Causalities of War Edit
Commemorating the First Half-Century of the Conflict Edit
The War (and at this stage it remains the War, not yet having enough of its mass in a single region or era to be given a more specific title) has now been in progress for fifty years. These have to be considered definitive years, as measured by the major War-time powers, although there's certainly a span of millions of local years between the War's first intersection with the Spiral Politic and its last. The dead are already numbered in their billions; the retro-dead will never be counted; the surviving participants are best described not as "wounded" but as "changed." A timeline has been provided [see the back of this volume], although increasingly observers describe the War as a shape rather than a sequence of events, a map of causality much like the ones used by the Great Houses themselves. The suggestion has been made that the War is therefore turning every culture into a War culture, ensuring that one day every individual in recordable time will become either a child of the Houses or a child of the enemy.
For readers new to these events, the following is a quick summary of the seven most prominent War-time factions. See under their own entries for more detailed descriptions.
The Great Houses Edit
The static, aristocratic bloodlines which have — traditionally — been seen as responsible for the structure of the Spiral Politic, the Houses can be considered the central power of the War Era universe. In fact the world "bloodline" might be misleading, as it suggests something genetic and the Houses seem to have no real genetic status at all; as the society responsible for engineering history, they perceive themselves as being parts of the historical process much more than being a people. Voyeuristic, disinterested academicians for most of their existence, the War has not only forced the Houses to embrace the "vulgar" (i.e. physical) nature of the continuum but also inspired them to commit various acts of nervous, hurried genocide. As a result, it's fair to say that history is no longer a safe place in which to live.
The House Military Edit
Safe in their enclave at the dead centre of history, in the past it's been rare for members of the Great Houses to even bother venturing outside their Homeworld (a site which is, in itself, more a focal-point for causality than an actual place). But though the Houses would once have considered the very idea of a "military" to be ridiculous, now their cohorts are bred for both overt and guerilla warfare with time-active defences engineered into their bodies from day one. While the old academicians remain at a safe distance, the new children of the Houses have taken to the battlefields of the outside universe with a vengeance. If any of the lesser species still see the Houses as untouchable, inscrutable demigods — not an uncommon mistake, before the War — then the House Military are demigods of an altogether angrier kind.
Faction Paradox Edit
The only House to have left the Homeworld en masse and defied every protocol of the ruling Houses just for the sake of it. In the years leading up to the War, it was the Faction which saw the "vulgarity" of the future and began embracing the biological curiosities of the lesser species: in a time when the Houses still thought of themselves as immortal and immutable, the Faction brought them the idea of death, almost in the form of a perverse carnival. The first House to recruit members from the lower human orders — the epitome of bad taste — it's now partly a criminal-terrorist organisation and partly a deliberate irritation. While the ruling Houses fight their enemy in the open, the Faction embarks on a campaign of gleeful suberfuge, presumably hoping that the larger powers will just wipe each other out.
The Celestis Edit
By their very nature, they only exist on the sidelines of the War. Once an elite cadre among the Houses, when they realised that war was inevitable (and that the Houses might actually lose it) the Celestis quickly concluded that in a time-active conflict a defeat wouldn't simply destroy them but create a version of the Spiral Politic in which they'd never even existed. Terrified, indignant and suddenly aware of their own mortality, they excised themselves from the main body of history as a "precaution." Now they exist as little more than ghosts, impotent, self-obsessed Lords of an imaginary domain, only manifesting themselves in god-forms designed to terrorise and intimidate those individuals who've been tricked into worshipping them. Loathed by the Houses, and demonised throughout history as traitors.
The Remote Edit
If there's one word that describes Faction Paradox it's fetishistic. The Faction's followers delight in icons, in totems, in signs, symbols and relics. It's an obsession they've passed on to their "offspring" the Remote. Though genetically human the Remote have spent generations exposed to Faction techniques and technology, surrounding themselves with whatever hardware they've scavenged from the "higher powers." Now and independent race, the Remote are (perhaps unfairly) regarded as the barbarians of the Spiral Politic, an unpredictable army dressed in Freudian armour and carrying their weapons as if they were holy relics. Easily the most reckless of the War-time groups, even the Faction can no longer tell which way they're likely to jump. The Houses regard them as a dangerous nuisance.
The Lesser Species Edit
The term was coined by the Great Houses, so naturally "lesser species" can be read as meaning "anyone not connected to one of the Houses" (and, in the War Era, not connected to the enemy either). For obvious reasons this current volume is most concerned with humanity: important to the major powers not because the human bloodline's particularly significant in itself but because of the time-active capabilities of its descendants, the posthuman sects. The War has already intersected human history at various points, the first diplomatic contact between Earth and the War-time groups having been made in 1752. Other human sites of interest include the City of the Saved, a region of dubious origin which exists beyond the end of causality, and which seems to act as a "backup file" for the entire human species.
The enemy Edit
The Houses have only fought a war on one prior occasion, at the very beginning of recordable history. The damage it did to the structure of the Spiral Politic is still in evidence, and although the Houses have spent the intervening aeons in a state of near-total stasis there's always been a buried fear that a new enemy might one day emerge. It's a measure of the Houses' complacency, then, that when an enemy finally did arrive — revealing itself mere decades before the start of the current War — the Houses were shockingly unprepared, unable to accept that this time around the opposition might have a far more devastating impact on the face of history. And perhaps it was partly due to their lack of understanding, a failure to grasp an opponent which isn't so much a species or a faction as it is a kind of all-consuming process. Although it does have a name, this current volume is more concerned with explaining the "why" and "how" of the enemy than with giving it a quick and convenient title.
Text from The Book of the War.