Lore of Yore
Histories of the known universe... and beyond
Upon signing up at the enlistment offices past Saturn, a would-be officer of the Royal Space Navy might dream of a career upon the High Galaxies. Striding into the Royal Docks of London, boarding the gangway of a Vaunted-class cruiser, even serving amidships aboard a towership of the Realm.
Service to the British Empire would be a fine thing indeed, were it not for the existence of persistent, perspicacious, and downright peril-inducing pirates.
While towerships are typically large enough to simply bash aside any galley or cosmic corvette hoping to waylay them, smaller ships of the line have become easy prey for canny corsairs in recent years. Although brigands such as the Vulture Hawks tend to stick to ambushing tea trawlers, and typically turn tail at the sight of a Royal Cruiser, some of the cosmos's more desperate (or insane) pirate gangs have perfected techniques to leave even a well-armed ironclad frigate becalmed and divested of its fuel, cargo, and suitably attractive personnel.
The Gentlemanly Privateers of Voth utilised a dummy vessel to flag down Naval ships passing through the Voth Cartency; this was a converted British schooner whose cargo hold had been outfitted as a den in which the privateers hid while their ship was taken aboard the unsuspecting larger vessel. While this may be a duplicitous tactic in anyone's book, the Gentlemen were to a man wash-outs from the Navy, and still considered themselves men of Albion despite their reduced status. As such, the Toppest Gents greeted their victims with cheery hulloos, dressed in their Naval finery, and their fellows burst from their hiding place to rob the unfortunate officers blind.
Moosh the Black, known as the Deadly Cow of Space, liked to outwit xyrs targets, typically cloaking the Bos Taurus in the mass shadow of a nearby planetary object, before ramming xyrs victim at full speed with the horn-like prongs affixed to the trireme's prow. Unfortunately for Moosh, xe scuppered xyrs own craft after unwisely ramming what xe believed to be a simple space-whaling ship, but turned out to be a solid-metal planetary core, detached from its host and supercooled as it drifted through space as an impenetrable ball of iron. Moosh was said to have modified xyrs tactics thereafter, choosing instead to wait in the alleyways of Succhurene and knock victims over the head with a big plank of wood.
Such hit-and-run tactics were small time, however, compared with the protracted campaign carried out by the Royal Navy on the Shanty Moon. While the worlds of the Thirteen Colonies have largely accepted British rule, the pirates inhabiting the moon's coves refused to kowtow to the Empire's iron fist, and fought tooth and nail against the would-be British occupiers. Most infamous of these rapscallions was Capering Jack and His Band of Loons, who pestered Naval marines by throwing coconuts from within their dens, and scurrying through labyrinthine tunnels to give sore-headed pursuers the slip. These days, the moon is rather more civilised, although inhabitants are still sure to give any nearby coconut tree a wide berth.
The Bermuda Triangle. The Vile Vortex of Quuel. Hesper's Hollow. Venturing into such mystifying regions might cause a nautical captain or stellar sailor to lose their crew, their ship, or their life in short term. However, in the case of the Depthless Fathom of Vonsk, many an inquiring cosmic crusader tends to exhibit far stranger side-effects.
Officially, the Depthless Fathom refers to the localised space surrounding the stellar nursery known colloquially as the Elephant's Trunk, or Colossi-H7. Discovered by Lady Jacotte Hoveton, one of Queen Elizabeth's Watchers who was employed upon a pursuit of the Chartreuse Assassin when she stumbled upon the region, the Fathom rendered Hove's damaged vessel becalmed until rescue arrived from Albion. When her saviours entered her ship, the intrepid Britons discovered Hove dancing a merry jig around a makeshift camp fire, which subsequently burned a hole straight through her ship's hull, dooming the entire group to the vast stellar coalescence.
Other stories end in similar predicaments: Proditor Rhames escaped justice for the Six-Dagger Murders on Kelnus, only to disappear into the roiling molecular clouds without further trace for another ninety-six years. When a bright-eyed young man arrived on Terra Arthus bearing dental records matching those of the presumably-late proditor, staff of the Centre for Advanced Genetic Tomfoolery were at a loss to explain Rhames' extended lifespan and apparent de-ageing. More puzzling, however, was Rhames' insistence that he was a small raspberry blancmange named Trevor the Whistling Egg, and the matter was quietly ignored.
In later years, the sensational endeavours of Doctor Prespicarius Nit attracted the attention of peons and newspapers across England. Nit, a self-styled Professor of Adventure, took it upon herself to fly her rickety rocket ship, the Teaspoon, directly through the Elephant's Trunk in order to prove its utter lack of danger. Boundary buoys situated on the opposite side of the nursery—suitably removed from its startling effects—documented the Teaspoon's emergence from the cloud at top speed, and tracked its wobbling trajectory straight to the Delightful World of Odd's Bodkin. There, Nit crash-landed atop the Zesty Needle and burst into the first alehouse she laid eyes on. The doctor emerged a week later, having drunk the place dry and divested innumerable pontoon-playing patrons of their winnings and several articles of fetching clothing. Nit's alehouse crawl proceeded down the entire hundred-fathom length of the Needle, drinking thousands of beings under the table and shutting down nineteen reputable public houses, and upon reaching the bottom she promptly fell into a deep slumber that lasts to this day.
Several theories have been put forth as to the cause behind the nursery's bewildering effects, although the Royal Infomarium has yet to recognise any of them—especially those that witter on about time dilation and relativistic quantum mechanics. A more down-to-Earth hypothesis was suggested by a Glamby Ronter of Devon, latterly part of the Treven Mons project on Mars. Ronter, a keen frequenter of the Wallop & Tickle public house, explains thusly:
"It's obvious really, innit? You've got folk dancing about like lunatics, some of 'em thinking they're still in the first bloom of youth, others crawling from one pub to the next. Obvious. They're all smashed off their trolleys."
Indeed, the latest survey team sent out by the Admiralty has confirmed the presence of naturally-occurring ethyl alcohol within the interstellar masers of Colossi-H7. Heated by the nursery's protostars, these masers appear to have formed a large cloud of intoxicating chemicals in orbit around the region—meaning that any star sailor who hasn't properly welded their portholes shut might find themselves feeling a little more jolly than usual. If Mr. Ronter's theory is borne out by the Admiralty's data, it may well transpire that the Elephant's Trunk becomes the go-to galactic hot-spot for those looking to get absolutely cosmically sloshed.
Histories of the known universe... and beyond