“Under the sight of the Urpor, divine leader of the Kastori Porrancy, I hereby declare the marriage of Raegon Alaxis to Christine Turren!”
The Kastori, a civilisation driven by their religion. The planet Alaxis has always suited them. It was a border world, one that refused to let go of the old ways. Many worlds had House systems that were mostly legend, simply idle talk of the power of a particular family. Alaxis had no such pretensions. It had been built as a resort world, intended as a planet-sized theme park for those wanting to travel back in time to a medieval wonderland. The tourist industry had faded but the intention remained. When most spoke of the traditions of Alaxis, they were talking about stories, fables of mighty explorers taming lands to create the system in place. Rethwin Alaxis had no such stories in his head. He knew exactly how his family had reached their position. As he sat in the front row of his son's wedding, Rethwin was reminded of how false it all seemed to him. He knew how Alaxis had been settled clearly. He was a direct descendant of the man himself, an aspiring tourism trader by the name of Kieran Alaxis. He'd taken loans from the Kastori that he couldn't pay back. They traded his debts for political power, a political power reflected all around Rethwin. His son, married to a daughter of House Turren for political reasons, within a Kastori ceremony. The religions of the Old World had faded. A mere century after the Old World reached out into space, the New Edenites proclaimed that man could forge his own religion. The need was still present, however. Workers were not liberated. People still suffered. The religious ways of the Kastori provided the solace that the Old World had lost.
Rethwin had no such pretensions. He didn't care about the Kastori. He did, however, care about politics. Raegon's marriage to Catherine opened up trade with Metera, an agrarian planet that held much of the fresh produce trade of the sixteenth sector. Raegon was a trade, one Rethwin hoped would allow him to slowly interfere with Metera's internal politics. He was always an expansionist.
The Porapth gestured for Raegon and Catherine to stand. Rethwin didn't like the Kastori names. They were confusing and unnecessary. The Porapth was a Bishop. The Apth was a priest. The Urpor was effectively a Pope. He saw it as an act of resistance that they would deliver mass in the common tongue but failed to convert the very simple names of their people. To Rethwin, the Kastori were stubborn in their faith. He'd hinted as such to one of the Korran advisors to the Kastori Urran. He had mixed the terms, believing that the President of their world, Kastor, was visiting to discuss his bureaucrats. The Korran turned out to be the bureaucrats, who were meeting with him to discuss the Urran's wishes. He'd wasted an opulent banquet without an appearance from the president. It disappointed him.
That Raegon's wedding was a Kastori ceremony was political, without a doubt. As he descended the stairs with his new bride, he performed the traditional salutes: one for the Urpor, and another for the Urkor. Rethwin despised the presence of an Urkor in his capital city. It was effectively an admiral, controlling more than a significant portion of the Kastori Sra.
“Soldiers,” Rethwin muttered to himself. “Not Sra, but soldiers. Not Ran, but citizens.”
As he stood to his feet, applauding the happy couple, Rethwin's elation was false. He despised the Kastori presence in the city of Kieran's Run. It was the capital – his capital – and he did not believe it needed a military presence.
“Sir, you're wanted in your chambers.” Rethwin's Kastori aide disturbed him with whispers as he watched his son leave the cathedral.
“What is it now?” He studied his aide's features. He was a Korran. Kor tier, as he understood, was why his aide had horns that grew from the back of his head. They curled, jutting out in front of his shoulders. The Kastori employed a caste system based on the horns. There was little grey area – genetic markers isolated centuries earlier had proven that the horn length did demarcate the possessor as a slightly different species, just enough to make it a marked physical difference. There were other unique aspects – the Ur tier, with the longest horns that curved down to their torsos, had more distinct Y shapes on their faces. The Y had always unsettled Rethwin. It was the base of the eyes, protruding, meeting in a V shape that then travelled down, slowly evening out with the rest of the face. It formed the characteristic Y that he saw as a sign of an intruder. The Kastori were intruders.
“Master Yul wishes to speak to you.”
“Of course.” Rethwin waited for the Porapth to declare the congregation free to leave, an exit he took immediately. He should have stayed to talk. That could be done at the reception, he decided, and immediately saw to his advisor.
As he entered his chambers, he saw that one of his banners had fallen. It was large and red, bearing the symbol of House Alaxis. It was torn. The 'wound' in the banner was unclean, torn by hands rather than a knife or laser. He was unimpressed.
“That is what I wanted you to see, Lord Rethwin.” Yul Cythwin, the bald man that advised the patriarch of House Alaxis, appeared from the shadows. He was one of seven advisors Rethwin kept, but he was the one he kept closest. He was also the least trustworthy, the precise reason Rethwin Alaxis found him to be best kept close. Yul had been the one who had lead the process that forced Rethwin to exile his youngest son, Riker. He hadn't wanted to, but Riker had provoked the anger of the Kastori and Rethwin needed to pacify them.
“Who did it?”
“We are unsure.” Yul smiled a broad, pacifying smile that simply made Rethwin more angry. He did not show it. “It must have been someone strong. The banners of House Alaxis are made from dense fabrics woven only in the lowspaces, as you well know. They must have really wanted to make a statement.”
“Has anyone been through here?”
“Ah, yes, well...” Yul made a show of being reluctant. It was common. Rethwin knew he was eager to divulge the information. “A Kastori delegation passed through on the way to Commander Cormorant's chamber...”
“Kastori.” Rethwin lifted half of the torn banner from the ground, containing his anger efficiently. “Well, then.” He could not trust Yul's words. The hallway was a nexus, one that connected wings of the parliament of Kieran's Run. His chambers were a wing unto themselves, nestled in the middle. There were no cameras, only the occasional security guard. Anyone could have torn his banner. He suspect Yul of selectively holding information to encourage him to be more aggressive in his dealings with the Kastori.
It was working.