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The Towers - A Terran Khanate Short Story

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ApolloArtemis #1 Posted 23 March 2016 - 04:53 PM

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We continue our short story series for Master of Orion as we shift focus to the races coming in Early Access 2. This story touches on the enigmatic Terran Khanate and their quest to conquer the stars. Stay tuned for more, and please feel free to ask questions about the Terran Khanate lore in the comments!


The Towers by Kelsey Howard, Creative Writer at Wargaming Austin

Leda, the capital city of Alpha Ceti, was in a state of manic activity. The torrential monsoon season had just subsided and the farmers were rushing to the fields, eager to gather the harvest before the cold winds of the dry season began to howl. Traders haggled in quick tones on the sides of the street, arranging swift transport of various goods that had to be rushed to the most desolate regions of the planet. 

Among the bustling farmers and traders preparing for the brief respite between the two harsh seasons, cloaked men and women moved through the crowd towards the Shrine of Leda. Singly and in small groups, they appeared to be drawn to the whitewashed walls of the shrine like insignificant flecks of iron being drawn by an inescapable magnetic pull. 


Celeus drew his heavy black cloak closer around him to shield from the penetrating chill. The time between flood and freeze would be short this solar cycle. There was typically a large celebration in Leda twice a year, each to enjoy the brief window of time which provided solace from the planet’s innate hardship. The solace would be short this cycle: the cold winds were already coming and the hemisphere would soon be shrouded in a thin layer of ice. 


He had been walking since the rains suddenly stopped last night. The Time Between was when the lesser khans reported to the Khan of Khans, the ruler of the Khanate. It was the duty of all the Khan’s servants to make this journey, and to make it this manner: on foot, as humble pilgrims, utterly subject to the will of the Khan. By reflex, Celeus checked his sidearm as he neared the front steps of the Shrine of Leda. Humility had limits, obviously, and it was understood that every one of the arriving pilgrims carried a “loyal companion” under their cloak.


The building, ancient and weathered from the harsh environment of Alpha Ceti, was imposing. It had housed rebellion and refugee alike, back in the time when the Khanate was new and barely eking out an existence on this bleak, uninviting rock. 


Khan Leda, whose likeness was embodied with a massive statue within the building, had been the first Khan of Khans. It had been she who led the people from the Wandering Ages, a time steeped in legend, during which generations of Terrans were born and died on starships, to their new home of Alpha Ceti. If Alpha Ceti was the Terran’s chosen home among the stars, Celeus was afraid to consider the bleakness of other planets… if life could even exist out there at all. 


As Celeus entered the hall, he was greeted by the cautious stares of a hundred other generals, scientists, and consultants. He lowered the hood of his cape slowly, in a gesture of goodwill, and the room resumed its chatter. He was late, but it seemed the Khan had not arrived yet. He was lucky. The Khan was never late—by definition—but others could be severely punished for missing expected deadlines. 


He settled into a cluster of other lesser khans near the back of the room, many of them little more than farmers themselves. They were discussing the turbulence of the rapidly changing seasons and the Khan’s rumored foul mood. 


Out of the corner of his eye, Celeus noticed a man waving him over. He did not recognize this man, even though he was adorned with the pins and markings of a mid-level general. It would be an act of disrespect to not answer the summons, so Celeus moved away from the relative safety of the low-level functionaries and into the far more dangerous mid-level strata of ambitious leaders. 


The general shook Celeus’s hand gruffly. “You are Celeus, lesser khan of the Western Shore?” 


“I am.” Celeus stood there awkwardly, not wanting to give anything away. Information was a weapon just as deadly as the dagger in the court of the Khan; it was a fool’s mistake to let anything slip. Celeus’s appointment as a lesser khan was really just a move to get his radical ideas out of the Adrasteia Academy and everyone knew it. He was a pariah among politicians and an outcast in the realm of scientists, placed in a position of marginal power with no hope of escape as a form of exile. 


The General nodded. “I am assistant to the lesser khan of Timandra. They say you studied the Towers in your time at the Adrasteia Academy?” 


Timandra was a prominent military district, meaning that the khan of that region would be incredibly powerful in regional politics. Celeus could not tell if this General was baiting him or not. The Towers, and Celeus’s research on their mysterious purpose, were the reason that Celeus had been removed from Adrasteia Academy. 


“Long before I took the role of lesser khan, General.” Celeus looked around the room, trying to hide his nervousness. 


“You should come out to Timandra. The khan of the region would appreciate your input on some sensitive technology we are working on.” The General trailed off, expecting Celeus to pick up the slack of the conversation. Celeus was puzzled, but nodded in agreement. 


The conversation with the General was strange. Most people had the sense not to bring up Celeus’s time at the Academy. Celeus suddenly got the impression that every Terran within a ten-foot radius was listening to his conversation. In a society of interwoven webs of spies and informants, eavesdropping was unsurprising in any setting, but here he was standing among the most tenacious players in the hunt, the eternal and frequently deadly political maneuvering that determined who rose and who fell in the hierarchy of power. The people around him—mid-level officers, nobles, and bureaucrats—would not have risen as high as they had without ruthless drive, and it would have been amazing indeed if they failed to seize a scrap of information that might prove useful or valuable.


His time at Adrasteia had been devoted to understanding the Towers, a scattering of ancient structures that dotted the surface of Alpha Ceti—found deep under the sea and even on the tops of mountain ranges. They were older than any Terran and pre-dated even the earliest tales and memories passed down through the ages. Celeus had tangible evidence that the Towers were casting a net of electromagnetic interference that severed outgoing and incoming communication, blocking all signals when they reached the level of Alpha Ceti’s ionosphere. 


When Celeus proposed the destruction of the Towers, the reigning Khan of the time, Khan Marius, pulled Celeus’s funding, stripped him of his rank within the Academy, and appointed him to be the lesser khan of a glorified mud pit. Whatever the Towers were, the government had no interest in interfering with their mysterious purpose. 


The heavy doors behind the altar of the shrine burst open and a small squad of armed guards with blacked-out masks led the procession. The Khan followed them, walking at a brisk pace, his advisor trailing a step behind him. Khan Alexander bared his teeth at something the advisor must have said, his perfectly white teeth filed to sharp points. The advisor nodded and fell back, her short snow-white hair shrouding her face. 


The Khan stepped to the front of the altar and the room fell silent. “We are here to discuss my plans for the new space exploration program.” 


Khan Alexander seemed mildly disinterested in his own speech, his voice terse and almost monotone. His eyes scanned the room carefully. He had only taken command two brief solar cycles ago and seemed to be radically different from the previous Khan. Marius had announced his resignation and appointed Khan Alexander as his successor, but it was generally assumed that Alexander had clandestinely seized control so suddenly and completely that the appointment was done under the guise of consent. 


Celeus now realized why the General had taken the sudden interest in his previously obscure studies. The Towers and their shielding effect on the planet had always seemed to be a positive and defensive asset to the Terran people. Now, if the Khan had plans for exploration, those Towers would have to be destroyed. 


“It is time for our people to reclaim our destiny.” Khan Alexander continued with growing intensity, his deep voice reverberating off the stark walls. 


The crowd began to murmur ominously. This was not a popular opinion. Even the children of the khanate knew the oldest tales of Terran history. Hundreds of years, the Terrans had been adrift in rudimentary spacecraft: drifting lost, until Khan Leda found the lands of Alpha Ceti. Celeus looked up to Khan Leda’s carved likeness. The aversion to space travel was still ingrained in the people. Or, more likely, generations of propaganda from those who did not wish to topple the Towers had taken hold. 


“The Terran people cannot feign blindness any longer.” Khan Alexander paced down the altar, making eye contact with the prestigious leaders who stood at the front of the crowd. “The severe dampening effect of the Towers prevents us from even examining the galaxy around us. We are not rodents, content to live our lives hiding from predators. We are the predators! We will destroy the Towers and we will reach the stars, bringing justice to those weaklings we encounter on our path to expansion.” 


Celeus was amazed. This Khan was serious. 


“We have to thank our dedicated scientific teams for completing significant milestones in our space travel program. Without their advancements, we would not have gotten to this point. We are now at the precipice of greatness. We have seen the darkness of our own ignorance. Now, finally, we will attain the brilliance that is our true destiny.” 


“We will destroy the Towers and we will reclaim our destiny as spacefarers, as conquerors, just as we were so many ages ago.” 


Suddenly, Celeus felt a soft tap on his shoulder. He turned to see the Khan’s advisor standing behind him. Her face was stern and emotionless, her white hair framing a delicate chin. She was a mysterious presence in the Khan’s close advisors, secretive to a fault. Whoever she was, one thing was clear—she was exceptionally good at the hunt. “Follow me,” her voice was regal and betrayed the fact that she had either grown up wealthy, or was trying very consciously to make others think so. 


Celeus felt every eye turn as he followed the advisor through the crowd and towards the back of the shrine. She ushered him through a doorway and sealed it shut behind her. The room was uncomfortably quiet and the advisor was staring at Celeus with her pale eyes, looking disconcertingly grim even for a Terran. “The Khan wishes to speak with you.” 


The crowd outside suddenly boomed with applause and cheers, startling Celeus from his ominous stare down with the Khan’s advisor. The heavy door opened and the Khan strode into the small chamber. If he was pleased by the positive reception to his speech, there was no way of telling. 


Celeus had never been this close to a Khan before. Even the previous Khan, who had appointed him to his post as lesser khan of the unimpressive Western Shore province, had never taken the time to speak to Celeus directly. Khan Alexander was of average height and build for a Terran, but his eyes were the same hyper-light shade as his advisor. Celeus wondered idly if the two were related. 


“You are Celeus, formerly of the Adrasteia Academy?” The Khan’s voice was droll aloof and unimpressed. 




“You studied the Towers. You knew about the cloaking effect they have on the planet?” 


“Yes, I did.” Celeus began to feel his heart race. 


“Did you find a way to bypass the cloaking effect?” 


“I did, but the suggestion was unpopular.” Celeus was somewhat afraid to look directly at the Khan. “The Towers would have to be destroyed and the network between them severed.” 


The advisor snipped with a sneer, “The Khan doesn’t care about popularity.” 


Khan Alexander stood there, his expression unchanged by the interaction. “I told the people out there that I will be destroying the Towers. We have hazy reports that life exists beyond Alpha Ceti.” His hands balled into fists. “Potentially even those who forced us into exile on this desolate planet.” 


“What do you need me for, then?”


“You will be reappointed as one of the Masters of the Adrasteia Academy. Come up with a plan to destroy the Towers. You were right before anyone was willing to listen… now you have to make good on what you promised.” 


Celeus nodded, “What if it is not possible?”


The Khan gestured for his advisor to follow him through a side door. “You will not fail me. And if you do, I’ll kill you myself.” 

OrionSol #2 Posted 23 March 2016 - 11:16 PM


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Great story!  Makes me wonder how Humans got off Earth and became this civilization...  

Jedi Master Or-ion Sol

Founder of THE JEDI ORDER | Community of Guilds 


LordMackus #3 Posted 23 March 2016 - 11:34 PM


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Very interesting.

Khanate Terrans don't live on Earth, they are explicitly different civilisation. Is it so we could have Human vs Terran matches in single gameplay?

If so, it would make sense that the ones who exiled Khans were Federation-style Humans.

I hope that when we defeat Humans while playing as Terrans, Human leader will do obligatory Shatner quote.

Francois424 #4 Posted 24 March 2016 - 04:46 AM


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I loved it...  Gives an Idea of what the race is a bit more.

With Freddy Krueger as the leader... that promises to be quite something !


But Alpha Ceti ?  The Khans ?


I'm going to leave this here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uhu5V8VRxFU   ;)

Edited by Francois424, 24 March 2016 - 04:53 AM.

Birdie_Sparrow #5 Posted 24 March 2016 - 04:55 AM

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There are little homages to some previous sci-fi sprinkled in the game. In the case of Ceti Alpha this was a made up star system for ST:WoK where they twisted the Bayer designation system.  We used a real star system that may indeed be a nod to that. As a note- this is a rare time we actually did name a system after a real world star!



 As for the other queries - the onion will be peeled back over time on this question! :)

Edited by Birdie_Sparrow, 24 March 2016 - 03:26 PM.



Francois424 #6 Posted 24 March 2016 - 04:58 AM


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Loving the lore so far.

Thanks for all your hard work into this game !

Birdie_Sparrow #7 Posted 24 March 2016 - 05:34 AM

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And thank you all for the positive responses. The creative team really has put a lot of passion and thought over the last 18 months to develop amazing lore and back stories to both entertain and as well as give you all the ability to see these races as complex cultures in their own right.


​The responses to this means we are planning additional stories and lore to, as I said before. peel back more of the onion. :)



Ozymandyus #8 Posted 29 March 2016 - 03:37 AM


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Good story!  I was under the impression from the pre-release stories that the Terrans were meant to be an "alternate history" version of Earth, but it looks like you've set them up as a parallel development.  Very interesting!


I just wonder, is that Alpha Ceti VI or Alpha Ceti V?  :)

MasterOfOrionConquerTheS #9 Posted 02 April 2016 - 02:21 AM


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Parallel development ? I thought they were people who escaped earth's civil war and settled in Alpha Ceti.

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