The Family of One

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by Tom Verreault

A Look at What is in the Books

It has been 30 years since the creation of the Family of One as a setting element and yet very little has been done with it in that time.  Having attended a theological school, I’ve always been interested in the religions of the Frontier.  The Alpha Dawn rule book gave us, “Hentz is ruled by a religious clan, the Family of One.  Everyone who lives there wears a uniform showing his job and position.”  Zeb’s Guide expanded on this a little, “…not an overly fanatic or expansionist religion, it does dictate that everyone that lives on Hentz or works for GODco must wear a uniform denoting his job and social position.” The flavor these statements leave is that of an autocratic organization concerned with controlling its subjects.  Since the organization is less concerned with “fanaticism” (being a true believer) and expansion (being missionary in nature) a model of a religion with temporal and worldly power fits the Family of One best.

The religious clan controlling the Family of One, called Clan Anglann in Star Frontiersman #8, holds immense temporal power.  It controls a world government and strips the citizens of that world of their personal freedoms even dictating modes of dress.  The planet Hentz has a large military that is capable of projecting power into other star systems and this military machine was probably necessary for not only external threats but internal discontent.  It is certain that the dictatorial nature of the Family of One runs contrary to the yazirian personality that has evolved in fan literature over the decades.  Thus the dictatorial nature of the Family of One and the lid it has clamped down on Hentz society are producing pressure within that must one day release steam. 

The Family of One also controls one of the Frontier’s mega corps, Global Overall Development Company or GODco.  The yazirians are said to have “entered the Frontier” and not lived there all along so it would seem they came with a mission to terraform the worlds they colonized.  The Family of One controlled this activity and latter organized the mega corp.  We’re told that Cassidine Development Corporation funded GODco and the Capellan Free Merchants underwrote the loan leaving GODco indebted to both organizations.  This was likely a public relations move on the part of the Family of One as an organization concerned with control does not give up control willingly.  Its activities in terraforming, which up to this point had been on yazirian colonies, had been generating bad press and creating a mega corp separate from the religion allowed the Family of One to feign innocence in the matter.  Everyone knows that the church controls the mega corp so this is just about PR for the wider Frontier.  The only change that occurred with the formation of GODco is that yazirian expertise in terraforming is now exported to the wider Frontier and beyond.

The situation with the Family of One seems unnatural to the yazirian personality profile that has evolved since our contact with them.  Such a situation must have arisen out of unusual circumstances.  The one such circumstance listed in the books is their migration to the Frontier.  Sometimes called the Yazirian Star Exodus, it represents a major disruption in their society and created an opportunity for Clan Anglann to exert control.  Its control is not universal in yazirian society in that it can only directly control the lives of the citizens of Hentz. 

Background

The yazirian home planet of Yazira was facing destruction.  A brown dwarf with an imminent close pass to Yazira had been detected.  Yazirian society had already developed a world government centuries before in the form of an imperium that had ended the clan wars.  Yazirian society had also been experiencing a space age and the Imperial Court directed an initiative to save the population and the planet’s cultural and biological heritage. 

Clan Anglann was at the forefront of this initiative.  It was one of the clans with a science and astronomy focus and its members led the way in sending out exploration ships and crews.  They eventually discovered the Araks system and charted a route.  The Imperial Court directed them to begin terraforming efforts on Hentz in the Araks system while the ships of the Exodus Fleet were built.  Clan Anglann administered the new outpost on Hentz and prepared for the first wave of refugees.

In ancient times yazirians had worshiped deified heroes and legendary figures of myth as gods.  Since the end of the clan wars and the industrial revolution, yazirian society had become increasingly secular.  The advent of the crisis had caused introspection in some segments of society, but large portions had reached the verge of panic and only through the focused will of the Imperial Warhon had a return to the violence of the clan wars been averted.  The Imperial Warhon needed to focus his society on its own salvation and give it hope.  A new philosophy that had taken root in the recent social unrest was chosen for the new initiative. 

The Philosophy of One stated that all yazirians were one family and clan.  It became the message of the Imperial Court, “we’re all in this together.” Under the Warhon’s direction yazirian society was restructured to meet the impending doom.  As the baleful eye of the brown dwarf loomed closer, the philosophy began to take on the strength of religious belief.  The core belief of all yazirians being one unified the society even in the face of its destruction and gave hope. 

Not long after the arrival of the first wave of the Star Exodus to the Araks system, Clan Anglann detected signals originating from the vrusk and human colonies in the Frontier.  Humans explorers were then encountered in the Prenglar system and Clan Anglann realized that they were not alone in the Frontier.  History is unsure of what happened next, and Clan Anglann isn’t telling, but suddenly Clan Anglann transformed itself from being the colonial administration in charge of terraforming Hentz to the Family of One.

Their charter from the Imperial Court was reinterpreted to expand their power to administrate all yazirian activities in the Frontier.  It seems they spun the contact with three other space faring races as reason for the changes implemented and downplayed the expansion of its power with the Imperial Court.  While some of the Warhon’s councilors advised he move his government to Hentz and oversee the founding of yazirian society there, he insisted that he would be on the last ship leaving Yazira.

The original colony plan seems to have been that the entire yazirian population would settle on Hentz and that Hentz would be terraformed to resemble Yazira as closely as possible.  However, Clan Anglann redirected the second, third, and fourth waves of the Star Exodus to the systems of Gruna Garu, Athor, and Scree Fron in a bid to establish a yazirian hegemony in the Frontier.  The habitable planets of these systems received nominal terraforming support and for decades terraforming was used as the stick and carrot to control these colonies.

Clan Anglann’s dreams of galactic empire were not to be realized as these colonies formed their own governments and in some cases rebuffed the Family of One.  With the Family of One controlling access to the Ark of Yazira (the ark is an institute containing genetic samples of almost all of Yazira’s life forms) and the infrastructure that terraformed their worlds, most yazirian colonies were forced to follow Clan Anglann’s lead at first.

Controversy erupted when, of all the ships involved in the Star Exodus, only the Warhon’s personal ship failed to reach the Frontier.  Odds were that some of the ships would become lost but miraculously only the Warhon's did.  Conspiracy rumors abounded and Clan Anglann, the hero of the exodus, saw its name blackened.  It could no longer exert total control over all yazirian society in the Frontier.  It does exert strong influence and is the leading superpower of the yazirian colonies but its dreams of a multi-system hegemony were never realized.

Beliefs

The beliefs of the Family of One are referred to as The Two Wings.  And although a third wing has been proposed by some theologians, it is by no means considered orthodox:
  1. All yazirians are one
  2. The Garden of Yazira will be replanted
  3. Yazirians will inherit the galaxy

The above beliefs have led to the development of a credo called the Creed of Yazira.  It is oft recited at religious observances.  “We are one family.  We are the children of Yazira.  The Spirit of Yazira is a flame within the sha-ka of every yazirian.  Yazira will endure because we endure.  We will make Yazira's name great among the stars." (The sha-ka is the yazirian analog to a soul.)

One implication of the Two Wings is that clan war is a sin.  The Family of One asserts that yazirians everywhere must bring disputes before the inquisitor’s court prior to taking arms against one another.  In practice this only really happens on Hentz.  The irony is that the Family of One has practiced clan war under the guise of settling a clan dispute on Scree Fron.  They sided with the clan they had business interest with and all but wiped out the opposing clan.  The incident has angered yazirians across the Frontier.

Another implication of the Two Wings is that of eco-theism.  A concept of the perfect and “ordained” ecology based on Yazira’s.  This sacred ideal is held as the standard that all planets for yazirian colonies should be conformed to.  Because Yazira has become a defied ecology, yazirians travelling or living at great distance from yazirian colonies often bring plants or animals as a tangible contact with Yazira.  The effective worship of a sacred ecology means that if terraforming obliterates a prior ecology it is of little consequence.  Finally there is an undercurrent of thought that yazirians should not live in mixed specie colonies, unless of course those colonies are to be conformed to the Yazira ecology.  However, the Family of One spends heavily to maintain networks of agents on mixed race colonies and throughout the Frontier.

The “third wing” in not endorsed by many but it has been making in-roads with the leadership of the Family of One as it appeals to its original desire for hegemony.  A theological war is brewing among the leadership of Clan Anglann over this third wing as current leadership views this third wing as a pretext to interstellar hegemony.  Some want to declare Hentz the second coming of the Garden of Yazira and cease all attempts to recreate the Garden of Yazira anywhere else while others want to see the spirit of Yazira spread throughout the galaxy.  Some observers caution that yazirians could become as expansionist and dangerous as the sathar.  Others note the fractured nature of the yazirian government in the Frontier as making it impossible for a yazirian star empire to arise.  Only time will tell where all this will lead.

Practices

The essential practices of the religion are summed up in the Five Talons:

  1. The Creed of Yazira (recited at religious and clan observances)
  2. Pilgrimage to the Ark of Yazira
  3. Planting a yanyon tree
  4. Producing progeny
  5. Priestly vows

The first talon is a litmus test that identifies a yazirian or clan as orthodox.  Clans that embrace the oneness philosophy will recite the creed at most clan events.  Extremely conservative and traditional clans will not recite it at all.

The Ark of Yazira is the institute and laboratories established on Hentz to facilitate the terraforming of the planet into a replica of Yazira.  It contains a gene bank that is claimed to contain samples of every organism native to Yazira.  It’s unlikely that this claim is true but it’s also impossible to prove otherwise.  The institute now has had a massive temple like structure added to it to receive pilgrims.  The pilgrimage to the ark is for the purpose of obtaining a seedling of the yanyon tree to replant at the pilgrim’s home. 

The Family of One charges high prices for the yanyon seedling and asserts that only seedlings obtained at the ark fulfill the third talon.  However, since the trees have been planted on all yazirian colonies it is possible to obtain seedlings without travelling to Hentz.  This tree is symbolic of Yazira and deeply connected to ancient racial memories of clans of hunters living in the forests of Yazira at the dawn of Yazirian History.

Producing offspring is now considered a racial obligation.  Females that choose a career over motherhood come under some disapproval by the Family of One.  It’s possible for a female on Hentz to choose career in this fashion but her social standing will be impacted.  On other colonies there isn’t much in the way of stigma if she does. 

There is a dichotomy in the priestly orders.  The positions of true power and influence within Family of One clergy are reserved specifically for members of Clan Anglann.  In fact, since the religion is effectively the clan business nearly all members of the clan are considered members of the priestly Order of Yazira.  Members of all other clans may join the second rank clergy, known as the Order of Araks. 

The Order of Araks has no influence within the church and individual priest or their clans must support these priests.  They labor to instruct and spread the Family’s beliefs.  Members of the order are called priests and some rise to the position of priest overseers (think bishop).  The most fervent of this order are selected to join the Inquisitors.

Members of the Order of Yazira are called priest as well.  Its hierarchy is organized with overseers (think bishop), prelates (think cardinals), and the prime prelate (think pope).  Anyone of the rank overseer and above is referred to as reverend.

Orders of monks sprung up but are rarely endorsed by the Family of One.  Many of these orders have established monasteries outside of yazirian space distancing themselves from the Family of One and its Inquisitors.  Orders of monks call everyone a monk but some choose an overseer monk to lead them.

Controversies

The Family of One is accused of having a wide spread espionage network run by its Inquisitors.  The Inquisitors are essentially a secret police organization that functions openly on Hentz and is accused of running a reign of terror to keep dissidents in line.  It is forced to act more circumspectly on other yazirian colonies.  It’s said that where you see one Inquisitor there are ten more in his network.  Espionage by Inquisitors has even reached the Council of Worlds, the seat of Frontier government.  Star Law now monitors Inquisitor activities outside of the Araks system. 

Members of the Imperial Warhon’s personal body guard, Clan Renegade, accused the Family of One of a coup and sabotaging the Warhon’s ship.  It has never been proven but teams of Inquisitors did detain or kill resisting members of Clan Renegade.  It’s said that the survivors of Clan Renegade swore blood enemy against the Family of One and went underground to secretly work for its downfall. 

Eco-theism has sparked numerous protests by various small environmental groups in the Frontier.  The organization of GODco put a layer of insulation between the church and these accusations but no one really buys the claim that GODco is its own company.  The other side of the coin has been the protest by yazirian colonies that the Family of One and GODco have failed to meet the original mandate to recreate the Garden of Yazira on all yazirian worlds.  Terraforming has become an implement of foreign policy.

The destruction of Clan Dol-Fron, under the guise of settling a clan dispute, has seriously blackened the Family of One’s name.  Most clans from the Scree Fron and Athor systems are irate over this incident.  Rumor has it that some clans have begun stockpiling weapons against future need.  Where such stockpiling takes place it’s believed that the Inquisitors have increased their activities.

The Brotherhood of One is a movement that embraces a more relaxed view of the Two Wings and Five Talons and criticizes the autocratic nature of the Family of One’s structure.  The movement represents a return to the philosophy’s roots in the fight to save yazirian society from destruction prior to the existence of the Family of One.  One aspect of this movement is that it has embraced all sapient beings as part of the “one.”  The Family of One has unleashed is Inquisitors on this movement labeling its followers as heretics.  One branch caved and began towing the church’s line while one branch was forced to relocate to Gran Quivera. 

The rise of Bailorism has been very troubling for the Family of One.  Bailorism is a reconstructed belief system developed from the Ballad of Bailor (the yazirian equivalent of the Epic of Beowulf or the Epic of Gilgamesh).  It’s a return to blood sacrifice and quasi worship of deified heroes from the past.  The traditional sacrificial animal is the wyvole, a dangerous pack predator that is just as likely to take a serious bite out of the one holding the knife.  The Family of One has tried to bar ownership of the wyvole by anyone other than the Ark of Yazira.  The Inquisitors and the Hentz militia have illegally stopped ships and killed wyvoles leading to major interstellar incidents forcing Space Fleet and Star Law to become involved.  The trade in wyvoles has flourished off Hentz and ownership of the animal is practically a statement of opposition to the Family of One. 

Faith and True Believers

The members of Clan Anglann are probably the most cynical of all yazirians.  Disinterested observers have commented that they seem indifferent to the actual beliefs and that their core value is power for their clan.  Inquisitors tend to be the most hard core believers in the philosophy.  Some inquisitors seem genuinely sincere but as a whole the organization breeds extremism.  On Hentz, every citizen pays lip service to the Family of One but there is an undercurrent of fear so that it’s hard to gauge the sincerity of their faith.

The prior secularism, the near return to clan war before the Star Exodus, and the massive fight to save their society that was facilitated by the Philosophy of One has given the philosophy great sway with a vast majority of yazirians.  Even though many are troubled by activities of Clan Anglann they are not willing to cast aside the whole philosophy.  Outside the Araks system many clans still hold to the philosophy viewing it as a better alternative to the return to belief systems of the past.  That simple fact that the philosophy allowed the yazirian species to save itself gives it great power.  Its broad endorsement clouds the issue of how much power Clan Anglann actually has. 

Unrest and discord has been stirring on colonies like Scree Fron and Athor.  The anger over actions taken by Clan Anglann has resonated with religious beliefs from the distant past.  Some clans have returned to a more traditional worship of clan heroes and the honored dead.  A few clans have adopted Bailorism and flaunt their opposition to the Family of One.

By and large yazirians across the Frontier are moderate believers in the Philosophy of One.  A minority, are true believers and have been labeled conservatives.  A growing but disorganized group has been labeled as reactionaries though the Family of One calls them heretics.