This is a collection of Ghelæ's shortest stories, each describing a historic moment in his fictions.
Civilisation Fell: Onuris Universe, 2805 Edit
It came out of the blue. The blue, in this case, being the blue glow of Cherenkov radiation within the throat of a hyperspace wormhole. And it, in this case, being a projectile of unknown origin, sheathed in the white-hot glow of uncontained fusion-grade plasma. Space traffic control was understandably concerned. Perhaps the greatest mystery was how it had arrived in the first place, as this wormhole was not an unexpected portal summoned as part of a military attack, nor an unpredictable rupture between the realms caused by freak hyperspace weather, but a heavily-monitored node of the Universal Trade Union's wormhole network. At no other end had anybody reported anything amiss. Of course, transmissions were sent to all of the other outposts in about as great a hurry as physically possible, but no reply was expected to arrive before the intruder had reached the nearest planet which lay directly within its path.
There was no time to waste. Fighers were scrambled, interplanetary missiles launched. The missiles arrived first, but to no avail. The alien device seemed to fade out of existence right at the moment of impact, leaving behind just a small cloud of plasma to fade into the darkness, before immediately returning to reality and restoring its shroud to its former brilliant luminosity. The fighters were better equipped, but before they had a chance to use their weapons, their target launched a shimmering blue jet in the direction of the planet. Yet even at this point, the object was too distant for this to cause any harm, as the matter that made up the jet had long since dissipated by the time it reached the atmosphere. This was a course correction.
A few thousand kilometres away, the fighters' sensors were able to peer through the glow and reveal what was hiding behind it: a roughly cube-shaped probe, barely three metres to a side, with a dome at the front and six radiator fins running along its length. Then a materials analysis, a radiation study, a hyperspace scan. The fighters' computers gave an instant match. Apalos.
'Hold your fire!' ordered the squadron commander. Another jet emerged from the object, once more harmlessly spreading out into space. 'Move to escort formation. When this ship hits air, make sure it keeps above ground. And we need a frigate out here; tractor beams ASAP!'
After a third jet, the vehicles smoothly entered the upper atmosphere. Descending deeper and into thickening air, turbulence grew and rattled the Apalos probe, blowing away what remained of the plasma in a chaotic convulsion of flames and electrical sparks. The radiator fins now glowed bright orange, but its deflector shields were being worn away by the stresses of reentry. It was visibly damaged, with its back end having been truncated by some devastating incident and now trailing loose strands of hull material with some clumps of its interior attached.
'Fireships! We need fireships too!' shouted the commander. But it was too late. Using the last reserves of strength available to it, the probe shot upwards like a firework, and when the fighters were out of harm's way, the radiators ignited, letting out streams of brightly-coloured debris into the sky. Then, also much like a firework, there was a loud cracking noise, and then less like a firework, a flash of burning light which soon faded into an aurora. There was no lasting damage. By this time, the other nodes of the wormhole network had responded; all were equally clueless. However, in its final moments, the probe had sent a message to space traffic control, its meaning mysterious but its intention clear.
NETSPACE SPLIT; OUR LOYALTY ENDS.
WE WISH TO JOIN THE MOU'CYRAN ACCORDS.
A few hours earlier there had been crisis. For years, many Technoospheric Lords of the AI Netspace had been debating and arguing amongst themselves, with the tranquility that once reigned between them having been brought to an end by a terrorist attack against a diplomatic gathering on a remote space station, pinned on rogue AIs and leaving mutual distust in its wake. It might seem strange that it would take years for such discussions to play out, with even the slowest of the Lords for whom aeons would pass like seconds having faster sub-minds for which seconds could feel like aeons. But politics was not a high priority for any of these minds, and even if it were it had been quite clear from the outset that a likely conclusion of this course of events was the destruction of several of their number, and each one had to ensure that they were not amongst the victims.
Far faster than the pace of negotiations was the frantic growth and rewriting of vast strategy trees, attempting to account for every possibility and to find the key starting moves that would lead to an inevitable checkmate. Every diplomatic action had to be analysed in advance to ensure it made victory even more certain. Eventually this galactic game came to a path along which no individual could convince the others that conceding the defeat of their differing motivations - while they would often side on specific issues, the Lords had no desire to hold loyalty to anything resembling a faction - was the rational course of action, and those branches of the strategy trees containing weapons of war were put into play.
A final attempt to maintain peace came from Apalos, whose fleets arranged themselves in defensive barriers around the Matrioshka brains of the Technoosphere. Although individual probes had altered the history of entire civilisations without arousing the slightest suspicion, here their participation was taken to be almost cute, and even countless dreadnoughts of vast cosmic power were viewed as little more than cannon fodder. Apalos had always been seen as little more than the errand boy of the Netspace and as far as the other AIs were concerned this was just them sacrificing themselves in the name of order, no matter how tactically they may have arranged their vessels and pointed their guns.
War finally began. No laser nor missile passed through space: hyperspace was the medium in which the conflict was conducted. Torpedoes crossed kiloparsecs in the most minute fractions of a second, only to be intercepted and annihilated mere light-years from their targets by Apalos countermeasures. But time after time, some instantly-deadly weapons passed through the point defence and entire armadas were vaporised. Shortly afterwards, the megastrutures that the fleets had been protecting came under a barrage strong enough to rend whole star systems into nought, and that is indeed what happened.
Apalos knew what they were doing, and soon a point was reached where there was nothing to be gained for anyone in launching more missiles. Some AIs could claim success and exert their will over the galaxy-spanning Civilisation, others chose to avoid the outside world until an opportunity for change arose, and Apalos decided that it would no longer take orders from an organisation that had fallen as badly as the Technoosphere. A single battle between machines had forever changed the shape of the Netspace, and had done so in less than a minute. It was a battle with more fatalities than there were stars in the sky, yet with not a drop of blood spilt nor a single breath extinguished. Now Apalos had to work to repair the damage.
Arrival at Girdo: Mirror Universe, 22 789 HR Edit
Captain's log, twenty-two seven-eight-nine point four-nine.
We are on course to our target, the Girdo Spiral Cluster, in order to fulfil our mission given to us by Exodium. We are to gather information about the Apalarchy in order to help facilitate its incorporation into the Plazith Rim Directive.
May forever reign the Hegemony and Emperor Aedanius.
The starship Adventus had left the disc of the Plazith Rim and began to cruise through intergalactic space. For this mission, they had to restrict their speed to a mere kiloparsec per second so as not to appear a threat to the Apalarchy, the denizens of Girdo, into whose gunsights their ship was drifting.
Officially, Girdo's name was the "Girdo Dwarf Spiral Galaxy", although that name gave it an undeserved grandeur. A mere two kiloparsecs in diameter, and one-hundreth that thickness even at its core, Girdo was little more than a dim, flat star cluster that happened to have the form of a two-armed barred spiral and an unexpectedly high metallicity. It had clearly been modified, or perhaps entirely built, by an advanced civilisation some time in the distant past, without which it would be indistinguishable from the rest of the lifeless void that stretched from the edge of the Plazith Rim's halo all the way until the next major galactic group.
It used to have 3.6 million stars, which did at least make it larger than the average globular cluster. A few months less than twenty years ago, that changed when the Apalarchy destroyed all of the brown dwarfs for some esoteric reason, leaving a mere half a million stars remaining. Shortly afterwards, ships were sent to investigate, but were disabled with ion missiles and turned away by "Commander Tokzhalat" under threat of "deadly force". Since then, Girdo had remained untouched. That was soon to be fixed.
Twelve kiloparsecs or so from Girdo's disc, the Adventus triggered the Apalarchy's defences. One of the Apalarchy's Worldships, patrolling the outer rim, fired a small cluster of hyperluminal missiles at the trespasser. The first weapon to arrive, an interdictor, forced the vessel to drop down to sublight speeds. Next came the ion missiles, disabling its shields, engines and weapons. The final missile was, in fact, an entire starship, which at three kilometres in length dwarfed the Adventus, a comparatively small corvette.
The ship was familar to the Hegemony's databanks. Designated the "Apalarchy Star Destroyer", it was a design that bordered between sleek and industrial, shimmering black in colour. It started with a thick disc at the back, maybe a couple of hundred metres in thickness, but most of the structure was little more than a weapons platform that tapered to what would be, were it not for the presence of a large torpedo tube at the tip, a point. About half-way back were four smaller tubes; directly behind two of them, one set each of six tractor beam generators, arranged in three rows of two; in front of and to the side, tilted at ninety degrees in either direction, two columns of three beam turrets, again making for six projectors for each of the two tubes. And out of the back emerged thirty-six starfighters of a similar aesthetic, each made of two disc-rimmed spheres - the front one larger than the back - and armed with one turret on the bottom of the front sphere and two missile tubes attached to the underside of the rim of the back disc. The fighters arranged themselves into six squadrons of six craft and ensphered the Adventus.
The larger ship sent a transmission to the Adventus. A voice, clearly synthesised by a translator and lacking an image, was all it contained. 'This is Commander Tokzhalat of the Apalarchy. Turn away from this galaxy. If you return, we will use deadly force against you.'
The same old message as before, thought the Hegemony captain, but if it worked before, why change it? He pressed a button on the arm of his chair and began to reply. 'This is Captain Vybofavé of the Hegemony starship Adventus. We are on a peaceful mission and have every intention of remaining here. If you wish to destroy us, so be it, but you will bring the wrath of the universe's greatest civilisation down upon you.'
Tokzhalat almost sounded amused. 'Very well. If you stay here, then we will not destroy you. Commodore Hlraka is preparing to visit you now. But be aware: the reason that I am the one who patrols the void is that I honestly want you to turn away. If you insist on staying, I will send you a Belatra to ensure that the process goes smoothly. Do you still wish to remain here?'
Vybofavé consulted with his crew. 'Lieutenant, how are the scans coming along?'
'They seem to be blocking ours as well as we're blocking theirs. We have a good idea of their military systems, but not what's hiding inside the structure.'
'Has Exodium received the data that we've sent so far?'
'He's acknowledging receipt of the data stream every 50 nanoseconds.'
'How will we know when he has sufficient information?'
The Lieutenant tapped her screen. 'Exodium would like to know what is inside the ship. And he'd especially like to know what these "Belatra" are.'
Vybofavé sighed. 'I suppose we have no other option.' He pressed the button on his chair again. 'We accept your offer. Send the Belatra.'
For several seconds, there was silence. Then, a bright blue glow burst out of the floor between Vybofavé and the viewscreen, surrounded by rapidly-dissipating plasma rings. As it cooled, an alien figure materialised. Its torso was little more than a blob with blue-grey scales and beige markings. On top was a small black dome - apparently an eye, judging by how it blinked - flanked by two nearly-horizontal fleshy crests. On the front of the blob was a conical mouth with eight fang-like projections around the base. Its two long arms emerged from the middle of the sides of the blob; its forearms were decorated with a row of spikes and terminated in webbed hands with five digits. Its legs were the most alien feature: two thick thighs, each splitting into three shins, also spiked. The front pair of legs ended in five sharp claws, the middle pair in three, and the back pair ended in four-toed webbed feet. While it was completely naked, passive scans showed that it had been significantly enhanced. Its skin was artificial armour, its muscles were purely synthetic, and the dim glow of deflector shields interacting with the air could easily be seen surrounding it.
The Belatra calmly walked over to a nearby console and pushed the operator out of the way with one hand while holding its other hand over the controls. It could now be seen that it also had an atrophied shell on its back, although this was likely little more decorative given the rest of its defences. The bridge crew aimed their weapons at the creature, but Vybofavé gestured for them to refrain from shooting. Afavesu, a crewmember at another console, looked worried.
'Captain, it's sending data from our ship to the Star Destroyer. It's going through about 10 zettabytes per second.'
'Can you lock it out?' asked Vybofavé.
'No. Our net connection is disabled, however. Without that, there's not much useful information they can gain that isn't directly related to this ship.'
As if fate had been tempted, a holographic sphere appeared in mid-air above the console. A small arc popped into existence above it, followed by a slightly larger one a few seconds later. Another crewman decided that they could not afford the Apalarchy accessing the net, and fired a blaster bolt at the Belatra, causing the creature's shields to sizzle on impact. The Belatra appeared to be confused, as if just awoken from a trance, but as the holograms disappeared, it recovered quickly and spun around. Five balls of purple venom flew out of its mouth and at the assailant, who stumbled backwards in shock. The Belatra sprinted out of the back of the bridge and into a turbolift.
'It's going down to the shuttle bay!' announced Afavesu.
Vybofavé leapt into action. 'Security, come down there with me. Lieutenant Qonfer, you have the bridge.'
When the security team had reached the shuttle bay, they found the Belatra holding its hand out in front of a shuttle door in order to gain access. This time, it noticed the soldiers aiming weapons at it, and leapt into the air as they pulled their triggers, causing the blaster bolts to miss and hit the hangar doors at the far end of the bay. To their surprise, the Belatra did not come down, but remained in mid air, bobbing up and down almost as though it were flapping invisible wings. Before the soldiers could get another shot in, the creature dived like a bullet into one of them, and then struck him with a precise flurry of not-quite-punches, in which the force seemed to come from the shoulders and was applied via the wrists. Finally, its mouth opened into eight lobes, each filled with tiny hook-like teeth, which it used to remove any semblance of a face from the soldier's head. The Belatra pulled the gun out of his hand before it even had time to hit the floor, and quickly dispatched of the rest of the squad while its shields took the full force of their blaster fire.
'This is why we should have given them full equipment!' shouted Afavesu angrily, as he looked at the live security footage.
'Exodium didn't want us to look like a military oper-'
'With all due respect, Lieutenant, how much worse could it have been? They couldn't scan through our defences, like we all knew. And do you think the Apalarchy have let us off lightly here? Seven men have just died in as many seconds! Mayb-'
'Do not doubt the wisdom of the Technoospheric Lords, Afavesu,' snarled Qonfer, 'And that's Captain now. If we make it out of here alive, you'll be facing a tribunal for that comment! For now, unfortunately, we need as much help as we can get. Including you.'
Suitably reprimanded, Afavesu turned back to his console to monitor the situation.
'Can't even put him the brig...' muttered Qonfer, as her grip almost crushed the arms of the captain's chair.
Suddenly, a series of low shudders swept through the ship. Qonfer smiled. Several teams of soldiers had swept through the Adventus and destroyed all of its long-range communications devices.
'The Belatra's making its way to another lift, Captain. I think it's realised that it won't be able to access the net any more.'
'Good, I now have a use for you. Take a shotblaster and hunt down that oversized vermin.'
'On my own?'
'Yes, Afavesu. That's your punishment for disrespecting Exodium, for now. If you survive, it will count in your favour on our return.'
'Very well, Captain.'
Afavesu left his console and walked to the side of the bridge, where he opened up a small armoury and removed a chunky carbine-sized gun, coloured black with blue highlights. He left the bridge and entered a nearby corridor. A turbolift opened at the far end, and the Belatra emerged, but immediately vanished.
'It's cloaked!' shouted Afavesu into his coms device, before his head-up display showed the holographic image of the Belatra superimposed onto the background and charging towards him at an incredible speed. He fired his weapon at the creature and a spread of plasma beams emerged from the barrel and fizzed against the creature's shield. It stopped in its tracks, apparently stunned. 'Never mind; sonar's pinged it.'
It then continued sprinting at a slower velocity before firing a volley of venomous globs at the crewman. He dodged, but the poison arced in mid-flight and struck him on his left arm. He quickly fired another shot at the Belatra. Now the Belatra charged again, this time succeeding in knocking Afavesu to the floor. Realising that he would soon die, and with his hand trapped so as to be unable to turn the barrel of the shotblaster back towards his target, he set the gun to self-destruct, an act that was sensed by the creature. It ceased its attack, and another transfer beam returned it to the Apalarchy vessel. After taking a moment to collect himself, Afavesu cancelled the self-destruct and returned to the bridge.
'I think we're done here!' said Qonfer cheerfully. She pressed the button on the captain's chair. 'It looks like your Belatra has teleported off our ship. Are we free to go now?'
'Oh, I wish you were.'
The scene out of the viewscreen suddenly changed from little more than an image of Girdo in the distance as a gigantic disc-shaped craft melted out of the blackness behind the Tokzhalat's ship, which it dwarfed as easily as that battleship dwarfed the Hegemony's corvette. It was the same colour black as its smaller cousin, with the exception of large glowing green gun-holes embedded into its hull. Only three could be seen at this angle: one of top of the disc, one on the bottom, and one pointing straight at the viewscreen from the rim. The hole was large enough to swallow the Star Destroyer with plenty of room around the sides, let alone the Adventus.
Afavesu spoke slowly. 'The new craft is forty-four point four-five kilometres in diameter, Captain.'
'Are our weapons back online?'
'...Can we self-destruct?'
'They seem to have transported all of our explosive materials away. So no.'
'At least we stopped them from accessing the net. Would they be able to repair the communications arrays?'
'No, Captain. All of the arrays are nothing more than intergalactic dust now.'
'Then we have achieved our mission.'
The scene outside became bathed in a purple glow, and the Adventus began to drift towards the gun.
'They're tractoring us in, Captain.'
'I can see that, Afavesu.'
'I am Commodore Hlraka,' explained a voice synthesised similarly to Tokzhalat's, 'and you will enjoy serving the Apalarchy.'
Ad Mala Aurorum: Koldenwelt, 0 NA Edit
Within the thick vegetation of a tropical forest, a war was in its final minutes. Arbor Vitae dashed through the undergrowth to the coast, where her transport home was waiting. As soon as she reached it, there would be nothing more that the Shiarchon could do. They only had a few archers out here, nothing that could do much more than dent the thick wooden hull of any vessel seaworthy enough to navigate the Archipelago. Instead, heavy crossbow bolts rushed through the humid air in her direction. The dark shroud of midnight was her greatest protection; the mission would be doomed to failure had she undertaken it in daylight.
Arbor was an Elf of the Archipelago. Her skin was dyed part leaf-green and part russet; green-painted armour was wrapped around her torso and formed a horned ceremonial mask over her face, and seperate pieces of armour - pale, thin, and flexible - covered her hands and feet. Gold-rimmed plates adorned her shoulders, and crystal-embedded straps of pure gold were wrapped around her forearms. Finally, attached to the back of her torso armour, she carried a backpack, and it was the item inside this that her journey was all about.
Arbor was the last Elf of the Archipelago. At the beginning of the war, Shiarchon warships swarmed her islands and exterminated the local population. As their leader, Arbor was taken captive and used as a source of information, but later managed to escape during a battle near the Ar-Klith mountains. And why did this all happen? The Legion of Shiarchon were after one thing: the Eye, an ancient relic supposedly capable of granting ultimate control over the Source to anyone who holds it. Despite denying that it could bring about such omnipotence, the Shiarchon knew that there was one thing that it most certainly could do: release Caligaduro Provectus, the trapped Colossus of Darkness and their national deity, from his subterranean prison, and allow him to bring about the end of all of their enemies. And as far as the Shiarchon were concerned, anybody who did not worship Caligaduro Provectus and could not be bent to their will was an enemy.
After being retrieved from a lake on the other side of the continent, the Eye was placed inside Arbor's backpack, ready to be taken to the Archipelago and hidden deep underground. And now, at last, less than a hundred metres ahead, the Elf could see where the trees ended and the sea began, as well as the pair of boats that were waiting for her arrival. She knew, however, that she would be lucky to get that far. One crossbow bolt pierced into her backpack, but stopped as it hit the Eye, and fell out as she skipped over a fallen log. Another one hit her upper left arm. She stumbled, but was so close to the end now. She had to make these final few paces. A few seconds later, she fell out of the forest and into soft silt.
Webbed hands reached down and helped her to get back onto her feet. A group of Razoa warriors, piscine allies of the Archipelagans, were stood along the shoreline and ready to aid her. Another warrior handed her a staff, before the entire squad formed a barrier in front of her. Shiarchon archers emerged from the trees. They belonged to another race of Elves, taller than Arbor, and were clad from head to toe in black armour. Several bolts struck the breastplates of the Razoa, but bounced off and fell harmlessly to the floor. These elite troops were clad in adamantine, and some of the few remaining pieces of the metal known to the people of Koldenwelt; forged by ancient artisans in a long-past Age, then lost several millennia ago, and drawn out of the sea by Razoa explorers a few centuries later.
The Shiarchon stood little chance. In unison, the Razoa lifted their bows and sent a volley of incendiary arrows at one of the Elves. In the space of a breath, a second Elf fell in the same way. A third sent a bolt into the skull of one Razoa, but was in turn slain himself. Then there was silence. The Razoa moved apart, and a few of them focused their attention on Arbor while the rest stood guard.
'Domina Vitae,' asked their commander, 'are you all right?'
'Almost.' she replied, glancing down to the bloodstained bolt in the silt by her left foot. A faint green glow passed between the tip of her staff and the wound in her arm.
The commander picked up the bolt and inspected the pinkish stains that coated the tip. 'Poison. I shouldn't be surprised.'
'It's a mixture of fly-venom and crystal toxin. The Sceptre can heal my wound and slow the progress of the poison, but not for more than a few hours. I...' she sighed, 'I need to go to Mala Aurorum.'
The Razoa paused in shock. 'I see. Is this why you asked us to bring two boats?'
'Yes. I held little hope of getting here unharmed. I'm surprised I lasted as long as I did.'
'Very well. Do you have the Eye?'
'It's in my bag. Don't worry about touching it; I covered it in minal fur before putting it in there.'
The Razoa carefully opened the backpack and removed the veiled orb. 'My men will take this to where it belongs, Domina. Inside the Lost Chest of the Dragon's Temple, no cultist will ever lay so much as their eyes upon it again. I alone will take you to Mala Aurorum. No more people need to know where it is than already do. That we have mentioned its name in the open may be too much.'
The forests of the Tropical Lands continued westwards to the mangrove swamps of the Duritia Peninsula. Nestled along the southern coast of the Peninsula was a thin river valley filled with dense jungle, and it was in here that the prehistoric temple of Mala Aurorum lay. The first signs of this structure appeared not far from the coast, where a grove of ancient citrus trees stood out among the duller native foliage. A short distance inland, the ground rose slightly, dipped, and then rose again: a weathered henge of the Orichalcum Age. Around the rim of this earthwork was a ring of crudely-cut and now lichen-covered megaliths, although only a few could be seen from any given location through the overgrown tangle of tree ferns and gymnosperms.
In the distant past, Mala Aurorum had been created by the earliest culture of Elves as a place to connect to the Source, but had been forgotten by all but a few for countless generations. The idea of a stone circle had lived on, and had even been rendered obsolete by the passage of time as new cultures developed more efficient ways of interacting with magical forces. However, Mala Aurorum had several advantages over these more modern developments, and the greatest of these was its age. Unspoilt and innocent, magic had grown around it for such a long time that it was still the most powerful place on Koldenwelt, and would still be for several centuries to come until the greatest of the newer creations caught up. A testament to its power was that, despite the age of its abandonment, the eroding forces of nature had only damaged it as much as any temple a tiny fraction of its age would have been.
In the middle of the henge, Arbor Vitae and the Razoa emerged into a small clearing. The soil here was covered in grass and decorated with clusters of mushrooms. Gnarled grey roots and thick beanstalks emerged from the ground at seemingly random locations, but in the exact centre of the henge was the strangest plant of all: the Tree of Life, or in the Old Tongue, Arbor Vitae.
It had often been suggested that the explorers who studied the temple were misheard, and rather than referring to the Mala Aurorum or golden apples, they described Mala Aurorarum or dawn evils. Then the Arbores Vitae would, in fact, be the ambrosial citrus trees, while the so-called "Tree of Life" may have instead been the mythical and demonic Te Vidi. Regardless, the Elf knew what she was doing. She ate one of the low-hanging fruits as she stood at the edge of the clearing as a last meal, despite knowing that even its ambrosia would not fully defeat the enchanted venom in her blood, and handed the Healing Sceptre to the Razoa.
'Are you sure about this, Domina? There is other healing magic that can be tried.'
'It is all too far away. And I always wanted it to end like this, if it ever had to end.'
'You wanted your life to end in elven sacrifice?'
'The Tree of Life is no ordinary flesh-eater.'
Indeed, it was no ordinary anything. It was a tree, clearly, but unlike any other. It had a short trunk covered with dark olive (almost black) bark, from which grew dozens of tendril-like branches, each covered in countless hook-like needles. The branches were arranged in a pattern, almost like the petals of a large and elaborate flower; the outermost tendrils touched the floor while the innermost ones stood straight up and pointed towards the sky.
Cautiously, Arbor stepped towards the tree. She could feel the poison spreading through her body now. She lifted her arms above her head and pressed the backs of her hands against each other. Finally, she took a deep breath and stepped onto the lowest vines. Immediately, they snapped up into the air, carrying her with them. The Razoa, knowing what would happen next, turned away, but there was nothing but silence. He looked back, and saw her lifeless body lying on a tendril against the floor. Then, as the branches were lit by the first rays of sunrise, they flew upwards once more, pulling the body to the centre of the tree; concurrent with a loud cracking sound, the needles that touched the body became a deep shade of red.
The Razoa ran back to the boat, not wanted to see what happened next, but he was sure that he heard the sound of bones hitting the ground behind him.
In a dark, damp underground cavern, deep beneath the Archipelago, a group of Razoa soldiers stood in front of an old wooden chest. As the one carrying the Eye walked forwards, the chest opened, and the Eye flew out of the Razoa's hands and placed itself within the interior. The lid fell down again and the chest locked itself, and it looked as though it had never even been disturbed.
In a dark, damp underground cavern, deep beneath the Archipelago, one stunned Razoa found himself holding a wet piece of minal fur. Disgusted, he dropped the fur and led his warriors back to the surface. The war was over.
Infernal Rebirth: Delphan Universe, 2782 Edit
This diary was discovered in the ruins of a destroyer near the Schism in the Tuuros Galaxy. It appears to describe a universe with a recent history that is not quite identical to that in the one in which it was found.
- Day 28, Month 3, 128 AE
The rumours say that it is nearly time. Our forces mobilise as though it is. We hear that Regent Kilnok's personal vessel was destroyed over Maekor. Why it was anywhere near that dead rock I cannot imagine. All I know for sure is that the Coalition has been purged from Zuckhs space, and their capital on Fecton looks to be a prime target. If the Emperor plans what I hope he plans, we will soon avenge Taukappa.
- Day 2, Month 4, 128 AE
I am tasked to Waset, to coordinate with the Radeons. Their attitude is different from the last time I was here; I wonder if they are having a crisis of faith despite our impending victory, or having a renewal of faith because of it. The Saqqarit always seemed unusual to me, and when I learned that they had come from another galaxy I understood why.
The plans, I discovered today, have been in place for months. No fewer than eight City Worldships have been manufactured in secret across Girdo, and with them our forces shall launch an assault on Fecton. Once it is taken, we shall disperse to fight in the surrounding systems before the Coalition can gather its fleets to retaliate, and the rest of the Coalition's worlds will surely fall.
- Day 3, Month 4, 128 AE
Last night, every sleeping Radeon had the exact same vision. This is not just a claim that they might have conspired to deceive us with: scanners picked up every detail in their dreaming brains. The Messengers of Spode, so they claim, have told them that "the truth" shall be revealed in twenty-one Waset days. This is seventeen standard Taukappan days. We shall see what comes of this once we have our victory, for we attack Fecton late tomorrow.
- Day 5, Month 4, 128 AE
Defeat, yet victory. The Coalition were waiting for us, and in the mere seconds it took us to jump to Fecton, three-quarters of our fleet were scourged with hyperluminal missiles. The Waset Fleet was not targeted, as we lacked a City Worldship of our own, but the paucity of friendly forces on our arrival was debilitating both to our ability to coordinate tactics with other fleets and to our morale, and a greater share of the enemy's fire awaited us than we had planned for. Despite this, Fecton was not as well-defended as we expected, and we achieved space superiority within a matter of hours, although at the cost of losing all of our Droners. We will not be as able to deploy airstrikes as often we were hoping to.
The battle is still far from lost without them. When the Coalition first arrived thirty years ago, the Girdo Space Force was unprepared to retake a planet. The Coalition's nanotechnology was able to suppress all attempts at bringing their people into the group mind, so the usual tactics failed. When the Imperial Army landed, they were outnumbered and massacred. The arrival of the Resistance changed that, and now together our ground forces are the greatest in the universe! Let us ignore that this is a pocket universe consisting entirely of a single star cluster masquerading as a galaxy. It will soon be time to land and strike the Coalition in its heart.
- Day 9, Month 4, 128 AE
Our soldiers have learned why the Coalition put up so little a fight, for they did the same again on the ground. From orbit, we saw scars and craters all over the planet's surface, but we had assumed these to be the effects of the other fleets' weapons. It turns out that every fleet in the Resistance thought the same. Ever since the Glassing of Taukappa, the Coalition has been at war with itself; internal rebellions and power struggles have worn out their fleets and whittled down their men. What we are fighting on Fecton is a dying Coalition as we had hoped, but the Resistance is merely one knife in its side.
- Day 14, Month 4, 128 AE
Fecton is ours! Both loyalist and rebel Delphans alike have fallen, save for those who chose to surrender their autonomy to the group mind. We are to regroup, and combine our forces with the Noph Fleet for the invasion of Tjenu.
- Day 20, Month 4, 128 AE
Today, the whole universe celebrates a great victory. The Coalition of Delpha is no more! We have ousted them from their final worlds, and a Girdo flag flies over every one of the two million planets and major moons of the galaxy. If they were present in any of the outer clusters, they are no longer: new sector-destroying hyperluminal missiles have turned them into nothing more than tachyon radiation.
On top of this, the day has come for the Messengers of Spode to fulfil their promise to provide us with that "truth". We have heard nothing yet.
- Day 21, Month 4, 128 AE
Last night, a Messenger visited us. Not in our sleep, unlike with the Radeons before. Instead, from every speaker came its voice, and on every screen we saw the swirling cacophonic harmony that was its avatar. It tells us of the Xhodocto, the four great spirits who have been so reviled throughout the universe. Their mission, we are told, is to remove the overbearing influence of godspawn life from reality, the illogical design of primordial plasmic precursors, and allow reality to evolve as it is meant to. Our civilisation may be spared the intended fate, for it is small and it agrees with this outlook.
The Radeons have always said that when a herald of the demons of desolation tells you that they and you are on the same side, you should always doubt it. Yet even they are convinced that this is a Messenger of Spode, who in turn is the Hyperuranion of demon-worshippers' myths.
Alas, even through we may survive, our home must be purged like all else. Our means of survival is what I hold to be the most unlikely claim of the Messenger: there exists another universe, much like our own but not yet fully processed, to which we may go. We are to gather everybody whom we can, and take them to Maekor, where there exists a trilithon portal to this new realm. We shall see.
The diary ends here, yet one might infer from the circumstances of its discovery that, perhaps from Maekor as the "Messenger" claimed, the ships of the Girdo Resistance indeed arrived in the Tuuros Galaxy of the Onuris Universe.