Because a couple people asked for it, here’s a hexarchate faction cheat sheet! I’m sorry I didn’t think to include one in Ninefox Gambit proper.
Hexarch Rahal Iruja
Emblem: the scrywolf (also known as “execution wolf”)
Motto: many lenses, one mind
Colors: gray and bronze
Faction ability: signifier scrying, which helps them in interrogations, but is not as good as actual mind-reading–think of it as slightly more reliable Tarot readings.
The Rahal are nominally the hexarchate’s leaders, legislators, and judges, responsible for maintaining the calendar and its regulations. Despite this, their habitual asceticism means that they are one of the poorer factions. They also protect citizens who have no faction affiliation. Because local day-cycles on planets or moons requires calendrical corrections, they also snap up a certain percentage of the mathematicians.
What the Rahal think of the other factions:
- Nirai: Rahal and Nirai relations tend to be good due to the fact that both of them are invested in the mathematics of the state religion.
- Andan: Distressingly xenophilic and flexible in their worldview. However, their diplomats make it possible to deal with foreigners without falling to the inevitable corruption of their heretical ideas.
- Vidona: Nobody likes them, but the Rahal acknowledge the necessity of their work policing the hexarchate, and tend to accord them a certain grudging respect.
- Shuos: Unreliable, not least because of their habit of producing unstable geniuses. Their amorality is also problematic. Possibly one of the hexarchate’s greatest liabilities as a faction.
- Kel: The Rahal regard the Kel largely as a blunt instrument with which to get the job done, and have no problems expending their lives to put down heresies. However, both factions tend to be conservative in outlook.
Hexarch Nirai Kujen / False Hexarch Nirai Faian
Emblem: the voidmoth
Motto: every sky is full of stars
Colors: black and silver
Faction ability: a Nirai always knows what the local time is, useful for detecting calendrical rot by comparing it to high calendar time. (The high calendar implies a privileged frame of reference, so yes, the magic system violates special relativity.)
The Nirai are the STEM faction, mostly focusing on applications. The faction as a whole tends to be apolitical, since they select for technical ability rather than ideology. Technologies that the Nirai have produced include the mothdrive, which permits FTL travel between star systems, and any number of Kel weapons.
What the Nirai think of the other factions:
- Rahal: Rigid and concerned with legal niceties. Despite the fact that both factions compete for mathematicians, they don’t always get along. Most Nirai would prefer that the Rahal stay out of their way.
- Andan: Useful for funding research ventures, not of much interest otherwise.
- Vidona: Too similar to the Rahal in outlook, but they perform a necessary function in keeping the heretics subdued so that Nirai exotic technologies can function. The Nirai also maintain close ties with the medical branch of the Vidona.
- Shuos: Overly impressed with their own cleverness. However, the Shuos have an unquenchable thirst for fancy spy toys, which the Nirai are happy to provide.
- Kel: The Kel’s ever-ravenous hunger for new weapons and better starships keeps the Nirai in business. The average Kel may not be all that intelligent, but it’s nice doing business with them.
Hexarch Andan Shandal Yeng
Emblem: the kniferose
Motto: petal-sweet, thorn-sharp
Colors: blue and silver
Faction ability: enthrallment, or the ability to hypnotize and mentally dominate a social inferior in physical proximity. The strength of the effect diminishes with repeated use against a given target.
The Andan dominate culture and finance, and are usually the richest faction. They are also responsible for first contact, diplomacy with foreign powers, and, along with the Vidona, for assimilating heretics who are deemed capable of being transitioned to following the hexarchate’s Doctrine. The Andan value beauty as a weapon, and are more liberal in their use of body-modding than most of the other factions for utilitarian reasons: to make an impression on others, including foreigners with different aesthetic standards.
What the Andan think of the other factions:
- Rahal: Too wrapped up in the letter of the law to adapt to circumstances as necessity dictates.
- Nirai: Easily manipulated and no threat.
- Vidona: An essential tool for maintaining social control, not least because their blunt methods contrast usefully with the Andan’s more subtle ones.
- Shuos: Hated rivals, mainly because the two compete for influence in similar spheres of interest. The Andan frequently try to outmaneuver the Shuos, whether in business or the court of public opinion. They also claim that the Shuos were founded by a renegade Andan. (The Shuos claim the reverse.)
- Kel: A hammer in search of the nail, but even the Andan acknowledge the value of a military.
Hexarch Vidona Psa
Emblem: the stingray
Motto: through blood we prevail
Colors: green and bronze
Faction ability: deathtouch.
The Vidona enforce Doctrine in the hexarchate and punish or execute heretics on remembrance days. A few are doctors specializing in keeping heretics alive for torture. The Vidona are also responsible for education up to the age of seventeen. Most of the rest of the hexarchate reviles them, and they tend to be more insular and conservative than the other factions.
What the Vidona think of the other factions:
- Rahal: The architects of the system. The Vidona have great respect for them.
- Nirai: The Vidona maintain close ties to the medical branch of the Nirai, although their emphases differ.
- Andan: The Andan’s squabbling with the Shuos is borderline disloyal, and should not be tolerated to the extent that it is.
- Shuos: As above.
- Kel: The Vidona admire the Kel’s loyalty and are sympathetic to their culture.
Hexarch Shuos Mikodez
Emblem: the ninefox (also “eyefox”)
Motto: the more eyes the better
Colors: red and gold
Faction ability: none. This was reportedly a deliberate decision on the part of the first Shuos heptarch…but no one knows for sure. People frequently wonder if the Shuos are lying about this, too.
The Shuos are strategists responsible for intelligence operations and are known for their cunning, amorality, and love of games. They would be more feared for their assassins and spies if not for their tendency toward extreme instability. Unlike the other factions, which have more or less orderly means of succession for their hexarchs, Shuos tradition is for a hexarch to claim the seat by assassinating their predecessor. A good hexarch is lucky to last a decade.
What the Shuos think of the other factions:
- Rahal: The Shuos tolerate the leadership of the Rahal, but only just, and frequently test Rahal authority.
- Nirai: Necessary, but frequently naive about the implications of their research.
- Andan: The Shuos hate the Andan with a passion. Not only are the Andan richer (the Shuos are usually juggling budget shortfalls), the general populace regards them more positively. Also, Andan specialties overlap with Shuos specialties, and the competitive Shuos find this infuriating.
- Vidona: A blunt instrument that is damaging the hexarchate in the long term.
- Kel: The Shuos work the most closely with the Kel, usually in a military context, although their view of the Kel is condescending: “Distract them with the guns so we can get the real work done.”
Hexarch Kel Tsoro / Kel Command hivemind
Emblem: the ashhawk (also “suicide hawk”)
Motto: from every spark a fire
Colors: black and gold
Faction ability: formation instinct (the emotional need to maintain military hierarchy and obey orders) and formation channeling (using geometrically based rituals to summon exotic effects, e.g. force shields and fire lances).
The Kel serve as the hexarchate’s military and specialize in kinetic operations. They are conservative, conformist, and hierarchical. While the Kel have their origins in an independent starfaring people in pre-heptarchate days, some of whose traditions survive to this day, the average Kel doesn’t think about this. These days the Kel are a volunteer army recruiting from anyone who can pass the entrance examinations.
What the Kel think of the other factions:
- Rahal: Kindred souls, who share their conservative mindset.
- Nirai: Strong ties due to Kel dependence on Nirai military innovations.
- Andan: The Kel despise the Andan, whom they see as suspect for their relations with foreign powers and cultural flexibility. The average Kel is strongly xenophobic and doesn’t see much difference between a foreigner and a heretic.
- Vidona: The Kel grudgingly acknowledge that the Vidona are necessary to preserve the hexarchate.
- Shuos: An ambivalent relationship: the Kel and Shuos often work together, but the Kel are never sure how far they can trust the Shuos, given their reputation for head games.
Since I am a tease, I will admit that my continuity bible also includes write-ups of the major characters and what they all think of each other, but I am not sharing on the grounds that it would spoil the entire trilogy!