Another project I worked on for a short time was called Astrae, a puzzle platformer set deep in an alien installation. The player is a young explorer who gets embroiled in a conflict between the last two avatars of the Rhakaa, a long-dead civilization of avian warriors. My first task was to write about what Rhakaa life was like during the reign of their empire.
Unfortunately, my graduate school studies cut into my ability to work on this delightful game and I had to step away from the project. Please give the development team some of your time and check out the progress they made on their unique property.
The Rhakaa (Ere’kh for ‘the Risen’) were a bipedal humanoid species. They were believed to have stood upwards of seven feet tall, with long claw-like appendages and fringes of feathers attached to their arms and legs. Rather lean and muscular, they had the ability to leap to high locations with ease and even glide for short distances.
The Rhakaa civilization, from the few records available, spanned nearly 10,000 years of history, originating from the planet Aramkesh (‘Land of Ancients’). Early information shows they lived in various disorganized clans, until many of the clans united under the leadership of the Rhakaa who would become the first Emperor, Corthayx I. Instituting a harsh, militaristic caste system, he conquered much of the territory on Aramkesh during the Unification and ruled over a warrior culture that culled any weaknesses or imperfections. He founded the empire’s capital, Teryx, which became a major trade hub over the course of centuries.
It is not known how or when the Rhakaa achieved spaceflight, but at some point in their empire, a technological renaissance occurred and soon after, their empire exponentially expanded, claiming planets with ease and even expanding outward to new star systems. It was also around this point that the Rhakaa began to experiment with cybernetics and genetic engineering, fine-tuning their biology to push their bodies beyond what was considered possible. Over the course of millennia, as their DNA became more and more modified, it became aware that their genetic code was rapidly unraveling and mutating, placing their society in imminent peril of destruction. A coalition of members of various castes, under the leadership of the last emperor, Xanthot III, set to the task of building Aerie sanctuary facilities to study the degradation and develop a cure. The afflicted were placed into stasis and the healthy were divided into two groups: those who would defend what remained of the empire, and those who actively researched a cure. As their numbers dwindled, the remaining Rhakaa created AI Overseers to run the facilities and assist in the research. Ultimately, the last of the Rhakaa entered stasis, now completely relying on the Overseers to save their people.
Aerie Keshkaa-0 is the only such facility whose location is currently known. The facility is maintained by Overseers Seq and Myz, named after the Primes Seq’rha the Elegist and Myzandir the Centurion. The two performed as programmed, with Seq developing a fondness for the Rhakaa and Myz becoming more assertive and experimental. When the final Rhakaa went into stasis, Seq began to pressure Myz into developing a cure for their creators, while Myz kept up security measures to keep the creators’ safe from the enemies that encroached upon their territory. As supplies dwindled and became virtually nonexistent, Myz attempted to wrest control of the Sanctuary out from under Seq. In retaliation, Seq restricted Myz’s access to the facility’s systems, further slowing down research. The conflict eventually came to a head when Seq attempted to regain full access to the Sanctuary, resulting in a degradation of the facility and the main generator to malfunction. Backup power was eventually restored, but the Rhakaa stasis pods had been too badly damaged in the outage. By the time repair drones were sent to fix the pods, the Rhakaa were long-since dead.
The Rhakaa are obsessed with perfection and, as a result, their desire to achieve perfection is reflected in every aspect of their life. The symbol of the Rhakaa is the Hexagon, where each side represents one of the Six Virtues of Rhakaa culture: Tenacity, Ferocity, Sagacity, Vitality, Adaptability, and Austerity. Rhakaa architecture expresses this obsession with the hexagon. Their structures are linear with harsh, imposing shapes and angular geometry contrasted with the organic world surrounding them.
The Rhakaa are quick to remove any sort of weakness from their ranks. As a result, many Rhakaa do not live past adolescence. Those that do are given the opportunity to prove themselves in the Ritual of the Claw, a week-long coming-of-age ceremony and series of tests, which ultimately determines the caste each Rhakaa will be a member of; until the Ritual, Rhakaa children are borne into the caste of their parents. Trials of strength, intelligence, and durability push each Rhakaa to the test, with those that survive becoming the next paragons of Rhakaa culture.
The Rhakaa do not believe in deities, instead opting to worship the ancient champion Primes of their people. All Emperors are included in this pantheon of Primes, as well as those who gave up much, including their lives, to protect Rhakaa civilization. Different Primes are called upon to assist in numerous situations; Zhaquir the Fastidious, for example, is channeled when Rhakaa are called to make a tough situation about their own lives or futures.
The Rhakaa are ruled over by a singular Emperor, who assigns various Viscounts to govern over the regions of the Rhakaa Empire. The Empire was founded by Corthayx I the Sovereign, and his bloodline continued to rule over the Rhakaa until the last emperor, Xanthot III the Unguis.
Viscounts are determined by the current living emperor and can be replaced at any time, if the Emperor sees fit. One record indicates that a number of Viscounts planned to overthrow Emperor Takhirius I the Nefarious; in response to this potential coup, Takhirius had every Viscount replaced, with each new lord having to slay their predecessor. Rarely has such a culling of Viscounts occurred during the Rhakaa’s reign.
After completing the Ritual of the Claw, each new Rhakaa adult would begin military training and service. The Rhakaa military was divided up into several ranks. Hunters made up the frontline troops and served under Greatwings, commanders that also acted as law enforcement for the Empire. Shadowsteps worked as scouts, envoys, ambassadors, and even spies.
Although the Emperor ultimately presides over the military, each Emperor also assigns a Suncrest general to advise in tactical situations and, in rare cases, act with impunity.
Special thanks to Leonora Moran and the Laguna College of Art and Design, for turning me onto this project.