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The Vargr Udheg (Pack)

by Peter Gray

Historical Overview

During the Imperial Civil War the coreward regions of the Domian of Deneb were invaded by large corsair and freebooting military units from several nearby Vargr states in Gvurrdon, Tuglikki and Provence Sectors. Upon notification of Strephon's assassination many neighboring Vargr, already heavily influenced by the Oekhsos tirades, perceived a marvelous oppurtunity for pillage and conquest in the weakened spinward sectors of the Third Imperium. In Gvurrdon, the Kforuzeng corsairs enjoyed a renaissance of interest and power, and raided heavily into Aramis/Spinward Marches. In Tuglikki, the Assemblage of 1116 formed solely as a military adversary for the Domain of Deneb; its military and allied corsairs inflicted serious losses on the communities and commerce of coreward subsectors in Deneb. But the most traumatic injury was inflicted by Vargr states in Provence: the overrunning of Corridor Sector and the severance of the main lines of contact and commerce between the DoD and the main body of the Third Imperium. By 1119 the Denebians were facing entrenched Vargr forces across most of their coreward frontier, and were compelled to abandon many worlds in trailing Deneb.

Given enough time, the DoD forces might have prevailed against these threats, especially after divide-and- conquer politics had slowed down Aslan encroachers in the Thinrim enough to permit reinforcement of the coreward reaches. Unfortunately for the Domain, the release of the AI Virus in 1130 made further offensive operations impossible, and a ceasefire was negotiated with local Vargr warlords. In 1132 the new Regency of Deneb declared Vargr and Aslan worlds "fait accompli" and annexed them back into its borders under the protection of its new Quarantine. This bold act partially severed the ties between newly enfranchised Vargr landlords and their masters and sponsors to coreward, but it led to several new rounds of bloodshed between Regency forces and neighboring Vargr powers, most notably the Assemblage of 1116 in the campaign romantically known as the Battle of Ashes.

While these final adjustments, and last few wars were going on, Virus debuted in the trailing/rimward Vargr Extents around 1135. The decimation of the large states in this region sent refugees flooding to spinward, destabilising other regions, and carrying Viral pathogens with them. About the same time that the Kishkii and her task force was wending on their deadly errand across Corridor, Virus had finally made its way around the Windhorn. The Varroeth Empire collapsed, and tens of billions died. Neighboring Vargr states collapsed sequentially afterwards, in the words of one historian, like a building crashing down one story at a time. Billions of refugees attempted to flee from this deadly onslaught, but most perished before reaching safe haven. By 1145 only a small precarious cluster of states in a one sector proximity of the Zhodani trailing frontier had weathered the storm.

The coreward subsectors of Deneb began to recieve refugees as early as 1136, mostly prescient or cautious Vargr who wanted to get out of the way as quickly as possible. In 1140 Varroeth refugees started to straggle in, and these were followed by refugees from several states as Virus cut a swath across Tuglikki. In 1143 coreward fleets had encountered the first coreward Vampires, and by 1145 millions of Vargr refugees had flooded into Deneb from a half dozen states and myriad non-aligned worlds. The coreward frontier worlds suffered decades of war and abuse, and the subsequent Abandonment had winnowed their populations; as a result services and supplies for these refugees were in short supply despite the heroic efforts of the Regency government and charity relief organisations. The situation was only made worse by the political isolation of fait accompli lords following the demise of their homelands and sponsoring states. In the face of this influx many worlds, Fait Accompli or not, fractured under the strain.

In the resulting vacuum Vargr refugees often went hungry, sick and unsheltered, and the traditional family and pack bonds, already shattered by war, almost disappeared altogether. Only the strongest and most charismatic Vargr could prevail in this frenzy, and slowly these imposed a strict order upon the refugees, aided in no small part by corsairs and previously established Vargr politicians and corporations. By 1148 the strongest of these "topdogs" had cobbled together a semblance of order and had begun to turn their camps and fellow refugees into communities.

The chief institution to evolve were the Goenghoedz, or "Self Community Groups." These were primarily fellowships or charitable funds established by the surviving fait accompli governments, and assisted by generous Regency financing and donations, that were run by the refugees themselves. Many were not originally criminal organisations, having been founded by Vargr activists and wealthy refugees as a means of centering relief efforts and/or bringing their needs to the attention of the Regency government. Initially they distributed food, blankets and medicines, but eventually evolved into quasi-bureaucratic entities. The slowness and disorganisation of the Regency's inital relief efforts convinced many Vargr that Norris and his government were untrustworthy or racist at worst, and inept at best. Many had recieved shabby treatment from local authorities, and were the subject of intimidation and threats by vengeful locals. As they progressively sorted out their own problems, this distrust became a critical barrier between local refugee communities and assimilation into the Regency mainstream.

Many of these groups eventually created their own extralegal methods for self-government, including taxation and policing. On many worlds it became impossible for Regency or local authorities to secure the cooperation of Goenghoedz and their supporting groups. At this time the Vargr Pack did not formally exist beyond this petulant passive-aggressiveness, though the Goenghoedz' tax collection and policing agencies often ran on their own with little respect for even the laws drawn up by the refugees themselves. Education and assimiliation slowly drew the best and brightest Vargr into the mainstream, and slowly the camps were consolidated and closed. But these refugees were followed by tax collectors and their enforcers, and these groups slowly became outlaws in the legal sense.

Aided by generous taxation (extortion) of income from refugee groups, the Goenghoedz developed along two parallel tracks. One part was legitimate, and after the Representational Reforms, these community groups became political machines for the election of Vargr represenatives to the Regency Senate. On the other hand was the growing criminality of the associated muscle and supporting infrastructure, as the net of illegality was spread farther to generate further income. Many Goenghoedz leaders became quite corrupt For its part, the Regency actually amplified the power of these groups through a series of poorly thought out welfare and assistance measures that ended up creating a wider income base for the Goenghoedz and their collectors.

Pack Organisation

The core of the Pack remains the Goenghoedz. Like many human criminal syndicates and cartels, these are composite organisations consisting of coexisting legitimate and illegal activities and parties. No two Goenghoedz are alike, and the extent and kinds of activities they engage in vary widely, even within the proximity of a single refugee camp or community. But generally legal and illegal activities are juxtaposed in a manner that makes it theoretically difficult for either the authorities or rival groups from determining vulnerabilities.

Every Goenghoedz has a Lloengokh, or territory, assigned to it by the mysterious Udhegvol, or Pack Guide. The size of this territory is determined by two factors: the Udhegvol's perception of an individual groups value, and its own ability to carve out turf and gain new allegiances. A Lloengokh can be as large as a system, or as small as a city block. Most are generally no larger than a country, though this can be spread across several systems. A Goenghoedz is titled, or sovereign, inside of its turf, and is entitled to do everything it desires within its boundaries. Rival gang members, either legitimate or criminal, can be disposed in any way the current titleholders see fit, according to the Oekhon, or Code of Conduct. Turf wars are seen as a natural outcome of competition between rival groups, and no attempt is made by the Udhegvol to mediate between warring groups except where the Udheg as a whole are threatened, or where excessive violence and bloodshed threaten profits or territorial cohesion.

Every world or system with an Udheg operation on it has a Rroukhthaeghz, or Pack Boss, in charge of it. This is less formally a hiearchal term than just a name of convenience; on smaller or less valuable worlds the Rroukh will be subordinate to capos or lieutenants on larger or more important worlds. The Pack Boss is generally responsible for keeping the peace where different gangs are operating, and making sure that the Oekhon is observed, and revenue is collected for the Udhegvol. In the political hiearchy of the Goenghoedz, the Rroukhthaeghz is nominally in charge of the planetary council that oversees all local chapters, and is generally responsible for schmoozing with local human politicians, businesspeople and police.

The general hiearchy of a Udheg chapter starts with the Khothong, or ward heelers, who handle tax collection and street level organisation. These are overseen by a Khounerr, or Street Boss, who runs a single operation or set of operations from a single base. The next level are the Alakhighors, which are either lieutenants who oversee several Khounerr, or are mid-level managers in Goenghoedz affiliated businesses, charities or bureaucracies. Finally there is the Ngaethaeghz, or Party Boss, the "Capos" that run a Goenghoedz. In the feudal world of the Pack, these are subordinated to a Udhegthaeghz, or "Godfather" in the romantic retelling of human journalists and writers, that control all Ghoenghoedz in a single Udheg. These in turn report to the Udhegsoer, the legendary "La Cosa Nostra" of the Pack, though in reality this is actually a purely political organisation that has nothing to do with criminal or commercial enterprise of any kind.

The Ngaethaegz are the primary bosses, and are empowered by both the Oekhon with life and death decisions. Most are more politician than criminal, and when a Alakhigor graduates to becoming a Mgaethaegz, it is referred to as a "coming of age" in the Udheg, with only indirect or covert ties to the seamier underbelly of their organisations. Most Ngaethaegz are Vargr who have their own successful Thoerrets (legitimate businesses) and are therefore able to stand up to the scrutiny of local, subsector and Regency authorities better than their less appealing colleagues. Nonetheless, every Party Boss has a squad of Inksurrang, or assassins, who enforce his or her authority over the lower echelons, and are the only who may legitimately order a Ziz, or hit, on an enemy or threat to their interests.

Peace is kept, and disputes mediated, by two different types of emissary. The most common are the Outhillorgh, an "untouchable" (free from harm or malice) that nonetheless keeps contact between neighboring groups at a common grass roots level. These are essentially couriers that relay general information between various Goenghoedz. All Ngaethaeghz also have special subordinates known as Oekhonguers, who both inspect the lower echelons for failure to live up to their obligations, and provide high level negotiations between different groups.

Above the Goenghoedz, the Pack is more unified by example and common philosophy than by any institutions. All Goenghoedz must report to the Udhegvol, must obey its decrees, and must pay it an annual tax equal to seven percent of their income. To ease organisational tensions, a Udhegthaeghz is appointed. This Overboss has its own Oekhonguers whose primary job it is to trace income, and be on the lookout for betrayal or a failure to comply with the Oekhon. But for the most part the Udheg makes few demands of individual groups, and often provides additional muscle and money to those it perceives as deserving. No Ngaethaeghz has ever claimed to have met the Udhegvol in person; rather it conveys its commands and wishes through special envoys chosen for their persuasive skills and high charisma. The message that is conveyed, and the ability of the medium are both very persuasive it seems, as disloyalty against the decrees of the Udhegvol are rare.

The Pack does possess a handful of transcendant officials and soldiers. Most inter-Goenghoedz money transfers are handled by the Ethueng, which also collects tax money for the Udhegvol. The Ethueng are also solely responsible for money laundering operations, including those into the Federation of Arden. Though many individual groups express reservation at having no control over their finances, this creates an additional layer of frustration for Regency investigators who are unable to trace the means by which Pack money is laundered. The Udhegvol also maintains two loyalty assurance groups, the Fuernuzorg to spinward and the Thengkfelluer to trailing, who are full paramilitary groups armed with military grade weaponry, empowered to eliminate rebellious or disobedient Pack organs.

Pack Factions and Associated Groups

Aegzaeng: Former corsair band in control of namesake world, formerly Caladib (Deneb 0508). The Aegzaeng were one time rivals of the Kforuzeng, but were forcibly absorbed by their enemies in the years before the Fifth Frontier War. After the war, the group became independent again, but without most of their warships, and they began to hire themselves out to other Vargr powers as dirtside mercenaries. It was in support of the Assemblage of 1116 that the group captured the naval base on Caladib in 1125, a military feat that was recognised by the Fait Accompli accomodations of 1131.

As a political grouping, the Aegzaeng have charted a maverick course. Their represenatives at the subsector and Regency levels only carve out alliances of convenience to accomplish a narrow set of goals, and they frequently switch sides, and show little or no ideological consistency. This has garnered them a reputation for unreliability among both Regency humans and other Vargr Fait Accompli powers. The group accepts the Pack and the underlying Goenars, but unenthusiastically, and it severely limits the Udheg's authority and operations on their world. Ironically it has been one of the few FA worlds to be permitted to own warships for a planetary navy, a significant turnaround from the old days. The group seems to stay far enough within the Udhegvol's favor to prevent its extermination by the Fuernuzorg.

Baknaelur: Refugees from the Baknae Alliance found on several high population worlds in Pretoria and Magash Subsectors. The Baknae Alliance's expansionistic tendencies were replicated by its refugees, most of whom were military or corsairs that somehow survived the trip across Tuglikki Sector despite Virus. This group dominates most Goenghoedz in these subsectors, and have a penchant for applying slow but constant pressure in pursuit of their goals.

Baknaelur is also the name applied to the culture, cooking and artifacts imported by the refugees. Baknaelur cooking is pungent, and spicy if not painfully hot(the result of Vargr, like Terran canines, of not having pain receptors in their palates). The refugees are well known for their distinctive architecture and furniture, and one of the most common legitimate businesses are carpentry and cabinetry.

Church of the Chosen Ones: Vargr racial supremacist religion. The Chosen Ones are an unusual outcome of the Solomani Hypothesis. The revelation of the Vargr's uplifting by the Ancients convinced many of them that their race had been singled out for special treatment, perhaps as a master race over all other sophonts. The COTCO is the only Vargr group to attempt to apply this doctrine to the rest of the universe. The Church was younger than the Third Imperium, only being founded in the 600s after the popularisation of the Solomani Hypothesis.

In order that its gospel may reach the rest of the universe, the Church proselytizes to each and every sophont its priests encounter. But the bulk of its recruitment efforts were concentrated among less enlightened Vargr communities. Many corsair bands and oppurtunistic or expansionistic states became frequent partners of the Church, as its beliefs and theology were a convenient justifier for their operations, provided that they were concentrated upon bringing the faith to nearby sophonts and their interstellar polties.

But as with most Vargr institutions, the Church was rife with political challenge, internal dissent, ideological schism and outright heresy. In the last five hundred years of its existence it has been an institution in name only, with myriad congregations and individual world hiearchies held together only by the common cause of its theology, and even that is open to argument. Fortunately its theology lacked any genocidal or extreme xenophobic trends or doctrines, and most schisms within the church were either politically motivated, or driven by issues of the best method of outreach to other sophonts.

The Church is still active in many parts of the former Vargr Extents, and among several regions of the surviving Splinters. Its activities in the Regency are not prohibited, but they have been severely limited by political and cultural concerns. Most sects encountered in the Regency will tend to congregate along the coreward frontier, and are primarily splinter groups that resemble in organisation and tenor the "storefront" Christian Churches of old Terra. Regency churches are dominated by two trends: either an active inclusion movement that welcomes all sophonts in exchange for a softening of the racial aspect; or a vehemently activist and nationalist church that nurses the anger, desperation and fear of unemployed and displaced Vargr.

Donu-na Crisis: Balkanisation of Donu-Na/Namidshur (Deneb ) in the 1160s following a major gang war between rival Goenghoedz. Donu-na's non-existent law level, and long tradition of government permissiveness allowed the Pack to set up a large presence on this world in the 1150s. The situation was complicated by corruption among the human leadership of this poor world, many of whom were on Pack payrolls. Several human communities became fed up with the brazen activities of the Pack and their human cronies, and the gang war allowed several to secede from the main government, and form splinter states. The new states are rigidly defiant of the Pack, and are patrolled by private police agencies, most notably those provided by Ingram Services, to keep them out.

Ethueng: Kforuzeng splinter group. The Ethueng were induced in the Antebellum period by Tukera Lines into forming their own seperate corsair band, with generous Tukera support of course. After Tukera collapsed, the band almost broke apart in the face of renewed Kforuz attacks. But then the band was rescued by an unknown benefactor, and its members were funneled into a set of trojan horse businesses in Pretoria subsector during the 1130s and 40s, only to reemerge as a core part of the new Vargr Pack in the 1150s. The Ethueng handle all of the Udheg's major financial transactions, and provide banking services for individual Goenghoedz.

The group is highly secretive, and its membership is of unknown origin. All Ethueng seem to be recruited in their youth, and spend about fifteen to twenty years in training and indoctrination. No Ethueng member will surrender under interrogation or torture, and all wil carry a method of suicide on their person. Among other Pack Members, they are referred to as the "Talking Moneybags" because of their quiet professionalism, for they do most of their talking through their actions rather than direct communication. Regency police call them "Ghost Dogs" for their ability to disappear or fade out of sight. Killing or robbing an Ethueng courier will always trigger intervention by either the Fuernuzorg or Thengkfelluer hit squads.

Fueznuzorg: Former special ops branch of the Kforuzeng. Since the Collapse it has been promoted into the main representing body of the Kforuzeng within the Regency. Fueznuzorg in general is atypical of a Udheg grouping, and may not really be a part of the formal Udheg at all. The Fueznuzorg do not have a single world they dominate, and hold very little territory at all. But then their job is a special one: the intimidation and supression of rebellious Udheg factions. The Fueznuzorg are concentrated in Aramis/Spinward Marches, but have allied or associated chapters scattered across the Regency, most notably in coreward Deneb.

Goenghoedz: Formal name for Vargr nationalist and political groups that enlist and support the Vargr Pack. Without the official and unofficial backing of these parties, the Udheg would likely have been a scattered entity of marginal importance, rather than the major headache to the Regency and other Spinward States that it is. The name is rather generic, meaning "community support", and applies to political parties, non-profit and charitable organisations, intellectual and professional societies and any other organisation that aids, enriches or structures refugee Vargr communties.

Gvaekuers: Former Kforuz splinter group. Gvaekuers was in service to the Dzarrgh Federate when the Collapse came, and wisely chose to abandon their employers for the Regency. The group has no fixed baseworld, preferring to scatter themselves over several worlds in Antra and Namidshur subsectors. Of all the Pack groups, this is one of the most contentious. Its members show no respect for the Frontier boundaries or the authority of the RQS in enforcing the Quarantine, and its ships attempt to run the Quarantine constantly.

Kaenguerradz: Core supremacist litugy of the Church of the Chosen Ones. Interpretation of its commandments vary widely between Church factions, as is the exact nature of Vargr "supremacy." Most modern interpretations now accept as faith the views and convictions of other sophont species, and limits the church's mission to diplomatic contact with these groups. At the other extreme some radical groups have returned to its original pure racist doctrine, but thes groups are mostly confined to the Vargr Wilds, namely surviving corsair bands.

Kforuzeng: Notorious Vargr corsair alliance native to Gvurrdon and Tuglikki sectors. The Kforuz have been so successful and influential a group that its name has become the official term for "corsair" in Gvurrdon and some other areas of the Vargr Splinters. The early history of the Kforuz is rather murky, but the Fourth Frontier War is generally accepted as being the beginning of their ascendancy. At one time before the Fifth Frontier War a number of Vargr states in Gvurrdon and Tuglikki were forced to pay tribute to the group to prevent its raids, and several regions of the Extents were "no-go" for Imperial traders and travellers because of the threat of piracy and kidnap.

The Fifth Frontier War nearly destroyed the group, and it slowly faded towards obscurity until the 1110s. The Oekhsos tirades revitalised its membership and recruitment, and during the Imperial Civil War it invaded and conquered several worlds in Aramis Subsector, where it remains in power through proxies. The group was a major contributor to the formation of the Vargr Pack, but has been overshadowed and sidestepped by the shadowy Udhegvol. It has also lost its Fuernuzorg spec ops unit to the Pack. But it remains a power to be reckoned with in Gvurrdon, and has announced its intent to begin reclaiming Tuglikki for itself.

Khounerr: Lowest rank of Udheg. Generally a street soldier or operative in either illegal or legitimate aspects of the Udheg.

Ksonotso: Middle and upper class refugees from the People of Wanz. Also refers to prosperous business class of Vargr on Urnas/Pretoria that emerged from these refugees. The Ksontso immigrated into the Regency in the early 1140s, though some came in earlier waves mindful of the threat of Virus. Most ended up in Lamas Subsector, and might have stayed there if not for the efforts of the Duke of Pretoria, Juganar Kamashidi. The young Duke was spearheading the redevelopment of Urnas, and saw a complimentary need between these refugees, and the fledgling industries on this bitterly divided world. With his aid, the Ksonotso immigrated to Urnas, and many took up a position as a "middlebeing minority" filling in between the emerging transnational managment class on the world and the highly combative city-states and their populations.

Logasllu: Refugees from the Empire of Varroeth, found in Usani and Namidshur subsectors. Most Vargr found on Deneb itself are of this group. The Empire of Varroeth was known for its unusual (for Vargr, anyway) degree of continuity, and this same tradition has followed the refugees into their new homeland. Of all the refugee groups present in the Regency, these are the most resistant to the influence of the Pack. The Logasllu have an affinity for order, and were quick to adapt to Regency corporate and religious structures. Logasllu cuisine and some traditions has been embraced in trailing parts of the Stronghold, and they are renowned as artists and intellectuals.

Ngaethaeghz: Overall boss for a Goenghoedz.

Ngorsraek: Surviving splinter group of the Assemblage of 1116. Survived the Battle of Ashes and took control of Khoengirrgh/Lamas. The group has long been a source of opposition to the Regency government, and has always made clear its desire to restore the Assemblage.

Rrouring: Corsair band in command of Rrouring/Lamas. This world, formerly known as Haniiwa, is the homeworld of a native minor non-human species known as the Vixmaa, and the Regency has maintained a large contingent of MoI Wilderness Rangers and RISS Security Service personnel to protect the Vargr from this aggressive species.

Sourrirrakhs: Corsair band/political party centered in coreward Aramis/Spinward Marches, and the worlds of Marz and Carthage (Deneb 0201 and 0202). The group has become a major rival of Kforuzeng ambitions, and has plans for reexpanding into Tuglikki just as soon as the coreward frontier is lifted. Regency intelligence has identified a number of forward bases maintained by the group on several worlds in Gvurrdon. And evidence is emerging that it has become the chief power in the remnant of the Thoengling Empire.

Udheg: Vargr name for the Pack.

Udhegvol: The legendary leader of the Pack.

Watchmen: "Vigilante" terrorist organisation present in some areas of the Denebian Rampart. The Watchmen evolved out of community protection groups that were too vigilant in their protection. Harassment of innocent Vargr led to the outlawing of several groups. The more radical humans and other sophont members of these groups formed resistance cells that carried out vandalism and bombings of Vargr businesses and homes.

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