Information and Lore for Romulan Role-Play
I apparently picked an auspicious time to join STO, as Romulans are about to become a playable faction. For those wanting to bring more depth to role-playing a Romulan, or just curious for more info, I'll share my passion for Romulan lore here.
STO takes many cues for their Romulans from a series of novels by Diane Duane. The books are:
My Enemy, My Ally
The Romulan Way
The Empty Chair
The first four (or three) books are collected in a single volume, Rihannsu: The Bloodwing Voyages, where Swordhunt and Honor Blade are merged. Many systems in the Romulan sectors of space take their names from the Romulan language Diane Duane used in her books, and I imagine we'll see many more of her words creeping into the game. So, a quick familiarization with the overall plot of the Bloodwing novels, before expanding on the lore contained within.
My Enemy, My Ally
The Romulan Senate is developing a new weapon, using Vulcan neural tissue to turn Romulans into powerful telepaths. To prevent the technology from destroying her people, Romulan Commander Ael t'Rllaillieu takes her ship, Bloodwing, across the neutral zone and asks for help from her most respected enemy: Captain James T. Kirk.
The Romulan Way
Dr. McCoy allows himself to be captured by a Romulan raiding party, in order to make contact with a Federation operative installed on Romulus. Not a spy, per se, but a sociologist undercover to learn about Romulan culture, so that the Federation may better understand them and, perhaps, achieve true peace. Every other chapter is the historical story of how the Romulans came to leave Vulcan, travel across space in primitive spacecraft, settle on Romulus and Remus, and finally build the Romulan Star Empire.
Ael and her crew are forced, with the Federation, to acknowledge the growing threat of Romulan aggression.
The Empty Chair
Bloodwing returns to Romulan space for one final showdown.
Integral to Diane Duane's vision of the Romulans is their concept of honor. This may seem strange to fans exclusively familiar with the Next Gen and beyond portrayal of Romulans, but consider the two Original Series appearances of the Romulans. The Romulan Subcommander in Balance of Terror expresses doubt about the new weapons (cloaking device and plasma torpedo) he's been assigned to test, yet carries the mission out dutifully. Even in his last moments, he acknowledges Kirk's skill and honor in battle, stating they could have been friends under other circumstances. In The Enterprise Incident, when Subcommander Tal asks Kirk and Spock to beam to his ship to meet with the Commander in charge of the patrol fleet, he promises two officers to beam over to Enterprise as a gesture of goodwill. . . despite the fact that Enterprise is surrounded by four Klingon-made, Romulan-crewed battlecruisers, and really in no position to demand such assurances. Even in later episodes, while generally regarded as trecherous, there have been Romulans who exhibited senses of honor.
Interestingly, one of the major conflicts in Diane Duane's Rihannsu novels is the "new" Romulans embracing more questionable means, while "older" Romulans still value the concepts of honor and fair dealing that their culture was based on. One can infer that, between TOS and TNG, the less honorable Romulans became the majority.
Romulan honor is not like Klingon honor, or most codes of honor most people will be familiar with, intimately tied to the concept of mnhei'sahe. The word has many meanings and uses, but is roughly analogous to a "Romulan Code of Honor," though this is not really accurate. Probably the best way to understand mnhei'sahe, and the demands it places upon a Romulan, is to consider the following definition: It is the hate that requires you to give your last drop of water to an enemy dying of thirst, or the love that requires you to kill your dearest relative. The most literal translation of mnhei'sahe is "The Ruling Passion," and even the Romulans themselves have volumes on what it is, what it means, and how it is defined. Simply rolling the idea of "The Ruling Passion" around in your brain for awhile will probably give you a much deeper understanding of who the Romulan people are.
First and foremost: They are not, have never been, and never will be "Romulans." "Romulan" is, in their language, an aehallh, a monster-ghost. Analogous to "nightmare," the word also refers to the false image one has about a thing, rather than the true nature of that thing. It can be likened to a propaganda image, a preconception as to what "Romulans" are which bears little, if any, resemblance to who they really are. In their language and perception, they are Rihannsu (singular Rihanha), from ch'Rihan (or now, mol'Rihan.) Romulus and Remus are ch'Rihan and ch'Havran, respectively. While Diane Duane wrote well before Remans had ever been conceived of, Havranha/Havransu is noted as meaning "natives from ch'Havran." Typically meaning the colonists who settled there, instead of ch'Rihan, it is likely the word is applied to the Remans, while applying it to Romulans who live on ch'Havran may be derogatory. It is noted in her novels that citizens from ch'Havran are somewhat looked down on, rather like "back-country bumpkins."
As you've probably gathered by now, Rihannsu is a VERY difficult language to pronounce, but beautiful once you've sorted it out. The language is supposed to flow almost melodically. I won't retype the whole Glossary from the afforementioned books, but I will share a few key words.
Ael - Proper name, common on ch'Havran, meaning "Winged."
Aidoann - Proper name, uncommon, meaning "Moon."
Arrhae - Proper name, common, meaning "Worth-in-Cash." Typically used for lower class, slaves or servants.
ch'Havran - "Of the Travelers," Rihannsu word for planet Remus.
ch'Rihan - "Of the Declared," Rihannsu word for planet Romulus.
Eisn - "Homesun." Rihannsu word for the star around which ch'Rihan and ch'Havran orbited.
kll'inghann - Klingon
llaekh-ae'rl - "The Laughing Murder." A Rihannsu martial art, with many throws.
lloann'mhrahel - Federation. Literal translation "Them, From There." (As opposed to Us, From Here.) When the Klingons were encountered, they were first known as "khell'oann-mehehorahel," or "More of Them, from Somewhere Else." It should be noted that Celt derives from the Latin "celtoi," which roughly means "Them Folks Over There."
ra'kholh - Avenger. Popular name with Rihannsu attack ships.
S'harien - Pierceblood. Name of the finest swordmaker on pre-Reformation Vulcan. Like Murasame or Masamune on Earth, S'harien swords are nearly mythical in their quality.
jolan'tru - Semiformal, most common
y'hhau - Informal, used among friends and family.
aefvadh - Be welcome, formal greeting
ie - yes
dhat - no
daie - yes, inferior to superior
rekkahi - sir/ma'am
Adjective: Rihan, "It's a Rihan thing."
Person: Rihanha, "I am a Rihanha."
People: Rihannsu, "We are Rihannsu."
Names are of paramount importance to the Rihannsu. The proper pronounciation of a name is so important that, if a Rihannsu feels they cannot adequately pronounce a name, they are more likely to use a proper title instead. Names are considered to hold power, and as such the Rihannsu tend to give their ships humble names, feeling that to give a ship a grand, important name, like Enterprise or Intrepid, is to request the ship to try and live up to its name (a sentiment that the crew of the USS Voyager is unlikely to dispute.) Ships must have proper names before being entered into service, otherwise they would be terribly unlucky, and operating a ship under a false name is inviting disaster. This import extends to personal names. Rihannsu have four names, three of which are given at birth.
The first name, like with humans, is their proper name, by which they are most commonly addressed.
The second name is locative, denoting where a Rihanha was born, but can change over the course of a Rihanha's life. It usually denotes the city in or near which a Rihanha was born, with the i- prefix indicating birth within a population center, and the ir- prefix indicating birth in the rural area outside. Thus, a Rihanha born within the city of Mnaeha would be i-Mnaeha, while a Rihanha born in the rural area outside the city would take the middle name ir-Mnaeha. Those born on small colony worlds and the like would take the planet's name as their locative name, while one born aboard ship would likely take the ship's name as their locative. This tradition likely dates from the time while the Rihannsu were traveling through the stars from Vulcan, as many began to identify more with the ship they were born on.
There are two more prefixes that can be used in middle names, though their use alters the typically locative structure of the middle name. The e- prefix is used for males who marry into a new House (Houses and Clans are matrilineal.) A male who marries into his wife's house uses his old House name as a locative, appending the e- prefix. Thus, Maiek i-Ra'tleifi tr'Ahnimae, upon marrying Aidoann i-Mhessian t'Khellian, becomes Maiek e-Ahnimae tr'Khellian.
The final middle-name prefix is ei-, and can denote a few different things:
1) It can be used to denote a specific area of a city, i.e., Maiek i-Ra'tleihfi ei-Saehhe tr'Ahnimae. In this case, Maiek was born in the Saehhe district of the city of Ra'tleihfi. Maiek may most likely choose to drop the i-Ra'tleihfi from all but the most formal of introductions, since presumably anyone who knows enough to know the meaning of his names knows that the Saehhe district is within the city of Ra'tleifi, and thus the "first middle" name is redundant.
2) Rarely, it may be used as an "Elder name" to honor a great ancestor. Maiek may honor his many-times great grandmother by calling himself Maiek i-Ra'tleifi ei-Ael tr'Ahnimae.
3) It may be used to call out great changes in a person's life. A great victory over the enemy in the Ra'kholh system may cause one to introduce himself as Maiek i-Ra'tleifi ei-Ra'kholh. Should Maiek be promoted to the rank of khre'riov, he may add ei-Khre'Riov to his list of names to note that accomplishment, or ei-Deihu should he become a Senator.
A Rihanha may have many ei- names, but typically only one is used in most formal modes of address, likely whichever one is most appropriate to the occaision. They hypothetical Maiek i-Ra'tleifi ei-Ra'kholh ei-Khre'Riov ei-Deihu would likely be Maiek ei-Ra'kholh at a social function commemorating the battle, ei-Khre'Riov at functions involving primarily military personnel, and ei-Deihu at civilian, governmental, or diplomatic functions.
A Rihannsu's last name is his family or House name, with a two different prefixes depending on gender, t' for females and tr' for males. Thus we have Ael t'Rllaillieu and Tafv tr'Rllaillieu. A house, on its own, uses a gender-neutral s' prefix. Thus we have Hadaen tr'Khellian and Arrhae t'Khellian, both of House s'Khellian.
The fourth name is chosen by the Rihanha themselves, and is deeply personal. Referred to as "the name by which only those closer than kin may know you," it is only spoken to those to whom the Rihanha in question has become very, very close.
Related to the importance Rihannsu place on names is the custom of the name flag. Rihannsu believe that so long as their names are remembered, even if only written down, that person's spirit lives on. Name flags are small pennants of durable cloth or plastic upon which the Rihanha's name is written, then hung in some suitable location. Similar in concept to a tombstone, the name flag does not always mark the spot where a person's remains lie, and can be hung prior to a person's death, but is integral to the concept of Rihannsu spiritual immortality.
The opposite of the name flag, when a person's name is thrice written and thrice burned, signifies their exile from Rihannsu society. A person who has had this done is no longer a person, no longer Rihannsu. In My Enemy, My Ally, the Romulan Commander from The Enterprise Incident is revealed to have been punished so for allowing her ship's cloaking device to be stolen, and for allowing herself to be captured by the Federation.
The Rihannsu revere the four Elements, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. They consider that the Elements are present in all things, that they are the Universe and moreover, have a sense of humor and childlike mentality. Objects cause difficulty when they feel neglected, perform well when shown kindness and attention. This can be seen in a Rihannsu "ritual" performed when an item has gone missing, as the Rihanha calls the object's name (again, linking back to the power of names) in a calm, loving voice. Growing angry at the object in question will only cause it to "hide" longer. Seemingly unconnected to the concept of the name flag, the Rihannsu speak of "meeting again in the place where the Elements are no longer merely physical." It is possible that this is the "Vorta Vor" spoken of in Star Trek V. . . assuming you choose not to disavow that particular film ever existed. Related to the concept of the Elements are the Elements within people that they identify with. For instance, Ael identified strongly with the Element of Air, and reflected that she was unable to master the finer points of llaekh-ae'rl, whose throws required one to root oneself in the Earth, or the deckplates. Ael had too much Air, and could not root. One of my favorite quotes from Ael, to a morose McCoy, is "Look at you, all Earth and tears. . . a walking mud puddle."
S'Task was a student of Surak, though he disagreed with his mentor's teachings of casting off emotions and embracing logic. The rift between mentor and pupil grew so great that a sizable number of Vulcans joined S'Task in leaving behind the new, logical Vulcan and finding their own destiny among the stars. S'Task lived to see his people make planetfall on ch'Rihan.
S'harien was a Vulcan swordsmith, whose name meant "Pierceblood." He forged the finest swords on all of Vulcan, and was an outspoken opponent of Surak and his teachings, vowing to spit in the man's shadow should they ever meet. One day, S'harien had his chance, as Surak was speaking near where the swordsmith lived. S'harien went to Surak's speech to demonstrate his opposition, but when he returned, he began destroying every sword he had ever made. Surak's message of peace had affected S'harien so deeply that he could no longer bear being responsible for creating so many weapons. Even when Surak himself, who admired the unparalleled beauty and quality of S'harien's sword, was unable to stop him. And so Surak personally delivered to S'Task, who by now was living in an encampment with all those preparing to leave Vulcan, three S'harien swords, to preserve them. Only one of these still remains, the Sword in the Empty Chair, though one is said to be somewhere in the Eisn system, on some sort of elipitical or cometary orbit.
Few descriptions of the swords are available, though there is an amazing one of a S'harien in Spock's quarters in My Enemy, My Ally, it says very little about what the sword actually looks like. The impression I got was of something resembling a katana, and the cover art for The Empty Chair shows a long shot of Ael in the Romulan Senate chamber holding the sword, which seems to have a katana-like curved blade. Another picture shows her holding the sword, and seems to establish S'harien-type Vulcan swords as being very like katanas. Whether all Vulcan swords are shaped like katanas, or whether the forged swords of several different designs, is unknown.
The Sword in the Empty Chair
News of Surak's death did reach the travelers as they made their way towards their unknown new home. S'Task, though he had had many differences with his mentor, was distraught to learn of his passing, and isolated himself for many days. The small fleet had regular council meetings, and one council meeting went by while S'Task was mourning. S'Task did not attend that meeting, but the councilors who did found one of the S'harien swords Surak had brought laid across S'Task's chair. No one knows who placed it there, and S'Task himself, when returning to the council, made no mention of it. . . he simply found another seat. The sword sat, in the empty chair, all the way to ch'Rihan, and was moved from the ship to the new governmental buidings, given a place of honor. To touch the Sword in the Empty Chair is all but unthinkable, it is rarely even spoken of, and one swearing an oath upon it either upholds the oath or dies, sometimes with assistance.
There is no mention at all of Remans in Diane Duane's books, because they were written well before Nemesis came about. Little canon has been established about the origins and history of the race, though various novels have expanded on them somewhat. The more-or-less official story seems to be that Remans are Vulcan immigrants to Remus who became a slave labor caste and evolved into a distinct subspecies of Vulcanoid. While Romulans and Vulcans are nearly identical, physically and genetically, Remans appear to vary significantly in both aspects. One theory as to why the Remans mutated so quickly (Planetfall on Romulus and Remus is placed sometime during the 4th century) is that the heavy mining and manufacturing on Remus may have raised pollutants that accelerated their evolution (or de-evolution, depending on how you look at it.) Given that Balance of Terror indicates that Romulans used atomic power of some variation almost, or into, the 23rd century, the kind of heavy radiation generated by manufacturing of that type could have easily led to rapid, massive mutation.
It also seems likely that this mutation unlocked psi abilities normally latent in Vulcanoid physiology. While all Vulcans appear to be telepathic, but require training to use it properly (depending on how, exactly, you view the revelation of "melders" in Enterprise and how the practice came to be common among Vulcans in only 100 years), Remans appear to have quite formidable telepathic abilities that do not necessarily require physical contact. It is possible that the Vulcans who settled Remus had higher psi potential than the Vulcans who settled Romulus. While the Romulans were interested in discarding as much of being Vulcan as possible, the Remans may have embraced Vulcan telepathic training to hone their psi abilities as the only advantage they had against their Romulan masters. Over time, this training, coupled with the aforementioned mutation, may have lead to Remans developing the impressive telepathic abilities witnesses in Star Trek: Nemesis.
Wow. It seems I have a lot of catching up to do before I start making Romulan Foundry missions!
Thanks for this great guide/article, and welcome to STO! Or should I say ... "aefvadh!"
Welcome to the game, and thank you for this trove of information!
I've been working on a project cateloging all of the in-game Romulan plotlines, from the lt. commander-level storyline to the STFs to the Featured Series to New Romulus with the idea that it could be a resource for Foundry authors who want to fit in with the game lore. I've got all the leveling missions done, the Featured series I'll probably do this weekend and I'm getting close to T3 on rep (I only just started).
There's a lot of interesting and even surprising things when you think about it critically and how it all fits together.
Thank you, I'm glad people are finding it useful.
On the subject of ranks, I'm trying to break down the ranks and their Rihannsu names, but there's a little inconsistency. I'll hopefully have something soon.
I just finished Rihannsu: the Bloodwing Voyages and I loved it. :P Still need to read the Empty Chair though...
I came up with a Romulan fleet name that was inspired by Rihannsu lore, but unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be very popular with the rest of my fleet. :P
I never finished that one. . . made it almost all the way, but then didn't get to pick it up for awhile, lost the thread, and haven't picked it up again. . .
I'd love to hear your Fleet name, though! If you want to share, that is.
Sure. :) My suggestion for the Romulan branch of the Goddesses fleets is Elements of the Divine. :)
Aefvadh S'harien ch'Rihan Eisn! :)
Interestingly informative article and a nice start to Star Trek Online.
As a hopeful forecoming Reman player, would you know of any books
to guide me in the process of learning about their lore? So that I
might wisely roleplay one when Legacy of Romulus comes about anew?
When Lore doesn't exist, invent it! :)
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