• The Exodus
  • Hidden Hope
  • A New Beginning
  • Time of Darkness
  • Origins
  • Clan Society
  • Original Clans
  • Clan Language
  • Clan Government
  • Clan Trials
  • Right of Forgiveness
  • Rebirth and Expansion
  • Crusaders' Call
  • Dragoon Compromise
  • Invasion

  • The Clans

    [Prepared by Anastasius Focht, Precentor Martial of the Com Guards, Hilton Head Island, Terra.]

    The Exodus

    Whether General Kerensky knew where was leading the Exodus when he left the Inner Sphere is one of the questions historians have tried to answer for the past two and a half centuries. Information gleaned from my studies of the Clans make it obvious that General Kerensky had only a vague sense of his destination. Data from the computers of the Star League Astrological Mapping Corps were downloaded to the flagship McKenna's Pride in preparation for the Exodus, and the original Star League map and chart files were destroyed. The general may have had only a rough idea of his destination, but he made sure that no one from the Inner Sphere could track him or his followers.

    The Inner Sphere has dissected and reassembled the life of General Aleksandr Kerensky countless times. Despite all this interest, several crucial facts about his private life have remained unknown until now. At the outset of the Exodus, the general stunned everyone by announcing that he had a wife, Katyusha, and two sons, Nicholas and Andery. According to Wolf Loremasters, Aleksandr had been married for more than 17 years before the Exodus began, but kept the identity of his wife and children secret to shield them from the political intrigues that swirled around him. During the Amaris regime, their anonymity saved them from possible harm by the lunatic leader and his cutthroats.

    General Kerensky mounted an assault on Moscow in 2777, during the initial stages of Terra's liberation, in order to rescue his wife and her underground rebel cell. He kept their identities concealed even after Terra's liberation to protect them from the spies of the House Lords. Once the Exodus was underway, however, Katyusha and the two boys took their rightful places alongside the general.

    Kerensky was strong and dynamic during the Exodus, shuttling between ships as much as possible to address his followers during the layovers between jumps. He made sure that each man and woman understood the ideals of the Star League. He explained why those ideals were best served by the Exodus rather than by staying and trying to force the House Lords into submission.

    The fleet explored new worlds, taking consumable supplies (oxygen, water, and foodstuffs) on board when available. Kerensky changed course many times to discourage pursuit. He also sent out ships to jettison garbage and other debris in randomly chosen star systems to confuse any pursuers. As our own ROM Explorers can attest, the general's precautions were extremely effective.

    Over the course of the first uncertain year, the strain and stress of the Exodus began to take its toll despite Kerensky's efforts to maintain unity. The most blatant challenge to his authority came nine months into the Exodus, when the crews and passengers of nine ships mutinied. Led by officers of the Prinz Eugen, a Texas class battleship, the group refused to continue on with the rest of the fleet, choosing instead to return to the Inner Sphere.

    The general formed a task force and went after the mutineers, ordering them to surrender unconditionally. They refused, and so the general ordered his task force into action against the rebels. Kerensky's marines captured the Prinz Eugen in a daring boarding action, and the rest of the vessels quickly surrendered. A quick trial was held at the jump point, and all officers at or above the rank of captain were summarily executed.

    Clans sources do not record the names of those executed. Research into our own records reveals that the leader of the revolt was probably Major General Wilbur Braso, a highly respected officer of Cameron blood, albeit a distant relation to the First Lord's line.

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    Hidden Hope

    The Prinz Eugen incident further lowered the morale of the fleet. The mutiny itself was shocking, but the general's swift execution of the ringleaders was not accepted without question. Kerensky's actions made it clear that he considered himself not only the fleet's commander, but also its ruler. Many began to suspect that Kerensky did not have a final destination for the fleet, openly questioning his authority and the decision to leave the Inner Sphere.

    In order to quell the growing dissent, Kerensky published General Order 137. This document is etched just above eye level into the Common Room walls of every Clan ship. It is Kerensky's justification for the execution of the Prinz Eugen mutineers, the need to maintain discipline, and the harsh penalties for failure to obey orders or in any other way hinder "the smooth functioning of this emergency operation." His formal yet eloquent statement of goals for himself and those who followed him made this more than just a cold warning. General Order 137 expressed what became known as the Hidden Hope Doctrine.

    In the general's own words:

    Return to the Inner Sphere is impossible for us. Our heritage and our convictions are different from those we left behind. The greed of the five Great Houses and the Council Lords is a disease that can only be burned away by the passing of decades, even centuries. And though the fighting may seem to slow, or even cease, it will erupt again as long as there are powerful men to covet one another's wealth. We shall live apart, conserving all the good of the Star League and ridding ourselves of the bad, so that when we return, and return we shall, our shining moral character will be as much our shield as our BattleMechs and fighters.

    His prophecy proved chillingly accurate in the light of the destructive Succession Wars the Inner Sphere endured.

    Kerensky's order apparently served to renew his followers' resolve to continue the journey. How it quelled the swelling discontent is uncertain. Perhaps the dissenters' devotion to the general allowed them to forgive his harshness in hope that his words would prove true. The Jade Falcon Remembrance hints that the general had spies in the Inner Sphere who were already relaying information that illustrated just how pointless return would have been.

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    A New Beginning

    The ships of the Exodus travelled through barren star systems for another month without further incident, but the general must have realized by this time that unless he called and end to their journey soon, his followers would become truly desperate. The fleet, now more than 1300 light years away from Terra, arrived at a cluster of five marginally habitable star systems. The systems lay less than one jump apart and only a few jumps away from a large globular cluster. A thick dust-nebula soon christened Kerensky's Cloak hid them from the Inner Sphere. Short supplies and short tempers prompted Kerensky to announce that the fleet had reached its destination. The date, 24 August 2786, is still celebrated by the Clans as Founding Day.

    The five worlds they colonized, Arcadia, Babylon, Circe, Dagda, and Eden were dubbed the Pentagon because of their nearly five-pointed arrangement. The planets were hostile: three hosted microbes that manifested in hideous forms on human hosts, while the other two gad only marginally viable ecosystems. The members of the Exodus nevertheless willingly set up camps and began to colonize the five worlds.

    General Kerensky and his second-in-command, General Aaron DeChevilier, realized during their 21-month hournet that their people lacked the cross- section of skills necessary to colonize new worlds. Overloaded with soldiers and military technicians and lacking experienced farmers and a manual-labor force, Kerensky knew that his new society required more members able to handle the non-military aspects of a community. Ironically, the Inner Sphere would face just the opposite problem in the years ahead: a lack of military technicians to fight the long Succession Wars.

    Five months after the colonization began, warships intercepted a Rim World merchant JumpShip that was hopelessly off course. The vessel attempted to flee, but surrendered when boarded. The merchant vessel's crew unwillingly joined Kerensky and served as the seed from which would grow the merchants and laborers of Kerensky's new society. Interviews with the crew and information extracted from the ship's computer plainly showed that the general's grim prophecies were already coming true. The Inner Sphere's slide into destructive conflict was accelerating. Many of the Exidus felt more isolated than ever, and allowed General Kerensky great latitude in shaping their society.

    The general's answer to the glut of warriors was obvious but subtle. He ordered a controlled demobilization of 75 percent of armed personnel. The mustering-out was not arbitrary, however. Kerensky introduced a series of etsts that everyone from the lowliest private to the highest general had to face. The test left only the top soldiers in uniform. Those who failed were given another series of tests to determine where he or she would best fit in the new order. The use of tests was a shrewd move on the general's part, because those who tested out of the military could not blame anyone but themselves.

    The demobilization program resulted in a surplus of military hardware. Huge storage caches were constructed to prevent material from falling into unauthorized hands. The Remembrance refers to those depots as "Brian Caches," an obvious reference to the Star League's Castle Brians. These caches were strongly fortified and guarded by the most loyal troops of the Regular Army. Excess naval vessels were mothballed in orbit around distant planets or moons in each inhabited star system.

    General Kerensky's remarkable vision not only foresaw the coming of the Succession Wars, but also the resulting loss of information and technology. In the Inner Sphere, only our Blessed Order was able to preserve this knowledge. In order to prevent this loss amongthe new colony worlds, he ordered vast libraries of information to be created and stored in the caches. Everyone with technical or scientific skill recorded his knowledge for these libraries as quickly as possible, even when it meant neglecting important expeditions and projects.

    The active naval vessels explored the nearby globular cluster that The Remembrance calls "The Kerensky Cluster" or "The Stars of the Protector." Many of the demobilized troops found a place in the Explorer Corps, a quasi- military organization whose sole aim was to explore and exploit the cluster worlds. The best worlds were colonized. Katyusha Kerensky named the most promising world in the cluster Strana Mechty, Russian for "Land of Dreams."

    Though no maps or star charts were made available to me during my stay with the Clans, I was able to learn the names of some of the other worlds discovered in the cluster. They include Ironhold, Shadow, Hector, Gatekeeper, Brim, and Roche. Most of these worlds supported only small farming and mining communities at first. The worlds of the Pentagon remained the centers of development and continue as the heart of Clan society today.

    Within a few years, the people of the Exodus had conquered their envoronments and overcome their lack of civilian skills to become fully functioning societies with individual economies and cultures. The makeshift camps grew into cities. Each planet's economy became self-sufficient, no longer relying on others to supply food and shelter. All the newly settled worlds boasted light industry, and heavy industry was developing quickly.

    General Kerensky was the guiding force behind the progress. Once again taking the title of Protector of the Star League, he led a provisional government that oversaw the five planetary governments. The few references to the general's government call it the Exodus Planetary Council. Some Loremasters refer to it as "The Star League in Exile" as a reminder of their origins and future. As head of the government, the general encouraged large families by offering generous incentives of goods and land. He sought to expand the population base beyond chance decimation by any natural force such as disease. A large population would also have both the training and size to respond to any challenge or threat.

    For a time, the Star League in Exile appeared to be a stunning success. The strong, united people were free and eager to pursue whatever course their belived leader suggested. Sadly, the plague of war racing through the Inner Sphere would soon stir hatreds thought forgotten.

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    Times of Darkness

    Despite the efforts of General Kerensky and his staff, it gradually became obvious that not all was right. discontent among the civilians grew from grumbling about a lack of once-cherished luxuries to full-scale rioting on all five Pentagon worlds. The problem seemed to be linked to the resentment of demobilized soldiers who could not accept their new roles in society. To be treated as just another civilian was not the reward they thought they deserved for their faithful service to the general. These malcontents agitated for the creation of planetary militias in which they felt they would regain pride in their place in society.

    Other tensions rose from cultural differences. The population accepted the concept of a unified world view, but cultural differences began reasserting themselves when demobilization broke up the artificial military culture. All the Pentagon worlds became caught up in the unrest because the political and cultural divisions (Hegemony, Capellan, Lyran, Federated, Combine, and League) reemerged after colonies became established. People of common backgrounds gravitated together and eventually began to view those from other societies with increasing suspicion and bigotry. The globular-cluster colonies did not suffer these problems as severely because they were settled by relatively homogenous groups. They were also too busy trying to survive to be concerned about past loyalties.

    Eden's advanced industry and large population centers made the planet a natural focal point for the growing tensions. The Remembrance refers to Eden as "the Garden where the seeds/Of our downfall and birth were sheltered." Most of Eden's population had been raised in the Federated Suns or the Capellan Confederation, two societies not know for mutual cooperation.

    Tensions between the colonists on Eden reached the boiling point 15 years after their arrival at the Pentagon. At first the violence was limited to local riots and minor clashes between villages, but it escalated steadily, even in the face of harsh punishment from the planetary givernment. After months of bloody, but still sporadic fighting, full-scale rebellion broke out. Several Liao settlements led the fighting, declaring independence and mounting an attack on one of the caches in order to arm themselves with BattleMechs and other weapons.

    General Kerensky sent General DeChevilier and a detachment of troops to put down the rebellion. During the firefight, General DeChevilier was killed in his BattleMech by a fluke rebel hit from a hand-carried missile system. The cache was intact, but the loss of his closest aide and friend was a heavy price for the aging Kerensky to pay.

    By any standards, the general's response to DeChevilier's death was brutal. Citing General Order 137, he ordered the execution of all rebels, ignoring any legal concerns. Whole settlements were razed and their remaining populations dispersed in what became known as the DeChevilier Massacre. However, instead of preventing further trouble, this overreaction only sowed the seeds of further resentment against General Kerensky and the standing military.

    On Babylon, rioting broke out between citizens of Combine and Lyran heritage. Attacks against Exodus government facilities on Arcadia, Circe, and Dagda became common. With blood on their hands from the DeChevilier Massacre, the Regular Army tried to regain moral high ground by obeying orders to quell the violence in an even-handed manner using a minimum of force. Unfortunately, BattleMechs are not effective riot control vehicles. A 'Mech cannot control a crowd without fatalities, so the military's attempts to back off from the level of violence seen in the massacre were unsuccessful. The rioting and attacks continued and news of more massacres was widely publicized. Before long, the military and the Exodus government were universally despised.

    Eden erupted in all-out civil war between the former Liao and Davion citizens. On other worlds, rebels successfully secured arms and weapons from military depots and caches. Soon, private armies staffed with soldiers who had been mustered out of the Regular Army controlled key towns and cities on all five worlds.

    General Kerensky, by now more than a hundred years old, had been kept alive only by pushing the limits of Star League medical technology. Deprived of his closest friend and wife, who had died five years earlier from a mysterious fever, the burden of fighting another civil war proved too heavy. While preparing plans for a campaign to secure Eden, General Kerensky suffered a massive heart attack and died at his command post. Most people reacted to the news of the general's passing by igniting further civil unrest rather than mourning.

    With both Kerensky and DeChevilier dead, the military was crippled. The general's designated successor was his son Nicholas, then in command of the 146th Royal BattleMech Division. Though he had the support of most of the Navy and the military units garrisoning the cluster colonies (no more than one or two regiments per colony), the division commanders on the five Pentagon worlds unexpectedly rejected him as a leader, citing his lack of active command experience. In a situation that oddly parallels the start of the Succession Wars, each division commander pressed his claim to take command of the government, just as the Lords of the Inner Sphere sparked the first Succession War. Within a few months, each of the five planets was divided into enclaves of rebellious citizens and armed troops. The situation was ripe for someone to trigger all-out war.

    The 146th did not mobilize to enforce Nicholas' right of command. When his officers urged Nicholas to press his claim, he referred to the writings of his father, saying that "individuals stricken with greed, envy, and avarice hiding behind false patriotism and justice cannot be made to change: they must either burn the sickness out of their lives with years of futile fighting, or die a senseless death, as all fools do."

    The young Kerensky saw that the eventual salvation of his people and the preservation of his father's ideals were far more important than fighting a "political squabble." Thus did Nicholas call for his own "Exodus" to the cluster world of Strana Mechty. Kerensky knew that he must save the civilians and scientists so vital to the survival of his people. He issued pleas through the media of all five planets, urging them to join him. For several tense weeks, loyal Navy ships collected those willing to flee, often under the guns of what were now enemy units. The last ship leaving for the cluster marked the exodus of almost 25 percent of the civilian population, including most of the scientific community.

    Full-scale wars erupted on all five worlds within three weeks of Nicholas' Exodus. Passage after passage of The Remembrance describes battles that wiped out entire populations. The land was ravaged by the soldiers once considered the best humanityhad to offer. Military units loyal to Nicholas resolutely stayed in the cluster, impervious to pleas for assistance, no matter how compelling or desperate. When the Navy withdrew to the cluster, communication between the Pentagon worlds quickly broke down, yet the fighting continued.

    This period of unrelenting violence, called the "Exodus Civil Wars," lasted for almost two decades. The men and women on the Pentagon worlds pounded each other back into barbarism. By the time the civil wars finally ended, most technology was destroyed and the harsh environments, once controlled, were killing those few who survived the man-made holocaust.

    In stark contrast, Nicholas Kerensky and his followers thrived on Strana Mechty and the other cluster worlds, furthering the technology their brothers and sisters had abandoned in pursuit of pointless battles and foolish wars. Nicholas bided his time.

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    Nicholas planned the retaking of the Pentagon worlds for 20 years. While he waited, aided by Jennifer Winson, his wife and most trusted confidant, he moved to rid his supporters of the "last vestiges of that contaminated society that gave us such woe." Central to his plan was the complete and total reorganization of his military.

    He declared the traditions of the Regular Army hopelessly tained by its sinful past. He organized his strike force of 800 into 20 "Clans" of 40 warriors each. Gone were the lances, companies, battalions, and regiments favored by the Star League. As their base, the Clans used "Stars" of five MechWarriors each. Two Stars formed a Binary, and four Binaries formed a Cluster. Each Clan was a Cluster, and several Clusters formed a Galaxy. The most reliable evidence indicates that this germinal force contained five Galaxies, but conflicting records place the numbers at three to seven Galaxies. The original 800 warriors proved crucial to the final form of the Clan structure. Star League ranks, and every other aspect of that army glorifying the individual, were replaced by an organization stressing ongoing testing. The new order also stressed that each Clan was a family, a society unto itself. Using BattleMechs from caches on Strana Mechty, Nicolas equipped and trained his army according to his vision.

    When the newly formed Clans returned to the worlds of the Pentagon, they found a nightmare situation. From the descriptions of the Loremasters and the intelligence holotapes taken by Nicolas' forces, it is clear that the Exodus Civil War was far more devastating than any of our Succession Wars. The soldiers who survived faced the Clans in barely functional 'Mechs. Even though the rebels on each of the five worlds had numerical superiority, the firepower and reliability of the Clan BattleMechs won the day. Battles were bitterly fought, and many Clan warriors died. Nicholas Kerensky suffered personal losses. In the final battle for Eden, his younger brother Andery was ambushed and killed by five rebel BattleMechs. Within a year, however, the Pentagon worlds were beaten and forced to acknowledge the supremacy of Nicholas and his Clans.

    Many of the survivors hailed Nicholas as a savior. His physical appearance, strikingly similar to his father's, added to his mystique. The supplies he distributed freely saved countless lives. The survivors were so grateful to him and so unbalanced by the events of the past 20 years, that they virtually worshipped Nicholas. In fact, they often hailed him as his father, a mistake Nicholas seemed reluctant to correct.

    The Exodus Civil War took a tremendous toll on the populations of the Pentagon worlds. A census taken soon after Nicholas' invasion found that the survivors numbered less than half the population of General Kerensky's Exodus. The war had cost millions of lives.

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    Clan Society

    Nicholas' new order carried his father's words to an extreme. He gave his father's Hidden Hope Doctrine to the survivors once again, admonishing them to grow, mature, and eliminate the greed that had caused them so much misery. He promised that one day their great-grandchildren, united and strong, would return to the Inner Sphere and restore the Star League. He said:

    But the first step on that road is to devote our efforts toward personal and Clan growth. We must destroy our greed and false patriotism when building the Clans, We will purge our old ideals and eithics; those belong to the corrupt stars of the Inner Sphere, and will not serve as we begin anew. Now, while our minds are open and yearning for new insight, we must remold them and fill them with the truth of our destiny. For we are destined to be not only different from those we left behind, but better. My father knew this, and saved us from the holocaust of the Inner Sphere. I accept it as truth, and have returned to lead you, the survivors of this most bitter trial. I am certain that, in our heart of hearts, we all realize our vital importance to the future of all humanity.

    True to his word, Nicholas began to purge all vestiges of the Inner Sphere and the old ways. One of his first actions was to scatter the survivors of the Exodus Civil War, relocating them among the Pentagon and cluster worlds to make certain that old affiliations to Inner Sphere societies would not be revived. He formally outlawed any loyalties outside the Clans. He erased all mention of prior residence or lineage from every personal record, replacing them with Clan affiliation and current residence. Every survivor, civilian and military alike, was assigned to one of the 20 Clans. Public mention of the Inner Sphere, except to criticize it, was made a punishable offense.

    What is amazing is not the lengths to which Nicholas went in shaping his new society; other despots have gone just as far. What made his efforts unique was the absolute lack of resistance, a sure sign that the Exodus Civil War was fully as traumatic as The Rememberance reports. The survivors were willing to do anything to avoid a repetition of the war's devestation. Even taking that into account, it is difficult to understand these peoples' blind acceptance of Nicholas' new order. They were brothers and sisters to our own ancestors 250 years ago, yet have been tempered by a stronger flame. Now they are so utterly alien that it is hard to accept that they are human. They are still our brothers and sisters, but hardened to a point that we fear even in our nightmares.

    Nicholas strengthened the warriors of the Clans with edicts based on the writings of his father, which he gave his own unique interpretation. Nicholas imposed many rules derived from such works as "A Primer of Tactics and Strategy" and "Applied Concepts of Attack and Defense," both written by his father. The general's "Twelve Principles of Command" seems to be the basis of the Clans' internal bidding process for tests of combat, and General Order 137 is the basis for Clan justice. These edicts are written and presented in a way that more resembles divine revelation than orders from a commanding officer. Nicholas seems to have adopted this tone deliberately; he was trying to instill in his people a sense of religious devotion toward the Clans.

    Nicholas believed that unless the Clans were fully functional and firmly established before he died, they would revert back to the old, corrupt ways upon his death. He realized that 800 Clan warriors was not enough to fulfill his goals, nor would normal birth rates expand their number quickly enough. Nicholas needed a way to accelerate the growth of his new society.

    For civilians, Nicholas instituted an ambitious breeding program that gave each Clan the right to arrange mandatory marriages within trades, such as merchant with merchant or laborer with laborer. He also mandated the number of children each match could produce. The children of these marriages were eligible for only a narrow range of professions, based upon their parents' trade, but only if they tested successfully; those who failed were sent to a lower trade, or "caste." Occasionally, a child tested so well that he was placed in a higher caste. These exceptional offspring are infrequent, but are considered vital to the quality of the gene pool. Within a few years, Nicholas swept aside the concepts of marriage for love and free choice of jobs, replacing them with arranged marriages and a rigid caste system.

    If the civilians chafed under the new rules and regulations governing their lives, they could still be thankful they were not members of the warrior caste. Nicholas envisioned his warriors as the true standard--bearers of their Star League heritage--but knew that all his efforts would come to nothing if their number could not be quickly increased. Before returning to the Pentagon worlds, he spent long hours consulting with his scientists. On the eve of their departure, he announced that as warrior offspring were to carry on the legacy of the Star League, they must be brought forth into the universe as quickly as possible. The warriors were required to donate genetic materials to what can only be described as baby factories. A systematic eugenics program placed sperm and ova in artificial wombs, called "canisters" or "iron wombs" by Clan warriors, and produced a new generation selected and bred to be superior to the previous one.

    Using this process, the scientists produced 20 children per birthing from the genetic material of one pair. Following Nicholas' directives, the pair's Clan then raised this "sibko" (sibling company), using continual testing and education to weed out those not fit for the warrior caste. New generations were produced in this fashion every ten years, creating thousands of new Clan warriors and adding to the ranks of the citizenry. Though Nicholas was careful to state that the motive of this forced breeding program was to enable the Clan return to the Inner Sphere, he must also have been trying to produce sufficient warriors to control any future unrest.

    Another reliable source indicates that most of what I have reported concerning the warrior caste system is of questionable accuracy. My source indicated that it was formed from only 600, not 800, warriors, and that a typical sibko consists of 100 sibkin, not 20. Sibkin are also not necessarily genetically related. My source recently died under questionable circumstances, so I may never discover the truth about the warrior caste.

    Sibko children face continual testing of their abilities. On the average, fewer than one-tenth of any given sibko actually become warriors. Those who cannot pass the testing are assigned to or of the lower castes, as their talents dictate. An unspoken but obvious goal of the eugenics program is the removal of "tainted" genes. Nicholas determined that anyone who remained on the Pentagon worlds during the Exodus Civil War was suspect, and so that person's genes would not be passed on. By limiting the number of "freebirths" (uncontrolled births) among the descendants these families, and by favoring the descendants of loyal warriors who entered the lower castes, the program eventually included only the genetic legacy of those followers Nicholas deemed unquestionably loyal: 800 warriors and 600 civilian families.

    Five castes make up the structure of Clan society: warrior, scientist, merchant, technician, and laborer. A sixth caste, called the dark, or bandit, caste, exists unofficially for those who cannot or will not fit into mainstream society. Each caste has myriad sub-castes based on specialties within a professional field.

    Warrior Caste

    Warriors are obviously the most powerful caste. The vast majority of warriors proudly trace their lineage directly to the 800 Bloodnamed. Each looks like the product of the genetic breeding program. Clan MechWarriors are robust, with lightning-quick reflexes and quicker intelligence. Fighter pilots are thin, their heads disproportionately large and with far-seeing eyes. Elementals, the Clan infantry, are huge, unusually strong soldiers possessed of grace and speed far exceeding what is expected of people of such intimidating size.

    The warrior caste's eugenics program is a completely alien means of reproduction. It seems cold and analytical, making no allowance for the passion and love we consider necessary to a full life. Warriors, however, gain great comfort and strength from their sense of belonging to the sibko, and from their unbroken lineage to Kerensky's 800. Each warrior's lineage is recorded in his codex, a copy of which is electronically stored in a band worn on his right forearm. A warrior's career, from his first sibko test to his dying oath, is recorded by the codex and analyzed by his Clan. If a warrior's deeds are judged worthy, his genetic material helps create the next generation. Failure means the termination of his or her line. It is little wonder that the drive to excel overshadows all other considerations.

    Seldom do freebirths, those not born from the eugenics program, win a chance to join the warrior caste. Those who do are usually consigned to garrison and paramilitary police units, with little hope of advancing to a level where their genes would be incorporated into the warrior pool. This disregard for freebirth warriors may be changing. The growing responsibility given freebirth warriors in recent decades is best exemplified by Jaime and Joshua Wolf's command of the Wolf Dragoons.

    Scientist Caste

    The scientist caste has two responsibilities: continued technological development and genetic control of the population. The warriors' eugenics program naturally occupies a place of prime importance in their work. Assignment to the scientist caste is considered a high honor for civilians because it literally holds the future of the Clans in its hands. This caste is also responsible for educating and testing all freebirths.

    Merchant Caste

    The merchant caste is powerful because it controls all commerce within the Clans. The merchants' economic power is held in check by the warrior caste's monopoly over JumpShip travel. Though merchants own their own vessels, explicit laws require that all vessels carry warriors for protection. Long journeys are allowed only with a naval escort. This arrangement effectively prevents merchants from gaining too much power. The merchants still feel free, however, to indirectly criticize the warrior caste for the way the merchant caste's affairs are handled. Indeed, many suggest that the impetus for the invasion of the Inner Sphere originated in the merchant caste, which was eager to pursue new monetary endeavors. The merchants are the most rebellious of the lower castes, though some have suffered severe punishment for their protests. The Clan Widowmaker merchants, for example, precipitated an internal dispute with the warrior caste that ultimately led to the whole Clan's annihilation. This is described more fully in the next chapter.

    Technician Caste

    The technician caste is less defined than the others. In general, a member of the technician caste is responsible for the upkeep, repair, and operation of complicated equipment, including everything from a cyclotron to an agribot to a BattleMech. In fact, a technician's status in Clan society is directly related to the caste he is supporting. Thus, technicians assigned as support for a BattleMech Star are much higher in status than technicians assigned to maintain agribots, even though the two groups possess the same skills.

    Laborer Caste

    The laborer caste is both the largest and lowest-level caste in the official Clan hierarchy. This caste farms the fields, operates the factories, and provides all basic services. In short, it is composed of the common citizens. During my stay with the Clans, I never encountered a member of this caste, except for the "bondsmen" (captured warriors of other Clans serving as laborers while working to regain their warrior status) aboard their ships.

    Bandit Caste

    This caste is not recognized by Clan society, yet it exists. Sometimes referred to as the "dark caste," it supports the failures of Clan society, the unwanted, and the rejects. How or where they live is unknown, but Clan literature is filled with stories of malcontents who fled to the bandit caste and came to unsavory ends. Warriors who fail to test up or who grow too old to be of service sometimes slip away to this caste, as do scientists whose discoveries are deemed counterproductive to the Clans. The dark caste has no voice in Clan affairs because their group is not sanctioned. Bandit caste atrocities are the stuff of legends, but it is difficult to believe that the caste is strong enough to be more than a minor nuisance to the Clans. Cynics suggest that the bandit caste exists solely to sharpen developing warriors' fighting edge.

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    Original Clans

    Nicholas Kerensky named the original Clans after beasts, entities, or attributes he felt would inspire his warriors. Each exemplifies some worthy feature that he wished his warriors to reflect. Wolves, for example, were admired for their cunning and stealth.

    Seventeen Clans remain of the original 20. Two of the missing Clans were absorbed by other Clans through trials and Grand Council rulings. The third Clan is spoken of only as the "Not-Named Clan," the reasons for which are discussed in the main body of this text. Suffice it to say that the crime committed was considered so heinous that all mention of the Clan was purged from the official history of the Clans. Following is a list of the original 20 Clans and the origin of their names.

    Blood Spirit:
    This name honors the esprit de corps that held together the 800 Bloodnamed warriors durina the horrors of the Exodus Civil War.

    This Clan is named for the burrock, a large invertebrate indigenous to Eden. The burrock is capable of burrowing through solid rock. It excretes a powerful, acidic mucous which allows it to move through rock.

    Cloud Cobra:
    The cloud cobra was introduced to Arcadia and adapted quickly to its new environment. It evolved to prey on fauna in the planet's misty jungles.

    This Strana Mechty carnivore descended from coyotes found on the North American continent on Terra. This coyote is larger and apparently much more intelligent than the Terran species, perhaps because of genetic engineering.

    Fire Mandrill:
    This name is taken from a primate introduced to Eden whose aggressiveness and fire-red fur were admired by warriors.

    Ghost Bear:
    This Clan is named for the arctic bear that inhabits Strana Mechty's southern hemisphere. It is admired for its strength and cunning.

    Goliath Scorpion:
    The large Babylon arthropod for which this Clan is named uses lethal poison to kill its prey. Many of the early settlers lost their lives to this creature. It is admired for its suicidal defense of its nest.

    Hell's Horses:
    In an attempt to genetically adapt horses to life in the deserts of Circe, Clan scientists bred carnivorous horses of uncontrollable aggressiveness. The prototypes of these horses were intended to be terminated, but a tender- hearted warrior set them free to live and breed in the deserts. These horses have a peculiar fascination for Circe's many caves. The Clan has embraced the aggressiveness and hardy stock of its namesake.

    Ice Hellion:
    Even though this cunning pack predator of Hector's snowy mountains preyed on the first Clan explorers, it was admired for its lithe shape and blindingly white fur.

    Jade Falcon:
    The jade falcon is a large bird that was genetically altered from a Terran peregrine to live in the jungles of Eden. It has a distinctive, shimmering, emerald-green plumage and an ear-piercing cry.

    One of the absorbed Clans, the Mongoose was named after the sinuous predator found on the planet Shadow. It stalked and killed that world's large, dangerous venom worms, which endeared it to the Clan.

    Nova Cat:
    The Dagda feline whose mane stands on end (like a sudden nova) whenever it is alarmed was the inspiration for this Clan name. Its mane is tipped with barbs containing a substance poisonous to most creatures. The nova cat is admired for its alert response to danger.

    Sea Fox:
    This Clan takes its name from the seal-like reptilian predator of Strana Mechty's freshwater oceans. The sea fox appears to honor its prey by bellowing and then bowing, as though in respect for its kill.

    Smoke Jaguar:
    Smoke jaguar is an altered Terran jaguar let loose in the jungles of Strana Mechty, so named because its fur looks like grayish smoke. Nicholas Kerensky held up the smoke jaguar as the epitome of unadulterated aggressiveness, citing as proof the animal's ferocity and its habit of springing on its prey from above.

    Snow Raven:
    This Clan name was inspired by the huge ravens inhabiting Strana Mechty's southern tundra. The warriors honor the creature's unwillingness to waste anything the tundra offers them, the sign of a true survivor.

    Star Adder:
    The star adder is a genetically altered adder that was released into the northern steppes of Strana Mechty to control the disease-carrying crana, a rodent-sized insect. The snake's shimmering black scales, peppered with white spots, might be reason enough to call it the star adder. The real source of its name, however, is its nightly rearing and swaying in response to almost constant stellar displays resembling the aurora borealis.

    Steel Viper:
    This clan name refers to the tenacious Arcadian snake that coils around its victims in a solid grip, then slowly releases a poison. The word steel refers both to its unyielding embrace and the rigidity of its victims once they have been thoroughly poisoned.

    The second absorbed Clan was named for the black widow spiders accidently released into the jungles of Eden, where they grew to three times their Terran size. Their aggressiveness and the strength of their poison increased at the same rate.

    Though nearly twice the size of their progenitors, the Strana Mechty wolf is otherwise identical to Terran wolves. Wolf packs roam both the northern and southern continents, and the Kerenskys considered them the epitome of the warrior spirit.

    Wolverines were introduced to the forests of Strana Mechty, where they flourished, growing in size and ferocity. They were admired by warriors because they stood their ground against any intruder, no matter what its size or strength. The Wolverine Clan is the Not-Named Clan, which was annihilated.

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    Clan Language

    The root of Clan language is what linguists in the Inner Sphere refer to as Star League Standard English, a variation of English created by the Terran Hegemony and spread by the influence of the Star League to become the parlance of government, commerce, and culture throughout the Inner Sphere. With the collapse of the Star League, the language quickly mongrelized into the countless languages and dialects now used throughout the Inner Sphere. Today, only our Blessed Order and the upper classes of the Inner Sphere use a language approximating Star League Standard English.

    The Clans took this language with them when they left and treated it with the same reverence they have for all things associated with the Star League. Talking to a Clansman is like talking to a holo from those bygone days; it is an amazing and sometimes eerie experience.

    This reverence for the language of their forefathers gave birth to a subtle but very striking taboo in Clan society: the use of contractions is forbidden. I did not immediately recognize the total absence of contractions from their speech. In the first days of my association with the Clans, warriors would blanch and others become visibly upset at my speech, even though the words I had used were not offensive. I soon realized this effect was produced by my use of contractions. In my first conversation with the Loremaster of Clan Wolf, I discovered the rationale behind this odd taboo. He explained, "We in the Clans have learned almost from birth to revere the old Star League ways; everything we do should in some way glorify the Clans and the memory of the Star League. This specifically includes our speech, because we believe as strongly in the freedom of speech and expression as did the Star League. To slight the beauty of the language with contractions is to treat it as your people in the Inner Sphere treated the memory of the Star League. You have cut out its heart and reduced it to a cultural contraction, devoid of beauty and the best of its meaning. Only someone wishing to deliberately scorn the language and shock the listener would use contractions."

    This does not mean that the Clans have allowed the language to stagnate. Over the years, the Kerenskys and the Clans have added terms to express unique Clan concepts. These words come from a wide variety of languages, especially Russian. Some are military terms adapted for common use. Others are formed by splicing together two words to form a third. These added words sometimes create the effect of listening to a completely foreign tongue.

    Clan warriors also have a "battle language," with which I was much more comfortable. Like warriors in the Inner Sphere, Clan warriors use a wide range of acronyms, hyphenations, splices, and buzz words to convey the most meaning in the least number of words. Clan warriors' battle language is so quick and complex that even when Inner Sphere forces are able to intercept Clan communications, they seldom understand what they hear.

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    Clan Government

    Each Clan is ruled by a council composed of its Bloodnamed warriors. The Clan Council elects two ruling Khans. One Khan serves as the Clan's senior military commander and the executor of that Clan's bureaucracy. The other Khan's position is more nebulous. He or she is second-in-command and enjoys a high status within the Clan, but the position does not include specific duties. These must be assigned by the "senior" Khan. Clan Councils control their warriors and the members of all other castes belonging to that Clan. The interaction between a Clan Council and the various caste governments is extremely convoluted, but when necessary, the Clan Council can invoke the satarra, an overriding veto.

    The Khans of all the Clans form the Grand Council, which passes judgment on matters affecting Clan society as a whole. Nicholas Kerensky erected the Hall of Khans on Strana Mechty for this important governing body. His father's tomb dominates a small chapel on one side of the Hall. Nearby are smaller, though no less impressive, halls for each Clan.

    The supreme ruler of the Clans is the ilKhan. This position is filled only when the Clans must coordinate their efforts for some task, or during times of great internal or external threat. A simple majority vote in the Grand Council can elect an ilKhan. However, those who oppose the election can and usually do demand a Trial of Refusal (see below). Nicholas Kerensky appointed himself the first ilKhan of the Clans in the summer of 2815. He was unopposed.

    One of the most far-reaching measures Nicholas instituted was the elimination of surnames. Surnames were too closely associated with the corruption of the Inner Sphere. Kerensky allowed only the loyal 800 to retain their surnames. These 800 family names are the basis for the Bloodnames. In fact, it is considered a deliberate affront to society to give a child two names or to adopt a second personal name, unless it is an earned Bloodname. The second name can only be interpreted as an intentional slur on the honor and dignity of Bloodnames.

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    Clan Trials

    Nicholas was determined that civil war would not claim his new society. Instead of banning warfare, which he considered part of human nature, he created controlled conflicts through regulations and rituals. Thus, the Six Trials of Combat were established. Each trial begins with the batchall, the formal challenge, by which the aggressor announces to his opponent his intentions, his goal, and his fighting force.

    Trial of Grievance (Honor Duel)

    When disputes arise between individual warriors that neither they nor their immediate superiors can resolve, both warriors must petition to have their differences heard by the Clan Council (or the Grand Council if the opponents are Bloodnamed or hold important rank). Until the council rules, the disputants are bound by Clan law to avoid any unnecessary contact. This may be carried to the point of one transferring to another unit. If one takes aggressive action against the other before the council rules, or if he disagrees with the council's decision, he or she has committed a breach of Clan law punishable by expulsion into a lesser caste or out of Clan society entirely.

    The parties may also call for a Trial of Grievance. The rules governing the trial are many and strict. If the combatants are MechWarriors or fighter pilots of different weight-class vehicles, the council must make the contest more even. Often, a vehicle type that is mid-way in size is chosen, and the disputants have several weeks to become accustomed to their new vehicles. If the disputants are from different branches of the warrior caste, then some kind of a middle ground, such as fencing with Medusa whips, is chosen.

    The trial itself is judged by members of the council, who ensure that trial and combat etiquette is strictly heeded. A Circle of Equals is defined, anything from ten meters in diameter for a hand-to-hand trial to more than 100 kilometers wide for an air duel. No one but the combatants may enter the Circle of Equals unless invited, and leaving the Circle before the contest is ended is a shameful defeat. All trials are defined as to the death, but they usually end before either combatant is killed.

    This system of decisions and regulations is designed to outlast the anger that sparked the trial, and that is usually the case. Some records indicate, however, that sometimes the anger between two warriors, or two sets of warriors, outlasts even the Trial of Grievance, degenerating into what we would call a feud. The most notorious and well-documented failure of the grievance trial system involved the Nicholas Pride sibko and the Blue Devil sibko of Clan Smoke Jaguar. The Blue Devil warriors maintained a grudge for several generations, based on an imagined slight during a Smoke Jaguar Council ceremony.

    Other tales suggest that many Honor Duels are resolved less formally and more swiftly than official sources dictate. For example, a Trial of Grievance between two sibkin rarely draws the attention of the Clan Council. Instead, a Circle of Equals is drawn immediately and the two fight under the supervision of a superior officer until one is knocked from the circle.

    Trial of Position

    Trials of Position determine rank and honors. The Trial of Position determines whether a cadet becomes a warrior as well as whether a warrior deserves a promotion to the next level of training. The trial is a combat situation in which the candidate usually faces selected superiors one at a time with live weapons. The candidate's success determines how far he advances in rank and responsibility.

    The use of live weapons for what is essentially an examination seems barbaric and wasteful of human life to those outside the Clans. An accident can easily cut short a promising career or life. It is one of the best examples of how little regard the Clans have for individual life in their quest for social supremacy.

    Even if the goal is worthy, is it worth the cost in suffering and human life? When asked this question, a Clansman most often reacts with a blank stare. The concept of individuality is as alien to the Clanspeople as they are to us. Those who understand that it is a question of balance can answer easily. The cause is worth everything, the individual, nothing. If a warrior is unwilling to risk his life for the good of the Clans, he cannot claim the status of warrior and is of no use to the Clans. His fellow Clansmen would prefer to discover this in a test than in the heat of battle. Therefore, they see no point in using powered-down weapons when a warrior is training to face real weapons.

    Throughout a cadet's training and a warrior's career, he continually undergoes Trials of Position. From the sibko on, a warrior must face many trials. The early trials would be familiar to us in the Inner Sphere as simple exams. The trials grow progressively harder, however, and the cadet's attitude and mental endurance is tested as well as his knowledge of facts.

    The Trial of Position is also a cadet's final trial. During this test, two cadets face six frontline warriors with weapons at full power. Each candidate faces three of the experienced warriors, who attack one at a time. If a candidate attacks any of the warriors assigned to another cadet, they are free to return fire, and the combat becomes a general melee. To pass the trial, a candidate must defeat at least one of his opponents. If he does so, he becomes a warrior and enters active service. Defeat of two opponents earns the rank of Star Commander. Defeat of three, a rare accomplishment, ranks the candidate as a Star Captain. Defeat of four requires cooperation between the two candidates, in that one surrenders a potential kill to the other. On only one occasion has a candidate defeated four opponents in a Trial of Position. Natasha Kerensky accomplished this feat and earned the rank of Star Colonel upon her recent return to the Clans. A warrior can be required to repeat the Trial of Position at any time in his career, especially when his continuing ability to perform is in question, as it was with Natasha Kerensky's, or when he is in line for a promotion.

    Trial of Bloodright

    The Clans have approximately 760 Bloodnames. The name of each of the 800 warriors who joined Nicholas Kerensky and refused to take part in the Exodus Civil War is considered a Bloodname, less the 40 names removed when the "Not-Named Clan" was annihilated. Clan tradition dictates that only 25 living Clan warriors may hold the same Bloodname, and each must have a direct matrilineal link to the original progenitor.

    Each Clan originally claimed rights only to the Bloodnames of the 40 warriors Nicholas Kerensky assigned to that Clan. This organization gradually blurred as Clans fought each other in Trials of Possession for specific warriors' genes to enhance their individual Clan. Even if warriors became abtakha (captured by another Clan), they still retained the right to claim a Bloodname belonging to their former Clan. In this way, more than one Clan could claim the same Bloodname. Additional cross-naming took place when two Clans were disbanded and their Bloodnames spread among the other Clans. There are still some Bloodnames, however, that are the exclusive property of a Clan. The Kerensky and Ward Bloodnames, for example, are still held only by warriors of the Wolf Clan.

    Winning a Bloodname is a warrior's guarantee of Clan immortality. Not only is he honored with the right to use the Bloodname as his own, but he becomes eligible for high military and political positions. Most important to Bloodnamed warriors is the fact that, barring any subsequent action that would bring them shame, their genes will contribute to the gene pool for the next generation. The remains of most Bloodnamed warriors are returned to one of the 800 memorial chapels built by Nicholas Kerensky on Strana Mechty to honor each of the original 800 warriors. There, the ashes of each Bloodnamed warrior lie with the ashes of the other warriors of the same Bloodname in the ornate tomb of their honored namesake.

    When a Bloodnamed warrior dies, a Trial of Bloodright is declared. The current Bloodnamed warriors of that name each select one nominee from the pool of eligible candidates. The Bloodname's leader nominates additional warriors to bring the number to 31 candidates. The 32nd slot is reserved for all other eligible candidates, those who were not nominated but who still wish to compete for a Bloodname. This group engages in a Grand Bloodname Melee, with the survivor being awarded the 32nd slot. The 32 candidates then begin a series of one-on-one duels that eventually result in one victor, who is awarded the Bloodname. This fulfills Nicholas Kerensky's requirement that a Bloodname be won by defeating all others who make a claim to that name.

    Though winning any Bloodname is significant, it is interesting to note that considerable prestige is attached to certain Bloodheritages. Because lineage is traced matrilineally, each warrior is only qualified to compete for one Bloodname. It is not uncommon for an ambitious warrior to decline nomination for what he considers an inferior Bloodheritage, in hopes of competing for a better Bloodheritage later on.

    Trial of Possession

    The fourth type of combat trial is conducted when two or more Clans claim the rights to the same thing, be it territory, a warrior's genes, or even supremacy in a conflict of opinion. Nicholas Kerensky created this combat trial within a year of the end of the civil war. As a reward for their loyal support, Kerensky decided that each Clan should receive half of one of the colonized Clan worlds and small shares of the others. Strana Mechty would remain neutral. The Clans had to determine among themselves who would possess what area. If two or more Clans wanted the same piece of land, their claims were subject to a Trial of Possession. This policy resulted in many hard-fought battles to determine which Clans got the lion's share of the better worlds and how the remaining lands were to be divided.

    A Trial of Possession is initiated when the attackers issue a formal challenge to the defenders. The attackers identify themselves, state their objective, and ask the defender what forces he will use. For example, Star Colonel Adler Malthus began the campaign against Twycross with this challenge: "I am Star Colonel Adler Malthus of the Falcon Guards. What forces defend this world?"

    The challenge changes to fit the objective. If, for example, the challenge is over the rights to genetic material, part of the challenge might be stated in the following manner: "What forces defend the spawn of Dan Kryla?"

    The defenders then state what forces they will place in defense of the objective. They also have the right to name the location of the trial. The defenders may increase the stakes by demanding a prize of equal or lesser value if they win. This option available to the defender is largely unknown in the Inner Sphere, but explains why Hohiro Kurita was able to bargain with the Clan commander at Wolcott.

    The attacker's subcommanders then bid among themselves for the right to engage in the trial. The subcommander who bids to fight with the fewest forces wins the right and responsibility to make the attack.

    Clans can keep prisoners taken during such trials to serve as "bondsmen" (laborers for the Clan), or else these individuals may be sent back to their original Clan, with little honor lost. Bondsmen must serve the Clan until the Clan Council decides to reinstate their rights as a warrior. A Clan can formally adopt captured warriors if the Clan Council considers them an asset to its forces. Once a warrior is officially adopted into a new Clan, he regains his warrior status.

    Bidding and Trials of Possession both favor commanders who succeed using minimal forces. Nicholas used these methods to prevent all-out war and the catastrophic loss of industry and civilian life that inevitably accompanies it.

    Trial of Refusal

    The Clan Councils and the Grand Council, like any legislative bodies, vote on laws and actions that affect the community. Unlike Inner Sphere legislative bodies, however, any decision can be challenged and reversed by a Trial of Refusal. These trials afford the losing side the right to demand that the issue be settled by combat.

    The forces used in a Trial of Refusal are determined on a prorated basis. The side rejecting the vote declares what forces they will use. The winning side can field a force equal to the ratio of winning votes to losing votes. If, for example, the contested vote carried by a three-to-one margin, those on the winning side of the issue can field a force three times the size of the force of those challenging the decision. The traditional bidding by subcommanders usually results in a smaller attacking force, however.

    If this trial process is taken to its logical conclusion, it is possible that a subcommander might vote for a decision he actually opposed, and then bid so low that the decision could be overturned. My suggestion that a warrior might consider this course of action was met with shock and frozen silence. One Loremaster refused any further interviews, and another prohibited me from any contact with the warriors of his Clan. Such a breach of honor is clearly unthinkable.

    An interesting variation of the Trial of Refusal is the Absorption Right. The Grand Council can vote to allow one Clan to absorb another, but only by a unanimous vote (excepting the Clan being absorbed). The council then determines which Clan will benefit from the Absorption. Naturally, the Clan to be absorbed would demand a Trial of Refusal. The Clan chosen to absorb the weaker Clan may also be challenged by others in a Trial of Refusal even before battling the Clan to be absorbed. The resulting trials can last for years. Wolf won the right to absorb Widowmaker in 2825, for example, but had to defeat three other Clans for that right.

    Trial of Annihilation

    A Trial of Annihilation is the most extreme punishment the Clans can declare. It goes beyond the question of right and wrong. A Trial of Annihilation virtually guarantees that the warrior will die and that his genes will be eliminated from the Clans' gene pool. This trial can only be invoked by a unanimous vote of the appropriate council, and only for the most heinous crimes against Clan society.

    Trials of Annihilation have been declared against warriors, Stars, and even Clusters, but only once has an entire Clan suffered this ultimate punishment. Because any mention of the Clan involved in this Trial of Annihilation is punishable by a Trial of Grievance, no Clansman would reveal the name of the "Not-Named Clan." The details behind its annihilation were also impossible to discover. However, careful research into The Remembrance and artfully phrased questions point to the Clan Wolverine as the object of this Trial of Annihilation.

    Clan Wolverine

    Nicholas Kerensky's new society, with its formalized rules of combat, was not completely accepted by all his followers. In 2823, Clan Wolverine rejected a Grand Council decision on the division of equipment found in a Brian Cache in Wolverine territory, claiming that the cache belonged to Clan Wolverine alone. They invoked a Trial of Refusal and lost. They did not accept the ruling, but shocked the rest of the Clans by declaring Clan Wolverine totally independent. IlKhan Nicholas Kerensky declared that Clan Wolverine had become "tainted by the old ways of lust for power." He urged the Grand Council to vote for a Trial of Annihilation against the rebellious Clan. The resulting vote was swift and unanimous, and Clans Wolf and Widowmaker won the honor of annihilating Wolverine.

    Wolf and Widowmaker took the opportunity of the Trial of Annihilation to expand their prestige, each at the cost of the other. The long-time rivalry between these two Clans was fierce and bitter. The bidding between the two Clans for the honor of destroying Clan Wolverine turned the bitterness into hate. The Wolf Clan version of The Remembrance states that Clan Widowmaker deliberately drove the bidding down to dangerous levels, then withdrew, leaving the warriors of Clan Wolf facing the majority of Clan Wolverine at very poor odds. Clan Widowmaker was pleased when Clan Wolf suffered major losses in the battle, but their hatred was fanned higher by Clan Wolf's eventual triumph over Clan Wolverine. The warriors of Clan Wolverine were dead, and the Grand Council moved to purge its tainted ways from Clan society. The Wolverine Bloodnames were eliminated from the gene pool, all Wolverine lower-caste citizens were sterilized, and all mention of Clan Wolverine was removed from Clan documents.

    Rumors among the Clans say that some Clan Wolverine warriors escaped and fled the Clan worlds. It is probably no coincidence that the "Minnesota Tribe" that attacked the perimeter of the Combine struck in 2825, a year after the annihilation of Clan Wolverine. This tribe was reported as using brand-new 'Mechs, fighting in ways alien to the Inner Sphere.

    Tensions between Clans Widowmaker and Wolf escalated into a bitterly fought battle that would mark the end of an era for the Clans. Warriors from Widowmaker claimed Wolf had cheated in its victory that annihilated the Wolverines. Clan Wolf responded by accusing Clan Widowmaker of misusing the bidding system to deliberately place Wolf warriors in hopeless situations. This animosity lasted through a decade marked by vicious Trials of Posses- sion that often skirted the limits of the Grand Council's rules of combat.

    Death and Absorption

    It was during a Trial of Possession between Clans Widowmaker and Wolf that the merchants of Clan Widowmaker lodged a formal protest against their parent Clan with the Grand Council. The cause of the tensions between the freebirth merchants and their Clan is unrecorded, but the warriors' response is well documented. Mass arrests and the execution of the protest's leaders were carried out with ruthless efficiency.

    Emotions on both sides were running high, and they reached a flashpoint when Khan Cal Jorgensson of Clan Widowmaker publicly accused Clan Wolf of having agitated the Widowmaker merchants to rise against their Clan. Khan Jerome Winson of Clan Wolf vehemently denied any involvement. He countered by claiming that Clan Widowmaker's massacre of its own people invalidated their right to govern. Clan Wolf demanded before the Grand Council that Clan Widowmaker be absorbed.

    Clan Widowmaker eventually lost the debate, but immediately invoked a Trial of Refusal. Clan Wolf competed for and finally won the right to defend the Grand Council's decision.

    The trial took place on the Steitz Plains of Ironhold. Widowmaker was defending with a Cluster of ten Stars against eleven Stars from Clan Wolf. Off the battlefield, warriors from the other Clans watched the trial through a system of monitors and satellites. The Khans of the Grand Council, led by Nicholas Kerensky, officiated the duel to ensure that the rules of this bitter battle were strictly enforced.

    The initial exchange was fierce, with both sides committing large forces to frontal attacks. Well into the battle, Khan Jerome Winson and Khan Cal Jorgensson mutually declared a Trial of Grievance. As the combat around them gradually died down, two Khans squared off. When it became clear that Khan Jerome Winson was about to disable the 'Mech of Khan Cal Jorgensson, a Star of Widowmaker BattleMechs leaped into the Circle of Equals and attacked the Khan of Clan Wolf. Whether they attacked orders or on the spur of the moment will never be known.

    Nicholas Kerensky and the rest of the Grand Council immediately moved to defend Khan Jerome Winson from this cowardly action. A moment later, one of Khan Cal Jorgensson's large lasers discharged at point-blank range into ilKhan Nicholas Kerensky's cockpit. There is no way of knowing if the action was intentional. The melee came to an abrupt end as technicians and medics tried desperately to extricate the stricken leader from his 'Mech. By the time they reached him, ilKhan Nicholas Kerensky was dead.

    In a fit of rage, Clan Wolf attacked Clan Widowmaker full force. The battle, which lasted for three days, was marked by uncomprmising brutality. The Wolf Clan warriors, with the aid of the other Clans, tracked down and captured or killed all warriors of Clan Widowmaker. Clan Wolf emerged victorious and the Grand Council unanimously granted their demand to claim all Clan Widowmaker's resources.

    The Widowmaker symbol, a red hourglass against the abdomen of a black widow spider, was removed from Clan records. It became synonymous with disregard for Clan rules and traditions. The bandit caste frequently uses the symbol as a sign of its independence. More recently, Khan Natasha Kerensky has adopted the symbol as her own, not because she is associated with the bandit caste, but because she believes that many Clan traditions hinder rather than help the Clans.

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    Rite of Forgiveness

    Recent discussions with members of the Third Battle Cluster revealed some curious insights into Clan honor from their reaction to the Invasion vote. The Wardens in Clan Wolf, those who disapproved of the invasion, were eager for the chance to show their extreme displeasure at having been outvoted, which I understood. I found it surprising that the Crusaders within the Clan, those who agreed with the idea of invading the Inner Sphere, were just as eager to accept punishment as a way of atoning for their Clan having dared disagree with the the Grand Council's decision. This instance of desiring to atone for disagreeing with authority was not unique. My research into Clan literature has uncovered many poems, by warriors and lower castes alike, describing the joy and pride with which the poet willingly endured punishments that we in the Inner Sphere would consider beyond the realm of human decency. All dissent is subject to the Right of Forgiveness. This holds true from the highest level (Clan against Council) to the lowest (laborer caste against warrior caste). In the latter case, however, proper atonement does not guarantee that the warrior will spare the laborer's life. I am not aware of an equivalent among Inner Sphere societies and governments for what the Clans call Surkai, the Right of Forgiveness.

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    Rebirth and Expansion

    The death of ilKhan Nicholas Kerensky, followed by the election of Jerome Winson of Clan Wolf as ilKhan, marked the first time that the Clans were not led by a Kerensky. Instead of marking the beginning of an age of indecision and uncertainty, the next century came to be known as "The Golden Century." All facets of Clan society experienced a period of intense development and growth during this time. The worlds of the Pentagon were reconstructed, erasing the final scars of the Civil War. Nicholas Kerensky, like his father before him, was elevated to the level of a demi-god, and both his writings and recorded speeches became objects of reverence.

    Exploration continued in the Kerensky Cluster, but exploitation of its worlds lagged for two reasons. One was the sheer lack of people trained to take advantage of any discoveries, and the other was the Grand Council's desire to keep Clan society on a short rein. This did not prevent the Clans from bidding for newly discovered worlds. Although most Clans established only small outposts on new worlds, Clan Wolf seems to have taken fuller advantage of what they owned. They established major industrial complexes on the cluster worlds of Paxon and Tiber, despite rumblings within the Grand Council against such extensive colonization.

    The scientist and technician castes reached new heights of excellence during the Golden Century. They perfected artificial womb technology, rebuilt the Clans' industrial base, and made advances in virtually every field of endeavor. Not surprisingly, it was in military technology that they made the greatest, and ultimately the most devastating, advances.

    In 2854, scientists from Clan Coyote carried the concept of the Mercury BattleMech to its logical extreme by developing a 'Mech with a completely modular weapons system. The result was an "OmniMech," a machine whose weaponry could be completely reconfigured or replaced by a few technicians to suit the situation in just a few hours. This was the first significant improvement of the BattleMech since its development by the Star League, and it gave the Clans tremendous flexibility, which they have used against us to great advantage. Because of the OmniMechs, Clan Coyote enjoyed a considerable advantage until the other Clans could create their own versions. This took several years.

    At about the same time the OmniMechs were being developed, Clan Wolf scientists were working on an armored infantry suit. It protected a soldier, allowed him to keep up with 'Mechs, and enabled him to carry weaponry that could threaten 'Mechs. The Wolf Clan used the first of these powered armor suits in 2868, when two Stars of Clan Wolf infantry defeated a light Star of Clan Nova Cat OmniMechs during a Trial of Possession.

    Both the battle armor and those wearing it were called "Elementals" because they could fight in any element: air, water, fire, earth, or even space. It is interesting to note that some passages of The Remembrance mention specific elements when referring to the battle armor, which suggests that early versions of the units functioned in specific environments. The scientist caste began breeding larger and physically stronger warriors who could better cope with the strain of wearing the armor. Other technological and biological advances resulted in the Clans boasting troops of genetically superior Elementals before 25 years had passed.

    During the Golden Century, the Clans matured into a society totally unlike anything with which we are familiar. Discussions with various Loremasters indicate that it was during this era that the Clans began to foster a hatred for the peoples of the Inner Sphere. Though The Remembrance couches the Clan's sentiments in quasi-religious tones, their view of us is made clear. We are considered unenlightened savages living in luxury, while a far more civilized people is forced to live on hostile worlds far from Terra. In In particular, they developed a strong contempt for the five major Houses, whom they consider responsible for the Star League's fall. Clan warriors see the worlds of the Inner Sphere, especially those of the former Terran Hegemony, as virtual paradises, but their view is distorted by both bitterness and idealization.

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    Crusaders' Call

    By 2980 many in the Clans were ready to return to the Inner Sphere. Citing The Remembrance, warriors noted that three generations had passed many times over, and that it was time to reestablish the Star League and end their self-imposed exile. This zealous faction called itself the "Crusaders." Other warriors embraced the Crusaders' views, not because they believed in the faction's interpretation of The Remembrance, but because they saw the Inner Sphere as an opportunity to prove themselves. Even the lower castes, particularly the merchants, who were always eager for new markets, began to agree that the Hidden Hope would be resolved by the Clans' return to the Inner Sphere.

    The Grand Council had strong reservations about returning, mainly because of an almost total lack of information about events in the Inner Sphere since the Exodus. They expressed the fear that the Inner Sphere had not gone up in flames as predicted, but was united, as strong as or stronger than the Clans.

    The council decided to form Intelser, an intelligence service whose operatives would move cautiously toward the Inner Sphere to gather information. Operatives traveling as independent traders made contact with and infiltrated the Periphery states, relaying what they learned to the Clans. By 2984, a somewhat confused picture of the Inner Sphere had begun to emerge.

    The Clans learned that there had, indeed, been a holocaust, called the Succession Wars, as predicted by Aleksandr Kerensky. However, they mistakenly believed that the technological level of the Periphery domains was typical of the entire Inner Sphere. The Grand Council decided that the Inner Sphere was not a military threat. Those who wanted to return claimed that the conditions laid out by General Order 137 proved that the time was ripe: "When the time is right, when the strength of our will and our honor is humanity's only hope to struggle up from the ashes, only then can our strong descendants make the long journey to the home that is rightfully ours." The Crusaders felt these conditions had been fulfilled. The Grand Council agreed to discuss the Crusaders' call to arms, and thus began what would become known as the Great Debate.

    The Clans eventually formed two camps, the Crusaders and the Wardens. The Crusaders were those who favored an immediate return to the Inner Sphere to reestablish the Star League according to the writings of the Kerenskys. The Wardens, on the other hand, believed that the Kerenskys had never meant their words to be read so literally. They asserted that the words were meant not as a command to future generations, but to stir courage. They believed the Clans' destiny was to develop their own culture, separate from the tainted ways of the Inner Sphere, but willing and able to come to the Inner Sphere's aid if menaced by any outside threat.

    Though challenged to do so, the Wardens never clearly articulated what they meant by "outside threat." Some suggested intelligent life forms from beyond human-conquered space. Others made reference to the possibility of a despotic domain in the Inner Sphere whose principles ran so contrary to human decency that the Wardens would feel compelled to intervene.

    At most, said the Wardens, the Clans should establish only the coolest of relations with the domains of the Inner Sphere, returning only if invited or if the Successor States collapsed through their own folly. Both sides supported their arguments with the writings of the Kerenskys, but neither side could claim a majority and force the issue. Individual Clans were divided over the issue, most being split almost evenly between the two suggested courses of action. This is the most divisive issue that the Clans have ever faced.

    The debate lasted months, then years, during which the Crusaders slowly mustered a majority. Though Clan Wolf remained primarily Warden, even their influence could not stem the tide of support for the Crusaders.

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    Dragoon Compromise

    In 3000, Khan Nadia Winson of Clan Ghost Bear, sensing that the Crusaders had finally gained the upper hand, attempted to force the issue with a vote. She was stymied when Khan Kerlin Ward of Clan Wolf suggested a clever compromise. Khan Kerlin Ward contended that not enough information was yet available to make such an important decision. He proposed sending a sizable Clan force, under the guise of a mercenary unit, into the Inner Sphere to judge its military, economic, and political might, providing the Grand Council with a detailed report of the strengths and weaknesses of their future opponents.

    The Grand Council agreed the plan had merit, and Clan Wolf was awarded the honor of mustering the force. Rather than risk their best fighters, they planned to use freebirths and other low-regarded warriors. If these warriors performed well, they would be rewarded by having their genes added to the gene pool.

    The unit was dubbed "Wolf's Dragoons." Commanding the multi-regiment unit were Jaime and Joshua Wolf, controversial choices because both were freebirth. Many of the Clans balked at this choice, but the Grand Council finally decided that Clan Wolf had the right to outfit and staff the Dragoons as they saw fit. The roster of the Dragoons included several Bloodnamed warriors who volunteered for the mission, among them a young and feisty Natasha Kerensky.

    The Dragoons left for the Inner Sphere in 3004, ouffitted with pre-Exodus BattleMechs from some of the oldest Brian Caches. Other vehicles and equipment were retro-fitted with pre-Exodus parts to prevent advanced technology from accidentally falling into the hands of the Inner Sphere. Young freebirth "dependants" rounded out the appearance of a nomadic mercenary company.

    The Dragoons made contact with the Inner Sphere a year later, after making a long, circuitous journey to prevent the curious from discovering their point of origin. They went on to make their historic circuit of service through the Inner Sphere, gathering detailed information on each of the governments and militaries they served. In 3009, the unit returned to the Clans for refitting. They also filed their first-hand reports on the Inner Sphere.

    The Dragoons' reports contrasted significantly with the previous Clan perception of the Inner Sphere. The Dragoons reported that the Inner Sphere was not on the verge of collapse, but on the road to recovery. This revelation further divided the Grand Council. The Dragoons were ordered to return to the Inner Sphere and continue their mission, while the Clans considered the implications of their new information.

    The Dragoons returned, but near the end of the Third Succession War, their intelligence reports to the Grand Council began to slow, for no known reason. It is possible the Dragoons found the freedom of the Inner Sphere, where there were no real castes and where growing old as an active warrior was accepted, to their liking. On the other hand, the death of Joshua Wolf may have played a key role in turning Jaime and the rest of the Dragoons away from the Clans' grand scheme. The Grand Council was unprepared for the Dragoons' sudden reticence, and could not agree on how to react or how to supplement their intelligence-gathering efforts.

    The Wardens and Crusaders squared off for a new, more hotly contested debate in late 3029 when rumors from the Periphery suggested a possible union between the Federated Suns and the Lyran Commonwealth. The Crusaders claimed that if the rumors were true, such a union would represent a major obstacle to any attempt by the Clans to restore the Star League.

    Khan Ulric Kerensky, successor to Khan Kerlin Ward in Clan Wolf, stalled a decisive vote in the Grand Council long enough for news of the Fourth Succession War to reach the Clans. This new war took much of the steam out of the Crusaders' argument that the Inner Sphere was on the verge of reunification. Khan Ulric took advantage of the situation by sponsoring a proposal to postpone the Great Debate until the end of the Fourth Succession War. The proposal was narrowly accepted, but Khan Ulric Kerensky had antagonized the leaders of Clan Jade Falcon, the most radical of the Crusader Clans.

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    I was stunned to discover that the incident that eventually tipped the scales in favor of invasion was triggered by our own Blessed Order. One day a ROM exploration vessel, "Outbound Light," appeared at a jump point near Huntress, aworld dominated by Clan Smoke Jaguar. Sensing an opportunity but fearing that the Inner Sphere might be on the verge of discovering the location of the Clan worlds, Khan Leo Showers ordered that the vessel be taken intact, with the crew unharmed. Instead of instantly informing the Grand Council of the capture, as might be expected, Khan Leo first interrogated the crew of the explorer ship for several days.

    When Khan Leo finally notified the other Clans of his discovery, he did so with superior knowledge of the Inner Sphere situation and of how ComStar, a force previously unknown to the Clans, fit into the picture. By manipulating what he had learned, Khan Leo Showers forced the Clans to reopen the Great Debate and consider several new issues. Most convincing was his argument that our Blessed Order might soon uncover the location of the Clans, thus exposing them to the entire Inner Sphere. The thought of Inner Sphere forces invading the worlds of the Clan, instead of the converse, was unthinkable to most Grand Council members. Khan Leo Showers laid out the facts of what was happening in the Inner Sphere. The Federated Commonwealth was now a battle-proven, undeniable fact. Also, there had been a sudden recovery of lostech, and the Inner Sphere was far from falling into shambles. The Khan extrapolated that the Federated Commonwealth might well subdue the rest of the Inner Sphere and declare itself the Star League reborn. This was a travesty every Clansman would be willing to give his life to prevent. It was an extremely persuasive argument.

    The result was a Grand Council vote in favor of invasion. Only Clan Wolf voted against. Khan Ulric Kerensky demanded a Trial of Refusal for Clan Wolf. The odds began at sixteen to one, but the bidding reduced the odds to four to one. The warriors of Clan Wolf fought bravely, particularly those of the Third Battle Cluster, who bore the brunt of the action. They nearly seized victory from Khan Leo Showers and his forces, but sheer numbers prevailed, leaving the Wolf force devastated. Khan Leo Showers took advantage of pro-Crusader sentiment, and was elected ilKhan of the Grand Council. Preparations to invade the Inner Sphere began immediately. Their plan was named Operation Revival.

    IlKhan Leo Showers, satisfied that he would soon see his life's ambition fulfilled, issued a formal recall order to Wolf's Dragoons, calling upon "our valiant warriors in the barbarian hinterlands to return home," despite his long-standing disdain for the unit. The recall was actually an effort to prove once and for all that Wolf's Dragoons had turned their back on the Clans and could no longer be trusted. He hoped to imply by this that Clan Wolf was also suspect. Natasha Kerensky, the only living Bloodnamed warrior of the Dragoons, was the only Dragoon to return to the Clans when called, which seemed to prove the ilKhan's contention.

    The invasion was halted when ComStar negotiated the use of Tukayyid as a proxy battlefield for Terra. If the Clans won, Terra would be theirs, while if they lost, the Clans would cease hostilities for a period of fifteen years, ending in 3067.

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