Bulagean humans
The largest group in the Empire, with about twelve million souls as of the 50th year of the Emperor’s reign. The inheritors of the defunct Holy Verdant Empire, the Bulageans make up the majority of large landowners, most chairs in the Imperial Diet, and a plurality of the nobles and major generals. This is due to the former hegemony that the Bulageans held over all others in the Holy Verdant Empire, but represents a major decline in power from the previous era. The Emperor himself hails from the House of Llothrin, and is of mixed human and elven descent, though the Aodilli are fond of pointing out that 9 of his 10 most recent ancestors were human.

Aodilli elves
About ten million elves live in the Empire as of the Emperor’s golden jubilee, the vast majority in their heartland of Aodil. The Emperor reigns over the Aodil as their Primarch, and in many official Aodil publications is referred to as Emperor-Primarch. Though outnumbered by humans in empire-wide bodies like the Imperial Diet, elves feature strong majorities in their own independent assembly, the Chorus. They are the only group, other than the Bulageans, with their own assembly and guaranteed representation. The elven Yeagers, an independent part of the Imperial Army, are also under the elves’ control except in times of war, another hard-won concession.

Khieke dwarves
With close to six million souls living in and around the spine of the Trondvald range, the Khieke dwarves have long been vassals of the Bulageans. In fact, there has never been an independent dwarven kingdom or state, something that has sat increasingly poorly with the dwarves in the Empire as industrialization has increasingly relied on the toils of majority-dwarf miners. Foreign funds have been alleged to be behind increasingly strident dwarven calls for autonomy and an equal stake to the Aodilli. While dwarven troops are present throughout the Imperial Army, they are primarily employed as artillerists and airmen.

Waya and Kelu orcs
Three million Waya orcs and two million Kelu orcs reside in the Empire as a result of its acquisition of lands from the dying Panorcias state to the south. Though they speak different languages with independent (and often adversarial) streaks, they are typically recorded as Waya-Kelu in the Imperial census. As the latest addition to the Empire, the orcs are often restive and violence against Imperial authorities are common. Nevertheless, they have produced several luminaries, including the highly decorated General Umet. A large number of orcs serve in the Imperial military as infantrymen and laborers, as well.

Huash goblins
About four million Huash goblins were forcibly incorporated into the Empire following the dismemberment of their homeland in the Peace of Muisyle, a fact the goblins note with some bitterness as it was the late arrival of goblin heavy arquebusiers that turned the tide in the Empire’s favor during the Secong Great Panorcias War. Nevertheless, the goblins have been forbidden from speaking their language within the Empire, and have been granted no autonomy of their own, with the administration of their lands split between the humans and the elves. Despite their small stature, goblins are renowned marksmen, and the industrial era has provided them with ever more sophisticated firearms with which to hone their skills. As such, they are often used as snipers, scouts, and light infantry by the Empire.

Ukelan halflings
Three million Ukelan halflings live in areas once part of the Great Khanate, the halfling empire that conquered and rules the known world for nearly a hundred years. They as a people have fallen far from their former glory, and due to their close kinship with both humans and elves, halflings are disproportionately targeted for integration and assimilation into Bulagea or Aodil. Many with halfling ancestry choose to conceal it, and avoid speaking in their ancestral tongues, in order to gain advancement as a human or an elf. When they are employed as discrete army units, halflings are usually infantrymen but their small statue has earned them some favor as pilots.

Maniya gnomes
With a population of two million souls, the Maniyan gnomes are found scattered in multiple small enclaves throughout Imperial territory, without any one area in which they constitute a majority. Once itinerant herders and pastoralists, they have never been an independent polity much like the dwarves, and the increasing mechanization of Imperial agriculture has led to gnomes increasingly moving to major cities in search of industrial work. As the smallest sapients in the Empire, they are rarely used as front-line troops and instead normally serve in logistical roles as drivers, cooks, quartermasters, and the like.

Shuu beastfolk
The one million Shuu, known as the beastfolk for their reputed resemblance to and descent from wild animals, are the lowest rung of Imperial society. Forbidden from any labor other than menial work, even in the army, the Shuu are relentlessly exploited, stereotyped, and degraded at an official level, thanks to religious teachings that hold them to be the twisted descendants of particularly vile sinners. This, in turn, has led to many of them being increasingly drawn to political extremism. A Shuu assassin’s bullet ended the life of the Emperor’s grandfather, his immediate predecessor.

Ibbari dragonbloods
The great Ibbari drakes of old no longer sit on their hoards in the Trondvald, but they have left their mark on many who once served them as vassals and thralls. Close to a million claim dragonblood in their ancestry in the Imperial census, but the real number is likely far higher as many conceal their ancestry to avoid discrimination. In addition to being able to manifest certain draconic gifts, such as fiery breath or, rarely, the ability to assume the form of a great drake themselves, the dragonbloods generally are content to either keep to their own close-knit communities or to conceal their ancestry.

Halfbloods and mixed parentage
It is generally held by those with modern scientific leanings that all sapients in the Empire share a common ancestor, and as such intermarriage and the birth of mixed-parentage children can occur. Cultural taboos generally prevent this, but over time large self-identified populations of up to half a million have accumulated in larger urban centers. Due to the strong social (and often religious) stigma against them, even those who openly claim mixed parentage on the census often conceal the fact in their daily life, and only the largest cities can be said to have anything approaching a distinct culture.

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Most sapients on the Garden World were not able to interbreed, with sterile “mules” being the restult of any inter-sapient relationship. But the close relationship between the humans and the dwarves on a genetic level meant that some of their “mules” could bear children in turn. Over time, this people of mixed human and dwarven ancestry became a people in and of themselves, called “banshen” by the Heavenly Empire and “halflings” by the dwarves.

Halflings tend to form insular subcultures within other sapients’ colonies and settlements; they evacuated the Garden World along with both humans and dwarves. Though there are and always have been halfling-only settlements and colonies, the majority of their peoples live in other territories to this day.

That is not to say that they meekly submit to the rule of others, though. Halfling culture obeys what is called the “rule of the sun:” the sun rules what it controls, when it controls it, but it is powerless to stop the moon from shining. In practice, this means that while halflings submit to the laws and rules of others when they must, they also keep their own parallel traditions, legal systems, and traditions that hold sway. These tend to be organized around a broad community consensus, with descent in a matrilineal line from a notable sage past or present being a frequent, but not firm, requirement. Conflicts are settled by assemblies of such local notables if possible, with learned matriarchs’ advice sought out on matters both practical and esoteric.

This it could be argued that the halflings follow a semi-hereditary, semi-democratic matriarchal oligharchy, but as with all sapients this is an oversimplification. Notable lines include the Herenids, from Dame Heren the Wise; the Sollians, from Lady Sollia the Fair; the Grishnekhs, from Mother Grish of Nekh; and the egalitarian Lananids from Madame Lana.

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In the old days, the great and wise Sun brought all birds to it and told them that they were to elect one bird to be leader over the others. When that bird died, another election would be held, and that bird would receive dominion.

The birds soon fell to squabbling over what qualities would qualify one for election. The strong birds argued for strength, the quick birds for speed, and the heavy birds for weight. But the great patriarch of the cardinals suggested another route: that they ought to elect, in turn the birds that most resembled the wise and holy Sun. He suggested a bright yellow warbler as the first candidate, as their fine yellow feathers were as the noonday sun.

The others agreed to this readily, especially as it promised them all an eventual turn in order of their likeness to the great Sun. The cardinal was also the only bird to have suggested a candidate other than himself, which gave him an air of detachment and neutrality.

After a number of other birds had been lord and ruler of the others for the span of their short lives, the cardinal declared that a cardinal should be next, as their red feathers were as the setting Sun. The other birds agreed, and the cardinal patriarch was told that he had been elected soon after.

He demurred, however, declaring that while he was honored, he was not the cardinal that had been the candidate. It was, in fact, the cardinal’s son, then just a stripling coming into his red. There was some grumbling, but the birds agreed that they had elected the cardinal’s son to be their lord until his death.

In time, the cardinal’s son was taken by a bobcat and his life ended. The patriarch, who lived still, declared his grandson to be the new ruler. The other birds objected, calling for a new election and proposing a tanager as a new candidate.

But the cardinal patriarch pointed out that the election had been won by “the cardinal’s son.” His grandson, then, was indeed the cardinal’s son and the ruler, and whenever a man-egg was laid and hatched, another cardinal’s son arose with an equal right to rule.

The other birds balked at this, but could not fault the patriarch’s logic. They begrudgingly agreed that the cardinals were their rulers, if only in name, until their line failed.

This is why, to this day, all cardinals continue to bear many sons. For when their line fails for the last and final time, they will lose their place and their dominion over all other birds.

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In the old days, all birds were as equals; they built their nests and laid their eggs and cared for their young. For some this was easy, but for the cowbirds who followed the vast herds of buffalo across the plains, it was a hard and heartbreaking task. Many nests were abandoned by parents who had no choice but to move on.

One day, the trickster god Man approached the cowbird matriarchs and offered them a bargain. He would allow them to lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, as honored and favored guests, and therefore allow the matriarchs and their consorts to follow the herds where they would.

In exchange, the matriarchs asked what the trickster god Man wanted. For though it was an offer most tempting, they were wary of Man and his ways, and rightly so. Man said that he wanted just two things, and when pressed to name them out, he pointed at a buffalo and a tree. Thinking that he meant that single buffalo, a mere calf, and that single tree, a sapling oak, the cowbirds agreed.

But it was soon evident that Man had tricked them. Instead of taking a single buffalo, he took the entire herd, wiping them from existence. Instead of a single tree, he took the forest, clear-cutting it. And while the cowbirds had, as promised, gained the ability to lay in the nests of others, they were far from the welcomed and honored guests Man had promised. All birds wise enough to eject the eggs did so, and all birds attacked the matriarchs when they approached with egg.

The matriarchs in vain tried to return to their old ways, but they had forgotten the craft of nest building. And so it was that they made their vow: they would follow Man’s new buffalo instead of their own, move east through the new plains Man had created, and lay their eggs in others’ nests with subtlety and guile. They would be as warriors against a world that hated them because of Man’s trickery, and they would ever seek to take from Man what they were owed.

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In the old days, the Great Ones came to know that there were no sparrows in the Far Lands. This troubled them greatly, for there was no one to eat their pests, to give homes to their spilled grain, or to decorate the eaves of their homes with festive nests. They approached the elders of the sparrows in the Nearlands, and made to them a request: their hardiest birds for the task of colonizing the vast lands now open to them.

The elders agreed, and provided the volunteers that they asked for, with one condition: they would brook no restrictions on the great quest of all sparrows, to be fruitful, to multiply, and to cover all the earth. The Great Ones agreed, but with a condition of their own: the sparrows could do as they liked, but if they interfered with the Great Ones, or caused them annoyance or irritation, the lives of the offending sparrows were forfeit.

That was the covenant, made in the days of old and kept to this very day.

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Native to a rocky, dry, and isolated continent on the Garden World, the dwarves managed to resist the encroachment of others into their lands for considerably longer than many other sapients. This was due to both their isolation and their predilection for carving homes out of raw stone, which provided shade, shelter, and water in their unforgiving natural environment.

Though the Dihuang humans eventually extended their dominion over the area as well, they did it via a treaty that granted the dwarves considerable self-government and reserved many rights for them. With the abandonment of the Garden World, the dwarves consider the agreements to be abrogated, whild the Heavenly Empire holds them as vassals still.

This has led to no end of conflicts, naturally, but the dwarves’ preference for harsher worlds and underground life has meant that they are able to hold their own on the galactic stage. They are often hired as mercenaries by other groups, especially for ground combat.

The dwarves tend to organize themselves around fealty to noble houses, though the extend to which each House is able to exert its control varies. House Ignin is the strongest house, with an autocratic Lord constrained by an elected council. House Etamor has only a figurehead Lord with a fully democratic system and is focused on commerce, while House Diment has pledged its full fealty to the Heavenly Empire and is little more than a puppet.

By tradition, each of the Houses meets in a grand Council to discuss matters of import, with one vote per house; in times past this has led to the election of a Lord of Lords to coordinate a conflict. In the latter days, though, it is more of an ambassadorship and debating society.

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The elves, known as “jingling” to humans, arose from a related lineage of primates in a more temperate climate. They tend to be much more individualistic than humans, and this trait, along with their origin on a large but not isolated island, led to their early conquest by and subjugation to said humans.

Since interbreeding beyond a single generation of sterile hybrids is impossible, the elves maintained their culture, traditions, and language under domination by other sapients, finding in a common oppressor the unifying force that they had lacked as an independent people.

This, coupled with their dramatically longer lifespan, allowed elves to break free of their subjugation during the exodus from the Garden World, seizing technology and ships from the Dihuang for the purpose. This, coupled with the invention of new fertility techniques to overcome the naturally long and widely-spaced breeding periods of the species, led to a population boom on their colonized worlds and their rise as a galactic-scale power to be respected.

On the whole, elves prefer cooler worlds, and have been known to claim icy planets that the Dihuang have spurned. They retain an independent streak even to the present day, and tend to have only planetwide or systemwide governments without any overarching authority. This does not stop them from readily banding together in the face of percieved threats, however, and several large, if loose, confederations exist.

The Core League and Verge League represent the largest elven confederations, with several smaller leagues drifting into and out of association with them. The Core and Verge are generally mutually hostile and at war, though in the face of significant threats they have been know to put aside their differences before falling to infighting.

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Evolving from arboreal primates with specialized grasping appendages and highly developed spatial reasoning, the humans of the Garden World are as diverse as any other sapient species to emerge therefrom. In the latter days, during the collapse of the Garden World’s ecosystem, the humans were politically united. In the centuries since, they have fractured into several factions that are only nominally allied.

The largest and oldest such faction is the Dihuang Imperium, the successor of the unified polity that oversaw the evacuation from the Garden World. A highly centralized and organized state, the Imperium is ostensibly a monarchy answerable to a hereditary Heavenly Emperor–hence its alternate names of Heavenly Empire or Heavenly Imperium. But in reality it is a bureaucracy answerable to the Emperor’s Chancellor, with a variety of worlds in its hegemony to varying degrees.

Other major states or statelets in human space include the democratic Xianhue Alliance, the mercantile Nanhai Commerce Guild, and various small independent systems and pirate groups. While they all have evolved in different ways, the formerly total hegemony of the Heavenly Empire has left humanity with a common linguistic, cultural, and religious background.

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The only known place that sapient life evolved in the Cassandra Galaxy is an unremarkable system with a single remarkable planet. The fourth world from CG-839130, known to later chroniclers as the Garden World, was in a perfect orbital location for an oxygen-rich biosphere, a liquid water cycle, and the development of large-scale life and civilization. Crucially, it was made up of a number of large, diverse landmasses separated by deep and treacherous seas. This allowed sapient life to develop not once but many times across its surface, with several parallel civilizations developing over eons.

As one might imagine, the development of an industrial age among several competing species, and the resultant explosion in pollution and large-scale conflicts, led to an ecological catastrophe. The Garden World was hastily abandoned by all its inhabitants once spatial drive was discovered, with its wayward children spreading far and wide throughout the galaxy.

Since that time, the location of the Garden World has been lost, especially as it would no longer be distinguishable from any other ruined world via a cursory orbital or long-range scan. Nevertheless, it remains revered by several large-scale faiths and ideologies, and the search for it has been a constant feature of messianic movements.

One side effect of the Garden World’s remarkable history is the shared biological aspects of the sapients that evolved there. Though outwardly very different, especially after evolving on the galactic scale, each sapient shares a common genetic heritage with the others as well as a fundamental preference for oxygen-rich water-cycle worlds. This has led to extensive terraforming efforts along those lines, again on a galactic scale, as well as fierce competition for “garden type worlds” that require little modification.

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