Humans dwell primarily upon their homeworld of Akasaat, though they have long since slipped their terrestrial bonds. Humans were the first race in the Aethera System to acquire both interplanetary and interspatial travel after the Collapse, and as such, are one of the most widespread peoples. They now have significant presences on Orbis Aurea, among the asteroids of the Amrita belt, and even on one of the moons of Kir-Sharaat.
Humans often exhibit a headstrong nature, following whatever path they set themselves upon with an admirable determination; unfortunately, this attribute can also manifest as a colonial mindset and iron-fisted control. The Hierarchy, rulers of the metropolitan arcologies of Akasaat, demonstrates many of the latter traits, and this is often the first impression other species receive of humanity.
Happily, not all human attitudes are so contentious; the same stubborn nature that lies at the root of that colonial attitude also makes humans enterprising and driven, and is part of the reason why humans were the first into space. The other trait for which humans have become known is a strong affinity for—some would say a dependency on—aetherite. While even its detractors cannot deny that aetherite-based technology has surmounted an impressive array of obstacles, the fact remains that much of humanity’s technology and society is built upon an incredibly toxic, and finite, resource.
As the Century War ground generations of humanity into dust, the Hierarchy sought to end the war swiftly by breeding a generation of super-soldiers infused with latent aetheric powers. The human researchers gathered volunteers from civilians, veterans, and even prisoners suffering from terminal aetherite poisoning and began a series of strange and torturous experiments. While some of the test subjects were willing volunteers donating themselves body and mind to the Hierarchy, while others were less fortunate.
The first generation of soldiers who survived these torturous transformations became what are now called the infused, named for the aetherite infusion that grants their powers. As an unintended side effect of their creation, the infused gained a mutual psychic bond, providing them with insights into one another and even allowing them to share thoughts, dreams, and emotions after bonding. The price for this power was high, however, with infertility and a shortened lifespan the most notable side effects. Approximately thirty percent also suffered partial or total memory loss of their lives prior to infusion.
Although many of the infused died during the Century War, some abandoned their posts to find freedom and their own destinies on the fringes of the system. Others went mad and disappeared. Those infused who returned to the welcoming arms of the Hierarchy after the war found themselves ushered into menial roles out of the public’s eye, the Hierarchy’s attempt to forget their sins by hiding them away until time itself removes them from the equation. Few found their blood families welcoming, and many turned their back on a society that had turned its back on them.
Born of the verdant and ancient forests covering the planet of Kir-Sharaat, the erahthi are at once both plantlike and elemental creatures. Erahthi are born from massive, translucent fruit grown from ancient miles-tall trees called Heartwoods and are engineered by life-bending alchemists and psychics before their birth to serve predetermined castes of their society. Despite the body being fully formed at this birth, erahthi still require several years to mentally and physically mature and become accustomed to their form and the caste they were born into. This unusual reproductive cycle means that erahthi do not have “gender” in the same way as most other species. Some erahthi who explore beyond their home world often take on the customs of other species, and may choose to present one or more genders based on personal preference.
Following the Century War, many erahthi hate and fear humans and their “tools,” the infused and phalanx. Although this insular attitude can border on xenophobia for older erahthi, some endeavor to find common ground with humanity and the other races found beyond their world, seeking to begin anew and release the anger of the last hundred years.
The phalanx are an artificial race of bio-mechanical constructs, granted free will by the mysterious power of aetherite. The phalanx’s bodies were not built, but rather found in an ancient vault on Prima, Akasaat’s moon. During the height of the Century War, these machine bodies were infused with raw aetherite in occult rituals designed to give them intelligence. Unbeknownst to their human creators, the phalanx were also endowed with living souls and free will. Nearly all phalanx surviving today are war veterans. While not all phalanx fought on the front lines of the Century War, all served the Akasaati war effort in some capacity. This shared history as soldiers, and the collective tragedy of their origin and lives, united phalanx in a way that few other races understand. The phalanx were born, lived, and—in many cases—died at the orders of another. Once granted freedom and independence, however, the phalanx discovered that the stars held no place they could call their own. With freedom came the struggle to discover what it means to truly live.
Many phalanx remained with, or quickly returned to, the Hierarchy military after the Century War. Knowing only conflict for their entire lives, some phalanx found it impossible to adapt to civilian life. Those who did leave the military took up jobs that used the skills they developed as soldiers during the war. A former counterintelligence agent may have become a law enforcement officer on Akasaat or a security chief on a remote asteroid mining colony, while an aethertech mechanic may have become an independent inventor or aethercraft engineer. The vast majority of the phalanx, however, live on the fringes of society, putting distance between themselves and the civilizations they fought for and died fighting against, creating their own customs and beliefs whole cloth.
The nomadic okanta have songs claiming of an existence that has lasted for over 800 years on the frozen world of Orbis Aurea. The okanta call the planet Vohura, named when the first of the Harmarandh shamans heard the whispers of the spirits and began their people’s storytelling tradition. The okanta are a proud, powerful race of savants that have only just entered interplanetary society. Believed to be descended from giants, the okanta have a powerful, towering stature that is a testament to their great strength. Though powerful in stature, the okanta are also surprisingly quick for creatures of their size. While all okanta share the trait of being impressively sized, the features and builds of okanta vary wildly. Each okanta shares physical characteristics with a specific mammal, including both those native to Orbis Aurea and those not. This animalistic distinction is not shared across bloodlines; an okanta with boar features may have children that have bear and ram qualities. In spite of this variance, all okanta have impressive horns irrespective of their other animal traits. Okantan oral tradition speaks of how the first creatures of the world made pacts with distant okantan ancestors when the world was young, and claim the spirits of these creatures now manifest in the generations that came after.
The okanta were once isolated on the shrouded world of Orbis-Aurea prior to the arrival of human outcasts. The okanta quickly learned how to repair and craft anew human aethertech and would forge their path to the stars by their own hand. As relative newcomers to the interplanetary society, okanta are largely regarded as unknown quantities by other races, though they did choose to fight alongside humanity in the final days of the Century War.
From beyond the outer reaches of the Aethera system come the taur. A species whose entire society is dedicated to death and destruction, the taur’s goals are atavistic, but their history is shrouded behind the worship of a vile god. The demon god Baphomet once led the taur race to their conquest over countless star systems far beyond Aethera, directing the taur to construct the vast maze ships they use to traverse the stars from hollowed-out moons and planetoids. Now, the taur stand atop the metaphorical corpse of their deity, whose guiding power left them upon their arrival in the Aethera system. In exchange for this failure, the taur killed and ate their priests and—in their minds—devoured their god as well, and in doing so gained his strength.
The taur are towering humanoids, reminiscent of a minotaur, but possessing far greater intellect. As minotaur are unknown in the Aethera System, this similarity is lost on its inhabitants and the taur themselves are silent on the matter. As a whole the taur are both savvy engineers and superstitious cannibals, killing the powerful and consuming their hearts—or in some cases their entire bodies—in the belief that it grants them greater strength. The weak and pathetic are not eaten, but rather enslaved and forced to toil within the claustrophobic tunnels of maze ships. Intelligent slaves are turned into engineers, adding their creativity to taur engines of destruction.