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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Cromwell

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You have managed to make the galactic fringe sound very interesting indeed in just a few words. It must be a very stimulating (but dangerous) place to live and work.

My imagination is filled with pirates, outcasts, fleeing debtors, businessmen pursuing morally dubious projects and all sorts of other colour. All of course presided over by that tiny minority of buccaneers who steal a large enough amount of loot and live long enough to retire.
 
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Nikolai

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Waiting or not is indeed a difficult question.
 
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stnylan

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It's interesting - and entirely believable - that so many of the new species are not so keen on being stuck on a planet now. I mean, they're very pretty to look at, but who really wants to chained to a gravity well like that?
 
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Vilhelm

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It's that time again:

KHAAAAN!!
 
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Viden

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A Kobarian Grat Khan would have made things much more interesting.
 
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Jape

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Fascinating look at the frontier and the 'stardancers' particular view on it. The Pseudo-Yldar was far away so nothing to worry about for now... though from a reader perspective I am hoping they will become something to worry about.
 
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mad orc

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I agree with @Specialist290
Your descriptions of all the races and planets add an extra richness to the story and help us associate more with your enemies and allies

Also I love the ether drake
That thing is scary. I know that your people don't want to go their now but I hope you discern it's secrets in the future

Good updates
 
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Part Seventeen: Voices from the aether (2350 to 2363)

RossN

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The Great Awakening.jpg


The awakening of the Yldars as a fully psionic species.

Part Seventeen: Voices from the Aether (2350 to 2358)

Veldanura sat, legs crossed beneath her on a teal cushion in the great hall of the Conclave of Telepaths aboard the Oros habitat. Above her, far above the translucent dome of the habitat showed the stars glimmering. strange to think she'd be going somewhere far further than the dimmest glint of silver-gold out there all while her body never left tis room. The young PsiCorps agent flickered her tongue in and out, tasting the air in the hall. She'd been one of the talented, those who had genuine telepathic abilities even before the Great Awakening but she'd never done something like this in the Corps.

Veldanura's eyes flicked around the room to the scores of other Yldars, male and female, young old. Many faces looked nervous and not just she took for fellow greenhorns. She'd heard a rumour that the Conclave of Telepaths had a very high 'replacement' rate. She tried not to think about whether someone else had sat in her space and what might have happened to them. She tried to remember her breathing exercise.


'Open your thoughts,' the instruction from the Conclave leader popped into her mind, causing Veldanura to gasp. She she should have expected it - they were all telepaths here after all, but she'd assumed her mental shields would have at least stopped an unsolicited message slipping in before she was aware of it. Clearly she was playing in the big leagues now.

The lights were shut off, the room fell dark and as the séance began a whole new universe opened up for her...

~~~~~

As the 2340s drew to a close certain observers detected an increase in psionic activity across Yldar space. The PsiCorps established across the various habits discovered an uptick in Yldars displaying overt psychic talents, and an increase in power and control for those who already were practising telepaths, clarivoyants, empaths or telekinetics [1]. For the PsiCorps this was as frightening as it was exciting. Though were as eager as anyone to discover the mysteries of the psychic universe they were still tradtional Yldars and were less than thrilled at the idea their monopoly was being challenged.

Fortunately for the more established psionics they had experience and insight on their side. The more practised and potent minds had been fighting an 'arms race' against each other since the earliest sure signs of psionics were discovered. In another species this might have been a secret war between hidden factions with grand designs and dark ambitions but there was nothing of that kind of nonsense to the Yldars - no Illuminati, no Prieuré de Sion or any other kind of shadowy society lurking beneath notice. The Yldars, ruthlessly pragmatic and practical had decided to use their powers to make money and advance themselves. Ideology could go rot. Rather among the gifted psionics had turned into simply another tool in the traditions of corporate espionage and one upmanship. This in turn led to those with talented rapidly attempting to build 'mental screens' to block out snooping telepaths (a form of training that rapidly spread to the mundanes albeit with less success in practice.) The result was that a duel between two finely balanced and experienced telepaths, whether the final clash between two hated rivals or a friendly game of cards frequently hit stalemate.

All of this meant that when the 'Great Awakening' happened in Tenthmonth 2349 the PsiCorps were unhappy but ready. At least in so much as anyone could be ready. The first glimmers of the grand shift came in 2349 with the onset of wild dreams and nightmares that seemed to strike every Yldar. The ability to recall the nature of the dreams varied but all experienced similar visions of being in touch with somewhere beyond the material universe. Fragments of memory, half remembered voices and faces, a feeling of familiarity mixed with an overpowering feeling of how strange this all was.

In fact there were two discoveries here, though in the excitement and shock the second discovery was not immediately seen for what it was. Over two very crowded months as the newly 'awakened' Yldars adapted to their circumstances and concentrated on building up their mental shields and as the non-Yldar populace attempted to come to terms with what was happening the more practised telepaths ironed out the new rules of society. One rule that very quickly emerged was that Yldars did not use telepathy in mixed company with members of other species, or with non-Yldars at all outside of emergencies. This was not (just) out of etiquette but for the practical reason that nothing could be less trustworthy than carrying on a conversation in secret among other parties. The fact that many non-Yldars found the experience creepy was also a factor [2].

It was only as life settled down into a post-awakened world that the next revelation came. The most powerful telepaths made contact with the Shroud.



The Shroud.jpg


The first tentative contacts with the psychic dimension known as the Shroud.

There were perhaps as many opinions on what the Shroud was as there were psychic minds. Some, drawn to alien faiths favoured the idea that it was a realm for the dead to go once they had outlived their material bodies (which itself led to bitter arguments as to whether only the psychically active could survive death.) The Spiritists, while also believing the psionically could survive death as Beings of Pure Thought were more intrigued by the idea that the Shroud was the home of the long vanished Originators.

The most cautious approach to the Shroud came from the sternly conservative Realists. Though their traditional atheistic materialism was less popular in a universe where they had conclusive evidence of the existence of a psychic dimension the Realists urged caution that the Shroud be treated as akin to a mysterious and potentially very dangerous alien planet rather than a netherworld or the home of old gods.

In 2351 Chairman Elemano established the Conclave of Telepaths on Oros. At least in theory this group consisted of the three hundred most powerful and reliable Yldar telepaths. In practice while all members of the Conclave were genuinely skilled telepaths a fair amount of backroom politics had gone into their selection and a few notable names had been left out (or in) to appease various merchant princes. The leader of the group was the elderly but ferociously strongminded Governor Limathar, the nominal chief bureaucrat of Oros though at this point she had delegated many of her duties to her subordinates to focus on sharpening her wits. Spiritists held a plurality on the Conclave but the Realists made up a substantial minority as did self professed 'moderates'. Their goal was to make contact with the inhabitants (if that was even the right term) of the Shroud. They accomplished this via séances, a mystical practice used by non-psionic Glost-Werheni. To even break through the barriers between the material universe and the Shroud demanded immense concentration - and not a little energy powered by the weird psychic-technology developed by the PsiCorps over the years.

The Conclave explorations of the Shroud were shrouded in secrecy, but it is probable that even had they been talkative about their discoveries they'd have a hard time explaining what they found. The Shroud could only be experienced first hand. On half a dozen occasions over the 2350s the Conclave would try and reach into the Shroud with mixed results. On at least one unnerving occasion the Yldar psychonauts were ordered to flee by one of the strange Beings of Pure thought that called the Shroud home. On another expedition several members of the Conclave disappeared; their minds lost in the other dimension leaving their bodies empty shells when they returned.

It was not for the faint of heart but there were boons to be found in the Shroud - secrets to increase ship and weapon capabilites in the mundane world and there were friendlier beings in the aether. And of course knowledge had a lure all of its own...



Found Tomb of Zarqluan.jpg


The discovery of an ancient tomb along the northern fringe of the galaxy in 2353 stirred a response from the distant Lilarobians.

While the Yldars were exploring the psychic dimension the mundane material universe had not ceased to spin and whirl. The famed xenoarchaelogist Xldlor, a Kammarian from Oros [3] was not blessed with psionics but he was a shrewd and iron willed scientist - famously even strongly telepathic Yldars dreaded seeing him take a seat opposite at a card game. He had spent years working on excavating a tomb on a lifeless speck of world in the Thegglan system and in 2353 that hardship paid off. The Kammarian and his team unearthed the remains of a great and regal figure seated on a throne, of a species unknown but going by the name 'Zarqlan'. The body of the alien body was decayed almost to dust but the head was surprisingly well preserved given it's age. As for the name it meant nothing to the Yldars (or indeed the Kammarians) but no sooner had news of the discovery broken then Chairman Elemano found himself contacted by the ancient Lilarobian civilisation on the other side of the galaxy.

The Lilarobians were of interest to many as the only other known psionic species in the material universe, though the Conclave had yet to definitively encounter their mental shadow in the Shroud. It was therefore a strange twist of irony that they should intervene in the affairs of the Yldars over the business of a very material relic. The head of Zarqlan, had been removed from the crumpling body for transport back to Oros and now in one of Elemano's last acts as Chairman was placed in a specially built and tasteful shrine so that pilgrims might pay attendance [4].


Head of Zarqlan.jpg


The Head of Zarqlan, a relic of an ancient and forgotten era of galactic history. The annotations are from 'Symbols of Worship', published by the Order of Currators.


The bizarre business with Zarqlan's Head was not the only affair in the material universe that temporarily drew the thoughts of the Free Traders away from the Shroud. The victory of Listhim in the elections of 2355 had seen energetic new leadership in the Chairperson's seat. Listhim was a fifty-seven year old, grey-black scaled Yldar from Tiltar's Palace and having heard the disturbing reports of the Pseudo-Yldars conquests in the galactic south had decided that something had to be done against the local marauders before they became a threat rather than a nuisance. In 2357 he authorised an invasion of the Kobarian Freeholds.

The War against the Kobarians (2357 to 2365) is a topic covered better elsewhere [5] but it spurred on the Conclave to make further visits to the Shroud, despite the known (and unknown) dangers. After several attempts the Conclave made a powerful push in Thirdmonth 2363. The telepaths once again broke through into the psychic dimension and this time one of the enigmatic spiritual beings there unveiled a frightful vision.



Vision of the future.jpg


The Shroud 'vision' of 2363.


Of all the strange powers unleashed by the psionically inclined clairvoyance was the most uncertain. Even the strongest and most experienced Yldar telepaths had little to no control over the visions of the future - indeed sometimes it almost seemed as if a more disciplined mind made it harder to pierce through the mists of time and visions seemed like living things drawn to weaker minds that they could momentarily overpower. A benign vision - and such was known to happen - was clouded in confusion and doubt. The vision experienced during the great séance of 2363 was anything but benign, though a very few diehard Spiritists chose to view it as the result of a mass departure of Yldar minds from their material bodies.

Later, after the Conclave made their report, much anxious debate would take place among the merchant princes but at the time the telepaths had a job to do and were not going to deterred by horrifying and apparently inescapable prophecies. Concentrating all their energies and discipline they attempted to shape and control one of the semi-sapient clouds of psychic energy native to the Shroud into something in the material world.

They succeeded.


Avatar.jpg


The Avatar enters the material universe, 2363.

The Avatar was... alive in some way and huge, a vast rolling cosmic storm the size of a small moon. It seemed non-hostile and proved obedient to simple commands delivered to it via Yldar telepathy, but that was all that could be said about it with any degree of certainty. The Realists tended to treat it as a near mindless but obedient pet or an artificial 'creature' so shaped by Yldar thoughts as to be almost more like a psychic 'robot' than one of the native beings of the Shroud. The Spiritists were divided. Some among them saw the Avatar as a crude version of the future they themselves saw for the Yldars, a powerful but near mindless evolutionary stage to becoming a Being of Pure Thought; one of their number even thought it a devolved Originator that had sacrificed intellect for continued existence. Other Spiritists, those more drawn to alien religions saw the Avatar as not so much unintelligent but young and capable of learning, perhaps even truly sapient in its own way.

Whatever the truth the Avatar was here to stay. It may have missed the wars against the Kobarians but the bizarre energy creature remained in orbit in Oros, harmlessly grazing on the faint psychic emissions from the inhabitants of the Three Sisters, an immense symbol of the powers and mysteries of the Shroud.


Footnotes:

[1] These four categories covered the enormous bulk of overt psionic talents but there were more exotic abilities including pyrokinesis (manifesting and controlling fire), cryokinesis (manifesting and controlling extreme cold) and teleportation.

[2] There were some non-Yldars who found the experience of being consensual mind touched alluring and a few adept and imaginative Yldar courtesans enjoyed a profitable existence that, thankfully, is beyond the scope of this story.

[3] Zurix the archaeologist was an egg-cousin of Zurix, the Kammarian politician of the same name who served as governor of Yltar's Bulwark and was a candidate in the 2353 election for Chairperson. Though he did not win his was the first serious non-Yldar to contest the position.

[4] 'Zarqlanism', a religion based on the researched teachings of the alien prophet became a minor but real religion in the years after the discovery.

[5] And shall be shortly.
 
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RossN

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The Great Khan begins his rise. Hopefully this time around it will prove rather more interesting than it did for the Baviiri (though I imagine the Baviiri themselves wouldn't share the sentiment ;) ). It's also quite apropos that the Marauders with the not-Klingon portrait would be the ones harboring ambitions to conquer the galaxy.

As always, I appreciate the little bits of attention to detail that you give to your settings, such as going into the different characters of each habitat and the stereotypes their inhabitants get associated with as a result. It definitely adds that little bit of extra color that makes the galaxy feel real, so to speak.
Thanks, that is appreciated! :)

As for the Great Khan at time of writing he has reduced the Makru to vassalage so at the very least he could be doing worse. Oh and yes the Bavirii considered their galaxy quite 'interesting' enough!

You have managed to make the galactic fringe sound very interesting indeed in just a few words. It must be a very stimulating (but dangerous) place to live and work.

My imagination is filled with pirates, outcasts, fleeing debtors, businessmen pursuing morally dubious projects and all sorts of other colour. All of course presided over by that tiny minority of buccaneers who steal a large enough amount of loot and live long enough to retire.
Thank you, that is indeed a very cool way of looking at it. :)

I have a sort of guilty soft spot for that kind of galactic fringe from the Hutt Cartels to the Orion Syndicate. I very nearly went with a Crime Syndicate for this game in fact. :)

Waiting or not is indeed a difficult question.
True!

It's interesting - and entirely believable - that so many of the new species are not so keen on being stuck on a planet now. I mean, they're very pretty to look at, but who really wants to chained to a gravity well like that?
Exactly! Plus you know what else you find on planets? Dirt. Really!

It's that time again:

KHAAAAN!!
Hah! Yes indeed! :D

A Kobarian Grat Khan would have made things much more interesting.
Possibly but I'm also sort of relieved that didn't happen! ;)

Fascinating look at the frontier and the 'stardancers' particular view on it. The Pseudo-Yldar was far away so nothing to worry about for now... though from a reader perspective I am hoping they will become something to worry about.
Thanks, and that is a good way of putting. Out of universe I am sort of rooting for the Pseudo-Yldars in their corner of the galaxy, who incidentally will be the new local power when/if humanity ever achieves interstellar capability.

I agree with @Specialist290
Your descriptions of all the races and planets add an extra richness to the story and help us associate more with your enemies and allies

Also I love the ether drake
That thing is scary. I know that your people don't want to go their now but I hope you discern it's secrets in the future

Good updates

Thank you very much!

The ether drake really is a wonderful design right?
 

Nikolai

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Beware of the dangers of the Shroud.
 
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Vilhelm

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Ah yes, the Shroud. A plane of great mysteries where great rewards can be reaped, but also great dangers can fall upon our universe.

Oddly enough, my first contact with the Shroud was with a similar species of habitat dwellers last year (I used a mod that added a Habitat origin civic). It was only after I found the Zroni and dug up their sites that we went full psychic, and I even reformed their government from a pacifistic democracy to a divine kingdom ruled by the immortal Chosen One, Aclathia Shent. Oh, and I also dug up Zarqlan's Head and impressed the Spiritualist FE.
 

Specialist290

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The Shroud is a realm of great wonder and peril. Tread carefully, and remember that all boons from strange benefactors may come with a terrible price...

Speaking of Shroud boons, that Avatar should make a nice adjunct to the Yldar fleets in any future wars, though I do have to wonder what would be going through the minds of any personnel who have to command or serve alongside what is essentially a massive roiling cloud of psionic death-energy. (Granted, better to be on its good side than the business end...)

I've personally always found Zarqlan's Head to be just a little bit silly, but not so much as to be immersion-breaking.
 

stnylan

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A very good writeup of The Shroud.

The approach of the coutesans in footnote 2 seems very practically Yldar.
 

Viden

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[2] There were some non-Yldars who found the experience of being consensual mind touched alluring and a few adept and imaginative Yldar courtesans enjoyed a profitable existence that, thankfully, is beyond the scope of this story.
If anyone is interested in that adept and imaginative allure, I suggest reading the chapter seven, orgy, from the WH40K novel Chaos Child. It describes exactly that scene. ;)
 

volksmarschall

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That's quite the beautiful trophy head if I can say! Better than my bust of the god Eros. :p
 
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eoncommander

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A very interesting turn. I wonder if most Yldars wouldn't be more excited to serve alongside a Lilarobian fleet rather than the literally otherworldly Avatar.
 
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Macavity116

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An impressive result for the first excursion into the Shroud, but getting an Avatar so early on makes me a little nervous for future enterprises. Not everything in there is friendly, after all.
 
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RossN

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Hi all, hope you are well. My apologies for the long hiatus on this AAR. I certainly hadn't intended to be away so long but a combination of being busy elsewhere and good old fashioned writer's block happened.

To be honest I've had a bit difficulty getting back into this story. I do want to finish it properly but I've been away so long that I'm still rusty and it doesn't help that I've been finding it more to difficult to write the Yldars now they are properly psionic, especially since they've drifted further and further from my original conception of them as basically 'space Venetians'.

As I've said I do very much want to finish this and this story was never a chore to write, I guess I just need to get my spark back. In the meantime and stop my writing muscles from atrophying completely I've started up a new EU IV AAR that I have some hope for and would appreciate people checking out. Anyway I want to thank everyone for their patience and reassure you that I'm not abandoning this, just putting it on a shelf for a while. The story of the Yldars is not over. :)
 
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Cromwell

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If it helps at all to know there has been no change qualitywise with the "new" Yldars, they are just as exciting to read about as at the start.

It is however your story to tell at your own pace and I shant badger you (much!). Instead I'll get off to the EU4 subforum to see what treat you've got for us! A change is as good as a rest as my grandad used to to say.