The Mauraug carbon based, DNA based, simian primates. The ideal Mauraug has bandy legs, long arms, a strong torso and shoulders, and a round head with a high cranial ridge. Their eyes have heavy lids, their nose flat and their mouth an apelike muzzle filled with a mixture of grinding and rending teeth. Their skin is matte black and the fur across their bodies and on their heads is a snow white.
However, the Mauraug have suffered greatly from a genetic plague (partially) of their own devising. As a result, the majority of Mauraug don't adhere to all of these characteristics. Most Mauraug are born with some kind of genetic dysfunction, usually involving missing or malformed organs or limbs. Most Mauraug have cybernetics replacing the missing or malfunctioning organs or appendages. In addition, skin color, fur color, and facial shape can vary greatly. No Mauraug could pass as a human, no matter how deformed, but there are those born among them whose lineage might be hard to infer by simple observation.
The Mauraug developed from a tree-dwelling simian like race on their home world. Mauraug Prime is a hot world, and from early records seems to be a former Venus-style hothouse world whose atmosphere was “cleaned” by the development of oxygen-using single-celled life. Their world had lush photosynthetic vegetation, a high amount of free water and oxygen in the atmosphere, and abundant solar radiation, contributing to a high degree of mutation in the life forms that developed there.
Much of the pre-spaceflight history of the Mauraug race is shrouded in mystery, and the texts that keep what they know of their early history are held tightly by the Prophets of Dominion. Before the planet developed space faring capabilities it can be assumed that their society followed patterns not dissimilar to those of human development in the realms of culture and science.
Although the Prophets claim that faith in Dominion was a constant from the days that the Mauraug developed sentience, this claim is considered unlikely by outsider researchers. The most commonly-held outside belief is that this faith was merely the most successful social meme to establish itself among their race, and the only one that spread with their expansion into space.
In any case, when the Mauraug began to colonize other worlds, Tkal Shabahn or Dominionism was a very useful social tool to establish social and political stability among their worlds. All terraformed planets and colony worlds were and still are considered autocratic, with the commandments of the prophets serving as precedent and constitution for their worlds. This allowed a very efficient combination between individuality and group dynamic in the spread of their empire. Although each world had different ideas about the implementation of Words of Dominion, they were unified against heretics and alien races in their acknowledgement of their importance.
The Mauraug Dominion was originally established close to fivr thousands terran years ago. When it began it was a collection of four terraformed worlds and a half-dozen colonies. In time it grew to close to its present size; at its largest the Dominion encompassed closed to fifty terraformed worlds and thousands of small colonies.
As the Dominion expanded it inevitably came into contact with alien races. Early interaction with those races usually resulted in genocide and occupation. The firm belief in the importance of Mauraug domination of the galaxy brooked no argument for diversity. Some races were given the offer to convert to Dominionism and become subjects of the Mauraug, essentially becoming slaves.
The Mauraug Dominion grew to great size and prosperity. It was not until their boundaries pushed against Zig space that they encountered another established interstellar hierarchy that could stand against and even threaten them. The isolationist Zig took umbrage at attempts at conversion and assimilation, and a bitter war was fought that lasted over two millennia. Eventually the Prophets gave word that the Zig were to be given accorded the same respect that the Mauraug had for claiming dominion over their space, although their lack of faith meant that one day the Mauraug would need to eradicate or assimilate their empire. The twenty thousand years between the Mauraug-Zig Wars and the formation of the Collective were filled with constant border disputes, acts of piracy and terrorism, mostly but not always on the part of the Mauraug. The Dominion focused on expanding their space in other directions in the hopes that they would eventually encapsulate the heathen Zig.
As the empire expanded and encountered more alien races and life forms their policies towards outsiders began to change and become more inclusive. The Tesetsi home world and their colonies were annexed almost without the Tesetsi noticing. Their race was fascinated by the biological diversity of the life forms of Mauraug Prime, not to mention the host of other worlds that had been brought into the Covenant. They paid lip service to the concept of Dominion and aided the Mauraug in their constant search to overcome the hideous genetic maladies of their ancestors.
This alliance eventually led in many ways to the downfall of the Mauraug Dominion as it was. The Mauraug, working with their highly advanced artificial intelligences and Tesetsi subjects devised a genetic cure to most of the worst of the problems with their unstable DNA, which likewise was to confer upon individual Mauraug the nigh-immortality that the Tesetsi possess. The cure was spread throughout their space and seemed successful for a handful of generations. It was not until a full century after its deployment that hidden code within the altered genetic structure came to the fore. Although many of the cancers and other inborn weaknesses displayed by the Mauraug no longer manifested, hideous deformities and atrophied organs became common. There were few parts of the Dominion that had not been touched by the gene plague and as a result, their species as a whole were afflicted with it. Their newly extended life spans seemed almost a mockery in the face of the horrific deformities that they were now being born with.
The reactions of the Prophets were extreme and often violent. The most commonly-held beliefs included the idea that the plague was a punishment from Dominion for incorporating rather than exterminating other forms of life, and genocidal purges of slave races began. It was at this point, nearly two thousand years ago, that the Tesetsi Diaspora occurred.
Genetic purity was seen as an impossible ideal at this point. A series of revelations granted to the Great Prophets on Mauraug Prime clarified their errors: attempting to alter the basic flesh that they had been granted was a foolish act. The gene plague was not a punishment from Dominion but a malady that the Mauraug had brought upon themselves by attempting to overreach the boundaries of organic flesh, as they had been lead astray by the devious Tesetsi. Imperfect flesh could be replaced by perfect machine, with the goal being to eventually have the consciousness and souls of once-organic beings housed completely in synthetic material. This would show the mastery of the Mauraug over the baser materials of the universe and represent true dominion over life itself.
Artificial Intelligences were also to blame. Creating a mind that has never been housed in organic flesh became a blasphemy, and many parts of the Dominion struggled to adapt without their beloved AIs. In addition, claims that demonic entities from the levels of space traversed in hyperspace travel could alter or possess AIs began to flourish. The Prophets claimed that a mind created by the Mauraug could only try to supersede their dominance when the time came, which is also a sin against the will of Dominion. Some of the Prophets actually feared that Dominion would come to favor the artificial intelligences over the Mauraug should the Mauraug no longer be able to control or dominate them, and eradicating them has become a struggle to prove the worthiness of their race. Other feared outside control and manipulation of the AIs through the aforementioned hyperspatial entities, or “demons”.
The Mauraug Dominion began to go through waves of collapse of infrastructure and communication, leading to isolated worlds and colonies developing and adopting heresies that were as dust in the mouths of the Prophets of Dominion. The Mauraug Apostasy formed out of this mess; a good third of the worlds held by the Mauraug banded together to declare their independence and freedom from the Dominion and its dogmatic rule.
This period of collapse has shaped the Mauraug mindset and current relationships with other races. Waves of nationalist fervor spread through the declining Dominion, making their worlds and colonies far more aggressive to their non-Mauraug neighbors. Desperation has forced Mauraug into careers of piracy, a crime that they have become well known for. A second, weak attempt at extermination of the Zig lead to a massive and crushing defeat wherein the Zig unleashed terrible weapons of their material technology on Mauraug worlds, using seed crystals that would crystallize the atmospheres or force oxygen to bond rapidly with other molecules. After the populations of these worlds had perished the Zig and their vindicated Tesetsi allies re-terraformed and claimed them for their own, causing Dominion space to shrink even further.
It was not until the Collective formed and an ultimatum was pressed against the Dominion that the Prophets declared that a new age was upon the Mauraug. In this age they claimed that Sha’bahn declared that all sentient life may hear the call and ways of the Dominion, and the time for rulership by extermination had come to an end. It was a time for the Mauraug to become involved in the galaxy and the other races that Dominion had created, and perhaps by learning their ways and sharing the ways of Sha’bahn with them, the Mauraug might again rise to dominate the galaxy. As part of a condition of their joining, the Collective agreed to stop making overtures to the Apostasy and allow the Mauraug to police heresy within their own race. The confederated Mauraug systems that have joined the Collective rebranded themselves as the Mauraug Covenant although some, especially outsiders, will still refer to them as the Dominion.
Since joining the Collective, the Covenant has enjoyed a slowing of their decline and even economic improvement in some areas. Although they have maintained a strained peace with other races, their desperation and sense of loss has still propelled them to engage in acts of piracy and enslavement, which only bring sanction against their race in the most grievous of examples. The Mauraug have a code of law that is far more ancient than many of the sapient races that they now interact with, and as a result have quite a culture of lawyers, which has been encouraged by the Prophets as those who know the law can use it to the benefit of the Mauraug and the Covenant.
The worst mark on their record is the action taken against humanity, which raised quite a bit of popular sentiment against them. When the Covenant discovered human space, many of their Prophets claimed that they had discovered a forgotten branch of their family; not descendants but cousins from lost terraformed colonies. Citing the Hrotata and the Great Family as precedent, they attempted to claim mankind as a client race. Their terror of the common use of AIs by mankind only helped to fuel their desire to take mankind under their wing and eliminate their dangerous demonic allies.
It was mankind’s AIs that allowed their race to hold off the assimilation of the Covenant long enough for the Collective to intervene. As AI tech is rare in the galaxy, seen as dangerous and troublesome, few countermeasures were currently in use among Mauraug fleets and the sentient electronic minds wreaked havoc upon Mauraug defense and weapons systems, and even targeting and communication systems, turning the Mauraug against one another in some of the more spectacular examples.
Mauraug, being monosexual, trace their family lines through dominant genes. When a Mauraug is born it is examined to determine which of its parents’ genetic traits are stronger, and are given a last name that is a combination of their dominant parent’s name and the name of their family line; all Mauraug names follow the same pattern of <first name> “Bash” (meaning a combination of ‘dominated by’ and ‘created through domination by’) <combination last name>. There are exceptions in those rare Mauraug whose parents are unknown (orphans that survive past infancy are rare among their kind) and those who change their last name to disassociate from their past (only usually sanctioned in the case of those who join the religious castes or whose ancestors have committed some grave heresy or dishonor).
Cybernetics. With their race so terribly damaged by the plague, the Mauraug turned to using mechanical devices to compensate for their genetic weaknesses. Mauraug have had at least a millennium of desperate exploration, goaded on by the commandments of their Prophets. As a result, they have great facility with adapting and calibrating implants and have techniques of miniaturization and nanotechnology that make their cybernetics, as opposed to that of other races that most often use them for prosthesis, into an advantage.
The Mauraug are descended from rainforest-dwelling omnivorous primates, of great physical strength and agility. Due to the conditions of their homeworld they have a preference for bright light, high humidity, and levels of heat that are considered uncomfortable to many other sapient species. Indeed, visitors on Mauraug ships and in their dwellings often need to use polarized lenses or risk retinal damage, and Mauraug often carry light sources with them (or implant light-adaptive cybernetics into their eyes) when dealing with other species.
Mauraug only have one sex, and are capable of both inseminating and being inseminated. Their semen is corrosive and damaging to developed fetuses and placental sacs, thus a Mauraug that is already pregnant will lose their current offspring if it engages in receptive intercourse with another Mauraug. They tend to bear one to two children at a time.
The gene plague that afflicted the Mauraug has left most of their population with nigh-indefinite life spans. Their cells reproduce without error and most of the weaknesses inherent to their physiology that would cause long-term breakdown have been eliminated. They are almost all born with missing, atrophied or malformed organs or limbs, which often need to be replaced by cybernetic implants close to birth for survival, and many are stillborn as a result. The frequency of birth of a genetically “pure” Mauraug, one born with standard coloration and no deformities, is extremely low, generally one in a billion.
The Mauraug have always been dominated by their Prophets, although the messages of the Prophets change over time. Their faith revolves around Dominion, also known as Sha’bahn, the universal and all-powerful being that has created a universe full of danger as a challenge to his creation. Survive this, improve upon yourself, and you can make yourself like unto him. The modern interpretation of this extends into an almost Transhumanist (or transMauraugist) philosophy involving cybernetic replacement and eventual transformation from an organic intelligence in an organic shell to one in a synthetic body. This has never been successfully accomplished, but the ideal has kept many Mauraug scientists busy for centuries.
The Mauraug Prophets undergo intense training in history, rhetoric, law, logic, and some basic knowledge of computer science and “demons” or AIs. They are chosen for their personal insight and wisdom and often groomed for the position from an early age, and once they become Prophets rarely, if ever, interact with non-Mauraug, as they are seen as a potential corrupting influence and thus unclean. They are attended by a clerical structure of priests of lesser authority and various ranks, which often very vastly based on their system of origin.
The one religious institution among the Mauraug that is universal and unchanging is the Inquisition. The Inquisition, overseen by the Prophets, is a caste of Mauraug clerics that have been trained in “sorcery” (psi and telepathy) and “demonology” (AI technology as well as hyperdimensional theory). They are the only Mauraug that are allowed to pursue or train in such skills and knowledge; anyone outside of their order who is found spreading or using AIs or telepathy has only the Inquisition to answer to, and even the Prophets will step aside if an Inquisitor has made an accusation. Unlike Prophets, Inquisitors frequently interact with members of other species and are not uncommon in shared Collective spaces, due to the increased potential for heresy in such regions. They do not always announce their identity as such, as while most Mauraug find their presence a comfort, other sapients tend to be leery of them.
Before the Gene Plague, the Mauraug Dominion was oriented in a more expansive direction, a mission that was by turns evangelic and imperial. At this point the Covenant expands in a more careful fashion, generally legitimately annexing worlds and colonies through bargaining within the Collective.
Poetry is of great cultural value to the Mauraug, and is one of the only acceptable artistic outlets for their race. All poetry, claims Dominion, comes from me, though your mouth is ill suited to speak the words, and only my Prophets' ears are suited to hear. In other words, the Mauraug faith holds that all poetry is divinely inspired, though filtered through an imperfect tool. If a poem seems to speak out against the Dominion or the Prophets it is merely a misinterpretation. A Prophet will meditate upon the offending verse for a time and reveal the true meaning, inevitable aligned with the mores of their society and the will of Dominion.
Cybernetic enhancements are sources of vast pride in Mauraug culture. They proudly display them, and even those enhancements that are meant to be kept secret (such as hidden weaponry) are often known among close friends and allies. Indeed, the rare “pureblood” Mauraug, as a display of cultural solidarity with the rest of their kind, will deliberately maim themselves when coming of age, removing a limb or organ and having it replaced to show that they too bear the memory of what is considered the greatest mistake that they as a species have made.
The Mauraug of today are in many ways defined by their race's great tragedy. Far too many allow their desperation to lead them on paths of semi-legal pirating and banditry. There is a great bitterness and sorrow in the Mauraug psyche that can be measured quite visibly by changes in their poetic style and rising crime rates on their worlds and in the spaces around them.