Keith Anderson, for lack of a better term, was a hoarder. He knew what he liked and collected tons of it. Newspaper clippings, electronic instruments, wind-up toys, antique clocks, vintage vinyl records, model kits, educational books... and that was just scratching the surface of everything he kept in storage. But there was something he always kept towards the front of his various stacks of plastic containers and sealed boxes.
A constellation book, more specifically with photographs taken of the Orion Nebula. Though it wasn't perfect, it was the closest thing he had to "baby pictures". With how light worked they were about 1,350 years off, so it wasn't too bad.
"You can take a vacation you know," Ray would chastise him for looking at the pages in the break room. "Hire a couple more goons, you'd be okay for a day or so,"
"It's not that. I just know that it wouldn't be 'home' you know?"
"I never thought a huge wad of space radiation could be anyone's 'home' but here we are,"
Keith often just laughed that off, but not today.
"It's not just space radiation, Ray, it's where I came from. I haven't been back in so long. Besides, if I try,"
"Oh. Right, it's different for you,"
Keith closed the book.
"There's customers coming," he muttered. Ray hurried out of the break room and back to the register, thirty seconds later and the door swung open with a robotic 'cling clang' sound.
Keith couldn't leave the store, not without walking out the front door, but he could enter into his own mind and try to meditate the empty feeling in his stomach away. He wasn't hungry. Celestials didn't have a concept of hunger, their energy came from the universe itself. It was more of a stabbing pain, like a fish hook caught in his would-be intestines that just kept tugging.
He folded his arms on the table and laid his head down. It was almost his version of 'sleep', and 'dreaming'.
A Nightmare of 5,000 Years
Keith, or rather, Anissar at this point in time could hear them. Even deep within the ethereal womb of his mother figure, he could hear them. See them. They were gathered around another of their ilk.
Jezham the Echo, Elibhel the Pioneer, and Xoghan the Treasurer. He knew their names just as his 'mother' did. She, Emiah the Watcher.
Caneg the Reviser was dead.
"The expiration/termination/death of Caneg has come to pass,"
Their voices shook the stars, but brought an eerie calmness to the infant Celestial.
"Natural causes, or has his fate been influenced?"
Jezham the Echo raised his arms first above the body, and then towards either side. Temporal auras shifted at his touch, and he could monitor and display the fate of the fallen giant.
"Readings conclude: Caneg suffered much against his fate. This was no failure on his part,"
"Concern," Xoghan commented, and the two others at his side repeated his remark in unison.
"The Pioneer shall find the cause," Elibhel claimed, though he was already gone.
"Find rest/peace/sanctuary, Caneg. Your star matter shall be recycled within the Nebula,"
"A honor," Emiah whispered.
It was his earliest memory, seeing the godlike beings around him of which he could become one all mourning the death of something conceivably immortal. He felt fear, an overwhelming amount of it. He didn't feel comfortable with staying in this memory for too long.
He could feel Caneg watching him even through his cold lifeless eyes.
Anissar coming to Earth was easily his best memory of early life. As best he could describe it, he was sent to Earth to prepare its species for the inevitable arrival of the Imperium or something possibly worse. This would be achieved through mass genetic manipulation, and altering the landscape on a planetary scale. He could easily remember the blueprints now, but as a young Celestial, his mission for all intents and purposes escaped him.
He had been surrounded by the coldness of space and the latent entropy of the others of his kind, mourning the death of Caneg even as they sent Anissar away to accomplish his great task. Finding a planet like Earth seemed ideal for something he would later call a 'vacation'. Instead of changing anything around him, he changed himself, adopting physical traits of the early humans he met and learning all he could about them.
Over time his disguise would change into 'Keith Anderson', a 'recorder' of sorts who owned a specialized library.
When he changed himself from a Celestial, he cut himself off from the others. There was a chance they could have just investigated why this happened, but perhaps they just assumed he had died like Caneg. Thus, the mystery of why their species was failing continued into the deeper parts of space. Thousands of years later, and they still never once came to Earth.
He found his sanctuary.
Keith suddenly shot straight up. He was awake, and felt the associated drowsiness of severe telepathic strain, even for a Celestial. He rubbed his eyes only to find a stinging sensation.
"S-Sweat?" he muttered.
His body couldn't produce sweat naturally, only through his shape-shifting properties in order to keep up humanoid appearances. He checked his armpits and the back of his neck. A cold rush swam through his body. He didn't like this at all.
His body, his shell, was betraying him and acting on its own according to the panic he felt in that last dream. That last vision.
"Human nature is dictated by its tragedies and triumphs. But mostly, by its tragedies."
Thomas Arthur Caine, born 17--, in Canterbury, Kent County, England. A veteran of the Napoleonic Wars and inheritor of the Caine Estate north of Maidstone, Thomas began a modest life as part of the Caine family fortune. He almost died of a fever when he was very young, and the aftereffects left him adverse to being around sick people. As a result, he was very sheltered in his boyish years. Between the coddling spoon of his mother and the iron hand of his father there was little wiggle room for him to develop on his own.
One day, he watched British soldiers on parade and instantly became drawn to their bright red uniforms and stunning confidence and demeanor. He wanted to be just like them. As expected, his mother wanted none of it but his father couldn't agree more. A staunch nationalist, George Caine was a veteran of the American Revolutionary War and thus was so proud of his son that he gave him a rifle on that very day. They went hunting for pheasants to use in the evening meal.
As Thomas grew into a man he signed up for the youth program designed to turn bright-eyed boys into cadets of the Army. He eventually felt it to be his God-given duty to take up arms for Britain. Unfortunately, France felt the same way about its own country once a young Napoleon came into power. The fires of revolution turned into an engine of expansion as a veritable World War exploded in Europe. In his mind, Thomas couldn't sign up for the first deployment out fast enough.
It was then that he became intimate with the horrors of war, firsthand. Various battles throughout the European mainland broke and scarred the landscape, murdering thousands each day. Bodies mangled by cannon-fire were left to rot in the sun as the fighting carried on, point-blank rifle lines sending men falling to the ground in bloodied heaps. A chorus of violence, a tempest of hatred, as artillery burst and horses screamed it drew higher and higher into the sky - a raiment of red for the rising and setting suns. In the youthful eyes of Thomas Arthur Caine, however, the terror of it all subsided very quickly. The pain, the grief, the torment - they were as falling rocks in a stream. Thomas had absorbed it all, watching the fires grow, and knew that he had found his place in life.
He was awarded for his efforts throughout his career as a lineman, where fighting was thickest.
Life after the war proved to be inconceivably boring for Thomas. He stayed at the Caine Estate with his parents and they noticed that he had a limp in his leg - specifically his back foot. It would lock at the hip as if he were bracing for something. He was ordered a special cane, and given rehabilitation classes by the family doctor at the estate. They were loathe to bring him anywhere looking like that.
Thomas would carry that cane for the rest of his life, but the limp wasn't because of war injuries. It was a neurological symptom associated with high velocity movement and adrenaline, something he lacked and his body made him pay for. In the years following his time in the Army the disorder became worse, to the degree of him wearing women's powder and lipstick. He even tried to dye his hair a different color. His parents locked him away in another wing of the estate, allowing him to go outside under supervision, but he would outlast them.
Come that next winter, and they both died of pneumonia within days of each other.
Thomas was the only Caine left with claim to the manor, and so he took it upon himself to renovate it to his liking. Surprisingly, he had a rather modest touch to architecture and design. But he would change everything barring the indoor plumbing every few years or so. During this time, his neurological disorder slackened in intensity. It wasn't until the American Civil War broke out that he had reason to drop everything and leave once more. He signed a legal document stating that should he not return by war's end, everything would be left to auction. He was almost 83 when he went to America to fight.
A young man returned to the Caine Estate following the Civil War claiming to be Thomas's son. No other claim or dispute questioned this, and Thomas II was given the reigns of the Estate as well as the vast family fortune. A similar pattern happened following the Russo-Japanese War, both World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Afghanistan War. Currently, it is Thomas VIII who has legal control of the Caine Estate.
Currently, no other Caine family members exist. A further mystery is the lack of any evidence suggesting a spouse connecting any of these young men all claiming to be sons and grandsons of the Caine family. Yet, no legal claim has stated otherwise.
And so the manor still stands, left pristine and polished by the hard labor of a great many staff members.
Real Name: Heathen
Alias: Thomas Arthur Caine I - VIII, Dead God, Many-Angled King, the Fleshed, Red Maw, Mind Eater, Man Who Laughs, the Endless Smile, Kalibrax
Height: 6' 10"
Weight: 170 lbs
Hair Colour: green
Eye Colour: various
The thing calling himself Thomas Arthur Caine is a master of illusion. His ability to conjure an alternate reality extends from the physical sensory organs to the perception of time and space as well as memories themselves. Though he cannot alter memories or influence any living being on more than an imitational level, the illusions he is capable of making sometimes seem more real than what is actually there. Added to this, he is a master of manipulation as well and will use his abilities to open and exploit weaknesses in an opponent's psyche. Further, he often layers his illusions in order to escape from unfavorable situations easier.
What is not an illusion is his capability of breathing without oxygen and while in the vacuum of space. As far as physical needs and traits necessary for life go, Thomas doesn't seem to even need to eat or drink - though his time spent as a human has made him comfortable with the prospect of such things as hobbies.
He has an almost complete infatuation with having fun in any capacity, whether it is through the form of bad jokes, torturing somebody, or committing crimes just to see what would happen.
Once suspected of advanced telepathy, Heathen's illusions transcend mere mental aberrations. His victims are capable of physically interacting with his illusions on a grand scale, perhaps living entire lives or generations inside the span of a few minutes. Wars have been waged, loves had, children born inside his imaginary schemes. When he feels the time to be right, he sweeps that life out from underneath his victims' feet - all in the name of his own twisted sense of fun.
Thomas is still capable of experiencing death. He knows what death is like, since he faced it seven times already. It is an inescapable part of his psyche, unique to his own perception of reality separate from other similar beings. Since he understands it, he is susceptible to dying. Yet the inverse is also true. He is not afraid of dying, since he knows he'll just come back eventually. In one way or another, his kind of chaos never ends. It never dies, even if he does.
So, he plays his games and has his fun. No matter what happens, no matter who tells him to stop, it's all just a never-ending joy ride.
He has taken the abandoned rural town of Old Ackerby as his personal stomping grounds.
House Caine was officially founded by a Bohemian-born English nobleman named Charles Kristoff Caine, inheritor of a large fortune from a mining company on the European mainland. Prior to that, the Caine name had undergone several periods of civil conflict and turmoil throughout history. Never before were they a family to be respected, rather reserving themselves to mercenary work across Europe - their deeds and histories gone unremembered.
Charles purchased a large plot of land in Kent, north of Canterbury, and set about establishing his masterpiece. Four completely independent fortresses marked the corners of the estate, walled off with thick stone parapets and deep trenches leading into treacherous moats on either side of the fortifications. A complex irrigation system fed these moats from the nearby Great Stour river, culminating in a runoff down the hillside and into a pond. The steep incline and slippery rocks meant traversing this outcropping of water was especially dangerous. Meanwhile, the river itself was heavily fortified with further earthworks and barricades.
The estate itself rose as the hill did, crowning the natural stone base as the boughs of a mighty oak. A single, broad path was cut from the surface of the rock, meant for an army to pass in formation - but also wide enough so that cover was practically negligible from projectiles being cast down. Called Caine Manor, the castle itself was laden with Renaissance-era luxuries as expected from the English elite. Imports from the Mediterranean and the Holy Roman Empire were commonplace. Charles established a lasting friendship with the Venice-based Lombardi Shipping Company, known for its potent naval accommodations to the Republic of Venice, and the powerful House of Wassenburg in Central Europe.
Caine Manor would become a staging ground for English armies looking to sail to France or Brittany during the Hundred Years' War. Due to its imposing nature, the Kingdom of Scotland saw fit to besiege it - though to no avail. The Caineborn soldiers were well-trained and well-armed, as well as well-supplied due to the natural nearby. Throughout its history, battles surrounding Caine Manor were decided by the Great Stour river. Efforts to either blockade the water or change its flow were heavily contested. French attacks on Caine Manor were met with the same amount of resistance. True to form, Caine Manor became a bastion for nearby Canterbury. Though attacks were leveled against the cathedral-city all the same, the manor weathered many would-be engagements. Charles himself would not live to see the end of the war. He died at 57 years old in hospital at Canterbury, a patient of a vicious shoulder wound that turned gangrenous.
His sons Theodore and Frederick would grow up in the latter half of that tumultuous age, growing up to be soldiers and then middle-aged men by the time of the Battle of Castillon in 1453. Their views were in stark contrast to each other, despite having grown up as twins and having fought in the same war back-to-back. In the dawning Wars of the Roses, Theodore would back the House of Lancaster while Frederick would find more agreeable terms with the House of York. The resulting political upheaval in England was surrounded by its financial and social troubles following the Hundred Years' War. English kings were cheap during this time and inner turmoil in the courts ran deep. Frederick would slay his brother at the Battle of Ferrybridge in 1461. He buried Theodore at Caine Manor with all honors, being quoted: "I have lost a part of myself, this cruel fratricide."
Frederick would integrate Theodore's children into his own family of three sons and a daughter out of grief, though the gesture would end with his own death. Geoffrey, Theodore's firstborn, had a deep resentment for his uncle and killed him in his sleep with a poisoned dagger. He blamed a fictional and unnamed Lancaster assassin, sparking more Caineborn involvement in the Wars of the Roses. George Caine, Frederick's firstborn, always suspected Geoffrey and would mark his cousin for death upon becoming head of the House at age 15. Geoffrey was older, but Theodore had left Caine Manor prior to his involvement in the Wars of the Roses thus giving up his right of succession and that of his children. The resentment George felt for Geoffrey was all the more mutual given the circumstances.
Although Caineborn involvement in the Hundred Years' War had been more or less honorable, its civil strife during the squabbles of the Lancaster and York Houses took a dour turn. Families were torn apart, and brother took up arms against brother. The political strife did not end until 1487 with the complete annihilation of both Lancaster and York claims to the throne of England. Though fighting continued for a short while after the formal end to the conflict, House Caine saw fit to end the battling before it dissolved like the others. Geoffrey died of a fever before reconciliation could be made with his cousin. George buried him next to his father with all honors, having forgiven everything.
George would be a middle-aged man by the time of the English Renaissance and ruled Caine Manor in as much the same way as his forebears. Though, age and stress of constant war began to show itself. During the late 1400s, much of House Caine's history was one of rebuilding and refurbishing. The Great Stour had always fed into large farmland and much of that continued without interruption. When the Italian War of 1494-1498 broke out, House Caine found itself fighting alongside soldiers of House Wassenburg as well as Venetian mercenaries who owed their allegiances to the Lombardi Family. Though this grand reunion of powers would be short-lived, as the continued rivalry of England and France continued into the Italian War of 1521-1526, of 1542-1546, and of 1551-1559. When Venice allied itself with France, the Lombardi Family cut all ties with House Caine before itself being dissolved by the turmoil. Soldiers of House Caine looted what they could from the properties and returned with bounty for the estate, almost a form of remembering what those friendships used to be.
During this time, George would die in battle. His son, Geoffrey II, would take up the mantle of leadership of the House at age 16. His two cousins Bartholomew and Alexander, sons of his uncle Theodore Caine, also died in the Italian Wars. What this meant for a young Geoffrey II was continued war, for at the age of 19 he and House Caine answered the call to arms during the French Wars of Religion as well as the coinciding Eighty Years' War against the burgeoning Empire of Spain and its allies in the Holy Roman Empire. England had evolved into a mostly Protestant nation at the time, and it faced staunch opposition from the Catholics of France, Sienna, and the supporting armies of the Ottoman Empire. Though France was hardly weakened, Geoffrey II had his first taste of actual combat and his men respected him for it. A genuine comradeship formed and House Caine became stronger.
At the height of the Eight Years' War was the interlocking Anglo-Spanish War of 1585-1604. Geoffrey was 48 when he was cut down by muskets. He knew nothing but war, and was a respected commander of his troops. House Caine suffered greatly at his passing, though his heir-to-be Charles II was a favorite to lead. He was 17 years old.
Charles II, however, would not rise to the echelons of his forebears. Jealousy and greed had long ago seeped into Geoffrey II's children, and each wanted a chance at the head of the House. Charles II had nine brothers and two sisters, spread across Europe. His eldest brother Karl Roger Caine had the greatest claim, for he was two years older but wasn't a British citizen. He took an army of supporters from the Holy Roman Empire and besieged the Caine Estate, but could not overwhelm Charles' resolve. Karl was imprisoned and his army paid to return to the European mainland. A schism between various members of House Caine appeared, and the rift only widened with time. Karl was a very influential and charismatic leader, even swaying the guards into giving him extra rations or letting him walk without restraints in his cell. Charles wanted all animosity abolished between him and his brother, but Karl wanted none of it.
One night, Caineborn soldiers removed Karl from his cell and took up residence in nearby village of Dalhurst, where forces from the Holy Roman Empire had amassed. With their position fortified, Karl's army prepared to march once more upon the estate. What ensued was pure chaos. Charles had made rudimentary preparations following his previous victory, not suspecting any further violence. Finding Karl's cell empty, however, instantly prompted a call to arms. Karl's army had already begun to fire upon the estate at that point, though the shells had not yet landed. Within hours, the fighting turned from long-range engagements to brutal and bloody melee combat on the walls and in the streets below. Even with the defensible position of the estate, House Caine had seen better days than this and the surprise attack left many of Charles' supporters at normal pace of patrol rather than expecting combat. Karl took control of the estate and his men found Charles sealing off an escape route for his wounded soldiers. He killed two men before he was skewered by bayonets, dying instantly.
Karl fully halved the treasuries of the estate into repairing its fortifications to modern specifications as well as for paying the soldiers he had brought from the mainland. He was under the assumption that he could make back the money spent in a matter of years, considering the as-of-yet continuous mining operations still bustled. The veins of silver, salt, and construction stone responsible for House Caine's wealth ran deep.
The estate was fully refurbished by the time Karl was 32, a decade later. By this time he was a decorated officer in the Dutch-Portuguese War and even developed a taste for land opening in the New World. The landmark founding of Jamestown served to inflate this sense of adventure.
But he never got to see America, as he developed a serious case of pneumonia and passed away at the age of 36. He was survived by his children George III and Johann.
At this stage of House Caine's history, the estate is more or less a symbolic piece. History was written on the seas, with the Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish Empires practically exploding in size. French and English gains were also substantial, and it is here that House Caine becomes a well-respected name in the Royal Navy. Their participation in the many seafaring wars and conflicts could not be called into question at the time, but now serve as little more than a footnote. Only once did they set foot in America, and that was when George VI went there to fight in the American Revolutionary War. He was a staunch nationalist, and was extremely proud of his army and his country. Understandable, then, that when he was sent back home in defeat he became withdrawn and bitter. The only time he showed any compassion to his son was when young Thomas Arthur Caine told him he wanted to become a soldier.
From then until he saw his son graduate from the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, he showed a truly happy side of himself. Pride was returned to House Caine, and George VI died with a smile on his face the following winter from pneumonia. Thomas did not go to America for the War of 1812, electing instead to fight in the Napoleonic Wars one after another. He was presumed to have died in action, and his medals were delivered to the renewed Caine Estate where his widow Annabelle received them.
Thus began a strange series of circumstances where a Thomas Arthur Caine would appear claiming to be the former's son, each time following one of the great catastrophic wars of the world. This continued until the War in Afghanistan, after which the current proprietor of the estate, grounds, and the historical sites beyond is Thomas Arthur Caine VIII.
"𝕱𝖊𝖊𝖙 𝖔𝖋 𝕾𝖙𝖔𝖓𝖊."
𝕮𝖆𝖎𝖓𝖊 𝕱𝖆𝖒𝖎𝖑𝖞 𝕸𝖔𝖙𝖙𝖔
The massive stonework of the estate laid out in its founding days still exists, either as functioning satellites to the main castle or as ruins in the process of being refurbished. The estate in question is divided into five main campuses.
The Charles Campus is named thusly for its connection to the founding father of the Caine Estate. At 21,000 square feet, it is the largest of the components making up the fortified manor. Center stage and sitting comfortably atop a plateau of solid rock, the Charles Campus is tended to daily by the bulk of the estate's staff due to the larger percentage of visitors there. Its fountains run night and day thanks to a complex water system running straight into underground reservoirs fed by the Great Stour. All the benefits of excessive wealth and spending have gone into making the Charles Campus a veritable monument to House Caine.
The northernmost campus, often called Noon Point by the staff, is named after Theodore Caine. It is the closest campus to the Great Stour and this has access to a large pond from which recreational fishing is done. The lakehouse overlooking the water is not a step below the quality of the Charles Campus, though it is smaller at 6,500 square feet. Staff members are explicitly instructed to tend to the gardens and such in a "natural" way, moreso clearing away obstructive weeds and invasive plants rather than hedging or clipping.
To the east is the sibling campus of Theodore, Frederick. Though a bulky 9,650 square feet, Frederick Campus' main purpose is to house a great number of historical and archeological information regarding House Caine. Frederick, after all, had been the more astute of the two brothers. Vast collections of paintings, statues, books, pieces of armor, and all other such memorabilia are stored within these walls and vaults. Most notably is a French-made grand piano commissioned by a friend of House Caine during the Napoleonic era, estimated worth $1.7 million.
Heading southbound is the Isabella Campus, named after Charles' wife during its construction. Not much is known of it, other than that it was the heart of much of the bloodiest fighting during the various civil conflicts rising throughout England prior to its Renaissance. As such, much of the ground surrounding it is dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives on the property. Visitation for the forgotten dead are held for twelve hours a day, starting at 8 AM, while the tombs of House Caine are sealed shut.
Last, and facing west, is the Godfrey Campus. Presumably named after Charles' father, it lies in the rockiest outcropping of the property and hardly has any visitors or scheduled staff maintenance. Thomas prefers to go here alone, mulling over old things that weren't restored for some reason or another. It is assumed that it is here where he keeps old war souvenirs, and quietly mourns the dead. Notably, Godfrey Campus served as a military hospital throughout the Napoleonic Wars and both World Wars.
𝕿𝖍𝖊 𝕳𝖔𝖚𝖓𝖉𝖘 𝖔𝖋 𝕮𝖆𝖎𝖓𝖊
This is definitely a work in progress, buuut yeah. Cool stuff.
"When the sun looks out towards the outer stars and the dead of space, it gazes most fondly upon an unified Alastor."
A popular show of faith between nations
Alastor, perhaps, was best suited for life in the small cluster of worlds making up the Auxos Sector of the Typhonis Galaxy, many hundreds of millions of light-years away from the Milky Way Galaxy. In its huddled collective, Alastor managed to harbor the necessary elements for sentient life such as a balanced atmosphere mainly composed of nitrogen and oxygen as well as a large surplus of water that made up almost 80% of its surface area.
Upon its varied land masses, humanoid beings began to evolve from amphibious primordial animals. Food started to grow higher in the trees, necessitating longer legs. Predators became more fierce and cunning, making larger more complex brains an invaluable hereditary trait.
Stone gave way to bronze, then to iron, and the natural progress of these humanoids invariably led to border disputes and a great many wars. There were three great continents that stretched across the world, upon which many countries, kingdoms, and empires rose and fell across the centuries.
It is speculated that before the creation of the Titans, there were worldwide conflicts every other decade, and the death tolls only increased given advancements in weapons and technology. The natural elements suffered, and concerns about planetary conditions intermingled with the politics of a world embroiled in nuclear conflict with itself. Many tens of thousands of years had passed as this species grew and multiplied - and only now did it seem to be concerned with the footprint it would leave behind. In a new and unfamiliar Industrial Age, it seemed inevitable.
The decline of social balance, combined with the unknown fear of accidentally causing their own extinction in one way or another put this species on high-alert. Yet, the only threat was right in front of them. Global powers undermining the banks and stock markets made grave errors in judgment in the name of potential profit, and the world at large retracted from their clutches.
They created the Titans, and worshiped them as logic and reason, not as gods. They left the planet for a time, just long enough for those who did not believe in such things to destroy themselves. The world they were sent back to by their creations was nothing short of a disaster. Nuclear fire had consumed it all, but also washed it clean. The canvas was now open once more for a new beginning. The Titans would leave to explore the galaxy and reap the knowledge of the stars for their own vast purposes.
In the meanwhile, those still upon the planet formed nations that would last into the coming millennia.
The continent of Skellbrieg, largest and most imposing of the landmasses, laid foundation for the borders of northernmost Nvara flanked by the Seas of Bone and Fire, central Rakary, Alany, Mefery, the Iron Road of Taghon, proud Urost, the sister-nations of Belomand and Deroland, southern Sjeshara, and many satellites beyond.
That of Vindbrieg had been long ago dominated by the seafaring tribes who held no interest in the nuclear powers, yet were still overtaken by them. Vindbrieg was therefore turned into a strange land, inhabited by radiation-soaked survivors but also bearing the scarred remnants of many bunkers and shelters. They resented the Titan-worshipers, but their isolation on Vindbrieg brought with it safety from the quickly-multiplying fortresses and nations dotting Skellbrieg.
The dark nation of Kaurbrieg was once the epicenter of the nuclear wars. Bombarded into nonexistence, Kaurbrieg is use mostly for those who would dare the radiation for its vast resources. Very little in the way of sentient life yet lives on Kaurbrieg, mostly those creatures who were mutated by the fallout into lumbering carnivorous beasts.
Yet, for all of their worrying, the humanoids did not destroy their world. Just their way of life.
In commemoration of 'starting anew', they reset the calendars back to zero upon returning to their precious planet. Nearly a thousand years passed, with conflicts rising and falling appropriate to borders or a growing sense of national pride. Those fathers and mothers who designed the Titans died off, replaced by what would become the nieces and nephews of those un-gods of logic and reason, and eventually their grand-nieces and so on.
One day, however, they returned - but only eight. Their mission of seeking knowledge had turned into a bitter civil war. Hundreds of their number were butchered in the conflict, until only eight remained. These would become the Lawmakers who would design the final stage of the future. Their secrets turned into Laws that would govern the creation of the Legions, and of the world's very first true lumbering stride into interstellar progress. Twenty years of combined research, such a time came with its societal ups and downs. No peace rules forever, after all, but by the end of it came the truest understanding of the Laws of the Legion that could be understood and datamined.
The first Grand Legion of these super-soldiers was made, but greed made a dark return upon Skellbrieg. Long had the seeds of it been planted in a certain techno-magus, and he stole away the larger portion of the Grand Legion for the man who would become the Nameless Emperor. Skellbrieg was conquered by this new Empire in little less than a decade, and the world upon which it was to call home was renamed Alastor - a cold irony that the father of the Titans be held in such high honor by one such as the Nameless Emperor. The un-gods of logic and reason would be vaunted as true deities under the Empire's reign, however short that would be.
The Empire continued from the Nameless until Severus the XIIth, a unified period of almost seven-hundred years. During that time, Skellbrieg had only one language, the radiation-bathed generations of Vindbrieg were wiped out, and the clouds of death persisting over Kaurbrieg dissipated as if by a miracle. This was during the reign of Emperor Rastus the Deathless, who gave credit to the Titans who watched over Alastor. Yet, there was little evidence of them even still existing at this point in time. Perhaps, somewhere in the galaxy, they finally destroyed themselves with one last battle or were undone by some cosmic phenomenon. Nothing is known for certain.
Alastor bled when the Empire finally collapsed under its own weight of foolish bureaucracy, corruption, and senatorial infighting. It was nearly dissolved entirely, with a history of attritional wars, excessive taxation, police brutality, and slavery under its belt. Though one Emperor could have been kind, his successor would be the definition of cruelty and ruled for twice as long. Its roots in the nation of Taghon were clipped, and the country was only allowed a fraction of its former military. Of course, that didn't stop it from secretly industrializing and making allies amidst the ensuing chaos.
It was at this time that the Grand Legions started to multiply, with a loose organizational chart divided between any of the nations on Skellbrieg. They worked in tandem with the national militaries, becoming support troops. It was not the intent of the Titans, not that of the planet's namesake.
"In the middling eras of political and sociological decay, when a small minority held the power of the people and decided their fates with nuclear fire, the majority finally rebelled. Bloodless, and quietly. They rebelled against the lifeblood of those who tugged at the strings of the world. They attached themselves to gods of their own making, though they were not gods - they were more than that. They were creations made in the own image of their masters, who then listened to their guidance and simply... walked away,"
"Those days ended with the collapse of the greedy as they turned upon themselves, causing war that erased their very footprint upon the world. Then, in time, those who followed in the shadow of their clockwork children returned and reclaimed what was lost. Piece by piece they accomplished their goals and established their identities in the radiation-washed horizons,"
"Their 'gods' became more than the steel they were forged from, and departed from their fathers and mothers, seeking knowledge and further enlightenment. Though they would always watch over their brothers and their sisters, as well as their inevitable nieces and nephews. Their grandchildren, and so on. Ethereal, and untouchable, they became Titans and formed a Pantheon of their own. Though, this would not last,"
"Only eight of the original Titans would remain to see their estranged relatives survive unto the christening of M0, some hundred years after the Atom War. They alone returned to the world of their creation, and shared with those who yet lived the Laws of the Legion. The Titans knew of the horrors beyond their humble planet, but could not interfere due to constraints of their own. In order to show their relatives a mercy, these Laws established the creation of the Grand Legions and sparked the imaginations of rogue tech-lords and aspiring genecrafters from all borders,"
"The broken world could heal again, but only after once more facing the furnace of global war. Those secrets the Titans shared were the foundation and it fell to those with mercurial knowledge of biological adaptation, biomechanical augmentation, surgical application, and neurological transmogrification to put it all to practice. Though, the Titans merely gave their secrets away. It was up to the various tribes and clans to perfect what those secrets entailed. It wasn't until twenty later during M1 that the genecrafters and immortalized mechanomancers finally achieved that perfection - or as close to it as they could come,"
"The first Grand Legion emerged from the dust-clouds of that forgotten plateau, under the guidance of an unknown emperor - their name carved out from history by varied rivals and usurpers. With their banners unfurled, they dominated the planet and consumed their enemies in unending fire. The ceramite-steel of their boots shook the ground in the thunderous unison of marching feet. Within the decade, that world had been united by blood and war. So would be its destiny, sealed by the name it took upon its rebirth. 'Alastor', named after the mortal progenitor of the Titans - without whom, none of this would be possible. In the resulting eruption of a global superpower, all petty religion was snuffed out by Imperial mandate. The Titans of Logic and Science had chosen who ruled now, enforced by the physical product of their students' knowledge and ingenuity. No gods, and with the eventual decline of the Imperial system, there would be no kings. Only men, and their engines of war."
Date and time accuracies invalid. Location invalid. Historical integrity intact. Datamine Request 994-5063-ZMF results: positive.
Identity of the first Grand Legion: unknown, possibly chimeric
Purpose of the Legion: to ensure Alastorian superiority on homeworld
Results: overwhelming success, near 100% casualty rate of opposing factions
Anatomical demi-godhood, possessed of enormous physical, mental, psychic, telekinetic, and strategic potential. Varies from Legion to Legion. Decreed under the Laws of the Legion, proposed by the Titans of the Pantheon.
Chosen by the titans of science and technology, regardless of age or origin. Taken to vast laboratories beneath the fortresses of their inception. Subjects undergo long bouts of surgical procedure and biomechanical implant therapy. This is required of their duties as a Legionnaire. They are severed from their past lives. Given new bonds of brotherhood within the Legions.
From the moment the Pantheon chooses them, they are no longer mortal and give up these coils to be weapons. Living, breathing engines of war.
First, their lifespans must be drastically extended or else the surgeries would result in higher mortality rates. Inserted at the base of the brain is the Tempus Progenitus, which attaches to the brain stem given time and therapy. It overrides natural decay of the body, acting as a secondary mechanism for biological longevity. Disease is harder to contact given the nature of the Tempus Progenitus, but it is merely a means for pseudo-immortality, a gift from Chron - the Titan of Clockwork and Aging. Death is still possible for a Legionnaire, as not even Chron is able to stop such a force but only stall it.
Second, it is their circulatory and respiratory systems which must be enhanced. A third lung and a second heart are implanted and rewired into the chest cavity. This is a painful process, but necessary for what is to come. It is by the tender mercies of Tylon, Titan of Gold and Copper, that this is possible. This also coincides with the create of a super-platelet known as "Tylon's Grace". It both highly increases the blood's ability to carry oxygen as well as fortifies its function of quickly clotting over wounds.
Third, the body must grow for the remaining surgeries. Norn, Titan of Strength and Magnets, is said to appear to Legionnaires who still remember their "reforging". It is the most complicated surgery, relying heavily on biomechanical input to the body from every pore. Growth hormones are sent into the endocrine system at a feverish pace and protein supplements are constantly pumped throughout the bloodstream. Muscles and bones are torn and broken time and time again, lengthened bit by bit after each interval. Ribs are fused, while certain ceramic dietary supplements allow for continued flexibility and strength. The healing process becomes shorter each time, eventually resulting in a partially deformed and inflamed half-corpse. It is by no miracle of the Pantheon, but by the perfected gene-craft of a thousand years of failure that the Legionnaire lives. For outside of the rapid growth-state, their body is forced to metabolize and maintain solidity rather than the half-fluid isolation they endured before. Many Legions have their own rites dictating the absorption of the genetic material. The 14th Legion, or "Doom Wolves", perform hunting rituals after which the metabolization comes into effect through single combat with a vicious monster. Regardless of the process, the end result of accepting the final lynchpin genetic code gives them the necessary physical bulk of a Legionnaire.
Fourth, a Legionnaire must learn to control their new body through a pathway of new nerves and sensory organs. Himaeon, Titan of Mercury and Oil, dictates that all Legionnaires must have all five senses enhanced as well as a sixth "combat" sense augmented into the core of their brains. Though these senses are not enhanced to the point of being liabilities, they are still potent enough for a Legionnaire to control their new bodies with surgical precision. New nerves are grown and sew their way into the thick padding of muscle. Normally, a Legionnaire is capable of lifting about fifty tons for a short amount of time at maximum output. Their durability is comparable to a reinforced battle tank, even without armor. Unless they are of substantial caliber, bullets are merely absorbed into a thick wall of muscle and augmented bodily tissue and bone. Shock from these impacts is mitigated to any number of layers of flesh, as the coiling fibers are simply too dense to pierce without something resembling high-powered tank-killing ammunition. Even falling from post-atmospheric heights does little in the way of stopping a fully-armored Legionnaire, as their anatomy can easily absorb the shock of a drop pod assault.
Fifth, it is by the Law of Tragalfas the Titan of Root Equations and Infrastructure that the Legionnaire be solidified further. Though Norn is strong, and his Law gives Legionnaires their defining shape and size, Trafalgas serves to reinforce their bodies and immune systems so that no disease or poison may afflict them and physical injuries, unless otherwise completely debilitating, only cause them momentary pause. It also allows them to eat practically anything and find nutritional value in it while also almost instantaneously detoxifying their bodies of potential harmful bacteria. Trafalgas favors the kidneys and stomach, for obvious reasons.
Sixth is the Law of Calon the Titan of Engines, Sparks, and Smoke. Her Law is that of the Machine Spirit, the bond between mortal flesh and immortal cog and piston. Hers is the implant of the bonding agent between Legionnaire and power armor, an adhesive to the otherwise unresponsive suit. With this implant, the Legionnaire is able to move freely within the power armor and utilize its qualities to their fullest. The new biomechanical layer sits between the dermis and the subcutaneous folds of tissue found along the torso. From there it spreads along the arms and legs in vague vein-shaped ribbons, but no further. If correctly applied, the Legionnaire will suffer no ill side-effects from the process. If not, then it is an irreversible and painful death as the flesh rejects the implant and quickly hemorrhages uncontrollably. Though, at this point, the Legionnaire is more than 95% assured to successfully bond with further implants.
Seventh is the Law of Noros the Titan of Suspended Animation, Thought, and Lucid Dreams. His is that of a lowered reliance on sleep and rest, that Legionnaires should be able to gain more from less relaxation.
And finally, the Eighth Law is that of Apyllon - Titan of Radiation, Lead, and Heat. His Law upon the Legionnaires is an implant injected into their skin rather than surgically applied. Thus, their skin behaves similarly to the metal of Apyllon's favor when in contact with high doses of radiation. Though it is by no means a perfect defense, it prevents their organs from failing due to excessive amounts of such energies. It is also what allows them to enter into foreign star systems so readily, as cosmic radiation has little to no effect on them.
The star-maps haven't made it out this far. Telescopes, even those granted from the various tech-thralls and mechano-lords cannot reach this far. This ship is but one of what had been a mighty fleet, now whittled down by cosmic storm and alien threat. Each psycho-navigator is dead, their minds absolved to the decay of aneurysm and cloven into misshapen red matter. Each Alastoran life wasted on this venture will be avenged, though perhaps not by myself. I had been chosen to escort this expeditionary force through to the other side of an unexplored galaxy.
What we found could only be described as volatile, and dangerous.
Every system brought with it new and sometimes insurmountable perils. Communication with the home fleet was almost immediately severed, and could not be recovered. Strange energies that were not native to our form of telecomm frequencies interfered with our equipment. How arrogant of us to assume that it would all be the same across all spans of time and space. Though I had long ago acclimated to the changes, those who were not born of similar genetic engineering were less fortunate.
Chemical burns appeared on patches of skin untouched by material or even the open isolated air supply of the ships themselves. Reports came flooding into the apothecarium of people "living" despite their vitals showing otherwise. These cases were confined to the Litany, and I was subsequently sent to purge what had become of them. Flesh aberrations, amalgamations of various crew members and soldiers, vile mutations of bone and skin, it all smelled of blood and marrow. What remained were defiled corpses, not even suitable to bury. The purgation of the flame was all that was necessary for such abhorrent things.
And so our guns turned upon the Litany, and it sank into obscurity beneath the stars. There were no survivors. I only make casual mention of this now in the reports due to the nature of our journey afterwards.
The condition of the patients aboard the Litany had spread to other ships, despite our best efforts, and affected the psycho-navigators in a peculiar way. Their logical faculties were still sharpened to a keen point, and they were able to negotiate the starways in a manner that alluded to cognizant thought and understanding - at least, for a while. The flesh aberrations only happened once the creatures perhaps began to realize that the greatest possible threat to their survival couldn't be corrupted from within. Panic, perhaps a survival instinct, kicked in.
The vessel I had been assigned to, the Hand of Doom, has been drifting ever since that incident, independent of the other ships which I can only assume met a similar fate that could not be prevented. Unfortunate at the most, but as part of the 116th Grand Legion I had been accustomed to misfortune many times over. The derelict Hand of Doom held no further use to me and I go now aboard a Fire Raptor gunship named the Iron Talon. Ammunition stores were halved in favor of fuel. There were reports of radio signals being received from various artificial deep-space satellites prior to my departure, reports that went purposely unanswered by the psycho-navigators already corrupted by what overtook them.
By my estimations it would be at least ten or so years before I could make contact with what sent those satellites out, based on their trajectories and speeds.
Gadrak Surlan stared into the dark red eyes of the ceramite-steel before him. He did this every day for ten years now, to start and end his ceremonial pseudo-meditation of exercise and discipline. There were very few supplies when he began, and that stock barely changed for over a decade. Two squad-sized dried meals a day, equal to about 55,600 calories each, and then exercise for the duration of what amount to a twenty-hour period.
Four hours of sleep were all that he required, and then it began again. Meal before rest, and after. Water was his main concern. Though he had taken enough from the Hand of Doom to fill most of the hangar bay, almost half of that was gone now. His initial estimation of a decade to find the source of the radio signals seemed somewhat troublesome now. Though, he could survive for months without water, it was necessary to keep up his health and ensure that he made it planet-side.
Within the past ten years, he noticed that the signal was indeed getting stronger, but its direction was still uncertain. He could easily miss the source entirely, due to the radars still not having acclimated to the radiation unique to this galaxy. Alastorian metric was drowned out by unfamiliarity. Gadrak knew how to navigate a Fire Raptor well enough, but the Iron Talon could not completely cooperate despite its best efforts to communicate. The machine spirit within was confused and anxious to return home. Even in the decade-long turmoil, that it but a momentary lapse of time for a machine spirit - especially one as ancient as that within the Iron Talon.
It was sixteen hours into his routine.
Basketball-sized biceps curled against the strain of twenty-two tons, though this was hardly the first repetition. A test of stamina, and one that stopped at 500.
"Forty now," he muttered into the automated gravity well within the weight. It complied and he lowered his arms. Triceps screamed with the effort but he ignored the pain, bit it back into the pit of his stomach.
Reaching down, deeper than before, his back and neck swelled as the clenched fists came closer to his face inch by painful inch. Then, as they touched his chin, the gravity wells tugging at his wrists, he turned his arms and put them next to his head - and lifted straight up, almost as if wrestling with the air around him.
"One," he grunted.
He would lower his arms slowly and keep doing this until he reached twenty, then increase the weight again to forty-one, forty-two, for the remainder of the next four hours.
But an unfamiliar noise gave him pause in his routine, and he switched the gravity wells off - which became disgustingly light in his hands as he set them down. He grasped the head of the pilot's seat as he looked out into the great dark beyond. A planet, covered in water, returned his curious glance. The machine spirit within Iron Talon chirped as it recognized the source of the radio signals. They had finally arrived.
He identified an isolated part of the planet, and set the autopilot. Even throughout the course of atmospheric reentry, he would pay no mind to the rest of the journey. He still had four hours left in his routine, then another meal. Sleep could wait however.
"Coordinates... [static] Kaldathi air superiority... [static] no longer safe to land... I repeat: no longer safe to land..."
Intercepted transmission, presumably Republic-era, isolated and extracted by Rebel vox-comm experts
𝔸 𝔹𝕚𝕥𝕥𝕖𝕣 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝔼𝕧𝕖𝕣𝕝𝕒𝕤𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕎𝕚𝕟𝕥𝕖𝕣
Even by the timekeeping standards of the Eteldan Empire, whose records date back to the founding days of the ancient Republic and all its myriad root worlds and civilizations, Zortuun is an old planet. It is assumed to have been similar in many ways to normal worlds once, long ago, and that some great cataclysm either pushed or pulled it away from the sun it shares with Artuun and Yatuun. The bleak landscape is a sprawling blanket of ice and snow dominating sparse mountain ranges and half-buried ships.
Foliage is practically nonexistent save for a form of cold-resistant fungus that grows along the rocks of these mountains and deeper within vast cave networks. This is the primary food substance of the strange Urasu creature, a stocky bipedal animal that roams the higher areas of Zortuun and digs deep with shovel-like claws into the soil looking for more of the fungus. Their sharp sense of smell is finely tuned to finding such food sources, often leading them to caves and, therefore, shelter.
The Urasu is a highly intelligent creature that prefers a pack mentality. They are also reliable beasts of burden and mounts, practically essential for those looking to stay on Zortuun for any length of time. Their relatively poor eyesight isn't completely necessary in the already blinding ice storms common to Zortuun, and therefore must be trained with smells or sounds.
In stark contrast to the social Urasu are their lumbering cousins, the Wendasu. It is speculated that they were once different genuses of the same organism, long ago, but over the course of millennia the evolutionary gap has widened to a considerable degree.
Whereas the Urasu are strictly herbivores, the Wendasu are brutal and efficient carnivores. They don't necessarily care what they kill in order to survive, as the lowlands they frequent can include anything from wandering Urasu to fellow Wendasu or humanoids too curious for their own good.
This makes them a cannibalistic species out of necessity, when forced by their environment to do so. However, any common Wendasu is a greedy predator that stockpiles as much food as possible. An Urasu would only last a week as a food supply.
The hulking masses of gnarled fur and raw muscle possess enormous clawed hands that can easily rip limbs from a body or disembowel potential prey. Their jaws are strong enough to easily crunch through even thick Urasu bones and into the soft marrow within. What leads most who encounter these beasts to the conclusion of a common ancestry between these two species are the facial horns, which are used as part of mating rituals in either species.
A Wendasu is not a terribly clever predator outside of the blizzards they use to mask their presence. They are also rather slow given their massive size and comparatively short legs. If one has the stamina, they could potentially outrun a rampaging Wendasu looking for food. Perhaps then, that is the reason why Urasu are so quick on their powerful legs. The muscles in their tails and the heavy club-like nails on the ends of their feet are a last resort if running is not an option.
When Imperial archaeologists arrived in orbit, they fully expected Zortuun to be, as their records stated, an 'uninhabited oceanic world'. Confusion was palpable when they discovered that this was obviously not the case and that two - or more - terrestrial species existed on Zortuun's frigid surface.
It cannot be understated how much knowledge about Zortuun is blatantly missing from Imperial records. The Republic occupied it for almost three-hundred years, albeit in sparse garrisons given its size and weather. The fact that not even documentations from before Chorona's reign mentions anything about Zortuun other than its waterlogged status was taken into consideration by the archaeologists. However, further investigation into the climate and relative history of that climate through testing the various layers of ice soon quieted those concerns.
Geologists attached to these expeditionary forces soon realized that the deeper history of Zortuun was buried within the ice, rather than it being the ice itself. The supposed mountains were notably shorter than what soil samples indicated from deeper within the ice. The sea level had drastically changed at some point, turning Zortuun into what Republic records stated as the mysterious 'ocean world'.
Perhaps that was the same cataclysm that supposedly knocked it out of its initial orbit. None could say. The graves of ancient Republic ships were just more indications of a mystery no one had an answer to, as the spectacular sight of a grounded battleship was unfortunately all too common in the Ghost Stars region of space. Furthermore, the presence of partially-exposed Kaldathi ruins also proposed more questions without answers.
Even though Imperial records were indeed updated at this point in time, nothing concrete could be confirmed. The secrets were perhaps forever lost, locked within countless tons of ice and snow.
Translated from heavily damaged Kaldathi vox-comm recordings found almost 400 miles away from the supposed 'Broken Ridge'
𝕀𝕟 ℂ𝕠𝕝𝕕 𝔹𝕝𝕠𝕠𝕕
Zortuun achieves a perfectly parallel orbit with Artuun, virtually making it a shield of sorts when facing the outer limits of the solar system. During the First Kaldathi War, this played into the frigid world's instrumental roles to come. The Republic's overwhelming counteroffensive into the Ghost Stars meant that Zortuun would be the first hit. The defenses were overwhelmed in short order, but this also meant that the Republic was forced to try and garrison the world.
The Kaldathi had achieved some sort of symbiosis with the intense cold, and their vast networks of fortifications and temples were impressive enough to warrant concentrated firepower into conquering the Zortuun. The Republic, however, believed the Kaldathi to be vanquished following their first encounter with the species, and so set up only basic fortresses and barracks for later colonization efforts. Soon, the weather became so unbearably intense that the Republic soldiers simply left most of their stations.
Over the course of the three-hundred year silence, the generational gap in apathy about Zortuun was met with a violent spike in activity. The Kaldathi leaped at the throat of the undermanned garrisons and slaughtered hundreds of Republic troops, virtually all of the regiments left there in the first place. Strangely, it was an overwhelming amount of Kaldathi ground forces and naval command. Even more bizarre, they didn't leave Zortuun. Tahzlak himself had ordered them to stay and defend it, to build up trenches and refurbish the various fortresses with guns.
This was not a completely unfounded strategy, as Zortuun had fallen before and the Kaldathi perhaps wanted to be better prepared for an invasion. Zortuun, after all, had a large number of temple-cities and relics presumably important to the Kaldathi. Over the course of the ensuing Second Kaldathi War, Tahzlak continued to keep the forces assembled around Zortuun away from the fighting. This struck the Republic commanders as odd, but speculation began to arise that Tahzlak Uhr was planning for a retreat at some point in order to rearm for an attack on the Galactic Center.
When Tahzlak was defeated at the Void Gate, the battle that scarred the galaxy, this assumption proved very much correct. Tahzlak retreated back towards the Ghost Stars, and with that retreat came his pursuers in the form of the Veritas Order, their specialized Slayer Squads, along with an entire grand army of the Republic. Their first target was Zortuun.
As expected, fighting both in space and on the ground proved to be extremely fierce across the ice world. To the Republic, this was a campaign of annihilation. Not a single Kaldathi was sanctioned to leave Zortuun alive. Temples were smashed apart, fortresses unceremoniously burned.
The Battle of Zortuun, in the grand scheme of the actual war, didn't last all that long. Only about two months after the Republic fleet pulled out of hyperspace, and the Kaldathi were on their last leg. Granted, no fight against the Kaldathi was an easy one, and they made the Republic pay for every inch.
The cost had been exuberantly high, even for a campaign carried out effectively by the Slayers - who were hellbent on committing genocide on the Kaldathi. It seemed bizarre that the Veritas assigned to them allowed such bloodshed to continue. News from further into the Ghost Stars seemed to confirm what a few of the senior Veritas members were wondering themselves.
Yatuun was a sacred planet to the Kaldathi, a home for their dead. Their pseudo-religious beliefs were centered around various aspects of death and passion, the most forward of which was wrath. When compared in a cosmic sense, Zortuun may have been a conduit for that same uncompromising hunt for vengeance. The Slayers' unbending hunt for Tahzlak was a dark mirror to all of this, something the Republic had to hold up to itself in this time of crisis.
Zortuun, by this logic, wasn't a fortress world. It was a sacrificial altar, and the blood spent paying for it was all part of Tahzlak's plan.
The Veritas were sundered completely in half. Their more violent Slayer brethren wanted Zortuun to be obliterated at all costs, burying what Tahzlak was hiding under the ice in plasma fire. Those who were more grounded, however, denied the Slayers their bloody prize. Too much had gone into Zortuun already, and they settled on a compromise.
Zortuun would be evacuated of Republic personnel, and bombarded from space to cover their retreat. Then the plasma bombs would be set off, but not in the apocalyptic quantities that the Slayers desired. When they were set off, the melted ice resulted in massive flash floods and hurricanes that covered the planet as the conflicting temperatures created global windstorms. The Kaldathi were trapped between the orbital bombardments and the rising sea level that would turn Zortuun into an oceanic world for a time, lending to the myth that it continued to do so into the Imperial Era.
The Veritas who condemned the Slayers had good reason to do so. The weapon Tahzlak wanted to unleash was a spiritual one, a mobile mind-bomb that would continuously explode throughout the bruised Republic as it gained momentum towards the Galactic Center. It fed off emotions of hatred and violence, as well as drained the psionic prowess of those sensitive to the Fifth Force who were not familiar with it like the Kaldathi were. If it were to have been successfully primed and launched, there would be little in the way of a Third Kaldathi War - the Second would never have ended.
But they were also wrong in other ways. The weapon, for all intents and purposes, still exists deep within the ice, possibly lost forever. The potential for vast destruction still exists, and it is perhaps the fate of the Fifth Force itself that a certain Veritas never returned to Zortuun. Its roiling oceans would have proved impossible to swim through, after all. He was the first to protest the use of the plasma bombs to wipe Zortuun off the galactic map, and his curiosity for Kaldathi culture would invariably prove to be his downfall.
"As the Kaldathi continued to expand, in those distant years between the cusp of understandable time and the rise of the first Republic, the first planet they colonized using their strange pseudo-hyperspace technology was the forest world of Yatuun. Of course, it is impossible to truly tell if it was so dense with foliage at the beginning of this migratory period. The oldest known organism on Yatuun, the imposing Radhum-Yaat (ancient Kaldathi for 'Corpse Root' or 'Rooted in Death'), is about 4,500 years old - according to the Death Knights who continue to hold vigilance over it. Yet the archaeological evidence of the Kaldathi buildings themselves suggest that the stones used in their construction are much, much older."
Saran Quemada, Sophos-Class scholar and archaeologist
𝕋𝕙𝕖 𝕆𝕝𝕕 𝕊𝕚𝕤𝕥𝕖𝕣
'Yatuun' is a word that coincides with two parts of the Kaldathi language. Saran, in her continuing documentation of ancient Kaldathi culture, described the name of the mysterious jungle world as a combination of familial ties and a strange usage of implication to suggest an elder of some sort. The Death Knights confirm that the planet's name means 'Old Mother', and that Kaldathi from Artuun refer to it as 'Old Sister' instead.
It was the first planet that the far-ancient Kaldathi colonized following their unification of Artuun. In that bygone era of expansion and relative peace, it would seem that Yatuun was used as a hallowed burial ground for the Kaldathi dead. While funerals and graves were examined and later disturbed by the Republic on planets such as Zortuun and Artuun itself, it seems that Yatuun was, in fact, the primary repository for the Kaldathi dead.
Of the previous inhabitants, if they were of any formidable sentience, there is no record.
Dominant among the persistent fauna of Yatuun, however, is the gargantuan Torrok beast. Sharing a common ancestry with similar animals from before the Kaldathi settled on Yatuun, Torroks haven't changed in their basic genetic structure or lifestyle in thousands of years. They're little more than living fossils, demonstrating the near-perfect adaptations of their ancestors to startling effect.
Torrok behavior varies from creature to creature, making them exceptionally dangerous due to their unpredictability. Some, such as youths, are simply curious about their surroundings and pry deep into the old ruins. These are typically ensnared by poachers and sold off to distant plants for gladiatorial games or for the easy disposal of "problems" facing gangsters looking for exotic ways of handling business. Older Torroks are usually found deeper in the jungles, and they only increase in body mass the older they become. Bull Torroks are the middling age group of their species, usually highly territorial and protective of their mates and children. Though they are highly aggressive and omnivorous, they do not anticipate fighting. They'll usually try to scare off or warn potential threats by smashing the ground and roaring ominously.
Though uncommon, it is possible to tame a Torrok through coercion with food and shelter. They are fantastic beasts of burden and have made for astonishingly effective - if strangely regal - shock cavalry.
One notable example was the former Slayer and Death Knight Aristora Gallamon, during the Great Interstellar War. Having died on Yatuun in the closing skirmishes of the Second Kaldathi War, when the Slayer Squads were used in an attempt to exterminate the Kaldathi, Aristora was resurrected almost 100 years after her death by Yjormun the Immortal. She had been unintentionally buried near the Radhum-Yaat, the mysterious 'Tree of the Dead'. Over the years, a Torrok nest had appeared near her impromptu grave. Her spirit communed with the primitive understanding of the Bull Torrok that inhabited this nest and upon her resurrection, he was as loyal as a dog.
She served as part of Yjormun's spearhead, functioning as a notable figure in the command structure and hierarchy of the expanding Death Knight culture. Though, her spirit was never fully at rest. She had died wanting nothing else other than the complete annihilation of those she now surrounded herself with, as 'brothers and sisters in arms'. Aristora and her Torrok both perished during the final stages of the Siege of L'Avon, struck down by a storm of Vis blades.
"The many secrets of the Old Sister always begin with the Radhum-Yaat. Tucked away deep in the bowels of the Coldwater Grove, the Tree of the Dead commands reverence from all who look upon it. Its bark, gnarled and twisted into impossible shapes, glares into the very core. Broken husks of wood rise from the misshapen shadows, almost calling out in hushed whispers with the breath of the stagnant air. It is a forsaken place, but a holy shrine to the Kaldathi. Perhaps if the Fifth Force could manifest itself in such ways to other races, it could be understood how this graveyard of standing corpses and broken machinery from ancient battlegrounds is 'sacred'. Otherwise, it is practically impossible to."
Saran Quemada, Sophos-Class scholar and archaeologist
"I have looked upon the Tree of the Dead only once in my lifetime. Those who do not understand, cannot appreciate what has transpired here in ages past. The Radhum-Yaat watched as the Kaldathi buried their dead here, as the Slayers came to purge them down to the last infant child, as the Republic ships docked overhead and doomed them to supposedly everlasting extinction. Death has always been the blood of the Radhum-Yaat. The swamp that surrounds it, the Coldwater Grove, the mass grave of tanks and walkers and soldiers... it is the water the tree drinks from. The countless corpses left behind, its connection to the Fifth Force."
Torion Gelth, Magister-Class orator and Imperial delegate
𝕃𝕖𝕘𝕒𝕔𝕪 𝕠𝕗 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝔻𝕖𝕒𝕕
Yatuun has always been the center stage for some of the fiercest fighting throughout the Kaldathi Wars, and even into the Great Interstellar War. While Artuun was their ancestral homeworld, the Kaldathi always held Yatuun in high esteem and reverence. It was, after all, the center of their death-based religion. Kaldathi who were buried there were closer to the vast majority of their ancestors within the Fifth Force.
The first time the Republic properly invaded was during the fallout of the Second Kaldathi War. It sent a vast number of troops in support of the Veritas Order's specialized Slayer Squads. These were responsible for hunting down and exterminating any and all Kaldathi they came across in their hunt for Tahzlak Uhr.
Fighting on Yatuun was considered to be the heaviest, for it was the religious mecca of the Kaldathi. Going to fight there was paramount to a crusade, taking back the holy land from the infidels who had wrongfully landed troops on its soil. A Kaldathi warlord by the name of Szazra Numenalas was selected by popular demand to be the spearhead into this growing siege of their burial grounds. Szazra would not survive his appointed charge, but his great sense of vengeance propelled him into the fight nonetheless. Legends say he was haunted by dreams of his death until he pledged his soul to liberating Yatuun, then the visions stopped.
Though the Republic unintentionally disturbed the graves of their enemy's deceased, they were not interested in stopping their pursuit of Tahzlak for something as trivial as 'burial honors'. The fighting on Yatuun escalated quickly, but did not last long in the scope of the Second Kaldathi War - which had already reached its climax in the void confrontation that still scars the Galactic Center.
The Battle of Yatuun lasted only a few weeks, but in that time the Republic had to multiply efforts to pacify the world almost tenfold. They expected that resistance would be slim, given Artuun was nearby and - according to Republic military scholars at the time - held more cultural significance to the Kaldathi. Thousands perished in the initial landings, nearly 95% of the initial waves of invasion forces sent there. More and more were committed, with a large percentage of available Veritas justicars and Slayers having to turn their attentions away from the hunt for Tahzlak in order to crush the Kaldathi manifesting themselves on Yatuun.
Eventually, however, the defense crumbled. Szazra fell defending the Radhum-Yaat, having fulfilled his promise of giving his soul to liberating Yatuun. The losses accumulated during the fighting on the Republic side were too grievous to station any lasting efforts to colonizing Yatuun for the remainder of the Second Kaldathi War. The Old Sister had been protected by governance of fate, and the architects of destiny that alleviated its soil.
With the Republic having achieved a hollow victory, Yatuun was easily taken back when the Kaldathi returned a few decades later with the help of their Malkathian Covenant. In the coming apocalyptic Great Interstellar War, Yjormun the Immortal would find the sacred groves of corpses surrounding the Radhum-Yaat to be most beneficial to his growing interest in what he called the 'Death Knights'.
Experimentation of the dead was nothing new to the Kaldathi. Their ancient warlords and kings toyed with the flesh of the recently deceased, bringing back hated rivals to serve as slaves or keeping small groups for gladiatorial purposes. This basic form of necromancy relied on the Fifth Force to channel the hatred of those who practiced this dark art, effectively turning the cadavers into puppets of their master's will.
What Yjormun did was perfect this practice, not by exercising his power over the corpses in question but raising them using the blood of the Radhum-Yaat in conjunction with his terrible mastery of the Fifth Force. Indeed, the Tree of the Dead did siphon the corpse-filled waters of the swamp surrounding it and grew into a living conduit of the dark energies of the Fifth Force. Millennia of engorging itself upon the Kaldathi dead buried around it had been unleashed when the angry spirits trapped in the Coldwater Grove came in contact with Yjormun himself.
The results, at first, were little more than what these undead had manifested into in the past - mindless, shambling hordes of flesh-eating puppets. Over time, and with great effort, they were refined into the very first Death Knight - a warrior by the name of Tyrcain.
Yjormun even used this practice to hold his body together for fifty years beyond its mortal expiration, such was the application brought on by the infinite hatred of the Fifth Force - its infinite passions, and boundless agonies. Though only the Death Knights were used to great effect due to their superior mental and tactical faculties, Yatuun is still haunted by the rogue elements of Yjormun's experiments. Republic soldiers in various makes of armor drag themselves through Coldwater Grove, mere relics of the ancient wars staged on the dense forest world. Though they are indeed mindless, mere puppets to the various distant echoes of rage the Kaldathi dead murmur in their disturbed rest, they can be controlled when presented with a powerful enough user of the Fifth Force.
"The ancient Kaldathi were advanced beyond measure, not in the realm of science or the flesh - but of the spirit. Their journeys into the understanding of the soul could only be guessed at today, since in the fallout of their great empires the endless wars resulting from their discoveries buried countless secrets in the sands of Artuun. Yet, it is in these very deserts that the secrets to the cosmos can be unlocked - or at the very least, tampered with."
Saran Quemada, Sophos-Class scholar and archaeologist
A desert world by nature, Artuun hangs on the far Eastern Fringe of the galaxy proper - staged preeminently on the cusp of unexplored space. Beyond it lies the dreary Ghost Stars, only part of the colossal asteroid belt encircling its region of space. Its isolated nature left it deemed a dead world by most of the ancient species who came before even the earliest explorers and mapmakers. These beings were more than likely entirely gaseous in composition, inhabiting a state of consciousness unimaginable to most. Perhaps, then, they were some form of distant god.
Yet of those more intrepid adventurers who would dare the Ghost Stars and enter into Artuun's orbit, they would find little more than what the old legends had already warned them of.
The surface of the uncompromising giant terrestrial world was continuously whipped by unrelenting sandstorms, the product of bombardments of asteroids and space debris. Yet Artuun endured, its very existence and continued survival as a planet put into question with the presence of several nearby asteroids that could wipe it out with ease. Chalked up to a combination of blind luck and divine intervention, Artuun was nevertheless placed on the galactic map as a 'dead world'. Perhaps, then, when the inhabitants of Artuun lashed out in force at the 'invaders', the regent in charge of these merchants and drifters was in for a very sudden surprise. The Kaldathi proclaimed themselves masters of Artuun in those early days, a curse that would haunt them forever.
The very first settlers to Artuun were systematically slaughtered by these natives, and the very first Kaldathi War erupted into significance. A conflict now set thousands of standard years into the past, this primordial conflict came about when the Kaldathi were intruded upon by pilgrims to a new - presumed unoccupied - planet. Where the Kaldathi emerged from would become evident in the coming decades, but for the first few months of the war they openly denied any and all contact with the Verum Republic. They even went so far as to challenge it in the theater of combat.
𝕋𝕙𝕖 𝕂𝕒𝕝𝕕𝕒𝕥𝕙𝕚 𝕎𝕒𝕣𝕤
What made the First Kaldathi War so disastrous was the pride of its eponymous species. Though they commanded little in the way of advanced technology, it was their complete and utter mastery over the Fifth Force that put them far and above the common Republic soldier. Indeed, the colonies stationed around Artuun were quickly overrun by the Kaldathi. Ancient ruins buried in the dense foliage of Yatuun revealed that the Kaldathi were a culturally expansive species, having conquered many worlds in the Ghost Stars region before - several dozen in fact.
As the war continued, the Kaldathi reached further into Republic-controlled space. So too did their armies grow and multiply. It became evident that the Kaldathi were being 'awakened' by the presence of some great juxtaposition in the Fifth Force. They had been buried in the sands of Artuun, the jungles of Yatuun, the oceans of Zortuun, and many other planets. Their graves became the focal point of their hatred, and their renewed vehemence towards the galaxy at large. Their deaths were in vain, for their rage burned all the brighter.
Of course, upon the field of battle, they were able to be killed just as any normal man or woman. But it is the greatest mystery of the Kaldathi that they rose from beyond the edge of life and death, seemingly to take vengeance for the galaxy having forgotten who they were. Perhaps it is something akin to the gods they worshipped, those unremembered deities of nebulous gas and energy that breathed life into them.
The Kaldathi nevertheless struck deep into the heart of the Republic, but their kind of warfare had been outdated by order of magnitude. The initial panic they sent through the military of the Republic soon dissipated, and they were pushed back with magnificent force. The Ghost Stars were put under blockade, and the planets therein were devastated one by one. Engines of apocalyptic power were unleashed until the Kaldathi were forced underground, or blasted to dust. When the threat was deemed erased, the Republic craft exited the atmosphere.
One-hundred years passed. Not a single Kaldathi stirred, presumed to have been locked in their tombs out of fear of another Republic retaliation. Colonization efforts began again, this time undisturbed. Decades passed, and then two-hundred more years. Yatuun, notably, became a paradise world during this time. Artuun, however, still suffered from mysterious power outages and civilians refusing to stay for long. Pioneers into the desert planet claimed it was haunted beyond measure, and that red-bodied creatures came out at night.
These tales were just passed off as urban folklore, the ghosts of the First Kaldathi War still grasping at the general populace. No one had managed to understand the Kaldathi way of warfare before, and it would be a great time indeed before even a fraction of their secrets were to be shared for the better understanding of the Fifth Force. Nevertheless, Republic efforts to wipe the slate in the Ghost Stars clean were taken extremely seriously. Campaigns into the crypts were staged for the sake of stealing away artifacts for further study. If the Kaldathi were to simply hide their knowledge of the Fifth Force, then they truly didn't deserve it.
Yet in this way, the Republic proved its own capability for colossal arrogance and pride.
For in the coming years, the Second Kaldathi War would explode out from the relative peace in the region. Decades of internal strife had rendered the populations of Artuun and Yatuun susceptible to the mental predation of the Kaldathi. The generational gap between the veterans of the First Kaldathi War and their descendents proved to be ripe enough to exploit for the manipulation of sanity and willpower.
It was during the Second Kaldathi War that the true, horrific scope of the species responsible for unleashing it was revealed. They were a parasitic species that thrived off the mental energy of those they encountered. For the briefest contact before the First Kaldathi War, they managed to siphon enough energy to almost cripple Republic military efforts going into the Ghost Stars and divert countless resources into maintaining order in the Eastern Fringe for generations. With centuries of such energies now stockpiled before them, the Kaldathi were ready for a campaign of domination rather than a hasty crusade for petty rewards.
Tahzlak Uhr, a powerful Kaldathi warlord, spearheaded the efforts the Kaldathi required to achieve such a monumental feat. Under his guidance, the Second Kaldathi War became known as the greatest military effort the Republic ever waged in the Eastern Fringe. Legends of the heroes who came out of that conflict are still sung, thousands of years later.
Yet, as the galaxy already knows, there is only one side that still preaches those songs of victory - at least openly.
Tahzlak Uhr was a powerful practitioner of the Fifth Force. His mastery cemented him as the de facto ruler of the Kaldathi during this second clash with the Republic. With his unquestionable resolve over the Fifth Force, he unintentionally set the pieces in motion for what would become various sects and cults that took root throughout the Republic following the Second Kaldathi War. Copycat 'masters' of the Fifth Force, and religious sub-sects that proclaimed Tahzlak as a 'voice' of a distant god, along with other such notable preachings and proclamations all surfaced and died in such grand waves of existence and antipathy that they were truly impossible to number.
At the height of this growing Kaldathi Empire, Tahzlak commanded fleets of captured Republic ships that put him in uncontested position to launch multiple offensive maneuvers against his great rival. Such was the number of his converted citizenry and armed militia forces that he easily launched further crusades into neighboring regions of space without even the slightest concern for lessening the impending hammerblow upon central Republic worlds. To this day, worlds as far out as the Halo Cluster boast ancient ruins of Kaldathi culture and influence. But Tahzlak's attentions were focused squarely upon the Republic.
And, soon, that inevitable strike came.
The impossible might that Tahzlak had amassed met with the full attentions of the Republic, the very same military leaders who had clashed with the Kaldathi throughout this escalating war. They were hardened veterans of their kind of battle, the mental and emotional state rather than the physical. It only became a contest of the flesh once all other resources were absolved, or if the intention was to inflict more mental scars upon the enemy. The Kaldathi were ruthless opponents, owing their allegiances to a darker side of the Fifth Force - a more powerful side, tempered by their ancient hatreds and quenchless thirst for war and blood.
Their hunger for battle had been leveled against the Republic, its own resources turned against them in the Kaldathi conquest. The confrontations that decided the Second Kaldathi War are spoken of in hushed reverence, for the scars in the void can still be seen on the galactic map. Great nebulous rifts in space-time, gaseous remnants of fire-stricken plasmoid star-bombs still litter the void between the Galactic Center and the Eastern Fringe. Great corpses of ships hang in orbit around dead worlds, and the end of the Second Kaldathi War came not with a slow and controlled grind to armistice - but with a cataclysmic din and the noise of technology that never again would be unleashed.
Yet, miraculously, Tahzlak Uhr survived.
A small coalition of Kaldathi War Veterans on the Republic side were cobbled together, known as the Slayer Squads. These hunters tracked Tahzlak Uhr to the very corners of the Ghost Stars, purging any Kaldathi they could find. With plentiful mind-shields and specialized weaponry, these Slayers were responsible for killing a great majority of the Kaldathi native population. Thousands were butchered on Artuun alone, but the Slayers were not met with meager resistances. The Kaldathi fought back to the last bitter breath, and perhaps by some strange notion of irony they survived on the merest of mental energies left behind by the dying Slayers.
The weapons that the Slayers brought to bear against the Kaldathi were adapted into darkblades, ceremonial at best, for the dawning of something new came when a handful of disgraced Veritas Order members arrived on Artuun. There, they met with Tahzlak Uhr and began manufacturing and training for a new, and reorganized Kaldathi military conquest. Though, it would not be on the terms that the Republic had conditioned themselves to be accustomed to over the course of the two previous wars.
The Third Kaldathi War would stab even deeper into the Galactic Center, touching even the blessed paradise worlds of Sector Sanguine. It would be this war that the Kaldathi would forever be remembered, as they ceased to be the Kaldathi entirely. Their species had suffered greatly, and they needed allies in order to cement their independence. With the former Veritas masters and Tahzlak forming an alliance, those species they had conquered along the Eastern Fringe were used in great excess to power the disgraced Kaldathi people. With this growing foundation, the Kaldathi became part of the Malkathian Covenant.
It would be another century before the galaxy would explode into war again, and the Republic would not risk it. The Kaldathi proved themselves masters of illusion twice already, and the Ghost Stars were sentenced to a dense military watch.
When the Covenant did surface, the Republic was ready. Fully expecting the Kaldathi to reemerge, they also predicted the presence of allied races. The Covenant had at its disposal various primitive races they armed with blaster weaponry, but also a migratory warrior-cultured species of nomadic savages called the Thrakku. The Thrakku were already very notable for being thorns in the side of the Republic for centuries, and contact between them and the Kaldathi occurred on pure luck. It could be argued that without the Thrakku, the Covenant would have been stopped at the starting gate. They were the only ones with naval superiority over the Republic ships dominating the spaceports throughout the Ghost Stars and with them, Tahzlak commanded a terrific rampage from Artuun to the graveyard of his former fleet.
Here, he collected various artifacts and sent them straight back to Artuun, seemingly stalling in the void. He sent for a diplomat, strangely, and made terms for the surrender of the Galactic Center rather than charge straight into what was considered a 'suicide mission' by all of his military advisors. Of course, he knew he could never bleed the Republic as badly as he had done in centuries past. The graves of his former ships and sailors around him was proof enough of that. Even with the support of the Thrakku, they were challenging something that spanned countless more stars in every direction than they could fathom with their eyes.
Yet, the terms were not accepted, and Tahzlak continued his crusade. It was inspired by a very different kind of strategy. Instead of going straight into the maelstrom of Republic guns, he and his entire fleet engaged warp jump. However, it was angled strangely - leading down below the grasp of the galaxy itself. It took strategists a few days to realize that he was not insane, but rather a bizarre kind of genius. He was completely bypassing the Republic defenses of Sector Sanguine by going underneath them, sailing into the impermeable black of the Deep Void, where not even the light of the stars could penetrate into. Sure enough, his flagship resurfaced in Sector Sanguine, flanked by his entire fleet. He could not attempt to go into the Deep Void again, not with the logistical knowledge of the Republic arrayed against him now.
This would be his last stand - and a magnificent death he would pursue. That is why he surrounded himself with only his mightiest Kaldathi warriors and Thrakku mercenaries. They were not going home.
The resulting battle of Sector Sanguine earned its nicknames 'Sector of Blood' and 'the Bloodied Stars'. The better part of what would be considered the Third Kaldathi War was waged here, between the golden paradise worlds and shining cathedrals of Pralla and Valha, the gleaming waters of Tethras, the arid Rathras, and the metropolitan Centuras.
For twelve years, Tahzlak waged constant war on these worlds, evading capture at every turn. Battles were purposely dragged out and made into grand spectacles of hellish fervor and examples of the burning hatred of the Kaldathi.
His cold and spiteful hunt for vengeance came to a spectacular end, when he and the Veritas Master Yjormun Rohh clashed in the bombed-out resorts of Pralla, the crown jewel of Sector Sanguine. What occured here could only be speculated it, but their duel decided the Third Kaldathi War. Two commanders-in-chief, the fate of the Galactic Center in their hands, and only one could emerge victorious. Yet, even with Tahzlak slain - Yjormun himself could not be saved. His duel with the Kaldathi pureblood warlord who had terrorized the Republic for centuries left him irrefutably scarred, and within a year he defected from the Veritas Order. He became wholly obsessed with learning more from the Kaldathi, and their dark secrets.
He was only allowed passage into the crypts of Artuun upon suing for the remains of Tahzlak Uhr to return with him. The Republic denied this, knowing full well the properties of the alien species now. But Yjormun did not make a request of it. He forcibly took the corpse, and retreated to the Ghost Stars. This would be his payment to the Kaldathi in exchange for his tutelage. But no teacher of flesh accepted his bargain. Instead, Yjormun was tasked with burying Tahzlak himself. There, locked in the grand mausoleum, Yjormun discovered that the Kaldathi possessed technology capable of reaching beyond the grasp of physical reality.
They had tapped into the very essence of the Fifth Force, accomplishing something thought entirely impossible. Through the use of this technology, their greatest masters and warlords existed beyond death. Part relic, part soul repository, these machines were not constructed out of metal or stone - more, simply bound to physical space. They were called 'Tesseracts', and Tahzlak had prepared his own for Yjormun - perhaps having been given visions of his death. Yjormun, already intoxicated by the knowledge of his pilgrimage to Artuun, steadfastly listened to the lessons of his former rival.
Now, his master.
His first lesson was to kill Tahzlak's supposed 'successor', a Kaldathi pureblood warlord named Talbas Kizrak. Talbas had asserted command over the remaining Kaldathi forces following Tahzlak's suicidal mission for vengeance into Sector Sanguine, calling his predecessor 'foolish'. What Talbas didn't know, and what Tahzlak kept secret from his own military advisors, was that the entire goal of the Third Kaldathi War was to expand the sphere of influence his people encompassed. Though the Second Kaldathi War was considerably more costly for the Republic in terms of military expenditures, it was always the soul of its people that the Kaldathi craved.
The Third Kaldathi War made it blindingly obvious that the Kaldathi were intent on exercising their great power whenever possible, much to the great suffering of the galaxy at large. This planted the seeds of fear and doubt into billions of Republic citizens, citizens who thought the Second Kaldathi War was little more than the last bitter breaths of just another enemy the Republic had silenced. Tahzlak had accomplished the first step on the road to bringing the Eastern Fringe to heel, and it wasn't up to Talbas to take the second. That is why Yjormun, perhaps destined by the Fifth Force itself, unconsciously accepted his calling.
He slew Talbas in the great antechamber of Tahzlak's Tomb, spilling his blood with ancestral darkblade. The ritualistic death of the upstart pureblood cemented Yjormun as the new leader of the Kaldathi, except now he had the entirety of the Malkathian Covenant at his beck and call. Many other species, including the deadly Thrakku, refused to acknowledge Talbas as the new leader of the Covenant. In his spectacular show of strength, Yjormun had simultaneously saved the Covenant and doomed the Republic to another generation of war.
The Eastern Fringe, conquered by Tahzlak, now hung in Yjormun's hands. The Malkathian Covenant, and all its amassed resources - resources Tahzlak had stockpiled instead of using them all in the Third Kaldathi War - were ready to be used not in a war of expansion, as the Republic predicted. What Yjormun had awoken was a sleeping giant of uncompromising hatred. The vengeance of the Kaldathi, and their mastery of the Fifth Force, burned into his mind. He could not deny them their birthright any longer. They would have their war, one to eclipse even the Second Kaldathi War.
"When the Kaldathi went to war for the fourth time against the Republic, it was no longer on the tail-end of centuries of waiting or fresh from a previous cataclysmic struggle. The beauty of Tahzlak's military design was that he stalled the Republic, rather than throw entire armies at it. He allowed his people to recover, and in that short amount of time - 62 years to the day since he began attacking Sector Sanguine - the Kaldathi prospered while the Republic continued to fear another warlord like Tahzlak springing the same trap. They were tactically inflexible, given their size and influence. Cracks began to form in that very same infrastructure. They expected everything yet prepared for nothing, in essence. And when the Kaldathi unleashed the tempest of the entire Eastern Fringe upon them, the Republic could do nothing except weather it as best it could."
Saran Quemada, Sophos-Class scholar and archaeologist
𝕋𝕙𝕖 𝔾𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕥 𝕀𝕟𝕥𝕖𝕣𝕤𝕥𝕖𝕝𝕝𝕒𝕣 𝕎𝕒𝕣
Fifty years to the day since Tahzlak's death, and the Eastern Fringe mobilized under his slayer - the Usurper of Artuun, the Republic called him. Yet for Yjormun, it was as the Fifth Force commanded him. The machinations of the Kaldathi had all led to this one moment. From the first contact with the Republic, it could only end one way - and Yjormun was damned if the knowledge of the Kaldathi was going to be buried away or stolen.
It was the dark wisdom bestowed upon him by his old rival's own Tesseract that brought him to this decision. The galaxy would never know peace as long as the Veritas Order and its masters existed. The only true path to galactic conquest was not through subjugation, but of ultimate and absolute freedom. The passions within the Fifth Force were infinite, not meant to be stifled or ignored. Its power just as limitless, and Yjormun's ambition drove him for fifty years to amass the entirety of the Eastern Fringe to his beck and call. No longer was the Malkathian Covenant isolated to the Ghost Stars, where ancient Artuun orbited its malevolent sun.
No, it had expanded greatly under the influence of the former Veritas justicar and master. He offered his own interpretation of Republic law and order, and along with it the ultimate freedom through the Fifth Force. He exercised this freedom by proclaiming himself 'Immortal', even beyond the grasp of the Tesseracts he had witnessed on Artuun.
Truly, at almost eighty standard years by the time he had killed Tahzlak, he would have been dead long before the Great Interstellar War. But he survived the ravages of time, holding his body together through sheer concentration of will and his own unique mastery of the Fifth Force. The time spent on Artuun had allowed him to absorb the knowledge of many relics, and he learned from the various Tesseracts of the ancient Kaldathi dead. Wounds that would have claimed the life of far larger monsters could not end him. Yjormun the Immortal used this epithet to great success in uniting the Eastern Fringe, many species of which believed him to be some form of god-made-flesh.
Yjormun's success didn't end there, but rather rooted its very humblest beginnings in these facts. When his flagship, 'Breath of Vengeance', made its first jump into hyperspace, it was at the head of a fleet comprised of thousands of warships and tens of thousands of smaller frigates and vessels. He had faith in his commanders, who took charge of various other networks of battle. One of these commanders was the legendary Admiral Vask, a Tetrasjin naval officer who proved himself far in excess capable of leading a similar fleet to that of Yjormun.
The immense scale of the Great Interstellar War earned it its name, as the Republic came under attack at angles they never expected from the Kaldathi before. The Malkathian Covenant had secured itself as powerful foundation in the Eastern Fringe, and collapsed in around the Republic on all possible fronts. It became evident very early on that the Covenant had little to no interest in supporting reconstruction efforts in a conceivably large way. Their purpose, from the moment plans went into action to unleash this war, was to overwhelm the Republic defenders and cut a swath of violence across their systems. Grand sweeping theaters of war consumed entire solar systems, left planets in ruin. The Covenant borrowed from Tahzlak's innovative design of battle, continuously dragging the conflicts out and inflicting as many Republic casualties as possible over protracted engagements. There would be no momentum wasted in a single hammerblow, but rather a series of surgical cuts.
The Verum Republic managed to keep a flexible defense position, however, mostly through the efforts of the Veritas Order acting in concert to large concentrations of troops and battleships. But the hatred of the Kaldathi could only ever be held in comparison to their treachery. Their parasitic nature drew them to these battlefields where the Veritas amassed, and they fed upon the minds and mental energy of their foes in the midst of vast melee engagements. Many Veritas and Kaldathi were cut down, the new mass-usage of the Vis blades dealing a terrible toll on either side.
Strangely, over the course of the crusade, many Veritas justicars defected. Perhaps concluding that the war would be over quicker, or that they could achieve the same freedom that Yjormun had, whatever the case might have been - the Veritas Order experienced a terrible schism of interests. These Fallen Blades became an instrumental task force in the hands of the Immortal Yjormun, who sent them as lieutenants and field commanders for small but essential skirmishes and missions.
The Veritas were not about to allow these Fallen Blades to survive their treachery, and so sent specialized squads called Blade Hunters to single out these traitors and kill them. These dark days would evolve into various sects that sprouted from the Veritas Order, owing allegiance to none except the Fifth Force, but they developed in secret for the time being.
Elsewhere throughout the conflict, Yjormun began horrific experiments upon the deceased Veritas justicars. Either pure or Fallen Blade, it did not matter. Their corpses were collected and exhumed, corrupted with the dark side of the Fifth Force and brought back to life. Bound to ancient armor, these mighty Death Knights were used as shock troops throughout various parts of the war to staggering effectiveness.
The Great Interstellar War continued in earnest, with Republic efforts at stalling the conflict into a pyrrhic victory in their favor failing. Covenant forces refused to be pinned down, their pseudo-guerilla tactics forcing the Republic to adopt either completely stagnant defense lines or extremely aggressive frontal assaults.
For almost twenty years, the Great Interstellar War raged on. In a bold, tactically insane move, the Veritas Order opted to end the conflict in a single decisive move. With Yjormun attacking L'Avon directly, they could not afford to wait any longer. They infiltrated his ship, accumulating heavy losses as they did, but a small group of Veritas master-level justicars invaded Yjormun's control room and fought the Immortal just as his ground forces began to lay siege to the capital city of Costeau. Being cut down to the last, the Veritas strike force nevertheless slew Yjormun with great effort and ended the Great Interstellar War in an impromptu armistice.
Billions had died on either side, and peace would be difficult if downright impossible to obtain. The Republic had sought to forcibly colonize Artuun and its sister worlds multiple times in the past, desecrating the tombs and relics of the native Kaldathi there. In retaliation, the Kaldathi also forcibly drained many Republic citizens - and even Veritas Order members - of their mental energies, not to mention the four wars staged against the Republic at large.
The Kaldathi were to be examined, their existence considered too dangerous, and their Covenant dismantled. The Eastern Fringe was to return to Republic surveillance and eventual colonization within a matter of centuries. What fate befell the Kaldathi following the breaking of their Covenant was mixed. Many of the Republic commanders believed that they should be exterminated, while the Veritas refused to partake in any further bloodshed.
Those who were part of Yjormun's inner circle, along with his most trusted commanders and the remaining Fallen Blades (including the mysterious Death Knights), were sent adrift in permanent exile beyond the very edge of the Ghost Stars. The Kaldathi homeworld of Artuun was bombed for six straight months from orbit, until parts of it started breaking away. Any number of their race still alive on Artuun after the bombings was left to suffocate as oxygen reserves were depleted by further atmosphere-altering warheads.
Yatuun, Zortuun, and any other Kaldathi world exhibiting even a hint of their civilization or technology were summarily invaded and purged of any semblance of Kaldathi culture as well, leaving broken husks and ruins.
This left the Republic in an exasperated state. Twenty years of constant war on innumerable fronts as well as these extermination efforts exhausted their already drained resources. But, the Kaldathi were finally put to the sword. Their iconography, broken, forgotten, and dismantled. Their once-great Empire burned and sacked. Though the Republic suffered greatly, its retaliations could only be considered cataclysmic. Of Yjomun the Immortal, his body was never recovered - thought to simply be vaporized into ash by the destruction of the 'Breath of Vengeance'.
"The Kaldathi practiced strange ways, and believed themselves to be connected to a distant understanding of the galaxy - of the universe at large. They piloted space crafts without having first manufactured blaster weapons. They grasped the concept of hyperspace travel by watching Republic ships displace time. Anything they accomplished, they did out of their own willpower to do so. If the Republic had not chosen genocide, then they would have been destroyed."
Saran Quemada, Sophos-Class scholar and archaeologist
Gods and goddesses to the Kaldathi were the ancestors of their past, physical beings having attained higher knowledge of the cosmos. In flesh, they were masters of simple things such as telepathy or telekinesis. These powers were afforded to them as youths by the Fifth Force, an innate symbiotic relationship to the powers of the galaxy at large. In truth, the Kaldathi never truly die. They become one with the Fifth Force, one with the natural processes of space and time. What could be perceived as their total mastery over it in life is increased by order of magnitude in death, until beings such as Tahzlak can influence even their killers to take up the mantle of warlord.
There were several actual pantheons of deities the Kaldathi worshiped, those they called the First Dead. Alarak the Wanderer was the greatest of their gods, the first one of their species to die and obtain immortality through the Fifth Force. Alarak was stated to be as ancient as the galaxy itself, born on Artuun when the sands first stirred in the wind. Alarak earned his epithet by wandering across the arid world, achieving a relationship with the Fifth Force that even the Kaldathi could only dream of. He died when the Fifth Force deemed it necessary for him to die, and from his corpse sprang the rest of the Kaldathi species, each one of them possessing a fragment of his knowledge.
In the spirit of Alarak, the Kaldathi expanded quickly throughout their personal cluster of worlds. They believed that they would not need to expand any further, and thus prospered in the ancient days. Their first schism came when the warlord Klandu Terrak denied their passive stance to the galaxy at large. He wanted them to unite and to invade neighboring worlds, claiming them for the glory of the Kaldathi. It was Rakku Nerabu who stood against him, claiming that the Fifth Force had not told them to move yet. Thus began their Civil War, and thus they were commanded to sleep and wait once Klandu Terrak was cut down in ritualistic combat.
Such is why the Kaldathi took the Republic inhabiting their planets so poorly, even more vehemently than what was natural. The Republic not only invaded their lands and disgraced their ruins and monuments, but also robbed them of their divine purpose as foretold by the Fifth Force. That purpose changed given time, and the wars they waged against the Republic in centuries to follow gained such a heated following because they were essentially religious crusades. The infidels had taken their land and disgraced their ancestors in more ways than one, and fully expected peace to be a viable solution.
Thus, peace between the Republic and the Kaldathi was never to come to pass.
"When the Magisters took control of the Republic, it was with great hesitation that contact with the Kaldathi was renewed. Though the rule of Chorona Valman has certainly changed relations, the Kaldathi did not accept an alliance willingly - not at first. That was before Chorona promised them the Ghost Stars again. After thousands of years of exile, they could return to their ancestral homeworlds. The Kaldathi fleet emerged from beyond the Eastern Fringe on a day that would have terrified any normal citizen of the Republic. But this wasn't the Republic anymore. The Kaldathi understood that more than anyone."
Torion Gelth, Magister-Class orator and Imperial delegate
𝕀𝕟 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝔸𝕘𝕖 𝕠𝕗 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝔼𝕞𝕡𝕚𝕣𝕖
The Kaldathi were, now, and always will be architects of their own fate through the Fifth Force. Its darker aspects have irreversibly changed them, fuelling their insatiable hungers with those of vengeance and hatred. It is their very nature to go out and seek justice through the way of the blade, and to extract the mental prowess of those they conquer in battle. Their repertoire of skill only increases with each enemy they defeat, whether it is a technique of the Vis sabre or a new application of the Fifth Force. Their understanding of it has severely waned in the centuries of isolation in the Deep Void. Their exile from their old tombs has strained their relationships with their ancestors.
But they have reconnected with their gods, and the way of the Fifth Force has become rekindled in their new generations of warriors. They are still powerful wielders of the blade, perhaps some of the strongest in terms of physical application. Physical strength was necessitated in the Deep Void, where cramped hallway fighting was the norm. Any number of strange alien beast could claim a life in mere seconds if that prey is not tempered through constant training. In those moments, the hunter can just as easily become the hunted.
With the return of the Kaldathi, the Eastern Fringe has become far more active in the affairs of the Empire. The old blood-oaths taken during the wars against the Republic were never forgotten, despite their ancient origins. Though the Kaldathi boast a population of mere hundreds, their alliances are still strong. Yet it is up to the greater part of the Empire to see those allegiances hold true. Due to the comparatively desolate nature of the Eastern Fringe as it is today, the horrors of the Great Interstellar War will never be seen again. In the absence of the Kaldathi, it would seem that the Eastern Fringe as a whole has fallen back to more primitive times. Technology that was gifted to their ancestors has been forgotten or left unused for generations. Instead, these various species have flocked to the ancient ruins of Kaldathi culture.
Once they returned, the Kaldathi were hailed as conquering heroes and heralds of a new golden age. Such was the faith in an idea, rather than the foundation behind it. The pride of the Kaldathi needed to be put into the most grievous of tests. Perhaps it was the machinations of the Empire that this happened, or by the strands of fate left behind by the fallout of the Great Interstellar War. But the new Malkathian Covenant owed its allegiance and continued existence to the Empire, and thus collected itself towards the Ghost Stars once more.