The Kilrathi are an alien species that feature in the Wing Commander games.
The Kilrathi were a feline-based race that evolved on the sprawling savannas of Kilrah. Their earlier predatory forebears first learnt to hunt on their homeworld. In time, they began to develop intelligence and learnt to use their forepaws to fashion crude shelters. Such locations provided a refuge for them against he scalding acidic ash that emerged from the frequent massive volcanic eruptions on their tectonically unstable world. The advent of tool-making allowed them the capacity to begin to use tramps that allowed them to trap evasive prey that included a small intelligent chimp-like creature that was a delicacy among the Kilrathi. In time, communities began to develop and grow necessitating the need for larger hunting grounds. This led to a fierce territorial nature developing among the Kilrathi where they began using their weapons to kill other members of their kind. At that point, their history consisted largely of brutal civil wars with developing technology determining which faction proved to be the victor. Approximately four millennia ago, at the dawn of their civilization and the Cult of Sivar legend spoke of the Kilrathi homeworld was visited by a race of warrior-gods who descended from the stars. They challenged the natives of Kilrah to battle but when faced by the Kilrathi army they scorned the opposition. This race deemed the Kilrathi unworthy of their attention and departed the planet but these 'gods' promised to return in the future when the warriors of Kilrah were worthy.
It was the discovery of space travel that saw the Kilrathi expand their reach to other worlds which saw dozens of planets being turned into battlegrounds. For the next two centuries, the Kilrathi were engaged in a period of intra-species conflicts that culminated in the rise of two huge empires that battled to the death for dominance of the species as a whole. The victor of the conflict was declared the first Emperor of the Kilrathi following centuries of the bloody war. With the establishment of the Kilrathi Empire, the war-like power hungry race proceeded outwards as they brought conquest to other species living near their regions of space. These worlds. Many worlds were easily conquered by the Kilrathi with none of their foes possessing the technology or the force needed to combat the expansionist empire. Around two centuries ago, the Kilrathi encountered another alien race known as the Mantu who were an insular paranoid species of explorers as well as prospectors. It was not known who initiated hostilities but it sad believed that the Kilrathi likely started a conflict by attacking non-military Mantu vessels. The resultant conflict ended in a standoff and no Mantu ship had tried to cross or enter into Kilrathi space afterward the war. In the following 250 years, the Kilrathi began to aggrandize, villify and generally mythologised their former foe as was typical practice when fighting foes they could not defeat. In fact, it was well documented that the Kilrathi feared the return of the Mantu though this was attributed to being atavistic paranoia at leaving an enemy alive.
In 2629.105, a Terran ship called the Iason encountered a spacecraft of unknown origin that was actually a Kilrathi vessel. The human vessels commander Jedora Andropolos transmitted a wide-band non-verbal greeting and waited a response. However, the unidentified ship in less than twenty minutes proceeded to open fire with full lasers and destroyed the Iason along with its crew. The Confederation deep space tracking systems later managed to determine that the alien craft planet of origin was Kilrah.
By the next year, the Confederation Assembly made attempts at holding negotiations with the Kilrathi High Command but all such overtures were rejected. Despite this response, Confed formed a non-aggression policy towards the Kilrathi in an attempt to maintain falling relations but promised military action if further raids against their colonies and vessels were not stopped. These warnings were similarly ignored by the Kilrathi who instead began numerous raids against Confederation ships between the years 2629 and 2634. This culminated in 2364 when the Kilrathi attacked and destroyed the civilian transport Anna Magdalena that was carrying orphans to the planet Dieno with all occupants killed in the assault. As a result, the Confederation Assembly officially declared a state of warfare against the Kilrathi Empire on the 5th of July 2634 leading to the official start of the Kilrathi War.
Under the terms of the treaty with the Confederation, the Kilrathi began to dismantle their warships and change their ways. In the aftermath, they had attempted to rebuild their culture and adapt to a life of peace with them attempting to do so on the colony of Pasqual 10. In 2673, a Kilrathi convoy was heading to their new homeworld when it came under attack from a mysterious Terran faction. Assembly leader Melek managed to survive on-board his personal shuttle and was rescued by the Union of Border Worlds. Once there, he met his former foe Christopher Blair who helped escort Melek back to his home with the two making peace with one another. For their aid, Melek helped Blair by providing a technician specialised in cloaking technology to help defeat the hidden faction in Confederation who had made use of the same technology in their fighters.
One group that was still opposed to the Confederation were the Cult of Sivar with members of Clan T'Agg A'Bren being noted acolytes.
In appearance, Kilrathi were large bipedal feline based life forms that stood far larger than humans and were coated in fur with their hands possessing sharp claws. Their claws were strong enough to allow them to gut a humanoid and lift them in the air. Fur colouration varied greatly among the Kilrathi with some possessing golden fur whilst others more darker shades
In their civilization, Kilrathi society was highly hierarchical with them being divided into two different classes. These included the upper class nobility known as the Thrak'hra and a lower class called the Kilra'hra. Each of them were divided into a number of Hrai (Translation: Clans) that were composed of multiple Kilrathi that sought to preserve their bloodlines. There were eight clans of nobility that sat together in the Council of Eight that was a political organization beneath the Emperor. The clans consisted of the Caxki, Qarg, Kiranka, Ragitagha, Ki'ra, Kurutak, Sutaghi and Sihkag. A Kilrathi had their given them along with their clan name indicated the family they were born into and pledged allegiance. The indication of hrai was shown when after their given name they had nar Caxki or nar Kiranka that showcased the clan.
A Kilrathi's future both as a citizen and as a warrior was determined by their social status at birth. Only nobles had the right to rule and command whilst the commoners simply followed the orders of their leaders. All the Kilra'hra clans swore allegiance to one of the noble clans and across generations thus servitude had been passed on to one of these family lines. Kilra'hra obeyed their masters in everything and were not allowed to do anything without explicit permission. Thus, one of the most important aspects in Kilrathi culture was honor. Each Kilrathi must act in a manner that did not dishonor their race, master or their clan. Honour played a key role within their society and guided their actions. Individuals that were worthy of scorn were not interrogated or treated with honour but rather seen as maggots that were disposed of by the way of disintegration. However, those people that gained the attention of the Kilrathi as being worthy warriors were offered a different fate as these individuals were afforded a warrior's death.
Those that fell into dishonor commonly committed ritual suicide with thus being known as Zu'kara whereby they slashed their own throats. Such dishonor could range from dishonorable behavior in combat to unintentionally insulting a superior.
Being such a belligerent species, the Kilrathi never developed a specific taste for art in the same sense as a human may intend it: this is probably also a result of the Kilrathi history missing some real periods of peace where art and culture could flourish. What little the Kilrathi produced in form of orally transmitted or written art is obviously war oriented: myths of ancient Kilrathi warriors such as "Karga the Hero" or "Vorgath the Hunter" have been handed down next to songs, poems and reports of the deeds of past Kilrathi (emperors, nobles or warlords) who particularly distinguished themselves during some of the many battles the Kilrathi fought across the centuries. However, within the Kilrathi, such works are not intended as art, but rather as teachings, especially for the young who can learn what is expected from a true Kilrathi warrior. Another example of this kind of Kilrathi literature are the well known "Codices": this is a set of written principles with a profound value in Kilrathi culture, as they explain the Kilrathi concept of honor, and serve to pass on the militant culture to the next generation of Kilrathi.
Any other cultural aspect that in human civilization is usually related to art or aesthetics is mostly devoid of such concepts for the Kilrathi. Everything is built, produced or decorated according to strict rules of functionality. Kilrathi designers never developed an appreciation for order and symmetry, and therefore, their designs are frequently asymmetric and discordant by human standards. The imagery used is iconic and bold, oriented almost entirely towards glorifying previous battles and intimidating foes. For example dressings and warrior uniforms look unrefined, a peculiar mix of functionality and ornament, high-tech and primitive. Favorite colors for textile fabrics are reds, blacks and maroons and the decorations are almost exclusively symbols and insignia identifying the warrior's clan and family. Metallic textures and elements of personal armor (used mostly by nobles) lean toward gold, copper and blood-red colors.
Architecture is driven by these same principles of functionality and is adapted to the Kilrathi's peculiar taste for death and destruction. Kilrathi buildings bear evident resemblances to the primitive caves their ancestors used as lairs, since pillars and protrusions are often found rising from unlikely locations. Exposed machinery is common and ceilings are rarely enclosed, leaving cables and ductwork exposed. Details such as the dark lighting, high temperatures and low humidity favored by the Kilrathi complete the description of their constructions. Decorations are minimal and mostly represented by trophies of war such as pieces of captured or destroyed starships or the skulls of victims.
Much of the basis for the aggressive and expansionist element of Kilrathi society lay in their belief system. The events foretold in the Tome of Sivar had been used by religious propagandists throughout their history to justify their militaristic outlook. All battles were seen by the Cult of Sivar as a final preparation against the star-gods that had visited Kilrah in ancient times. In fact, the prophecy stated that if the Kilrathi had ever faltered than the star-gods would destroy any remnant of them and their conquerors. This was seen as a horrific prediction to the Kilrathi who viewed death of a blood-foe at another's hands to be a grave dishonor. Sivarist doctrine had always been explicit thst the star-gods of ancient myth were physical beings thst came to wage war with great magic but could be faced and maybe even conquered by a sufficiently prepared and resolute warrior race. Thus, whether unintentionally or with purpose, this race had set the Kilrathi on the path to be a warmongering species.
It was claimed that the Kilrathi were incapable of co-existence with other species. However, after the loss of Kilrah, the race was greatly humbled at their defeat and surrendered to their foe. This was because they felt that their kind must not die out as a race. An intrinsic Kilrathi trait was to either demonise or deify enemies that they could not defeat. They also tended to fear the return of such foes which was deemed a paranoid atavistic reaction to leaving an enemy alive.
In terms of religion, Kilrathi worshipped at least a single war deity who was known as Sivar. Worship was held by female Kilrathi who controlled all the religious factions and directed religious offerings as well as festivals. Devotion towards their god was achieved through fighting, hunting and offering captured prey in the temples dedicated to their war deity. All worship and celebration to Sivar was achieved through this manner. Chief among the ceremonies to the Kilrathi god was the Sivar-Eshrad that was celebrated every year and conducted on newly acquired territory. It was this fact that drove the Kilrathi to wage wars leading to confrontation against other races. The Sivar-Eshrad ceremony was the single most important within Kilrathi culture as it ensured that their fighting instincts and to kill their foes was directed towards their enemies. This also ensured that they did not direct their aggression inward where they could spark heated civil wars and clan warfare amongst their own people.
Another ritual was the Pukcal that translated to a ritual of atonement. The ceremony was performed with the aim of confessing ant private, minor dishonor to Sivar in the hope of receiving the god's forgiveness. This prevented the Kilrathi from committing mass suicide due to them feeling that they had dishonored their clans.
According to the Kilrathi themselves, the destruction of their homeworld caused by the Temblor bomb, with the subsequent death of billions of their species, is considered as a huge form of "Pukcal" through which the entire race expiated the dishonor of fighting with duplicity at the "Battle of Earth" in 2668. Because of this belief Christopher Blair (the man responsible for delivering the Temblor bomb on Kilrah) sees a limited form of worship from the Kilrathi: his representation has been observed on the walls of a chapel aboard a Kilrathi vessel. Such a circumstance is probably related to a typical Kilrathi behavior which tends to idolize or sometimes demonize those enemies who proved their superiors in battle.
A key aspect of their society was driven by religious beliefs that stemmed from contact with warrior-gods that came to the ancient Kilrathi. The Cult of Sivar believed their species were heading to two different outcomes. One was Tr'thrak that was a form of Ragnarok whereby a final glorious battle was waged against the star-gods where the Kilrathi either attained final victory or eternal honourable death. The alternative was an event known as the Kn'thrack (Translation: Void). This was if the Kilrathi were defeated by an unworthy opponents with the star-gods returning to annihilate the race without honour.
The destruction of Kilrah was long foreseen in the Prophecy of Kt'Lan, which was recorded in the tome of Sivar:
- There shall come a time, when one, who has the heart of a Kilrathi, but is not Kilrathi born, shall rain cleansing fire down upon us. And Kn'Thrak, a time of great darkness shall embrace us.
Worshippers of Sivar maintained their own enclaves and were called Sivarists.
Leadership of the Kilrathi Empire was headed by the Emperor along with his royal family with his heirs holding the ranks of Crown Princes with a line of succession. A high ranking body within the empire was the Drakhai that were the Imperial Guard who protected the royalty. Beneath the Emperor was the Council of Eight that consisted of the eight noble clans of the Kilrathi Empire.
Command of the military forces was achieved by the Kilrathi High Command.
Within the empire, ground forces was achieved by the Kilrathi Armed Forces. Ranks included:
- Least Claw : enlisted rank
- Third Claw :
- Second Claw :
- First Claw :
- Fourth Fang : officer rank
- Third Fang :
- Second Fang :
- First Fang :
- Shintahr :
- Kal Shintahr :
- Kalahn : flag rank
- Khantahr :
- Kal Khantahr :
- Kalralahr :
The Kilrathi Oath was:
- My heart does not know fear
- For I am a servant to Sivar.
- My claws do not know shame
- For I am a warrior of Kilrah.
- My Clan shall not be disgraced
- For I serve my Hrai and Lord.
- With my tongue I offer fealty.
- With my claws I unsheathe victory.
- With my mane bowed I lie down.
- And offer up my life for honor.
Other divisions within the Empire included Imperial Intelligence and Imperial Security.
In spite of such primitive principles, Kilrathi technology is very advanced or at least on par with human technology. While their starships and fighters lack whatever could be considered as aesthetically appreciable to human observers, these vehicles are extremely efficient war machines, designed to be lethal. Kilrathi vessels are built with asymmetrical elements, protruding angles, weapons and engines placed in plain sight and often incorporate fang or claw-like curves and points, making them resemble ominous-looking blades or other melee weapons. This last detail is thought to be as much an expression of the Kilrathi visual taste as a form of psychological warfare aimed at intimidating their adversaries. Decorations are limited to ship markings indicating the clan responsible for the ship's construction. In combat the Kilrathi are strongly biased toward smaller numbers of powerful heavy fighters coupled with swarms of swift but inferior light fighters. The Thrak'hra lords pilot the heavy crafts while the lowborn Kilra'hra are assigned to fight in the light crafts. Despite this division, many Kilra'hra aces have emerged, some of whom have won acclaim with the nobility. Ace pilots are also authorized to fly customized fighters mounting different energy weapons or loadouts and can decorate their ships with personal markings.
Kilrathi were not above the use of biological weapons against their foes and utilizing environment suits to continue to wage a ground war against their enemies.
Kilrathi capital ships similar to their opponents developed phase shield technology that rendered missiles and fighter scale guns useless. Terran scientists had developed powerful torpedoes able to penetrate these new shields but the technology was later leaked to the Kilrathi.
A key weapon developed by the Empire during the Kilrathi War was the use of Stealth Technology that made entire crafts invisible to detection both visually as well as on scanners. By the later stages of the Kilrathi War, they had developed a form of masking technology that allowed them to hide the presence of Jump Points. This made these positions seemingly disappear to their enemies making it seem like the Kilrathi had managed to close down the Jump Point.
- Thrakhath nar Kiranka :
- Ralgha nar Hhallas :
- Bakhtosh nar Kiranka : call sign 'Redclaw'
- Khajja nar Ja'targk :
- Najji Ragitagha : call sign 'Fireclaw'
- The Kilrathi were created as antagonists in the Wing Commander series.
In other media
- In Wing Commander: Academy, the Kilrathi served as antagonists in the animated series. They believed in honour which meant that they did not comprehend how a person could betray their own race. Such spies were held to hold no honour and had no right to live.
- In Wing Commander, the Kilrathi served as antagonists in the live-action film.
- Wing Commander:
- Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi:
- Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger:
- Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom:
- Wing Commander: Prophecy: