The Planets of the Kiassan System
Flamehold is the first planet from the blue sun Helios. It is smaller than Earth, but far denser, producing a gravity about 1.2 times that of Earth. The most remarkable thing about Flamehold is its almost total inhospitality to life. The planet turns around the sun so oddly that only a narrow band is livable at any one time -- one side of the planet is scorching hot, the other freezing cold. Those who live upon the planet's surface must continually migrate every couple decades to stay within that narrow strip of livable land. Flamehold has several oceans, plus some very fierce mountain ranges. Luckily, one does not need to leave its main continent to remain alive through the fierce winters and summers.
The band of livable area, or Ribbon, is about a hundred miles wide and runs the entire circumference of the planet. The planet is dotted throughout with mountains and cavern complexes in which most permanent life tries to survive. The oceans themselves are a nightmare: either freezing or boiled away, while the edges touching the Ribbon teem with bizarre life. The planet slowly, slowly rotates around Helios, while revolving around its 60-degree axis.
The most remarkable part of living on Flamehold, then, is that those in the Ribbon see neither full daylight nor full nighttime. While in the habitable zone, the sky is eternally in sunrise/sunset.
Flamehold's main mountain ranges form the hub of its human population. Asrabreak is an older range running diagonally across the main continent, Panvalla. It is home to the Summer Palace, a stunningly misnamed fortress where most Flameholdans congregate in the Flameholdan summer. At the other end of the continent, in its southwest corner, is Winterkeep, in the young and jagged Blue Mountain Range, where they congregate in the winter.
Summer Flameholdans and Winter Flameholdans can be very different in temperament. Lykitis yar'Solius, the Flameholdan war-chieftess, is a Winter Flameholdan, while her younger brother Rowan, known for his soft-heartedness and gentleness, is one of the first crop of Summer Flameholdans. In these siblings, one can generalize to great extent. Flamehold will produce summer Flameholdans for another 30 or 40 years, until the heat drives them south, back to the winterlands.
Flamehold is in general very loyal to the Empire, and its people form the bulk of the Imperial Army, that part of it called the Flameholdan Guard.
Flamehold was one of the last planets to rejoin the Kiassan Empire, after years of isolation. Needless to say, technology levels are not tremendous here, and is concentrated in the military and healing arts.
Animal life on Flamehold is, to say the least, robust. Here is a partial collection of what Flameholdans hunt, herd, and avoid on a daily basis:
Scorpaxis: A winged reptile with a scorpion-like tail. It's venomous, with a huge beak and a poisonous bite and sting. Extremely hard to kill, this predatory creature is prized for its venom and chitinous hide.
Hrongar: A large, twin-horned, four-legged mammal with a hugely thick and tough hide. Though it is not carnivorous, its huge horns make it a formidable opponent. It moves in slow-drifting herds that devour all in their path. Bulls are prized for their horns; calves are prized for their meat. Cows are gamy, tough, and impossible to domesticate for milk, making them nowhere near as valued. They are not considered very bright animals, leading to the saying "Thick as a hrongar."
Spearlizard: Long-bodied, with a long prehensile tail and a toothy snout, this reptile has short, stubby legs that move it impossibly fast across rough terrain. Its tongue is rough, sticky, and barbed on the end. The venom in that barb shocks and paralyzes prey before the lizard drags it off to devour quietly. The lizard is about 5' long, and its venom can kill a child or otherwise vulnerable human, though it won't do much more than stun an able-bodied adult. It is hunted for food; its pale flesh is actually pretty tasty and good roasted over fire. The venom decomposes too quickly to be of use in other applications, but the tongue has to be very carefully cut out, along with the poison-producing sacs in the cheeks, and disposed of, or else the diners are in for a bad surprise. Most of the time, the entire head is just cut off and thrown away.
Rockworm: A huge invertebrate that lives in the mountains. It is dormant in cold weather, but in the warmth, it awakens and begins anew to find mates, breed, and feed itself. Its lifespan is said to be very long, but it's hard to study them for obvious reasons. They move very quickly and feed on the larger animals that dwell around the Ribbon. The younger rockworms (20' or less long) are killed and their internal organs dried for cord and beads, and also because if they're allowed to get too big, they may just decide to up-end the ground out from under an entire human encampment. They never seem to stop growing; myths exist of older ones that are the size of cities.
Crystal Prowler: A beautiful but formidable arachnid. Large, with an exoskeleton that is clear like quartz, it is one of the more poisonous and deadly creatures on the planet. Famous for a "black widow" breeding strategy, it is hunted for its glittering exoskeleton, which is often made into jewelry. It feeds on small insects, and due to its size (about 8" across) and its cave-dwelling habits, is not often regarded as a real threat. When a clan needs to move into a cave complex, though, sweeping for prowlers is part of the routine.
Dustrat: A mid-sized rodent with short legs. It lives close to the ground and is famous for its weird ability to survive even the worst of the Ribbon's dust and ice storms and live on practically nothing. They are sometimes hunted for food by the desperate; they usually live in dug-out tunnel complexes under cave systems and often form the principal diet of Crystal Prowlers and rockworms. They don't taste exceedingly good and are extremely cowardly. Their fur can be very soft but is usually mangey and unpleasant.
Irontailed Hawk: A massive eagle-like avian with a black head and wings, and an iron-grey tail. With its hooked beak, formidable talons, and huge wingspan, this bird can pose a real threat to anything child-sized or smaller. It will go out of its way to attack and kill scorpaxes but it'll eat almost anything that moves. It lives in aeries in the cave systems, and is famous for mating for life. Many clans use the irontailed hawk as a symbol of honor and loyalty. Their distinctive feathers are used as adornments; a cloak of irontail feathers is a princely gift.
Desertmaw: Living primarily in the wastelands just on the fringes of the Ribbon, this reptile is 20' long or more, and can move bipedally. Its back legs are huge and muscular; its front legs are somewhat smaller, and its tail is thick and powerful, capable of sweeping opponents. Its head is larger than expected, with a short snout and lots of big teeth. It has several sets of teeth that are constantly growing and falling out as they wear down. The desertmaw is a horrible opponent, but prized for its meat and teeth. When a pod of them is spotted, most clans will go out of their way to destroy it for general purposes; to do otherwise is to allow a raid to happen later.
Black Boar: Ever heard of Hogzilla? The black boar of Flamehold is absolutely, positively famous for its size, evil temper, and enormous strength. Males grow to about 10' long, and females get even bigger. Males grow tusks. Both are dark-skinned, thick-hided, and ferocious. Due to their size, they are hunted for food. They live wherever they damned well want but usually alone. Females prefer caves for birthing piglets. They can eat almost anything, and it's rumored that extends to stupid Flameholdans.
Scialla was the place where the First Empire was born and is now the seat of the Second, called the Kiassan Empire. The most Earth-normal planet of the Kiassan Empire, it is somewhat larger than Earth, but has a slightly lower gravity. Days are 26 hours long; the year is 412 days long. It is a planet of beauty, with sapphire-blue oceans, pearly white clouds, and land that ranges from emerald-green to rich sienna-brown. It has several continents, the largest of which is Tergaea, upon which the entirety of the human population has settled. The ocean to Tergaea's east is called the Eluviel Sea, and the one to the west is the Vestrian Ocean. Both are quite inhospitable to long ocean voyages, which is not to say attempts have not been made.
The planet has two moons. They are close in size, with generally similar orbits, and are fixed in relation to Scialla. Neither has more than a very thin and unbreathable atmosphere, and since both are quite small there was no point to terraforming them as Walker was long ago. Scialla's moons are called Crassus and Paxis; both names derive from the ancient Aslantir language, and though their etymology is murky are said to mean "War and Peace." Paxis is the larger moon, so sometimes called "Big Brother," while the smaller moon, Crassus, is often called "Little Brother." Crassus is usually out of view on eastern Tergaea except for the warmer months; for the rest of the year, it is either barely visible on the horizon or else out of sight. The first full moon of Crassus of the year is usually a time of celebration, marking the first week of planting for farmers and gardeners.
The Wilds itself takes up a large portion of the main continent of White Road runs through it. People do not normally live in the Wilds; they are extraordinarily dangerous to those who do not understand its rules. The Preservationists do understand those rules, and even they sometimes make mistakes and get killed. They are the only ones who make permanent settlements inside the Wilds. Other attempts have been made, and have all failed disastrously. The Wilds protects its own. Treewees come from the Wilds exclusively, and the major predator there, greatcats hunts and destroys those who interlope.
People do live around the Wilds, but it's unheard-of for people to live in the Wilds itself. Certainly it can be dangerous. Besides greatcats, wolves and other predators hunt the forests. Even Preservationists are not totally safe in the Wilds by any stretch. The mining and logging villages around the Wilds know the rules of living near the rhells: no chopping down the trees, no fires in the Wilds itself, and no messing with the treewees. Hunters in particular are very careful in the forest near the Wilds. Outside the dense Wilds, it's business as usual for an untamed forest. There's definitely plenty to do.
One very interesting development is the appearance of archaeologists around the Wilds. On occasion interesting ruins get found, and though it can be insanely dangerous to explore them, such fools throw themselves into danger heedlessly. It could well be that if too many more die, Empress Kira may need to do something about it.
Whiteridge Mountain Range:
The area outside the Perimeter is called "Without" generally. There are dozens, if not hundreds of villages Without, none of any remarkable size and almost none walled or strongly defended. Luckily, few of them have anything anybody really wants.
The capital of Scialla, as well as of the entire Kiasse, is Priascialla, a city of approximately three million people located on the eastern edge of Tergaea in the cluster known as the Eastern Cities. Scialla (and the Kiasse) is ruled by Kira Stardancer, of the house of that name, and her husband, Imperial Consort Rowan of Flamehold.
Valrona is a major port of call for Deusis Island.
Eardog: A rodentlike creature that lives in and around the Wilds. Its large, rounded ears give it a good edge on detecting enemies that would threaten its large family units. The ears flatten completely against the animal's skull when it has to hide, which seems to be often. They burrow into the ground or live in caves, and eat primarily insects and seeds.
Leafling: A large flying insect that looks, literally, like a collection of leaves and twigs. They're a brown-and-green mottled color. They're rarely seen, but they are known to live in the Wild. Little is known of their eating or living habits. They live in the trees and keep well away from humans.
Bearded Fox: These foxes are somewhat larger than, but colored similarly to, red foxes. They also sport beards and tufts of hair around their ears, paws, and between their toes. They are regarded as intelligent and lively, and there are stories of them being tamed, though they're extremely skittish around strangers and can bite if alarmed. Woodsmen have to work extra hard to keep bearded foxes out of their chicken coops.
Barnsnake: A snake of the asp family that's figured out how nice barns are for lurking in. They also like caves and other dry, cool areas. They are a vibrant green color, quite notable in hue, but much larger than the less deadly garden snake.
Red-Banded Falcon (Redwing): A medium-sized bird of prey noted for its rusty-red crown and speckled wings with their bands of rust red. It is quite tameable, responding well to traditional falconry methods. They are one of the fastest birds in the air.
Marchbird: A long-legged, smallish bird found near marshes and riverbanks. They have dark wings, a pale body, and a distinctive ki-YEE, ki-YEE! cry. They're not especially good eating, but can be hunted. Their small eggs can also be eaten.
Briarhog: A fierce wild hog that lives in briar-patches and other inhospitable shrubby areas. They're territorial and rather grumpy mammals, but in the fall, they're very good eating. Their hides are thick and usable for clothing or containers, and most of their body parts are usable for something or other. They are a deep, dark mahogany brown, with tusks and bristly hair.
Mortworm, Rotflies: One of many carrion-eaters. This one's the larval form of a particular type of blowfly; the fly lays eggs on carrion/corpses, and the segmented larva hatches and eats until it pupates into another blowfly. A collective term for the various bugs that fly and feed upon flesh is "rotflies," and mortworms are the creepy-crawly types.
Glasshoof: A deer-like creature with pale short hair, white hooves, and two dainty horns. The cloven-hoofed creature lives alone in the mountains and is hunted for its soft fur and its horns; its meat is decent as well but it's so elusive that it is not often used as a prey animal.
Corbah: A thick-bodied, slow-moving herd animal living in the general area of Saethbridge on the plains. The herds can number in the hundreds, and a stampede is a deadly danger to outlying villages. They are strong, big, weigh hundreds of pounds easily, and have thick hides. Males have a thick growth of curly hair around their heads and necks. Their meat is excellent, and the hides can be used for armor or anything else one desires.
Cragtooth: A golden-furred feline predator that lives in many types of terrain, notably mountains and hills. They prefer trees for cover, but tall grass works too if that's all that's available. They are solitary, with females finding caves to give birth to their small litters. They're formidable hunters, but humans hunt them in turn for their fur and teeth (for adornment). They are prolific across Scialla.
Frostbear: A huge white bear living at the far north and south of the continent of Tergaea. It's known for its bad temper. Its fur is thick and warm, but it's such a ferocious opponent and lives so far from anything humans would want to go near that it's only rarely hunted.
Greatcats: Huge black feline predators living only in the densest of the Wilds.
Treewees: Small simian-like mammals living in the Wilds.
The Eastern Cities:
Other cities of note include Weston, the largest of the frontier towns, and Eliff, a small logging community about halfway between Weston and Priascialla. Eliff's most famous for its beer brewer, who is quite good, and for its comfortable inns, which most caravans make a point of utilizing despite the cost.
Freehold, which is located up in the Whiteridge Mountains, is a small town that's almost impossible to get into without permission. It is owned by Jack Red Dog, an ex-wildcat miner who now considers the town his personal "manor." Freehold's got a horrible reputation for crime and villainy, but very few people around Valrona would ever have seen it or met Jack Red Dog. It's not even well-known what he looks like or even what race he is.
See this page for more information about the geography of Scialla.
The third planet of the Kiasse is as enigmatic and troubled as its young ruler, Rus Niak. It is a planet about Earth-sized, but there the resemblance ends. It is covered by about 95% oceans, with only a small continent, Dryland, to join its people to the air. The ocean is called Mentethis and is enormously deep in places. A series of nearly-underwater mountain ranges run all through it, and upon these shallow(er) slopes people make their homes.
Lirwhin's people are regarded almost as sorcerers by outsiders, who look upon Lirwhinite "Artifacts", ancient relics with strange and varying abilities, with awe, even dread. Not all Lirwhinites are fey, of course; many are scholars for its own sake and will undergo the most rigorous things to learn more for their massive library system, called informally the Onyx Dome for the appearance of the main branch. Most of Lirwhin's people live in domes beneath the surface of the planet, though some live full-time on Dryland.
Dryland is no more than a few thousand miles across, and home to a major spaceport. Lirwhin does not seem to suffer the same limit to technology that Scialla does, and life there probably looks downright magical to a Sciallan. Between 100,000 and 200,000 people live on Dryland, but it is not considered very posh -- these people almost all service the many ships that come and go from Lirwhin, and handle goods that pass through on their journeys to and from the domes. Lirwhin does also have ice caps, but neither is utilized by humans, both being absolutely inhospitable to life. As one might expect, Dryland is almost entirely composed of factories and greenhouses, every square inch of the land towering with skyscrapers that efficiently process and create products the entire planet needs. The lower levels of Dryland are exceedingly dreary, but as one gets higher and higher into the sky, society gets more and more urbane and sophisticated. Pollution levels are not ideal; toward the ground, air quality declines considerably.
Most visitors base their sightseeing on Dryland, arranging to get a pleasure-cruise if they want to sail, or arranging visas to visit those few Domes that permit sightseers. Shark-hunting is a favorite pasttime of bored Nobles from all over the Empire. Tourism is a huge industry, with sightseeing companies snapping up real estate on other smaller islands whenever possible. Recent efforts involve creating man-made islands, but that's going very slowly and likely won't be ready for use for years.
Lirwhin's surface is quite unpleasant for the most part, being rocked by constant hurricane-strength storms and lightning of truly impressive proportions, but under the surface of the water, things are infinitely more pleasant. There are a number of very large ocean animals that live in Mentethis, the primary of which are the sentient Leviathans, whalelike creatures that seem happy to protect the Domes from threats, and a variety of electric eel that gets 40' long and almost 4' thick. Lirwhin also enjoys schools of dolphins and other more familiar Terran creatures.
The animal life on Lirwhin is incredibly diverse, probably moreso than anywhere else in the Kiassan Empire. Sentience is suspected in several species. Not for nothing is it said that the oceans are the cradle of life. Here's a sampling of some of them:
The Kraken: Deep in the waters, one of the most deadly creatures on Lirwhin is the Kraken. Approaching hundreds of feet long, with squidlike tentacles and huge eyes, Kraken live on the ocean floor. They set down roots like plants, living in the same location most of their lives (moving is very difficult for them), and seizing prey that swims too close. Since they tend to live in areas that are rich feeding grounds for other species, prey does swim too close often. Though it'd be suicide to go after a Kraken, hunting parties do occasionally venture into the deeps for the golden oceat and sea-green lirix stones that the Krakens form inside their bodies. These stones are incredibly valuable and rare, and laws forbid their wearing by any but Lirwhinite Nobles or the Kiassan Royal Family.
Dungfish: Though they have an official scientific name, most people just call them dungfish. As the name indicates, they are not in the least foodworthy, but they fulfill an important part of the ecology by composting organic matter into fertilizer. Their bite is quite septic and they are poor-tempered eel-like fish, so best avoided. Recycling plants keep them in tanks. In the wild ocean, they live near larger animals like the Kraken, living on their excretions.
Waveskimmer: A sleek, arc-shaped mammalian fishlike animal found in the water. They have bullet-shaped bodies, fins, and short, slender snouts. They breathe through blowholes on their backs. They are suspected to be sentient, with numerous stories noised about regarding them rescuing lost swimmers or doing other good deeds for no reason. They're incredibly friendly as long as they're treated respectfully, and a lot of Lirwhinites are good at hitching rides on them by holding onto their long, graceful fins. The waveskimmer is a symbol of Rus Niak and a personal favorite animal of his. A large pod of them are found often near his Dome.
The Halcyon Ray/Hunter Ray: The halcyon ray is nearly extinct, but is a smaller version of the hunter ray. Both are large, kite-shaped flat animals that live near along the sloping ocean floor. Sleek and deadly, they kill prey with their poisonous tail-barbs. The halcyon ray feeds on plankton so its barb is barely poisonous at all to humans, but because it looks like its deadlier cousin, it was over-hunted. Recent science has led to their being granted protection, though not all the human fishermen have gotten the word.
Cordaellus Crab: This absolutely gorgeous crustacean has eight legs and a large body, all covered in a glittering, scintillating exoskeleton that changes color to match the crab's background. The coloration also shifts with the crab's mood. They are often kept as pets in large tanks; they aren't large at all, about 8" across tops, so noble Lirwhinites often keep them. They can be eaten and aren't bad-tasting at all.
Lirwhin's main export is manufactured goods, as well as books (Lirwhinite publishing houses do a truly prodigious business and enjoy a good reputation). Naturally, it imports much in the way of food, but not as much as one might think -- the oceans supply much that the Lirwhinites need.
Each Dome has its own ruler, who goes by different names (king, prince, chairperson). Lirwhin itself is ruled by Rus Niak, a pale young man in his 30s with a cunning grasp of politics. Lirwhinite politics are both drastic and direct, but Rus Niak is the acknowledged master of it. He is a parliamentary monarch, aided in his decisions by a large Council of various Dome rulers. Rus Niak is a distantly related cousin of Kira Stardancer's; her mother was one of Rus Niak's aunts-by-marriage in the complicated way Lirwhinites reckon family. Few know exactly how much this relationship has to do with Rus Niak's unswerving loyalty to the Kiasse.
The last planet of the Kiassan Empire is a mystery to most. No non-Bilashan ship has ever been able to satisfactorily land on the planet or even get close to it; fierce magnetic fields destroy any ship that refuses to heed Bilashan flight pattern instructions.
A ring of asteroids circles between Bilashe and the rest of the Kiassan Empire, a fact that is considered quite metaphorical by the rest of the Kiasse. The ring is called the Black Belt. It's almost impossible to navigate a ship of any size through the Belt safely, owing to the random and difficult-to-predict trajectories of the individual asteroids. Some of these are quite small, making collisions with anything larger than a small shuttle inevitable. However, the Belt is known to be very iron-rich, which has led to the usual speculations on the part of investors.
Some of the asteroids are quite large, and they are clustered in small groupings. The groupings are usually of very small rocks, but larger ones get their own names. Some of the names: Shensa IV, Jhowan V, Darius VI, and Rastos III (denoting their position east to west in the named grouping; for example, in the Rastos group, the largest rock is the third one from the west edge).
Overall the planet is unpleasant-looking, with a ruddy color and few bodies of water. Most of it's either too wet or too dry, and the population is not large. It is known that Bilashe is not very large, and that it has two moons, both of which are nearly its size, but devoid of water. The moons are named Elentia and Mereketh, which are the names of the twin sisters of the first Emperor-Priest of the Bilashans from many centuries ago.
Technology levels on Bilashe seem nonexistent. Most of its people, especially those around its capital of Dalbend, are nomadic shepherds. There is also a flourishing religion on Bilashe, one that is twined with its government. All that is really known of it is that its one god is called Sernis, and that all Bilashans seem to belong to this religion. Their dedication to Sernis is awe-inspiring -- they really would do absolutely anything for their faith, which is deep and abiding.
Bilashe has a bad reputation in the Kiassan Empire for its little habit of deciding to try to take over the Kiasse every hundred years or so. The last attempt actually almost succeeded, killing almost every Stardancer except Kira, the youngest daughter, and enslaving her until she could be rescued and established on the Alabaster Throne. As a result, there are very few Bilashans on Scialla, and the ones that are there often face great persecution. Kira, oddly, has championed their cause and attempted to end the mass persecution and occasional pogrom of Bilashan expatriats, but old prejudices die hard. Most of the Kiassan Empire sees Bilashans as sinister, weird, die-hard fanatics with an inscrutable agenda. Like most stereotypes, there could be truth to that.
It is unknown how loyal Bilashe is to the Empire. The current ruler, a despotic tyrant-priest named Rashan, son of the Usurper-King Tiramovar whom Kira killed with her bare hands, seems content to let her rule over him, but it is unknown what he thinks of her, or how loyal he's willing to be when push comes ot shove.
The land can be very inhospitable. Though it gets enough warmth from Helios, it is not a welcoming or friendly world. Its animal life reflects its generally inhospitable nature:
Kallidoe: A four-horned land mammal with delicate cloven hooves. The males are bearded and have the four horns, while females are smaller, more graceful, and have only two horns. They are prized for meat and ivory. They live in the mountains in herds, preferring forests when possible, with a few bucks guarding a herd of mostly females with calves. The bucks are insanely strong and tough, defending their herds to the death.
Zhirensa: A riding animal that lives wild in the plains of the planet. They are exceedingly difficult to tame, but breed readily in captivity once tamed. They have a single twisting horn and soft, brown-and-gold striped fur. They run in fierce herds. Though they can be hunted for meat, they are most often captured instead. Females are good milk producers. Some tribes of primitive Bilashans live almost entirely on the zhirensa's generosity, calling the animal "the gift of Sernis to the world."
Glenstrider: A large flightless bird with powerful legs, clawed feet, and a long, strong beak. They're found in any semi-flat terrain in small herds. They run very fast, and fight ferociously. Their eggs are huge and often stolen by young Bilashan humans for food.
Yurmifowl: A small gamebird that dwells in the reeds around marshes and fields. They prefer to live near standing water. They live on insects, so can taste quite gamey, but once properly treated after killing, they are very good eating. Their small, mottled eggs are good to eat. Their spotted feathers are often used in decoration and for stuffing pillows and beds.
Hargh: A slinky, slimy, egg-stealing, hissing reptile. They're quite annoying in their personal habits, unpredictable in their aggression levels, and taste horrible. They prey on the eggs of swamp-dwelling birds. Though fairly large (2-3' long), they're nowhere near big enough to threaten even small children. All in all, they're about the worst part of living on Bilashe aside from swarms of bugs.
Walker: One of Lirwhin's moons, and the only one in the system capable of sustaining life. It is a jungle planet with a thin atmosphere. Filled with beauty, it seems to have little in the way of native animal life (though several Sciallan imports have done exceptionally well). It is independent from Lirwhin, being a joint holding of Flamehold, Lirwhin, and Scialla. It is most often used as a training ground by the military. Some interesting archaeological finds have been discovered on Walker the past couple of years, but these are not fully investigated yet.
One of the more interesting facets of Walker is the Academy system centered there. These military dojos go all over the Kiassan Empire (with exception of Bilashe, since no ships can go there) to recruit young boys and girls for induction into the various seven Academies. Each Academy has a slightly different training system and style of fighting. The graduates of this training are in huge demand by the obscenely wealthy and powerful, for use as spies, diplomats, assassins, and worse. They are called simply "Graduates", and do not reveal their training or knowledge. Perhaps two or so Graduates a year come out of the Academies; first bid is given to the planetary governments, and if no government picks up the Graduate, bidding is given over to private citizens. It is highly unlikely that a non-Noble would know much about Graduates, but most Nobles would at least be familiar with the concepts even if they weren't sure if they'd ever met one.
Flamehold: It's nasty and its people are even worse. They're excellent warriors, but don't push them too hard. If you're stupid enough to get into a friendship with one, you'll find him rock-solid, but they can get touchy about the weirdest things. Nobody can beat a Flameholdan in a fight, largely because Flameholdans don't fight by the rules. Worse, Flameholdans always have brothers. Lots of them.
Lirwhin: It's an ocean planet filled with wizards. The women are extremely beautiful... and so are the men. They call themselves by their entire names for some reason. They live in vast domes under the sea, and some never see the sun even once. They worship science and technology, but can't fight their way out of a paper bag.
Bilashe: A nasty planet far away. Most Valronans probably wish the Bilashans were equally far away. Their religion makes no sense and they themselves are reputedly thieves, liars, and worse. The women are amazing dancers, but few indeed are the outsiders who get to know them on more intimate terms. Their slanted blue eyes are weird, and they're entirely too furtive.
Walker: It's supposed to be pretty, but you sure wouldn't want to go there. That's where they train killers. The Academies are nothing but schools for assassins, and the Flameholdan Army practices maneuvers there too--it's no fit place for civilized folk, even if it is a pretty place. There're a lot of things that are weird about it, and some stuff maybe that people weren't entirely supposed to ever know.