The highest ideals to which the subjects of Lord Kurita can aspire are Purity and Harmony.
By Purity is meant freedom from all that might come between the citizen and their duty to their Lord and government.
[Commentary: Purity does not mean avoidance of bodily functions such as sex. Rather, it refers to using those functions to increase one’s contribution to the Dragon. To combine with one of the opposite sex to produce a child is therefore praiseworthy if the new life is dedicated to the service of House Kurita. Purity does not mean all avoidance of uncleanliness. If one must immerse oneself in uncleanliness in work or combat for the Lord Kurita, this is praiseworthy and no violation of Purity.]
By Harmony is meant synchronizing life, action, and thought to the higher purposes of one’s society and one’s Lord.
[Commentary: Birth is painful, sickness is painful, wounds in battle are painful, old age is painful, death is painful. This is the noble truth that leads to the cessation of all pain: the meaning of life will not be found through individual striving, but by becoming part of the web of society. One’s life, one’s happiness, one’s strength are really the strength, the happiness, the life of the whole. Likewise, one’s pain, one’s wounds, and one’s sickness are the sickness, the wounds, and the pain of the whole. If one craves life, happiness, and strength for oneself alone, then one’s pain, sickness, and wounds must also attach to oneself alone, and one’s death takes on the terror of the end of all things. In reality, one is not single. One is part of the whole, and when one dies, one knows that the whole never dies, but goes on always to serve and increase the glory of Lord Kurita.]
—Dictum Honorium, v. II, 17–23
I’ll be attempting to continue blogging about writing the upcoming Handbook: House Kurita; this is the second entry in the series. (Read about LAW in the inaugural post.) My purpose is twofold: 1. To keep me honest and push through the final hump in completing the book, and 2. To increase awareness of the Handbook to the point it beats out Handbook: House Davion as the most popular book in the series.
Can I be brutally honest? This sourcebook is exceptionally difficult to write. It’s worn me down, dulled my brain, and provided a healthy dose of angst in trying to complete it. (As I was told by two other CGL authors: welcome to the pain and misery of the Handbook series.) Once this is complete, I’ll be taking a hiatus from BattleTech writing for a while.
As difficult as it is to slog through, however, writing this particular book has also been eye-opening. It’s given me insight into the depth of story contained within this universe. I’ve had so many ideas spin off to the side, I feel confident I could step away from BattleTech and craft my own universe setting with ease. And maybe that’s in my future…but that’s for later. Right now, it’s House Kurita, all the time. (Except when I’m playing XCOM, that is.)
My current thought is to post a blog entry roughly every week to ten days, teasing out small segments of already-written material to build up anticipation. This isn’t like Wars of Reaving, however – no truly “original” storyline here. But I’m confident not a lot of fans of the BattleTech universe are familiar with the true history of the Draconis Combine – aside from the long-suffering fans who’ve bought and read every sourcebook ever written about the universe. So while some of this may be “old hat” to a few, I’m hoping it’ll be “new” for a lot of fans. If anything, it provides continued depth and context about this very complex and much-maligned Great House – and maybe swing a few noncommittal fans into the Dragon’s sway.
Today’s peeks deal with the Pillar of Ivory, one of the five fundamental pillars of Combine society. This pillar describes the Kuritan ideals of philosophy, providing the shell for Kuritan perspectives on religion, honor, conduct, and…vendetta. As always, this is pre-edit text, so there may be some slight changes before publication. Note that not all of my posts will have this much sneak material; it will vary on my mood and time commitments elsewhere.
Excerpt from “Religion and Philosophy”
The Doctrines of Shiro
Less than ten years after Shiro Kurita became First Coordinator, he had taken the role of spiritual as well as governmental leader of the Combine. Once he had demonstrated that strength of character could achieve sweeping victories over formidable enemies, his people responded enthusiastically. They felt that Kurita’s successes owed much to the sustained effort and a certain set of mental attitudes—something Shiro actively implied—and that his followers could produce similar, if less spectacular, results. His ability to capture the people’s imagination was no accident. Shiro had learned as a talented young kendo student that the strength of the sword came from the ki of the fencer extended through the length of the blade. It was his intention to weld together the people of Yamashiro Prefecture, then all the people of New Samarkand, and eventually all the people and resources of the galaxy into one mighty weapon. The ki controlling that mighty blade would be his own.
To control the people and to channel them, Shiro realized that he must mandate a person’s ideology, their view of the universe, and how they related to it. Shiro laid down the fundamental values that would inform all of Draconis society: Purity and Harmony. These principles appeared, in one form or another, as part of Shintoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism—the religions of ancient feudal Japan. Though purity and harmony may seem benign and transcendent in the abstract, what they came to mean in Draconian practice was harmony with the interests and intentions of the Kurita state, and purity from any thoughts that contradicted those of the First Coordinator.
Excerpts from “Kurita Codes of Relationships and Conduct”
“On Proper Behavior Toward Enemies”
The opposing fighter must be presumed to have the same code of death or victory as the Kurita warrior. It would be disrespectful of the enemy to hold him to a lesser standard than we hold for ourselves. In the face of the enemy, our objective is to destroy him utterly, and there must be no hesitation or lack of resolve in this regard. It is true that fighters from other Houses hold to weaker standards than do the warrior of House Kurita. Nevertheless, we deal with them in battle as we expect to be dealt with ourselves, even though they may not actually deserve this honor.
The Clans are generally treated with respect equal to that of a Kurita warrior, unless the situation demands tactics and decisions that will work for the benefit of the Dragon. On the battlefield, honor is extended to the Clan enemy as best can be provided. The honor and standards of the Combine are to be upheld above the Clan enemy, which may mean an abandonment of the enemy’s strict code of warfare.
“On Proper Behavior When Among Enemies”
Draconians from time to time find themselves in the presence of enemies without being in a state of war. This occurs when they serve as diplomats, delegates, traders, or as exchanged hostages. Such individuals must never allow enemies to learn of House Kurita’s strengths, as these lessons must come as surprises on the field of battle. Enemies must not learn of House Kurita’s secret plans for the future, for a premature revelation may bring an end to the plans.
It is too much to expect of enemies that they follow the proper path of virtue. Even animals and the Clans have their own diluted forms of honor, inferior though they may be. Draconians must always be conscious of preserving and maintaining honor when possible. This means that enemies should also be treated as if they were people, unless there is evidence that they are not worthy of such treatment or swear allegiance only to the Clans.
Excerpt from “The Art of Vendetta”
Vendettas Within a Class
The right of vendetta operates only within the aristocracy and within the military. Within the merchant class and among the workers and Unproductives, individuals do not possess such a level of personal honor that can be offended or require the satisfaction of revenge.
Among the lower orders, however, individuals do retaliate for insults or injuries. These actions tend to be impulsive. The middle class, obsessed with upward mobility, parodies with deadly seriousness the customs of its betters. As financial and trading dynasties have gained more clout within the Combine, House Kurita has tolerated these “plastic” vendettas without granting them official recognition. Middle-class vendettas tend to fall into two categories: the socially pretentious aping of noble codes of honor, or the serious elimination of business competition.
Again, exceptions apply when the situation is dealing with members of Clan Nova Cat. The Clan’s labor, technician, and scientist caste are seen as a common Kuritan laborer in this regard. The Clan’s merchant caste apes that of their Kuritan counterpart; if a Clan merchant is the aggrieved party, they may choose to conduct a formal Trial of Grievance against the aggressor or simply ignore the situation, which is turned over to the proper authorities. Warriors of Clan Nova Cat in the position of the aggrieved are required to conduct a formal Trial of Grievance, though if the affronting person is not of military position, the warrior is disallowed the option of augmented combat.
Nobles and warriors have an obligation to maintain their personal purity unsmirched. They have a higher calling to preserve the harmony of their relation to the will of Lord Kurita. The obligation of purity must never be allowed to interfere with that of harmony. When a family or an individual requires satisfaction to cleanse their honor, the vendetta must first be registered with House Kurita and cannot proceed without permission. If the vendetta would contradict the interests of the Coordinator, the impurity can be removed by royal decree.
If an offended one puts personal purity ahead of the obligation of harmony, they must not trouble the Coordinator further once the impurity has been removed. Rather, they must take the initiative in restoring harmony by removing themselves from the Coordinator’s sight. The best guide for resolving these dilemmas continues to the be the Chushingura (Tale of the Forty-seven Ronin) from medieval Terran Japan.
The rules of vendetta do not apply to civilian women. (Only recently have the rules of vendetta been opened to women serving in an active DCMS command.) A woman has no right or obligation of revenge for a slight from another woman. If a man of another offends a woman of one family, the offense is not to her, but to her husband, father, or older brother. Though a man might be obliged to kill the woman in his own family—he cannot restore balance by killing a woman in the other family. Vengeance must be directed against the offending male. If a younger brother of the offending male is killed, balance is not completely restored. If an older brother or the father of the offending male is killed, a new imbalance is created.
Inasmuch as the impurity attaches to the persons of family members, they alone can cleanse it. Others, especially not hired strangers, cannot accomplish revenge. This rule has given rise to the practice of “adopting” honorary members into a family unwilling or unable to exact the blood price personally. The adoptee is given a “gift of obligation” for carrying out the unpleasant duty. Thus, the lowest levels of society came to contain more and more “members” of the noblest Kurita families. Competition for these lucrative gifts was soon monopolized by three guilds of professional assassins: one predominantly Rasalhagian Nordic, another predominately Sverdeloskian Russian, and a third predominately Dover Irish. (It is assumed without question that noble Kuritan Asians would not stoop to such work.) Members of these populations had spread throughout most of the Combine that gave them the freedom of anonymity on practically any world held by the Dragon.
Within the military, no distinction is made in terms of balance between junior officers. Balance can be restored by a duel to the death between the two principals. The same holds true among senior officers, with the proviso that vendettas must be registered with the Coordinator, who can choose to restore balance by decree.
Excerpt from “Minority Religions”
One cult that surfaces from time to time, despite repeated (and violent) eradications carried out by the ISF and O5P is the Church of Starry Wisdom. The cult takes various forms depending on what world it surfaces upon, but its core tenets are the same. Each group has what they call a “Shining Trapezohedron” used to summon a dark being called the Haunter of the Dark. Because the cult requires a number of human sacrifices in order to receive the “limitless knowledge of the universe,” it is the first suspect by Kuritan authorities when a rash of mysterious disappearances crop up in a Combine community. The cult’s bloody practices prey upon the average Combine citizen’s Shintoism and belief in the supernatural; rumors of a group surfacing in an area has been known to paralyze a community for weeks. As such, the ISF has a small bureau of agents tasked to deal with the Church of Starry Wisdom when they receive news of its reappearance.