“It is an inviolable truth that humanity’s ability to destroy will always outstrip its ability to create, it is our curse and our salvation combined, our end when it comes will be writ by our own bloody hand”
– The Unspeakable King
Made powerful under the reign of the Unspeakable King, who conquered vast areas of land around the North Atlan in a series of wars against the Panpacific Empire. There was also a number of intermittent conflicts with the Nordyc Enclaves to the North-East and well as the almost complete annexation of Franc to the south. The Unspeakable King’s reign, therefore, propelled the Kingdom of Alba far beyond its heartlands of Albyon to become one of the largest and most powerful barbarian-states in the Western-Northern Hemisphere.
The Clans and their Relationship with the King
Alba is not a unified state as we would understand it, but is really a confederation of clans bound together through feudal bonds of service and reward. The line of the Unspeakable King still rules the largest and strongest clan, the Albyon Clan and are therefore kings of all Alba. The king offers protection and the promise of lands, wealth, tech-salvage and slaves to the other clan-lords. He also allows the other clans access to his vast – albeit primitive – gene-forges where lesser clans might send their warriors to become gene-hanced. In return for all this, the clans offer tribute, service and a blood-tithe of warriors to fight for the king when he calls upon them. The king is thus the dominant power in the land, the source of law and strength but such a simplistic analysis belies a complex relationship that underpins Alban society. The king in obliges to summon a council of clan-lords, called a moot, whenever there are important matters to be discussed or decided upon, such as declarations of war or the increase of levy’s that affect the entire kingdom. Whilst being technically the highest power in the realm, the king must be careful to maintain the respect and loyalty of the clan-lords, it is not uncommon for a king to be overthrown if enough of the clans unite against him. It is worth highlighting that it was a clan-rebellion that brought the Unspeakable King into power in the first place only a few generations before. The key to his success was keeping the clans united through successful foreign conquests and by exploiting the complex web of inter-clan rivalries and enmities, perhaps triggered by age-old land disputes and blood or honor-feuds.
Society and Industry
The most powerful clan-lords, and the king himself, rule from the castram-cities – large fortified industrial hives mostly located in the heartlands of Alba – which are the main source of the kingdom’s power and wealth. These cities produce most of the kingdoms weapons of war and are also where the much-coveted gene-forges are situated. Gene-forging is an industry that is heavily monopolized by the king who maintains tight control of these forges. Smaller clans populate the fringes of Alba, such as in the vast plains of Atlan or the valleys, fjords, and plateaus to the North-East. These clans live in much smaller communities but are hardened by life in the borderlands. It is notable that there seems to exist a distinct cultural divide between the lesser border-clans and the more decadent inner hive-clans.
Mutants and Psykers
Society in Alba in almost purely martial, young Albans are raised to become hunters, warriors and craftsmen to serve their clan. They also maintain a deep contempt for mutants and other genetically degenerate humans. Mutants in Alba form the majority of its slave-class and toil away in their millions within the castram-cities, they are stripped of all their rights and are rendered a sub-species, kept to serve their masters by performing any and all menial work.
Psykers, called ‘wyches’ by the Albans, are similarly feared and despised. Psykers are completely outlawed and their lives considered forfeit and it is not uncommon for wych-hunts to result in mass executions by burning of drowning.
Special note should be made about the status of pariahs, called ‘hollow-ones’ and ‘soultaken’ in Alba. These unique and rare individuals are given a special position within Alban society. Still reviled and socially outcast due to their deeply unsettling nature they are however considered powerful individuals that possess powers to foresee the future and protect against evil sorceries and spirits from beyond the mortal realm. This is indicative of the deeply superstitious nature of the Albans that sits at odds with the teachings of the Imperial Truth. They worship no particular deities but do hold deep beliefs in fates and omens, believing that all men possess a strand of fate that leads there should and that could be subject to good or ill luck that will decide their future. Soultaken sit at the heart of this belief-system and it is believed that these individuals’ souls have left their bodies and are so free to see the strands of fate that bind all souls, they are capable of seeing across time and into men’s souls. The soultaken, therefore, hold the position of mystics and scryers in Alba who are expected to perform scrying rituals – often involving sacrifice, tarot-cards or rune-stones – in an effort to predict the future. Most clan-lords maintain at least one soultaken at their court who are usually influential advisors and form something resembling a priesthood. The Unspeakable King also maintained a cadre of battle-trained pariahs that he used to great effect in his wars with the Panpacific Empire where they combatted the sorceries and majiks of its psykers. This tradition still endures amongst many of the clans.
In war, Alban warriors fight with a mixture of solid projectiles and bolt-weaponry, but they favor the use of swords, axes, and spears. The clan-lords and their closest retinues go to war in large iron dreadnoughts, called dreadwalkers. At times of large scale war, clans with sometimes muster their mutant slaves to fight as levies, although this is only for short durations as mobilizing these slaves hinders the economic production of the clans.
Relations with the Imperium
Since the time of the Unspeakable King, the Imperium has maintained a cautious alliance with Alba. The Emperor’s armies aided the clans in their wars against the Panpacific Empire and in return, the Unspeakable King had allowed certain clans to fight as mercenaries in the Imperium’s wars elsewhere. As far as the Imperium is concerned, Alba does not pose an immediate threat and in fact, there are a number of similarities in the principles and prejudices between the two. The Emperor is content to adopt a policy of gradual integration with Alba until such time as compliance and unity become inevitable. Maintaining Alba as an ally had allowed the Emperor to focus on his eastern campaigns whilst having a buffer-state to the West. There are already a number of clans that talk of the Emperor as being a potentially stronger king than their own and it is undeniable that the line of the Unspeakable King is drastically weaker than it was, their eventual acceptance of the Imperial Truth and induction into the Imperium is inevitable.
In conclusions, the Albans are a pragmatic and hardy people, martial and warlike in temperament and also dour and superstitious in outlook. They mistrust any technology that cannot directly use or understand, preferring blunt and simple technology. This has also led them to regard those that give their bodies and minds to technological enhancement with suspicion, preferring the endurance and purity of flesh. It should be noted that artificial intelligence is outlawed in Alba and its use is combatted with extreme prejudice.
– Abridged extracts from De Chronicon Unitae Imperialis by Faustus of Orioc. Vol. XXVI, Chapter Twenty Seven: ‘Alba and the Western Frontiers’.