What follows is a product of a couple sleepless nights, based on my own conjecture (also known as Federation Navy Field Manual A13-208, “Use of Posterior Orifice in Producing Assertions”) and unfortunate personal experiences of ‘dealing’ with the Blood Raider Covenant. I’m not exactly a scholar, so I will admit in advance that is more of a stream of consciousness rather than a structured research article.
Some of this might be old news. Some might be patently untrue – I would love to be proven wrong in some of my more alarmist assumptions. Regardless, I feel that this warning on the nature of one of the more detestable groups in the cluster has to be delivered.
The major outlaw organizations of the cluster have long since outgrown the blanket label of ‘pirates’. Pirates in the conventional sense are raiders, thieves and parasites. They do not produce, they not build, they do not sow. While the Angel Cartel, the Guristas, the Serpentis Corporation and the Blood Raider Covenant, still, of course, leisurely indulge in raiding, thievery and parasitism, they also have their own economies, military-industrial complexes, R&D (albeit obviously skewed towards military applications), settlements and, in some cases, even entire settled planets. I’ve purposely omitted Sansha’s Nation from this list, given that the modern Nation seems to have its True Citizen to True Slave ratio vastly skewed in favor of the latter compared to its first incarnation, leading me to believe it would be best to label it a hivemind that has more in common with the rogue drones than with humanity.
That leaves us with four factions, who seem to have coalesced into a hybrid of interstellar corporations and proto-states. It would seem that they still have a ways to go before they can be considered self-supporting and entirely stable entities, since, for all their rising economic and political power, they tend to revolve around authority figures and/or their grudges against their parent Empires. The Guristas still ride the wave of outlaw charisma once projected by Fatal and the Rabbit, with little else to unite them. The Serpentis are fairly similar in function, if not form, held together by the enormous ego of Salvador Sarpati and a well-developed, secretive corporate structure that needed only the minimum of adjustment to survive out of sight of the Federation’s prying eyes. The Angel Cartel are perhaps the most interesting bunch, having laid a claim to not just a region, but at least one entire human civilization. The lack of an obvious, public overlord figure in the Angel leadership suggests that they may have developed their own mechanisms of separation, sharing and transfer of powers, however crude they might or might not be. If true, this would mean that they are, by far, the most stable of the three.
However, the three organizations mentioned above still lack one critical element of a true nation-state: a society, and an ideology to glue it together with. This is not the case with the fourth and last faction: the Blood Raiders.
2. The Sani Sabik Sham
In popular perception, the Blood Raiders are a particularly gruesome sect of the Sani Sabik – who tend not to be a pleasant bunch in any case, regardless of how loudly their adherents claim otherwise – evoking images of blood-crazed fanatics out for the innocent blood to fuel their arcane rituals in service to their Red God.
While a healthy dose of insanity, pardon the oxymoron, is certainly welcome among the rank-and-file Blood Raiders, their ‘religion’ appears to have devolved into blood-themed window dressing, a mere background relic of their cultural heritage now repurposed into a societal construction tool. That is, assuming, there was a point in history when it wasn’t just window dressing in the first place, which is part of the problem – it’s very hard to tell the religious aspects of the Covenant’s philosophy apart from the secular ones, given how simple they are at the core.
Allow me to elaborate. While humanity has much to be proud about regarding innovation and abstract thinking, new concepts still tend to come a little hard to us. Before its first contact with the Amarr Empire, the Gallente Federation was utterly convinced that it represented the apex of human societal development. Things like organized religions, let alone the concept of feudalism, were considered mere stepping-stones to an age of democracy and reason or even evolutionary dead-ends to be actively suppressed.
They were quite surprised when they encountered a nation that had embraced these ‘anachronisms’ as the foundation of their own society. Furthermore, that nation, the Amarr Empire, had beaten them to space and kept pace in technology, even possessing some advantages in certain respects, like the jump drive. This was something the mainstream Gallente scientific thinking could, but would not predict. To them, it could not be just because it could never be.
Likewise, the Empire had little understanding of the concept of secularism, let alone the separation of church and state, making the culture shock mutual. This brings us back to the Sani Sabik in general and the Blood Raiders in particular. Much like the other ugly heretical offshoots of the Faith like the Takmahl and the Equilibrium of Mankind, they came to be before the Empire’s first contact with an equally advanced nation. Hence, when they split, they took with them the concept of an organized religion – and its characteristic Amarr pervasiveness on all levels of society – like something mundane, something so culturally ingrained in them that they would not consciously think to abandon it straight away.
The difference is in what they have chosen to do with it. The Amarr Rite is well-meaning in spirit, if not always in practice. One could describe it as a chief – but, of course, far from the only – example of a religion serving to lay down ground rules for societal development and establish a basic code of ethics that enables us to function as a civilization. Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal and so on.
The Sani Sabik have different core tenets that directly contradict, even refute these principles. Casting all the chaff aside, they boil down to ‘power is everything’. As a concept, it is a deceptively simple, even primitive one. A notable part of its survivability is in that it’s not necessarily wrong – power does matter, it’s just that the Sani Sabik prefer to ignore the concept of responsibility that should normally go along with it.
Instead, they, as a cult, society or even a state, prefer to revert to what is basically primal human instincts. Given that piracy can be described as these instincts taken to an extreme, it is no surprise that the Blood Raiders could easily apply the Sani Sabik tenets to preying upon shipping lines. It’s an interesting question regarding what came first – the philosophy or the piracy, or, rather, whether the Blood Raiders tried to justify their new ‘lifestyle’ to themselves. Ultimately, it’s a moot point by now, as they – and their philosophy - have undergone some notable changes since then.
In the end, the Blooder Raiders cannot and should not be stereotyped as adherents of a ‘religion of evil’ so popular in fiction. Such a movement would never gain traction with a large segment of the general population, for it would be inherently self-destructive. For a most relevant example, see the Equilibrium of Mankind – a group with a reputation for acts of wanton violence and terrorism to rival that of the Raiders. The EoM is its own worst enemy – so savage, unstable and beyond all reason that it practically forces itself into obscurity and thus will never be more than an annoyance compared to the real problems plaguing the cluster.
The Blood Raiders stand for truth, or, rather, one jagged shard of it. If they were anything like the EoM, they would have long since turned on each other and spared us all the trouble. In fact, they might do just that if they were to run out of external enemies. There are similarities in that much like with the EoM, the Blood Raider philosophy is also unsustainable in the end due to a complete lack of any social contract – everyone is out to backstab everyone at some point, the only question is as to ‘when’.
However, where the EoM desires chaos, the Covenant desires power and is able to, paradoxically, defy its own unstable nature for as long as there is anyone to project that power at. Its ‘religion’ has long since stopped being a higher purpose, if it ever was one – owing to the malleability of their core insight, it becomes a very versatile tool built around and easily adapted to serve their basic, primal lust for more power in all its shapes and forms. Fit whatever their agenda is at the time, keep the more unhinged members from venting their aggression at each other and intimidate their enemies – its applications are many, but its adherents believe less in the nebulous Red God and more in the far more tangible concept of power.
They care relatively little for what comes after death – where core concept of the Amarr Rite is to prepare to face God’s judgement in the afterlife, the more ‘pious’ Blood Raiders claim to seek to avoid it by becoming immortal or even replacing the Red God altogether. What matters to them most is what’s right here and now, and it absolutely has to be asserted over someone else. Every life to take, every victim to bleed, every slave to abuse, every look of horror on a fresh captive’s face — they crave all of it, and they would gleefully see the rest of humanity burn if it got in their way. Or just burn, for the hell of it.
They don’t even have to believe in a Red God in the first place – the Covenant owes its status of an existential threat to the cluster in no small part to how egalitarian they actually seem to be compared to the normally elitist Sabik sects when it comes to recruitment. While the Sabik creed generally states that humanity is separated into the potentially immortal ‘chosen’ and their servants at birth, the Covenant offers its new recruits a chance to become one of these chosen – they need only but join and survive. Thus, the only real requirement a prospective Blooder faces is to surrender their humanity at the door. Race, creed and even beliefs do not matter. Only power and the means to assert it do.
What the Blood Raider Covenant represents is not just a religion, but a malignant, corrupting ideology utterly alien to the universally understood concepts of ethics, an ideology that has given birth to not a mere cult or a pirate gang, but a full-fledged and extremely belligerent rogue state with a very warped and immoral mindset.
This may not even be the first time this has happened, as the Takmahl came to be in remarkably similar circumstances and played similarly fast and loose with conventional morality. Given the notably advanced – and notably disturbing – nature of the bits and scraps of their technology archaeologists have salvaged over the years, it is, perhaps, for the best that their society collapsed upon itself before reestablishing contact with any other civilizations.
However, the reasons for such a collapse remain a mystery. Or do they?
3. Misanthropy as a Virtue
The Covenant’s overall worldview bears signs of what can be called a ‘siege mentality’, but the term would be somewhat of a misnomer – unlike some of the less belligerent Sani Sabik sects, the Blood Raiders do not have a persecution complex, they believe themselves the hunters and everyone else their prey. I prefer to call it an ‘Us vs. Them’ attitude.
Again, a little bit of comparison is in order. Roughly speaking, the four major factions of the cluster can be divided into two types. The Amarr Empire and the Gallente Federation are the ‘expansionist’ type – one views those beyond its borders as wayward kin in need of spiritual guidance, the other seeks to spread its idea of a perfect society to everyone else. The Caldari State and the Minmatar Republic are an ‘insular’ type, who would prefer to keep to themselves and for the others to do the same.
None of the four are inherently hostile to each other on an ideological level, if you’re willing to look past the centuries-old baggage of historical grievances. Certain irreconcilable differences exist, of course, but the signatories of the Yulai Accords do not seek outright extermination of each other – I would describe the underlying issues of modern international relations as fundamentally different views on the concept of greater good instead. However, the Blood Raiders manage to combine the two worldviews outlined above into a thoroughly perverted combination that deliberately places itself at odds with the concept of civilization as whole, and certainly does not have anyone’s interests at heart but their own. They see themselves and only themselves as a superior people - and the rest as subhuman vermin to be actively hunted, enslaved, abused and killed just for the fun of it. They do not ask themselves ‘why,’ they ask ‘why not’. To a lot, if not most of them, the unsavory acts they are famous for are more of a macabre form of recreation, rather than ritualism.
In fact, allow me to go off on a tangent here a bit – do not fear the Blooders who torture people for fun. They get more excited, even exhilarated by the act of taking lives rather than playing with them. Their victims meet a terrible end, but are spared from the terror with no end.
Fear the ones who do it out of boredom, those who would treat you as an insect with plenty of limbs to tear off. They will make sure you last for a long, long time – you’re no good to them dead – and they’ll get very, very creative.
That digression into personal experience aside, the Blood Raiders have succeeded in excising practically any sort of empathy for the fellow man amongst themselves. Even other outlaw groups hold themselves to some kind of moral standard, no matter how paper-thin it might be. Salvador Sarpati, who is seemingly having the time of his life living out a supervillain fantasy, still sent aid – gratis! – in the wake of the Seylin disaster, to a Federation he had sworn a vendetta against. Even Sansha Kuvakei was once motivated by a dream of utopian society that would benefit all. Perhaps, in his twisted mind, he still believes himself a messiah and a savior to this day.
To the Covenant or its individual members, there are no such moral limits or anchors, only obstacles.
Omir Sarikusa doesn’t care for you, your lives or your morality, and neither do his Blood Raiders. You are either with them or below them, and, as mentioned above, their recruitment criteria are somewhat specific. Generally, few people fit those – and thank God for that – but those that succeed and are accepted as part of the Covenant seem to be precisely the sort of unhinged crazies the Blooders love to keep around as cannon fodder and useful idiots to maintain their image of a violent cult. A cult, but not a state, because being seen as a state would make the threat they represent much more obvious.
4. An Old Threat Come Anew
A society built on misanthropy seems preposterous, yet the Blood Raiders have accomplished just that. They might not have even been the first to do so. That dubious honor probably belongs to the Takmahl, who may have been akin to a conflagration that demanded more and more human fuel as it consumed everything in its reach, including itself, before sputtering out. Their purported successors have no such problems – they have an entire universe to set fire to.
The Blood Raiders have avoided that one pitfall of their predecessors – or ancestors, according to one interesting fringe theory – by directing their hostility outwards. They have done so with a cold cunning we do not expect from what we tend to think of as mad zealots, ensuring stability for their inherently toxic society by uniting it in the face of an external enemy, or anyone they perceive as one. They are certainly not mad, and their sanity only makes them much more dangerous.
They are not content with mere raiding. Their fleets encroach upon empire mining operations. The Crimson Harvests have become an annual occurrence. Their shipwrights have developed a full range of capital ships. Their spies and sleeper agents are everywhere, and the very existence of someone like the Blood Chamberlain serves as a warning that they could infiltrate the highest echelons of any society – in fact, it might as well be expected of them, as part of their lust for more power. They would have us believe that they are just a nuisance while they proceed with their master plan, but the ruse has grown to such unwieldy proportions that you can easily catch glimpses of something terrifying through the cracks nonetheless.
I haven’t the slightest clue as to what this plan might be, but there is historical precedent for a group previously dismissed as irrelevant suddenly propelling itself to the status of a grave, if not existential threat to the cluster and humanity. That threat, of course, is Sansha’s Nation, human minds (or rather, one mind) shackled to the indifferent amorality of a machine.
Yet, no machine would ever match the horrors and cruelty an unshackled human mind could come up with. It is not too generous of an assumption to make that if the Covenant were to demonstrate its true power, it would not do so subtly or mercifully. Given their whole raison d’être, that they would do so appears to be an inevitability.
Perhaps they will not dare. One instinct that can override even the base lust for power is that of self-preservation. After all, the calamities and catastrophes of the past decade should have made the four empires and ourselves much more vigilant. Perhaps, even if it does make its move, we will be able to check its advance before it can inflict as much damage as Sansha’s drones did in YC 112.
One can hope. Nevertheless, there is no harm in stockpiling extra ammunition. Just in case.