The date of the first mastery over the wild skrill is a matter undocumented in the prehistory of the Queln (as they call themselves), a people whose song-tradition harkens back to the time before Seldon's empire. According to Queln tradition, one night the Bright Moon got drunk and was captured by a Queln warrior when she flew too low. In return for her release, the warrior forced her to teach him the secret words of control over the skrill, a secret which his descendants retain to this day.
As a society of warriors mounted upon fast, sleek beasts of the air, it is only natural that the Queln riders would become raiders and plunderers, preying upon the canals, caravans, and city-states of their civilized brethren. Attacks by war-parties of skrill riders upon an unsuspecting canal city have been the Queln child's dream and the canal child's nightmare for centuries.
Queln bands base themselves in practically every one of the remote mountain regions of Mars where their mounts can breed and feed on the shrubs vital to maintenance of a functioning lift gland. Their range, however, is vast, and raiding parties can be found almost anywhere from the rugged peaks of the Noachis Mountains to the vastness of the Plains of Aeria.
Each clan (consisting of several dozen family groups) is governed by a skylord (rithall) and his council of elders. The skylord gains his position through continued championship at the games of succession, held once every year. Should he die in office, his successor is appointed by the seven elders, who hold their positions only by virtue of age. As with most Martian societies, females are not allowed access to positions of power.
All young males are trained in the use of the khivatt (a short spear or javelin) and the riding of the skrill after they have lived through their eighth year. This training is brutal and enforced without pity. Only three out of ten males live through the two-year training period. Once they are finished with their training, young males are encouraged to practice their skills with hunts, which can take the males far and wide cross the desert face of Mars in search of herds of ruumet breehr or the more elusive and prestigious prey, the eegaar. Organized hunts led by the skylord take place once per season and involve virtually the entire clan's warrior population. Outside of hunting and warfare, the male Queln have very little function in the clan.
Females are in charge of preparing the hunted animals for nightly feasts and gathering wild roots, berries, and other plants to round out the Queln diet. In the seemingly endless desert, such gathering would be all but impossible without the assistance of the skrill. Older beasts, no longer fit for war or the hunt, are turned over to the females.
Queln dress is similar to that of the Hill Martians and the steppe nomads, all three groups being of the same race. But because of the high altitudes at which they fly their skrill, the Queln also wear skins and a heavy cloak which they can discard when they descend to the warmer altitudes.
Illustration and text (adapted) from the Space: 1889 rule book.
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Space:1889 is Frank Chadwick's registered trademark for his game of Victorian Era space-faring. He has granted permission for the use of the background of Space:1889 for the stories presented here. All text, illustrations, photographs and design are © 2000-2007 Dan Thompson, except where otherwise noted.