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When quarians of the Migrant Fleet reach young adulthood, they must leave their birth ship and find a new crew to accept them as permanent residents. To prove themselves worthy, they must leave the Migrant Fleet and search the galaxy for something of value. This is offered to their prospective captain as a gift, proving that they will not be a mere burden on the shoestring resources of the ship.
This process is called the Pilgrimage. Stripped of ritual, the Pilgrimage is merely an attempt to maintain genetic diversity within the small, relatively isolated population bases that make up the Migrant Fleet. If the young stayed and married within their birth vessel, the risk of inbreeding would increase sharply.
The Pilgrimage also gives quarians the chance to experience life outside the Migrant Fleet, to help them appreciate their people and culture. For many it is their only opportunity to leave, as once they return their skills will become invaluable in preserving the quarian race aboard the Fleet.
Going on Pilgrimage Edit
Preparation Editweapons and armor for protection.
Despite this, some quarians leave on their Pilgrimage and never return, either from running afoul of dangers, or because they have chosen a different life after experiencing the greater galaxy beyond the Flotilla. But most quarians return safely with their gift, to rejoin the Migrant Fleet as an adult and a valued member of society.
For safety's sake, a captain will give a departing quarian two code phrases to communicate upon returning to the Fleet. One is a phrase denoting a successful mission, allowing the returnee to rejoin the Fleet safely. The other is an alert phrase, signalling the quarian has returned under duress, and will result in the returning quarian's ship being immediately destroyed by the quarian navy.
Pilgrimage gifts vary. A young quarian may return from their Pilgrimage with resources like food or fuel, vital technology, a new starship to add to the Fleet itself, or even knowledge that will improve life for everyone on the Flotilla. Some gifts are seen to be more worthy than others - a derelict ship towed back for salvage will be treated disdainfully - but even if the gift is not particularly valuable, the captain will usually accept it out of a sense of tradition.
However, there is a degree of social stigma in presenting a sub-standard Pilgrimage gift, as it will not make a good impression on the new crew. A young quarian's social status is also taken into account. Individuals from prominent families are expected to return with something special. A single rule covers the Pilgrimage gift: it must not be gained by harming another, quarian or not.
Once a quarian's Pilgrimage is complete and they choose a new ship, their name also changes. Young quarian names include the title 'nar', meaning 'child of', followed by the name of their birth ship. After their Pilgrimage, they take the title 'vas', meaning 'crew of', followed by the name of the ship they have proven their right to join.