The warmth of the Tao star never touches the surface of the true nightside of planet Tao leaving it frozen and steeped in darkness. However, beneath the crust of snow and ice lies the major landmass of the world and its raw materials to be mined. Edric Leontes saw the Wusong owned penitentiary, known as The Wendigo, as the perfect opportunity to exploit the imperial house's holdings as well as the planet's resources for further gain. Originally intended to hold seditious criminals of Meridian, Edric Leontes (on behalf of the emperor) struck an agreement with the offworld Glenstajj Mining Corporation. Together, they expanded the tunnels of the underground prison turning it into a forced labor camp. Prisoners were divided into gangs led by foremen who reported directly to the Warden, thus mirroring the hierarchy of the houses of the Pantheon. Edric hopes to use the metals and ore recovered from the Wendigo in use for the construction of rockets which will shift the balance of power of the Pantheon away from House Julii and back toward the imperial line.
Not all Nightsiders of Tao belong to the noble houses of the Pantheon. While the patricians of Tao are the descendants of the commanding officers of the Great Song, the underclass, or plebeians, are the inheritors of the common soldiers of Miral's first great military. They now comprise the ordinary inhabitants of Meridian, the megalopolis which spans the vertical equator of Tao. The underclass occupied the street-level architecture of the planet where ice meets water, then dug deeper into the crust of Tao creating massive arcology pits as their numbers swelled. Many work in the harbors, hydroponic farms, and factories owned by the Pantheon and struggle under a feudal system which allows the nobility to own the profit of their labor. They tire under this depressive economic system where the only way out of servitude has been to triumph in the death matches of the "Under Circuit", the elimination competitions for the lower classes to enter the Combat. Now, the founding of the Julii Academy which accepts the children of the underclass to be schooled and trained as soldiers, seems a way to recapture their warrior heritage without the sacrifice of life.
Sigil - The Manta
Colors - Turquoise and Ivory
Lineage - The fourth of the "high" houses of the Pantheon, House Mughal's forebears were the commanders of the special forces units within the Miralian military. Their descendants have thus developed the reputation of being adrenaline seekers and perhaps slightly off-kilter. The Mughal family solidified its economic position on Meridian through the development of high-speed, sound powered transportation, also known as "screamers". Their economic growth has been severely hampered in recent decades, however, as the Emperor Wusong open R&D to non-noble family-owned companies like the Tao-Trans corporation, who developed the Banshee Rail - a high-speed, public transportation system that serves all of Meridian, including the Underclass.
Sigil - The Mako
Colors - Crimson and Brass
Lineage - House Flanders is one of the four "high" houses of the Pantheon which include Wusong, Julii, and Mughal. While House Julii monopolized interstellar trade, Flanders sought it's wealth through lucrative construction contracts and operations. It is said that the great capital city of Meridian was built on the backs of the stalwart House Flanders. The Flanders family is notorious for breeding strong, sturdy, physically able men and women and many a Combat champion was crowned under the Mako banner. However, their belief in their own physical superiority has often cause them to overlook their weaknesses in the mental art of politics.
Sigil - The Orca
Colors - Purple and Obsidian
Lineage - House Julii is one of the oldest and wealthiest of the Pantheon, tracing its lineage back to one of The Great Song's commanders. House Julii has maintained a dominant position within the Pantheon through the physical strength of its male heirs and a monopoly over the construction of rockets. House Julii has long been instrumental in diminishing the powers of the Wusong emperors and is viewed as the most likely threat to imperial hegemony. The Wusong alliance with upstart House Leontes, in tandem with the advent of the opening of the new Fracture Point and decline of Tao's natural resources, has escalated the rivalry between the families.
Sigil - The Leviathan
Colors - Dark Blue and Silver
Lineage - Named for Leontes, an Ancient Anjin Captain of the Miral Empire who held off a massive force of ten thousand starships with only a squadron of Anjins during the Chironean Civil War. House Leontes is the first family accepted into the Pantheon in almost 700 years, breaking the tradition of each of family representing a commander of the Great Song’s army, who originally defected from the Miralian Empire and established the colony of Tao.
Sigil - The Sea Ape
Colors - Green and Gold
Lineage - Supreme Bushi Tamerlane Song was the commander of the great armies of the Miralian Empire. However, he led a rebellion against the High Matriarchy of his masters. When it was clear that the Empire could not be overcome through force of arms, he took his followers into deep space searching the Fracture for a planet beyond the reach of the Empire. After wandering ten years, he found Tao. Setting foot on the edge of ice and water separating the Night and Day sides of the planet, he founded his colony, the noble houses of the Pantheon led by each of his generals, and declared himself ruler of a new dynasty. Over the generations Song morphed to Wusong and the Imperial House gave up absolute rule. However, Patriarchs of the house are still considered emperors, heads of the Pantheon, spiritual leaders, and hold permanent seats on the High Synod which governs the body politic.
The Nightside of Tao is populated by the tall, pale, fair-haired race of former bred soldiers who fled the ancient Miralian Empire. They inhabit the mega-city of Meridian which spans the vertical equator of the World of Tao. The commanding officers took the names of their genetic templates when forming the noble Houses of the Pantheon.