The Mordesh were once an elegant, blossoming civilization that had been on the verge of joining the Dominion because of their great achievements in alchemy. However, when Victor Lazarin's Everlife Elixir turned into the raving infection known as the Contagion, the Dominion turned on the Mordesh and trapped them on their planet with a quarantine blockade. The survivors sought the aid of the rebel humans and, with their help, successfully smuggled many operatives and civilians out from Grismara. On Nexus they continue to serve as the eyes and ears of the Exiles, unleashing their dark and deadly arts upon the Dominion even as they scour Nexus for a cure to save their remaining brethren on Grismara.
Mordesh first and last names derive from the ancient Mordesh language of Mordescu. Such names are largely traditional in nature. And consist of both first and family names. Family names are important in Mordesh culture, as they are representative of breeding or notoriety.
Examples: Victor Lazarin, Nurov Vedescu, Irina Angaroff, Olga Vososh, Avra Darkos
In a calm state, Mordesh vocal texture is smooth, smoky, and almost haunted. When emotional, their voices become raspy whispers rather than shouts or roars. They can make the most mundane words sound darkly poetic and lyrical, filled with stylish and creepy death metaphors. Alliteration in Mordesh speech is a common affectation.
Mordesh are generally grim, morbid, and ominous—a result of the horrific events they've experienced and the tragic consequences of the Everlife Elixir. Despite these behavioral tendencies, the Mordesh value the tolerance and friendship of their Exile allies, and will vehemently defend them against their Dominion enemies.
Desperate to find a cure for the Contagion that has ravaged their homeworld, the Mordesh have come to Nexus to seek aid wherever they can find it. If a cure cannot be found—whether among their allies in the Exiles, or within the ancient ruins of the legendary Eldan civilization—the Mordesh fear their civilization will be lost forever.
Prior to the effects of the Contagion, the average Mordesh lifespan was in the range of 130 to 140 years. The near-death state of the Contagion's victims causes them to age at a nigh-undetectable rate. For this reason, Mordesh are, for all intents and purposes, immortal.
The Mordesh are tall humanoids with thin bodies and long limbs. As a result of the Contagion, their skin has a pale, ghastly pallor, often covered in sickly spots and wasted veins. Depending on the extent of the Contagion's effects, some tissues—including eyes and other facial features—may have already wasted away. Such disfigurements are often corrected with cyber-alchemical implants.
In order to fight the Contagion, Mordesh bodies have metal reservoirs of the Vitalus Serum—a miraculous liquid that keeps the effects of the disease at bay—embedded in their withered flesh. Though the natural hue of Vitalus Serum is blue/green, the various colors of specific reservoirs are often tailored to the aesthetic preferences of individual Mordesh.
Despite—or perhaps, because of—the Contagion's effects, Mordesh can be quite vain. Cosmetics are popular for males and females, allowing them to alter their skin color, hide blemishes and unsightly spots, or alter the color of their hair.
Prior to the Contagion, uninfected Mordesh were a rather typical mammalian humanoid species. Minor differences between baseline humans and Mordesh included longer limbs, a cartilaginous skeleton, and little to no retention of body fat due to increased metabolic processes. These metabolic differences, in addition to more efficient digestive and respiratory systems, resulted in a much longer Mordesh lifespan as compared to that of baseline humans.
With the addition of the Everlife Elixir, Mordesh physiology was drastically altered. Regeneration of cellular damage and decrepitude resulting from age was initially reversed. While these results were quite dramatic, slight changes continued to be observed for weeks or months after the elixir had been administered.
Despite the initial benefits, the ultimate effect of the Everlife Elixir was the creation of a highly-infectious communicable disease within subjects. The disease induces an agonizing near-death state in the rest of the subject's body. As a result, the majority of the victim's biological functions are halted or suppressed and higher brain functions rapidly deteriorate. For all intents and purposes, Mordesh afflicted with the Contagion are no longer strictly alive.
The Vitalus Serum, when applied to individuals in the initial throes of the Contagion, halts the progress of the disease. Though the body still enters a near-death state, higher brain functions—and therefore, sanity—are preserved. As long as continuous applications of Vitalus are applied, infected Mordesh remain free of the Contagion's more insidious effects.
Unless the Contagion can be cured and its effects reversed, the Mordesh are a dead race. Given their physiological inactivity, they are unable to reproduce. While their senses of taste and touch have dulled, the Mordesh senses of smell, sight, and hearing have sharpened somewhat.
The Mordesh hail from Grismara, a small world not far from the Dominion homeworld Cassus. In the aftermath of the Contagion, much of the planet is overrun with the mindless, infected hordes, and blockaded by Dominion warships that destroy any and all vessels that attempt to leave Grismara's gravity well.
Until a century ago, the Mordesh flourished on their home planet of Grismara, developing a sophisticated civilization devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and beauty. By 1578 AE, the imminent announcement of an immortality elixir garnered the Mordesh a prestigious invitation to join the Dominion, but these grand dreams crumbled to ash when the Everlife Elixir instead unleashed a deadly plague known as the Contagion, which turned its victims into mindless savages. If not for the Vitalus Serum created by Victor Lazarin, which enabled many victims to stave off the effects of the disease, the Mordesh would no longer exist as a civilization.
Instead of helping the Mordesh combat the plague, the Dominion set up a planet-wide blockade, hoping the Contagion would consume the Mordesh and burn itself out. Desperate, the Mordesh sought the aid of the rebel humans. Avra Darkos, a prominent member of the Mordesh nobility, spearheaded the efforts to broker an agreement with the Exiles. Soon, Mordesh operatives and civilians were smuggled out one by one and hidden within the fleet, where they formed enclaves and dedicated themselves to gathering intelligence for their new allies and developing medicines for the fleet—all while ceaselessly searching for a cure.
When news of Nexus was announced, the Mordesh joined the Exile faction formed by the humans hoping a solution could be found on the Eldan planet. On Nexus, the Mordesh continue to lead their covert intelligence group, known as the Black Hoods, gladly taking up the fight against the Dominion through a campaign of misinformation, sabotage, poison, and assassination—eager to avenge themselves on the empire that turned on them in their hour of need.
The Mordesh do not engage in heavy industry of any kind. Instead, they use their knowledge of alchemy and science to create powerful potions and elixirs.
Even before the spread of the Contagion, Mordesh society was secular, embracing scientific rather than spiritual truths. Their recent condition has only made them more skeptical of the belief of a higher power.
This is not to say the Mordesh have never been a species to cling to faith—far from it. Many original Mordesh beliefs, rituals, and superstitions have continued to be observed in their society, albeit in different forms. Though largely secular, the Mordesh have been indelibly shaped by the faith of their ancestors.
The original Mordesh religion focused on a being simply known as Kemos. According to ancient Mordesh myth, Kemos created the Mordesh people from the primal elements and infused them with life. Adherents of Kemos, in turn, strove to emulate their deity's control of the elements. These priests learned to use the elements, both individually and in concert, in an attempt to overcome the frailties of their species and the limitations of mortality. The primal elements—Pyros, Aquia, Terra, Aether, Vitus, and Logos—served as singular representations of Kemos, similar in many ways to the manner in which the Scions are represented in the Dominion's Vigilant Church.
Over time, priests of Kemos came to be known as alchemists, and the priesthood became the Alchemist Society. In fact, the name for alchemy in the Mordesh tongue is kemosiva, or "the secrets of Kemos". Though some of the religious trappings, especially rituals and rotes, remain, the Mordesh have forsaken their ancient religious beliefs and have instead focused on using the elements to overcome their bodily limitations.
With the discovery of Nexus and the Eldan, some Mordesh scholars have begun to question the precise origin of the Kemos myth. A few, albeit radical, intellectuals have theorized that Kemos was one of the Eldan, perhaps even one of the Progenitors. Such speculations have been rejected outright by the Alchemist Society, but this has only fostered a number of conspiracy theories within the lunatic fringe of Mordesh society.
Mordesh communities are known as enclaves. Enclaves are generally makeshift settlements located within or on the outskirts of larger Exile communities.
Each enclave is led by a speaker—an influential individual who speaks for the enclave. These enclaves may be home to alchemists who continue the Mordesh's most important work, reapers charged with mercy-killing infected Mordesh, and Black Hoods—agents who run Exile intelligence operations.
Mordesh consider Cassians little more than fervent puppets of their Luminai masters—but their shared heritage with the Exile humans make them perfect targets for spy missions.
Agents of the Black Hoods and the ICI often encounter each other in the field, and the Mordesh have a grudging respect for the skill of their robotic adversaries.
The Mordesh fear the Draken's violent ferocity, and therefore often target them for covert operations and assassinations.
The Mordesh acknowledge the Chua's inherent technological knowledge and often try to steal the plans of their singular inventors.
The Mordesh are particularly grateful to the humans for their help and respect their resourcefulness and will to survive.
The Mordesh, while sharing the Aurin's understanding of nature, make the Aurin uneasy with their ceaseless attempts to manipulate and subvert nature for their own cause.
While the Mordesh respect the strength and military prowess of the Granok, conflicts sometimes occur when the Granok preference for direct action interferes with Mordesh tendencies towards secrecy and subterfuge.
The Mordesh feel indebted to the Exile humans for granting them sanctuary during the dark early years of the Dominion's Grismara blockade, while their bitter hatred of the Dominion unites them with the other Exile races. Nexus represents a last, desperate hope to save their people and they will do anything to keep the Dominion from driving them and their allies off the planet before they find a cure.
The virulent plague spawned by Victor Lazarin's Everlife elixir, it is kept in check by the Vitalus serum.
Mordesh code masters, who both encrypt and decrypt secret messages for the Black Hoods, enclave Speakers, and the Alchemists Guild.
A simple rank of leadership within the Black Hoods.
A title that may apply to many different disciplines, but is used most frequently by Mordesh involved in the biological sciences.
The specific alchemical terms for the primal energies.
Any alchemical concoction meant to be ingested by the user, usually in fluid form. Note that only Everlife Elixir refers to the specific "miracle cure" Victor Lazarin created (and with it, the Contagion)
A Mordesh community. On Grismara, some were essentially small cities; on Nexus they are usually contained within a greater Exile community—and largely dedicated to medicine, alchemy, or the Black Hoods intelligence work
The liquid form of any element, distilled in a neutral fluid (usually water).
Used to describe many different substances that share the principles of fluidity.
Mordesh mind control experts, critical to intelligence operations carried out by the Black Hoods.
A highly acidic substance carried by reapers and Black Hood agents, mortalus completely disintegrates organic matter. It can be ingested (by agents, usually) to commit near-instantaneous suicide. Reapers use it to ensure the Ravenous they slay cannot spread the Contagion.
Though usually addressed by the more general title doctor, physicians specialize in the health of the individuals in a single enclave. Physicians maintain Vitalus reservoirs (something not all doctors are skilled at), and keep each other informed of any unusual events that could presage a Contagion outbreak on Nexus.
A Mordesh marriage involving mask rituals.
The hypothetical "original element" from which all others were derived.
A Mordesh infected with the Contagion. Both an adjective ("The Ravenous Mordesh are not to be taken lightly.") and a noun ("The Ravenous are coming. Hide..")
Mordesh trained to track down and dispose of Ravenous.
Mercy-killing of infected Mordesh. Traditionally carried out by reapers, but if necessary most Mordesh consider it their duty to put down any Ravenous they may meet—for their own safety and as an act of final kindness.
The leader of a Mordesh enclave, usually a respected elder elected to the post.
On Grismara, a form of rail travel technology used for both public transit and commercial hauling.
Doctors dedicated solely to study of the Contagion and related ailments, working tirelessly to find a true cure that seems forever out of reach.
A blue-green substance which can be seen in the translucent artificial portions of a Mordesh body, the Vitalus serum can filter the Contagion enough to keep it from being truly contagious. It is not a cure, however. If a Mordesh loses his Vitalus and does not have it replaced within ten to twenty minutes, the Contagion can become airborne.
A condition unique to the Mordesh and their ghoulish physiology, the Wormcurse is the result of egg-laying parasites infecting mortified Mordesh flesh—especially the flesh of Mordesh who are low on Vitalus serum or who were already of an advanced age when the Contagion struck. It is usually easy to detect and treat, though it can result in permanent and horrific scars. Wormcurse. is also a commonly used exclamation of disgust or shock.
On Grismara, a Mordesh floating airship used mainly for public transit.