The Brotherhood of the Edge
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2020 issue.
The Brotherhood is a subset of the Vilani religious scene, one that’s been shrinking for the last few thousand years, and might be thought of as a parallel to the Bushido of Japan during the pre-WWII period.
Its practitioners follow the normal Sazamshigzanaazi beliefs as a baseline, but add an additional layer on top: one based on the early days on Vland, when life was a more violent struggle. They centered around the belief that while the Shugilii were critical to converting ‘raw’ food to an edible form, the world was a dangerous place.
The Ancient Death Machines still prowled during the era that the Brotherhood formed, and society in some areas was pushed down to hunter/gatherer levels, since obvious farming would often lead to a Death Machine responding unpleasantly.
The Brotherhood was formed primarily to protect those gathering plants, and the reference to “of the Edge” was to them being on the perimeter of the parties out searching for food to bring home to the Shugilii.
In those days, (about –10,000) they carried a variety of melee weapons, often hunting spears, sometimes with heads made from scraps of alloy they picked up from a destroyed Machine. Working those materials with a TL2-ish infrastructure was difficult, and required lots of continued manual effort to shape and sharpen the point and edge of the blades. On the other hand, the alloys were much more aesthetically pleasing than the flint or chipped stone or low-end metals that were more common in the encampments, leading to these weapons being called lamak makhbi (“Beautifully Sharp”) in an archaic branch of standard Vilani language that is now pretty much dead (see http://wiki.travellerrpg.com/Vilani_(language) )
That phrase started being applied both to the weapon, and the person who made/carried it.
In keeping with the Vilani attitudes toward consensus being better than individual fiat, there is no single recognized prophet/founder of the transition between this being a ‘job’ and it becoming a ‘guild/religion’. Part of the ritual was to recite poetry concerning the making, maintenance, and usage of the weapon while sitting and doing these things for long hours, in a kind of meditative state.
As time went on, and local technology improved, the Death Machines wound down and went extinct, and farming became the primary method of food production, the Lamak Makhbi changed. The hunting spears shrunk to become more like assegai, and eventually became all metal with a handle—a sword.
Around this time, with their original, practical reason for existence gone, they became more focused on protecting Vilani from each other, and the first schools of fencing formed. At the same time, the same metaphysical thinking that many other cultures that invented sword play began to manifest, and the contents of the meditative litany changed to more of a zen meditation. Portions of this litany very closely match ideas put forward by Yagyu Muenori, which goes to show that no matter where you go, humans are still humans: given the same body mechanics and biochemical processes in the brain, the same ideas will resurface. Practitioners of Lamak Makhbi consider such similarities proof that their ideas are so obviously right, natural, and sensible that of course they would be discovered elsewhere.
By the time the Solomani ran into the Vilani, the practice and number of hard-core Lamak Makhbi had faded, but there were still cultural scraps of the Old Ways here and there, which was the primary reason for Vilani Navy and Marine officers carrying swords or blades “of presence” … and part of the reason Hiroshi Tokugawa Estigarribia was so respected during the surrender to Terran Confederation forces, since he allowed the surrendering officers to keep those blades.
In these more modern, enlightened times, the Brotherhood has shrunk to a secret society of sorts inside the Imperial services, along the lines of the Hash House Harriers of 20th century Terra cross-bred with elements of Terran Freemasonry.
Their semi-official goals are:
- To promote physical fitness and mental agility
- To encourage an attitude of service and defense of the unarmed
- To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it
- To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel
There is some truth to the rumors that at least three of the five voting members of the Imperial Marines’ armaments board have been members since the founding of the Second Imperium and through the “Long Night” into the third, continuing to the present day, and that this is one of the reasons the Cutlass still holds its position in Marine life.