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 2211.02.10]
“First Seeker, the omissions from your logs are quite plain given the testimony of your crew,” pronounced Shathka, one of the eight members of the Sa-Raaya before which Xaka now stood. Her flat beak and voluminous plumage seemed to contrast with the sleek, understated robes of her office. Only two generations ago, her family had been polar nomads, breaking sea ice with picks to catch dranu for food, oil, and warm pelts. “As a sworn servant of the Truths, you must not speak deception in this holy place. What were your intentions in concealing your encounters with these… beings from us?”
Xaka had been stripped of his devices of command and wore only the pale blue kasaya of an initiate, as was the custom in such trials. He knelt on a carpet of rushes with his walking stick placed neatly beside him, while the ruling council loomed above at a table in the shape of a quarter circle. Two galleries to either side allowed witnesses and visitors to stand and observe, as the accusations against the First Seeker echoed far up into the high, decorated ceiling of the temple. Many of those who had testified against the First Seeker were present. Iyara was nowhere to be seen, and that made Xaka’s heart sink.
“Many times in our people’s history…” Xaka began, silencing the room as he spoke for the first time during the trial, “we have made unwise, inharmonious decisions because we lacked understanding. I felt the need to understand these messengers before bringing word of them to Ayaal. I believed that imparting a less than full understanding of them upon the Athirova would be worse than imparting nothing at all.”
“Unwise?” came the sharp rebuke of Kaanira, one of the youngest of the Sa-Raaya and an imposing presence, with a sharp beak, star-blue eyes, and feathers the color of midnight. “You stand before the Sa-Raaya! We who are named Wisest by the Athirova. Do you think that you act with greater wisdom than we, First Seeker? That you, a Yasha no less, are more fit to decide on such matters than the leaders your own people have chosen?”
The First Seeker took a deep breath and continued calmly. “In Sa-Athnava, there is a story of a small bird who tries to warn a great king that a storm is coming and launching his warships would end in disaster. The king is a wise man, but Athanivxi sought to demonstrate that often, the smallest among us know truths that even a king may not yet be prepared to hear…”
“Do not,” Kaanira shot back sternly, “quote scripture to me. You are no priest.”
Xaka opened his mouth to respond, but the verbal sparring was cut short when Athagxa, eldest of the Sa-Raaya, raised a foretalon and looked between the two debaters. “Let us not raise our voices in anger at this place,” he rasped calmly, a soft breeze ruffling his aged and fraying feathers. “It is clear that the First Seeker has committed a misdeed, a violation of his oath to serve the Sa-Raaya, in purposefully withholding important details of his mission. Do I speak Truth?”
Seven beaks turned upward in agreement, and only one downward in disagreement. The elder’s statement was affirmed with a majority.
“But it is also clear that we cannot, at this moment, dismiss his intentions as impure,” Athagxa continued. “And understanding of those intentions is essential to determining an appropriate rebuke. Do I speak Truth?”
Six beaks up in agreement. Two were cast down in protest, including Kaanira’s. The statement was affirmed.
“Then I propose before this council that the First Seeker be detained beneath the temple city, that he may be guided by our finest monks in meditation on his actions. We, as Sa-Raaya, must make it our responsibility to assess the Truth of his spirit before any further decision on his fate is to be made. Do I speak Truth?”
Once again, six councilors in favor and two against. Xaka nodded solemnly as two, ornately-robed monks came forward to escort him away.
Shathka took her turn to speak again, having voted with the majority each time and seeming pleased with the outcome. “I suppose that leaves only the matter of the Kasnave, and who shall serve as its Seeker in the interim.”
A sharp beak click came from the gallery. It was one of the starport guard officers in a shining, sweeping helmet of silver, and he looked nervous. Many began to mutter about how uncouth it was to seek the Sa-Raaya’s attention in such a brusque way.
“You may speak,” Shathka grudgingly indicated to the visitor.
“It’s about the Kasnave, Wise One,” he stated darkly, eyes darting back and forth and never meeting those of she to whom he spoke. “It’s gone. Along with the officer Ka-Iyara and most of the crew.”
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