The Vulthra are a sentient race that lives somewhere to the galactic southeast, past K'Nes space. They are a man-sized avian creature that have limited flight capability (they glide, rather than fly) and are known for their cultured warrior ethos.
Little is known about the Vulthra's history or homeworld by the humans, since Earth Fleet ships have never encountered any worlds or captured any Vulthra ship databases to extract that information. From the few drops that these alien warriors made on planets during the 1st and 2nd Vulthra Wars, they are believed to be a highly stratified warrior society, with a belief in honorable combat, and adhere to a strict code of conduct in battle, with an emphasis on protecting the innocent. Their technology reflects this, with powerful shielding, dense tensile-strength armor, and a lack of camouflage -- allowing the Vulthra warrior to get close to his target without getting destroyed by plasma fire.
The 1st Vulthra War was generally understood to be a misunderstanding. Happening during the Vin Shriak "Holy War," the Vulthra were afraid that the Caal had taken over humanity. After three months and several planetary campaigns, the alien high command realized this wasn't the case, and promptly withdrew from Federation space. It is uncertain how familiar the Vulthra are with the Caal, how much they fought them, or whether they were allied with the Horadrim against the Caal.
Humanity's second conflict with the Vulthra is even more uncertain, but after analyzing the Vulthra Fleet's "point blank" approach to space combat, the Earth Fleet managed to ambush the alien fleet at the Battle of New Tokyo and destroy it. Being too far from their own systems to support their war effort, the Vulthra hired the K'Nes to supply their ships. Horrath VI jumped at the chance to weaken the humans, only to bring about the defeat of the K'Nes Tor, as Chairman Clarke ordered their annexation into the Federation.
No further contact has been made with the Vulthra since 2257.
The Vulthra have a strict caste system, originally based on the natural ‘pecking order’ among the avians, but later on the need for law and order. It was common in old times to have alpha males and backstabbing to achieve dominance. This worked for a while on Ra (their homeworld), but then came the Great Awakening.
Historians postulate that one of the gas giants in their home system became a star (the second binary star is quite young, although impossible to track down for certain) and with rapid temperature rises, life on Ra began dying off. The Vulthra, top of their food chain, suddenly couldn’t get enough food to eat, because the lesser creatures were dying. One of the avians, known as the First Father, discovered that he could "ignore" the difficulties that were happening to the rest of his flock. He always found food, in places where the alpha could not; he could fly in the worst dust storms without a scratch. As the males in his flock weakened, he became stronger, and eventually became the alpha.
The First Father fed his flock, even while other flocks starved. The remnants of other flocks came to join and fell under the alpha’s wing. They didn’t dare overthrow him for fear of starvation. As the First Father began to breed, his children were also blessed with the gift of "ignoring reality." As these child mages grew up, they dominated the other avians due to their heightened ability. However, they didn’t know how to control their power, and in the normal fight for dominance in the flock, one mage killed another.
The First Father intervened, teaching his children how to use their magick, and instilling in them their duty to protect the non-magick flock. The Second Fathers became leaders, because they could feed the flock as well. As the females bred with the stronger mages more, over several generations, all the flock became mages. However, depending on how much blood they inherited from the First Father, their ability to use magick was greatly increased.
As the First Father became older, the need to protect the flock instilled the need to obey the more powerful one, without the previous deadly power struggle for dominance. This became codified over the subsequent generations into a code of honorable conduct. Because the blood lines showed an obvious power balance, the stronger blood lines separated from each other, as females would only mate with males of equal or greater strength. This became codified over the generations into a caste system. Together, the Vulthra became a powerful species, and used magick to literally remake their world. The alpha of the united flock became the "High General."
The term "Vulthra Empire" is the closest human term; in truth, the entire species is on a war footing. Although the warriors are supposed to fight, every Vulthra is expected to serve in combat should the need arise. Magick and fighting skills are taught at an early age. The concepts of service, duty, and honor are instilled from birth. Part of this is from the need to survive a hostile environment; the other was surviving alien attacks.
After they managed to tame their own world, eventually the Vulthra population became so great that they began to expand throughout their solar system. They discovered the umbra and could literally fly to closer planets in thier star system with their own wings. They terraformed the worlds with massive use of magick; when they had to build simple spaceships to travel to new star systems, they ran into other races. At first, the Vulthra only took uninhabitable worlds, but inevitably this honked off neighboring races, who invaded them.
They fought only defensive wars at first, and just like the Romans, became fantastically powerful as a result. Then the Caal came; not only did they not fight with honor, they also didn’t die after you killed them. They couldn’t inhabit the Vulthra—because if a Caal tried, it reacted badly with entropic magick and shredded the spirits of both. So the Caal inhabited the spirits of Vulthra's livestock instead, and the avians had to almost starve to death killing their possessed murderous demi-cows.
The fact that the Caal decided to avoid the Vulthra from there annoyed the avians even more—what dishonorable foe flees from a fair fight? So they became the defenders of the weaker races that were subject to the Caal’s attacks... and if they happened to make them tributary states after saving them, that was only reasonable. The Vulthra allied with the Horadrim near the end (the last thousand years or so) of their own conflict with the Caal, but gthe Horadrim were so decimated that Vulthra eventually lost contact with them.
The humans have proven to be the most worthy foe the Vulthra have faced since the Caal. The appearance of the Orb in human space was felt like a beacon in the Vulthra's part of the galaxy, and knowing their ancient foe’s thirst for magickal power, the Vulthra sent a fleet to intercept the Caal from getting it. Of course, the Caal weren’t anywhere close, and once the Vulthra realized there was no danger, they bugged out. This retreat from combat caused a crisis within the warrior caste. The ruling faction declared that honor decreed that they did not subjugate the other races without good cause, and the Caal’s absence among humanity eliminated that cause. The rebel faction declared that once battle was joined, it was dishonorable to break from combat, whatever the cause. In order to avoid a looming civil war, the ruling faction allowed the rebels to take their fleet and continue the human attack four years later. With the destruction of their fleet by the Federation, the ruling faction was proven correct, and balance restored to the Vulthra Empire.
The Vulthra do not create or fashion things like a human mage does. Instead, their magick is entropic, so they take things away from matter to fashion what they want. If they need to terraform a world, they don’t plug in oxygen and seed plants. Instead they cause large boulders to collapse into soil, take out heavy metals that poison the soil, remove higher levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen to create the correct air mix, and then drop in the seeds.
As the caste system developed out of the need for survival, and an extension of the literal pecking order, it evolved into a structure that allows birth status and social mobility at the same time. There are castes, classes, and clans, and your birth determines where you start in life and what training is available to you, but intelligence and ambition can move you high in life, even if you tick everyone off on the way up.
The main castes are:
- Warrior: Those who lead and fight the battles.
- Servant: Those who serve those who lead (support branch of the military).
- Artisans: Those who provide the necessities of life (farmers, craftsmen, artists).
- Laborers: Those who can only use their bodies for service.
Within the caste, your class determines your specialty. So as examples:
- Spaceborn: Officer class aboard spaceships and fighters.
- Skyborn: Those who pilot atmospheric craft.
- Sight and Sound: Those who specialize in providing intelligence in front of the main force.
- Arm of Judgment: Heavy weapons specialists.
- Eye of the Needle: Snipers.
- Bladeborn: Officers of the infantry.
- Ironhides: Those who provide the uber-defensive systems for the warriors.
- Quartermasters: Supply experts, usually converts enemy supplies for their use.
- Squires: Those fight to defend the warriors above them.
- Teamsters: Those who provide ground transport on planet.
- Bloodborn: The healers of the army.
- Earthborn: Farmers, those who tend the soil
- Drapers: Those who provide durable clothes.
- Soul of Beauty: Artists who decorate non-military items.
- Delicious Arts: Chefs.
Laborers don’t have classes, as they have no specialty, only clans.
Within your class, there are different clans. Depending on the skill of those in your clans, they will be respected more or less in your given specialty. So in Scout’s case, the Brown Feathers clan has been expert armorers, so they would only serve the chief officers of the warriors, as compared to other clans who would serve lesser warriors.
Social mobility is possible, however, usually through dead man’s shoes. The obvious example is that a warrior goes into combat with his squires. Should enough warriors die, the best squires would be promoted to warrior caste in order to fill ranks. However, in Scout’s case, you can also prove that your blood is actually of warrior level by simple ability. If you are dishonorable, even warriors can be knocked down to servants. However, some prove to be terrible servants, so you can get knocked all the way down to laborers. They have the ultimate insult of having no specialty/class and can only serve if a higher caste sponsors their work. If a laborer proves themselves, however, they can be elevated into that avians’ clan.
Behind the ScenesEdit
Nathan Bax used the Vulthra race as a convenient way of getting rid of the K'Nes for his Y3K timeline. He never bothered to explain who and what they were, so Marcus interpreted them as a "vulture" type race, but played around with the rest. The caste system is a blantant ripoff from Hindu castes, with an American spin for social mobility.