Sins of The Empire
Phi Cassiopeia is a bright young star which inexplicably has a life bearing planet circling it, Dorvala. Dorvala would be just an astronomical curiosity except that it’s home to an advanced and powerful species, the Dorvalans- better known to the Galaxy by the Human name for them, Perseids.
Like Humans, Perseids arose from an ape-like species. The extreme seasons and intense radiation of their environment strongly affected their evolution: their bodies became resistant to all forms of energy and to extremes of temperature; their eyes can withstand bright light. Relatively typical humanoids, Perseids are notable for their all-black skin which protects them from radiant energy, and for bony rows of knobs on the head and shoulders. As omnivores, they have a strong urge to store up fat during times of abundance (which today just means most Perseids struggle to keep from putting on too much weight).
Oddly, Perseids and Humans have a high degree of biochemical compatibility. They can eat each other’s foods without harm, though vitamin deficiencies may result in the long term. The Perseid reproductive cycle relates to Dorvala’s seasons. The lower light levels of late fall trigger the breeding season, so all children are born during the spring when the vegetation starts to bloom. Traditional festivals, important religious observances, and many private celebrations mark both occasions. Perseid culture and customs encourage the formation of large families; as a result, the total population of Perseids throughout the Galaxy is over 500 billion.
DORVALA, THE PERSEID HOMEWORLD
Dorvala is a harsh world beset by seasonal extremes which have given rise to many unusual forms of energy-resistant life (about half of which engage in some form of hibernation to survive the winter). Although it’s sufficiently tectonically stable to allow for the rise of sentient life, it suffers from higher-than-usual rate of volcanism and quakes, especially during the summer when it’s closer to the gravitational pull of Phi Cassiopeia. Over half of Dorvala’s land is in one super-continent, Tharangia. Varkos, the capital of the Perseid Empire, occupies the western tip of Tharangia. An enormous mega-metropolis, it’s a diverse and cosmopolitan city rivaling Boswash or Calipolis on Earth for its wealth, glamour, and no-stop pace of activity.
PERSEID SOCIETY AND CULTURE
The need to survive the harsh environment of Dorvala encouraged the Perseids to form powerful states to promote cooperation and prevent theft and raiding. Initially they joined together in tribes and clans, but these quickly evolved into city-states, then nation-states, and, at a far earlier period in their history than Humans, a unified world government. The Perseids have strong traditions of duty, respect for authority, and altruism, though they manifest in ways Humans find odd. For instance, the Perseid Empire derives from the notion that Perseid civilization has a duty to “rescue” less powerful cultures and bring them into the Empire’s benevolent fold. The Perseids treat their foes with implacable resistance, but their defeated enemies with mercy and consideration.
Aging, crippled, or chronically ill Perseids usually commit nathar, a form of ritual suicide, rather than burden others or society. Perseids are devoted, loyal, disciplined, and principled- but also conformist, stubborn, and unquestioning. Perseid religion evolved in much the same way as its government- the varying belief systems that sprang up among the early inhabitants of Dorvala were slowly but surely pared down and eliminated until only one remained. Today, virtually all Perseids subscribe to this religion, a six-god polytheistic faith called Sal Garath Sal. The Main Temple of the faith, in Varksos, is considered one of the most beautiful and impressive buildings in the Galaxy. In recent years, the Chet’rar faith has made some inroads in Perseid communities near the Conjoined Civilizations Republic, causing concern among devout Salgars.
The Perseids have a very rigid and stratified society. People expect individuals to follow the same career as their parents, and Perseids usually regard the idea of social mobility as an unsettling attack on the social order. Even worse, the large number of Perseids, and the fast rate at which they breed, allows them to utterly dominate their empire, relegating other species to an entirely secondary status (even more so than aliens in Terran space). The Perseid social system does have its benefits: experience gets handed down from generation to generation, and centuries of custom usually provide a ready solution to problems. But talent often goes unrecognized, and society adapts very slowly to new situation.