a brief history of the chaos, vol. III
In ‘A Brief History of the Chaos, Vol. III’, Alberich Canderwell attempts to make sense of the disaster by probing Zephra’s religious history for clues. In the Zephran zeal for ancient Meridian mythology and belief, Canderwell seems to controversially espy not just an explanation but a motive for The Chaos’s genesis. Yet, the Professor draws short of actually defining The Chaos itself, concluding that he is just as ignorant as any other concerning what lies within or beyond it.
To this day, the exact motives that may have driven Zephra during the events leading up to The Chaos remain unclear. Indeed, the evidence concerning Zephra’s intentions remains contentious at best, and I have little desire to cast aspersions based solely on rumours and conjecture. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to avoid discussion of the prevailing theories of Zephran involvement entirely, particularly since there is no scholar of serious standing that doesn’t hold the behemoth to be responsible to some degree — inadvertently or otherwise.
Many contend it was a desire to spread fear throughout the System in a bid to regain control of the immediate galactic vicinity, in the hopes of ultimately reestablishing the Vermillion Empire. Others maintain it was an act of sheer retribution, to spite the inner worlds for challenging centuries of their authority. But these explanations, at least to my mind, are reductive in their understanding of Zephra’s collective psychology, and disregard one of the most important factors of all: the radical cultural change that was taking place on the behemoth planet in the cycles leading up to The Chaos.
A Brief History of Zephran Politics
We saw Zephra return to much more traditional values under the governments of the pre-Chaos era, with an extraordinary resurgence in adherence to the beliefs of the ancient Meridians. For instance, the Gharzin administration outlawed contemporary religious practices in BC 52, whilst Zhalden Vhelmar was notorious for persecuting those who refused to adopt the ancient doctrines between BC 32 – 26.
The shift towards these ancient values is likely the product of a number of factors, chief amongst them a strong climate of resentment towards the ‘progressive’ governments that had led the Zephran people through two extremely costly wars. But what all these cultural changes point to is a Zephra that was heavily focused on a very specific view of the System’s future, a view that closely aligns with the cataclysm mythologies of ancient Meridia. A full discussion of these doctrines is beyond the scope of this book, but for the purpose of illumination I refer to Tillier Rhinderval’s Moons of Zephra:
From what we have deciphered through excavation of sites such as Khaltar and Kol Thandar in Zephra’s protean hemisphere, the ancient Meridians believed in a malevolent force of extradimensional origin that would bring about either the destruction or enslavement of our own dimension (opinions differ on the exact interpretation).
The Lucidity Stone depicts what appears to be a covenant between this force and a terrestrial emissary; that is, a being grounded in this reality that would ultimately bring about the cataclysm. To our knowledge, the ancient Meridians believed that this covenant would herald the Betrayal of the Sentinels — a grave omen signified by the guilty moon vacating the Lunarscape. Speculation as to which Sentinel would be the one to commit this act of duplicity has long been a source of friction between the primordial moons.
The Betrayal of the Sentinels
The Sentinels Rhinderval refers to are the five primordial moons of the Zephran Lunarscape: Khasgar, Rhanavar, Kaspiar, Dhalia and Ephemera — sites of great significance in ancient Meridian mythology. The monolithic temples built by the ancients on these moons are believed to have housed powerful energy reserves, though the exact nature of this energy remains unknown. Exploration of these temples has revealed they all share a common architecture, most notably a central chamber that to date has proven inaccessible across all sites. Many interpret this as evidence that the ancient Meridians believed that whatever this mysterious energy was (or is) was either precious or dangerous enough to seal away, and they appear to have done a rather good job of doing so. Even at sites where temples have fallen into considerable disrepair (particularly Rhanavar and abandoned Kaspiar), these chambers remain firmly shut — though not for want of trying.
But what does this have to do with Zephra’s actions leading up to The Chaos? To understand this, we must question what could have possibly motivated the decision to annex a suspiciously specific number of planets — an unprecedented act of peacetime aggression that could have easily sparked a Third Worlds War, which probably would have seen the annihilation of the entire System. From a strictly strategic standpoint, the answer might seem obvious. Obtaining such a large amount of new territory would certainly have been advantageous: Zephra was weak, but the Coreward Worlds were weaker, and in the cycles following the Second Worlds War resources were a pressing focus for every administration.
What is strange is the fact that Zephra didn’t appear to do anything with its new acquisitions; it merely held the stolen planets in orbital stasis during the months leading up to their destruction. Such behaviour appears outwardly irrational, unless one evokes the cataclysm doctrines as an explanation.
Deciphering the Cataclysm Doctrines
You see, the ancient Meridians were very prescriptive in their view of the cataclysm, and nowhere is this more explicit than in a detailed yet fragmented carving found in the petrified forest of Dhagara. Translating the carving has been exceptionally difficult (largely due to the presence of stone phantoms that seem to have a particular fondness for archaeologists), but there are a few things we have been able to decipher with (relative) certainty.
Firstly, the carving suggests that the ancient Meridians believed that the Sentinel temples — or perhaps more specifically, whatever is housed inside the temples — would be instrumental in what has come to be referred to as the Grand Crossing; that is, the arrival of the malevolent force of the apocalypse. The specific role of the Sentinel temples in this event remains contentious, though the literature tends to lean toward the pathfinder theory, which holds this role to be one that would facilitate the Crossing in some way.
Second, the ancient Meridians held a strong belief in celestial mitosis as the means by which new moons and planets are formed. The carving clearly shows what appears to be Rhanavar splitting to yield not one but two descendent moons, and similar depictions have been found for the other Sentinels across various excavation sites. When paired with a mural found in the Silent Temple in Zancastle known as ‘The Final Sacrifice’, which depicts the immolation of seven sons (or perhaps seven suns — the translation is ambiguous given the heavily contextual nature of ancient Meridian language), suddenly Zephra’s actions begin to make sense.
In light of these considerations, it seems almost impossible to believe that the decision to annex seven planets specifically was merely an arbitrary and opportunistic attempt at power consolidation. The key, as it so often is, is timing, for the annexation took place almost immediately after the occurrence of a critical event predicted in the cataclysm doctrines: Ephemera’s vacation of the Lunarspace. Given that the theory of celestial mitosis has long been disproven, it would appear that Zephra decided that it was the ‘sacrificial’ element that was most important, which would also explain the decision to choose planets that were densely populated over those that were rich in resources (and also far easier to acquire).
The Worst is yet to Come
Although there are many different viewpoints concerning the immediate events leading up to The Chaos, the cataclysm theory is the one that I feel provides the most compelling explanation regarding some of the peculiarities in Zephra’s actions that other interpretations cannot account for.
But regardless of where one might stand on this debate, one thing is for sure: if Zephra’s intention was to protect the System (from a threat that we have no proof even exists), then it most assuredly failed. Instead, we have endured immeasurable destruction and suffering, and perhaps most chilling of all, now find ourselves asking the question that fills scholars and politicians alike with dread:
What awaits us beyond the Chaos Frontier?
Image & book cover courtesy of Tharssia St. Alderwit, with permission from the Far Point Expedition Front
A Brief History of the Chaos, Vol. III. 1st Edition. First published on Midhaven in 71AC by Bharvale University Press
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