The story is set primarily in the home solar system of the Alplai, an avian-descended species. The Alplai had abandoned warfare over a thousand years before, and established a global confederation for peaceful cooperation, the Concordance of Alplaa (gentakraat val Alplaa).
Alplaa is the homeworld of the Alplai, with a single continent approximately the size of North America, divided into six sovereign states:
- The Jalakadad Kanara, or Konarai Commonwealth, comprises the northeast and north-central parts of the continent’s main crescent shape, and is the homeland of the Konarai people; its capital and main city is Akarapala. While primarily agrarian with isolationist tendencies, they were progressive in many areas, such as their adoption of democratic governance generations ahead of other cultures, and their open attitudes towards sexual diversity. Their main spiritual tradition is devotion to Ajamara, a mythical itinerant healer woman who was transformed into the eternal spirit of love. Most Konarai people have plumage color in the violet, blue and green range, and shorter beaks lacking a hooked tip.
- The Ferjaat Kiitra, or Kiitra Union, comprises a series of peninsulas and islands to the south of the Konarai lands; Marif is its largest city and legislative capital, as well as the seat for the Concordance’s three-person Co-Presidency. Originally an alliance of city-states created to facilitate trade and defend one another against pirates, this evolved into a more unified federation; the eight original languages were the basis for the modern Kiitra language, which became the predominant language used by the Alplai for communication. Perhaps the most famous of their people is Totran, a scientist and philosopher whose theories in astronomy and physics compare to those of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton on Earth. While most Kiitra are noted for their yellow plumage and moderate-sized beaks, there is in fact a wide range of appearance due to interaction of so many groups.
- Saakhsiir occupies the center of the Alplaa continental crescent, with a huge river basin in its center, surrounded by various mountains and uplands; the city of Luuzgaal, situated on its eastern shore, is its capital and the seat of the Concordance Consultative Assembly. Once a feudal empire that dominated much of the continent, the forces of democratization (called id’ekaagajanazaam or “the Great Shift”) led to independence for the Krishkarha and Baija peoples and the conversion from monarchial to republican government. The religious leader Shalaran was born a serf, joined Imperial military service at a young age, and upon becoming a freeholder began a life of contemplation and teaching which started the spiritual tradition that bears his name. The Saakh are noted for brown plumage and strong hooked beaks, and the descendants of their ancient nobility (rhasmaajdei) are still respected for their strong sense of honor and service.
- Krishkarhasiir is situated in the northwest of the continent, its upper half being an oval-shaped peninsula covered mostly in ice, and its lower half dominated by tundra and the home of its capital Zaandara. The Krishkarha people were originally tribal nomads who occasionally raided lands to their south; eventually the Saakh Empire sent an army to drive them away, but this led to a war of attrition which only ended by a treaty that gave the Saakh suzerainty over the area while assuring the Krishkarha certain degrees of autonomy. Eventually the Krishkarha would gain independence in the Great Shift, and turn to various means to become economically self-sufficient. Their language is a creole based on ancient Krishkarha and northern Saakh dialects, and they retain a strong memory and fierce pride for their cultural heritage. The “classic” Krishkarha appearance consists of black plumage, robust beak with pronounced hook and serrations, and a stocky build.
- Bashrasiir and Baaltisiir are the twin states of the Baija people, situated on the southern end of the continental crescent, with Bashrasiir to the west in a roughly triangular shape, and the bulk of Baaltisiir’s land being comprised of two large peninsulas framing the Tulra Bay. Originally the Baija were divided into warring clans and coalitions, eventually forming the Bashra and Baalti alliances before the Saakh and Kiitra invaded and subdued them (the Kiitra occupying almost one-third of these lands in the north and east, the Saakh controlling most of the rest, with the cities of Paalshera and Paaltulra being the only independent Baija territory for generations). Growing opposition to foreign domination, and the rise of a new religious movement founded by the prophet Sadarosh, eventually led to independence for the Baija, with the final boundaries established after lengthy negotiation; two large Baalti exclaves exist within southeastern Bashrasiir, the Bashra city of Paalmeshdor is also an exclave north of the border with Saakhsiir, and a culturally Konarai minority (bajakanara) enjoy a measure of autonomy in rural areas on both sides of the northern Bashra-Baalti border. The Bashra dictatorship of Hasetak was a dark period in Alplai history, and led to various electoral and constitutional reforms. The Baija are noted for their striking red plumage and strong hooked beaks.
The Alplai have also built aquatic “floating cities” in the surrounding seas and oceans of their homeworld, not only providing additional living space, but a platform for harnessing food and energy through aquaculture and tidal power. These cities are now part of five aquatic states under the Concordance:
- The Great Sea (Ekaamurasiir), lying inside the crescent of Alplaa’s continent
- East Oceanic (Uujberaakiisiir), situated to the east of Alplaa’s continent and Great Sea
- West Oceanic (Vaajberaakiisiir), situated to the west of Alplaa’s continent
- North Oceanic (Nujberaakiisiir), on the hemisphere opposite Alplaa’s continent, north of the planet’s equator
- South Oceanic (Aajberaakiisiir), on the hemisphere opposite Alplaa’s continent, south of the planet’s equator
Alplaa’s solar system has three other major planets, plus a large asteroid zone:
- Piirshmai is the innermost planet. While too small and hot for long-term colonization, scientists continue to observe it to learn more details about their system’s early history.
- Totrana is Alplaa’s twin planet, locked in an overlapping orbit which keeps the two worlds on opposite sides of the sun. Now terraformed for habitation, its main land mass (roughly the size of Australia) has a population of approximately 110 million. Many live in its Capital City (Totranarasjapuul) on the southern coast; its Spaceport is just outside the city to the northwest, and includes the headquarters complex for the Concordance’s Space Exploration Commission. The large Northern Sector, colonized predominantly by Konarai settlers, provides much of the planet’s food, even exporting some to the Rekar settlements. There are also Alplai communities of various sizes in the Southern and Western Sectors, while the Eastern Sector remains unsettled at the beginning of the story.
- Rekar is a gas giant planet, larger than Jupiter, with three large moons and thousands of moonlets. The settlements on the three principal moons form a confederation (Ferjaat Rekar), which is a member state of the Concordance. Mining and scientific observation stations are located on many of the smaller bodies, and antimatter was first harvested in the rarefied gases surrounding the planet and its satellites.
- The asteroid region lies mainly between the inner planets and Rekar. Many are mined for various minerals, and others have astronomical observatories and other scientific projects. The Alplai have perfected a “slipstream field” that allows for faster-than-light travel between various bodies in their solar system, and the Space Exploration Commission administrates travel between the various settlements and outposts.
Into this solar system comes what is first thought to be an asteroid, named Lamikorda – an ancient Saakh word meaning “unexpected but welcome visitor.” Later, it is discovered to be a massive alien vessel, carrying some 1.2 million Terai colonists from their devastated world. Eventually, the government of Totrana, on recommendation from the Space Exploration Commission, invites the Terai to settle in the planet’s Eastern Sector. Many Terai find opportunities in the Commission, especially its shuttle pilot corps, and some resettle on Rekar Three. While most Alplai welcome these newcomers, a vocal minority express grave concern, especially when they learn of the violent history of these creatures, and organize in an attempt to contain this threat before it’s too late …