet, he found most of the planet still in Justinian hands. On the other hand, the Kurgans had had plenty of time to fortify their continental positions, and in the following years, Prince Nicephorus could do little more than blockade these forces, allowing a stalemate, while most of his effort was tied up in clearing the rest of Duat space and then defending the system, and soon that of Orestes as well, from further space-borne incursions.

Both systems suffered greatly from almost continual hit-and-run raids by the Kurgans, a problem exacerbated by the continuing failure of Nicephorus' forces to capture Kurgan jumpcodes so they could take the battle back to their enemy. Accordingly, when Vladimir Alecto announced his intention to unify the Known Worlds in order to defeat the barbarians once and for all, Prince Nicephorus was among the first to accept his leadership. With the aid of this alliance, House Justinian was able to garrison the jumpgates of both Duat and Orestes effectively enough that Kurgan ships could no longer get through to raid the systems. Eventually they stopped trying, and when similar victories had been achieved throughout the Known Worlds, Nicephorus was finally able to turn his attention to the pacification of Atlantis' continents.

This process had barely begun, however, when Vladimir's coronation and spectacular death immersed the Known Worlds in battle again. All the major powers and a significant portion of their navies had gathered around Byzantium Secundus for the event, and when the news reached the waiting fleets it touched off a firestorm. Though the Hazat are generally blamed for firing the first shot, destroying the Alecto flagship Cataphract while most of its crews were still staring at their videoscreens, the truth is that the situation was utter chaos with practically everyone firing at everyone else before anyone could begin to take reasonable sensor readings.

In the months and years that followed, the Conflagration of Byzantium Secundus was repeated on a larger scale throughout the Known Worlds. House Alecto, in particular, became a victim of its success, for having taken the lead in the wars against the barbarians it had suffered proportionate losses leaving it the weakest of the Royal Houses in actual ships. House Justinian, under Nicephorus "the Faithful", did its best to honor its oaths to Vladimir but there were too many enemies on too many fronts and within a decade of Vladimir's coronation his house would become extinct. As is well-known, two other Houses (Gesar and Windsor) followed Alecto and two more (Van Gelder and Justinian) found themselves reduced to marginal minor houses.

Justinian's collapse was both sudden and unexpected. Indeed, while they had failed to save Alecto, the house seemed well on its way to avenging them right up until the last minute. In 4562, a coalition of Justinian and Li Halan ships were pressing Sutek hard while more Justinian forces were successfully claiming the Alecto lands on Vera Cruz. Indeed the war was going so well, that Nicephorus had returned to the Duat in order to attend the consecration of his youngest child. The Prince was still in the system when a joint Decados-Hazat task force jumped into the Duat from Artemis, their apparent goal to cause enough disruption that at least some of the forces besieging Sutek would have to withdraw. When they found that considerably more Justinian ships were currently in-system, attendant upon the Prince, than they had expected, the Decados ships broke and fled. The Hazat, on the other hand, chose to continue into the system, apparently deciding that a glorious death in battle was better than retreat.

The Decados reached and passed through the gate, at about the same time that the Hazat and Justinian forces were closing just outside Lemuria's orbit. That jump was the last contact the Known Worlds had with the Duat.

The Isolation

In all the excitement of maneuvering fleets, little attention had been paid to a small courier ship from Tween Station which entered the jumpgate less than half-an-hour after the Decados. Accounts of what happened next are contradictory and confused. What is certain is that moments later the jumpgate aperture emitted a beam of light so bright that when, hours later, it reached Atlantis and Lemuria it lit the night sky more brightly than the sun at noon. The light lasted for about an hour, and when it faded, the jumpgate no longer responded to any of the old jumpkeys. (There are unconfirmed reports of an astronomer on Tween Station who, using light filters, attempted to peer into the jumpgate during this episode. It is said it took three strong men to restrain him as he went on a destructive rampage. He was later imprisoned in a cell at Ven Lohji monastery on Lemuria, where he never spoke again but used his own blood to cover every accessible surface in his cell with alien hieroglyphics.)

As if the sudden isolation were not enough, the Duat system also found itself with a leadership crisis. Prince Nicephorus had led his ships to victory over the Hazat, but as he pursued their remnants into the Hyksos, a single missile pierced his ship's defenses, killing everyone on the bridge. Since not only Nicephorus' heir, Marcus VI, but also his second and third child had been on the other side of the jumpgate when it closed, the principate devolved on his youngest child, twelve-year old Aleithia.

A regency council composed of the most powerful peers was hastily assembled, but almost as soon as it began meeting the council began to fracture over the issue of how to redistribute those fiefs left vacant by the closing of the jumpgate. Some had clear successors, but in a significant number of cases the succession was confused or downright absent, giving the throne considerable discretion in deciding what to do with the fief-and so the regents began to scramble to hand the fiefs to their own friends and supporters. The council might have survived these pork-barrel politics, except that its two most powerful members, the Alannis, the Duchess of Antipode, and Mithras, the Duke of New Haiti, both had sons of approximately the same age as Princess Aleithia, and both made it clear that they intended their grandchildren to sit on the Duat's throne.

Tension between the two and their supporters rose steadily (a third faction rejecting the entire council rose around the Duke of Cockaigne who had been left off the council on account of his residing on Lemuria not Atlantis) and came to a head on New Year's Day when Alannis' forces captured Manse Paradise and the young princess. Mithras and his supporters responded with an attack on New Haiti, and House Justinian was engulfed in a civil war.

This war soon broadened into general anarchy, for the Kurgans on Ch'ing-T'u and Hyperborea, pacified for less than a decade, took the opportunity to rearm and declare their continents independent. Nor were they alone. The Seaborne family of Scravers, supported by the remnants of the Muster and Reeves trapped in the system, declared Chrysopolis, the largest of the floating cities, a Free City and began ejecting nobles and priests. The Knights of the Empyrean Star, a knightly order which had been granted the archipelago of Ys as a fief in return for their service against the Kurgans not only declared their fief a sovereign state but began conquering neighboring fiefs. The Communion did not go so far as to declare independence, but they loudly declared their neutrality in the intra-house conflict and began fortifying the Citadel and destroying any armed ship that came within a mile of the island.

Later generations would refer to this period as the "Time of Troubles" when "every man's hand was turned against his brother"-a statement which was only mildly an exaggeration. Atlantis fragmented into dozens of warring jurisdictions with constantly shifting alliances. On Lemuria, the loss of the jumpgate meant the loss of the prismjade trade which had become a major cornerstone of the planet's economy, the chaos on Atlantis added to Lemuria's economic woes as various Atlantean factions took to pirating any trade attempted by their enemies. Samuel Verden, the Duke of Cockaigne, tried imposing martial law to stop the resultant unrest in the cities and thereby succeeding in keeping Lemuria unified; but he also saddled himself with an ongoing urban guerilla war led by the guild members who had not retreated to Chrysopolis or the Citadel. And when one of the Atlantean factions released a biological plague (from secret Justinian stores of the old Citadel's handiwork), Samuel interdicted all traffic between the two planets-to which the Charioteers responded by grabbing Tween Station and turning it into a smuggling and piracy center.

And the last firm information anyone heard from Mu was that the remnant of the Hazat fleet which had been lurking around the outer system raiding mining colonies to survive had taken Fantasia.

The greatest blow to Duat civilization was the collapse of the Church. When the Jumpgate closed, the leader of the Duat Church was Isidore dai Gesar, Archbishop of Atlantis and Metropolitan of the Duat. Isidore was somewhat of an outsider to the Duat, his appointment a small part of complicated negotiations between Vladimir, his two allies Houses Justinian and Gesar, and the Patriarch. Staunchly Hinayana, Isidore had nevertheless gained great admiration among his flock for his clear piety and ascetic practice. Indeed, many, even among his ideological foes, believed him to be a living saint. When the gate closed, he, and through him the Church, remained silent for over a month as he withdrew into deep fasting and prayer.

When he finally emerged from his retreat, he announced that the Pancreator was clearly responsible for closing the gate. The death of Vladimir and the suffering of the houses associated with him were clear signs of divine displeasure; the extension of "extreme penance" to the nobility and the guilds by Patriarch Nadrim had been rebellion against the divine order; and the civilization of the Known Worlds had been corrupted beyond saving. Now however, he said, the people of the Duat had been given one last chance: they must rise up against those that had led them into sin (House Justinian and the guilds) for only a return to "true simplicity" under the guidance of the Church would save them from the anger of the Pancreator.

In better times, the archbishop might have been ignored as a crank. But the population of the Duat was reeling from their sudden isolation from the rest of humanity (including Holy Terra) and the bizarre signal from the closing jumpgate. Added to that was the lack of leadership or unity on the part of the nobility and the personal stature Isidore had built up even among the Kurgans. Though only a minority of the population responded to Isidore's hellfire and brimstone sermons, that minority was large enough to add a religious war to all the other fracture's destroying Duat society. Many of the clergy disagreed, often quite vocally, with the Metropolitan, but this fracture in the Church only seemed to add to the chaos.

Many voices called for a council to depose Isidore. Others called for one to confirm his teachings. When, in 4565, the council did finally assemble at St. Soterios Cathedral, the whole system seemed to pause to see what would occur. By tradition running back Queen Uhura, full system councils were officially convened by the Princess, and as all agreed that they wanted no later questions about observation of the proprieties, Princess Aleithia convened the council and then retired to the choir loft to observe the opening session. Archbishop Isidore stood and gave the invocation. And then the Cathedral blew up.

Accusations flew. Orthodox blamed the Kurgans, Kurgans blamed the guilds, Alannis blamed Mithras and Mithras blamed the Knights of the Empyrean Star. Later generations would learn that Mithras was right, but at the time the mining of St. Soterios was a mystery which only served to increase the chaos further. The death of Aleithia ended any possibility that an unquestionably legitimate Princess would emerge to re-unify the nobility. More importantly, every single bishop in the Duat system (except for a single retired Amalthean living in a hermitage near the Citadel) had been in St. Soterios when the bombs went off and was now dead.

Orthodox canon law and theology are quite clear: the ordination of a bishop requires at least three (preferably eight) other bishops. The ordination of a priest or a deacon requires a bishop. With only one living bishop, no new bishops could be created. And once that bishop died, no new priests or deacons could be consecrated either. In one fell swoop, the entire hierarchy of the Universal Church had been brought to an end. In the years and decades which followed, the faithful of the Duat would feel their way to a new conception of the Church, but in the short-term it meant that the last bond of unity among the people of the Duat was gone.