Of becoming aware in bits and pieces—not a violent awakening, like so many others, nor an abrupt transition from nothing into existence, but a gradual recognition: of the dappled sunlight on soil under leaf-laden boughs; of how the rain patters and plinks on the shed’s tin roof; of the songbirds that visit the tiny, overgrown garden amidst gold-white sprays of marigolds and gardenias, singing, effervescent. Like children watching the sun, the moon, watching both as they tread the same paths across the blue sky, the ubiquitous sky, the knowing and the not knowing of how it all happens, distilled into a warm cup of tea. Of one day waking up and saying hello.


The surface of KHEPRI-3c‘s moon, photographed one month after the Battle of Acheron. An artificial black hole hangs over the horizon, the product of the collision of several black hole-powered starships lost in battle. The moon’s iron-rich crust causes its rivers to run a ghastly crimson.

Battle of Acheron (EY 2743)


The Battle of Acheron, also known as the Ociys Offensive, was part of the HIC-led campaign of the second Interstellar Wars.[1] The battle spanned within the KHEPRI-3 system for approximately ten Earth days,[3] ending in a narrow Pyrrhic victory for the KS Alliance forces and a catastrophic loss of personnel, supplies, and vehicles for all involved parties.[2] Most notable was the loss of five Horizon starships, whose collisions and subsequent cascading failures compromised the shielding of their black hole-propelled warp drives and led to the creation of a new black hole within the star system. The new black hole, colloquially named Acheron after the river in Greek mythology, is predicted to slowly destabilize the orbits of KHEPRI-3 and its planets.[5][6]


Images of FNC 0061, or the Tango Nebula, in the optical spectrum (top), radio (middle), and ultraviolet (bottom). Credit: Wakefield Space Institute

FNC 0061, also known as the Tango Nebula, is an H II[1] emission nebula located approximately  7,200 light-years (2200 parsecs)[2] away from KHEPRI-1.  It is one of the largest and most luminous nebulae observed from KHEPRI-1[2], and is visible to the naked eye from KHEPRI-1b. It contains several young and active star-forming regions, emitting and reflecting large amounts of infrared and ultraviolet light. The name “Tango Nebula” was introduced due to the impression of two people dancing in the brightest regions in the nebula, in reference to the partner tango dance.[3]



The Kingdom of Tokavsk, Session 21: A Hastily Scrawled Entry from Tomon’s Servant

Editors’ Note:  This entry was written by the same servant of Tomon who wrote the to-do list.  The handwriting is sprawling and very distinctive, and we find it hard to believe it could be replicated.

Tomon’s meetings were canceled today, and now I don’t know what to do with myself.  Tomon doesn’t, either.  I’m writing this while he isn’t looking, but even if he does see me I don’t think he’ll do anything.  He’s relaxing in his chambers and not doing much at all, going through papers, I think.  Anyway, he has expressed interest in taking a walk around the grounds.  I hope we can go this afternoon because my legs are shaking so badly from nervous energy.  I’ve heard rumors that something happened, that somebody was killed.  Some high-up of the king here.  We are forbidden from discussing it while working, which makes me feel even worse because I feel I have to talk about it or something in me will burst.  So I’m writing it here.  I heard this morning that somebody was murdered on the grounds, and now everybody is wondering who did it.  I think it was somebody who was an opponent of the guy or a person who wanted his job.  Maybe a hire since people that high don’t always do those types of things themselves.  Not that the upper classes are weak, of course.  Just that they can pay someone else to do those kinds of things for them, I would pay someone to carry out a murder if I had someone to murder and the money to pay.  I would never commit murder, but if for some reason I felt the need, I’d probably do it myself.

My favorite theory is that an opponent did it because I think that sounds the most interesting.  Maybe he disagreed with a guy on something, so that guy decided he needed to go.  Of course I can only imagine what that kind of disagreement would be.  I don’t really know much about how kings work, so it could be anything, really.  Maybe somebody wants a coup.  But if they wanted to take over, wouldn’t they have gone for the king first?  Unless it was a practice kill, which doesn’t make sense if you think about it.  That just makes you more likely to get caught.

The Kingdom of Tokavsk, Session 20: The Testimony of Solamina Kolpakina, Maid

I was completing my early rounds yesterday morning as was customary.  There is much preparation to be done before the members of the court awaken.  I was tasked with disposing the waste.  I went outside and thought I saw somebody, so I went to investigate.  I know it was improper of me, but curiosity has always gotten the best of me.  I suppose I should have known it would bring me to trouble eventimes.  So I had already disposed of the trash as I had to, and I went around the corner where I had thought I had seen the figure and saw nothing.  I thought it was just my eyes playing tricks on me when I walked a little ways down the alley and saw something for real this time.  There was something unusually dark on the ground, and I figured it was not water because of the cold.  Or perhaps it was freshly spilled, I don’t know.  Whatever my reasoning was, I went to look and saw…him.  You know.  And I screamed.  What else was I to do?  He was lying there and…I never thought I would find…I had no idea what to do.  I ran back screaming for help, and that’s when one of the guards rushed up to me.  But I was too terrified to form words.  You don’t believe me, do you?  You think I was….  I would never.  Never.  And now multiple servants were swarming me and I had to get them to follow so they could see.  But when I got there another guard had already found him.  And they didn’t believe me until I was searched and Solkha—you know Solkha, he was in charge—told them I had been with him.  And I had been asleep before then and could not have left.  Somehow they didn’t fully believe me.  And here I am, still not believed, and now people think I’m a killer.  Like I would ever have any reason.  I have a job and lodgings.  Why would I risk all that?  He is an advisor.  I don’t know of the advisors.  I mean, I know of some of them, but my work is not about them.  I am low level, you see.  Only been here five years.  Low level and needing to keep my job.  So no, I did not notice anything before that, have no idea how others thought of him, anything.  I am a maid, after all.  Well.  I know you won’t believe me, but that is all I have to say.

The Kingdom of Tokavsk, Session 19: Diary Entry of Lord Eskyil, Chief Advisor to the King

Editors’ Note:  Our reasoning for including this entry and its successors is twofold.  First, it provides a glimpse into the current situation and culture of Tokavsk and its inner court.  The diary entry of the chief advisor is of the utmost value to this anthology.  We have confirmed its legitimacy through careful study, though were it a forgery it would still warrant a place here.  The murder of advisor Jalic Seshet sent the court into a state of chaos that we are attempting to sort through.  Thus, the following pieces form a reconstruction of the ensuing events that took place over several weeks.  They are not in chronological order but are rather arranged in such a way that they tell a cohesive narrative.  When originally compiling this, we were only to include the report of the guards because it was all we had, but the wealth of information we later overturned lead to the need for significant revision.

Seshet is no more.  I was aroused by this news, and now that I have time to think I am penning it ere it slips from my memory.  I still have not processed the fact that he is dead.  Though it was hours ago, I hear the frantic words of Pellin over and over as though for the first time inside my mind.  The truth of it sinks into me, and then I blink and the initial shock fades again.  Jalic Seshet, dead.  The flinch, the watering of the eyes, then the strange indifference that is the substitute for grief.



The meeting with the King was sullen.  With one less robe and voice among us, our positions felt strained and empty.  We could not close the circle around the throne without noticing the greater distance.  The room was too silent, but no words were sufficient to penetrate it.  Even the King was at a loss.  We still had appointments to prepare for and bills to consider, but none of that could be done when one of our number was now dead.  A heaviness settled about us, and all and all we fulfilled none of our tasks.