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 2207.08.07]
Since entering this system, First Seeker Xaka’s dreams had been troubled. It was one of the last stars to be examined on his first, five-cycle survey, and it was the first he had beheld from the bridge of the Kasnave that glowed with the same, warm, reddish luminance of the Sky Mother that lit his old home. The familiarity of the stellar blaze seemed to harrow his sleeping mind with visions of Ayaal. Visions of the people he had once known and cherished. Visions of those who would starve and die if his mission could not find a solution for the deteriorating biosphere. Visions of those he had left behind to become a Yasha exile and undertake this task.
He stared blearily out the port side window in a sleep-deprived haze, his talons clutching a flask of chashk, a stimulating, botanical beverage from Ayaal that smelled of tilled earth after rain. Most of the crew were still in their bunks, and he was glad for it. Supplies of the nuts brewed to make the drink were running low on the Kasnave, and he felt guilty about his extra ration. Though he was First Seeker, the 115 other Athirova on board – military officers, engineers, various enlisted crew, monastic clergy, and several teams of civilian scientists – had come to feel more like a family to him than a group of coworkers.
One such coworker surprised him and nearly caused him to drop his piping beverage all over a vacant gunnery station when she strode petulantly onto the bridge. Iyara led the main environmental survey team, and had rubbed much of the military crew the wrong way by gallivanting around the vessel as if she owned it. She let out an amused cooing sound when she noticed she had spooked the weary captain.
“My apologies, First Seeker,” she intoned with half-jesting reverence. “I would think you would be surer on your talons with the amount of chashk you’ve been ingesting.”
Xaka gave a trilling sigh as he came to face the young scientist. She was very lithe, with a long, thin beak that marked her as coming from a fisher ancestry – a coastal ethnic group from Ayaal’s temperate, equatorial zones. Her slenderness and bright magenta coloration would be enough to turn eyes her way, even in the reverent temples where Xaka had learned to fight in his adolescence.
“Ki-Iyara,” he said with what composure he could muster, nodding. It hurt him to call her that, knowing the implication of the title, but anything more familiar would be inappropriate.
Athirova Factoid: Most Yasha are given Caste Names based on their reason for becoming Yasha – whether it be by birth to Yasha parents, the choice to abandon their birth caste for the greater good, or by mandate of the clergy for committing a crime against Harmony. The individual known as Ki-Iyara is of this last class, having been made Yasha for striking against and unintentionally killing an abusive mate. She impetuously took a Caste Name that roughly translates to “bravery”.
“Darxa on the kitchen staff said I might find you here,” Iyara explained, shifting into business mode as swiftly as the winds of the Great Veldt changed direction. “Some of the readings the sensor team is picking up on long-range spectroscopy are very… unexpected. I’ve had my own people double check them, of course, and they aren’t in error. I was hoping I could trouble you to divert course immediately to the fourth planet from… First Seeker?”
The flask of chashk clattered to the metallic floor. Xaka hadn’t noticed the gradual onset of dizziness and blurred vision until the sound brought him back to his senses. Then, pain. Horrible, shooting pain filled his head, as if his eye sockets had been filled with molten metal.
“THE FUTURE OF ALL YOU KNOW IS SHROUDED IN THE VOID, BUILT WITH THE BONES OF THOSE WHO TRIED BEFORE AND FAILED.”
Xaka did not know where he was, nor from where the voice was emanating. It seemed to permeate him, become his entire reality.
“HOPE IS A STAR WITH EONS LEFT TO BURN. YOU MUST LEAD THE NEW AWAKENING, LEST OTHERS SQUANDER ITS GIFTS.”
It seemed to the First Seeker that he was seeing through his mind’s eye, but the image was far more distinct and present than a memory or a daydream. He was floating outside the Kasnave, facing a dense, pale cloud that glowed peacefully and crackled with blue-white light. He somehow knew that it was not only the source of the message, but also the originator of the dream reality he now inhabited.
The being hung on the word for what seemed like it could have been a moment or an eternity.
“YOU ARE NOT READY.”
Xaka’s existence gave way to nothingness.
“He’s still breathing!”
Iyara touched three, rounded electrodes to the forehead of the fallen First Seeker and read from a handheld device to which they were connected. “Brain wave activity is consistent with a comatose state. We need to transport him to the healing shrine and make sure he remains stable.”
“We will maintain constant observation, rest assured,” the voice of the deputy medical officer cut through the commotion that had taken over the bridge of the Kasnave. “Can someone please turn that alarm off?”
The strangely melodic klaxon that indicated a possible attack on the ship wound down and dissipated. “Apologies,” one of the flight officers called from his station. “We needed confirmation that the rogue energy signature had disappeared from all sensors. Weaponry teams, stand down but maintain readiness two.”
Laxa, the First Stormguide and primary FTL navigator of the Kasnave, took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “The melody of the stars gifts us a merciful refrain. What now?” she asked no one in particular.
Iyara stood from her kneeling stance and dusted off her coat with a closed fist, so as not to tear the fabric with her talons, as the prone First Seeker was loaded onto a stretcher. She gave a pointed look to the enquiring officer and clicked her beak matter-of-factly. “We still have work to do. First Stormguide, I believe protocol dictates that you have the bridge.”
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