This is the second part of a series of posts I’m doing on the worldbuilding side of Line and Orbit, since the worldbuilding is something that my co-author and I worked especially hard on – though of course, we worked hard on everything. Last time I posted about the different factions featured in the book. This time: A guided tour of Line and Orbit.
image by Etwoo
Kolyma is named for a gold-rich part of the Terran region formerly known as Russia, a slightly sardonic nod to the mineral riches that the planet Kolyma possesses, in conjunction with its barrenness and harsh climate. Despite the latter, the former makes Kolyma a center for trade and commerce for all of the Terran Protectorate, and by extension most of the rest of the (Terran) known galaxy. Sentients come to mine the trithosite that helps to power immense numbers of FTL-capable starships, and they also come to serve the needs of the industry that has built itself up around the mining. The United Terran Commerce Authority—the organization that regulates (and makes a very healthy profit from) all forms of trade, commerce, and production within the bounds of the Protectorate—has its headquarters here.
image by Etwoo
Kolyma itself is not inhospitable to life, despite its relative harshness, and aside from the extensive mining that cuts apart its surface, it’s known for its natural beauty and striking landscapes. Of particular note among these are the majestic Sibra Falls, immense waterfalls approximately a mile wide and nearly a thousand feet high from lip to the surface of the massive lake below. The Sibra Falls are a popular tourist destination but the most scenic locations along its edge are reserved for the estates of the Terran super-rich.
image by MacRebisz
Though “Hecate” in this context refers to the bustling space station that orbits it, Hecate is in fact a red giant star. The centrality of its location within the spatial borders of the Protectorate makes Hecate Station a popular destination for traders and transport ships alike, and a rich diversity of different species can always be found in the many bars and entertainment establishments that populate its main promenade. Despite its central location within Protectorate space, the station itself is independently owned and operated, and the Protectorate takes a mildly disdainful view of it, maintaining only a small outpost there.
The Bideshi homeship Ashwina is the defensive ship in the three-part convoy also comprised of the ships Jakana and Suzaku. Given its status as the only martial ship in the convoy, its population consists almost entirely of trained fighters, with the remaining population made up of those engaged in support work: Engineers, mechanics, gardeners, and general laborers—and even these are trained in basic combat techniques should they be called upon to fight. All Bideshi fighters are trained in melee combat, bladed weapons, firearms, and ship-to-ship combat, though naturally some display a greater aptitude for one form of combat over the others and will specialize accordingly. Ashwina is equipped to support this diversity of combat skills, and features a full compliment of single and double-seat combat ships as well as many gyms and dojos.
Despite the focus on combat, Ashwina also accommodates many spaces for play, artistic pursuits, relaxation, and spiritual contemplation. Bideshi fighters are trained around the idea of the warrior of balance—a fighter who also seeks joy and peace in everything they do. Ashwina is said to love her children and to nurture them in all of those pursuits.
The Arched Halls
Long ago, when the ancestors of the Bideshi left Earth in the first homeships, they took with them the saplings that became the ancient trees that make up the Arched Halls. Now, centuries later, the Arched Halls are cathedrals of interwoven branches and roots, secret and mysterious. They are the spiritual center of every homeship, and the Bideshi believe that all Arched Halls on every homeship are connected in a whole, uniting the entire nomadic tribe even across vast interstellar distances. The Arched Halls serve as the location for the rite of passage known as Naming, as well as for the rites that accompany death. The spirits of Bideshi ancestors are said to dwell among the trees of the Halls, and can be communed with after ingesting shala, a powerful hallucinogenic drug derived from the roots of the trees.
The High Fields
Surrounding the Arched Halls at the glass-enclosed tops of the Bideshi homeships are the High Fields, wide expanses of gentle green hills dotted here and there with younger trees and small lakes. If the Arched Halls are the spiritual centers of Bideshi homeships, the High Fields are the centers of play, relaxation, and celebration. Festivals are held there, as well as dances and huge picnics where no one is allowed to go away hungry. Bideshi marriage ceremonies are commonly held on the Fields in the shadow of the Arched Halls, as a reminder to the newly united that joy and contemplation must go hand in hand, and that age and death forever follow youth and life.
For most of the Protectorate—indeed, for most sentients—the Klashorg homeworld is an object of myth and legend. While the Klashorg frequently venture into Protectorate space to work as laborers and to sell the ornate wood carvings for which they’re famous, they prefer to keep their homeworld to themselves, and guard their privacy jealously. Few non-Klashorg are even allowed in Klashorg space, much less onto the homeworld, but the Klashorg have been known to make exceptions for a favored few.
The Klashorg homeworld is almost entirely covered by a single thick biomass, an ancient and aggressive jungle that the Klashorg have learned to build with rather than around. If Klashorg woodcarving is renowned for its complexity and grace, every one of their buildings is a work of art in its own right, as much a living part of the landscape as the trees themselves. Given the Klashorg jungle’s similarity to the Arched Halls, the Klashorg and the Bideshi enjoy a relationship of cautious respect and even occasional friendliness.
If the Arched Halls are the spiritual center of the Bideshi’s nomadic existence, the Plain of Heaven is their one common stationary home. An uncharted planet nestled in an otherwise unremarkable nebula close to the galactic center, Takamagahara isn’t much to look at even if you’re fortunate enough to stumble upon it. Small, dusty, and inhabited by nothing larger or more complex than large fields of lichen, its appearance is nevertheless deceiving. When the first Bideshi found it, their Aalim discerned that it was the center of a nexus of power beyond understanding, the location of a tear in the fabric of reality where an Aalim could engage in a profound connection with deep quantum streams of endlessly branching probability and chance.
To this day, no Bideshi understands what Takamagahara truly is or where it came from. But they guard its secret fiercely, and no non-Bideshi has ever seen it, let alone set foot on its surface. Every ten standard years, every Bideshi convoy from every corner of the galaxy travels to the Plain for the great Moot, wherein all Bideshi come together to reaffirm their identities as united members of an ancient tribe, carriers of memory and tradition, and protectors of the thing the Protectorate despises most: the right to be imperfect.
And there you have it. Next I’m probably going to be doing an “I Surrender” style casting meme. Because it amuses me to do so.