Prologue: Back to Where it All Began
In a time before time the Great Hyperspace Core was found. With it came the gift of interstellar travel and the Outer Rim Trade Routes were established, uniting the Galaxy in peace. Four thousand years passed before the Second Core was discovered on a distant planet. Pain and bloodshed flowed in its wake until the Exiles reached their destination.
The Battle of Hiigara left the galaxy in turmoil. In a choice that would have repercussions for centuries to come, the Galactic Council permitted the Exiles to return to their Homeworld. The Exiles left a path of destruction across the galaxy and killed countless innocents along the way. Having escaped from their hot and dusty prison, the decedents of the power-mad warmongers who once dared to raise their hands against the Bentusi reclaimed the temperate paradise that had rightfully been taken away four millennia ago.
Meanwhile, with its Immortal Emperor slain at Hiigara, the Taiidan Empire was swiftly destroyed by both internal and external enemies. Fractured by civil war, the most powerful nation in the galaxy was reduced to a handful of warring splinter-groups seemingly overnight. While the “New Hiigarans” celebrated the dawning of a new time, the rest of the galaxy trembled with fear and anxiety. Dozens of minor states struggled to find their way in this new international order while Karan Sjet started building a new Hiigaran regime upon her stolen planet.
No one was capable of filling the Hegemonic void left behind by the Taiidan. Instead, the galaxy was divided up amongst several regional superpowers. Partogans, Blorg, Assurians, and Hiigarans all competed with one another to replace the Taiidan as a new galactic superpower.
Out in the Great Wastelands, the Kingdom of Partoga took full advantage of the power vacuum left behind by the Taiidan and seized over half of the territory once controlled by the Turanic Raiders. Having rapidly doubled in size, the Kingdom suddenly found itself in the unenviable position of being a regional superpower, dominating the region once shared between the Taiidan and the Turanic Raiders.
The new regions of space Partoga had acquired were set aside for the Levakians, a race of mammalians who shared their Homeworld with the Partogans. Six Levakian Kingdoms were built. They could have functioned and operated as independent states, but none of the Levakian Kings were willing to break their oaths of vassalage; oaths sworn to the Queen of Partoga after the Levakians had been conquered by the Partogans two centuries before. Instead, the six new states were simply extensions of Partogan power and influence.
Yet all is not well. The Kingdom is stretched thin, her space fleets and armies too few in number to effectively control the massive new territories. Fringe elements are left unchecked, the borders unsecured, lawlessness creeps in from the outside, and the seeds of something destructive are planted deep within the new empire.
110 years before the birth of Jericho, someone else’s story is about to begin...
It took us a few moments to get our bearings. We had arrived in a place that was both foreign and strangely familiar. We stood on the precipice, at the edge of this strange new realm for a moment overlooking a vast ocean of swirling color and shadow. Then we remembered: Our Guide is waiting for us.
She takes our hands into Her own, and guides us into the Shroud.
For a fleeting moment, we are lost and a sense of utter panic washes over us as we contemplate an eternity spent within the Shroud. Then we regain our footing, and the terror recedes.
We are in no danger. She will not abandon us.
We come to a tempestuous region of the Shroud. Massive currents of raw psionic energy are funneled through here, giving violent birth to semi-intelligent spiritual apparitions. Confused, these beings do battle with one another, releasing vast amounts of power in clashes that last for millennia. Several such duels play out before our eyes.
She tells us to proceed with caution. Even a stray thought can be shaped into something tangible in this place... and more often than not, turned against oneself.
A flock of spirits glowing with dazzling colors that none of us had ever known of danced around us for hours as She led us deeper into the Shroud. The spectacle is enjoyable, until the realization hits us:
We are being shielded from them by Her power.
Suddenly, in a painful moment of clarity, the nature of our existence was laid bare. A multiverse where thousands of galaxies like our own are locked in endless cycles of conflict. It begins, it ends, and then it begins again. Each time with trillions of lives hanging in the balance.
“SO IT IS,” a voice whispers, “AND SO IT SHALL ALWAYS BE.”
She waits until the voice has finished speaking, then commands us to follow her. We comply, partly out of obedience, partly out of curiosity.
Finally, the path She had guided us along came to an abrupt end. We could go no further.
She bade us to step forward and gaze into the abyss below...
It was Partoga. The great city looked different yet familiar. Even through the obscuring wall of flames and smoke we could recognize the Royal Science Academy, the Great Library, Mihaka Tower, and the outer walls of Fort Miranda. All were reduced to ruin. Thousands... no, millions of bodies litter the streets. The smell of volcanic sulfur was overpowering.
Nothing living remains in the ruins. In the sky above, massive orbital installations have begun the slow and inevitable descent towards the planet, leaving a trail of acrid black smoke in the air. Are we witnessing one possible future out of many?
“NOT ONE OF MANY. IT SHALL COME TO PASS. AS SURELY AS THE SUN RISES. YOUR DESTINY WAS SOLD TO US... BY HER.”
We turn to our Guide. We demand an explanation, we refuse to believe She had betrayed us. She tries to explain, to tell us why She made a covenant with this monster, but the presence forced Her to be silent, and then took Her away. The monster lashed out at us with a massive wave of psionic energy, causing great agony to some of us and knocking others unconscious. We had no choice but to withdraw and escape from the Shroud, leaving our Guide to Her fate.