“...The stars. The stars harbour an untold and perplexing infinity of ancient enigmata, scattered throughout the depths of the abyssal cosmos for purposes yet unknown. Remnants of archaic kingdoms, the wounds and bloody scars of wars fought before the dawn of life strewn across innumerable worlds. Weapons and artifacts either abandoned within the void to be forever unremembered, or patiently awaiting the return of their rightful masters... You look to the stars and imagine what horrors loom overhead, ancient eyes yet to turn their divine gaze of spite towards you. You are fortunate, for until now, you've remained ignorant to the unparalleled terrors which reside beneath your feet. Vast, hellish complexes, each boasting a hundred thousand beds for the sleeping dead. Immortals from a time where black stars and bloodsoaked nebulae filled our skies, waiting to be unearthed...”
- - Zhulultu xenoarchaeologist, c. 2777
Zhulultu Sarcophagus Worlds are immense megaconstructs devised by the Zhulultu, centred primarily within the Tuuros Galaxy. It is thought that following the Annihilation in the late 28th Century, somewhere between fifty and seventy worlds still exist in the wider First Gigaquadrant and between one and two hundred still exist within the Tuuros Galaxy itself. The Sarcophagus Worlds are subject of immense xenoarchaeological interest among those who study the Zhulultu, although since the War of Ages, Sarcophagus Worlds are the centre of concern within the Tuuros Galaxy and are largely related to the genocidal regime of Lord Zhuleshxi.
Much of the historical value of the Sarcophagus Worlds are unknown. Sparsely spread extracts of Zhulultu data and from precursor cultures from the ages past the Zhulultu themselves suggest that the Sarcophagus Worlds were initially devised as the resting place of individual Zhulultu following what may be suggested as physical death. Few insights are given from the Zhulultu themselves indicating a probability into customs surrounding physical death in Zhulultu culture, and regarding the customs known of siring new Zhulultu through the reprocessing of the dead, it is thought that the Sarcophagus Worlds in ancient times may have been instrumental to the procedure of creating new Zhulultu from the dead. Most discovered or rediscovered Sarcophagus Worlds are dated between two and four and a half billion years old; arguably juvenile Sarcophagus Worlds that were constructed in the late period of the Zhulultu culture. There have been instances of discovering surrounding incomplete Sarcophagus Worlds, although they hold little archaeological value in comparison.
The first precursor cultures to arise following the disappearance of the Zhulultu revered the Sarcophagus Worlds as places of worship. A majority of the cultures that ascended to galactic power after the disappearance of the Zhulultu were forcibly indoctrinated into revering the Zhulultu as gods, and thus as the Sarcophagus Worlds were discovered by these cultures, they began to build on them and construct temples where items of technology and religious iconography were left as a form of reverence. Whilst these precursor cultures waned and became extinct over the course of millions of years, several more cultures arose and in turn left offerings on these planets once they discovered them themselves. The more accessible of these Sarcophagus Worlds still contain innumerable artefacts of ancient and extinct cultures which hold archaeological value themselves.
Although some of these worlds remained places of worship, some Zhulultu that remained after their disappearance took on a form beyond that of physical, and began to inhabit and control these Sarcophagus Worlds, rendering them living megaconstructs. It is thought however that over the course of one billion years past their disappearance that these Zhulultu minds have long since fell asleep and await reawakening, and are one form of the many Zhulultu still asleep in the First Gigaquadrant. Among other precursors that discovered these worlds are the Sel; unstable machine-life inhabited by the degrading minds of surviving Zhulultu that overzealously guarded the Sarcophagus Worlds until they too had died out. Some of these minds that escaped the death of the Sel had also inhabited the Sarcophagus Worlds, albeit in a far less orderly manner.
One of the most ancient cultures still surviving in the Tuuros Galaxy that have surveyed Sarcophagus Worlds are the Antiquarian Collective; in the past four hundred thousand years, the Antiquarians have surveyed and obtained technology from Sarcophagus Worlds within the Schism, with varying degrees of success. Rumours have reached the Frontier on the matter of some worlds having been awakened - the Zhulultu minds assimilating Antiquarians for their own purposes - but such assimilated machines are yet to have breached the Frontier. In modern times, only nine of the approximate two hundred worlds in the Tuuros Galaxy are known to exist, although no planet since the War of Ages has been landed on or studied regarding heated debates on the morality of studying these worlds. During the rule of Lord Zhuleshxi, engineers of The Congregation were thought to have deconstructed a Sarcophagus World and repurposed the materials into engines of war, with a cold reception from Zhuleshxi himself.
Due to the age of the Sarcophagus Worlds, a majority of the stars of which these worlds have orbited have since died out, although the nature of the Zhulultu's technology implies that the resulting supernovae from these stars have not damaged or destroyed the planet's interiors. Therefore, many of the Zhulultu Sarcophagus Worlds are now theorised to be rogue planets.
Known Sarcophagus Worlds
A list of known Sarcophagus Worlds within the Tuuros Galaxy and beyond has been compiled since the end of the War of Ages, and as of 2820, fifteen Sarcophagus Worlds are known. Thirteen of the fifteen planets are within the Tuuros Galaxy, and only eight within the Tuuros Galaxy have been studied. All Sarcophagus Worlds are named after the Zhulultu of whom are interred.
“Tombs of the bretheren of old. Their bodies, weak and inferior as they were - gave rise to greater generations of whom superseded their predecessors. But I - ancient and above them even in the days past, survived the tragedy of their demise. I refuse death without great cause. My tomb will remain empty.”
- - Lord Zhuleshxi, c. 18,000 BC
“Accursed worlds without any sun. They contain a great evil within them, and it is only by the grace of Nammud and Zahamantas we have remained untainted by their devilish allure. We have tried to destroy them in the past; but the Zhulultu of old knew no limit to their own might. Rule over Tuuros we must, but steer the cattle away from the slaughter.”
- - Vranntan Shaman
“...in short, my dread lord, the Arch-Heretic and his schismatics did not flee into the Scar solely to escape our persecution. They are also seeking out -- in very deliberate defiance of your edicts -- a proscribed world of the Old Dead. They want to eat it.”
- - Kheshtad Zeyyd, following the Newblood Schism
- - Sethzak