War in the Heavens: Dark Energy
Of course there are as many kinds of “Barbarian” as the square of known worlds— at least! — before you even leave the boundaries of teh Empire. But outside the reaches of the Empire proper lie at least two human interstellar civlizations worth noting.
The Vuldrok Star Nation evolved out of the collapse of the Second Republic. As the fifth millenium approached, many were wary of the complexity and interdependence of the Republic, and some— libertarians, anarchists, communists, and even some semi-nomadic culture groups with ties to Ancient Urth, gravitated outward away from the core worlds of the Republic to its fringes, choosing to “live free” as colonists under the heavy strain of carving out survival on distant worlds, than live under the “yoke” of a civilization that had given even commoners astonishing comfort and free time through technology.
As the millenium approached, superstitious dread increased, and in their hubris, Republican scientists continued to publish their findings to the general public, believing that all people were suited to true understanding. The news that a universe-wide phenomenon of stars dimming and winking out was being noticed spread like wildfire. The Republic collapsed, and many worlds, including those that would become the Star Nation, closed their jumpgates.
Among them were a few key forward-thinking individuals, who though they loathed authoritarian government, understood the power of cultural identity that Nobles had harnessed to cement their elite status. And so the Vuldrok language and customs, recreations of ancient Urth Scandinavian culture, as well as several other ancient cultures, became increasingly popular on Vuldrok worlds.
A millenium later, the Vuldrok Star Nation has survived many tests of its “individualist cultures unnified” structure, and even prospers beyond the gates of worlds like Lemmenkainen, raiding other Barbarian worlds, each-other, and the Empire with great success. With several cultures and diverse gods, they are united by common customs and the “Althing,” once every 10 years on the mystically shrouded planet of Raven.
Another group well aware of the unitary success of Noble claims to culture, and likewise the authority weilded by the Universal Church, was a huge Second Republic mining megacorporation. As the Republic fell, the Megacorp put its long-developed plans into action, closing off gates between several of its key outlyin mining planets and the Republic, and causing a wave of religious fervor tied to ancient middle-eastern Urthish cultures, to sweep those same worlds. The result was that within 40 years of the fall, there was a new language, new form of the Universal Church, and fanatical devotion to the theocratic Caliph, across those worlds and their workers.
As time has passed, the Kurgan Caliphate has lost track of the truth of its origins, but has gained tremendous richness and mystery as its widely-distributed culture adapted to the numerous unique planets of the Caliphate. Its standards of education even for commoners are high, its prowess in battle is legendary, and it has stood its ground even against the might of the Empire and the savagery of the Vuldrok Star Nation.