“The crown of the Segmentum, it is called. Not that it deserves such a title.”
Praestol (a short form of Praestolaricimentaervinai, the Ancient Radessic name for the planet), also known as Spoddah (derived from Espotha, Radessic for The Divine Place) or Tharrus (the Artharon name) is the homeworld of the Rades (and the presumed homeworld of the Artharons) and the capital world of the Pan-Andromedan Ecumene in Segmentum Crepusculum. As a world deemed sacred by both the Divinarium and the Coalition and of high economic and strategic value, Praestol was always a focal point of conflicts in the segmentum; during the Wars of Twilight and the Andromeda War, many battles were fought over this ancient world, scarring Praestol to its very foundation.
Now that the Andromedan Galactic Commonwealth unified Segmentum Crepusculum under its banner, Praestol has been rebuilt by the common efforts of both the Divinarium and the Coalition, and now serves as a testament of the PAE's power and a rightful successor of its ancient self, the throne world of the Rades species. But something is rotten in the world of Praestol, and even now, the shadow of conflict does not leave it; those who live on Praestol know that the planet's beautiful facade serves only to hide its true, sinister nature.
Praestol is arguably one of the most ancient inhabited worlds in Andromeda Galaxy, having been a focal point of the galactic civilisation billions of years ago as much as it is now, with only Il'larion surpassing it in age. The first known sentient species that called Praestol home were the enigmatic Rades, native to its azure groves, who had made it the crown world of their Memfian Collective. Over time, Praestol's might grew, and what had once been an ordinary world became something unnatural; the Rades tampered with their homeworld's very nature, shaping continents and oceans into strict, geometrical forms and replacing the world's original, dying sun with a new, artificial one that could remain active for billenia (the only reason life on Praestol still persists).
Millions of years would pass, and Praestol would become home to a much different races - predators with short tempers, quick minds and acute senses. Perhaps the Artharons were descended from the Rades bio-engineered servant races that survived Adaru's massacre of Andromeda, or just naturally evolved in the unattended garden world, but either way, the clever and fierce felines would quickly make use of their homeworld's bounty and their predecessors' technology to found one of the greatest civilisations in the galaxy at the time. Praestol, or Tharrus as it came to be known, became the crown world of this First Artharon Realm, a brilliant center of culture, arts and learning renowned across the galaxy. It is said that only Alcanti could match Tharrus in its wealth, glory and decadence at the time.
Alas, unlike Alcanti, the glory of Tharrus was not to last. At some point, it is said the decadence of the Artharon race had reached its apex, and their empire, at this apex, collapsed. In but a few hundred years, Tharrus's brilliant porcelain chateaux and golden pagodas were reduced to ruins, as those who once inhabited it were reduced to barbarism and infighting. However, though the First Realm was no more, its great capital retained its importance, as a holy world for the Artharon race, where the greatest of their ancestors slept. Though Artharon clans battled for dominance outside Tharrus, they were all one people once on its surface; no Artharon blood could be spilled in its ancestral shrines.
Thus proponents of Artharon unification, which arose several times throughout history, all revered this world and were crowned there. Of these, the most recent and probably the most prominent one was Warchief Kagu of clan Sai, who led the Artharon people during the Second War of Black Fog: it was on Tharrus that he rallied the Great Clans against the Corruptus into a united military force. The planet was repeatedly invaded throughout the war by the demonic hordes, led by one of their most fearsome commanders, Eleielord of the Dark Five, but eventually the combined forces of the Artharons, the Draconid Imperium and the Segmentum Draco Federal Union was capable of driving them back and felling the demon beast, thus saving both Tharrus and Andromeda as a whole from the nightmare armies.
The new era for Tharrus would begin after the Annihilation, when the Spodist refugees of the War of Ages, mostly Radeons, began migrating en masse to Andromeda. Their leader, Iovera IX, believed that with the loss of Vendespode, their former holy world, a new focal point for their faith and their culture had to be found, so as to preserve the soul of her people. Science and mythology provided her with that new focal point: the legendary Espotha, or Spoddah, a paradise realm where Spode's Demiurges allegedly shaped the Radeon species. For millenia it was dismissed as a baseless creation myth, but the discovery of the Rades archaeological sites had shown the Radeons that the legend was true after all. Acquisition of Spoddah thus became top priority for the Divinarium.
Spoddah was intended to be taken over peacefully. Radeons simply started colonising the planet normally, building settlements around old Rades ruins while letting its original inhabitants be. Iovera reasoned that, without a unified Artharon government to object, noone could deny her colonisation rights. She was wrong. Though the felines had no single ruler, they were still united by their tradition and faith, and all of them saw the desecration of their holy world by foreigners, and their increasing military presence there, as an act of aggression. Soon enough, a warchief arose to lead the Artharons against the Divinarium, and war broke out.
The aftermath of this War of Twilight was a compromise. Spoddah-Tharrus, and the worlds in its immediate vicinity, became a neutral disarmament zone, where neither Artharon nor Radeon warships or troops could stay, outside of a small peacekeeping force. Subjects of both the Divinarium and the newly formed Coalition were allowed to settle in the neutral zone, and the official name of the holy world became Praestol once again, suggested by Radeon historians. Thus began the new page in the history of the sacred planet, which would not stay sacred for long.
Dark World Edit
Once the war was over, without any real authority to speak of, the Neutral Zone, and especially Praestol, had changed. What was once a holy world had become a haven for outcasts, a way to escape both the theocratic oppression of the Divinarium and the strictness of the Coalition's honour and tradition. Heretics and dissidents of all kinds, the dishonoured and the exiled, criminals, rebels and freethinkers - these would all find liberty and relative safety on the ancient planet. Eventually these outcasts would build their own society on Praestol, giving its forgotten ruins new life. The long-dead coral spires of the Rades and the marble pillars of the First Realm became the foundation for new cities.
Praestol would fall under Artharon occupation during the later stages of the Andromeda War, when the Coalition began its new offensive on the Divinarium. Warchief-Emperor Fela'thoran would be the first to attempt introducing some sort of order to the anarchic planet, sending off his youngest son, Prince Ama'thoran of Akhumar, to bring its cities in line. Despite managing to institute taxation and some semblance of a police force, however, the prince was ultimately incapable of making Praestol submit to Coalition law, and was promptly torn to pieces by his subjects once the Divinarium liberated the planet. The newly founded Andromedan Galactic Commonwealth was slightly more succesful at maintaining order, and under its rule some semblance of organised government appeared on Praestol, but the sense of liberty that had sprung there was still not squashed. Rather, with its newfound safety, it flourished.
The New Dawn and the Shattering saw Praestol grow to become not just a refuge for dissidents, but one of the largest centers of commerce in the galaxy. With its proximity to the Divinarium and the Coalition, but without the strict economic regulations of either, Praestol inevitably attracted businessmen from all over Segmentum Crepusculum. Both ages-old corporations, especially from the Draconid Imperium, and newly formed businesses founded by natives grew on the planet, until eventually six most powerful syndicates came to dominate it. The events leading to the formation of the Pan-Andromedan Ecumene resulted on Praestol gaining self-governance under the rule of the democratically elected Lord Executive, yet in actuality this government would ultimately be a mere puppet for these syndicates.
Praestol, unlike some some other Ecumene planets, managed to emerge from the Great Xonexian Schism unscathed, and did in fact profit from it - some of its corporations were even known to openly conduct business with both the Xonexi Allies and the Civilisation. The years that followed the war were not as bright. The Divinarium's economic recession and the obvious post-war drop in arms sales dealt severe blows to Praestol's economy, causing one of the largest syndicates, Nihiso Engineering, to lose much of its share on the markets. The vacuum left by its fall has not been filled ever since, as smaller companies continue to vie for Nihiso's place even today.
The most recent events - the formation of the Uniate League and the Second Great Cyrannus War - have not had neither a purely positive nor a purely negative effect on Praestol. So far the syndicates are discussing, uncertain which faction and which superpower could bring the most profits to them. Some on Praestol have openly supported the Empire, some have fiercely denounced it; some believe joining the League could provide the planet with countless new opportunities to expand its market, others believe it would doom its people to servitude under the clergy of Spode. The future is, as always, uncertain.
“All paths lead to Praestol, it is said. Actually, the opposite is true: it is Praestol itself that leads to every path and every world in Andromeda. Our world is a world of opportunity: nothing is forbidden, everything is permitted.”
- - Baji'zaitsu, former CEO of Nihiso Industry
In human philosophy, and in many alien philosophical teachings all over the universe, it has been postulated that once diametrically opposed ideas collide - the thesis and the antithesis - there emerges a synthesis which reconciles the two. On Praestol, the Divinarium's authoritarian theocratic collectivism was the thesis, and the tribal, tradition-bound individualism of the Coalition races was the antithesis: these two civilisations held this planet as sacred and formed the foundation of its modern population. Thus many believed that a balanced, peacable culture would eventually be formed on the Twilight Crown, likely rooted in tradition like its predecessors were, and where the individual and the collective would be more or less equal. In other words, a synthesis between the two conflicting civilisations.
Instead, the collision of Divinarian and native Segmentum cultures has resulted in something different altogether: an anathema to both its ancestors. Everything that both the Artharon and the Radeon believed in strongly - tradition, religion, authority - has been discarded on Praestol, replaced by a completely different set of values. The outcasts who had settled there created a world of liberty previously unseen in the Segmentum: a place where anyone could be anything, regardless of one's race, caste, tribe or faith. Artists and musicians of all kinds, preachers of all faiths, people from diverse species and ways of life have found their refuge there, united by their shared belief in self-expression, freedom, and the pursuit of success. It is these values that formed Praestol as it is known today, and it is them that help maintain its diverse society without falling to strife and chaos.
That being said, Praestol is still far from a paradise. Even ignoring the conservative circles in the Ecumene (who are more appalled by the fact that the Praestolite youths paint their hair and do not pray on Commonwealth Day), one cannot ignore the corporate corruption and that has been plaguing the planet since the New Dawn, or its vast criminal underworld. People disappear on Praestol every day - not because they disobeyed sacred laws like on Crepusculum, or because they offended some noble's honour like on Karathon, but rather because of overdue debts, or because they dared to conduct business without proper protection. Billions of Praestolites live in poverty and work as indentured servants - essentially slaves - for large corporations, who profit on their behalf. Meanwhile, for all its stability, cultural and religious hatreds persist, albeit in shadows, in Praestol's lower domes, where numerous speciesist gangs spread chaos and stir up hatred among the populace.
Even in its current state Praestol remains a place of great religious importance, both to the polytheistic Artharons and the Spodist Radeons. The former's reverence for it stems from their belief in ancestor veneration: as their homeworld, it is the source from which all their bloodlines originated and is therefore sacred. Almost every Artharon clan can trace their ancestry to some mythological hero who once lived on Praestol and has dedicated to him (or rarely her) a shrine somewhere in its steppes, to which the clan's members will journey once they are of age. The shrines of lesser clans like the Niju are usually humble, little more than small kurgans adorned with runed dolmens, whereas powerful clans may have entire temple complices dedicated to their revered ancestors, such as the excquisite gardens of Clan Thoran or the granite megaliths of Clan Sai.
The nature of Radeon reverence towards Praestol is somewhat different, and is expressed differently - a mixture of religious awe, nationalism and scientific curiosity. For them, the homeworld of their creators is the greatest of proof of their faith, their deity, and their divinely ordained destiny. The organic Rades ruins scattered across the planet are ancient like the stars themselves, yet one can recognise in them the same imagery and symbolism as in the modern churches of Masaari. Official Divinarian science claims that the "Demiurges" were one of the first species in existence to recognise the truth behind the universe and the majesty of Spode: their children were thus created as a living incarnation of their teachings, destined to inherit their mantle and carry their torch of faith. This might not be the full truth, or truth at all, and even some in the Divinarium accept this - but it is good enough for most. Radeons construct museums and chapels around ruined palaces and laboratories, and find in them answers, purpose and pride.
This is how the planet is viewed by outsiders, of course. Praestolites themselves have a much less idealised view of their homeworld's "sacredness", and see the never-ending stream of Radeon and Artharon pilgrims mostly as a source of profit. Every big shrine on Praestol has inevitably attracted a plethora of intrepid locals who have set up dozens of souvenir shops, cafes and other services around the holy place: these tourist traps constitute a significant part of Praestol's economy. The Praestolites' own beliefs are as diverse as the natives themselves: after all, all sorts of heretics have found refuge on their planet, and religious tolerance is one of their chief virtues. However, the strong tradition of secularism keeps these diverse sects in check, and to publically profess one's religion is considered a serious faux pas; as serious as not doing so in the Divinarium or the Coalition, in fact.
Praestol's government traditions stem from its joint rule by the two Crepusculum superpowers throughout the New Dawn, and its later short-lived independence as capital of the so-called Praestolian Republic during the Shattering. De jure, it is part of the Radessic Sector, a realm within the Pan-Andromedan Ecumene which encompasses the former Divinarium-Coalition Neutral Zone, as well as its administrative center. The planet is thus governed by the sector's Lord Regnant, who is simultaneously the Executive of Praestol, and the democratically elected Legislative Council, which appoints them. The Plenipotentiary, designated by Elysium itself, represents the Ecumene's interests and maintains federal oversight over the sector's governance.
Of course, the official administration is merely the tip of the iceberg: Praestol's true government is a convoluted, corrupt web of interested parties which alternatively cooperate with each other and fight for dominance. The planet's nominal authorities have to account for an entire plethora of corporate authorities and their lobbies as well as the governors of other worlds within the sector. who provide Praestol with natural resources, and the criminal underworld. The most powerful players in this game are the Five Syndicates, conglomerate giants who dominate the planet's economy and whose activities spread into numerous industries, some of them outright illegal. They are the face of Praestol, and some would say its true rulers.
Though the official government attempts to battle the corruption on their world, they are fully aware that they are not omnipotent, and it may be best for them, and the Ecumene, to simply rein in the Syndicates somewhat and thus benefit from their activities, than to uproot them altogether.
- Headquarters: Tower of Seven, Ordu Ed
- Leader - Chairwoman Sam'nyanoi
- Primary sphere: Mass media
- Secondary spheres: News, drug trade, prostitution
The Taoja Conglomerate is a perfect example of how even the most benign businesses on Praestol may hide close connections to its sinister underworld. Officially, it is merely an alliance of numerous media magnates, whose companies produce pop music, holodramas, AVN media and other forms of entertainment. These magnates maintain their respective businesses independently and still compete with each other, but hold to several agreements of trust that ensure that each magnate will retain their share of the market and none will ever grow to fully eclipse the others. Taoja also operates as a single entity when dealing with other Syndicates, with a chairman to represent it: the post of Chairman rotates every ten years from one magnate to another.
The power of Taoja is obvious: even despite its relative lack of organisation, it still holds a planet-wise monopoly on almost all sorts of entertainment (not counting PAE-sponsored media which nobody likes): if one wants to achieve any kind of artistic success or popularity on Praestol, they must come under its wing. However, not everyone realises that music and holodramas are merely the tip of the iceberg: the lion's share of the conglomerate's profits come from its more clandestine activities. Many seedy bars, gambling dens and brothels in Praestol's underworld are in one way or another connected to Taoja through its many subsidiaries, official or otherwise, not to mention the production and trade of drugs. There are even rumours that the conglomerate sells off its former stars once they are no longer profitable, brainwashing them and then offering them to wealthy Praestolites as sex slaves.
Considering their influence over the mass media, and especially news, Taoja has frequently been accused of serving the interests of various political groups in the galaxy, from the Highlords to Cyrannians or even the Alpha Draconians. The conglomerate, they say, not just twists the news but includes subliminal messages in its media that brainwash the people of Andromeda. This is not necessarily an outlandish claim. It is certainly not above Taoja to make deals with interested parties - however, to think that its magnates would only serve one master is folly. It is more likely that the conglomerate has its hands on several political movements, like a many-armed god, accepting deals from numerous backers and manipulating both them and the public, all serving to further some enigmatic end goal that Taoja seems to be striving towards.
- Headquarters: Villa Ramattius, the Lozenge
- Leader - Don Falcinion Ramattius
- Primary sphere: Cybernetics
- Secondary spheres: Arms, robotics, prostitution
Originally based in the Draconid Imperium, House Ramattius originated as a cadet branch of the wealthy and powerful House Falcion a few generations ago, when Capanius, its oldest son, lost the battle for his dead father's inheritance. With his family businesses lost to his younger sister, and no place to go, Capanius decided to look for new venues, and eventually settled on the relatively undeveloped (for cultural reasons - Draconis used to shun the defilement of their flesh with implants) but lucrative cybernetics market. This was the beginning of the proud Ramattius Cartel, which provided excquisite bionic enhancements in the Imperium and beyond. After the house's original homeworld of Ramattius was destroyed by the Mechanovirus during the Andromeda War, the cartel moved to Praestol, where mechanical enhancements were not frowned upon: it was there where it truly realised its potential, growing from a wealthy but modest firm to a global international corporation.
To this day the cartel is largely ran by the scions of the Ramattius family, and is proud to retain its ancient traditions derived from its parent house: though it may now reside on Praestol, it is still a Draconis business, and its employees conduct themselves accordingly. Nobility, honour, and utter loyalty to the family are all held dear by high-ranked members of the cartel: these, they say, are what separates them from the rabble which infests Praestol. The Ramattii's trade has also left a singificant mark on how they conduct themselves. Bionic enhancements, often extremely extensive, are common amongst the house's nobles, which only serves to further fuel their overwhelming sense of superiorty and self-importance. Though also making cheap mass-produced implants for the common people, the pride of the cartel is its tailor-made superadvanced bionics created for the wealthiest people on Praestol: golden-plated, encrusted with gems, and possessing many times the strength, endurance and utility of their biological equivalents.
Despite their sophistication, however, the truth is that the Ramattius Cartel hardly has the moral high ground over the other businesses on the planet, and it too is engaged in criminal activity. In fact, its connections with the planet's underworld are even more thorough than those of other four Syndicates: it is linked to thousands of criminal organisations which racketeer Praestol, from lowly street gangs to powerful city mobs, all of which pay their due to Don Ramattius and receive smuggled weapons and bionics in return. In terms of raw military power, the cartel is perhaps the strongest Syndicate there is, with only Gafra Shipping having a comparable army of thugs on its disposal. Indeed, Gafra is House Ramattius's greatest rival, not just because of similar spheres of influence, but because of the disdain that the wealthy Draconis nobles feel towards the barbaric Ottzelloans. Most of the violent gang warfare on Praestol can be linked to the power struggles between these two Syndicates.
- Headquarters: Gafra HQ, Ordu Ed
- Leader - CEO Gaf'ralitera
- Primary sphere: Shipping, spaceships
- Secondary spheres: Security, PMCs, arms
The more naive on Praestol may consider the other four Syndicates clean, but the criminal activities of Gafra Shipping are well known to everyone - after all, they are Ottzelloans, and that alone says a lot. Founded by Gaf'ralitera, a particularily ambitious ex-Rogue Loron Chik, Gafra found its way in Praestol's corporate politics during the bloody times of the Shattering, when many trade routes had been severed by spatial anomalies and internal conflicts. In these dark times, Gafra illegally smuggled goods from Borealis to the troubled planet, bypassing the strict wartime regulations set by the PAE, while the PMCs it funded provided security services. Many Praestolites came to trust the Ottzelloans more than they trusted the government on Elysium, even though they feared them at the same time.
In the years after the Shattering, Gafra has grown exponentially, taking countless small businesses and criminal organisations under its wing. It has even attempted to go legal to some degree, expanding into the fields of spaceship manufacturing and construction - and has become surprisingly good at it too, its spiderweb logo on a vessel's hull now a proof of quality. However, the public opinion of Gafra's activities has not become better. They are still thugs, after all, tattooed gun-toting Ottzelloans who have little regard for any laws, other than some strange code of criminal honour they've brought from their home galaxy. Their appearance inspires fear in the people of Praestol, but also respect, for they know that there are certain goods that only they may procure, and services that only they can offer.
For the last few years, Gafra Shipping has been engaging in a bloody gang war against its main rival, the Ramattius Cartel, over the streets of Praestol. Though the forces of the Draconis syndicate are larger and more disciplined, Gaf'ralitera's network of connections means that her men are much more well-armed, often wielding weapons which are exotic, but also extremely dangerous. There have been reports of Gafra thugs using armaments stolen from Gigaquadrantic militaries, nanomachines that strangely resemble Morphis, and even Dark Chronoscopic technology. The other three syndicates, with less ties in the planet's underworld, have all been observing the conflict with a mixture of fear and curiosity, waiting until they can somehow use it for their own benefit.
- Headquarters: ConHall, Hanadal
- Leader - President Aedami Vithariel
- Primary sphere: Biotechnology
- Secondary spheres: Drug trade, enhancements, biodrone servants
HanaBio Cooperative was intended to be a response and an alternative to Praestol's corporate rule. A voluntary alliance of small biotech businesses in the living city of Hanadal, it was founded largely by former Sanctuarians, who had brought with them their homeworld's culture and values, and was thus founded on the ideas of collectivism and workers' self-government. Every factory and facility owned by HanaBio is regulated by its own workers, who vote on local business decisions, while things that would affect all of the cooperative are discussed by all of its employees via their elected representatives. The cooperative's president is more of a figurehead than a true leader, unless a crisis arises in which case more power is relegated to them. Essentially, HanaBio operates more like a democratic state than a corporation.
Despite its unorthodox methods of administration, however, HanaBio remains an important player in Praestol's economics. Its employees essentially hold a monopoly on almost all advanced biotechnology on the planet, and guard their secrets jealously, while the diversity of the goods and services they produce ensures the cooperative's continued profits. Whether it is a piece of furniture, a building, a firearm, a house servant or a comfort doll, HanaBio can make it using their Rades-derived biotech. Of course, as it is always on Praestol, some of their products are not completely legal or safe. Although the cooperative does not actively seek to expand its influence, it fiercely protects its own territory from the other Syndicates, and it too participates in the planet's neverending corporate wars. More than a few of their rivals have been found gutted by biodrones, infected with deadly virii, or mutated into writhing piles of flesh.
Rumours persist of HanaBio's connection to the Rades cults that once almost conquered their home city. Some claim that their agents have long since infiltrated HanaBio's politics and influence the entire planet through them, slowly enslaving the people of Praestol through their biotech and the genetic alterations they offer. The cooperative, they say, is merely a front for the cults' sinister plots, and a day will come when all of its workers and customers, their bodies infected by their wicked products, will transform into brainwashed bio-drones which the cults will then use to conquer Praestol for the glory of the Demiurges. Most dismiss these rumours as a strange conspiracy theory, or slander created by their rival syndicates.
- Headquarters: Northfire Palace, New Roesan
- Leader - Chief Qaimin ae-Saedemas
- Primary sphere: Energy
- Secondary spheres: Essence technology, security, PMCs
If the Ramattius Cartel operates like a family business and HanaBio like a country, then Northfire Incorporated is ran like an army: disciplined, ruthless, and fanatically loyal to their Chief. After the Roesan Peaks fell to the Entropy and its inhabitants, who once harvested it, fled their former home, it was Northfire's leader, the illustrious Qaimin ae-Saedemas, who led them to find a new destiny. His plan involved creating a new home for the people of Roesan where they could rebuild and in the process find another source of energy for Praestol to replace the dark essences which they once harnessed. Soon such a source - an Essence font of Rades origins - was found in the icy seas south of the Lozenge, and Saedemas tapped on it readily, founding the city of New Roesan and turning his Northfire into a global mining and energy corporation, which now supplies all of Praestol with power and raw resources.
In order to prevent a disaster which once doomed Old Roesan, Saedemas says, Northfire has to be governed with an iron fist. All who enlist into the company as full-time workers have to come through several month of "loyalty training", which essentially amounts to indoctrination, and the Chief himself is viewed with a cultish reverence, employees even having to salute him when he passes by. This military discipline terrifies many (there's a reason the company does not have many full-time employees), but it also makes Northfire a highly dangerous player in Praestol's corporate warfare: their subsidiary security services and PMCs are second to none, and even Gafra and the Ramattius Cartel fear their purple-uniformed soldiers. These soldiers are particularily famed for their mastery of the supernatural: Northfire, after all, has been channeling the power of Essence for decades, and knows much about its power.
As for the identity of Saedemas himself, and the reason why his Syndicate, in theory a simple mining comnany, is so thoroughly disciplined, nothing concrete is known. Many claim that, though the founders of Northfire managed to escape Old Roesan without being turned into demons, the dark energy that they were exposed to had neverthless changed them somehow. Some say they still use the power of Entropy in secret, summoning demons to haul metals from the sea floor and sacrificing souls to fuel their energy stations. Or perhaps it is the Entropy that uses them, rather than the other way around, making them believe their will is still their own while slowly brainwashing them into service of the Corruptus. Nobody knows for sure.
Praestol's demographics are characterised by three things: its diversity, fluidity, and its sheer size. Though originally it was inhabited mostly by Radeons and Artharons, with the planet's population being split roughly in half (Artharons, being a much more fecund and populous race, were a slight majority), its economic growth had attracted millions of offworlders eager to profit off the planet's wealth. The less lucky of these migrants end up being used as cheap labour alongside robots and bio-drones; many eventually leave the planet as they fail at their endeavours. Others fare better and manage to form their own stable businesses - some even get to the top and earn high posts within the Syndicates themselves. Many of these migrants come from distant regions of Andromeda or even from other galaxies. Anyone who cannot find their place home is welcome on Praestol - be they houseless Draconis, dissidents from the Cyrannus Galaxy or the Delpha Coalition of Planets, or dishonoured Mendel. Neveretheless the Radeon-Artharon duumvirate remains at the heart of Praestolite culture.
The constant influx of migrants has caused Praestol's authorities and corporations to restrict the planet's citizenship. Migrants form a hefty part of Praestol's population, yet most are actually mere residents, denied of several civil rights (most importantly, freedom from indentured servitude) and all political rights. This allows businesses to utilise and exploit them freely. Residents who come from PAE space - ecumenopolites - fare much better, but their rights and freedoms are still limited as long as they are not natives. To become a true citizen of Praesrol, a planetopolite, is a no paltry task, and requires either considerable wealth, or quite a few connections. Some would call this divide oppressive, but a Praestolite would be quick to retort by saying that anyone clever and hard-working enough would be able to earn citizenship if they so please. They are not like Sanctuarians, they say, who have to toil like slaves and bootlick their leaders only to be promoted into a higher caste.
Despite its great population, Praestol has not been turned into an ecumenopolis and likely never will - the unique Rades-touched environment of the planet is a priceless treasure protected by the Ecumene (and also an important source of revenue, via tourism). As such the population of the planet is spread out and lives in all sorts of habitats, from the metropoleis of Ordu Ed and Hanadal, which reach to the sky and extend into the ground, to domed cities built underwater, to smaller pastoral towns and farmlands scattered across the planet. Indeed, though one imagines only bustling cities when thinking about Praestol, a significant part of the population actually lives in rural environs.
“I have heard offworlder poets gasping in awe of our homeworld's landscapes. "The breadth and majesty of the forests, the vastness of turbulent oceans and the calm of streaming rivers." How funny. There are no forests on Praestol - only gardens and parks. There are no rivers, only canals; no oceans but reservoirs. It is a mistake to seek here the natural chaos that exists on other worlds - here, there is only some strange aesthetic order made by clever ancients millenia ago for their own amusement.”
- - From the memoirs of Aidoli ae-Hanathi, founder of Taoja Conglomerate, written shortly before her assassination
Nobody knows how Praestol looked in its original state, billions of years ago. The planet that is known by Andromedans today is a garden world, whose geography and ecosystem were thoroughly altered by the Rades to fit their idea of beauty: many similar worlds exist in Andromeda today, but Praestol, as their original homeworld, is the grandest. Every living and non-living thing on Praestol was handcrafted by ancient geneticists to serve some purpose, practical or aesthetic, and to conform to some idea of order: isles were shaped in form of perfect hexagons, mountains and rivers forming fractal patterns, and landmasses positioned in order to provide space for every climate from arctic to extreme continental to equatorial. The eons that have passed have brought imperfections to the Rades' grand design, yet to this day it remains obvious for an onlooker that such a planet could never have formed naturally.
Praestol's landmass is split between numerous hexagonal isles strewn across the oceans, as well as four large continents, each built in the shape of a geometric figure - the Pentagon, the Trigon, the Lozenge and the Disc. Every continent is roughly the same size, although the Lozenge's northern location means that it is comparably untouched by civilisation. Most major settlements are built in the temperate areas of the Pentagon with its Rades ruins; also heavily urbanised are the northern reaches of the Trigon, while its southern deserts, home to numerous Artharon shrines, are populated, for the most part, only by pilgrims and clan priests. The southern continent, the Disc, has the most diverse ecosystem on the planet and is thus traditionally used as a tourist resort. As such, its settlement is heavily regulated by the Syndicates: only the continent's coasts are settled and industrialised, while its inland territories remain untouched by civilisation.
- Location: In orbit
- Constructed: 2795
The official administrative capital of Praestol is not located on any of its continents. Rather, the Capitol (Radessic: Narathema, Khasthai: Targhn) is lifted above the planet's thick white clouds, a massive zeppelin-like station floating in the highest layers of Praestol's atmosphere. Originally an Ecumene military base made to crush the rebellious Praestolite Republic, it was repeatedly claimed and then lost by opposing parties throughout the Shattering, ending up in the hands of the loyalists, the separatists, the Liberation Front and even, briefly, the mad Rades cults of Yal Keter. Once the dust settled, most of the Capitol's weapons have been removed and the station itself refitted into a civilian facility. However, one hypermatter catapult remains mounted on its hull, so as to protect Praestol from invaders - or to pacify its unruly population again if need be.
While nominally the planet's capital, the Capitol plays little role in planetary affairs. It is not a symbol of unity like the spires of Minos'Drakon on Alcanti, nor an important economical center like Orbispira; outside of politicians and public officials, the station has few residents, if any. Its only purpose is that of an instrument of power. As the looming shadow of the Capitol floats over Praestol's cities, holographic portraits of the Highlords illuminate the sky, and the Ecumenical anthem resounds from the station: a constant reminder for its people that despite their wealth, their homeworld is still firmly under the Ecumene's control. As such, most Praestolites hate the Capitol with a passion and would much rather see it banished from their planet's skies.
- Location: Central Trigon
- Constructed: ~100,000 years ago?
Probably the oldest settlements on Praestol, Ordu Ed is believed to have the original capital of the First Artharon Realm, and, unlike the rest of its golden cities, managed to survive its fall. Though its grand palaces were plundered and its population slaughtered, the city retained its importance - not as a worldly capital, but as a spiritual one. Its proximity to the Artharon ancestral shrines made it a nexus for pilgrims to gather in and rest, and over time, the ancient city too came to be considered holy: a sacred place dedicated to the Artharons' honoured ancestors, where blood could not be shed and clans could gather and discuss peacefully. It was there that Kagu'sai united his people against the Corruptus hordes, and it was there that Thar'nyan declared war against the invading Divinarium.
Naturally, enemies of the Artharon race understood the importance of Ordu Ed, and attempted several times to conquer it, but were repelled every time, not just by its mortal protectors but also by the First Realm's defense systems, still functional after thousands of years. However, in the recent decades, the ancient city did yield - peacefully. The growth of Praestol's industry and economy necessitated new places for growth, and Ordu Ed, with its developed infrastructure and relative safety, was one of these places: even its sacredness could not save it from corporate expansion. Now, the ancient city's shrines and temples are dwarfed by skyscrapers of white metal, which rise to the sky clouded by the smog of factories; the tribal drumming of pagan rituals has been replaced by the ceaseless rhythm of nightclubs, and its stone idols by holographic images of pop stars and other celebrities.
Only the Artharon nationalists who live there still hold true to what Ordu Ed once was. While most are simply nostalgic for older, simpler times, some of these nationalists are hardline radicals, who believe in reclaiming the "heart of the Artharon race" (with the Radeon population preferrably expelled or exterminated) through force. These are responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in the city, such as the infamous Neurim Plaza Massacre where extremists let loose a rampaging Coarlatus loaded with explosives, who killed more than five hundred Radeons and one hundred Artharons on its stampede.
- Location: Northern Pentagon
- Constructed: Settling started circa 2780s
The snowy Roesan Peaks, renowned once for their picturesque landscapes and skiing resorts, have long been one of the most iconic landmarks of Praestol, but in the last decades their history took a dramatic turn. The reason for these changes lies in the mysterious vents of purple mist which appeared in the mountain range a few years after the death of Eleielord. These vents, capable of producing immense amounts of energy, were soon discovered by Praestolites, who, reckless in their pursuit of profit, were quick to leap at this new untapped resource. Thus the once pristine peaks were soon covered with mining facilities and refineries, while its valleys and plateaus became sites of settlements populated by opportunistic prospectors. Eventually these settlements melded together and grew until they turned into vast metropoleis, the greatest of them simply called Roesan City.
Unfortunately, the meteoric rise of Roesan to prominence ended abruptly and very bloodily during the Shattering. The vents that the Praestolites tapped into were, after all, of sinister origins, born of Eleielord's residual life essence - even though few were actually aware of it. Dark energies had been accumulating in the settlers' bodies as they lived in the constant presence of entropic vents, and though their effects were inconspicuous at first, a time came when they reached critical mass and could be contained no longer. An entropic plague spread like a wildfire through Roesan, converting entire cities worth of population into gibbering, bloodthirsty lunatics.
It took a few dozen orbital strikes from the Capitol to destroy the mutants, along with most of the still-uncorrupted residents of the region and a good portion of the mountains themselves. Yet the peaks of Roesan remain a haunted, corrupted place to this day: Eleielord's presence continues twisting the surviving wildlife and plants and spawning vile Eleiethae from the entropic vents. It is unlikely that the mountains will ever return to their former beauty; evil has left a mark on them that will never ever fade.
- Location: Seas above the Pentagon
- Constructed: 2801
Though most inhabitants of the Roesan Peaks were killed during the entropic plague, many high-ranked corporate officials and businessmen managed to bribe the authorities into letting them out soon after quarantine had been announced; after escaping themselves, many also managed to evacuate their loved ones and their most valuable workers. These survivors, all of them once brave pioneers with great ambitions, could not simply forsake their dreams: they just had to be realised elsewhere, preferrably in a safer and less demonic place. Thus the former denizens of Roesan founded a domed city on the shelf of the northern oceans, where a ruined system of Rades power generators had been discovered a year ago.
This new source of energy for Praestol, which appeared to be fueled by the very life-essence of the planet, was thankfully a lot safer for usage, and New Roesan has since then become quite a prosperous place, attracting people from all over the planet and beyond looking for jobs and new opportunities. However, though many move to the underwater city every year, few ever stay there for long. The majority of the migrants leave New Roesan within a few years or even months, most because of the sensation of unease that they claimed they kept feeling in the city. The people, they say, are dark and twisted there; courteous and welcoming on the outside, but on the inside, even more cruel and heartless than the rest of the Praestolites. Some even claim that they saw demons there, creatures of black fog in Artharon or Radeon guises, those who once had souls but had since then lost them.
An average Praesolite would say that most immigrants were simply uncomfortable were living under the sea, and the bad enviromental conditions of New Roesan simply caused them to experience hallucinations - a regrettable problem, but an ordinary one. However, there are rumours that the entropic energies that had killed or corrupted so many in Old Roesan have affected the survivors of the plague as well, only in a subtler way: though they may have left their flesh intact, their souls have been irrevocably darkened. Whether these rumours are true or not remains to be seen, but there have been reports of newborns in New Roesan born with reddish eyes or a purplish tinge to their fur. It is likely that the powers that be will one day perform a proper thorough investigation of the underwater city, and uncover the truth.
- Location: Western Disc
- Constructed: 2785
There are few places on Praestol as strange yet as famous as the exotic, queer, yet beautiful city of Hanadal. Unlike the rest of the planet's metropoleis, polluted industrial districts and concrete spires are nowhere to be seen there - the city is a pristine garden, with clean air and picturesque parks and groves. Constructed around a ruined Rades temple city in the savage wildlands of the Disc, its Radeon founders hardly had the resources to build a conventional settlement in such a hostile environment, and thus turned organic. With technologies borrowed from Rades databanks, they erected bioluminescent coral spires, made plants into biological solar panels, and grew trains and highways of chitin and ivory to connect their city together.
While over time non-organic constructions found their way into Hanadal as it grew, they remain few and far-between, and overall the city remains a biotechnological marvel and a shining example of Praestolite ingenuity. The organic city has come to take an important part of the planet's economy, thanks to its wide variety of exported goods and services. Unlike the rest of the planet, however, Hanadal's great wealth is not accumulated solely amongst the elites: thanks to its powerful cooperative movement, it is the only region of Praestol with something resembling worker rights, and is likely the best place on the planet for the average man. Overall, compared to the crime-ridden Ordu Ed, or the sinister New Roesan, Hanadal is often seen as a paradise by other Praestolites: not a place where one can make a massive profit, but where one can live a quiet and safe life - a rare commodity on the planet.
This idealised image of Hanadal is of course rose-tinted. Though the pace of life is indeed somewhat slower there, it is by no means safe from the neverending corporate and criminal warfare that engulfs all of Praestol: it merely hides itself better there, taking form of industrial espionage, covert assassinations and blackmail. Perhaps the average citizen would not be mugged as often there as in Ordu Ed, but for those in higher stations, life is still a struggle, if a slightly more confortable one. Also of note are the numerous Rades cults which have been present in Hanadal since its foundation. Though most of them were eradicated during the Shattering when they first emerged on Praestol, some still remain, in hiding or masquerading as benevolent institutions, waiting for the day they will rise again and remake the holy world of the Demiurges according to their original design.
“There is a reason why some call our underworld the True Praestol. It is indeed the real face of the planet; the brilliance of glass skyscrapers and malls is merely the shadow it casts.”
- - Geanitia Ramattius, caporegime of the Ramattius Cartel
That Praestol is an economic giant whose influence spreads far beyond its home sector is a well-known fact: in the former Segmentum Crepusculum, not even the throne world of the Holy Empire, nor any of the Artharon worlds, surpass it in gross domestic product. In contrast to most planets in the Ecumene, where free enterprise is heavily regulated (especially in the nearby Coalition and Divinarium worlds), Praestol is a haven for all sorts of business, both legal and illegal. Though the Five Syndicates run the place, they are hardly concerned with managing every small shop or firm on the planet: these are allowed to grow freely, provided of course that they give their share to their patrons. This makes the Twilight Crown attract thousands of businessmen eager to profit off its riches, who are not dissuaded even by its ill reputation.
Thanks to the power of the Syndicates, Praestol's sources of revenue are quite diverse (unlike, say, Sanctuarium, focused almost entirely on heavy industry): Gafra's spaceships, Ramattius bionics and HanaBio biotech all enjoy popularity throughout the entire Ecumene and beyond its borders. In the planet's slightly safer regions (that is, the places where criminals wear suits and wield briefcases rather than guns), such as the Neurim District of Ordu Ed, financial services have prospered, giving rise to numerous wealthy banking clans: these clans are a neutral force in the planet's corporate warfare, working indiscriminately with all five Syndicates. Finally, Praestol's unique geological and ecological conditions make it a popular tourist resort, as wellan important exporter of various rare plants and animals.
One also, of course, cannot talk about Praestol's economy without mentioning its vast and powerful underworld; it is there, after all, where the Twilight Crown's truly unique wares and services can be purchased, and it is there where the Syndicates wage their secret worlds over control of the planet. There are few other places in central Andromeda, save for the the chaotic Zazane space, where one can so easily (provided that they know where to look) find everything that is otherwise banned in the Ecumene: from illegal weaponry, to vat-grown pleasure dolls, brainwashed but still completely sapient, to assassins for hire. However, it is not only physical goods that are sold and bought there - after all, Andromeda is largely a post-scarcity society - but also information. Government secrets, technological know-hows, and even tomes of dark, forbidden knowledge can all be found on Praestol's black market.
“Absolutely disgusting, but useful.”
- Natural reproduction on Praestol is relatively uncommon: most children are grown in artificial womb-vats which develop a fetus rapidly and without forcing the mother to go through the pains of childbirth. Lower-class families typically use public facilities provided by HanaBio, while those more wealthy would purchase tailor-made personal vats capable of forming a child according to the parents' exact specification, down to predisposition towards certain arts. This leads to Praestolite elites often viewing their offspring not just as family but as creations: making children specifically to later take certain businesses for their parents is not unheard of amongst Praestol businessmen.
- Despite their secular society, Praestolites are actually very superstitious. Owing to its mysterious past, Praestol has a rich folklore full of monsters, demons and spirits, and many of the planet's inhabitants are convinced that they actually exist. One of the more well-known legendary creatures of Praestol is the Asa-asa, allegedly a Rades attempt at creating a creature of pure psychic energy. This sinister spirit is said to be invisible and haunting Praestol's cities, feeding on their populations' negative emotions. Many Praestolites, even respectable ones, have some sort of talisman in their houses to drive the Asa-asa away, like an ancestral mask or a stone from an ancient Spodist temple.
- Connected to this superstitiousness is the Praestolite tradition of making funerary trinkets: miniature buildings, animals and personal items crafted for the deceased that are said to follow their owners in their afterlives. Both Artharons and Radeons agree that in the next world, their dead would need the same things as they did in life: the former believe that their ancestors live in a spirit world parallel but similar to that of mortals, while the latter's religion postulates that all but the purest simply reincarnate in the same universe again. However, funerary trinkets aren't widespread outside of Praestol amongst either species, and it is not clear where this practice has originated. Some believe it was simply popularised by miniature production businesses.
- The advanced in genetic modification on Praestol has reached such heights that it is now completely possible to freely play with the gene makeup of a person, going as far as to change one's species. This has become an uncommon but well-known practice amongst the planet's middle-class youths, who would explore their identities by transforming themselves with alien DNA. Obviously, Praestolite speciecists revile this process, not just because it undermines their beliefs in the importance of genotype above everything else, but because their own organisations have been infiltrated by these young people. Nobody knows now if the new recruit in the Brotherhood of the Rades-Kin was born a Radeon or is actually a transspecies Artharon yearning to find his true self.
- Much like on Sanctuarium, biological police forces are virtually non-existent on Praestol. This is the result of the ban instituted after the War of Twilight, which severely limited any kind of military presence on the planet, even for the purposes of security. Instead, an automatic robotic police force with limited intelligence was instated, incapable of being biased towards either owner of the planet. These robots are widely considered to be incompetent and are often hacked by criminals, which is why the Syndicates and their associated PMCs frequently offer higher-quality protection - for the right price, of course.
Out of universeEdit
- Praestol in its original form was invented in 2008 along with the Rades species, as Spodda (Сподда), their homeworld; in this form it was integrated into the Fiction Universe in 2009. However, it only originated in its current form in 2013, where it was conflated with the homeworld of the Artharons, Tharrus, and gained a modern history in addition to its ancient one. It was fully fleshed out four years later in 2017.
- Praestol, with its powerful corporations and advanced technology coupled with its massive class divide, took inspiration from the genres of cyberpunk and biopunk. It has no particular analogue in science fiction, but it was inspired by multiple real-life cities, from Hong Kong and Seoul to Jerusalem.
- Praestol serves as a foil to Sanctuarium, which is similarily an important economical center with a large Radeon population. Whereas Sanctuarium is an industrialised selenopolis with a dead ecosystem, ruled by the fair but totalitarian Assembly of Magister, Praestol is a lush garden world where people enjoy wide liberties, but suffer from rampant crime and corporate oppression.