The Mapepire subsector consists of 23 systems with a total population of 6.16 billion sentients, nearly all Humaniti. Fourteen systems and 97% of the subsector’s population belongs to the Duchy of Mapepire, often called the Mapepire Cluster by those who do not recognize the Duchy’s self-proclaimed noble titles. Two worlds, the desert planet of Lathesandra and the poor border world of Luz Negra, belong to the Corellan League. The subsector’s five garden worlds were originally settled from League worlds more than two thousand years ago, but four of these worlds have since joined the Duchy and the fifth, Glynaese, has retained independence since -800, ruled by its own self-professed noble families. Only the Gullan System remains uninhabited.
The pirate lord Mapepire Balsayn used threats of force and promises of protection to gain control of most of the subsector during the period 638-672 and his descendants have ruled over the region ever since. Within the Duchy, piracy is nearly nonexistent; among the thinly populated worlds on its periphery, it can be endemic. While the Duchy blames the pirate activity on corsair bands from the Foreven and Vanguard Reach sectors and even its neighbors Glynaese and Liberty Hall, many outsiders assume the Duchy itself at the very least turns a blind eye to activity that does not target its traders or worlds.
The cold desert world of Barba Armarilla orbits around a pair of red dwarf stars in an eccentric orbit that warms the planet to almost the melting point of water during its brief summer and chills the world to the point the atmospheric carbon dioxide freezes out of the atmosphere during the winter. The surface is only habitable during the summer and autumn weeks and even then, planet-wide dust storms can choke the air until winter arrives. The planet is only inhabited because of an Ancients site discovered by prospectors in 893. The site yielded no working artifacts, just a series of half-collapsed catacombs and cryptic carvings. Barba Amarilla is ruled directly by Baroness Barba Amarilla VI, a clone of the original baroness and namesake of the planet. The inhabitants are all members of the Baroness’ family or retinue and operate a scientific center adjacent to the Ancients site that is more theme park than research lab.
Beaumonde is home to two-thirds of the population of the Mapepire Balsayn cluster, its citizens are concentrated in protected cities on twelve independent island states.
Beaumonde is a large dense world orbiting around a pair of orange and red stars that are part of a quadruple star system. The planet has a surface gravity of 1.38 standard and a dense atmosphere often tainted by particulates from the chains of active volcanoes that have built the only dry land to rise out of the world’s deep oceans. Orbiting in the inner margins of the habitable zone and subject to additional heating when the red dwarfs of the system’s second binary pair draw close, Beaumonde’s surface temperature can exceed tolerable limits during the summer weeks. Strong storms drive across the oceans, lashing the islands with rain and carving spectacular valleys on eroding islands. Occasional super flares from one or more suns bring bright aurorae to the twenty-hour-long nights and burn away atmospheric ozone.
The harsh planet might never have been settled but for the vast mineral wealth brought to the surface by constant volcanic activity. Deposits of rare metals, including lanthanum and hafnium brought the first mining corporations to the world in -600 as the Corellan League geared up its military to launch its first Expeditions against Aslan expansion. Additional finds of rare gemstones, some unique to Beaumonde, brought additional prospectors to the world. Competing claims of large corporations, independent operators, and squatting wildcatters caused the League to annex the world and arbitrate among the competing parties in -327. The end of the Expeditions after 422 and the disruptions from the political chaos that broke the power of the Storm Knights caused many of the major corporations to curtail operations in mining territories that were mostly played out and only marginally profitable, often turning over claims to local residents whose families had worked the mines for centuries.
The world’s population was already approaching one billion when it united in 506 under the auspicious of the socialist Beaumonde Miners Collective and declared its independence from the League, hoping to negotiate better prices for its exports. Instead, owners of nationalized mines petitioned the League to embargo the world. Within a decade, infighting between island councils fragmented political unity, but no faction had any interest in rejoining a League, which they felt had turned its back on the people in favor of off world interests. Beaumonde’s economy spiraled downward for more than a century, and first one, and then the majority of the island nations accepted Maperire Balsayn’s offer to provide new markets for Beaumonde’s mineral wealth in return for nominal rule and planetary export coordination by an appoint Count. Since 659, the fractious island states of Beaumonde have become the economic core of the Mapepire cluster.
Twelve independent island states rule territory on Beaumonde. The largest, Napali accounts for 600 million citizens in a string of arctic islands. Governmental structures vary greatly, from Napali’s representative democracy to Tamara’s military dictatorship to the Union of Free Island’s mostly egalitarian socialist welfare state. Unique among the Duchy’s worlds, each nation maintains its own surface space port, most of which are better equipped than the Count of Beaumonde’s orbital Four Star Highport that serves as the official starport. But it owes its name to the quadruple star system, not the level of service. Beaumonde’s industry has evolved from the extraction of resources to the production of moderate quality industrial goods. Though not the most technologically sophisticated producer in the Duchy, Beaumonde’s goods collectively account for most of the trade, both internal to the Duchy and outside its borders. The world’s political influence within the Duchy is limited by its balkanized status, a condition that suits the capital world of Mapepire Balsayn quite well.
The tropical garden world of Lilith was the first world settled within the Mapepire Cluster, but it is by far the least populous and least advanced garden world in the subsector. A series of setbacks began with the outbreak of the Lilith Plague, a wasting disease that claimed nearly half the population in -1230 and led to a decades-long interdiction, and ended with the long misrule of the current Baroness, Francesca Kwang, has contributed to economic neglect and population stagnation. Lilith remains a destination for the adventurous who desire little logistical support for expeditions into the spectacular jungles, mountains, and deserts of the planet’s three massive and nearly unpopulated continents. But Lilith plays little part in the prosperity of the Duchy of Mapepire, beside that of cautionary tale of mismanagement.
The world of Mapepire Balsayn is actually a set of habitats embedded in the ring system of a small gas giant. Named after its founder, a pirate lord of the seventh century who became the first Duke Mapepire, the world is the capital of the Duchy of Mapepire.
Mapepire Balsayn consists of habitats built or carved from the rings of Arima, a small gas giant in orbit just inside the jump shadow of one component of a red dwarf binary system. Seven large habitats account for 80% of the 700 million inhabitants in the system. The largest habitat is Scarboro, a hollow moonlet 20 kilometers long and 6 kilometers in diameter spun to produce artificial gravity of .75 standard. Port Balsayn, the starport and main shipyard of the system, is a two-kilometer-diameter artificial sphere with numerous ledges and protrusions that follows Scarboro in orbit. The Fractal Palace is the Duke’s seat of power, a sprawling complex of crystalline towers, domes and platforms set atop a three-kilometer-long natural moonlet that carves a gap in the icy rings of Arima. Shipyards, factories, and military bases populate both the ring system and the seven small moons of the planet.
The system now named Mapepire Balsayn was once called Dash, named after a desolate world in orbit around the further component of the red dwarf binary. The system was never permanently inhabited until the arrival of the pirate captain Mapepire Balsayn and his crew in 638. Balsayn built his first base into an icy moonlet within Arima’s rings and used this secret base to begin raids against local worlds and shipping. By 645, a fleet of seven ships operated out of the base and construction had begun on what would eventually become Scarboro Habitat. As Balsayn gathered wealth and supporters and a certain level of legitimacy as the “protector” of a half dozen worlds of the cluster, Scarboro became an acknowledged freeport and by 660 had acquired a shipyard and a growing startown district. In 672, Mapepire Balsayn declared himself Duke Mapepire, naming the system, ring, and government after himself. By the time of Mapepire’s abdication in favor of his daughter Antionette Balsayn in 703, the population of his capital system exceeded one million scattered across eleven major habitats and installations.
Throughout the next four centuries and a total of twelve rulers from the Balsayn family, additional habitats sprouted in the rings. Research and government institutions drove innovation and culture, and wealth from trade and, as some claim, piracy, brought prosperity to the ring system, cementing its role as the capital and cultural heart of the Duchy of Mapepire.
Mapepire Balsayn is ruled by the Twelfth Duchess Balysan, Arabellatra Venes-Kincaid-Balsayn. Government is organized in a feudal hierarchy consisting of her extended family of more than two thousand members, of which a third are actively involved in public administration with varying degrees of competence and interest. Each of the seven major habitats is ruled by a Lord Protector of the Balsayn clan, appointed by and accountable to the Duchess herself. The starport and the Fractal Palace are directly ruled by the Duchess and her Seneschals.
Citizens of the habitats and installations of the Mapepire Balsayn system have well-protected civil rights to property and privacy, but free speech, especially that critical of the Duchess or her family, is curtailed. Public assembly and demonstrations in opposition to the government or its policies are not tolerated once they reach a level that irritates the Duchess, though fines and house arrest are more typical penalties for such infractions than incarceration or violent suppression.
Each habitat has developed its own subculture over the centuries. Both Scarboro and the Fractal Palace are widely known for their art scenes, museums, and musical venues, which attract artists and connoisseurs from as far away as the Third Imperium. While Mapepire Balsayn is home to the rich elite of the Duchy and enjoys the some of the highest technological infrastructure in the sector, inequality is evident among the populace. A large portion of citizens rely on a basic wage as their major source of income. Violent crime is rare in the ring system, but corruption, elitism, and favoritism blunt some of the world’s potential.
The Duchy of Mapepire, also known as the Mapepire Cluster, is a small state of 14 systems and 6.016 billion inhabitants, primarily Humaniti, occupying the majority of the spinward and coreward-most subsector of The Beyond. The Duchy began as little more than a protection racket, but has evolved into a full-fledged federal government, albeit with minimal regulations and a reputation for local autonomy. Eight of the worlds in Mapepire have standard breathable atmospheres and four are considered garden worlds, making the Mapepire Cluster a pleasant place to live.
Most of the settlers of what is now the Mapepire subsector arrived from the Third Imperium in the years following the Civil War, in some cases overwhelming the ancient but small Corellan settlements on the most clement worlds. Within just a few years, corsairs began preying on these small frontier settlements.
The Cluster is named after Mapepire Balsayn, who in 638 founded the ring outpost that bears his name as a base for his band of rogues. Mapepire soon found that offering his services to the nascent colonies as protector from his peers and associates was more profitable and safer than raiding the colonies directly. In 672, he became the self-proclaimed Duke Mapepire Balsayn, ruler of the Mapepire Cluster. Balsayn’s descendants still rule the Duchy. Piracy is nearly non-existent within the Duchy, and the Duke’s Own Legion patrols the territory to protect commerce and Travellers.
The Duchy of Mapepire is a federation of worlds that adopts some of the structures and practices of both the Third Imperium and the Corellan League. Individual worlds are nominally represented at the capital of Mapepire Balsayn by nobility. These leading nobles are Barons on all worlds but the populous Beaumode, which is represented by a Count, but the actual government structure of worlds themselves is self-determined by the local populace. The Duchy regulates inter-system commerce, maintains standing armed forces, and both operates and protects the primary starports on each member world. The current ruler is Twelfth Duchess Balysan, Arabellatra Venes-Kincaid-Balsayn The Duchess ascended to power in 1084 at age 47 after a botched coup by her elder brother Alexander which resulted in the death of their mother Rowena-Beatrice and of Alexander’s summary execution by the new Duchess herself.
The military of the Duchy is directly controlled by the reigning Duke. The Duchess’s Own Legion is a collection of naval and marine assets organized as a unitary force. The Legion is organized as a single fleet, with task forces assigned to specific duties, usually patrol forces that are often as small as a pair of Vipers. Strike Task Forces are formed as required, centered on the eclectic collection of eleven cruiser-sized ships commissioned by over the course of the last four ducal reigns and the Duchess’s battlecruiser flagship Star Sapphire.
In addition, each system is assigned a named fleet of system defense assets, mostly system defense boats with larger worlds meriting a few cruiser-sized monitors, and ships troops to support the naval vessels and protect the Duchy’s starports and military installations. These fleets are answerable to the Duchess, who assigns a commodore, often a member of the Duchess’s extended family, and provides a portion of the naval assets and a squadron of between two and two dozen Vipers to supplement defenses, but the remainder of the system fleet is raised by the system itself.
Mapepire has had a fractious relationship with Die Weltbund for most of its existence, with the later state accusing Maperire of supporting piracy in the space between the two states and into the Foreven and Vanguard Reaches sectors. The Duchy’s relationship with the Corellan League is more cordial, despite the Duchy having essentially annexed five of the League’s worlds centuries ago. The League remains Mapepire’s largest trading partner. Mapepire maintains good relations with the Third Imperium, which sees the Duchy as a counterweight to its former client state of Die Weltbund, but neither Mapepire nor the Imperium seems interested in formalizing the relationship into client state status. Relations with the Zhodani Consulate are nearly non-existent, strained by alleged support for corsairs operating in neighboring sectors and animosity between the Duchy and Die Weltbund, however psionics is not restricted in the Duchy and both Beaumonde and Vlad have large Psionic Institutes. Buffered by distance and Humaniti’s frontline states, The Duchy has little contact with the Aslan Hierate, though the world of Lilith has begun an outback dust spice agricultural operation that attracts Aslan traders.
The workhorse of the Duchess’s Own Legion is the aptly-named Mapepire Viper, a small, fast deadly ship designed to serve customs control, scout, and anti-piracy functions. Though displacing only 200 tons and limited to Jump-2, the Viper is faster and more maneuverable than many fighters, able to engage the enemy at very long range, and capable of delivering deadly fusion fire at shorter ranges. Its armor will deflect most turret-sized weaponry and its sensors will detect all but the most stealthy ship. The standard viper is a matte black menacing presence, visible as a dark shadow on the starfield, but rumors persist of a stealth version designed for surveillance, and some claim, privateering beyond the borders of the Mapepire Cluster.