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Dawn of the Iron Period
In 2998 tgc, the non-Lyran Noctian Prince Amounkoros Sidêreos dam Vosch was selected by a panel of Psyches and delegates from the various involved powers to assume the role of Secretary-General and Superintendent of the Thessian Archipelago. Dam Vosch's reputation as a diplomat outside of the Expanse and with the Globkhrovian Mission bestowed him with a rare popularity, and many of the States Aspirant (the significant competitors during the Interim) held him in high regard. Sworn to abide by the advice of his expansive counsel, he was named disúpatos (dictator) in a ceremony on 3000–01–02. Thus began the Iron Dynasty, which would rule the Islands through peace and hardship as a de facto monarchy until shortly after the turn of the sixth millennium.

It may seem odd that such a diverse culture as that of the Shattered Place could have its needs accommodated by a self-described tyrant. Several of the city-states of the Archipelago were still ruled by councils that had persisted autonomously from the Reed Delegacy. To make sense of this, it is important to understand both the cultural context of Thet at the start of the fourth millennium, and the complexities of the credentials and counsellors that made Prince Amounkoros such an eligible head of state.

During the Iron Period, Thet's great cities each established or re-established ties to civilisations that provided financial backing, exclusive trade arrangements, defence agreements, and so on. Usually these patronages resulted in a certain amount of mutually-assured destruction, which contributed to the overall stability of the Archipelago, though there were exceptions. Worth noting is that many of the outer belt cities had arrangements that did not match their builders; this reflects the gradual homogenization of Thet, especially during the Reed and Interim I periods.

New Lilikoisa or Keli Doisseia. The government in the city of Dis had a remarkable lineage that remained unbroken for the entirety of the Iron era. Its authority had been transferred peacefully and successfully since the era of the Shattering, and it continued to function under an adulterated Reed dendrarchy, with what was once the City Council of Dis now serving as the Acting Praesidium. At the start of the Iron Period, when competition for patronages replaced open conflicts in the Archipelago, and the many city-states evolved into national capitols, the Dis Council had just captured Regenelia and established its suite of devolved councils there. This era of Dependent or Dissean Regenelia was brief, however; as the other states argued the old capitol should be common ground, first as a centre for international government and later as a federal administrative region. Likely, the XTAA, LCC, and CTO co-conspired that Thet should return to a single government, both as assurances that further internal strife would be eliminated and to provide autonomy and solidarity in case of aggression by the Hogedep, Globkhro Federation, or another, non-Expanse power.

Archiva and Collegia. Ceremonially administrated by the LCC, the Lyran cities weathered the interim period with the most eventful chronicles of any of the major population centres. Conflicts arose as other polities viewed the Lyran hoard with envy, then as the Archivans and Collegians moved to pre-empt such threats, and finally whenever people disliked the thought of an AI having the power to declare war. Forcing human oversight on the Lyran Psyches SYMBOL, TIANHE, NEMESIS, and EUREKA was a major goal of rebuilding the parliament in Regenelia. It is also to the Interim era that we owe the modern military manufacturies of Archivan fame: Geglokimoto, Burteko Archivan, Metapolan Polemous, etc.

Kunan. Under predominantly Telaian leadership during the Iron era, Kunan held the title of gateway between the inner and outer belts: beyond it, the Lilitai and Lyrisclensiae were vanishingly scarce, and industry dominated over inter-brane commerce as the major economic activity. Kunanoten's Hatel-installed Psyches were already mostly extant in early Iron Thet, but had no governmental authority until the Quill Republic, centuries after the end of the Iron system. Although primarily aligned with the XTAA geopolitically, the people of Kunanoten inherited the Commonwealth rivalry with the Trestunarion, and this can be identified as a major contribution to their hostilities with Collegia and Archiva during the Interim. It would become important again during the disunity and chaos that gave rise to the Gryphon period.

Nionosca. The largest human city in the outer belts. It shares its name with a city on Thessia Major that was destroyed during the Shattering. The population of both places has generally been predominantly Cossipian. In the early years of the Reed period, Nionosca was seen primarily as a major centre for bulk mineral and ore shipments. By around 200 tgc, its reputation had matured, and was known as the hub for all CTO-originated people, including the Hatel. With the re-settling of Kunanoten c. 1500 tgc, Nionosca experienced a substantial talent drain of people moving back to that more prestigious city, and was direly neglected and mismanaged by the start of the Iron period. The remnants of its Reed municipal council were abolished and new talent appointed by plebiscite, starting a dynasty of Ritzang leadership that was often quite effective despite playing into a public image of vain and frivolous despotism. In time, Nionosca would reclaim the Cossipian reputation for excellence in fine art, thanks to an unwritten norm of supporting minority cultures.

The legacy of the name Nionosca and the culture that flourished in its streets is highly important. When first built on Thessia Major, the city of Nionosca was the capital of Nosica, a polar community in the distant southern latitudes of the world. It represented a promise that the Cossipi would always have a place where they belonged, together, without squatting on the turf of cultures that retained a singular ethnic identity. In the harsh environment, the state of Nosica never offered an easy life, but as the Nosicans were determined to prove themselves, they built it up into a fantastic monument to their own determination. Unfortunately this made it a breeding ground for exceptionalism, modelled no doubt in part on the national myths of the other human groups on Thet. This angst had long-lasting consequences after the Shattering, and many historians hostile to Nionosca have profited handsomely, without much dishonesty, by charging its people with both the collapse of the Reed Praesidium and the invention of the Gryphon movement, along with numerous periods of instability and crisis during the Reed and Iron eras. It is one of the great ironies of Thessian history that xenophobia and fascism blossomed in a place founded on its inclusiveness.

Velanner. During the later years of the Interim, the military fortress that had ruled the outer cities with a tight fist provoked war with the Commonwealth by attempting to steal Psyche technology, which they had evidently meant to use as the basis for an army of disposable, semi-sentient infantry. Appalled, the Trestunarion insisted that the Hatel take punitive measures against the Wanisinese-backed junta, which they did in 2953 with a fleet action combining the Messier-class general vehicle Dirty Limerick and Freudian Cigar, the ex-Pesense Druyan-class flagship Community Service, and the Dymaxion-class basestar Paved With Good Intentions (See: Hatel ships). Thereafter, Velanner became a major hub of Hatel activity, and was the primary port for all Commonwealth ships visiting the Expanse. Hatel interest in the Expanse as a whole tapered off in the later 4700s, though, and this probably contributed to the rise of Gryphon-antecedent politics.

Tlemakot. Although little of it remained after the Shattering, the Tletkettoyic capital was incorporated into the Archivan suburb of Archaia early in the Reed period. It enjoyed substantial autonomy in the Iron era owing to the Physaru Independence Movement that saw the region break away from Collegian rule early in the Interim. Until the start of the Gryphon era, the rings between Archiva and Penethem were divided laterally between the Physarai-led Independent Tlemezil and the now Epyesti-dominated city of Tokaran. Tlemezil never technically swore fealty to the Sidêreos crown in Regenelia, but maintained positive relations and is usually thought of as an autonomous region instead of a separate nation-state like the countries of the Interim. Tlemakot's governance was Reed-like, with fewer tiers and very heavy reliance on referenda, which had also been true of certain phases of Tletketti government.

Tokaran. In the late Reed period it was abandoned by the Pesenese, who had migrated to other cities because their own capital, built early in the colonial era, was physically inaccessible to most other sentient species: most corridors in the fully-contiguous, hive-like structure measured less than a metre in diameter. As the Epyesteyi rose to prominence in the early third millennium tgc, largely due to Hogedep indifference allowing them access to trade routes past Hogemethok, Tokaran was re-inhabited by them, making it Thet's first machine city. During the Gryphon era, Tokaran, its Epyesti citizenry, and many Pesenese allies and refugees were left unharmed by the great purges that swept the Archipelago, quarantined and isolated from the rest of the universe but otherwise intact. (It is generally believed that Ivilon Desqrit herself was convinced that the Epyesteyi possessed some sort of vacuum-energy bomb because of the proximity of their homeworld Makta to the Hava Vortex.) In the Iron era proper, Tokaran was governed by a typical example of Pesenese direct democracy, though, like many machine governments, consensus was the norm.

Ababúa. Built by the Peseneyi during the late Reed period, it was occupied also by substantial Physaru populations who had migrated to the remnants of Thessia Minor because of its wealth of transuranic elements, a key nutrient for their species. The heart of the city remains human-inaccessible to this day, but many Telai and Cossipi from Nionosca settled in the periphery regardless, for the lucrative and sometimes hazardous mineral extraction opportunities. Ababúa's government in the Iron period was Reed-like, but no council had more than four members, exacerbating greatly the embarrassment of tiers found in the Delegacy proper. Unlike in Tokaran, Penethem, and other Thessian Pesenese cities from the Reed era, Ababúans almost always elected both suit and occupant to separate seats, meaning many of the councils actually consisted of two couples. Outside of Thet, this practice of co-election was common in Pesenese republics, including the Pesenese Union.

Dúnédan. Settled by Cossipi from Nionosca in 1500 tgc, Dúnédan's orbit took it into the proximity of Velanner during the Interim, and it became the centre of Velanner's manufacturing industry, becoming the second city of Velanner's political bloc and one of the most important in the Archipelago in that epoch. During the dismantling of Velanner, the Treaty of 2954 saw Dúnédan partitioned by the CTO, XTAA, and Hatel Commonwealth into three special administrative regions, which together were ruled by a triumvirate of diplomats; this system lasted only a few decades before the coronation of Amounkoros I and the return of a conventional devolved parliament. It is debated to what extent the Wanisinese influence in Dúnédan re-emerged during the Iron Dynasty; certainly the city's people were prepared to receive the ideas of Ivilon Desqrit by the start of the sixth millennium, but this could also have been cultural momentum from their previous ties to Velanner, or simply an inevitability of the Nosican substrate. That said, there is almost universal consensus that Wanisinese influence in Thet was effectively ended by the Gryphon Republic, as the throne on Wanisin was held by three foreigners and one ekela with no royal blood in the period following the Consolidation.

Penethem. Just ahead of Velanner, the old capital of Tathéa was already a relic of a bygone era by the time of the Shattering, one in which the New Pesenese Union believed it could keep the peace between the human nations of Thet by administering an international government. They saw the division between the humans as a regression, and sought to reunify the species. Like the original Union before it, the NPU's efforts were highly successful and grounded in close personal relationships, but had unforeseen consequences—in this case, what we have come to call the Identity Crisis. Following the banning of respecification technology, factionalism and racism would never again be completely eradicated in Thet. In the Reed and Iron eras, Penethem had a mostly Pesenese population; the humans who lived there were predominantly post-racial respeccers. It was caught up in both the Velanner and Independent Tlemazil instabilities of the Interim Period, and was seriously economically stagnant for most of the Iron era, being propped up by private donors and outside aid for many long centuries. Near the end of the Iron era it was a major destination for trade with Tokaran, Link developers, and non-Epyesteyic AIs because of the near-convergence of three Link nodes, ι, τ, and υ. Completely unique among Thessian democracies, Penethem's municipal government was based on the Westminster system after the collapse of the Praesidium, as it had been before the Shattering.

The Portal of Ages. One of several key sites built by non-state actors in Thet, the P.o.A. is a gallery-like building containing stable topological discontinuities that connect to other spots within the brane. The structure was originally built by the Planar Sentry for rapid deployment, but its use was discontinued shortly before the Shattering following the discovery that some of the portals had degraded and were unsafe to traverse. The building was thereafter treated like the site of a nuclear disaster and has been quarantined since. By 200 tgc, most of the portals within had drifted or were knocked away from useful destinations; of those that still work, almost all point to random patches of open space within the Archipelago. Folk legend asserts that Tetragnostica occasionally uses the facility, and is able to discern which portals are safe to traverse.

Kunika and Oklan. These smaller cities have similar histories and are sometimes called twins. They were both founded in the wake of the Shattering, when city-ships were wrecked: Kunika was the Hatel Xianjing-class Ming the Merciless, and Oklan was a Hogedepi ship, the Ôñ-shaäzhôk. Both became pirate coves. The Psyche MING was perhaps the biggest reason for Kunika's success, as it sought to find a unique life for itself. By the start of the Iron era, rule of law at least nominally had reached both, though crime remained rampant.

Hephaestus Station. Originally this massive shipyard orbited Thessia Minor, where it was built by the Tletkettoyi early in the Grand War. Tugboats would sling asteroids from the outer debris field toward Thessia Minor's orbit, aimed and timed precisely so that they would settle near the station and be easily strip-mined into useful craft. During the planetary colonial era and the Reed era, Hephaestus was mostly an academic fascination, aside from Myenga's proof-of-concept demonstration that the factory could be used to produce myengasomes. In 2709, partisans from Velanner re-activated the factory, using it to produce a fleet of corvettes for patrolling the airspace around Dúnédan. It fell dormant after a major accident a few years later, in 2718, which resulted in substantial loss of life among the workers aboard and rendered the foundries inoperable. Accusations of foul play, enemy sabotage, ghosts, reckless management, and lingering Tletkettoyic defences gave the station a reputation for being haunted, and it lay dormant into the Gryphon era, despite many ill-fated expeditions during the Iron Dynasty. Link-based backdoors, as well as several Link-based Tletkettoyic AIs, were eventually discovered by Consolidated members of the Quill Resistance, and reactivation of Hephaestus was an integral part of how the group obtained hard power.

Ocula Monitoring Station Network. Built by the IiT in the late fourth millennium iky, this system of satellites was constructed in response to reports by Tetragnostica of the impending instability of the Thessian brane. Built to provide an early warning system in case of catastrophe, the OMSN proved worse than useless, as it gave a false sense of security that there would be advance notice of disaster. While the network's data was immensely useful once collected, Thet's populace would have been better served with more bunkers. Post-Shattering, the Ocula network has mainly been used to pass data for Myengasomes; aside from ownership disputes between Lyran groups, its history has rarely been newsworthy.