This short story is part of Galactic Chronicles, an ongoing space opera based on our multiplayer campaign in Paradox’s space grand strategy game, Stellaris. Events and characters, while embellished heavily in some cases, are based on actual events and characters encountered during gameplay. These entries do not have to be experienced in a specific order, but the “Earth Standardized Solar Date” header will indicate where in the galactic timeline a particular entry falls.
This story concerns the Athirova, a race of spiritualist, warrior monk-ruled Avian aliens from the planet Ayaal. Learn more about them here.
[EARTH STANDARDIZED SOLAR DATE 2201.07.25]
Xaka never felt at home in space, because there was no wind. The wind had always comforted him, from his earliest memories of climbing the bluffs as a fledgling and letting the Waking Season gales ruffle his goldenrod feathers as he gazed down on the small village where he was born. Sa-Athnava, the Truths that guided his people, taught that the wind was a bringer of Harmony. She moved air from place to place, evening out the disparity between chill and warmth. When the Sky Mother’s rays parched the Great Veldt, the wind would bring cool respite sweeping in from the Everfrost. When Ayaal passed into the shadow of the Sky Father, the wind would spread what little heat remained across the colder reaches to allow some semblance of life to continue.
Out here in the fire-specked dark beyond the air, things were ever frigid and static. In a way, it evoked its own kind of unchanging peace. But Sa-Athnava also taught that a state of utter silence could never embody Harmony, as there were no notes to be heard in which one might find a chord. And so, though Xaka flew far beyond the boundaries of his high-soaring ancestors in the sleek, alloy research vessel called Kasnave, “Searcher”, he envied his ancient forefathers’ and foremothers’ ability to embrace and ride on the wind.
“First Stormguide, have the final calculations been made?” Xaka asked from his perch at the front of the bridge. He gazed forward through the bluish forcefield at the distorted shape of the weftstorm generator before their vessel, not sparing so much as a glance at the subject of his query.
“Yes, High Seeker,” came the response. “We have been cleared to open the eye.”
Until this moment, travel across impossible distances using weftstorms had been largely theoretical. Smaller squalls had been generated in the orbital laboratories beyond Ayaal, transporting items the size of a drinking vessel over distances not much greater than Xaka’s wingspan. But this was far different. This mission was to take the Kasnave and 116 bold Sa-Yasha to a star system many light years away in the space of hours. If successful, it could open up a thousand worlds to the Athirova, furthering their search for the source of the Disharmony that plagued their home. But if even one calculation was off, or if the theoretical viability of scaling up the generators proved to be only theoretical, the entire mission would be lost… and, quite possibly, the hopes of the Athirovan people with it.
Xaka clicked a foretalon on the edge of his console in agitation, knowing that the order he was about to give might be the most significant in his people’s history. Ayaal was dying, and his fledges and grandfledges would never feel that same wind of his youth shooting across the bluffs if his expedition couldn’t find answers.
“First Stormguide… call the storm.”
At Xaka’s order, a great, whirring thrum began to fill the ship as the modulator attuned its quantum field for passage through the eye of the weftstorm. The orbiting generator sang out in response as it catalyzed the exotic matter reaction, though none aboard the Kasnave could hear its vibrations across the vacuum. Space-time began to swirl and distort before Xaka’s eyes as the storm warped and tunneled through the very fabric of existence. At the center, an objectively incalculable distance away, the eye beckoned.
More rumbling commenced as the Kasnave’s chemical thrusters propelled it toward the weftstorm. Xaka watched the console readout until the moment their velocity could not be arrested in time to prevent crossing of the event horizon. Any chance to abort was now and forever forfeit. Xaka closed his eyes and thought of the wind in his feathers.
When Xaka saw light outside the Kasnave again, they had been mere moments outside of space and time according to the onboard chronometers. But the First Seeker had lost all bearing on the passage of existence in the lightless, measureless state of being beyond the eye. He blinked and steadied himself as the ship drifted out the other end of the passage. The modulation field collapsed, and the weftstorm twisted itself shut behind them.
Ahead, some billions of miles away, a star shone clear and pure. It was not the deep ruby of the Sky Mother. It was a rich, white gold, not unlike the First Seeker’s uncommonly-tinted plumage. His people had long called this one Rekkex as they gazed upon it across the unfathomable night, after an ancient Nenhe goddess of prosperity. None had seen her this close before.
They had made it. As their flighted ancestors had conquered the wind, the Athirova had outrun light – a feat once thought utterly impossible. And if they were capable of such things, Xaka dared to believe, they could find a way to spare their home from its terminal sickness of Disharmony before the Athirova faded into the unwritten annals of the universe.
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