Lore of Yore
Histories of the known universe... and beyond
The stellar maelstrom circling the Garden of Ostermereen, tumbling with the pulped wrecks of a hundred spacecraft, was not enough to deter Doctor Hassock Chase from reaching the planet's surface.
The Impassable Obelisk of the Twelve Sun Pillars, whose pulsating, tar-black surface caused queasy stomachs in seven of her fellow Tempium Expeditioners, didn't phase her either.
Nor did the thousand-foot drop through the chalk denehole into the heart of the Hypaethral present the archaeologist with a problem: She brought a rope.
Inside the hypogeum, Chase discovered the lost treasure vault of the last Dynast to escape the Hinterland Purges, which she hoped to return to the Royal Infomarium to help fill in the blank pages of the Hinterkings' long reign. However, one further curio caught her attention in the bowels of the temple; separate from the Hinterking's treasure was a nook containing a single, clay statue of a beckoning cat. In her academic journal, Doctor Chase writes thusly:
"In my career I've fought off gibbering skeletons in the Seven Temples of Tibb; unearthed the Cask of Dragons with my bare hands; even tackled the infernal puzzle box of King Jiid—but in all my travels nothing has affected me as much as that blasted clay cat. It had a power I couldn't understand, and don't to this day. I only knew that it was beckoning me, and I wanted naught but to follow it to the ends of the universe."
The doctor did indeed pursue this enigmatic compulsion across eight quadrenes over the next several years—along the way solving the riddle of Banjo Grumpus, and excavating the Starfall meteorite—but continued to express an irresistible pull towards a place that did not appear on any map known to the Cartographer's Range.
Ultimately, what was left of her Tempium Expedition washed up on the Shoal of Dancing Fire on Liasu, and Hassock set off alone across the salt pan, still carrying the clay cat in her satchel. A day after her water flask ran dry, Chase happened upon a small oasis fronted by a wooden shack, and crawled towards it in the fervent hope it was not a heat-induced mirage.
In fact, the crystal pool and shack were both real, and once Hassock had taken draught of the salty water, she approached the diminutive gentleman occupying the shack. She discovered that his stall was stocked full of clay cats identical to her archaeological find, some of which waved at her in mechanical greeting.
Questioning the man as to the provenance of her artefact, Chase learned that the trader's maneki-neko were self-propelled units seeded on worlds along a specially-designed pheromone trail through a large portion of the Fifteen Galaxies, and would lure potential customers to his shack by an irresistible physiological stimulus. Having spent a sizeable amount of her academic resources following what turned out to be a intergalactic sandwich board, Doctor Chase was understandably ticked off at the small gentleman, and current reports suggest his shack now occupies the bottom-most sedimentary layer of the oasis.
The frigate appears in a flash, its turbines spinning out as it drops from light-speed into the silent desolation of the Barkeem Ascension. Lights flicker across its mullanium hull, and go dark.
Inside: chaos. Crewers run to and fro laden with gizmos to kick-start the leaking turbines, spilling precious vrillium into the grating of the deck that had, moments ago, been juddering happily in flight.
On the flight deck, a desperate plan is concocted. Captain Lubrious doesn't believe it will work, but he has little other choice. As preparations are made in the hold, a call is put out, ship-wide, for two officers to volunteer.
Lieutenant Pilt Gogran and Private Nomp Brilkwater step up. And step outside.
Clad in space suits, the pair clamber across the frigate's hull, making aft-wards as they lug the Keelkicker between them. The device, manufactured by a Mandurai subsidiary and used as a deep-space pummeller to hammer giga-rivets into the hulls of their stellar accretion refineries, might be just the thing to save the ship.
Gogran and Brilkwater manhandle the Keelkicker into place between the frigate's failed turbine cowlings, and together they secure it with bricks of magna-silt. Brilkwater slips, almost pitching from his perch into the wide black beyond, but his mate grabs his arm, holds him tight. Both officers' sons, born in the cosmos, they know how important it is to stay together out here.
Together, they begin the activation sequence. They cling on with white knuckles as the pummeller winds up. Then, with a thunderous clap that shakes the entire frigate, the Keelkicker shunts the becalmed vessel beyond its top speed. The officers are almost thrown into the deep void, but clutch their restraints in sheer terror, their bodies going horizontal as the starlight falls away around them.
The ship emerges, steaming, half a quadrene away, where Gogran and Brilkwater are extricated from their death grips on the hull. The pair are given a week's shore leave on the Julip moon, as well as the thanks and commendations of everyone aboard. The two heroes will surely dine out on their astonishing story across the Royal Navy for many years to come.
Histories of the known universe... and beyond