The Twilight of the Known Worlds
After the Fall, the borders of the Known Worlds shrank. Some worlds deliberately cut themselves off from jumptravel by blockading their gates and attacking anyone who tried to enter their systems. Others lost their ability to reach space as civil wars destroyed starships and the factories to repair them. Most worlds were too busy to aid the small backworlds and, after years of dealing with their own struggles, they often forgot about these worlds or had lost the jump coordinates to reach them in the massive data purges of the Church Inquisitors.
Certain worlds “sealed” their jumpgates, cutting themselves off from the madness going on around them for an unknown amount of time. Those with the technical knowhow and a detailed understanding of jumpgates can seal a gate — that is, shut down all travel from one or more directions. However, once this is done, no one can control when the gate to those directions can be opened again. The seal may last a week or it may last for centuries; no one knows. The time is governed by an internal mechanism in the gate which is too arcane to be understood. Some of the worlds which sealed themselves off during the Fall have yet to reappear.
Untold numbers of planets were cut off from humanity’s central civilization, some to be rediscovered later, others to disappear from history forever. Who knows how many lost planets in the depths of space still support human life? In addition to the worlds of the Second Republic — worlds reached only by jumpgate — there are thousands of star systems without jumpgates, with unknown residents. Some of these stars — those nearest to Earth in light years — were the targets of First Republic slow ships. But these generation ships were forgotten after the jumpgates were discovered, and none has ever reached the Known Worlds. Indeed, few people in the Empire pay attention to stellar distances such as light years; such details became unnecessary after the jumpgates, as travel across vast distances became possible in the blink of an eye.
In this environment of fractured roadways, not all worlds were claimed by the houses, Church or League. Many forgotten planets began independent governments of their own. Most of these governments remained hostile to their neighbors, fighting centuries-long feuds, and some looked upon the riches of the Known Worlds and lusted for them. Cut off from the center of the Republic, many of these worlds slowly lost technology, devolving into Diaspora-level conditions or worse.
A few leaders of such forlorn worlds who still had starships were able to form a coalition and raid the Known Worlds, targeting those worlds that they could sweep onto, pillage and escape from before aid could arrive. The barbarians were no longer at the gate — they were through it and plundering.
Delphi, House Hawkwood’s homeworld, suffered the worst of these assaults. House Hawkwood was able to gather troops with the aid of its minor house allies, and after a bloody battle, fended off the assaults to their homeworld. However, it was no major military victory, for the bulk of the barbarian army had already left with its loot. The Ten knew that the raiders’ success would soon cause more barbarians to break through. But its internal squabbling prevented it from forming a united front against the invaders.
Types of Barbarians
There are currently two main Barbarian Factions threatening the Known Worlds;
Barbarians from the Kurga Caliphate are actually quite polite and mannered. Their ways may differ enough to spook a peasant, but they are intelligent and learned, preserving many things from Second Republic culture that was lost to the Known Worlds after the Fall. The Kurgans worlds border Hazat fiefs.
A loose and undisciplined alliance of minor star nations, the Vuldrok Raiders actually live up to the stereotype of the barbarian held by most peasants — they are rude and brutal in their behavior. Used to taking what they want by might, they rarely heed rules of social propriety and tend to get very miffed when reminded of them. Their Worlds most commonly border Hawkwood fiefs.