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> The Definitive Guide to Clan Language
post Dec 21 2005, 12:53 PM
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Clan Language
As written by an unknown ComStar analyst

The root of Clan language is what linguists in the Inner Sphere refer to as Star League Standard English, a variation of English created by the Terran Hegemony and spread by the influence of the Star League to become the parlance of government, commerce, and culture throughout the Inner Sphere. With the collapse of the Star League, the language quickly mongrelized into the countless languages and dialects now used throughout the Inner Sphere. Today, only Our Blessed Order and the upper classes of the Inner Sphere use a language approximating Star League Standard English.

The Clans took this language with them when they left and treated it with the same reverence they have for all things associated with the Star League. Talking to a Clansman is like talking to a holo from those bygone days; it is an amazing and sometimes eerie experience.

This reverence for the language of their forefathers gave birth to a subtle but very striking taboo in Clan society: the use of contractions is forbidden. I did not immediately recognize the total absence of contractions from their speech. In the first days of my association with the Clans, warriors would blanch and others become visibly upset at my speech, even though the words I had used were not offensive. I soon realized this effect was produced by my use of contractions. In my first conversation with the Loremaster of Clan Wolf, I discovered the rationale behind this odd taboo. He explained, "We in the Clans have learned almost from birth to revere the old Star League ways; everything we do should in some way glorify the Clans and the memory of the Star League. This specifically includes our speech, because we believe as strongly in the freedom of speech and expression as did the Star League. To slight the beauty of the language with contractions is to treat it as your people in the Inner Sphere treated the memory of the Star League. You have cut out its heart and reduced it to a cultural contraction, devoid of beauty and the best of its meaning. Only someone wishing to deliberately scorn the language and shock the listener would use contractions."

This does not mean that the Clans have allowed the language to stagnate. Over the years, the Kerenskys and the Clans have added terms to express unique Clan concepts. These words come from a wide variety of languages, especially Russian. Some are military terms adapted for common use. Others are formed by splicing together two words to form a third. These added words sometimes create the effect of listening to a completely foreign tongue.

Clan warriors also have a "battle language," with which I was much more comfortable. Like warriors in the Inner Sphere, Clan warriors use a wide range of acronyms, hyphenations, splices, and buzz words to convey the most meaning in the least number of words. Clan warriors' battle language is so quick and complex that even when Inner Sphere forces are able to intercept Clan communications, they seldom understand what they hear.

The following list includes terms used by the warrior caste and other useful explanations of Clan concepts. This list is not exhaustive, and does not reflect the many differences in terminology existing between the various Clans.

An abtakha is a captured warrior who is adopted into his new Clan as a warrior.

The batchall is the ritual by which Clan warriors issue combat challenges. Though the type of challenge varies, most begin with the challenger identifying himself, stating the prize of the contest, and requesting that the defender identify the forces at his disposal. The defender also has the right to name the location of the trial. The attacker then bids for what forces will participate in the contest. The subcommander who bids to fight with the least number of forces wins the right and responsibility to make the attack. The defender may increase the stakes by demanding a prize of equal or lesser value if he wins the Trial.

The history of the Bloodnamed warrior of a particular Bloodright is called the Bloodheritage.

Blooding is another name for the Trial of Position that determines if a warrior cadet will qualify as a Clan warrior. The candidate must first demonstrate physical prowess in personal combat by defeating at least one of three successive opponents. If he defeats two, or all three, he is immediately ranked as an officer in his Clan. If he fails to defeat any of his opponents, he is relegated to a lower caste. If the candidate is successful in the trial, a complex ceremony takes place. He or she must be ritually defended by several Clan warriors when challenged by other representatives of the clan, or else face those representatives in mortal combat.

Bloodname refers to the surname of each of the 800 warriors who stood with Nicholas Kerensky during the Exodus Civil War. These 800 are the foundation of the Clans' elaborate breeding program. The right to use one of these surnames has been the ambition of every Clan warrior since the system was established.

Only Bloodnamed warriors may sit on the Clan Councils or are eligible to become a Khan or ilKhan. Most Bloodnames have gradually become confined to one or two warrior phenotypes, but certain prestigious names, such as Kerensky, have shown their genetic value by producing excellent warriors in all three phenotypes (MechWarrior, Aerospace Pilot, and Elemental).

Bloodnames are determined matrilineally after the original generation. Because a warrior can only inherit from his or her female parent, he or she has claim to only one Bloodname.

A specific Bloodname lineage is called a Bloodright. Twenty Bloodrights are attached to each Bloodname. A Bloodright is not a lineage as we define the term because the warriors who successively hold a Bloodright might be related only through their original ancestor. As with Bloodnames, certain Bloodrights are considered more prestigious than others, depending largely on the Bloodright's history.

Clans can keep prisoners taken during combat. These are called bondsmen, and are considered members of the laborer caste unless and until the capturing Clan releases them or promotes them back to warrior status. A bondsman is bound by honor, not by shackles. Custom dictates that even Bloodnamed warriors captured in combat be held for a time as bondsmen. All bondsmen wear a woven bracelet called a bondcord. The base color of the bondcord indicates to which Clan the individual is now bound, and the striping indicates which unit captured him.

Clan slang for the eugenics program of the warrior caste. It can also refer specifically to the artificial wombs.

Clan society is rigidly divided into five castes: warrior, scientist, merchant, technician, and laborer. Each caste has many subcastes, which are based on specialties within a professional field. The warrior caste is based on a systematic eugenics program that uses the genes of prestigious, successful current and past warrior to produce new members of the caste (see Sibko). These products of genetic engineering are known as trueborns. Other castes maintain a quality gene pool by strategic marriages within each caste.

Anything or anyone who challenges the Clan caste system is considered a chalcas.

During the fall of the Star League, General Aleksander Kerensky, commander of the Regular Star League Army, led his forces out of the Inner Sphere in what is known as the first Exodus. After settling beyond the Periphery, more than 1,300 light years away from Terra, Kerensky and his followers settled in a cluster of marginally habitable star systems near a large globular cluster that hid them from the Inner Sphere. Within fifteen years, civil war erupted among these exiles, threatening to destroy everything they had worked so hard to build.

In a second Exodus, Nicholas Kerensky, son of Alexander, led his followers to one of the worlds of a nearby globular cluster to escape the new war. It was there on Strana Mechty (Russian for 'Land of Dreams') that Kerensky first conceived and organized what was known as the Clan system, to break down the factional loyalties within the Exodites and prevent civil war within the Exodus forces.

The codex is each warrior's personal record. It includes the names of the original Bloodnamed warriors from which a warrior is descended. It also records background information such as the warrior's Generation number, Blood House, and codex ID, an alphanumeric code noting the unique aspects of that person's DNA. The codex also contains a record of the warrior's military career. See also Master Codex

ComStar, the interstellar communications network, was the brainchild of Jerome Blake, formerly Minister of communications during the latter years of the Star League. After the League's fall, Blake seized Terra and reorganized what was left of the communications network into a private organization that sold its services to the five Successor Houses for a profit. Since that time, ComStar has also developed into a powerful secret society steeped in mysticism and ritual. Initiates to the quasi-religious ComStar Order commit themselves to lifelong service.

A contract is an agreement between the commanders of two units that allows the commander of one to include the units of the other in his bidding for rights to a battle or trial. During the invasion of the Inner Sphere, Cluster commanders within Galaxies frequently made contracts to allow greater, and often more extravagant, bidding, while still maintaining a good mix of BattleMech, Elemental, and fighter combat units.

The minimum force necessary to win any trial for which there has been bidding. Bidders who can push their opponent into making a bid below the cutdown are considered clever. Commanders who win with a force smaller than the cutdown are greatly honored.

A fighting unit that disgraces itself is known as a dezgra unit. The name also refers to the ritual whereby a unit is marked and punished. Any unit that refuses orders, panics in the face of the enemy, or takes dishonorable action is disgraced.

Elementals are the elite, battle-suited infantry of the Clans. These men and women are giants, bred specifically to handle Clan-developed battle armor.

Freebirth is an epithet used by trueborn members of the warrior caste, generally expressing disgust or frustration. If a trueborn warrior refers to another trueborn as a freebirth, it is a mortal insult.

An individual conceived and born by natural means is freeborn. Because the Clans value their euginics program so highly, a freeborn is automatically assumed to have little potential.

This is the sample of DNA taken from a warrior who died with great glory in combat. The giftake is considered the warrior's best DNA sample and the one most likely to produce improved warriors.

Victorious Clan warriors occasionally extend the privilege of Hegira defeated opponents. Hegira allows the opponent to withdraw honorably from the field without further combat or cost.

The spoils of battle that warriors can claim as their right, including bondsmen, are known as isorla.

Each Clan elects two leaders, or Khans. One serves as the Clan's senior military commander and bureaucratic administrator. The second Khan's position is less well-defined. He or she is second-in-command, carrying out duties assigned by the first Khan . In times of great internal or external threat, or when a coordinated effort is required of all Clans, an ilKhan is chosen to serve as the supreme coordinator of the Clans.

A kurultai is a Clan war council. A Grand Kurultai is a war council of all Khans of the Clans. Only the ilKhan can convene a Grand Kurultai at any time or place. A normal Grand Council, on the other hand, may only be convened by petition of three or more Clans, and must be held in the Hall of Khans on Strana Mechty.

The Loremaster is the keeper of Clan laws and history. The position is honorable and politically powerful. The Loremaster plays key role in inquiries and trials, where he is often assigned the role of Advocate or Interrogator.

The Loremaster is also responsible for recording the Clan's epic history, the Rememberance. Each Clan should have a Loremaster chosen and a Rememberance started as we go to IC play.

The Oathmaster is a counterpart to the Loremaster in Clan tradition. That position is similar to that of an Inner Sphere sergeant-at-arms, but it carries a greater degree of respect. The Oathmaster administers all oaths, and the Loremaster records them.

The position of Oathmaster is usually held by the oldest Bloodnamed warrior in a Clan (if he or she desired the honor), and is one of the few positions not decided by combat.

This is a term of respect reserved for someone of a higher rank.

Powless is the vulnerability that a warrior, particularly an Elemental, feels when forced to fight without his accustomed weapons. The word is probably derived from "powerless".

This Clan expression is placed at the end of rhetorical questions. If an affirmative answer is expected, quiaff is used. If the answer is expected to be negative, quineg is the proper closure.

Clan custom dictates that a warrior who has been successful at his Trial may be rewarded with a gift by the Clan. Depending upon the warrior's success during the Trial, the ransom might range from the right to choose what type of weapon he will use as a warrior to the right to command a special unit. At the time Khan Natasha Kerensky returned from the Inner Sphere and then underwent her second Trial of Position, ilKhan Ulric Kerensky awarded her a ransom of the right to form the Thirteenth Wolf Guards.

One of the many forms honor takes in the Clans, a rede is an honor-bound promise, breaking a rede may be punished by death.

The Rememberance is the Clan's epic poem, which records Clan history from the time of the Exodus from the Inner Sphere to the present day. The Remembrance is continually expanded to include contemporary events. Each Clan has a slightly different version reflecting their own opinions and experiences. All Clan warriors can quote whole verses of this marvelous epic from memory, and it is common to see passages from the book lovingly painted on the sides of OmniMechs, fighters, and even battle armor.

This term refers to a particularly gifted warrior on his or her way to high position. It is probably derived from the expression "rising star."

A Clan council may cast a veto, or satarra, to settle or postpone disputes between castes within their jurisdiction. Satarra is invoked only when negotiations seem at an impasse and/or threaten to disrupt the work order of the Clan. It seems to be more a ritual than an act of legislation.

A Clan epithet.

This word is the ritual response voiced in unison by those witnessing solemn Clan ceremonies, rituals, and other important gatherings. No one is sure of the origin or exact meaning of the word, but it is uttered only with the greatest reverence and awe.

A sibko consists of a group of children produced from the same male and female geneparents in the warrior caste euginics program. The members of the sibko are raised together, then begin to undergo constant testing. As various members of the sibko fail at each test, they are transferred to the lower castes. A sibko consists of approximately 20 members, but usually only four or five remain at the time of the final test to become warriors, the Trial of Position. These test and other adversities may bind the surviving "sibkin" together.

A Clan epithet, probably a combination of the Clan words stran, meaning independent, and vagon, meaning birthing.

The surkai is the Right of Forgiveness. The Clans honor uniformity in thought and belief above all else in their society. When warriors disagree, when a Clan disagrees with the Clan Council, or when a member of one caste offends a member of another caste, surkai is expected. It is a matter of pride that the offending party freely admit his wrongdoing and request punishment. Those who show great surkai are held up as examples to others for their willingness to accept the consequences of their independent thoughts. Those who do not show surkai when it is expected of them are viewed with suspicion.

The Rede of Forgiveness, or surkairede, is the honor-bound agreement between the majority and any dissenters. According to the surkairede, once a dissenter accepts punishment for having disagreed with the majority, he should be allowed to resume his role in society without suffering any further disgrace for having spoken out.

The term given to the fighting arm of a Clan.

A series of one-on-one, single-elimination contests determines who wins the right to use a Bloodname. Each current Bloodnamed warrior in that Bloodnamed's House nominates one candidate. The head of the House nominated additional candidates to fill thirty-one slots. The thirty-second slot is fought for by those who qualify for the Bloodname but who were not nominated. The nature of the combat is determined by "coining". Each combatant places his personal medallion, a dogid, into the "Well of Decision." An Oathmaster or Loremaster releases the coins simultaneously, so that only chance determines which coin falls first to the bottom of the well. The warrior whose coin lands on top (the 'hunter') chooses the manner of the combat (augmented, meaning using whatever war machine the warrior was trained in, or unaugmented). The other warrior(the 'hunted') chooses the venue of the contest. Though these Bloodname duels need not be to the death, the fierce combat and the intensity of the combatants often leave the losing candidate mortally wounded or dead.

The Trial of Position determined whether a candidate will qualify as a warrior in the Clans. To qualify, he must defeat at least one of three successive opponents. If he defeats two, or all three, he is immediately ranked as an officer in his Clan. I f he fails to defeat any of his opponents, he is relegated to a lower caste.

This trial resolves conflicts in which two or more Clans claim the right to the same thing, be it territory, a warrior's genes, or even supremacy in a difference of opinion. This trial uses the formal challenge of the attacker and the response of defending forces, and favors those commanders from the attacking Clan skillful enough to bid minimal forces.

The Clan councils and the Grand Council vote on issues and laws that affect the community. Unlike Inner Sphere legislation, however, any decision can be challenged and reversed by a Trial of Refusal. This trial allows the losing side to demand the issue be settled by combat.

The forces used in the Trial of Refusal are determined on a pro-rated basis. The faction rejecting the decision declares what forces they will use, the side defending the decision (the attacker) can field a force equal to the ratio of winning to losing votes. For example, if the contested vote carried by a three-to-one margin, the attacking forces can field a force three times the size of the force challenging the decision. Bidding usually results in a smaller attacking force, however.

Should the side rejecting the decision win, the result of the vote is overturned. Should they lose, he refusing side may complete a Trial of Forgiveness and their protest will be forgotten.

Used formally, this term refers to members of an extended sibko. Less formally, a warrior will use the term trothkin when referring to someone he considers his peer.

A trueborn is a product of the warrior caste's euginics program.

This is the Clan word describing the body of rules used to regulate and ritualize duels. Zellbrigen means that combatants engage in one-on-one duels, even if both sides have many warrior. Those not immediately challenged are honor-bound to stay out of the battle until an opponent is free (meaning he has defeated his enemy). To attack an enemy engaged with an opponent is a major breach of Clan code, usually resulting in at least loss of rank.

Clan Government
Each Clan is ruled by a council composed of its Bloodnamed warriors. The Clan Council elects two ruling Khans. One Khan serves as the Clan's senior military commander and the executor of that Clan's bureaucracy. The other Khan's position is more nebulous. He or she is second-in-command and enjoys a high status within the Clan, but the position does not include specific duties. These must be assigned by the "senior" Khan. Clan Councils control their warriors and the members of all other castes belonging to that Clan. The interaction between a Clan Council and the various caste governments is extremely convoluted, but when necessary, the Clan Council can invoke the satarra, an overriding veto.

The Khans of all the Clans form the Grand Council, which passes judgment on matters affecting Clan society as a whole. Nicholas Kerensky erected the Hall of Khans on Strana Mechty for this important governing body. His father's tomb dominates a small chapel on one side of the Hall. Nearby are smaller, though no less impressive, halls for each Clan.

The supreme ruler of the Clans is the ilKhan. This position is filled only when the Clans must coordinate their efforts for some task, or during times of great internal or external threat. A simple majority vote in the Grand Council can elect an ilKhan. However, those who oppose the election can and usually do demand a Trial of Refusal (see below). Nicholas Kerensky appointed himself the first ilKhan of the Clans in the summer of 2815. He was unopposed.

One of the most far-reaching measures Nicholas instituted was the elimination of surnames. Surnames were too closely associated with the corruption of the Inner Sphere. Kerensky allowed only the loyal 800 to retain their surnames. These 800 family names are the basis for the Bloodnames. In fact, it is considered a deliberate affront to society to give a child two names or to adopt a second personal name, unless it is an earned Bloodname. The second name can only be interpreted as an intentional slur on the honor and dignity of Bloodnames.
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