Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Death's Head Galaxy

art by Tahar Abroudjameur
"We have all heard the stories of travelers lost in the deep aetherscape who have passed through the tangled warpways of the Gnarl. I for one cannot believe that many have returned from those lost and broken ways, and fewer still could have returned with their sanity intact. But by now we all have heard tell of the great nebulous galaxy in the shape of a grinning death's head where the forces of Chaos and Decay hold sway, in much the same ways that the forces of gravity and ethereal-physics rule in ours.

"More terrible still (it is said) are the beings that live here; creatures that are not alive in a way that we understand it, but instead are possessed of a terrible process known as anti-life. Because of this, much of what we know of magic is utterly useless against them. They have come to learn of our kind, and despise and loathe us and the power that animates all life on this side of the Gnarl . Our only protection (so the story goes) are the forces that animate them would tear them apart should they ever leave their terrible galactic home.

"Spacer stories and the ramblings of spellshocked wizards matter little to hardened aethermen such as myself. Then a quarterspin ago, on the stardocks of Klor, I came across a madman who claimed to have once been the famed sorcerer JaLleel, thought lost along with the Imperial Dreadnought Night Terror.

"For his gall I heaved him up and would have cut out his liver, but then the madness seemed to clear and he claimed to know me, and spoke of our days upon the wyrmship, Quasaryous.

"At this my anger abated and instead I bought him nectar and sustenance. It was then he told me of his time aboard the Night Terror and how an error by its astrogator resulted in a quarkshift that left them adrift in the navigationless void between galaxies. Relative decades past, until the Night Terror began to run out of supplies and the crew succumbed to despair, madness and other, unspeakable horrors of the starless realm. Only a handful of survivors remained when JaLleel said that they were rescued .. he would have continued, but then his eyes clouded in fear and his madness returned in full and he spoke nothing rational again that day.

"Upon the next rising of the rim, I collected JaLleel from the Sanctorium. Calmer now, he continued his story. He says that he awoke in a room of darkness. What happened next took him many turnings to tell, made longer by the long periods when the madness would take him time and time again. By the time he was done, a fear like I had never known had sent a chill into my soul where it has never left.

"For when I asked JaLleel how he had escaped the unimaginable horrors that he faced, he looked at me with eyes that reflected a soul lost forever. "That is just it," he said. "I did not escape. I was returned and my final role in this has not yet been played."

"So that is why, my dear friends, that this message finds you from the Far Clusters. For all that I have seen and faced in my years in the Imperial Dragoons and later as a freesword in the Aetherstreams, it was only the look in my former comrade's eyes that ever caused me to break and run.

And I beg of you ... do the same. Before it becomes to late."
-Domo Xan Lar Gull. 3rd Blade, Mistress of the Imperial Dragoons (ret.).  

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