Data File Updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Loroi have many castes and sub-cultures on various worlds, and specific customs vary greatly, but most share common threads handed down from ancient times. The Loroi warrior castes are distinct from Loroi civilian society; only females are admitted into the warrior castes, and normally only as young children. Most children who are enrolled to become warriors are themselves the daughters of warriors. Daughters of civilians are not normally accepted for application to the warrior ranks, except when the civilian mother is of high status (particularly if the father is of notable lineage), or when a civilian child shows unique abilities (particularly telekinesis), or in times of great need. Adult civilians past the age of about eight are normally not eligible for military enrollment; the Loroi do not draft civilians. This might seem a very restrictive attitude, except that the Loroi devote such a large percentage of their economy to the military, even in peacetime, and the fact that a rapidly-maturing Loroi warrior can go from birth to battlefield in as little as eight years, if necessary. These comments refer to customs specific to the warrior castes; members of the Loroi civilian population lead very different lives.

Not all Loroi warriors are enrolled in the formal Imperial military; there are still “private” warrior societies on many Loroi worlds, particularly the three original Sister Colonies (Deinar, Perrein and Taben). These local warrior societies, mostly nomadic, still practice the most archaic and traditional forms of the warrior rites. The formal military castes do sometimes recruit children (and occasionally adults) from these private tribes, but for the most part they are left to themselves, as they are small in number.

Most Loroi warrior children are not raised by their birth mothers, but rather in communal crèches, often provided by the clan or tribe, but sometimes in government-run care facilities. In modern areas, the caregivers are usually specialized professionals, but in more traditional regions, the caretaking is often by committee in the bivouac or home camp or family ship, and the caretakers are usually relatives. In the modern Loroi Fleet, it’s not unusual for babies to be born aboard ship, and these are dropped off at the nearest convenient port and either transported to the mother’s home clan, or raised locally if the mother was of no important family. The children are raised in a group along with other babies of similar age; age group becomes a very important association for Loroi. Rare male children are separated out almost immediately from the female children, and taken to special locations to be raised separately; male children of warrior families are not themselves considered to be warriors, and are kept as much as possible outside warrior society. Normally, the relationship of a Loroi daughter to her birth mother is similar to the relationship between a Human niece and aunt. During the current war situation, however, mothers are often aboard ships in the field and may have very limited communication with their daughters. Loroi fathers and their warrior daughters seldom meet in person and have almost no relationship at all.

By the age of six years, a Loroi has grown to the Human equivalent of a thirteen year old, and she can assume some of the adult duties of a primitive society, where necessary. It is usually by the age of six that a decision is made (primarily by the family group, with input from birth mothers, based in some part on the suitability of the child, and lastly according to the wishes of the child) to enroll a warrior child in a particular caste. Most often, members of the same family are already in the same caste, and children that were raised together are strongly encouraged to enroll in the same caste group together. In some cases, such as private nomadic groups or large castes such as the Soroin that have many academies, the children are enrolled locally. In others, such as more specialized castes like the Mizol, Teidar or Listel, the children are transported to a special caste academy, which may be on a different planet.

Once enrolled in a particular caste, the Loroi children are separated from their childhood caregivers (usually transported to a new location), and segregated into small bands called diral, consisting of around 50 children each, of roughly the same age group and specialization. Where possible, children from the same crèches are grouped together, so many members of a band will already know each other, and some will be related. Specifics of custom vary by caste and location, but in general the local caste elders determine who goes into a band, and usually the band is given a formal spoken name and a date on which they will be expected to enter into the rites of passage into adulthood. The spoken name given to a band may be on the spur of the moment and it sometimes may be highly derogatory, but this name will often carry significant meaning throughout the lives of the band’s members. A chief of the band is selected from within the band; this is a position of honor but also of misfortune, since leaders are the most heavily punished for the misdeeds of members of the band, and in Loroi tradition it is considered unlucky to hold a position of command… the leader is, in a spiritual sense, expected to personally absorb the misfortunes and "negative karma" of her group. Loroi warriors are quick to elevate their leaders to almost cult status, but they are only too aware that their most heroic leaders always seem to be among the first to die. In the ceremony in which the diral is created and its name is assigned, the band leader is presented with a seii -- usually a wood or bone dagger -- that will be her badge of office, but also represents the a personification of the group. It must be protected to ensure the good fortune and success of the band, but it must also be used as a tool, as it will often be the leader's only weapon.

This band of children, now given a name and an affiliation, is usually isolated in some fashion from the rest of society. In some modern societies this isolation is often abstract, taking the form of a barracks compound or an abandoned wing of a space station, but in some more traditional areas the band is literally sent out into the wild to form their own camp and to fend for themselves. In some groups on the ocean world of Taben (on which the Tenoin academy is located), the band of children is expected to construct and sail their own boat. At the Listel academy on arid Mezan, child-bands are sent into the desert to survive on their own. In some cases the bands will be afforded guidance in the form of older children (or rarely adults), and they will often be given routine tasks to perform (some more dangerous than others) but for the most part, they are expected to manage their own affairs and to survive on their own for up to two years. Usually, the band is equipped with information devices to aid in continuing education and through which to seek answers or call for emergency aid, but in most other ways, modern tools are usually not supplied to the children. Contact with civilized society is intermittently allowed, but strictly controlled through sets of taboos. Tasks are generally tailored to the specialty of the caste, but this is a secondary consideration; the pre-trial bands are a form of basic training, meant to temper the would-be warriors and weed out unsuitable individuals. Children who cannot (or will not) cope are dropped from the military program into civilian life. Death within the bands is not at all unusual. Loss of an entire band is not unheard of, particularly in the case of the seagoing schools, where an entire band can be lost with one sunken ship, though it is rare. Loroi children are hardy, require little nourishment, and can survive well in adverse conditions.

During the band phase, certain taboos must be observed. Band members are prohibited from eating alone; food is to be consumed only in the company of other band-mates, but most particularly not in front of a male or a nursing female. Even into adulthood, most Loroi warriors are still uncomfortable eating alone, and unable to eat in the company of a male. In some cases, such as the Teidar bands, spoken words are prohibited except in challenge. The children also learn the protocols of the resolution of intra-group conflicts, involving escalation of grievances, and in extreme cases, challenge and duel. Band-mates normally form close bonds, but in the more harsh environments, among emotionally immature and sometimes psionically powerful peers, conflict is often more the rule than the exception.

When the pre-assigned time of passage for a band is reached, usually when most of the members are around eight years old, the band is recalled from isolation and the warrior trials begin. Here the details vary widely, but there are common themes. This rite usually incorporates two stages: the trial of combat, and the trial of initiation. In the trial of combat, the band, acting as a military unit, is required to accomplish a combat objective. In ancient times, the band of children would often be sent on an actual raid against an enemy settlement, but in modern Loroi society the combat trial is more often abstract or simulated. In some cases, the band executes a mock attack on the home town. In others, rival bands are pitted against each other in some competition. Once the trial of combat is completed, the initiation trial begins. Partly celebration of the attainment of warrior-hood and part painful ordeal, the details of caste initiations vary widely and some are secret even from general Loroi society. In ancient times, ceremonies of painful physical scarring or tattooing were common, in which the child was expected to show no sign of pain, while at the same time she was verbally abused by her elders, to which she was also expected to show no emotional distress. In modern Loroi society, many rituals also include an element of endured humiliation or physical pain (verbal abuse being still common), but two elements are universal: the long hair which the children have grown since childhood is ritually shorn, and the new warriors are each given spoken names (usually derived from nicknames applied during the band phase). Where possible, a warrior’s birth mother will rejoin with her daughter and perform the act of cutting the initiate’s hair. Failure to pass the trials brings shame not only on the individual, but on the entire band (and, occasionally, on the parents and family). Failure by individuals during the trial (unless it is egregious) does not usually cause them to be dropped from the band, but rather is exacted in punishment upon the whole group (and in particular the leader). If enough members of the band fail the trials, the entire band may fail the passage, and have to perform it again at a later date. This is, however, a rare occurrence. 

In the closing ceremony of the passage into adulthood, the band gathers around a bonfire. An elder holds aloft the band's seii and casts it into the fire. This ceremony is full of ambiguity. On the one hand, it represents the dissolution of the band; on the other, one of the band (usually the chieftain) is expected to retrieve the object from the fire before it is consumed. In doing so, the retriever salvages the essence of her group, but once again ritually absorbs some of the spiritual misfortune of her peers (not to mention the painful burns resulting from sticking one’s hand into a fire).

Once the trials are passed, each child in the band is now a full-fledged Loroi warrior. In addition to her spoken name and right to be assigned to a real military unit, the new female warrior also has earned the right of access to visitation time with a male. Though exactly what kind of access was granted varied greatly throughout Loroi history based on the reproductive limitations of the day, during the current modern war environment, almost every new Loroi warrior is granted enough time with one or more males for the possibility to get pregnant.

Now about eight years old (the Human equivalent of about sixteen), the new warriors are usually entered into the more formal education required by her military branch, lasting between two to four years, depending on the specialty. In some castes, there is a kind of apprenticeship in which trainees may be assigned to real units to complete their training (such as the Soroin Paset, assigned to real ships in a manner similar to a midshipman). In addition to specialized education and some generalized college-level subjects, this secondary education process is also used to refine the “wild” edge many of the young warriors will have developed during the child-band stage. Many new warriors, having become pregnant at the end of initiation, will give birth to their first children during this time. Soroin are usually through formal education by age ten, and most specialized caste training by age twelve. During peacetime, at this stage the graduating warriors would be assigned to training units for eight to ten years. However, during the current Umiak war, as in ancient times, graduating warriors are more often than not transferred directly into active combat units.

Graduation from formal caste training is usually accomplished without ceremony, but it is rewarded with an important badge of office: the warrior has finally earned the right to wear the distinctive armor of her caste, which is the symbol of the Loroi warrior class (as the sword was for many Earth warrior classes).

Affiliation with the named bands of childhood is often preserved into adulthood in a similar manner as our high school graduating classes, and members of the same band are frequently assigned as a group to the same units or ships. Confronted with the realities of war and with the culture shock of older and very different warrior comrades, the new young warriors will often depend as heavily as ever on the members of their own age group.

Eight years after the formal graduation from one’s caste academy, there is another celebration (which usually involves more access to males) in which the warrior gains the status of a senior warrior. In peacetime, many active-duty posts were only available to warriors who had earned this "senior" status, as with such a large (and long-lived) warrior class, every active-duty seat had a long waiting list. However, in the current environment of total war, Loroi are often sent directly to the front, and a young Loroi warrior’s chances of surviving to this age are not good. Those that do survive have little need for this second coming of age ritual, which had more meaning in less desperate times.

A note on the rapidity of Loroi maturation: physically the Loroi mature very rapidly, reaching the physical age of adulthood at 8 years (physically the equivalent of a 16-year-old Human), and the age of legal majority at 10 (a Human equivalent of 18). At the time of the story, Loroi warriors are usually in the line of service by age 12. Mentally, although Loroi are quick learners and emotionally mature rapidly (what’s the old saying about women maturing faster than men?), 12 years is still a very limited time in which to gain world experiences, and so many would be considered immature in some respects by our standards, and Loroi warriors of this age are still treated in many respects as children by older Loroi. The majority of the Tempest’s crew are very young replacements, many between the ages of 10 and 13. Beryl is only 14, and she is a member of the ship’s senior staff. Talon is 13. Fireblade and Ashrain are both about 25, and are still considered to be fairly young by the senior officers, but they each have more than 10 years of combat experience, and are a world apart from the 11-year-old replacements. Fireblade is a Marine Major, and Ashrain the captain of a battlecruiser, one of the new generation of captains born since the start of the war. On the other extreme, officers born before the war who have survived (such as Stillstorm) are frequently more than 100 years old, and may have a difficult time understanding the new replacements who fill their ships.

Does rank in the 'band' translate to a fast tracked promotion, or is it purely an abstract position once the band is posted to a warship? 

The leaders of successful bands would be on the fast track to squad leadership positions once in the real military. The military folks here can correct me if I'm wrong, but I have the impression that in our own military boot camps, the temporary squad leaders appointed during training are among the first to be chosen for non-commissioned ranks once they get in the real army (particularly when these units are going to be headed directly into combat). 

But I wonder why they have a taboo about eating in front of males or nursing females? 

The neophyte warriors during this phase are expected to find their own food (as a group); they're not supposed to accept help from the "civilized" portion of society, and they are not to reduce the food stocks of the civilian population, represented most specifically by the males and those tending the younger children.

If the female child might not know her father, I sure hope that somebody is keeping track of the bloodlines to prevent in-breeding!

A daughter might never meet her father, but in most cases she will have records of who he is; pedigree in a father is a big snob-factor for Loroi. Famous and powerful Loroi females are usually too busy to have many children, so it's up to their brothers and sons to spread the family genes. Given the traditional clan-centric nature of Loroi family structure and reproductive allocation, this system lends itself to a certain amount of inbreeding, so I'm not sure that a father mating with a daughter has necessarily the same kind of taboo that it does in human society.