Stories

People of Drought


Dear Federal Broadcast Corporation;

I recently watched your five-part series, People of Drought, a purported "true story" of the Ni-Kunni people. While the narrative elements of the series are up to debate, there can be no debate about the vast swathes of factual inaccuracies present. Anyone watching the broadcast will have come away with a warped, dismal view of the Ni-Kunni and their place in the Amarr Empire. There is already enough misinformation about the Empire and its peoples.

So I am writing you in hopes that you will publish my letter in a public arena so that anyone who has true interest in the Ni-Kunni can find out about them. In addition, I request that in your future airings of the series, you be sure to include a disclaimer that it is a work of fiction and does not tell actual facts.

To truly understand the Ni-Kunni people, you must first know about their planet, Mishi IV. Mishi IV orbits around K2V type star at roughly 1.2 AU away. It has an orbital period of 221 days and a rotational period of 27 hours, 36 minutes, and 7 seconds. It has a mean temperature of 290.4 degrees Kelvin.

Unlike popular depictions (including the one shown in People of Drought), Mishi IV is not a sand-covered desert. The planet can be considered arid, with a mean precipitation of .3 meters per year - well below that of most other inhabited worlds. However, this encompasses a wide range of environments, from jungles that receive up to 1.5 meters of rainfall annually to hyperarid regions that receive less than a millimeter per year.

Mishi IV has approximately 42.8% surface water cover, with 98% of that being the brine oceans, the other 2% fresh water. Unlike many worlds, Mishi IV only sees about 25% of its fresh water locked into ice, an important factor in allowing life to survive on the planet.

The land area of Mishi IV is divided into three main continents, divided from each other by the two oceans. Due to the large size of the continents, their overall climates are not significantly different from each other, though internal variations can be great.

Close to 40% of the land is actual desert, though most of it is rocky or polar desert, not the sandy desert so often depicted. In the most extreme of these areas, daytime temperatures can reach 60 degrees C and fall to 10 degrees C at night. However, in general, the climate is much milder, ranging from summer highs of 45 degrees C to winter lows of -40 degrees C.

Much of the rest of the land is dominated by steppes and scrublands, with such areas making up 30% of the rest of the land. These areas are still arid, receiving on average only .3 meters of rainfall a year. They are dominated by short, dry grasses and scrub brushes.

Another large biome is the arctic and subarctic tundras. Contained mainly at the poles, the tundras are much like those found on any planet, with short growing seasons in the brief summer months, followed by long winters of bitter cold and nearly no rainfall.

The remaining 10% of the land is a broad mix of biomes, much as can be found on any planet. There are jungles that - while not nearly as large - are just as lush as those you would find on Pator, wetlands that see almost daily rainfall, temperate forests, and more.

Now that you know a little about the planet, you may wonder what could have brought settlers to such an inhospitable place. The truth is currently unknown. Historical records pre-collapse are sparse at best and contains next-to-no information on the mindsets of the original settlers of Mishi IV.

The most popular current theory is that the original settlers of Mishi IV were a religious people, not dissimilar from the Amarr, who found Mishi IV an isolated planet which would pose little interest to other groups.

A mystery that troubled archaeologists for many years was the lack of pre-collapse ruins around the coastal areas of the planet. The ruins were almost entirely found quite a distance from sources of water that could be converted to drinking water. While there is evidence that the settlers relied heavily on deliveries of water from off planet to sustain them, few were willing to accept that the settlers would consider that a permanent solution.

An old, and now disproven theory, stated that Mishi IV was once much wetter than it is now and the ruins were located at coastal sites when the settlers arrived. While Mishi IV was once a wetter planet, this was millions of years ago, well prior to human settlement.

The current theory is that the original settlers had planned to terraform the planet by crashing icy comets into it, raising the water levels and bringing the oceans to them. There is some scant evidence for this theory, as two of the larger fresh-water lakes on the planet were discovered to have been formed through comet impacts roughly 15000 years ago, which corresponds roughly to the time of the EVE Gate collapse.

However, the settlers were never able to complete their terraforming. The collapse of the EVE Gate cut them off from the supplies they needed to continue safely crashing comets into their planets. In addition, the water shipments ceased, leaving the settlers to rely on water filtration systems that rapidly broke down in the inhospitable conditions.

The first thousand years following the collapse of the EVE Gate were likely incredibly harsh for the colonists. It is estimated that all modern Ni-Kunni are descendants of less than 1000 people who all lived around 14000 years ago. This is a stunningly low number. In comparison, the Caldari people, who endured a much harsher planet, never seem to have fallen below a global population of 5000.

However, these survivors were hearty and strong, well adapted to surviving the dryness of Mishi IV. They migrated to the few permanent fresh water lakes on the planet and began to reproduce and multiply.

By 5000 years ago, the human population had rebounded, and there were humans to be found across nearly the entire planet. The majority of the Ni-Kunni people lived nomadic lifestyles, traveling from one seasonal water hole to the next, following herds of game, and eeking out an existence as hunters and gatherers.

Permanent settlements were few and far in between. Permanent sources of fresh water were rare and the source of much conflict. In time, these areas came to be dominated by individual tribes such as the Kunnae, Arrat, and Bedor. Powerful princes, termed "water barons", used the water to control populations and establish dynasties that lasted for hundreds of years.

Even the seasonal water holes could be the sources of conflict. Records exist of tribes annihilating one another over small water spots that would last for only a month or less. Combined with the harsh nomadic lifestyle, most inhabitants of Mishi IV would be lucky to make it to their 40th birthday (65 in Mishian years).

This high and early death rate led to one of the quirks of Ni-Kunni culture that was far less widespread than popularly assumed; polygamy. Conflict, hunting, and gathering was almost exclusively the arena of males. Women were expected to cook food, make tools, engage in limited agriculture, and partake in other, less dangerous tasks. This frequently led to a lopsided number of females to males in the tribes.

The majority of these extra women ended up married to a few tribal leaders or elders. These men were the longest lived and most respected members of the tribe. Over the years, they could accumulate several wives as their fellow tribesmen perished in combat or through exposure.

As Ni-Kunni civilization progressed and deaths from war and exposure lessened, the practice continued among the societal elite. The aforementioned water barons were famous for having dozens, perhaps hundreds of wives.

It's commonly assumed that all Ni-Kunni practiced polygamy. But in truth, polygamy was the domain of a small groups of powerful and respected men. Amongst the general population, polygamy was rare. Having two wives meant that a man had to provide for both women and both their children. The vast majority of Ni-Kunni were too poor to do so.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Ni-Kunni culture was the almost universal belief in what has been termed "water angels". Early Amarrian contact naturally associated these stories of water angels with our own stories of sefrim. However, historical research shows that the two are unrelated.

In fact, it is now universally agreed that the water angels are actually a mythologization of the early water shipments to the planet. At some point post-collapse, stories of those shipments became conflated with the presence of rain clouds. As the Ni-Kunni spread across the planet, the mythology surrounding the water angels was adapted to suit local conditions.

Permanent settlements would make sacrifices to rain clouds. These sacrifices were commonly animal, but many tribes were known to sacrifice their captured enemies as well. They rationalized that the rain clouds brought life with them, so too should they receive life in return.

Nomads would offer prayers to the water angels to lead them to the next temporary water hole. Settlers with seasonal rains would spend the months leading up to the rainy season making offerings to the water angels in the hopes that the coming rainfall would be plentiful. The customs persisted even in areas with abundant rainfall and fresh water - one tribe considered it bad luck to spill even a drop of water, while another would hold temple services any time there was rain.

This belief in water angels shaped much of the Mishian religions. Hundreds of religions rose and died on the planet, but the most enduring and widespread was the worship of a deity called Affrham.

Affrham appears to have originally been merely one of a pantheon of deities worshiped by the Kunnae tribe. However, roughly 2500 years ago, a powerful Kunnae clan managed to conquer many of their fellow tribesman and formed one of the first great civilizations on Mishi IV. This clan worshiped Affrham above all others and ascribed to him dominion over the water angels.

Over the following centuries, the rest of the pantheon was debased and gradually reduced to nothingness. A few of the deities lingered for a while as minor assistants to Affrham, but they too eventually faded. Affrham had become the sole god of the Kunnae, who continued their conquest of neighboring tribes.

Around 2000 years ago, the Kunnae civilization collapsed after an earthquake destroyed their capital city. The tribes they had conquered revolted and the empire broke into numerous smaller states, but worship of Affrham was now universal among the former subjects of the Kunnae.

Worship of Affrham spread beyond the subject tribes across Mishi IV, so that 1000 years ago, it was the primary religion on the planet.

The religion bore some similarities to the Amarr religion. Affrham was the sole supreme creator deity, though his primary concern was with water and rain. The stories said that mankind had once roamed the skies, but grew evil and turned away from Affrham. One day, Affrham sent his angels to take the water from the world.

Most of the angels did his work without question and left the people to die of thirst while crops withered in the fields. A few refused and were cast out of Affrham's court. Overcome with sorrow, a few of these angels cast themselves into the water they had refused to take, turning it bitterly salty and rendering it unfit for man. Those who didn't became the first shamans, leading men to the remaining potable water and passing their secrets on before they died.

The story of the fall of man and the departure of angels bears some resemblance to the Amarrian Scriptures. However, in practice, the religion was nothing like the one truth that Amarrians hold.

However, the few similarities perhaps prepared the Ni-Kunni for the coming of the Amarr Empire 1000 years ago.

By 22200 CE, the people of Mishi IV had advanced to an early industrial age civilization. Many still lived primitive, nomadic lives, but population centers had begun to embrace steam technology and factories. The impact had not yet become widespread, with the sweeping changes in society only just beginning.

It was in 22201 CE that the 51st Exploration Corps, under Commander Soruma Aquiun, first encountered Mishi IV. The initial explorers sent back word to the main fleet that a planet of roughly 1 billion people had been discovered.

The Empire came in force to Reclaim Mishi IV. It is to the credit of the native Mishians that many of them surrendered without conflict. While a few of the tribes refused to submit and at least one was wiped from existence, a great majority of them, led by the Nichann tribe, willingly gave themselves to the Amarr.

To the Mishians, the Amarr must have seemed like the return of the water angels. Amarrian technology could turn the brine oceans into drinkable water. They spoke of God, in some ways similar to Affrham, that would lead them out of the hardship they endured into salvation. What would simple servitude be to a people who had suffered so much?

It is this willingness to serve that quickly endeared the Ni-Kunni to the Amarr Empire. Many of their leaders were granted favored status, being allowed to remain free for their cooperation. The rest were enslaved, but did not suffer it long.

By the time the Empire encountered the Minmatar two centuries later, nearly half the Ni-Kunni population in the Empire was free. Three hundred years later, the Emperor issued an official decree freeing the rest. By that time, Ni-Kunni made up less than 5% of the Empire's slaves.

Today, the only Ni-Kunni that remain enslaved are criminals, heretics, or their descendants. The rest form an important segment of the Empire's population, from artisans to laborers to clerks. They have fully embraced the Empire and its ways. A few have even risen to become Holders, important religious officials, and naval officers.

In conclusion, the Ni-Kunni are not an oppressed minority who "struggle against oppressive servitude" and "cling in secret to ancient traditions in the face of an intolerant Amarr religion" as depicted in your program. Nor were they savages who died by the millions to laser fire while flinging stone weapons and hiding behind wooden shields. Such depictions serve only to denigrate what great things the Ni-Kunni have accomplished.

May God be with you,
Pr. Orgun Mekur
Dean of Anthropology
Hedion University, Mishi IV Campus


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