The Ulthar crèche is the first of many proving grounds for Ulthar young. Once screened for genetic imperfections, newborn Ulthar are placed in small groups where for the next phase of the orbital cycle they will struggle to survive and grow. Exposure to violence and limited food ensures that rarely more than three in ten Ulthar young survive their first crèche. The Warlord to be later known as Ra’Leigh was the sole survivor of his own crèche, learning quickly that aggression and overwhelming tenacity was the only path to guaranteed survival.
His potential as a warrior quickly recognized, Ra’Leigh soon moved on to formal training. Unlike most Ulthar fresh from the crèche, Ra’Leigh showed no discomfort in fitting into the disciplined hierarchy of physical and martial training. He excelled at all assigned tasks, especially combat. Ra’Leigh soon proved himself a gifted tactician and capable thinker.
Ulthar born to the Warlord Caste are exposed to each of the lesser paths. A true Warlord must know the strengths and weaknesses of the other Castes. Many potential Warlords choose to excel in a lesser Caste rather than risking their lives battling for a position as Warlord. Ra’Leigh showed no great love or aptitude for the way of the Sagittarius. It was not in his nature to hide from conflict. He enjoyed the martial lessons of the Libra; and he excelled at all forms of combat. Still Ra’Leigh was restless and ill-tempered with that path’s more esoteric bent. The ways of the Scorpio he found almost as cowardly as that of Sagittarius. It was not in his nature to hit and run; Ra’Leigh preferred to meet the enemy head on and defeat them with strength and skill. Finally at the age of maturation he was offered the chance to strive for a position of Aquarius Warlord.
Only one thousand Ulthar are chosen to attempt the path to Warlord status from each generation, and of those all are Aquari, the current dominant caste of the empire. In times past other castes have given the Ulthar Empire its martial leaders. To become a Warlord is the greatest honor an Ulthar can obtain. Of each thousand more often than not only a single Ulthar would live to attain Warlord status.
Ra’Leigh jumped at the chance. Thus began his training in the Pits of Neptune. Fighting in groups or alone the young aspirants trained in tactics and single combat. Each week they fought battles against slaves of the empire. Teams of aspirants battled against Taurus Herds or confronted mighty Aries in elaborate and shifting battlefields, with their exploits broadcast throughout the empire to salve the bloodlust of its citizens. After a year in the Pits the weak had fallen away and only the most gifted or vicious remained. And among those watching on throughout the empire, a rising star was emerging.
Having faced the myriad dangers of the Pits, he moved on to the Reaving. Here Ra’Leigh and his rival aspirants were taught the arts of ground assault and leadership. Each commanding a small platoon of Pisces warriors, the aspirants engaged in daring hit and run raids to capture slaves, destroy objectives or simply to sow terror. Grueling training in piloting, mapping, survival and tactics eventually culminated in raiding operations. Those aspirants given command of their own raiding crafts were set lose on the fringes to attack and destroy. Many were killed or lost in space failing to master any one of the subtle arts of hit and run. To the grander Ulthar Empire such losses were acceptable in the development of a Warlord. Ra’Leigh loved the danger, though. Freedom to plan his attacks, freedom to strike when and where he chose. Leading Ulthar he himself had trained, rushing down the boarding ramp screaming defiance to the skies and rushing to close with the enemy as the madness of battle surrounded him, these were things he treasured. Never was Ra’Leigh more alive than during his raiding years. He stunned many when he successfully raided Ergo, the Taurus home world, capturing as his personal slave the mighty warrior Gorgoroth. During this same raid he ambushed two of his rivals destroying them and taking their ships and crews for his own.
The penultimate test was more primal, more basic – that of single combat. This was the culminating exercise of personal combat training for the remaining aspirants. Each aspirant was paired against another for the entertainment of the Ulthar Empire. Ra’Leigh defeated his opponent bare handed in single combat to the howling cheers of the Empire. Throwing down his weapons was more than bravado; it was proof to himself and the watching Warlords that he was born to conquer, and none were his equal.
At last the final few were taken under the wing of established Warlords. Learning to command and operate alone and survive on the fringes was a valuable skill. But to be a Warlord you must command the great Ulthar fleets.
Ra’Leigh was taken aboard the mighty patriaship ‘Tyrant’s Star’ and there he learned the final mysteries of command from the hand of Warlord Ya’Slan. The ability to navigate the stars was old hat to a master Reaver like Ra’Leigh. But to navigate the worm holes and the dimensional flux was a new challenge. Years later Warlord Ya’Slan would watch on with pride as Ra’Leigh lead his fleet to victory against the last of his rivals.
Only the final test remained. The Inward Eye was in many ways the most difficult and challenging trial for the might Ra’Leigh. It was also his least rewarding. For months he trained with Gemini caste, learning to unlock the inner powers of the Ulthar. He lived in the silence of the meditation tanks with only the mental chatter of the twins to guide him. Ra’Leigh strove to harness the power of his mind. Rival aspirants from his class fell away; their minds ripped asunder by the challenge of the Inward Eye, as they stared deep within and could not cope with what they saw. In the end this too he mastered, his will too great to be overcome, and he was gifted with the title of Warlord. But success was a bitter fruit for Ra’Leigh.
Ra’Leigh became bored. No wars were a challenge to him. No triumph remained to give him greater glory. For years he drifted, showered with glory and commendations from the Empire, proud of this noble son, leading a fleet in circles without the joy of conquest. He turned his attention to gathering about him the best of the Ulthar Empire. They were small and petty victories against other Warlords, but it was the only fight he had left. He gathered his best and brightest and trained them without mercy until they were the best. Gorgoroth at his side, he recruited Xyllian, Master Sagittarius; the greatest Gemini twins of the Empire – X and Y; Stinger, the paramount Scorpio Fencer; Stormblades, Libra Sensei, and his own teacher in personal combat. He gathered these great heroes and more to his side. Then there came the attempted invasion of Earth.
When the invasion floundered, and the Ulthar fleet retreated Ra’Leigh stayed. Here at last was a challenge worthy of him. A race of beings powerful and diverse enough to repel the Empire represented everything Ra’Leigh longed for. Glory was on Earth. He moved his patriaship into the shadow of the moon. From here he has sent his most trusted Caste Masters to learn the secrets of this truculent world. So they have been here walking among us learning our secrets. Sometimes Ra’Leigh will grow restless and lead an assault on Pulp City to once more gauge the strength of its Supremes. Ra’Leigh knows one day his chance will come and he alone will conquer Earth and his name will echo eternal as the greatest Warlord ever spawned by the Ulthar Empire.