Among the great powers of the Known Galaxy, the Verandi Empire is a unique anomaly. Whereas others attribute their right to govern or exist to being the legacy nation-states from their worlds of origin, or in the case of Siria, the dual legacy of the Sirian states and the Uplifters, Verandi made no attempt to legitimize its power by historical right. From a nation-building perspective, this proved a boon to the empire. Free from the baggage of history, inbred prejudices, and obsolete social divides, Verandi was able to pick and choose what it wanted to incorporate into the national and cultural practices of its newly spawned state. This was a great risk, for in rejecting their world of origin, Verandi had also lost the unifying ties that nominally bound the human species. Perhaps this lack of unifying culture can explain why Verandi descended so quickly and into such horrifying barbarism during the Dark Age.
Without a doubt, the Galactic Dark Age utterly transformed Verandi and continues to effect the people even to this day. The breakdown in national order coincided with a sharp rise in sectarianism, and the eat-or-be-eaten mentality that pervades the Verandi Inner Worlds (the planets within the Verandi System and the four closest stars) today. Without a long history to rely on, the people groped about without a worldview to fit the existing crisis into and help them understand. In this void, powerful and brutal forces took hold, paving the way for several decades of piracy, slavery, cannibalism, war, torture, and living sacrifice. The Reconquista launched by King Thaddeus I was supposed to reclaim Verandi from all these factors, but the evidence suggests that prior to the Dark Age, Verandi as a culture did not really exist.
Indeed some cultural practices are specifically Dark Age in origin. The Verandi love of light and bright colors - nearly all of them will insist on sleeping with the lights dimmed rather than off - can be traced to the Dark Age practice of keeping settlements lit brightly at night to ward off enemies. The most remote towns and houses adhered to this practice as well, suggesting some sort of greater dread of the dark beyond the typical raiders or savage animals. Even the design of the Shining Palace, ostensibly built as a renewed light of civilization, suggests that it had a defensive purpose and that light itself was seen as the primary defense measure. Just what so terrified the Verandi in the dark of the night during those turbulent times has been lost to history.
We know from records of pre-Dark Age media, such as films, television shows, and games that singing was not a prominent aspect of Verandi culture at the time. The prevalence of song in everyday Verandi culture can also be traced to the songs of hope or melancholy sung by forced laborers. Many of these slaves joined the military to carry on the fight to liberate other worlds from the thrall of pirates and warlords, giving the military a notable musical bend, to the consternation of special forces ever since. It does not take much effort for one singer to attract another, and this is probably why great after work parties seem to develop so quickly, everyone just crowds around whoever started singing first and the procession then moves on to the designated celebration area. While it has since given way to lesser, more mass-media driven fares, song and music continue to play a pivotal role in Verandi life, from morning prayers to night time parties. It is telling that the largest and most renowned occasion in Verandi is the I-Jam Music Festival that even the king, famously known for being silent and ill-humored, dared not risk the backlash by not attending.
Perhaps the lack of an original home world is what birthed the empire's military space focus. Verandi was founded with star systems under their complete control, and thus they took for granted that the planets would be the home front while space would be considered the front lines. Full scale terrestrial battles during the Reconquista were few and far between, and the victory over Siria in the War of St. Anne only furthered this belief, which they have made good on for the over half a millennium, and made their greatest military-political strength.
Political practices tend to confuse many Verandi common people, undoubtedly why they seem content to let the nobility run the empire. Though content might not be the best word. Rather, the political process was designed to keep them out and they have grown resigned to this fact. Power is entirely in the hands of the nobles, whose use or abuse of their authority had varied wildly over the centuries. The recent trend has been for them to govern less and less and leave matters to crown appointed officials, though these are often nobles themselves, usually the children who were not entitled to be heirs. On one level this leaves many nobles free to pursue their own interests, contributing greatly to science, technology, and culture. At the same time however, one only has to talk to the everyday common man to know this freedom is resented by those who have it not.
The reliance on robots or biological constructs to carry out most menial tasks does free up much time for the commoners to pursue their own endeavors, but as stated, the system itself ensures that they can only capitalize so much on their successes in these fields. The hierarchy imposed ceiling may not be understood by all, but they aware that they can only succeed so far before those of a higher class will take action against such upstarts.
The divide between nobility and common folk goes even so far as to affect aspects of their language. Modern translators often cover up the fact that the two speak with different dialects by treating them as separate entities. Foreigners without a translation device are often surprised to find that they have difficulty communicating with nobility as they continue to use older words and phrasings that have changed greatly among the vast common population. The translators do manage to capture an aspect of the noble dialect by never contracting their words.
Nevertheless, the two share a common history and common existence, however great their social divide may be. Witness the numerous nationalistic frenzies experienced during the Verandi-Kaladian Wars, where noble and commoner alike enlisted with gusto to fight their hated rival. This could be a holdover from the perceived failure to dominate the human species. A general characteristic of an advanced space-faring race is the total unification of its members into one overarching nation-state. Verandi, again an exception to the rule, views this situation as an affront, proof that they are not all that they could be if only they could unify humanity. In this, all classes seem to share a common feeling, though by this point the differences between Verandi and the rest of the human states are so extreme they might as well be different species. Any push to "Unite humanity" is nothing more than cheap, political propaganda. Even the war over Earth was fought only because it was Kaladia doing the attacking. Polls show that the average Verandi cares little about the planet or even know where it is.
- Professor Beztal Unalahi,
Cultural Studies Department, United Stars National University