The dominant species native to the moon is, of course, the Exekians. They are a bipedal, intelligent race with a humanoid appearance, but many noticeable differences from the invasive humans, who arrived approximately 900 years ago.
The Shadowlands are so named because they have only two hours of daylight each day. As a result, it is a cold, dry wasteland, a frozen tundra with sparse vegetation. The shoreline is littered with pieces of icebergs, and the sea is usually frozen. It is largely inhospitable to humans, who find the low temperatures unbearable and the air difficult to breathe.
The moon Exekia was first inhabited by the native Exekians, who evolved in the Shadowlands and, over time, spread into the region now known as Musatei. They formed the Old Exekian Empire, which was ruled over by an Emperor elected every era (480 years) by a group of elite princes/warlords known as hunyadi.
At some point, the humans arrived on a starship from Earth. They landed (or crashed) in the ocean and were able to sail to the mainland in their sleeper pods. They arrived in the Duat, and eventually made their way south into imperial lands. There, a teenaged girl with red hair made first contact with Matta, an Exekian.
While their meeting was successful—Matta later took the girl as a mate—subsequent relations between the two species rapidly deteriorated. Open conflict began, and the Exekians enslaved the humans, whose superior technology failed them.
This went on for about eight hundred years, over the course of which the Empire became very mighty and haughtily sure of its place in the scheme of the universe, and the humans gradually forgot their origins, as any information on their past was suppressed by their masters. The Exekian religion, a monotheistic belief in a god called Akhen, was twisted to include the humans, claiming they had been created by the god to serve.
Now we come to the first attempt to liberate the humans, Matta’s Mutiny. Matta is a rather interesting figure in the history of the Empire. As was said before, he was the one to make first contact with the humans, and the red-haired girl he met later became, effectively, his wife. (The Exekians don’t marry.) The girl of course died, but Matta kept engaging in romances with human females, often ones with red hair or other traits that reminded him of the first. He was still respected by his own people, but they did come to see him as rather eccentric, not only because he fetishized humans, but because he had a remarkably high sex drive for a member of a species that can get by on mating once every 240 years.
It would seem he had fallen in love with humanity as a whole, and he wanted them to be freed. Naturally this didn’t go over very well with the other Exekians, and a conflict ensued. Long story short, Matta’s fortress was invaded and he was killed before his dream could come to fruition.
A century later the humans were given their chance. In the copper mines at the base of Red Mountain, a human slave dislodged an ore of anskar. The ore struck one of the Exekian overseers, seriously injuring him. Having discovered their masters’ weakness, the humans rose up against the Exekians and gathered all the anskar they could get, smelting it into weapons, which they were able to distribute in secret to slaves throughout the Empire.
Inevitably, there was a revolt. A human named Erasmus Stirling was at the head of the slave rebellion; he and his bride Camilla would go on to become the first king and queen of Musatei. His forces wormed through the Empire, journeying to the emperor’s palace, killing the then-ruler Taranis, and driving the surviving Exekians south into the Shadowlands.
The kingdom wasn’t fully formed then, though. For one, most of the cities were taken over by humans that weren’t with Erasmus. They got their smuggled anskar weapons from him, but took it upon themselves to unseat their masters. These places became independent city-states, and they often kept a sizable population of Exekians within their walls—at least, for a time.
The Stirling Dynasty
Erasmus was happy to stay in the emperor’s palace, which he re-dubbed Castle Vallon, with his wife. Unfortunately Camilla died in childbirth. Erasmus, stricken with grief, supposedly locked himself in his room and wouldn’t come out for a week. His newborn son, Cassius I, had entered a turbulent world where the future was uncertain.
Nonetheless, he grew up fairly well, marrying his childhood sweetheart, Beatrice of Bodai. The marriage effectively brought Bodai into the kingdom peacefully, although it would have been easy to conquer them by force, since it is still to this day the smallest city in the whole nation.
Much more difficult was the city of Hiberia. Hiberia was taken over by humans, but they didn’t drive the Exekians out. Instead, they turned the tables and enslaved them. They also made the weak humans among them stay in bondage. This went on for over twenty years before Cassius I conquered the city. In the ensuing chaos, many of the Exekian slaves were killed by their human overseers, but a few managed to flee.
The city of Tyre, quite boringly, agreed to join the kingdom of their own free will.
Cassius I and Beatrice had two children: the cleverly named Prince Erasmus II and Princess Catherine. The Stirling dynasty was in full swing. But neither child went on to actually rule, since their father had such a long reign (over thirty years). They’re each still interesting enough to warrant a bit of characterization.
Catherine was a beautiful and refined woman who believed strongly in her father’s vision of a unified human kingdom. She therefore accepted the marriage he arranged for her to Lord John Flynn, who was busy helping to found the city of Zemar up in the Duat. Their only son became King John Flynn, Cassius I’s successor. King John proved somewhat unpopular, and he never married; he’s best remembered, though, for having been assassinated by his mistress Ariadne. Everyone remembers this, because no one knows for sure why she did it. (And don’t believe that hogwash about King John having a daughter with some Zemarian noblewoman; that was invented by one of the current Councilors so he could claim a right to the throne.)
The gentle, sensitive Erasmus II was a weak and sickly boy. When he hit puberty, however, he began to metamorphosize into a grotesquely deformed monster. Growths appeared on his body, including two bony structures that resembled horns, and his skin became mottled and leathery. He also exhibited some of the symptoms of acromegaly—he was extremely tall, easily a giant, and his features were exaggeratedly masculine, like a primitive caveman. He was nonetheless intelligent and dignified; he was ashamed of his condition, avoided being seen by anyone, and refused the throne.
Felicity was disgusted with her husband and wound up taking their boy back to Io, where he was kept away from his father. Desperate to have his son back, Erasmus II appealed to his nephew, King John Flynn, who ordered Felicity to return to her husband. Evidently she decided she would rather die; she took poison, and tried to take young Elric with her, but he was saved by his nurse, who made him vomit up the poison.
All this had quite an effect on the boy, but he was saved from permanent trauma by his father, who took him back to his estate in Tyre and raised him. Elric was a favorite of King John Flynn, who named him his heir.
King Elric’s reign was the longest in all the kingdom’s history. He had good intentions, but they often backfired. For example, it was during his reign that the Second Exekian War was fought, in which his son Letholdus II was killed in battle.
Anyway, Nicholas Zuan became king when Elric died. This forced his cousin Cassius II into hiding. Nicholas was perhaps the second least popular ruler ever, because he showed such preference to his native Hiberia over the other cities. Hiberia at the time was a bleak and crime-ridden slum, but he pumped it full of riches, so that it became a gaudy crime-ridden slum. He died childless, prompting his cousin to come out of hiding.
Cassius II had married a lovely woman, Margot Castile, who would come to be known in legends as the “wailing woman” because of her children. They broke all the previous records and had three surviving children: Letholdus III, Odette, and Stephen.
Letholdus III was the very worst of all the rulers. He was obsessed with his own twisted ideals of purity, both of body and blood. Thus, he schemed to remove his siblings, enabling him to take the throne and not have to worry about any of their children succeeding him. He wanted his own issue to be his heir.
First he killed his sister, by way of a slow, undetectable poison. No one suspected. Then he hired assassins to slay his brother, his brother’s wife, and his brother’s infant son all in one fateful night. He made a show of having the assassins executed afterward, but many knew the truth.
At the time, there was only one independent city-state left. Kronos was on an island just off the western coast, and it had stayed neutral for so long largely because it wasn’t considered worth the time and effort to take. Letholdus III wanted to conquer them, but they refused. Knowing if he took the city by force, it would lead to rebellion, Letholdus decided to use cunning. He took advantage of some conflict with the Exekian hunyadi known as Zimreon and initiated the Third Exekian War, knowing their first target would be Kronos. Kronos was indeed laid siege to by Zimreon’s forces, and many of the people were killed before the king arrived with his armies and defeated the enemy. Kronos was thus beaten into submission and absorbed into Musatei.
Letholdus III’s wife and queen was Aalis Bricassart, a fair and feisty lady who actually found him rather boring. She sought action on the side, unaware of the severe consequences. For when Letholdus discovered the affair, he thought her not only adulterous, but impure. She was imprisoned and tortured. Rather frightfully, Letholdus remained loyal to her, never taking on mistresses or visiting courtesans; their only child, Enid, was conceived and born in prison.
Enid was a domineering and ruthless queen. Her husband Lucien, while king in name, never dared get in her way. They produced King Tristan, bringing us to the current monarch. Interestingly, when Tristan’s wife Deirdre gave birth to the twin princes Aldous and Claudius, Enid suggested they drown one of them to avoid them fighting over the throne. Deirdre was horrified, and Tristan has recently had his own mother imprisoned in the Ivory Tower. But perhaps old Enid was simply advising them based on what she saw in her own father, and in the generations preceding, about the nature of man and his quest for power.
New Exekian Empire & The Clan
Back to the subject of the Exekians. They have been greatly decimated over the last two centuries, but they are not quite extinct yet. What we know of their current state of affairs is limited due to our lack of communication.
What we do know is that Zimreon, the Exekian who attacked Kronos years ago, has joined forces with another hunyadi called Nechtan. The two now call themselves “the Clan” and they are devoted to reinstating Exekian dominance.
On the other hand, there is the New Exekian Empire, whose seat is at their capital of Hiraeth. This group is slightly larger, and of greater interest to us. Their leader is known simply as the Empress. We have very little concrete information on her, but legend tells us she is very, very old, that she has been in the Shadowlands for at least 700 years, and that she is sympathetic to humans, because she once loved a man. As to whether any of this is true, I cannot say.
The two factions are considered rivals, and we have observed some conflict between them.
The Exekians already believed in Akhen long before the humans came. Akhen means “He Who Is As the Sun” and his symbol is the sun disk. It is a little unusual that a species living on a planet where their ideal environment has only two hours of sunlight a day would worship a sun-based deity, but there is perhaps something mystical to them about their star.
Much of their writings centered on Nunet, the apocalypse. Akhen would take the faithful and just, turning them into truly deathless, purely spiritual beings, while the unfaithful and wicked would be devoured by the dragon Zius. In later centuries, they changed the narrative to include the humans, and began to insist that Zius didn’t exist at all. The souls of the wicked would instead simply cease to exist.
Akhenism under the human rule was again altered, this time claiming that Zius—who is not a god, but a spirit created by Akhen—had somehow gained the cosmic power to create the Exekians. This of course makes them inherently evil; the Exekians are therefore akin to dragons, or devils, themselves.
The Exekians had scribes, scholars, and apologists who studied and wrote about the faith, but they had no clergy or temples. The humans do. Our chaplains and chapels are easily found in every lord’s castle.
However, Akhenism among us is becoming less of a faith and more of a creed—a system which is often deemed too rigid for most of the common folk to follow. The ancient holy laws, said to have been dictated by Akhen himself to an Exekian scribe, are rapidly falling out of favor with the humans, who consider many of the laws to be “barbaric”. It is into this strained atmosphere that the prophet Vor emerged, bringing with him a message that was intended from the start to cause controversy.