Blood Included

A phenomenon ever worthy of note is how much the overall culture of the Worlds has been shaped less by the direct influence of the Great Powers, or indeed by their cultures in themselves, but rather by misunderstandings of those cultures, in which others grasp the surface forms but not the essence behind them, or the ameliorating factors less visible in society, and not at all in the simplified forms of it depicted in popular culture.

Consider, for one example, the curious institution of the Harúnet heartbreaker.

The freesoil world Harúnet (Promegi Matrix) came to be dominated by noble clans (of unspoken offworld origin) impressed by, and seeking to imitate, not the actuality of Imperial culture, but rather an impression of it they had gained primarily from adventuring parties of young-bloods travelling the Worlds in the early existence of the Accord. The culture this gave rise to, therefore, reflected precisely the funhouse-mirror image one might imagine: hedonistic young noblemen and women filled with vainglory and arrogance, melodramatic, ever-touchy with regard to their honor and any slight to it, and obsessed with their renown and the value of their word above all.

Thus, the heartbreaker. To a Harúnet don, their word is unquestionable and beyond price, and their life the only possible surety for their word. A don who must pledge his word, therefore, offers his heart as surety for it in the most literal of senses, and one who needs must offer some great expiation, or back a gamble otherwise unsecured will make that same pledge. Should that surety be called for, the don will call upon his heartbreaker – typically a sibling or favored cousin – to publicly cut out his heart as payment of the debt. (This is intended to be lethal, and while those who cheat death in various ways are, in law, merely nonpersons on Harúnet thereafter, such wights often find themselves pursued across the World by cousins of the clan seeking to expunge the shade thus cast on the family’s reputation.)

Of course, outside the noble classes and especially where outworlders are concerned, not all may understand the importance of such a pledge made to any of the dons of Harúnet. Thus, a second, less reputable type of heartbreaker has come into existence, one who combines their ritual function with the duties of a skip tracer; to wit, hunting down the forsworn wheresoever they may flee, and collecting their patrons’ owed pound or two of flesh.

– The Sincerest Form of Flattery: Imitiative Sophontologies of the Old Worlds