Lore of Yore
Histories of the known universe... and beyond
An excerpt from The Cracking Christmas Crisis, one of the many Penny Amazings released seemingly on a weekly basis by the Plinkington Publishing Group of Cheapside, London, accredited to Captain Dashworth but likely ghost-written by his loyal scribe Quilton. What follows is an example of the manner of festivities carried out by some in the British Empire, although it is clear that Mssrs Dashworth and Quilton have taken some liberties with the details.
Needless to say the crafty Captain Dashworth escaped from the quasar's crushing energies with barely a speck of accretion on his doublet, and began preparing for a fine jaunt to the glamorous Glim Blazar. The snow-capped world was hosting many seasonal festivities, and the space-adventurer was always one for observing a noble British tradition.
However, who should come scurrying along the accessway but Dashworth's faithful manservant Benson, fresh from a bout of goodening to secure provisions in the Sentum Cynosure. The stalwart ensign had come away with barely a mince pie and a pair of brightly-coloured odd socks, but this haul pleased the little fellow no end. He also appeared to be dragging something large, green, and leafy along the grating of the deck.
"I hope you're going to get the dedustifier on those pine needles," Dashworth pointed out, observing the green trail Benson was leaving behind him as if a giganticated gombaslug had slithered its way aboard.
"Quick as a flash, Captain," Benson chirped, "but I thought I might put up my tree first, sir." The hopeful note appended to his voice was so tremulous it would have snapped the strings off a cello. "I've got a bag full of baubles."
"Benson, I've warned you about reading newspapers," Dashworth reminded the young lad, who had indeed spotted an advertisement for a festive tree, given the royal seal of approval thanks to the Queen's consort, who had apparently migrated the tradition over from the Nebula of Saxony. While Dashworth was, naturally, a staunch royalist, he didn't altogether trust folklore from foreign territories—on one occasion he spent an afternoon explaining to the druids of the Quilted Raven why they shouldn't hang witch's heads and other shamanic totems over their fireplaces. In both cases, Dashworth would soon be proved rightly justified.
As it transpired, the tree was actually a mutant Yiggdrashl of a Thousand Needles, or Spruce That Sheds in the Night, and it took all afternoon to prise its goopy tendrils from the ship's instruments. In the end, however, the valiant Dashworth reigned supreme after poking it in half of its forty eyes with Benson's carpet sweeper, which the dutiful ensign summarily used to clean up his mess.
The novella goes on to chronicle an incident with a mechanical spider at the royal parade on Glimbork Three, which certain Archivists at the Royal Infomarium suspect is a modified retelling of a sighting of the terrorist known as the Mage of Spiders by Princess Victoria some time before, with the transclusion of Dashworth in the princess's place. The entire account has been sprinkled with festive references, in a transparently cunning method for Dashworth and his writer to capitalise on the holiday season. It is this author's opinion that the simple light dusting of a story with a thin veneer of seasonal spirit is an entirely hollow and materialistic act benefiting the market over the consumer.
That said, season's greetings to everyone at the Infomarium, and to all of you at home as well.
While the light of Britain's space empire touched many worlds across the region of the Fifteen Galaxies, there were some planets which no amount of light reached at all. Gnossin, the World Without Fire, was one of these.
It was said that the planet Gnossin was once in orbit around two suns, both of which strayed too close to a Vendra Storm, one of the legendary (indeed, mythical) primeval powers of the cosmos. While one star was subsumed in the storm's incredible energies, its sister was flung into the far reaches of space, its planets spiralling along for the hypervelocity ride. However, Gnossin ultimately broke free of its wandering star's wake, and now drifts aimlessly through the dark.
The inhabitants of Gnossin clung on as well, having observed the oncoming storm and making preparations by digging city-wells deep into the planet's surface. Here, lit by the natural luminescence of Gnossin's inner mantle, the spade-handed Gnossini struggled through a thousand years of hard graft and bare protein from the carbon lichen scraped from the silicate rock walls.
Finally, the wayward planet was discovered by a British survey team led by Andonio Trum aboard the Space Mayflower, who marked their discovery as dangerous and noted it down as the "World Without Fire" or the "Sunless World". Refusing to investigate further after reportedly spotting one of the now-bioluminescent Gnossini peering from their wells, the surveyors fled back to their ship, but without time for their eyes to adjust, the entire team was believed to have stumbled down a well. Their vessel and data were recovered by a second team, helmed by Sir Farthing Tapper, who stayed long enough to briefly converse with several Gnossini, and returned their findings to the Royal Infomarium in London.
The (second) discovery of Gnossin happened to coincide with Britain's conquest of Vorgak 3, and with the empire's attention so diverted, the Gnossini were left to their own devices once again. As a curious footnote, a Penny Amazing written by Quilton on behalf of Captain Dashworth, titled Darkest Day of the Darklings of Darkness!, claimed that Dashworth battled a horde of Gnossini "darklings" on their rogue homeworld, and brought Gnossin back into alignment with a nearby star through a combination of a Tumblecore planetary magnet and his own sheer charm.
The Infomarium has declined to comment on the veracity of the claim.
Once there were heroes, whose amazing exploits and deeds of derring-do continue to inspire generations from the Albion Reach to the furthest boundaries of known space. Throughout the cosmos these stories are devoured by children and adults alike, and give rise to new adventurers and explorers for successive generations, inspired by the tales of old.
Young spats of the Brackish Nebula absorb myth-cycles in the patterned rings of mangrove trees in the Grove of Words; the Pycin Tetra of Gos sing tales into crystal flutes which will continue to resonate for millennia after their heroes pass beyond the veil; the Humans of Earth even cut down the elder sentients of their planet, strip their skin and write legends onto the pulped remains. This barbaric practice, while frowned upon in many other civilisations, shows the lengths to which some races go to preserve their stories.
While Humans have only recently begun expanding their world-building empires into the greater cosmic realm, adventures of a thousand species have blazed their trails across space since the universe was young. The elder races were said to have written their stories in the stars; indeed, cosmologists at the Laplace Institute recently confirmed the use of ancient stellar manipulation technologies brought about the creation of the Constellation of Ploot. Further, Professor Susink's team have deciphered meaningful patterns in the placement of stars on the outer edge of the Vemodalen Obscurity: Rather anti-climatically the message turned out to read, "Bread, Eggs, and Milk", but has at least been heralded as the largest known example of a shopping list ever recorded.
The endeavours of some heroes are immortalised in the large, friendly pages of children's storybooks and activity annuals, such as Cosmic Counting with Captain Kittykat, The Tale of the Merry Quasar, and The Bumper Book of Space. Many children, kits, spats, and sporelings grow up on these sanitised tales, in which the terrible deeds of Purple Bertha and her cybernetic vagabonds have become a series of enjoyable romps to discover lost handkerchiefs and pairs of woolly mittens. Bertha herself was responsible for the toppling of the Hinterland Dynasty and the execution of the Hinterkings, none of which appears in The Purple Pirate Goes Fishing, or Bertha Gets a Birthday.
Other stories remain true to their unwholesome origins. The burning crusades of the Witch of Rats were serialised in the pages of The Strand, while vicious pirates such as the Laughing Buccaneer are revered as folk heroes throughout the Fifteen Galaxies. Even warmongers such as General Broadchest, famed for his actions at the Siege of Corvanus, are still considered home-grown heroes by the simple peons of Britain. In his younger days, the strapping Admiral Ironjaw was said to have fought cybernetic polar bears across the frozen planetesimals of the Himalayan Nebula, and remains a legendary figure generating fear and awe in the halls of the Admiralty Building.
However, although both remain active in the British Empire, both General Broadchest and Admiral Ironjaw are no longer seen as the stalwart bastions of the golden age of heroes; rather, their glory days are behind them, and few figures have managed to fill their impressive boots in the hearts and minds of the British people. Public opinion can be fickle; despite the many improbable exploits attributed to him, the so-called Pirate King of Japan, considered just as immortal as he is insane, never attained the heroic acclaim of other warlords and cutthroats, and has instead been relegated to the role of a shadowy villain in folklore spread through the Japanese Diaspora.
For some, such as the tenacious Captain Dashworth, the passing of the true heroes represents a challenge to be met, and thanks to his exploits at Vorgak 3 (as chronicled in his newly-bestselling series of Penny Amazings) he seems determined to join the ranks of the greats of bygone times.
Histories of the known universe... and beyond