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Category Archives: Saga of Daraen

I hate writing aliens.

Okay, that’s not true. Aliens are fine as long as there are people to make comparisons but they are really hard to write in isolation.

The Ewts, who are currently giving me the most trouble, are a species that I have put a lot of thought into and I’m currently churning my way through writing a language for them. Their problem is Empathy. No not caring part, let me explain.

When crafting an alien race there are a few simple steps: 1) pick an animal to base their morphology on 2) Pick a trait that makes them different from humans 3) Repeat step 2 4) Extrapolate.

For the ewts this is: Newts, Undetermined Gender and Empathy. Here follows the extrapolation.

So for a start the ewt philosophy is very centred around water, to the point of river worship, not to mention a deep seated view that events are implacable unless countered with a good front crawl. Their surroundings are dangerous, but they bread quickly leading to a safety in numbers attitude and a deep seated idea that they have to fight for what they have, but against their environment as much as themselves.

The undetermined gender (ie, the same ewt may fulfil different gender roles at different times) wipes out a lot of the immediate prejudices and because of this ewts have a precedence to treat people as if they can achieve anything they wish too. Racial prejudice is just as popular as in humanity but ewts have never formed a caste system, or a monarchy as the idea that a man can be predestined by their birth has never sat well.

Finally, the most complicated concept is Empathy. Ewts, along with quite a few of the dominant hunters on their planet, can pick up on the minds of other creatures at a distance. In the Vast Worlds canon this is due to the same quantum resonance effect the Altairians use for telekinesis but the ewts use it purely to gather information with no actual effect on their target.

Like human language this ability expanded in use and complexity as the ewts formed the first tribes and they can pick out another ewts emotions’ at a hundred yards. It has never been a force for peace; it did originally evolve as a hunting sense so the ewts aren’t particularly distraught at feeling (paetan, in ewtan) someone suffering, though there is a tendency for ewts to want to solve that problem if the sufferer is resident, as there is some emotional spill over.

Now, this empathic sense and shared sub-conscious is very difficult to qualify. If I were being clever I’d find some way to integrate someone into it, or have a human stooge to explain it too, but I’m not, I have to write a short story where an alien encounters these ewts and goes about dealing with them more or less scientific way. Worse, for the bits where the story focuses on the ewts I have to drop six months of work on history and cultural motivation into a couple hundred words.

I’m beginning to see why Star Trek just had pointy ears.


Hell collapsed onto the deck, trembling with terror for a good few moments before realising two things. First, he wasn’t dead, which was odd because he was fairly sure he could remember the bullet hitting him. But more importantly there was metal panelling under his palms, cold metal, and he couldn’t actually think of a place in Yann hi Shanapi where you could find such a thing. Well, not in one piece anyway.

After some long deliberation he decided it was probably safe to open his eyes.

The whole world lay before him, a small blue green penny beyond a pane of glass. From up here Hell couldn’t see the scars of fifty years of war, the destruction, the death, the pain, or his own township being ravaged. For an instant he froze, awestruck.

“Where the heck am I?” Hell asked, breaking the void.

“You are onboard the fast as light star ship Curiosity,” a voice chimed suddenly and Hell whipped round, searching for the speaker. “We are currently orbiting around RD3 B, known in your language as Aesaka, at an average distance of two hundred and thirty nine thousand miles.”

“We’re in space?” Hell exclaimed. “How… No, first, who, where, and if neither is applicable, what are you?”

“I am the ship’s computer,” the voice responded. “Designated Friday.”

Friday,” Hell echoed, getting used to the unfamiliar word. The disembodied voice was beginning to freak him out and he kept twitching his head to try and get an empathic reading, at best though he was getting a vague sense of electricity in the walls, and that was about as effective as trying to read the emotional state of a light bulb.

“Okay Friday,” Hell began. “How did I get here?”

“An error occurred in a subroutine that resulted in your accidental retrieval from Aesaka,” the computer replied.

“And put simply…”

“That was put simply. Do you wish me to give the full explanation? It is rather lengthy.”

“I’m in no hurry to go back,” Hell said, flicking his tail in annoyance.

“Very well, Sir. You may or not be aware that fifty years ago the entity known as Daraen made contact with your species shortly after it was revealed that he had been affecting history for some ten thousand years.”

“Yeah, that’s that myth the Word keep spouting,” Hell interjected. “Why’s it important?”

“It is important because it is not a myth,” Friday said testily. “Daraen is a real person, and you are currently aboard his ship.”

Hell froze.

Daraen is real,” he intoned. “The Word is worshiping an actual person?”


“Which means he’s responsible for all of this,” Hell continued, voice rising in anger. “The Word’s world domination, the Last War, why our planet is a sanjva nuclear wasteland?”

“While the revelation of his existence was a major upset it was never his intention…”

“Well what was his sanjva intention?” Hell swore.

“He only wished to help,” Friday murmured.

“Help!” Hell exclaimed. “Help would have been shooting down the bombs. Help would have been shooting those Word sanjvani before they slaughtered my friends.”

Daraen’s plan to rectify the situation has been in motion for the last twenty rotations.”

“Twenty years,” Hell snarled. “He’s been sitting on his tail for the last twenty years? Where is this moron? I want to speak to him personally.”

Daraen is on the observation deck,” the computer said simply.

“Right,” Hell snapped, preparing to storm off. “And where am I?”

“On the observation deck.”

Hell jumped, and looked hastily around. The room he was in was large, but well lit by an entire wall of floor to ceiling windows looking out on the void of space, set back from the windows were a few comically oversized chairs, but there was nowhere to hide.

“I can’t see him,” Hell protested, only now realising it was probably a bad idea to insult someone when you’re a hundred thousand miles from the next place to breathe.

“Then find a mirror,” Friday sighed. “You are Daraen.”

“Sorry,” Hell said after a long moment. “Are you honestly telling me I’m God?”

“You’re not a god,” the computer snipped.

“Some alien super being from the planet Yaell then,” Hell continued, waving Friday off. “That’s ridiculous. I’m as Ewtan as the next guy.”

“Which is exactly the point,” Friday interrupted. “Twenty years ago, as the situation spun rapidly out of control, Daraen judged himself too detached from the Ewt point of view to make valid decisions on behalf of your society and, as penance, he incarnated himself as one of your people for a lifetime.”

“Meaning me?”


That, Hell felt, explained a lot. A total absence of parents, his unique colouring, the fact that he’d never really gotten close to anyone. Heck, maybe it even explained why he’d frozen against the Word; he’d been expecting something beyond himself to save the day.

“Shouldn’t you have gotten your Daraen back when I got my brains blown out then?” Hell asked, wrinkling his muzzle.

“Technically yes,” Friday explained, somehow managing to sound sheepish. “But Daraen was not in the most coherent frame of mind while creating you and more than a few loopholes were left in the code. For example, the automatic recovery routines still functioned when you received your mortal wound. Fortunately that is no longer an issue now you are already aboard the Curiosity.”

“I don’t like the sound of that.”

“Nor should you,” continued Friday. “As to bring back Daraen you must die.”

Hell felt that there really should have been some emotion behind those words; however the far more rational part of his brain had him running.

“Open!” he snapped as he sped towards a door and raced along a darkened corridor.

Hell, this is pointless,” Friday chided. “I am the ship; you can’t run away from me.”

“I can get away from any death traps though,” he shot back.

“I didn’t say I was going to kill you, I can’t anyway.”

Hell skidded to a stop. “More loopholes?”

“Yes. Look step into the control room.”

The wall next to Hell evaporated revealing a vast, featureless room with a single light illuminating a huge throne in the centre. Hell approached it cautiously, glancing nervously over his shoulder every so often, and when he was close enough touched a tentative hand to the metal.

Some memory stirred in him. Hell couldn’t say if it was good or bad, more than anything it just felt cold and sterile, but he knew that Daraen had spent a long time in this room. Lifetimes in fact. And that he was possibly the only other person ever to see it.

“You are remembering?” the computer queried.

“Yes… Maybe.”

“We must hurry then,” it continued. A slim black shape rose, like liquid, out of the chair. “Take this it’s…”

“A gun?” Hell completed, sighing. “You seriously expect me to kill myself.”

“It’s is the only way to bring back Daraen,” Friday pressed. “And he can save your world.”

“Kind of ironic seeing he’s the one who doomed it.”

“Please. Do this for your planet.”

Hell sighed deeply, and went to sling himself up onto the throne when the computer screamed.

“No! Do not sit on the chair!”

“Alright,” Hell snapped, rolling his eyes and instead sliding to the floor. “Go easy on the guy about to sacrifice himself for the planet.”

“You’ll do it then?” Friday asked eagerly.

Hell weighed the little gun in his hands. It didn’t really look powerful enough to kill. On the other hand as it was from Daraen’s ship he reckoned it could probably take out continents if you let it.

“Can I really do this?” he muttered, slumping against the side of the throne. “Kill myself and save the world? Kill myself. Save the world. It shouldn’t really be a hard choice.”

“There is little time,” the computer hurried.

“The world’s been dying for years, a few minutes won’t kill anyone.”

“Incorrect, but I understand the euphemism.”

Another long silence stretched across the room. It was probably some metaphor Hell realised. A single point of light in an otherwise totally black room. And his brain trying desperately to think of anything but his impending demise was probably significant too.

“Come on Hell, be a hero,” he murmured. “You let them all down once today. Don’t doom them all twice.”

With a deep breath, he raised the gun to the side of his head.

“Bring back Daraen and save the world. You can do it. You can…”

Something clicked.

Not the gun.

“Wait!” Hell snapped, hurling the gun away from him. “You never said Daraen would help.”

“Sir, you must do this!” Friday insisted, as another weapon dropped into Hell’s lap.

“No,” he protested, getting to his feet and discarding the new weapon as well. “Will Daraen save the world?”

“There is no time…”

“Will he, or wont he?” Hell roared.

The silence stretched.


“Evidence suggests,” the computer admitted at great length. “That even with your experiences, Daraen’s policy of inaction will continue under the assumption that he is not fit to make decisions on your behalf. At best he will attempt to mitigate the oncoming ecological catastrophe.”

“Well sanj that!” Hell screamed, taking a few aggressive steps into the blackness. “You were going to have me kill myself for mitigation! Well I’m going to do something.”

“No, you must…” the computer protested.

“Shut up!” Hell snarled, turning to sit on the throne.

A blinding wall of energy slammed into the ground in front of him, but Hell didn’t falter, stepping straight through as it were nothing more than a summer shower.

“In your own words,” Hell boomed, directly beneath the column of fire. “You can’t hurt me.”

“Please,” Friday begged, as the inferno vanished. “Don’t do this.”

“I’ll do whatever I like,” Hell snapped, and took his place on the throne.

It was uncomfortable for maybe half a second, before the whole seat remodelled itself for Hell’s physique, and he sat back, letting a wave of information wash over him. The ship was incredible. It had the power of a sun. No, two suns. It could do anything he wanted. Life, death, all could be his with less effort than twitching his tail.

A slow grin slid across Hell’s face, only for it to be whipped off a moment later as the sun exploded.

It wasn’t his sun, he realised a moment later, as a tidal wave of stellar dust ripped through the thousands of orbital habitats clustered around it in total silence. Billions were dying he knew, though he wasn’t quite sure how he knew, and tears clouded his mind’s eye as the planets buckled beneath the unstoppable tide of death. There would be no survivors. Only a half dozen ships could outrun the firestorm, and he was on one of them.

Within a few scant hours he could be the last of his species.

Hell smacked himself around the head to try and clear the memory only to have another try and take its place.

He’d spent eons searching, scanning the sky for another whiff of atmosphere, and at last he’d found it a scant thousand light-years away. At long last he wouldn’t…

“Get out of my head!” Hell screamed.

Angels or animals they’d said; well they’d been all too right. But there was one that showed promise, a small newt like pack hunter that seemed on the path to sentience. Maybe with a little guidance he’d one day have someone to…

“Argh! Computer, stop!”

A suddenly as they’d come the memories were gone.

“Maybe now you understand,” Friday sighed.

“He had his chance,” Hell panted. “And with it, he destroyed my world, for a conversation.” Hell reached into the ships systems with little more than whim and began to charge the main cannon, turning the dozens of satellites onto the surface of his world.

“What are you doing?” the computer demanded.

“Fixing the world,” Hell growled. “Starting with the Word of Daraen.”

The temple of the Word appeared on a floating view screen, seen from above and resplendent in the new dawn light. Around it sprawled a huge river delta and a bustling city. From the lofty height of the camera you could only just see that there were people down there.

“You’re using too much power!” Friday exclaimed. “You’ll kill them all.”

“That’s kind of the point,” Hell whispered.

“Please Hell,” begged Friday. “Daraen will never recover if you do this.”

“Good,” he replied, with a wry smile. “Computer,” he ordered in English. “Unleash hell.”

The Rise of Hell

“I say we fight!” Hell roared, storming to his feet and the Mayor stuttered to a stop mid word. Hundreds of stunned eyes turned on Hell from across the auditorium and for once he didn’t balk.

“How long have The Word of Daraen been destroying this world?” he continued, glaring down at the gathered councillors. “Since the Revelation? That was fifty years ago. You think they’ve changed since then? Since they nuked the sanjva world.”

There was a silence as Hell pause to draw breath. One of assembled councillors looked as if he was going to say something, but Hell stared him down.

“Look around you,” he declared, motioning towards the empty seats dotting the hall. Once the room had been a theatre, back when Yann hi Shanapi had been a town of twenty thousand. Now, the entire community were there and they didn’t even fill more than six rows. “This is the result of the last time The Word tried to impose their will on our lands, and we’re still dying because of it. Now they want to come and throw salt water into the wounds!”

He strode onto the stage, still the focus of the room and relishing it. “Well I say, no more. Their troops pillage and burn but they won’t find us so willing to bow our heads without a fight. Who’s with me?”

Hell thumped his tail onto the stage, the thud reverberating around the empty hall. There was silence for a moment.

“Well?” he barked.

“I’ll fight by you!” Vanpa announced, leaping from his seat and smacking his own tail on the floor.

The gesture was taken up by another of the young males, then another, and another, and pretty soon the room was reverberating with tail slaps and whoops of approval.

“This is madness!” one of the senior councillors hollered over the din. “They’ll kill us all.” But he was shouted down by the youths and Hell waved him aside, ignoring the horrified looks of the elders as the waves of enthusiasm washed over him.

The black Ewt on the stage, Hell, grinned showing rows of teeth; he felt the years of persecution melting away. All the taunts for his unnatural colour, jibes over being an orphan, the rocks thrown at the spacey kid, washed away by the cheers of the crowd.

They were his.

Now he just had to lead them to war.

The shell screamed over Hell’s head, blasting out a crater from the wall with an explosion of flame and pulverised concrete.

“Get down!” Vanpa roared over the din, tackling Hell and they hit the ground behind a pile of rubble, heavy machine gun fire from the tanks arcing over their heads.

“Oh Mother. Oh Father,” Hell gasped, as Vanpa scrabbled to his feet, firing over the barricade at the Word troops, yelling all the while.

They were losing. It was as simple as that.

Sure, their ambush of the Word troops had gone without a hitch. But that had been but a vanguard, and now hundreds of heavily armed soldiers were pouring through the city, killing indiscriminately.

Vanpa fell screaming in pain as bullet holes lanced themselves across his chest, landing like a rag doll next to Hell who whimpered, curing his tail tighter against himself and clutching at his rifle

“We’re getting torn to pieces!” Adilani screamed at him, from behind another pile of rubble. Rising and firing at the approaching Word, Hell just looked at her in total confusion.

“What are you orders, Sir?”

Hell didn’t make a sound, just curled tighter in on himself. He could feel his friends, his family being slaughtered around him, one of the down sides of belonging to an empathic species. Some had picked up on his terror and blind panic. Those who’d realised it was him were already broadcasting their disgust.

“Sir!” Adilani screamed, then a high explosive round ripped through the rubble and she exploded into a cloud of gore.

Hell just curled himself tighter, trying desperately to be small and unnoticeable. Not a threat. He remained there until the Word found him.

“Heathens of Yann hi Shanapi,” the largest of the cultists boomed from his perch atop a tank. He was ugly and almost certainly knew it. A vicious scowl sat on his face which was criss-crossed by scars. Few would have been brave enough to ask him what kind of past could have granted him such a visage, but it was unlikely to have been pretty.

“Gaze upon your pitiful attempts at resistance against our divine master, and despair,” he continued, gesturing at the few surviving combatants kneeling next to his tank. There weren’t many, the Word had been reluctant to accept surrender.

The speech continued, the words washing over the gathered crowd, mostly made up of the old and the young who didn’t, or couldn’t, fight. They stood in huddled groups, all trying to keep the children obscured from the dozens of armed Ewts lining the square, and the tank cannons that tracked their every move.

Hell kneeled shivering with the rest of the prisoners, only kept out of a protective curl because someone hit him with the butt of a rifle every time he moved.

“…but we will show mercy. Like our great lord. If your leader surrenders. He yet lives, no?”

One hundred eyes turned on Hell, who attempted to cower before receiving another crack over the head.

“Well,” the cultist pressed, glowering at the crowd.

“Him,” one of the elder councillors intoned, pointing at Hell who whimpered softly.

“Him?” the cultist spluttered, eyes bulging. “That freak barely deserves the title.” He leapt down from the tank and stalked along the row of prisoners until he towered over Hell.

“Well, heathen,” he spat. “Are you really in charge of these maggots?”

“I…” Hell began.

“Bah, not even worth my time.”

The cultist’s gun was out of his holster before anyone could blink and Hell had just enough time to gasp a frantic,


Before a bullet slammed into his cranium. Hell was dead before he hit the ground.