I would like to make a couple of notes about this essay. Firstly, all of the facts that I give here are IMO. I play Shaktars out using the rules and concepts found in Issue 1 of The Big Picture (Max's fanzine), but I fancied going into a bit of detail about physical and social structure.
Secondly, I have used a little bit of the Text from the SLA Industries RuleBook in the expansion of the Code of Honour. This text remains copyright of Nightfall and, ultimately, Jageeda. I am not making any profit out of this, and hope that they won't mind.
Thirdly, this is a freely available (in SLA culture) essay, and is designed to give GMs the opportunity to flesh out Shaktar characters backgrounds and to give players something (hopefully) interesting to read.
Finally, feel free to alter, change, mutilate and re-write this text as much as you like. All that I ask is the ideas that you keep are credited to me in some way. Otherwise, consider this a present.

I hope to write some more on the secret side of Shaktar culture and physique at a later date.


The Shaktar:

A history in 26 years.

By Professor Samson Pagare, Mort central Library, 634SD.

"In the beginning, there was nothing but darkness. Then came the seven stars, that lit the way for the universe."
- Gnu'kk, 67th High Lord of the family Shantii.

It is clear to most Mort citizens that Humans are the most important race in the World of Progress. They outnumber the combined other races by more than 3 to 1. Ebons go un-noticed. Wraiths, despite a very different physiology, blend into a crowd. But of all the natural races that call Mort home, the Shaktar has to be the most different. Standing at least 2 heads above most others, with their long tails, reptilian physique and equine heads, you could be forgiven for staring at one as he passes you by.

Up until 26 years ago, I was relatively un-informed about the Shaktar. In the last 21, I have become the only Human to become a graduate of the Shaktar school of education. This has given me a slightly better understanding of their racial history, and I have been authorised to publish at least part of what I have learnt.

Perhaps the first thing that should be understood by the layman is the Shaktar obsession with the numbers 7 and 8. The numbers work their way back through their civilization, passing through the mathematics and astrology systems, past mythology and right back to the first Warrior-Priests that formed Kn'thh into what it is today. The so called "First True Shaktar" is a direct ancestor of the current High Lord Shantii, even though the position of High Lord has gone back and forth from the various ruling houses. T'jk Shntt'k (Tadguk Shantii) decided that the various tribes of Shaktars (as they were then) had to be controlled in some way. He predicted that in many years to come, the Shaktar would have to bond together, and put aside all differences to gain the greater good. To this end, he devised the T'jk (roughly translates to 'Honour') code, and gained allegiance from the masters of the main tribes. And the reason that there were 7 rules to this T'jk? Because Shntt'k had only 7 fingers. Whether this was a genetic mutation or result of many battles, we can only speculate, but the whole system began from there. The reasoning for the number 8 is not taught at basic education level, and therefore may not be discovered by Humankind for many years.

The time system is, again, divided up into 7s. 49 J'kls (Heartbeat, plural) to a Hnt (Bug life, believe it or not), 70 Hntz (Bug life plural) to a H'ntt (no translation available), 7 H'nttz (plural again) to a Ghkk (Day), and a total of 777 Ghk (Day plural) to a Y'r (Year, a surprising similarity to Killian). One Shaktar Y'r is approximately 3 Mort years. There appear to be no months or seasons other than the Y'r being divided into the hot half and the hotter half. Shaktar opinion of the weather is also considered a taboo subject, much like sex is to us. The Shaktar brain stem and physical status is very similar to human ones. The obvious size difference has no known origin. Early thoughts of a higher gravity world being the cause were dismissed. Kn'thh 1, the planet where the race originate has a slightly lower gravity field than that of Mort, and this remains a constant puzzle for evolution-scientists on Kn'thh. The seeming lack of difference between our physiology and theirs has prompted the idea that Shaktars are closer to Horses with scaly skin than to reptiles. They are warm blooded, and have a similar bone structure to mammals. Nerve-wise, they have similar distribution, although their brains are not as receptive to pain and pleasure as ours are. The final difference is the fleshy mandibles that adorn their heads. These seem to be a form of defunct defence mechanism, as the tail was. It is believed that the two are closely linked, the former retaining the sharp, bone-like spikes and the latter the mobility. Lack of scalp hair does not apply to the rest of the body, however, and senior Shaktars are often known to sport elaborate beards.

Shaktar only mate for a few Y'r, but the wives of a male continue to be attached to him. This only differs when a family sets out to build a village of their own. In this case, the male picks a mate for life, and the other wives that he may have accumulated become T'chyr (adoptive Aunts) to the newly formed clan. It is considered unwise for a Shaktar to try to set up a family of his own before he has been married at least 3 times. Shaktarian development is extremely quick, taking only 5 Y'r for a R'ttch (smaller unit, or child) to become a R'tt (unit, or adult). They are born small, weak and fleshy in groups of between 1 and 7 (any others that are born are considered unlucky, and are either killed in the more primitive villages or cast out as soon as they can defend themselves) , their scales barely noticeable, their bony crests unformed, and their dreadlocks simply empty spiked sacs (note that sacs are the best translation for these, and I refer to them thus for the rest of the essay). Their growth takes on 3 stages, and is most peculiar, even by the standards of most creatures on Kn'thh. Firstly the body expands, taking on the full body-width of a R'tt. The body then lengthens, growing to the full stature of a R'tt. However, the brain does not grow at the same rate. It waits for the body to reach maturity, and only then does the brain begin to grow, filling the head cavity and expelling the soft cushioning material that pads it during K-R'ttch (infancy) through the skull into the sacs on top of their heads. The longer and fatter the sacs are, the more padding has been expelled and the larger the brain. Therefore, you can tell an intelligent Shaktar by his long and swollen sacs, although to comment on these is a subject of embarrassment to the Shaktar in question, and apparently is often a compliment you pay during courtship ('My, what a big sac you have', etc).

The learning system is divided up into 8 levels (or 1 basic level plus 7 upper levels) of learning, the first with 7 categories, and the remaining 7 concentrating on one category at a time. The first level takes 7 Y'r to complete, the second another 7, and so on, leading to 54 Y'r or 162 years for the full system to be completed. Sort of like spending 2 and a half lifetimes at college. I took the basic level, which includes a grounding course in each subject. This is the education that each Shaktar embarks upon at the age of 1 and a half Y'r. The education must be completed, and after this, 1 Y'r is spent in contemplation, and after that, a Shaktar is free to pursue whatever path of life he wishes. The seven paths are:

The Path of the Warrior N'ktkh-wy
The Path of the Priest J'nhg-wy
The Path of Understanding Y-tkkck-wy
The Path of Remembrance Ll'kt'b'b-wy
The Path of Development T'yr-wy
The Path of Profound Understanding Y-ncckc-wy
The Path of Continuation Hn't-wy

As you may guess, "-wy" signifies "The Path of", and the prefixes are the Shaktarian words for Warrior, Priest, Understanding etc. The further levels of learning have the same prefixes, but take the suffix "-gt". Therefore, "Ll'kt'b'b-gt" signifies "The Life of Remembrance".

(There is an eighth path, that has been classified to SCL 1, The Path of Life, which is just Gt-wy, or the Eternal Path. When the Shaktar were rescued from the Conflict Society, the teaching of this path ceased, and is now only whispered by the oldest Shaktar and used as the subject material for many bad Martial-arts movies. Some things are constant throughout the universe.)

There follows a brief description of each of these paths and what is taught in their classes.

N'ktkh-wy:

The Path of the Warrior deals with the physical aspect of the legacy of the Shaktar. As huge, elegant and intelligent beings, they are masters of many forms of fighting, and the basics of these are taught. Much of this class is endurance, something that I apparently excelled in for someone my size and build, but much of it is how to use the claws, teeth, tail and even the sacs of the Shaktar to best use in combat. For these classes, I fashioned short blades that could be attached to my teeth and fingers in order to participate as much as possible. However, much was physically impossible for me, and I was forced to spend much of my time making notes on how to exercise the tail etc and sketches of the Mgrrt (literally teacher of destruction and focus). A lot of the time in the classes was also spent teaching us meditation techniques and how the mind is just as important as the body whilst in combat. This goes some way towards explaining how and why Shaktars are so much more precise in their combat techniques that, say, Stormers or even Necanthropes.

J'nhg-wy:

The Path of the Priest is the spiritual side of the Shaktar psyche, and was, for me, very profound and enlightening. With the Shaktar students, however, it was their worst class, and the majority only attended because of the relaxing surroundings that the class is held in. The Shaktar priesthood is dying, and since they make up the ruling classes of the civilisation, Shaktar culture as it is known, along with its loyalty to SLA and adherence to the code of honour may die out. Mostly the classes deal with philosophical ideas and religion, and how they apply to the world of today. Many books are quite obviously wrong, stating that the universe was created by a giant Bull, and that the Shantarian Bull that the young Shaktar must kill in order to reach maturity are the children of the bull. However, since most religions are strictly SLA controlled back on Mort, it was interesting to actually hear a sermon rather than just read one.

Y-tkkck-wy:

The Path of Understanding deals with the more mundane sciences like Biology and Chemistry, along with social science, and all the other sciences that deal with terrestrial subjects. The only thing that separates the Shaktar version from the Human version is that they are taught as one co-ordinated subject. The Shaktar do not set much store by these subjects compared to the other sciences.

Ll'kt'b'b-wy:

The Path of Remembrance deals with the history of the Shaktar race. This is long, complex and contains some of the best stories I have ever heard. The legends of T'jk and T'yr, the mental and technological leaders of the Shaktarian race can go on for days if told in their full versions. Heroes like N'ftndrd (a popular name amongst modern Shaktar) and M'rtn Th'rr lead from story to story like a connected canon, and most of these are told during the seven Y'r many times. The most vital stories are learnt by every child by heart, and I have managed to translate some of these into Killian, which are now on sale for the modest price of 7 Unis at most bookshops. The Shaktar language lends itself very well to storytelling, and even if you do not understand it fully, it has a very therapeutic and soothing quality. The guttural croaks and roars disappear when the storytelling begins, and a lilting, musical percussion, more like the sounds that humans make when they speak the language, appears and carries the story beautifully. The Path of Remembrance also teaches the writing and recording of history, along with the unique writing and talking style that accompanies it. Strange to relate, Shaktars seem to have no actual fiction in their culture, or at least none that is native. Many works of fiction have been imported from Humans, Ebons and Wraiths, but the Shaktar prefer to, as they say, "Continue the Truth" (embroider it). The Shaktar are, however, supreme storytellers.

T'yr-wy:

The Path of Development, which takes its name from the quasi-fictional Demi-god who created the unique Shaktar Technology (not the Ion Drive ships and modern technology that they bought from SLA, but the Conflict Era Technology that has all but disappeared from Shaktar society and is only evident in the Shaktar Switchblade, sported by many ex-T'yr-wy trained Shaktar Operatives on Mort), teaches the engineering and basic physics needed to make small, serviceable machines to do simple jobs. The project that I managed to complete in the last 3 weeks of my course was a Vibro-Sabre copy, which I have been using ever since as personal protection. Learning these skills was perhaps the greatest single achievement that I made while on planet, and the only one I have continued to use after my departure.

Y-ncckc-wy:

The Path of Profound Understanding deals with the extraterrestrial sciences (as they are referred to) such as Physics, Quantum Mechanics (Shaktar seem to have little difficulty understanding these complex concepts), Space Folding, Ion-drive Technology and how it was developed. The Shaktar hold much greater store by these sciences. To be accepted into Y-ncckc-gt is a great honour, while Y-tkkck-gt is a second-rate further education, and this results in their seeming lack of interest in creating their own Biogenetics.

Hn't-wy:

The Path of Continuation is a very practical part of the 7 Y'r. Once this is completed Shaktar are qualified to teach practically everything that they have learnt during the basic level. This ensures that the continuation of the Shaktar education system is guaranteed, and allowed me to teach some of the Shaktar techniques to other Races. The Shaktar society depends on having a good education in nearly every subject, be it Science, Self-Defence, History or Engineering. This is a system that we on Mort could perhaps learn from.

Many choose to become servants of SLA, or SLY-Yn't, while others continue their education. The remainder (a minority) return to their villages and try to find employment with their families. The Y'r of contemplation is a time of great upheaval for the Trnt (family-man, or one who loves his family above all). To return to his family would be to waste the 7 Y'r he has spent in education, but to pursue his education or seek employment off-world would be to risk the alienation of his family and peers, and even break the code of honour that they live by.

The code of Honour, or Ggrr't T'jk, that the Shaktar live by was initiated by T'jk Shttn'k several thousand years ago. During my stay I was able to learn some more about this concept, and exactly what the code entails. As Mort History books relate, the Shaktar code of Honour is divided up into seven parts. Honour, Family, Friends, Truth, Faith, Loyalty and Purity. I have compiled a basic list from the 40,000 page 'Bible of T'jk' outlining the basic enforcements of this code. It should be remembered that Honour is the primary goal of the Shaktar. Their Family comes next, then their friends, etc. This also applies to the sub-divisions that I have included.

As you will be able to see, many passages in even this small section of text are repeated. This gives the Ggrr't T'jk an interlocking feel, and ensures continuity throughout.

The social system in adopted by the Shaktar is very tribal and primitive. Most visitors see the beautiful spires and curving domes of the Shaktar cities, but this is a strange sight for the Shaktar themselves. The cities have a very sparse population, numbering barely into 4 figures. Most Shaktar live in small villages (Fkf'tt) with their families (Hzzx). The cities are reserved for the most important families (Mrty-Hzzx) while the rest make their homes in small villages in the Kn'thh deserts. Social structure is another taboo subject for the Shaktar, but it does not take very long to work it out for yourself. As the Ggrr't T'jk states, Shaktar are extremely subservient to their elders, and it quickly emerges that the Matriarch is the head of the clan.

The rest of the clan is formed in an unorthodox manner. The first children of the Matriarch are forced to return to their home village. This is an illegal act by Shaktar Law (Hj'll Shc-ktr). All R'tt have the right to make their own decisions, and this takes effect after the age of 5 Y'r. However, the Hj'll Shc-ktr only really applies in the cities and to the families in the public eye, so this obstruction of the first-born Shaktars rights is practically universal. (This is an example of Shaktar Law clashing with the Ggrr't T'jk. The Code tells Shaktar that their parents have the best interests of all at heart, but the Hj'll allows any R'tt complete control of their life. Whichever one the Shaktar chooses to follow will shape their whole progress. It is interesting to note that the majority of Shaktar Operatives are those who chose the Hj'll over the Code.)

The Matriarch is the member of the family who makes the statements and is the public leader of the Clan. However, the Patriarch is rarely seen outside his own home, and whenever a decision must be made the Matriarch retires to meet the Patriarch. What they discuss is unknown, but it is quite conceivable that the male plays either a major or equal part in decision-making.

The first-born form a kind of honour-guard for their parents, and other mature Shaktars in the family assist in this as well as caring for the R'ttch, cooking and building etc. Finally some Shaktar who did not complete their basic education are employed as menial labourers. None of the workers are paid for their services, but instead they are provided with a home and food according to their position in the family, and any extra luxuries (specialist foods, transport, building materials) are either given freely or given with a kind of agreement, preventing them from requesting any other luxuries for a given amount of time.

The family keeps a number of animals, machines and vehicles, but mainly they are self-sufficient hunters, using basic weapons and nothing more technologically advanced that the odd CAF Hunting Rifle. From the year that I spent in the G'jktk Family Village I was greatly surprised by the lack of either SLA or Shaktar equipment. It seems that most Shaktars come from primitive, self-sufficient family villages, which is surprising, especially considering the way that they take to Operative life and weapons when they arrive on Mort. It is my opinion that there is more here than meets the eye.

For the last 26 years I have immersed myself in the Shaktar culture. They are a strange race, full of oddities and quirks that are alien to us. However, they have many redeeming features, and their oppressive physical stature is largely undermined by their gentle personalities and adherence to their code. When you consider the fact that they exist almost completely separate from SLA and that their communities are basic in the extreme together with the way that they have been accepted into Mort Society with great gusto, you can see that, no matter whether they stand taller than us, look different to us or speak in strange languages to us, they are great examples of the World of Progress and how it can work.

Professor Samson Pagare.

Appendix 1: Shaktar Language and translations.

Literal Pronounciation Human Spelling Meaning/Defintion*
Gnn'kk Gnu'kk 67th High Lord of Kn'thh 1
T'jk Tud'juck First True Shaktar and creator of the Ggrr't T'jk. Honour.
Shntt'k Shantii Current ruling family and descendants of T'jk Shntt'k
J'kl[J'kls] Je'kil [Je'kils] Heartbeat[s]
Hnt[Hntz] Hunt [Huntsz] Bug life [lives]
Ghkk[Ghk] Guch [Guk] Day[s]
Y'r[Y'r] Y'eir [Y'eir] Year[s]
R'ttch Ru'tutch Child (Small Adult, Small Unit)
R'tt Ru't Adult (Unit)
K-R'ttch Kurr-Ru'tutch Childhood, Infancy
wy weee Path of
gt gut Life of
N'ktkh Nu'cutacuff Warrior, Fighter, Protector
J'nhg Ju'nohug Priest (Spiritual leader)
Y-tkkck Yu-tuckcuk To Understand (Basic Scientific understanding)
Ll'kt'b'b Lul'cut'bub'bub To Remember (To repeat the stories of long ago)
T'yr T'ire Semi-mythical Demi-god of technology
Y-ncckc Ye-nuccukuc To Understand everything (complex scientific understanding)
Mgrrt Mugrrrut Teacher of War (Teacher of Destruction and Focus)
N'ftndrd Nu'ftundread Hero of mythical tales. Defeated an army single-handed
M'rtn Th'rr M'orten Th'roar Hero of mythical tales. Leader of the army of light and slayer of the monster H'ggr'trn
H'ggr'trn Ha'gr'oten Monstrous lizard beast, ancestor of all poisonous creatures
SLY-Yn't SLAY-Yen't Servants of SLA. Includes Operatives, Shivers etc.
Trnt Trent Family man, one who loves his family above all.
Ggrr't T'jk Ggrrea't Tud'juck Code of T'jk
Fkf'tt Fukuf'tut Family Villages
Hzzx Huzzucx Family
Mrty Murtey Important
Hj'll Hudj'hell Law
Shc-ktr Shaktar Children of the gods

*

Format
Literal pronunciation Human spelling Meaning + description [Plural] (Other meanings)

Appendix 2: About the author

Professor Pagare was born in 579 SD, the son of 2 Operatives. He quickly was entered for Meny at the young age of 16 and qualified as a professor of sociology at 25. It was on his 28th birthday, on receiving a transcript of several interviews with Shaktars about Mort life that he first became interested in the race. He spent four years learning their language and read practically every word ever written on the species. Wishing to learn more, he applied to then High Lord Mg'riti to be allowed to live on Kn'thh 1 for a time to further understanding between the two races. He spent 22 years on the planet, took their basic level of education and graduated with the equivalent of a B+. He was 55 when he wrote this text, and a fund set up by him provides the necessary money to allow other writers to visit alien cultures and enable them to experience first hand the subjects they are writing on. He died 6 months after completing this essay of a disease contracted whilst on Kn'thh.