[Inaius]Deliver Us From Darkness [crisis][semi-open]


Factbook Addict
TNP Nation
OOC Note: If you’d like to post in this thread, please contact me on discord first. Thank you!

Khodes Colony,
Commonwealth of Twelve Worlds,
inside the Maelstrom

Around the great bonfires the priests moved. They went from one crusader to the next performing their rites. Hundreds of Frondauri dressed in white and charcoal uniforms stood silently in circles around the bonfires, waiting. The lights of the maelstrom danced about in the sky overhead, dimmed by the roaring fires around.

Somewhere a band played a forlorn tune, the bladder-reeds wailing while flutes mourned and strings plucked somberly. “Come and cast your burdens upon the flame. Let your fears be carried into the sky!” At the bidding of the priests a Frondauri would go forward and cast an object, something to represent what they were leaving behind, what they were protecting. The fire would blaze up at the proffered offering, and the Frondauri would return to where they’d been standing before.

The priests would walk among the ranks, approach a crusader and ask “Which gods guide you tonight?” and upon the answer would paint an intricate pattern on their faces, geometric and fractal shapes which spoke of the chosen gods and their connections.

One by one each uniformed crusader told of their divine protectors, sometimes choosing three, rarely one, but mostly two. The priests would chant in Archon as they traced the patterns of war paint across the face. The recipient would stand stoically, barely moving as they were prepared for battle.

Many knew they would likely not be returning. Their enemy was fierce, fast, and capable of turning even the most devout into walking shades. There were no pre-battle boasts. This was a matter of death or a worse fate.

Their commander watched the ceremony unfold from the darkness beyond the bonfires. The grim resignation of those prepared to die. She was proud of their bravery, and hoped they would live past this first battle.

‘We have prepared,” she thought, and hoped they’d prepared enough.

The Shyanar Hunters were also performing their own rituals, preparing for the battle to come. They sang in their bird-like chirping language. They danced around their own, smaller, fires. Their preparations were louder than the solemn proceedings of the frondauri. But the commander knew they were no less prepared, and no less understanding of the dangers of their mission.

A priest approached the commander where she brooded. “The night passes quickly,” spoke the priest, an elderly Horrathi male. His purple skin appearing nearly black in the dark. “Are you ready to lead your forces into battle?”

“I am,” she answered curtly. “I will not fail the commonwealth.”

The priest’s eyes studied her, perhaps looking for signs of doubt or fear, but he found none. “Very well. Which gods guide you tonight?”

“I am led by Harklaedus, god of war. His banner shall be my banner, his trumpet my charge.”

“A wise choice,” the priest said. He readied his paint, dipping a finger into the bowl he carried. “Is there another who guides you as well?”

“One other,” the commander said, her voice turning grim. “Persephae, the goddess of death.”

The priest let out a low hiss from between his teeth. The commander met his judging stare without flinching. “Do not joke of such matters. Death already knows your name, do not draw her attention upon you.”

“Her attention has already been drawn. And if we are lucky we will feel her embrace. If not…” the commander trailed off for a moment before finishing her thought. “If not, we will have a worse fate.”

The priest didn’t speak again but instead busied himself tracing marks across her face. His fingers danced nimbly across the skin, tracing over cheek and bones. Around her eyes, over the brow, and then down to the chin, stopping only to get more paint, before continuing. He did not chant as the priests did with the others. To invoke death was unwise, and to chant prayers to her was foolish. When he was done he stepped back. “It is finished. May the gods be with you.”

And then he was gone, leaving the commander alone in the dark once again. The doleful music continued through the night. From time to time a fire blazed up as something was cast into it. And the commander continued to wait. The sun would rise soon and with it day would finally come. Then the horns of crusade would sound and all their readiness would be tested.

Burning the Past - Harry Gregson-Williams
Planet Hayavu
The Northern Frontier
Resxasxii Province, Qraxian Dominate
37th of Xchurkas, Year 283 of the Second Qriaxian Age

The arthropod priestess scurried through the large snow-covered forest on the northern periphery of her home province. Her dual pairs of elongated antennae were erect in the air, sensing for subtle shifts in the air hinting at movements not her own. She worried that she wasn’t the only one in these woods.

The priestess took a left turn down the vaguely outlined path leading deeper into the forest. She didn’t know where she would find what she was looking for, but she did know what she was looking for. Her higher-ups in the ecclesiarchy had been specific in detail regarding the structures she was to find. They were tall, crystalline structures shaped like an archway. In the back of her mind, she pondered why these structures were suddenly so important, and even who might have wasted crystals on building archways, but it was not her place to judge.

The priestess’ aide, a male worker enlisted by the ecclesiarchy for this quest, followed behind the priestess carrying all of the necessary items for the ritual. He too had his antennae stuck up in the air, sensing for signs of trouble. The two had been warned that something dark lurked in this forest and the surrounding countryside.

That’s why they were here, though.

“My lady,” the worker addressed the priestess with the clicking of mandibles and emitting specific kinds of pheromones. “Do you know how long we may yet walk before we come upon these arches?”

The priestess didn’t stop, continuing to walk down the path. “No, but we’re close.”

“How can you tell?”

“I’m not sure. This part of the forest has a certain… aura to it. It’s hard to describe.”

The aide felt a feeling of dread and darkness wash over him. He shivered in discomfort and each step forward had him anxious.

“Yeah, now I feel it too. I don’t like this…”

“Neither do I, but hopefully we can find out the cause behind this forest’s curse.”

The two continued down the path, feeling dread and worry arise within them, a sense of haunting.

Something else was in this forest. They just knew.

The wind direction shifted and the priestess could feel a harsh, sudden drop in temperature. They must be getting close to the arches.

The pair took a left turn down another vaguely defined path, obscured by the snow. Only a consistent clearing between the trees marked that this was, indeed, a small road. Then, through the scattered openings between the thickness of the trees, the priestess could see the structures that had summoned her here. For a moment, her dread faded and intensified at the same time.

“Come on, we’ve only a little further to go! This way!”

“Y-yes my lady!” The worker picked up the chest again, having set it down momentarily to rest. He’d been holding it for days. The priestess could sense his rising feeling of panic and paranoia. It was unsettling. Worker Hayavii were usually not easily frightened.

The duo drew closer and closer to the crystalline structures, vigilant as ever –

“Something’s here with us! I saw something move in the treeline! Something moved! Something moved!”

“Calm down!”

“I–I can’t do this! I’m getting out of here! You’re on your own!” He frantically scurried off, dropping the chest behind him.

“Damn it all…” the priestess mumbled to herself with some soft chittering. She picked the box up herself – or tried to. The Dominate’s religious caste never did any heavy lifting of their own, as that had always been left to the working caste. She had little strength to speak of.

She was forced to drag the chest the rest of the way to the arches. The whole rest of the way there, she had the unmistakable feeling that something was watching her. Stalking her. She had sensed it ever since she came to this forest, but now it was stronger than ever. Her head darted rapidly every which way, looking for something but not knowing what to look for. Still, the air was so cold, colder than it should be. Colder than it was before.

Finally, she came upon the arch, covered in overgrowth that was perhaps eons old. These structures had been here for as long as this region’s existence has been known to the wider Dominate, but little was told of them. It was a towering structure of gray, dull-shaded crystals that had the appearance of a massive gateway. Vines bearing large violet flowers had grown all over the structure, almost subsuming it. The flowers themselves, or rather the acids they spewed out, were highly toxic for her kind. She had to be careful.

The priestess sat the chest down, giving herself a moment to rest before she dug out the items inside for the purification ritual. Painting her face and her arms in the appropriate symbols for dispelling darkness and setting up the incense were the first steps. The smell of Thekonoih red incense had long been used to ward off evil – said to be so strong and horrible a stench to the darkness that the black spirits could not bear it. Deep down, she worried if it would be enough to ward off whatever stalked these woods.

She laid out the knife and the bowl and the enchanting powders on a small blanket. The priestess dropped to her knees and took up the knife, preparing to slit and drain her wrist that her pure, devout blood might ward off evil. She was to use her blood to water the base of the arch and then cover the blood in the holy powders, closing what was surely a gateway between the underhells and the mortal realm. She was to recite special prayers throughout the whole process to complete the ritual.

“Divine forms above, present in all places and in all forms at all times, save us from our demons and protect us from the Dark Ones Beyond. We your servants, we your humble subjects. Protect us that we might serve ye yet.”

Then there was a bright, piercing light. The inside of the arch had been filled with some kind of wall of light. The priestess, startled and confused, scurried away for the nearest tree and hid behind its large trunk.

A figure stepped forward – clearly not Hayavii. It was dressed in white garb and was distinctively not an arthropod. Its appearance was so… foreign. She had never seen a creature like it. She thought she saw the creature glance at her and she ducked behind the tree, fear permeating through her body and senses.

She had a bad feeling about this.
The commander saw the creature scurry away quickly and hide among the trees. It was an odd creature, and it reminded her vaguely of an Amokk on Archaeus.

She took a few steps ahead, her hives sinking into the snow. She let her gaze dart quickly around the woodlands, but could see nothing in the dark shadows cast by the trees.

Someone else came through the Starbridge behind her. She turned to see HEL in one of his spherical sensor bots. “I think I saw one of the natives,” she said, pointing a finger off in the direction of the trees it had run towards.

“Affirmative,” HEL responded in his pleasant mechanical voice. “Sensors are picking up its signature. It’s still hiding over there.”

“If it presents itself, try to make contact,” the Commander told him. “Do that thing you do and learn it’s language.”

“I can only do that if it’s talkative, Annaka.”

More Frondauri began passing through the archway. The officer saluted her, tapping his plasma branch against his horn. “Take your Order and set up a perimeter. I want defenses up in no less than fifteen minutes,” she ordered. “And watch out for the natives. There’s at least one in the area. Do not engage them.”

Troops poured through and Annaka watched as they passed. She gave orders as needed. When a dozen nervous looking Watchers came through carrying heavy equipment she ordered them to set it up in the open. “Three minutes,” she told them.

“Yes commander,” they responded.

It wasn’t long before their equipment was up and working. Soon a detailed picture of the surrounding terrain was being displayed. But it was the little glowing dots that interested her. Blue ones that represented her crusaders were clustered at the center, yellow dots showed natives individually and in clumps, but scattered around the countryside were a number of red ones.

“Those are them,” she stated.

“Faceless,” one of the watchers confirmed.

“That big yellow clump is a native city?” she asked as the display area grew bigger. The longer the sensor ran the bigger the area it displayed.

“I believe so,” a watcher answered.

She kept her eye on the sensor. The red dots were doing something weird. They were all rushing in the same direction, away from the Starbridge. “Where are they going?” she muttered as the dots reached the edge of sensor range and disappeared.

“I’ll try having the sensors scan off in that direction. The Watcher technician input commands and soon the sensor area started moving off in the direction the faceless had gone. It passed into a mountainous area, showing a network of deep caverns. And here they saw not red dots but a large clump of red. The numbers had to be in the thousands. And more and more dots were flowing into the clump.

“How long until the fleet arrives?” she hollered to HEL.

“Thirty-seven minutes,” he replied.

But as she watched the big red clump on the sensor start moving as one, flowing out of the caverns and across the countryside she knew it wouldn’t be soon enough. The red dots were heading in a line straight towards the yellow clump of the native city.

She called her officers over and gave them the information. “It looks like the faceless are making their move on the natives. It is our job to not let them take this planet. So aside from our rearguard, the rest of us are marching out.”

“Where to?” her second in command asked.

“Here,” she pointed to the terrain display. It showed a nice open valley. The faceless would have to pass through before reaching the city. “If we’re fast we can get there before them. This is it everyone. Remember your training. We’ll hold them off until the fleet arrives with their Lancers. May the gods protect us.”

Crusaders (Long Version) - Harry Gregson-Williams
They marched quickly through the snow and forests. Drummers pounded out rhythm and their hooves beat in time. The banners of each company flapping in the cold air, with the Crusader standard at the lead, a golden sun on a red field.

Annaka was out in front riding on the back of a fierce looking Prachyerm, and out in front of the column hundreds of Shyanar made up the vanguard and scouts. They’d take swift short flights forward, land to rest as the column caught up, and then would fly forward again.

The crusaders arrived at the valley. They couldn’t see the faceless yet.

“They’ll be here soon,” Annaka bellowed. She began giving out her commands. She arrayed her men along a rocky ledge, giving her troops some natural cover. A large hill at the center of the valley gave them an elevated position. She put her shield bearers near the base in a number of concentric lines. Crusaders with plasma branches crowded the higher ground and below them those with rifles and bows lined up next. Just inside the shield wall Frondauri and Shyanar waited holding long spears with plasma tips.

Two other circular defenses were also formed at either end of the ridge to serve as their flank. Hopefully the faceless would rush their positions instead of continuing on towards the native city.

Annaka checked her timekeeper. Thirteen minutes until the fleet arrived. She took a deep breath. All she could do now was wait. A pale half moon had risen over the mountains and shined its pale light over the snow covered ground.

Annaka’s communicator crackled in her ear and HEL’s voice came over it. “I’ve made contact with a local,” he reported.

“Can you communicate with them yet?”

“I’ve made great strides, but they use a complex system of sounds, gestures, and pheromones. I’ve been trying to find the right scents to…”

“Are the heavy guns in place?” she asked, cutting off his explanation.

“Indeed they are,” he confirmed. “Just say the word and I will direct their fire.”

She tapped the communicator to silence it. Now they waited. The landscape was silent except for a low rushing wind. Far off among the hills she could see a plume of smoke from a fire. Probably the homestead of a local. God of this world, please watch over your people and protect them tonight, she silently prayed. Your people are in grave danger. Give us the strength to defend your people.

The wind among the trees was growing louder, though in the valley the air remained still. She checked her timekeeper again. Eleven minutes.

Her communicator came on again. “They’re almost to your position,” HEL reported.

But she still couldn’t see them. “How far out?” she asked but as she spoke she realized that the growing sound of wind wasn’t wind. Something was moving through the trees shaking snow from their boughs. And they were beating down the mountains towards the valley.

“They’re here,” she said. Around her the crusaders tightened their grips on their weapons. From out of the tree line a large mass emerged. They skittered across the snow, vaguely shaped like the native aliens, but without defining faces. Their carapaces were a dull gray. There was no faces on any of them, only a large mouth filled with sharp fangs.

Sub-commanders called up and down the line to get ready. Onward the mass rushed, throwing snow around them. They raced down the valley, no sign that they’d seen the defenders. When they entered the range of the plasma branches Annaka ordered them to fire.

Up and over their lines green globules of superheated material rose and then dropped into the front ranks. Fires roared up and faceless went with it. The ones on fire crashed into those that weren’t spreading the flames. The faceless now knew the Frondauri were there. The rushing mass perceptively changed their course and headed straight for their position.

“Let them have it!” she cried and all around her plasma weapons opened fire. Where the bolts struck the faceless would burst into flames, but on they came. More enemies than they had the weapons to shoot.

She flipped on her communicator. “First gun, open fire.”

Only a few seconds later a massive glob of plasma roared over their heads and dropped into the onrushing horde. A vast swath of faceless burst into flame and the horde had to split to avoid rushing into the green flames.

“Guns two and three, fire when ready.”

The valley was now alight from green plasma soaring through the air. Flames lept up all across the valley. But the horde closed the distance.

“Hold the line!”

The faceless crashes against the plasma shields and their gray carapaces lit up in brilliant flame. From behind spears were stabbed at faceless, driving them back. Plasma and concussive grenades rained down on the horde. There were screams and burning. Annaka watched the battle from her position on the Prachyerms back. Splinters were breaking off from the horde, rushing away into the trees towards their hidden artillery emplacements.

“Gun one,” she called over the radio. “You’ve got company headed your way.”

She hoped they heard, but more immediate concerns were drawing her attention. A section of shield has come down and the faceless surged through. They grabbed at the Frondauri and were soon turning her troops. The Shyanar rushed in, flying above the chaos, with their spears, stabbing at faceless and changing frondauri alike.

Annaka watched as the shield gap widened. “With me!” she screamed to those close around her. She spurred her beast forward and dashed down into the fray. Her bioblade swung through a faceless, decapitating it. But without the burning properties of plasma the head of the faceless started to grow back. She tossed her blade, drew her pistol, and blasted it. The faceless thing went up in flame.

The battle raged around her. Faceless rushed through the break which grew wider every second. Elsewhere the shields had been breached and now they were fighting desperately for survival. Annaka would rally troops around her to watch them fall to the onrushing horde.

Her communicator came on. “We’ve lost gun one and three,” came HEL’s report over the commotion. “Gun two days they’ll keep firing until the end.”

“You defend the plaza as long as you can,” Annaka replied. “But if they start heading towards your position you keep them from activating the archways whatever it takes.”

HEL’s reply was simple and to the point. “Backing up data to remote site.” He knew he wasn’t getting out either. Not in this sensor bot anyway.

She found herself alone, her support having pulled back towards higher ground. “Persephae take me,” she half prayed half pled as a wave of faceless headed right towards her. She drew out a plasma grenade and armed it. Better to go out then be turned.

But then out of the sky two dozen ships dropped low, their engines roaring over the sounds of battle. Their front guns activated and a steady plasma stream opened up. They flew over the battlefield, the beam incinerating the hordes as they raced by.

And then more frondauri raced past Annaka, blasting and stabbing at the faceless that were within reach. The fleet and reinforcements had arrived.

The Battle of Kerak - Harry Gregson-Williams
Onboard the Divinity’s Dawn
Flagship of Battlefleet Vigilance
In orbit of Planet Aulippa

The doors opened on their own as Lord-Admiral Iren tou-Payye walked up to them. With a smooth mechanical sound, they parted ways and withdrew into the surrounding wall, opening the way to the bridge. The aged man walked his way to the edge of the observation platform overlooking the rest of the room. Officers went about their duties at their consoles.

The captain of the Divinity’s Dawn, a Vei’ah named Yaia, noticed Iren almost immediately.

“Lord-Admiral on deck!” She hollered in her chirpy, higher-pitched voice. The officers in the bridge rose from their consoles and stood at attention, facing the platform.

“At ease.” Iren adjusted his white paludamentum and folded his hands behind himself.

“Good morning, my lord. I trust the Divinity’s Dawn has treated you well thus far?”

Iren nodded. “Indeed it has, Captain.”

“Thank you, my lord. I am honored that His Majesty trusts me with her command.” There was a sense of pride in her words, despite her trying to sound humble. He couldn’t blame her, though.

“This battlecarrier is one of the finest that the Empire has in its service. I’ve read your file and I am convinced that she’s in good hands.”

She couldn’t help but smile. “Thank you, Lord-Admiral.”

“Tell me, Captain,” Iren was getting to what he wanted to talk about. “Have you been planetside recently?”

Yaia was… confused. Why was he asking this?

“No, my lord. I have been here onboard the Divinity’s Dawn ever since I was assigned to her by the Council of Admirals.” The sense of puzzlement in her tone was noticeable. The Vei’ah weren’t good at hiding emotions.

“I see,” Iren reduced his voice to a hushed whisper, not wanting to draw the crew’s attention.

“There’s… something off on Aulippa. People are disappearing and local authorities have no leads. No bodies, no weapons, nothing. It worries me greatly.”

“I see,” was Yaia’s simple reply.

“Captain Yaia, incoming transmission from the Hayavu System,” the communications officer called out for his superior. “It’s from the Imperial primitive observatory.”

“Put it through.” Yaia stood at attention and with a look of seriousness about her.

An orange holographic projection of a human woman came through. She was dressed similarly to Yaia, though of course their respective uniforms were specifically made for their species.

“Captain Yaia. Lord-Admiral tou-Payye,” the female officer nodded to each of them both. “My name is Iyan Vei; I’m the director of the Hayavu primitive observatory. I require immediate assistance in the Hayavu System. At least two dozen unidentified ships have just jumped into the system, over the primitive homeworld.”

“Unidentified ships?” Yaia tilted her head.

“Aye,” Iyan confirmed. “Additionally, unidentified lifeforms have appeared on the planet surface literally out of nowhere. I fear the primitives could be in danger, potentially the Empire itself as well.”

Iren nodded. “Very well, Battlefleet Vigilance will be there at once.” The hologram cut out and Iren turned to Yaia’s communications officer.

“Let the battlefleet know that we’re jumping to Hayavu! All ships to slip moorings and prep a shockpoint jump to the Hayavu System!” The comms officer nodded and got to work.

The Divinity’s Dawn and her accompanying fleet disconnected themselves from the orbital port one by one, moving further and further from Aulippa. It was dangerous to make a jump so close to an orbital port. Battlefleet Vigilance numbered about 250 vessels, ranging from small pickett ships to the massive battlecruisers, to the even larger battlecarrier Divinity’s Dawn.

They drew up to a good distance from Aulippa. The Divinity’s Dawn charged up her shockpoint drive, the stars seemed to stretch, and then they were off. The rest of the fleet followed closely behind. The trip itself wouldn’t take very long; a mere twenty-minute jump.

Yaia looked to Iren, a look of concern about her. “My lord, what of the Council of Admirals? Surely you must inform them of-”

“Captain Yaia,” Iren abruptly cut her off. “Fifteen unknowns just appeared over a primitive reserve world. Protocol dictates that in such an event as this, the closest battlefleet must establish contact and confirm the intentions of such unknowns; destroying them if necessary. That’s what we’re doing.”

Yaia nodded. “Yes, my lord.”

Twenty minutes later, the navigations officer whirled about. “Captain Yaia, we’re coming up on the Hayavu System. Lady Vei was correct; we’re detected ships over the primitive homeworld. Their make and model don’t match any maritime records.”

The battlecarrier dropped out of shockspace, followed immediately by the rest of the battlefleet.

Yaia stepped up. “Hail the largest ship among their number."

"Aye, captain!" The comms officer hollered back. "You're up!"

Yaia cleared her throat. "Attention alien vessels," she spoke clearly, though she couldn't get rid of her chirpiness. "You find yourselves within the territory of the Sekari Empire and you are trespassing on the Hayavu primitive reserve world. Identify yourselves and your attentions, or prepare to be boarded and arrested!"
Annaka and the survivors of her forces were loaded into Lancers as they lifted away from the battlefield. The entire countryside was alight with roaring flames. Lancers moved back and forth over the area, burning away with their massive forward plasma gun, leaving no area unscorched.

Annaka, stil shook from facing death minutes before, breathed deeply to calm her nerves. Gripping hold of the ship’s bulkhead she found herself moving around the troop compartment. She felt like she needed to keep moving before the horrors of the battle overwhelmed her.

A medic, passing down the hall towards the rescued crusaders, saw her. “Are you alright, Commander?” she asked, glancing at Annaka’s rank insignia.

“I am,'' she responded, giving a weary smile. “Have they gotten all the faceless, do you know?”

The medic, not at all dissuaded by Annaka’s assurances that she was okay, quickly started checking her for wounds. “Last I heard the HEL sensors hadn’t picked up anymore of them, but they’re still expanding the sensor area to make sure.”

“Thank you,” the commander answered. The medic nodded and moved away to check on the others. Annaka could see the same horror on the faces of her troops, as she no doubt had on her own. They all looked tired and weary, but their eyes were wide as if in fright. The only thing she could think about was how many of her people she’d lost. How many had been turned before they perished.

There was no doubt a count being taken and the number would be given to her when she met with the Precentor aboard his ship. But she couldn’t think about the debriefing right now. She could only breathe steadily and try to keep the shakes from overtaking her.

The Precentor’s stateroom felt cold and Annaka resisted the urge to shiver. Two massive viewports looked out over the planet below. Hayavu, a primitive jewel in the cold setting of space. She gave it a quick glance, but turned away as the events of the battle flooded back to her mind.

Three quick breaths and then five long ones and she was once again in control of herself. Two frondauri sat at a table before her. They were analysts for the commonwealth, sent to observe how the engagement had progressed. One was a Watcher, the open eye emblem on the front of their tunic. The third wore no insignia, but the cut of their outfit and the pleated vest they wore was enough to mark them as an agent of the Council of Twelve.

None spoke to her, nor looked at her. There’d been barely a glance at her as she’d entered the room. They were busy writing away at their parchments, scribbling out their initial reports as quickly as possible. Lest they lose their immediate thoughts. They were also waiting on the Precentor, and they dared not to start the debriefing before he arrived.

He did not leave them waiting too long, barging into the stateroom with only the quickest of glances at the occupants. Annaka tightened her shoulders and forced herself even straighter as he entered. He was flanked by one of his flag officers and a junior aid. The aid gave Annaka a pleasant smile, the flag officer didn’t even look at her.

The Precentor took his seat at the table, so did the flag officer. The aid remained standing behind them. The Watcher and Council agent looked expectantly towards the Precentor, but the flag officer stared at Annaka.

The Precentor greeted each person in the room, asking no names as those weren’t relevant. He then turned his eyes to Annaka, and despite thinking she was standing as stiff as possible already, his direct gaze made her stiffen up further. “Commander, thank you for joining us,” he said in a booming tone that was neither pleasant nor disagreeable. “Please recount the events of the battle for us. Your own words. And try not to embellish.”

She stamped her right hoof in a gesture of respect, and then gave her report on the events. The Precentor’s eyes never left her as he listened intently. The others would dart their attention to their parchments as they took notes, only looking up when she said something that interested them. When she was finished an uncomfortable silence filled the room.

The Precentor only removed his attention from her long enough to look at the others in the room. “Does no one have anything they wish the Commander to clarify?”

The flag officer raised his hand. “I do.” The Precentor motioned for him to speak. “You were ordered to hold and defend the starbridge plaza until the arrival of the fleet. Yet you marched the bulk of your force out to meet the horde. To defend the natives, as you said, yet this was not in your orders. Explain.”

Annaka took another deep breath before answering. “If the faceless had reached the native city, their numbers would have grown exponentially. I decided to attack them before they could grow in numbers, otherwise defending the starbridges would have been untenable.”

“You lost 129 of your forces. Frondauri and Shyanar. And yet you still believe moving out to meet the enemy was a good course of action?”

“Yes,” she answered. “I’m sure the natives we saved would agree.”

The flag officer went to say something else, but the Precentor held up his hand to silence him. He then turned to the two Watchers. “And what questions do you have?”

The watcher spoke up. “You said the faceless moved against the native city almost as soon as you arrived. Do you believe they were alerted to your presence?”

“They had already been on the move by the time we set up HEL’s sensor device. But they hadn’t been on the move for long.”

The Watcher grunted and shook her head. “I understood that part of your report. My question was, do you believe they knew your forces had arrived?”

Annaka looked to the Precentor but he only stared unblinkingly back at her. She had been told not to embellish, to speak straight. So she did. “I don’t know for certain, but the timing indicates that they were aware of our arrival.”

The Watcher looked to the Precentor. “This fits with the records we have of their invasion of Archon space.”

The Precentor just shrugged dismissively. “But it’s not definitive proof. Do you have any additional questions?”

The watcher looked at Annaka then shook her head. “Nothing.”

“And what about the agent of the council?”

The last Frondauri shifted in his seat, a bored expression carefully planted on his face. “I have no orders to ask any. I am merely here to observe your first engagement.” And he emphasized his dismissal of the whole debriefing by rolling up his parchments and putting them in his pocket. “Though I suppose for my own edification I would ask the Commander, were the faceless as terrifying as we’ve been told?”

This time the Precentor didn’t look at her as she answered, keeping his eyes on the council’s agent, but she could see a cold glare on his face. She decided to answer as succinctly as she could. “They were more terrifying than I could have imagined. They were so fast, and so many. I watched many of my own forces be turned into more of them simply by a quick touch.”

If anyone else had more questions, they wouldn’t be able to ask them. The Precentor stood and the motion drew their attention. “The inquisitor will wish to question her soon. We’ll all have access to their report when it’s finished. I think we’ve heard enough.” He then dismissed them. They all filed out of the room until only he and Annaka remained. Finally the stoic mask he’d forced his face into dropped and his eyes filled with relief and joy.

“Are you alright?” he asked kindly.

She dropped her shoulders and let all the tension she’d been feeling out. The fear, the horror, it all once again threatened to rush back. “Yes, sir,” she managed to answer meekly.

He had moved around the table and then came up and gave her a hug, holding her as she trembled with remembered terror. “You’re alright now,” he soothed. “You made it back to me.”

“It was terrifying,” she admitted, emotion in her voice. “I know I pushed for this command. I didn’t know what they’d be like. I wasn’t ready. ”

“Neither was I the first time I faced them,” the Precentor said. “I wanted to stop you, to keep you from this danger. But you’re your mother’s daughter, as well as mine, and I knew you would not be deterred. I am so glad you’re safe.”

“What can I expect from the inquisitor?Your flag officer seemed particularly upset with my actions?”

“He has his own orders no doubt. To make sure I don’t go easy on you because you’re my daughter.” He held her a bit longer as relief at her return washed over him. Finally he let her go. “The inquisitor will have more questions for you. They’ll be much harder and more specific. Be truthful. Their job is to decide if this operation was a success or a failure. And from there they will rework our strategy if necessary.”

She steeled herself again, pushing the fear from her eyes and calming the trembling she hadn’t realized she’d been doing. He squeezed her shoulder fondly. He gave her a fatherly smile. “I will delay my departure until after you meet with the inquisitor. Then if you’re willing I’d like you to join me for dinner before you return to Pendragost. I think a good meal would be beneficial for both of us.”

The vine-horn in the stateroom sounded, interrupting their conversation. The Precentor picked it up, the horn’s tip expanding to cover his ear and jaw. “Report,” he said.

Annaka couldn’t hear what was said but the Precentor reacted with an amused smile. “I’ll be right there.” He hung up and turned to his daughter. “Care to join me on the bridge? It looks like the Sekari have sent a fleet to greet us.”

They arrived on the bridge, a small cramped room with over a dozen crew working away at numerous consoles. There was no viewport, as the bridge was located within the ship’s bowels, but a display showed the positions of their ships around the planet. Another fleet, much larger than their own, was drawing up in a battle line around them.

“They’re demanding to know who we are,” someone reported to the Precentor.

“Very well,” he said, placing the bridge’s vine-horn on his head. “Please transmit my response.”

A few quick commands entered into a biomechanical console were put in and the Precentor was given the signal that he was transmitting.

“This is Precentor Draevin of the Crusader Fleet of the Twelve Worlds Commonwealth. I come with grave news for the Sekari Empire. Please, I wish to speak with Emperor Vissarion II or, if possible, with Eyleene Kirst.”

Father and Daughter (Instrumental) - Guitar Tribute Players
Yaia was… puzzled. The Frondauri? Here? Iren tapped Yaia on the shoulder and she stepped aside, allowing Iren to step up and speak.

“Precentor Draevin, this is Lord-Admiral Iren tou-Payye speaking. Forgive our… assumption of hostility – it was my understanding that the Frondauri Commonwealth was still trapped within the Sector Five nebula. If you’ve something to speak of with His Majesty, I can contact the Imperial Council and put in a request for an audience. A meeting with Lady Eyleene of Aulippa can also be arranged, though I must inquire as to the message you mean to carry.”

The Frondauri’s reply took no time. There was a subtle tone of urgency in his voice, well hidden but Iren still managed to pick it up. “Things have… changed since the Sekari delegation left the Maelstrom. That is part of what I wish to speak about,” Draevin paused. “But most importantly I come to warn your people about a new threat; one that may very well have overrun the world below us had we not intervened.”

These things the Precentor was talking about… he was being uncomfortably vague. If some unknown force posed a threat to the whole of the Empire, he needed the specifics.

“Precentor, it is in the interest of the Sekari Empire’s national security that I must ask you to be more specific. What is this threat you speak of?”

The Precentor called them “The Faceless.” Their description made Iren uneasy and his worry grew. The Frondauri’s description of how they behaved; how they grew in their numbers…

Then it clicked in his mind.


“I see,” he murmured to himself. “Precentor Draevin, thank you for sharing this information with me. I will contact His Majesty and arrange an audience so you may fill the Emperor in on the details. Lady Eyleene will also be asked to appear for the audience. My navigation officer will send you the coordinates of Cyrn, the Sekari Empire’s capital planet. The fleet guarding Cyrn will be instructed to allow your craft passage to the planet, and you will be asked to dock your ship at Spaceport Uulys, from where you will take a shuttle to the Imperial Palace. May the Star Gods guide you and us all.”

The transmission cut off. Yaia composed her posture, standing at attention as Iren looked over. “Lord-Admiral?”

Iren looked back to the rest of the bridge crew, all turned about in their seats; their eyes on him, waiting for him to say something.

“Navigator, send the Frondauri representative the coordinates for Cyrn. Communications, get Cyrn on call, let them know a Frondauri representative is inbound for the Imperial Palace and requesting an audience with His Majesty,” he crossed his hands behind his back. “And get me a hold of Lady Eyleene Kirst tou-Aulip, let her know the Frondauri representative has requested to meet her personally on Cyrn.”

He glanced back to Yaia again. “Captain, take the helm.”

“My lord?”

“I must contact the Council of Admirals and inform them of this ‘Faceless’ threat. I will be in the communications chamber.”

“Of course, my lord!” Yaia stepped back up to the fore of the elevated platform.

“My the Ancestors help us…” she whispered a short prayer.

Eyleene stood at the head of a small troupe of Eisei Order imperial guards, waiting for Sir Draevin’s ship to dock. She was to meet him here on a reserved docking port, from where they would take a shuttle to the Imperial Palace, a few dozen kilometers away. The sky around Starport Uulys was ordered to be cleared so the Frondauri ship could safely approach.

They were on Cyrn, the capital world of the Sekari Empire. The bustling cityscape expanded from horizon to horizon, seeming indefinite in scope. The buildings themselves were massive, looking to touch the clouds and beyond. Far off in the distance, the skies between the buildings were littered with personal and commercial crafts, going about whatever business concerned them. The lower levels of the city stretched far below the surface of the planet, digging deep but not dangerously so. “The underbelly,” it was called; where criminal activity was at its strongest on the planet.

They weren't actually too far off from the original landing site of the First Emperor’s refugee fleet – it was only about twenty or so kilometers to the north. Eyleene couldn’t help but feel honored to be on this planet. And to hold audience with His Majesty, the Emperor? Even better. The reason for all of this, however? It disturbed her. It had been a year since she returned to Imperial space from the Sector Five nebula, called “the Maelstrom” by its inhabitants. She always had… a feeling, deep down, that she would once again face the threat posed by those monsters that had attacked her, her delegation, and the Frondauri themselves.

A rather large ship, unfamiliar in its design, was approaching from the southwest, gradually descending from the skies to meet with the landing platform. The Frondauri vessel touched down to the platform, and a small delegation, headed by whom she assumed must be this Precentor official, descended from within.

Eyleene adjusted her posture. She stepped up to offer the Frondauri greeting as he drew close and she gave him a slight bow.

“Sir Draevin, Precentor of the Frondauri Twelve Worlds’ Commonwealth, allow me to welcome you to Cyrn, throneworld of the Sekari Empire. I am glad to meet with you, and again your people. I was the Sekari representative assigned to initiate first contact with your people and government a year ago. It seems your people have come rather far in such a short time. Come, I have a shuttle prepared that will fly us to the Imperial Palace. There you may meet personally with His Majesty and explain to him the Faceless threat.” She gestured to a decently sized craft at the other end of the landing platform. It wasn’t as large as the Frondauri ship, but it would be enough space for both delegations to fit.
The inquisitor was thorough, asking tough and pointed questions. But he was also professional and asked only questions relevant to the events of the battle. The debriefing lasted over two hours before Annaka was dismissed.

Once on her own, her mind wandered to what had happened with the arrival of the Sekari fleet. She decided she’d wait to ask her father at their meal. But as she was heading to her bunk room her father’s aid caught up with her.

“Hello, Rhurro,” she greeted him warmly.

“I just heard you’d left the inquisitor,” he explained. “How did it go?”

“It went well,” she replied, hoping that it had in fact gone well. “I was just going to freshen up before meeting my….the Precentor for dinner.”

“That’s why I wanted to meet you,” Rhusso said. Annaka’s heart sank already knowing what he would say. “The Precentor is meeting with the Sekari and has already gone on to their capital.”

She gave him a wry smile. “We must all do our duty,” she said, repeating the hollow platitude. Yet though she wanted to be angry, she knew she couldn’t be. Her father was who he was. And so was she. Another leader for the commonwealth. “I suppose I should find other plans for dinner. Go down to the mess. Care to join me?”

Rhurro’s eyes lit up. “Yeah,” he said. “Definitely, yeah. I haven’t eaten.”

She considered asking him if he knew anything about their next deployment but decided not to. Better to learn when it mattered, than to worry in advance. Instead she talked with him about the briefing with the inquisitor as they walked to get food.

The Sekari capital was a new experience for Draevin. A bustling cityscape stretching away in all directions. Buildings towering hi in the sky, the hustle and bustle of its citizens. The Maelstrom had no world to compare. Except the Tomb. He suspected the Archon capital had once been very much like Cyrn.

Even his small entourage were blown away, staring unabashedly at the sights. Frondauri and Shyanar alike. The only one of his party who remained composed was the Matriarch he had brought along. She instead had her attention fixed on the Sekari delegation, so Draevin followed her lead.

“Lady Eyleene,” Draevin said, addressing the Sekari female. “Indeed, I know who you are. We did not have the pleasure of meeting on your visit to Pendragost. I was away on other matters, though Izine speaks very highly of you. I’m sure you and your emperor will be glad to hear that the Rhodoni rebellion has been quelled. And a long lasting peace has been brokered.”

He spoke with what dignity a country Frondauri could and hoped he sounded sophisticated enough for such a mighty place. He was about to meet a powerful monarch. He stepped into the transport, helping the matriarch up. He hoped the meeting with this planet’s emperor would bear fruit.
Annaka and Rhurro got some grub before being waved over to a table with a number of other crusader commanders.

“We pulled you out of the fire didn’t we?” one said. He was a mass of a frondauri, his dark red skin giving him away as an Abzydi.

“I noticed it was your company, Bastag,” Annaka replied. “You’re timing was perfect. A few minutes longer and none of us would have been left to save.”

Bastag grinned happily. “I drew the honor of being first off the transport.”

A woman leaned over to confide with Annaka. “He demanded to draw lots, but we’d already decided he’d go first. Otherwise he might have trampled over us in his eagerness.”

“Lies! You are jealous I won.”

The woman just shrugged. She was of mixed heritage like Annaka, and had dull blue skin. She was just a few years older than Annaka. “I’ve heard second hand about your battle. How bad was it really?”

“Bad,” Annaka admitted. “Final tally says I lost a third of my force.”

“Way to go, Teb,” Bastag scolded the woman. “Ruining our glorious victory with talk of casualties.”

Another commander spoke up. He had the purple skin and black-blue eyes of a Horrathi. “It wasn’t a victory,” he stated coldly. “It was very nearly a slaughter. Annaka walked her troops right into an ambush.”

Rhurro spoke up in her defense. “She met the enemy in the open. Protecting the natives.”

The Horrathi gave Rhurro a look of disdain. “Were youThere? Because I don’t remember hearing that a paperboy was in the fight.”

“Steady on,” Annaka said, a warning to both. But her next words were for the Horrathi. “If you have a problem with me, Lurgos, you may take it up with me in private.”

“I have no problem with you,” Lurgos said. “You were just following orders and doing your duty. It wasn’t your fault you're the Precentor’s daughter and were chosen to lead this mission.”

“Who my father is was irrelevant to the high command's decision.”

“Oh, that’s my bad,” Lurgos responded, mocking an apology by clasping his hands over his heart. “Then the decision was based on who your mother is.”

Annaka clenched her jaw so she wouldn’t say what she was thinking. She wouldn’t let him raise her fire. She’d dealt with naysayers like him her whole life. “Do you think if I hadn’t been chosen they would have picked you?” she asked.

“I have the best record of every commander in this room. My tactical skills are unmatched. I even beat you in numerous mock battles. Yet they chose you over me.”

“I see,” Annaka said. “So this is about what you think you deserve?”

“Are you saying I’m not more deserving?” he snarled. “I’m more deserving than someone who has had everything handed to them their entire life. Had I lost a third of my forces in my first real battle they’d be drumming me out. But not you. No, not their golden child.” He bared his teeth at her, pressing his knuckles into the tabletop so hard they turned white. “So to the abyss with you, you klithless phage-daughter.”

The other commanders at the table gasped at his insult. Rhurro jumped up so fast his seat fell back with a clatter. He was ready to leap across at Lurgos, likely with the intent of putting his hands around his throat. But Lurgos had also surged to his feet, raising his fists in defense. But Annaka also had jumped up and grabbed Rhurro by the shoulders, pulling him back from doing something stupid.

“Rhurro, no!” she commanded as she held him back.

“That’s right,” Argos mocked. “Do as your girlfriend commands, paperboy!”

Rhurro surged forward again, but Bastag had come over and now stood between the two. “Cowardly bigot!” Rhurro hollered at Lurgos, who only laughed.

“Rhurro,” Annaka said in a calming tone, drawing the attention of her friend. “Let it go. This isn’t your battle, and I won’t let you fight it for me.”

Rhurro calmed down, shrugging off Bastag’s strong grip. He gave Lurgos a withering look. “Be grateful she’s a better person than me?” he said and then stormed off.

“Yes, run off little boy,” Lurgo called after him, but Rhurro ignored him and kept walking.

But it was enough to finally irritate Annaka into a response. “You arrogant son of whore,” she said, her voice still calm but her eyes filled with hate. “You weren’t chosen because the council thought you too self assured of your skills. So when you finally meet the faceless, I truly hope you’re as good as you think you are. For your troop’s sake, if not for mine. Don’t get yourself killed just to show me up.”

Lurgos opened his mouth to say something, but the overhead intercom sounded. “All Crusaders to your posts. HEL has located another faceless infestation. The fleet will be moving out immediately. Be prepared for battle.”

The argument of a minute ago evaporated as everyone dashed to find their units and ready themselves for battle.

There was a flurry of activity around the Frondauri ships. Transports whizzed back and forth between ships, transferring troops and personnel. The fleet also drew up into a single line, the lancers at the front and cruisers at the rear. The crusader fleet had been mostly drifting about, presenting as little of a threat to the waiting Sekari as they could, now gingerly maneuvered around them as they drew up into line.

The Sekari started hailing the crusaders, asking what was going on. The Frondauri simply responded they were preparing to head out. Further hails for clarification were simply met with the response “Stand by.”

Once all the ships were in line the lead lancer opened a forward port. A gray mass was launched outward. As the mass flew away from the ship it started to grow and expand rapidly, growing two ‘arms’ which arched in a curve outward and down. Once the two sides met they formed a ring, and a single crystal at the apex glowed white. The stars beyond the ring flickered and danced as if seen through heat shimmer.

One by one the Frondauri fleet passed through the ring, disappearing to somewhere unknown. As the last cruiser passed through the ring it sent a message to the Sekari fleet. “Another enemy infestation has been discovered. If you wish to join us, we’ll leave the starbridge open. Farewell.”

Blood on the Scales - Bear McCreary
The fleet arrived over Khodes, passing through a massive space bridge. Other ships were gathered in the space above the planet. The rest of the crusader fleet.

A massive starbase was also under construction. One day it would be the hub for all passage in and out of the Maelstrom. But for now it was another bit of clutter above the small world.

More crusaders were transported from the planet up to the fleet. The commanders meanwhile were called to a meeting in preparation for the next action.

“The next infestation is on a planet the Archons called Teferaet,” the presenter spoke. He was an old grizzled Tamari with the insignia of a Crusader Legate. “HEL has provided us with what intel he could. Seems the atmosphere of the planet has grown toxic since the Archons abandoned it, so we’ll be fighting in full gear.”

Behind him a display lit up showing an image of barren rocks and a sky tinged a sickly green. Atmospheric readings scrolled over the image showing just how terrible a place the planet was.

The Legate continued. “From HEL’s initial scans it appears the faceless are pouring through an active Starbridge by the hundreds. They seem to be amassing in force. We have found no native life for them to convert so they don’t appear to be hiding their numbers.”

“Then why do the faceless want this planet?” a commander asked.

“Because there’s some kind of Archon facility still standing,” a loud voice answered from the rear of the room. Everyone turned to see who’d spoken. A female frondauri stood at the rear of the room. She had numerous scars on her face. One of her horns had been cracked and broken off in the past and her right arm was gone, replaced with a mechanical one. Instead of the white uniform of a crusader she wore the black and green cloak of a Guardian. She strode purposefully across the room between the rows of seated commanders.

“Ah, Protector Went,” the Legate greeted her. “I’m glad you could make it.”

Protector Went and the Legate clasped wrists and tapped their horns together in greeting. “I’m sorry to interrupt your presentation,” she said. “I came immediately once the Watchers forwarded this intel.”

“Then I shall let you present it.”

“Thank you.” She turned to the gathered commanders. The screen changed to show the hazy outline of a massive construction. The walls sloped up like a pyramid but terminated at a flat top with four towering obelisks at each corner. The details were hard to make out through the green toxic haze.

“The Watchers believe it is a similar facility to the ones found on Archaeus, though the towers at the top suggest a different purpose than the doom engines. The fact the faceless are gathering around in and around it are enough of a reason for us to not want them to have it.”

The Legate looked confused. “I didn’t think the faceless were intelligent enough to operate machinery,” he said.

“Their intelligence is still being debated. They mostly seem to act on an instinctual level. But we believe they are being controlled.”

“Controlled? By who?”

“That’s currently classified,” Went responded, “but for now, expect this horde to be more organized. Our goal is to eradicate the infestation and take control of the facility. Or failing that, destroy it.”

The Legate obviously had more questions but knew better than to ask. “We have our orders. Once the fleet is resupplied we will be moving out. Commander Annaka will again lead the first incursion. However due to her previous losses she’ll be supported by commander Lurgos’ forces as well. Make sure your troops are well supplied. Dismissed!”

Lurgos gave Annaka as much look as he headed out. She merely nodded at him as he passed.

“I guess he’ll get to show off how much better he is,” Bastag told Annaka as they departed. “Unless he gets killed doing it.”

Annaka didn’t say anything. Lurgos getting himself and his troops killed was exactly what she was afraid of.
Last edited:
Eyleene took little note of the foreigners’ amazement at the sights of the Imperial City. Someone of lesser professionalism would have taken the time to brag and snob about the throneworld, but Eyleene merely cleared her throat.

The Frondauri Precentor’s attention abandoned the sea of towers and returned to her. The two exchanged words before the Frondauri and Shyanar were welcomed onto a large shuttle. A red carpet was already laid out leading up to the open entrance of the ship, flanked on both sides by lines of evenly-spaced guards. The guards were clad in shining gold armor and stood stiff as stone, just as unmoving. Eyleene allowed the foreign delegation the courtesy of boarding first. Then her own entourage came aboard. The doors closed, the shuttle lifted off the landing platform, turned about, and sped off towards the Imperial Palace where the Emperor was waiting.

As the shuttle made for the palace, Eyleene introduced herself to the Matriarch and invited both her, Draevin, and their escorts to the room next over from the shuttle’s lobby. While the whole of the shuttle was rather comfortable and decorated, this one was even grander. The seats were of comfy, lavender-colored leather cushions, there were crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, the floors adorned with furred carpets and silk curtains flanking each window. Servant droids offered each of the foreigners a beverage.

“This first-class cabin is reserved for individuals of special importance,” Eyleene explained as Draevin, the Matriarch, and their guards walked in and were able to get a full view of the cabin’s luxury. “Since you are formal representatives of foreign peoples, you are both welcome to ride to the Imperial Palace in premium comfort. His Majesty the Emperor wishes you all to feel welcomed warmly here in the Sekari Empire.” She took a seat in one of the chairs and invited both Draevin and the Matriarch to sit across from her.

As the shuttle flew over the skyline of Cyrn, Eyleene allowed herself to become lost in thought. The Frondauri Commonwealth was limited to the sector 5 nebula merely a year ago. Now they had a small fleet of starships? She looked to Draevin and laid back in her chair.

“Precentor,” Eyleene spoke up. Draevin looked back at her from the skyline beyond the windows. “I have questions regarding recent developments in your people’s commonwealth if you’re at liberty to entertain my curiosity.” She raised an eyebrow. Draevin nodded.

“Precentor Draevin, it has been only one standard human year since I first visited your world of Pendragost. When I was first sent to meet your people, the Twelve-Worlds Commonwealth was still restricted to the Maelstrom by a lack of FTL-capable ships. And a mere two days ago I receive an alert from Lord-Admiral tou’Payye of Battlefleet Vigilance that a Frondauri war fleet has appeared in Imperial space and is requesting to meet with me on the throneworld. How is it that your people have made such a massive jump in such a short period of time?”

Draevin seemed to lose himself in his own thoughts on the matter as he dipped his head. He looked up back at Eyleene moments later. “I don’t know the specific details of how it happened, but to our understanding thirty years passed within the boundaries of the Maelstrom while only one passed for the rest of the galaxy. In that time we’ve been able to develop our own interstellar ships with reverse-engineered and reconfigured technology from a species that came before us; on that matter, I am permitted to say no more.”

Eyleene only nodded. She wouldn’t push the Precentor with her questions any further.

Some minutes passed before a massive complex came into view, its walls seemingly made of gold glimmering in the sunlight. The Imperial Palace.

The luxury shuttle came in slowly before touching down, opening the doors and allowing Eyleene to escort Draevin and the Matriarch out onto a massive landing platform on the palace’s outer perimeter. Ground-level was so far down and yet the highest peaks of the Imperial Palace still reached so far. It was still at a comfortable altitude, though; they would all have to go rather high yet before oxygen masks would be a necessary consideration. The foreign ambassadors were led inside to a large lobby. Tall, evenly-spaced pillars stretched up to the ceiling above them and the lobby's floor was blanketed by maroon carpet. The massive room was filled with golden-armored guards and a few Imperial officials.

As they entered the lobby, Eyleene turned to speak with a woman seated behind a large desk. They exchanged words for a moment before Eyleene returned and looked to both Draevin and the Matriarch.

“His Majesty has just been informed of your arrival. He awaits you both in his personal gardens upstairs.”

Draevin looked concerned. “I assume all our guards are to stay here then?”
Eyleene nodded. Draevin told his guards and the Shyanar to remain in the lobby whilst he and the Matriarch were to meet with the Emperor. Eyleene led them both up a flight of carpeted stairs and down a long hallway leading up to a door that lifted open upon their approach. A man dressed in a white robe adorned with golden decorations stood at first with his back towards the trio before he turned to face them. As Eyleene led Draevin and the Matriarch into the expansive palace gardens the Emperor revealed himself to be of old age. His face was covered in wrinkles and his hair and thick beard had all gone white. But his stature was of a man who still looked capable, not a frail elder cursed with shakiness and fragility of condition. He stood upright and did not hunch over.

Eyleene took a bow before her sovereign. A nod from the Emperor permitted her to rise and she motioned for Draevin and the Matriarch to approach.

“Precentor Draevin, Lady Matriarch of the Shyanar; allow me to humbly introduce you both to His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Vissarion II of the Sekari Empire.”

Vissarion gave a warm smile as he stepped toward them all. “You must be the Frondauri and Shyanar representatives. Welcome.”

He looked to Eyleene. “Lady Kirst, thank you for bringing our guests to me.” He gave a gentle nod. Eyleene understood the gesture and proceeded to leave the gardens and return to the lobby downstairs.

Vissarion looked to both Draevin and the Matriarch and then back to the vast sea of colorful plants before them, attended by gardener droids.

“Gardening has always been a favorite pastime of mine. It gives me something relaxing to focus on and devote myself to when I need not pay any mind to the affairs of the state. Governing an interstellar empire takes up much of my time.” He turned and began to step away. Sensing that the two stood still he glanced over his shoulder.

“Would you both care to join me on a stroll through the gardens? We have much to discuss.”

The plants in the gardens came in a wide variety of shapes and colors, though they all smelled of pleasant aromas. When they had come beneath a pair of fruit trees, Vissarion looked to them both.

“I had hoped to plant that drasil sapling here in my garden until I learned of their true size,” he assumed Draevin might be wondering as to the sapling’s whereabouts. “The tree had to be planted on a different planet; Cyrn is sadly too urbanized for it to truly prosper here I’m afraid.”

He took in a deep breath and exhaled. “So I hear that you both have information intended for my ears? I have been briefed on this threat – these ‘Faceless’ – but the Empire knows too little right now.”

He paused. “As commander-in-chief of the Sekari imperial military, I need to know what we’d be facing should we choose to help you in this crusade of yours. I need to know everything you know about them.”
Draevin greeted the emperor with what he hoped was adequate formality. The Shyanar matriarch was far more composed in her greeting, clasping her hands together in front of her face and touching them to her forehead.

“We bring the blessings of the Mother, great patriarch of the Sekar,” she said.

They joined the emperor as he walked them through the magnificent gardens. In many ways it reminded him of Pendragost and Atasha, though it was but a small plot of greenery among a vast cityscape.

“I’m glad to hear the Drasul is being well taken care of,” Draevin responded to the emperor. “They are highly revered by our people. When it flowers for the first time your people will need to give it a name. All the mightiest Drasuls should have names.”

Then the emperor changed the subject to the true reason for his visit. The threat of the Faceless. Draevin knew he had to explain the severity of the threat. But could not oversell it. All life was in danger but he would have to explain that with tact.

So he started with the Archons. “They were a great precursor race, living in this region of space some two hundred to two hundred fifty thousand years ago.” He then explained about the Starbridges and how they’d eventually created a newer, stabler version and inadvertently awakened something outside of space and time, and when they’d come through to our universe this was the faceless.

“We don’t know how they do it, but the faceless are able to turn other organic lifeforms into more of themselves. They need only to touch you and the process begins. It seems only to work with sapient lifeforms but we can’t say for sure.” He then paused glancing at the matriarch. She nodded at him to continue.

“With one exception. The Shyanar seem immune to this change. In all the encounters with the faceless they have been unable to change a single one.”

He paused to gather his thoughts and the matriarch decided to take the chance to speak. “We are not a people of physical prowess. Our hunters are only half the stature of yours, great emperor. Yet the Mother has seen the threat these beings pose and sent her daughters to fight and die to defeat this threat. For the faceless are a horde and the more worlds they infest, the greater their horde becomes. And the Archons left ruins and Starbridges on many worlds after their fall and the faceless have found a way to reactivate them. As your people saw on Hayavu.”

Now they both fell silent awaiting the emperor’s response.
The emperor nodded as he thought about what the two had told him. Turning around to the fruit tree, he pondered as he crossed his arms covered in his white robes. Beings such as these that would threaten all of life sounded… familiar somehow.


The emperor turned about to face the pair of foreigners. Draevin looked puzzled at the emperor’s uttering of a seemingly unrelated word. The Matriarch merely raised an eyebrow, maintaining her stoicism.

“This is not the first time the galaxy has faced a threat such as this,” the emperor’s words brought a look of concern to the Frondauri. “A mere six years ago we faced another danger such as this; Leviathan. A horrid, sentient plague that swept across the stars before it was contained.”

Draevin took note of the use of past tense. The other peoples of the outside galaxy had faced this Leviathan plague and won. Perhaps it was a sign for hope against the Faceless.

“The Leviathan turned all it washed over into a servant of its consciousness; slaves whose bodies were twisted and warped to fit the needs of the disease. The Empire lost millions in the Leviathan War.”

The emperor’s eyes that had drifted away into the past snapped back to reality and shot to Draevin. “Precentor, I must know what kills these Faceless. Lady Kirst reported that our weapons are useless. If the Commonwealth possesses the weapons to kill them, I must ask that your people share them with the Empire. Without them, we can be of little help.”
Last edited:
The pain abided in the place of silence. How long had the silence gone on since the last communication with the interlopers? There was no answer he could make. Time was a new concept. One the interlopers had brought. And in his realm there was no way to mark its passage. For he was his universe, he had always existed without beginning or end.

But the outsiders had come, had awakened him to another universe, and new concepts. Terrifying ideas. An existence of small consciousness, of chaos and contention. And pain had entered his existence, the knowledge of it. They had attacked him, breached the walls separating their universes.

So he’d sent his faceless children to lay clean this outer place, this abomination of a universe. And they’d whispered back to him, the terrifying knowledge of a place without order. A place of violence. For all life in the outer place fought and clawed and killed for its right to exist. There was no peace or utopia here, only a universe that was ambivalent to the life it had seeded.

Then there was a new pain, a tearing one that pierced him deeply and all the voices of his faceless children were silenced. And he could feel through to the other universe, and feel its decay and rebirth, and it seeped in and corrupted the universe of his body. And with his new concept of linear time, he waited for this new pain to fade. But it did not. It persisted. Even after the last contact with one of the small consciousnesses from the other side, as time beyond passed, the pain persisted.

He cried out to his faceless children, to hurry their task and cleanse the outer place. But they could not hear. Or they could not answer.

He tried to reach through to the other place, to tear through and destroy it himself, but he could not. He raged against the thinned wall separating their universes, and could feel the other place recoil, waves of destruction radiate outward, but he could not force himself through.

So he waited and endured the pain. For what else could he do? And so he listened. He waited for the whispers of his faceless children. But there was only silence.

And then a voice returned. It was a lone voice. The voice of one of his children. But it was different. Something had changed. It was no longer one part of a whole, a small fragment of his great consciousness. It was its own voice. Its own consciousness. A little consciousness that was part him, and part of the other place. And when he heard it, he was terrified.

Draevin listened to the emperor’s tale of this previous threat. So similar to the one they now faced, but also different. He took hope in the tale. If the powers of Inaius could unify to defeat this former threat, then the same could happen to fight the faceless.

“The Commonwealth will gladly share our technology,” he informed the leader of this great empire. “To hold back such an effective weapon would doom our hopes of defeating this threat. Send your scientists and weaponsmiths to the Twelve Worlds and we will show them how to build Plasma weapons.”

It was a gift graciously given. And one he’d been commanded to give freely and ask no boon in return. Hopefully this would be the seed of a long friendship and alliance. One their new friends would remember and honor. But there was one thing he had also been commanded to ask. So he would.

“If the great Emperor would be so kind, I ask that if you have any friends and allies beyond your borders, to call them to a conference with us. We wish to warn them of this threat. Our leaders are afraid that even between our two peoples, there still won't be enough to fight this threat. Like this leviathan you spoke of, we will need a great gathering of peoples to fight this threat as well.”
Last edited:
“Very good,” the emperor nodded. “They will be sent to Pendragost.”

The emperor now moved away from the fruit trees, standing before Draevin and the Matriarch. The aged sovereign wore a face of grim determination.

“The Sekari Empire has stood for almost seven-hundred years now. This empire has stood against all the universe’s machinations for almost seven centuries.”
The emperor paused.

“It has not died yet. I will not see it die during my reign.”
“Sir Draevin I shall assemble a conference of the galaxy’s leaders and make preparations for war. You and the Matriarch must serve as witnesses to the Faceless — you must convince the galaxy of the horror we face.”

The entry door to the garden opened in the distance, allowing for Eyleene to step forward into view.
“Lady Kirst shall escort you both and your security detail to the guest chambers of the palace. There is more than enough room for you both and your security to rest while I make these preparations.”

Eyleene marched over and once again bowed before her emperor.

“Lady Kirst, please escort our honorable guests and their security to the palace’s guest chambers. I have many important matters to attend to.”

Eyleene nodded. “At once, Your Majesty.”
Draevin and the Matriarch said their farewells, leaving the emperor to his garden.

The doors to the first class guest chambers opened to reveal a truly massive room. Golden silks served as pillow casings, bed coverings, curtains and more. Dozens of crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, illuminating the room with lights. There looked to be enough luxurious beds and sofas and seats to quarter an ocean of men.

“These are the first class guest chambers for the Imperial Palace. As honored guests of the Empire, you all are welcome to rest here whilst His Majesty is busy.”

She allowed the whole of the Commonwealth security detail to step into the room before she turned to leave. She handed Draevin a small remote with a small, singular red button.
“Now, I apologize but I have my own duties to attend to. Should you need anything, this button will summon a servant droid to attend to your needs. I bid you all a fine evening.”
Former Archon World
Location: Unknown

Annaka stepped through the starbridge and could immediately feel the increased atmospheric pressure around her combat suit. She checked her suits display. So far everything was fine.

Her crusaders started arriving behind her and she directed them into position. The remains of the planets plaza was quickly secured. Equipment was brought in to erect barriers and heavy plasma cannons set up in preparation for a potential battle.

They hadn’t brought any Prachyerms, as the atmosphere would have been deadly to them, and the rocky terrain would prove too difficult for ground vehicles. Instead a number of small skimmer craft had been packed in and assembled. It wouldn’t be enough to move their entire force, but it would hopefully provide needed air cover. The first was already rebuilt and powering up as Lurgos passed through the starbridge.

“Commander Lurgos,” Annaka greeted politely through her suit-to-suit coms. “You’re troops will be vanguard. I’ll follow up in main, with our reserves taking up rearguard.”

“It’s your operation, Annaka,” he said with some suspicion in his voice. He hadn’t been expecting to take lead, likely thinking she’d assign him to guard the plaza.

No, you won’t get it that easy. I want you to see what we’re up against.

Her comms crackled and HEL’s mechanical voice chimed in. “Setting up scanners.”

His spherical probe body flew forward from the gate and arms protruding from his body began assembling the equipment.

HEL was the last of her party and once his scanners were up they’d be ready to move out. But the Starbridge’s field shimmered and three more Frondauri passed through.

“Protector Went,” Annaka said in shock. “I didn’t know you were joining us.”

“Don’t worry, commander, we’re only here to observe. This operation is all yours.” She then activated her direct coms and spoke with Annaka in a more informal tone. “How are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m fine,” Annaka answered more curtly than she’d meant to.

“I read the reports on the Hayavu operation,” Went said without missing a beat. If she’d heard Annaka’s tone she ignored it. “Things didn’t go as planned but you handled yourself well.”

“I almost lost my entire troop.”

“But you didn’t.”

“If the fleet hadn’t arrived…”

“But it did. Which was the point. Draw out the faceless and obliterate them with lancers. We just didn’t count on the speed of their resistance. You saved an entire planet, Annaka, never forget that.”

She didn’t answer the Guardian. She hadn’t wanted to admit it to anyone but after her first battle she’d felt over hear head. Went’s words really helped.

HEL came on over the channel. “I’ve located a second Starbridge plaza nearer to the facility. That’s likely where the faceless came through.”

“We’ll need to secure that plaza, blast the bridges if need be,” Annaka said. “You think you can handle that, Commander Lurgos?”

“It won’t be a problem,” he answered confidently.

“Do you have the faceless on your scans yet, HEL?”

“Indeed,” he replied. “They’re gathered inside the main chamber of the facility.”

“Any idea how many?” Went asked.

“The scanner can’t differentiate individuals when they’re next to each other. But the size of the mass we’re picking up is much smaller than on Hayavu.”

Annaka had only one last question. “Are they aware we’re here?”

“Can’t confirm. The mass isn’t moving.”

Went came across on the private comms again. “They probably know we’re here and know they don’t have the numbers to rush us. Be on your guard.”

Annaka didn’t respond. She gave her orders over the main. “Lurgos, move your troops out. Secure that plaza until we arrive and then move ahead to secure the entrance into the facility. You’ll have two skimmer craft for support. I’ll be right behind with my forces.”

Lurgos didn’t acknowledge her commands, but she was relieved to see him start carrying them out nonetheless.

In The House In A Heartbeat - John Murphy
Dear Leaders of Inaius and Beyond,

You are invited to Cyrn for a conference on a new rising threat which endangers us all. This conference will take place in Imperial Palace.

It is essential for the sectors most prominent powers to meet in order to face a threat that is potentially the gravest we have ever faced. Upon acceptance to this conference an intelligence briefing of this threat will be supplied ahead of time for your leaders to look over before your arrival.

Participants will be granted the full protections of our empire and personal assurances of their safety from Myself.

The conference will go into great detail and be organized by our new friends the Frondauri, with a presentation by their military leader Precentor Draevin. We hope you accept this invitation as this new threat endangers us all.

Yours Sincerely,
Vissarion II
Emperor of the Sekari

DELEGATION SIZE: (including security)
NATION: the Ithorian Dominion
LEAD DELEGATE’S NAME: High Admiral Rhaeron Noheneos
DELEGATION SIZE: Escorted by an Ithorian Frigate; attending with him (including security) 35
NATION: Trinitui Húd
LEAD DELEGATE’S NAME: Palatine of the Host Arcoi
DELEGATION SIZE: Ice Heart Diplomatic Vessel; and a 20 member delegation.
NATION: The Therron Collective
LEAD DELEGATE'S NAME: First Citizen Vermillion Therro
-One Tycoon Class Star Yacht (and assorted crews)
-Two Chondrite Class Destroyers (and assorted crews) as escorts
-Eight Therron Huscarls and Two Therron Assassins (as Vermillion's Personal Guard)
-20 Diplomatic Staff

OOC: Will try to write an actual post at some point. Real life got me way to busy :(
Last edited:
NATION: Kingdom of Lionsroar
LEAD DELEGATE'S NAME: Your Grace, Prince Lyox von Liongold
DELEGATION SIZE: 10, including security staff with two small transportation vessels.
Last edited by a moderator:
NATION: Kingdom of Lionsroar
LEAD DELEGATE'S NAME: Your Grace, Prince Lyox von Liongold
DELEGATION SIZE: 10, including security staff with two small transportation vessels.

Hi, glad to see you're interested in this RP. However you need to have a claim on the Inaius map, or be in the process of making a claim to participate. If you need any help or would like to discuss anything in regards to the RP or setting, please message me here on the forum or over on the TNP RP discord.

Friendly Neighborhood RP Mod
Nation Name:The United Feline Republics of Felinus,Hadroxia,Vrolkus and Hellvik.
Lead Delgatations Name:Most Heavenly Upper Houseman Larry Ascansen Foulksehn
The Emperor, the Grand Vizier, and Eyleene strolled through the palace gardens, accompanied by a couple of guards clad in glistening golden armor. Birds chirped and an artificial breeze gently washed over the plants which swayed in the wind.

The Emperor took in a fresh breath and released it with a relaxed sigh.
“I must admit, my lady: I have my doubts that this Faceless threat is legitimate.”

“Majesty?” Eyleene grew concerned.

“I am… unsure if this is the best course of action to take. Welcoming alien ambassadors into the palace—ambassadors from nations that likely do not possess our best interests in their hearts.”

Eyleene firmed her lips. She had her objections but would not disrespect her sovereign by interrupting.

“Perhaps it would be wise to leave this problem to the Frondauri and the Shyanar. The Empire can ill afford a repeat of the Leviathan War.”
The Emperor stopped his stroll, bringing the entire group to a halt. Eyleene stayed quiet. The Grand Vizier, Pahar tou’Taenalagandhi, was also silent.

“If I may, Your Majesty?”
The Emperor nodded, allowing Eyleene to voice her view.

“While I understand Your Majesty’s concerns for the safety and security of the Empire, I do not believe that the Commonwealth will be able to contain this threat on their own. I saw these Faceless mentioned by Precentor Draevin, on their world of Pendragost, and I do believe that they possess an even greater threat to sentient existence than even the Leviathan.”

Before her visit to the Maelstrom, Eyleene never thought anything could have been nearly as horrid as the Leviathan plague. She remembered, to a degree unwillingly, the fear of those days. Not even a decade ago her family’s world of Aulippa had been strangled by fear as the Leviathan contaminated other worlds within the Sekari Empire—and everyone had been bracing for that affliction to find its way to Aulippa.

Pendragost, perhaps above all else, had shown her that there were even darker things lurking in the depths of space.

“Your Majesty, if the Frondauri can learn how to escape that nebula with a fleet of their own in under a year then I have no reason to doubt that the Faceless can too. I do fervently believe that we must strike these Faceless down now while there is still a chance—not just for the Empire but for life itself.”

The Emperor nodded as he thought on her words. He looked to the Grand Vizier who had thus far been silent. “What say you, Pahar?”

“Your Majesty, I for one would recommend that this Frondauri matter be left to the Frondauri to handle. The Faceless are contained to the Maelstrom and we have no reason to believe that they possess the sophistication to master interstellar faster-than-light travel. Without starships, these beings have no way to reach the Empire.”
Eyleene felt a nervousness grow within her, that the Emperor might take the side of his head of government and forbid military action in the crisis she knew was coming.

“However,” Taenalagandhi continued, “should Your Majesty decide to intervene as to help the Frondauri, I would recommend that military action be kept as far away from the public consciousness as possible. Mass panic over a threat similar to that of the Leviathan will only cause more problems.”

“Though,” Eyleene spoke again, “I am not entirely convinced it would be that way, depending on how precisely the public is informed.”

The Emperor looked to her. Eyleene expected him to shut her down. “How so?” He asked.

“Your Majesty has already led the Empire through a crisis of similar danger. The public supports and believes in Your Majesty. Should Your Majesty choose, perhaps inform the public but stress the need to come together and stand up to meet this new threat; an inspirational message of determination and resolve in the face of danger. Your Majesty can rally the Empire and the galaxy around resolute action.”

The Emperor nodded. Eyleene still expected him to side with the Grand Vizier.
“Very well. We will help the Frondauri. Pahar, prepare a conference and invite representatives from the other powers of the galaxy. Get someone to write up an inspirational public address and I will speak to the Empire.”

“At once, Your Majesty.” Pahar bowed his head and left to carry out the wishes of his sovereign.

The Emperor came in closer to Eyleene. “You trust these Frondauri, Lady Kirst?”

Eyleene’s response was immediate. “Of course, Your Majesty.”

The Emperor gave a warm smile.
“The next time you speak with your father, please do give him my regards.”

Eyleene bowed her head. “I will, Your Majesty.”

3 days later…

“Hello,” the Emperor said. He sat behind a desk, next to a cozy fireplace and a large room.

“The Sekari Empire is an old nation. It has been almost seven hundred years since our ancestors first discovered and settled Cyrn. Over the course of successive generations, we have built this nation into something truly special amongst the stars. What started out as a small settlement of Human refugees fleeing an ancient cataclysm has, over the course of many centuries, been transformed into a vast interstellar state. This interstellar state now possesses a thriving economy, a healthy parliamentary democracy, a plurality of cultures, beliefs, and origins, and strong, proud traditions.

“As Emperor of the Sekari, I am immensely proud to serve this nation. House Khosravi, my family, is truly blessed and honored to serve this nation and so too are the Grand Vizier and his elected government.

“The Sekari Empire has become a home for many different peoples from across the stars. Even though this nation was founded by Humans, this nation is not Humanity’s alone. To be Sekari is not the birthright of any one species or people—it is a commitment to justice, to peace, to a better galaxy free of oppression and fear. We have built our nation from nothing into something rarely seen elsewhere.

“Years ago the galaxy faced a grave threat to all life: the Leviathan. I myself still remember those days drowning in fear. But in the face of this existential threat to all of sentience, we as a nation had the courage and determination to come together and take a stand. Through our courage, the Leviathan plague was pushed back, suppressed, and expelled from imperial space. I do not like to think back on how terrifying the threat of the Leviathan was, but I will never forget the beauty of courage in the face of danger.

“Now, though, we stand against another threat. One year ago, when we first encountered the Frondauri Twelve Worlds Commonwealth within the depths of the sector five nebula, we learned of the existence of creatures known to our Frondauri friends as ‘the Faceless.’ These Faceless harbor no more love for sentient beings than the Leviathan did. Like the Leviathan, they possess nothing but cold indifference and a desire for extinction.

“But—and recalling the Leviathan Crisis, I do truly believe this—a single spark of hope and courage is more than enough to burn away any fear or danger. I remember the courage displayed by our nation during the Leviathan Crisis and I am asking that we all rediscover that courage.

“I do swear that I will stand by this nation, shoulder to shoulder with its people, until the very end. We are facing another great threat to all life and it falls on us and our brothers-in-arms amongst the stars to abolish this dire threat. For our sake and the sake of our posterity—our children—we must rediscover our courage in the face of adversity. We must face this threat. We must fight.

“Thank you all. Long live the Empire.”

1 day later…

The Emperor sat at the head of the long table in the golden halls of the imperial palace’s throne room. To his right was Eyleene. To his left was Draevin and the Matriarch. Imperial guards, clad in golden armor, guarded every entrance into the room. Maximum security.

Representatives had come from all over the Inaius Cluster to unite for the sake of sentient existence. The Yviiri, the Machinus, the United Stars and more. Even the enigmatic Kyaal had dispatched an emissary to Cyrn.

The Emperor raised his hand, drawing the murmurs to a hush. Then he rose to speak.
“My friends from across the stars.

“Today, our part of the galaxy faces yet another existential threat to all of sentient existence. This is not the first time Inaius has faced a threat of this scope. The Leviathan Crisis has not imparted fond memories onto any soul.

“But the Leviathan threat was abolished and it was abolished by the nations of the Inaius Cluster. Decisive action saved everyone then, and I do believe that decisive action will save everyone again today.

“Precentor Draevin of the Frondauri Twelve Worlds Commonwealth,” the Emperor gestured towards Draevin, “hails from a nation embedded deep within a chaotic patchwork of space. His people and his government know this threat which they have named the Faceless. Now his government has finally found a way out of that section of the universe and made contact with the Sekari Empire some time ago. Lady Eyleene was sent as a first-contact ambassador to the Frondauri state. She can confirm the validity of this threat—she saw it with her own eyes. If the Frondauri can find a way out of their nebula so quickly, I believe that the Faceless can as well.

“I’ll allow Precentor Draevin to explain the Faceless in greater detail.”
The Emperor took his seat, motioning for Draevin to stand and debrief the galaxy.
Draevin found he could not sleep. The Sekari had provided the finest comforts that he had ever seen. But his life had been one of spartan militarism. He could fall asleep on hardscrabble rock not in such plush comfort.

The Shyanar had no such problems and had fallen asleep among the pillows and cushions provided him. He quietly moved past them out onto the balcony. The Sekari city was filled with light and movement. It was greater and grander than any Frondauri city. To think that not so long ago his people had thought they were alone in the universe still shook him.

And now the whole universe is at threat? he mused. Perhaps it would have been better for all never to have crossed the Tomb. He thought of Mikraf, of Ghisa and Karn. He thought of Stebner and his sacrifice to save the Shyanar’s world. But mostly he thought of Kruza and wondered where he was now.

He waited for Dawn and the conference. No sleep came to him.

The morning and then the conference came soon enough. The arrangement of species that attended the meeting left Draevin in more awe. He knew little of these peoples aside from what the Sekari had provided him. To even begin to fathom what they would need to join the fight was beyond him.

The emperor introduced him and he took his place in front of the conference. With one last deep breath he pushed his fears and worries away and spoke confidently.

“Over two hundred and fifty thousand years ago a species we call the Archons opened a pathway through a layer of subspace. This pathway was intended for interplanetary travel through a device known as a Starbridge. Unbeknownst to them something else was able to use these pathways to enter our world. These…creatures, for lack of a better word…overran the Archon’s worlds and were only stopped when a device was detonated to collapse the pathways, destroying the Archons in the process.

“But this did not stop the creatures. Instead they waited, trapped on the Archon’s old home world until recently when they were able to escape. These creatures, the Faceless as we call them, are a horde of beings with only one goal, destroy or convert all life.”

Draevin keyed up a short video showing a faceless being attacking a group of Frondauri and Shyanar on a desolate city planet. The one faceless was able to convert a dozen Frondauri on its own, and those that were turned quickly converted others before they were stopped.

Draevin paused the video as the last faceless fell. He didn’t mention the lone creature had once been a Frondauri. Had once been a friend. Ghisa. Instead he looked at the gathered delegates.

“Simply through touch alone they can begin a transformation process that turns living beings into one of them. It’s done on a cellular level at an extremely fast rate. The process can be disrupted but we’re not sure it actually stops the transformation.

“As you may have seen in this video, the Shyanar were not turned. The faceless tried, and when the process failed the faceless chose to kill the Shyanar instead. We as of yet have few ideas about the Shyanar’s immunity.

“For now the faceless are only able to travel by way of the remaining Archon Starbridges. However, the Archon’s empire stretched over vast distances due to their lack of need for interstellar travel. Many of your worlds may still have Starbridges that are capable of being activated on them, without you being aware.”

He then faced the gathered delegates to make eye contact with them. Or the closest thing to eye contact. Gor some he hoped he was actually looking at their eyes.

“I want you to understand this threat. These faceless are not mindless. They are capable of planning and strategy. How intelligent an individual is I can’t say, but from what we’ve seen, the larger the group the more intelligent they behave. With a large enough group they may be able to use technology, including spaceships should the technology fall into their hands. So as their numbers grow the more dangerous they will become. A galactic scale threat.”

He paused a few seconds to let the last bit sink in. “Any questions?”

Something Dark Is Coming —Bear McCreary
To the outside observer, Vermillion Therro appeared to have a bored look on his face, seemingly disinterested in what the Sekarian Delegate was telling him. In truth, Vermillion found himself terrified by the implications of such a grave threat. Naturally, to reveal his true feelings would be to reveal his weakness, and Vermillion was determined to cement both his and his empire's position as leading members of the Galactic Community. He would become a bastion of tranquility in a sea of turmoil, no matter the threat or issues that might confront him.

To achieve this goal, Vermillion would have to maintain his outwardly calm facade and steely demeanor, no matter his personal views or opinions. Which, of course, led to the issue at hand. What should be down about this Faceless threat? Vermillion's initial reaction would be to send the entire Therron Fleet to cleanse the planet of this abomination, but he quickly calmed himself. He did not know much about these creatures, and to rush headlong into danger would be to invite complete disaster. Clearly, while the delegate knew his stuff, Vermillion could not afford to look subservient to him. He had to take the initiative into his own hands.

Vermillion stood up to address the delegate, prepared to make his case. He was wearing his formal Algoillian Suit, the most expensive clothing one could buy in the Therron Collective. Made up of nano-fibers, the suit provided more than just aesthetic appeal: it could react to incoming damage by hardening and softening at will, allowing Vermillion to stay highly protected while wearing little weight. He wore an intricately spun golden chair around his neck and a pair of silver and gold rings on his right hand, along with a platinum watch on his left. He had also, unsuccessfully, attempted to bring his personal weapons with him. He had brought with him his personal sword Jupiter's Riposte, an ancient artifact of unknown origin. It had the ability to sheathe the blade in a cloak of fire, burning through anyone or anything that it came into contact with. He had also brought an M13 Burst Laser Pistol, which was still sitting snuggly in its holster. It was a weapon that provided good firepower in a relatively compact package. Unfortunately for Vermillion, the Sekarain guards were adamant about no weapons, and so Vermillion was forced to leave them in the care of his attendants. Luckily, Vermillion felt that it was highly unlikely he would have to use these weapons, as his Huscarls were more than capable of protecting him. They were fierce warriors and their psionic potential was unmatched throughout the galaxy.

Vermillion gave a slight cough before addressing the delegates:

"Actually, yes, I have several questions", he began, keeping his tone as casual as possible. "But allow me to start with the most pressing of the bunch: are we quite sure of the veracity of this threat? Forgive me, for I do not mean to malign you with false accusations, but it seems to me that this whole process might be a bit overblown. How are we to be sure that these creatures are as dangerous as you say? I have never heard of them prior to this meeting, and I think that I speak for all here when I say that I am not the only one to be in the dark.”

Vermillion gestured to the other attendees in the audience.

“Truly, if they are as dangerous as you say, why have we not seen incursions across the galaxy? Surely a species such as these would have some form of interstellar travel besides these esoteric Starbrdiges you speak of? I remain skeptical, I must admit.

Not that I don't trust your report, of course", Vermillion added as he folded his hands together. "I simply question the need to act upon this threat with such immediate action. I believe, ladies, gentlemen, and non-organic lifeforms, that we are being a bit hasty here. You know, my father Drusus had a saying that I am rather fond of: trust, but verify. I am quite sure you've done extensive research on these aliens, but regardless, I need to see them for myself. Should they really be as terrible a threat as you claim, then you will have the full might of the Therron Fleet to assist you in neutralizing the creatures. But should they be no more than a nuisance..."

Vermillion paused for a moment, before continuing:

"Then I will not waste my people's precious time and resources chasing after a threat that may not even exist! I will not send my people into a blind panic over a group of creatures that have remained in isolation for untold millennia! I believe prudence is the word here, for it is prudence that will secure us our victory from ignorance in the end.

Therefore, the Therron Collective is unable and unwilling to provide the full might of its fleet against this so-called menace. We will send instead a scout detachment to verify the claims for ourselves. Should they prove true, and warrant further action, we will then respond accordingly.”

Vermillion once again paused, to catch his breath, and then resumed speaking:

“Now, in regards to these so-called “Starbridges”, I assume you are willing and able to provide all the information that you have on them? Perhaps even a list of locations? Again, I wish to see these structures with my own two eyes, as I find it difficult to believe that no civilization has been able to locate them. Even if they did not know their purpose, surely these structures must be rather apparent.

Finally, you mentioned that the Shyanar remain immune to infection. Have you begun the process of synthesizing a vaccine? Perhaps some sort of medicine? I imagine that such research would take priority here: I am willing to send some of my best and brightest to assist with this problem.

And so, I close with this. Let us not fall sway to fear and paranoia, let us think calmly and rationally in this manner. We must make sure before we take any drastic action, as we are the inheritors of the galactic community. I now yield the floor back to the Sekarian Delegate, thank you.”

Vermillion sat back down, fairly pleased with his performance. He called an aide over, and as he cupped his hand to his mouth, he began to whisper into his ear. He ordered the emergency deployment of Therron assets all around the collective and brought the military into a state of heightened awareness. If these faceless were as devastating as he thought…he shuttered internally at the thought. Yet, if he could play his cards right, he could claim the mantle of responsibility for the Collective and create a new galactic order…with himself on top, of course.
Last edited:
Draevin thanked the delegate from the Therron Collective for the questions. He’d done his best to learn the names and species of those present, but really couldn’t tell the differences between the humans and their numerous varieties. The Sekari had been nice enough to provide someone to help sort it out and they’d whispered to the Precentor the name and nation of the man who spoke.

“I will try to address them all in order,” Draevin said. “The threat of the faceless is not overblown. They were able to wipe out an advanced civilization and were only stopped by the Archons destroying themselves in a last ditch effort to trap them on their homeworld. Which is why you haven’t heard about these beings. Because for two hundred and fifty thousand years that’s where they’ve been. Trapped on a planet from which they couldn’t escape. Until recently when they found a way to once again access the starbridge network.”

He then moved on to the delegate's second concern. “I understand that you don’t wish to commit your forces to something you’ve only just heard of. Currently we are busy searching the starbridge network to find out how far these faceless have spread and when we find another infected world we would be willing to let any advisors and scientists tag along to witness these beings in action. Afterwards I assure you that you’ll understand the gravity of the threat.”

Draevin nervously tapped his hoof as he prepared to address the matter of the starbridges. How much of their knowledge of them would the commonwealth be willing to share had been hotly debated by the council before he’d been sent off to the Sekari. If sharing everything could lead to one of these species being able to replicate the tech, could that recreate the conditions that first brought the faceless into this universe? That had been the biggest concern. But ultimately the choice had been left to him.

“The full knowledge of the starbridges and how they work hasn’t fully been discovered,” he half-truthed. “It is a very ancient technology who’s builders are gone and little of their scientific records exist. We do have a nearly complete map of all former Archon worlds that have starbridges and would be willing to share that with everyone.”

“And as far as the Shyanar immunity, to that I will let my counterpart speak to that.” He then yielded the floor to the matriarch.

She stood now before the delegates. She spoke in a clear melodic voice that Draevin had come to find soothing. “Hello, I am Matriarch. Thank you for hearing my words. Our scientists alongside those of the Frondauri have been looking into this. While our understanding of genetics is far inferior to the Sekari, and I’m sure to the rest of you, we have been able to come up with a compelling theory.”

Her wings, draped down her back, fluttered with a low buzz as she moved the discussion along.

“We are the Shyanar, and the name is an apt description of us. In our language it means a mixing. We are not a natural species. We did not evolve on our planet, we were not uplifted, we were not transplanted. We were created. Our progenitors, those who created us, were genetically engineered experiments. They were a mixing of species and genetics carried out to advance the knowledge of the Archons. I will not go into full details about the history of our people, but suffice it to say that we are descendents of these science experiments and that we are an artificial…”she paused, not liking that word… “a constructed, species. We believe that something in our genetic code that was added during our creation, gives us this immunity.”

“The Sekari,” she said, giving a nod towards the emperor, “have offered to send their own scientists to verify our theory with their own genetic testing. Our Mother, the leader of Shyar, has given me permission to accept help on the matter from any who wish to offer it. If our immunity could be harnessed then the faceless would no longer be a threat.”

She then fell into silence, waiting for any further questions, only the periodic buzzing of her wings vibrating could be heard.

Home Is Where - Caveboy
Last edited:
Suriiks stayed silent, one set of six-fingered hands interlocked in front of their face, the other set interlocked and lying on the table. Four lenses overplayed their four eyes; government issue smart glasses, with an added rosy-red tint and Suriik’s request. They were kept in place by having a frame locked onto exoskeleton plates. Their antennae barely moved throughout the presentation, only occasionally drooping ever so slightly. Their body language was practically nonexistent, even for a Yviiri; they were nearly as still as a statue. All things considered, it was a fairly standard encounter with a Yviiri bureaucrat. Their scribe, Rez, was considerably more emotional. Body language wise, at least. They’d been frantically taking notes and their antennae were all over the place, they were very finicky in comparison to Suriiks. Though they were a bureaucrat in training, this was to be expected. Finally, a gravelly voice broke the Yviiri silence. It had a barely apparent Non Solan accent to it, something only another Yviiri might pick up on.

“We will send two containment teams. One will be a backup. We will maintain this stance until our own observations are complete.”

That was it? That was it. No rambling spiels, no shock or outrage, just a monotonous, calm response, as if it was pre-selected and rehearsed. It wasn’t even a question. They weren’t even looking at the speakers when they responded, he was looking at the data pad Rez had been taking notes on.

It betrayed what Suriiks was feeling. Horror, mostly, but he was very well trained. The vast majority of Yviiri could remember the Leviathan and the terror it wrought. They had to glass dozens of planets and regions to prevent its spread. The ground war had been similar to a Human horror movie. The toll on those affected by it was unimaginable, both sociopolitically and economically. They couldn’t do it again. Suriiks was hoping the containment teams would come back with a report favorable towards the situation, so they could preempt this threat, contain it, and destroy it, before it became another Leviathan.
The three Kyaal present were unnaturally still and silent as they listened to the brief back and forth. After the Yviiri delegation spoke up, one of the three turned their head, or at least appeared to, with great deliberation to face Draevin. The Kyaal, as a species, do not have an appropriate apparatus for vocal speech, instead relying on telepathy amongst themselves. In diplomatic situations with non-psionic species, then, the Kyaal used a psionic device to translate their intent into words. This device now spoke, echoing the thoughts of the individual in a baritone voice undercut by an artificial hiss and buzz.

"The Kyaal knew of the Archons, before Our Great Collapse. They were ancient even to us, and their realm encompassed many systems. Their dominance was unquestioned. The Archives show, however, that the Archons collapsed. The collapse was seemingly from within, and with unnatural celerity. Such entities and their capabilities would explain the collapse of the Archons with ease."

The second Kyaal, perhaps slightly paler of skin than the jet black of the first and mantled with some intricate collar made of an iridescent material, then spoke. Their voice, through the device, was ever so slightly higher in pitch, "Such entities, then, would, if unchecked, bring about the end of most of the Inaius sector. As if brushing the dust off a table. Thus, our cooperation in this matter is guaranteed. An effort will be made to rally other members of our species to this banner, but we are few in number, and grow ever fewer."

The third Kyaal then spoke. It was smaller than the other two, and its two rear limbs were missing, replaced by ceramic prostheses inlaid with the same iridescent material their peer wore. Its voice was layered, multiple tones blended together in an, appropriately, alien harmony, "The Hierophant have one question, however. Your species are born from that region of space which is called the Maelstrom in your tongues. It formed with the collapse of the Archons, but we have not ascertained what, with specificity, caused its formation. We assume the two events are linked, and the emergence of the Faceless as a threat and your species from the Maelstrom make this a likelihood. Is there insight, among the species of the Maelstrom, as to its creation?"
“We know the creation of the Maelstrom and the fall of the Archons are connected,” Draevin answered the Kyaal. “The faceless were using transdimensional pathways that the Archons had opened up via an improved form of their Starbridges to enter our universe. From a record we found it seems the Archons had found a way to collapse these passageways. A device, which we’ve translated to be called a Transdimensional Bomb, was detonated near to a cluster of the passages.

“It did in fact work, collapsing the passages, but we believed that during this process a wave of energy from subspace came out the collapsing passages, creating tears between our universes. From what we can tell these tears are still there and are what is fueling the energy that makes up the Maelstrom.”

“We don’t believe these tears allow for anything to cross over,” he added unprompted, knowing what the follow up question would likely be. “The closer matter gets to these tears, the less stable they become. Until the bonds between them are destroyed and they break down into pure energy, further fueling the maelstrom.”
The presenters had made a compelling argument for the dangers of the faceless. The holo images showed an enemy that moved in unnatural ways, with speeds that would make any enemy a concern; it's certainly something that can't go ignored. However, there had been no reported incursions from outposts throughout Hud space even though it seems a battlefront has been raging.

That was the other concern, who are these Frondauri exactly? They claim to be from the 'Morass' or as they call it, the 'Malestrom' but there had been no known inhabitants or indigenous races of that region beyond a handful of primitive cultures since the fall of the Archons. The place is, to put it lightly, less than hospitable to life. The last survey of the region admittedly had been a while, and its not exactly easy to scan the region, but the last survey was not so long ago it should have missed clearly technologically advanced socially complex cultures as the Frondauri and Shyanar. Were these interlopers? Fraudsters having created a lie to steal star systems? Were these 'faceless' truly real, or a ploy, or worse, a weapon? Could there be another explanation? But what?

The Palatine was not sure just yet what to think about this new curious race, or how she wanted to tactfully deal with the situation. This trait wasn't quite shared amongst the entire delegation as the Herald of Fortitude, Ohiyesa began to question the speaker. Ohiyesa's form concealed beneath a draping dark metallic cloak, and the only thing that could be seen of their 'face' was a formless black pool of 'liquid' lightless but somewhat reflective energy sitting in the shadow of the robe's hood.

A deep menacing voice emanates from the formless energy "I see you and your people claim to be from the... Malestrom... but we have never heard word of your people, we have never seen your ships flying through the void of space. Never have you made contact with our patrols, trade hubs, or planets, and our surveyors have never referenced your kind among the known species of that region of space. This Malestrom as you call it has for many years been claimed as part of the Trinitui Húd's domain. You show up unexpectedly, unknown it seems to not just us, but many of the membership gathered here today. Here you stand bringing us warning of an impending calamity, showing us signs of this foul and dangerous scourge. Yet at the same time, as all that face these abominations fall to its corruption, your people have an answer, an immunity amongst your Shyanar. We are told that most weapons used against these creatures are primitive in effectiveness, yet you possess weapons that seem fit for purpose. What we have seen of your technology, for the most part, strikes us as one our people have seen before, from that of the Archons, the great ancient race, but your weapons seem unfamiliar."

Pausing momentarily to gather their thoughts, they continued. "We are left troubled. If this is as it seems and to be believed, then we are left in a rather frightful position, on the cusp of an invasion that could wipe the face of the galaxy. Though there is a ray of light, with a potential ally with tools capable of fighting this danger, at what cost? What do you ask?"

"However... more disturbingly, there is another way to look at these facts thus far. We have never known your people before, you claim portions of space long held by our people, you wield the Archon's technology, and claim the return of the very foe that laid them low and snuffed their light from this life all while possessing a weapon capable of besting this menace. We shall for now concede that the enemy of the Archons has returned, from what we have seen thus far, but how, and why now?"

"The sudden appearance of your people from nowhere, using the ships and tools of the Archons, and with your arrival, a seemingly long dead enemy returns. We can assume these things are our enemy, but we wonder if they are truly your enemy as well, or a ploy, a ruse, a weapon at your call."

Gesturing to the paused holo-projection "Here you have a weapon capable of defeating this horde, just as it returns, just as you appear. And at your back, an army led in part by the Matriarch, these Shyanar, which you say are bioengineered and just by chance immune. You claim this was done by the Archons, but for 250 thousand years we have not seen your kind until now; until we hear of the faceless."
"The question is now, are you truly here as our ally, where circumstance and chance have met in such an unusual moment; or are you not as you say? It's possible you are here as our assassin, A 'k'helta wearing vroth skin'** as it were?"

"The question now sits... Ally or Assassin, Protector or Plunderer. Is this good fortune come to bless us, or a situation too good to be true meant to pacify; if fate has smiled upon us and you're here indeed as our ally, what is it you ask in return? What proof can we see that you are who you say you are, that you speak the truth?"

** 'wolf in sheep's clothing'
She was bemused by the way too different species present in the marble-ish room and all the talkative things. She didn't know for sure what to call half of these sentient things in the room as many of them didn't resemble any species she had ever seen. It was kind of unsettling, which was way too funny, as she knew that, to half of these things in the room, she was the strange and unsettling one. Standing at her feet (or whatever it resembled to them), she'd be taller than most of them. She also had pale skin, a huge contrast to their "homeworld", as Janohakia is a bright and colorful planet. There was no time for these random thoughts, though. She was here on an official mission, so she stood up and addressed the room.

"Ahem", she looked to the countries' representatives, ambassadors, presidents, "supreme rulers", kings and queens. The Sekarian Emperor as well. She needed to make sure that everyone was paying attention to what she was about to say, as it would be a deal breaker to most of them, if not for all. "First, I'd like to address myself. Some of you may not have the slightest idea of who I am, or what relevance do my people have to this matter. However, what I have to say is of everyone's interest."

She could sense the curiosity in some of them and that others were bored to death. She couldn't care less about those who looked at her in disdain, whatever she came to say, she would say. Once again her thoughts were trailing off and she needed to take a moment to recollect herself. "My name is Laire Kakovit Armagui, President of the Kuvorian Republic. While I get it that most of you are wary of the true intentions of the Frondauri and the so-called Shyanar, the truth is that most of you know the Kuvorians well enough to know that our intentions are clear as water: we want the best for our people. The Sekarian know us as well.", said Laire while bowing ever so slightly towards the Emperor.

The President kept talking, not looking at the representative's faces, as she didn't want to look weak or desperate unless it was absolutely necessary. "I will tell you a story, one of my favorite ones. Once upon a time, there was a primitive species that was developing their first tools. Then, a super advanced civilization found them, as the powerful aliens colonized a planet near their own. The species discovered that, not only they weren't alone in the universe, a concept they were just beginning to understand, but their planet wasn't even a planet of its own. Their native world was a moon called by those aliens as Jemna Ba, the smaller one of the twin moons that orbited their colony."

She did a brief pause to take a breath then continued her discourse. "This powerful civilization helped the other to evolve and achieve the pre-interstellar stage. However, an impending doom destroyed the advanced aliens' worlds and it would've destroyed the primitive species along with the entire universe were it not for their quick course of action. They destroyed themselves in an attempt to seal whatever was the cause of their fall and tried to save many other civilizations as well." Larie smiled to herself, delighted, as realization fell into those present. "As you may have already guessed, the advanced civilization was known the Archons and the primitive species was my own, the Tevoraki."

"Let's say we believe in you.'' Lady Eyleene from the Sekarians raised from her seat and looked at the President, with a dubious look running across her face. "What does this have to do with the matter at hand?"

"That's actually a great question, Lady Kirst." The Sekarian Emperor, who was silent until now addressed, clearly annoyed by the time Laire was taking to say whatever she wanted to. "Please enlighten us, Honorable President Armagui, of the Kuvorians. We have grown tired of these riddles."

The President was aware she had been talking a lot, however, she didn't imagine this would annoy them this much. Perhaps she should've cut straight to the point then as these aliens seemed to be more impatient than she'd imagined. "Right. I beg your pardon for taking so long to make my point." she gives them a small nod in a way to better express her apology. "250,000 years ago, the Archon civilization was destroyed by an interdimensional entity called 'the Faceless' which, until now, we don't understand much. During this time the Tevorakian species was helped by them to flee away from our homeworld as it was deemed to be destroyed along with the other Archon worlds. However, due to a miscalculation, most of the fleets ended up in non suitable worlds, which made the ones who fled to Janohakia be the only survivors of the primitive Tevorakian. Janohakia, unfortunately, didn't have the resources needed for our civilization to maintain our pre-interstellar status back then, so we reverted quickly to the stone age. A hundred thousand years later, thankfully, our species was well adapted to Janohakia's environment and were able to finally achieve interstellar travel."

Laire was giving lots of information at once, so she stopped talking for a bit until everyone was able to process what she just said. "As a downside, our interstellar traveling means weren't advanced or sophisticated enough for long term colonies and most of the newly colonized planets were either abandoned or lost entirely communication with the rest of us. It all came to a change about 70 thousand years ago, when we discovered Termina, the furthest Archon world and learned the truth about our origins and what caused their fall. This also propelled our civilization thousands of years forward, until the humans came and destroyed it all."

She knew that they still needed some convincing, so she said: "What does that mean for you all? While we all may be wary of the Froundari's true intentions, the Faceless threat isn't one to be ignored. They were able to destroy one of the most, if not the most advanced civilization ever, in a span of few years. If we keep wasting time in this senseless bickering, our entire universe may face the same doom. Therefore, we must take an aggressive course of action as soon as possible. Even if that means working with them for now. Or else, there may not be a universe for our children and grandchildren to live on."

The leader of the Kuvorians sat down, feeling satisfied, in hopes that her way too long speech had the desired effect. Only time could give her an answer, though. Laire prayed for the best outcome, despite knowing that their gods were long dead and all that they once believed was created by their iterations with the Archons. Not that they needed gods anyway. The Tevoraki and, for extension, the Kuvorians were more than capable of doing anything they wanted to. Perhaps those in the room would hear the voice of reason and work together, even if it's for their own sake. "I really hope they do as told.", she thought while waiting for someone's reply, "Or else, we are all doomed."
Last edited: