Synopsis

Centuries after Nomad’s disappearance, a hyper-advanced alien armada descended on Cassus. Their leader, a robotic Mechari, claimed that the godlike Eldan had chosen the Cassians to rule the universe. All they required in return was the swordmaiden Tresayne Toria, their greatest warrior. The alternative was extinction. To save her people, Tresayne consented. Decades later the Eldan fleet returned. This time someone else emerged: Dominus the Half-Blood, a human-Eldan hybrid who carried the blood of Tresayne in his veins. And he carried a glorious message to the people of Cassus...

1 AE Rise of the Cassians

Synopsis List
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Part One A Tempting Offer

Axis Pheydra emerged from her ship, inclining her head briefly to the droves of awestricken humans gathered before the columns of glossy motionless Mechari, their chassis gleaming in the hot sun. She knew how much importance humanoids curiously attached to such innocuous gestures, even if only those viewing the ceremony televised would catch it. To impress the millions overflowing the immense public square, she would need to employ bolder means.

A squad of organic attendants trotted forward, bearing a corpulent man in golden robes on a thrumming electromagnetic cushion. When he spoke his voice was soft and courtly, though he was unable to conceal the trepidation behind his frozen smile. "As Supreme Chancellor of the Cassian Commonwealth, allow me to bid our first interstellar visitors a gracious and mutually profitable welc -- "

Pheydra's icy reply cut him off as her eyes raked the faces of the honor guard in shimmering ranks of red and gold. "Which is Tresayne Toria?"

The Chancellor's smile drooped a bit. He was a small but well fed man, his true age obscured beneath a cicatrix of cosmetics. "I'm sorry?"

"The Devastator of Sculptoris." Pheydra brushed past him, scanning and cross-referencing every genome in the crowded square. "Scourge of the Black Fleet. Slayer of Zeificus the Crazed. Champion of the Pits of Phardoum. Decisive victories commanding the Cassian Commonwealth: 8024. Victories in personal combat: 632. Defeats zero. Produce her now."

The Chancellor coughed into his frilled sleeve. "Commander Toria remains involved in pacification efforts in the colonies…However, I am uniquel -- "

Pheydra's voice boomed across the square and the planet, echoing like thunder from the clouds. "We are the Mechari, emissaries of the glorious and powerful Eldan. Tresayne Toria must accompany us back to our world. In return, your race will rule the universe."

The Chancellor stepped back.

"Should you decline this honor, you will be eradicated. Choose."

The silence stretched. Of the three million present, not a soul breathed.

Finally the Chancellor turned to his ashen-faced attendant and hissed, "Patch me to the colonial channel, once you can spare a thumb?"

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Part Two The Golden Empire

Cassus had rebounded from the unsolved disappearance of Nomad. Its existence had been willfully forgotten, deleted to obscure footnote status in encyclopedia overviews of the space age's infancy. Like many cultures before it, the Commonwealth was disinclined to publicize its missteps.

But although the ship itself was all but forgotten, Nomad's hard lesson was not: the universe was a strange and dangerous place. Its conquest was unlikely to be a cakewalk. But when it came to territorial expansion, the Cassians were patient. They would conquer the cosmos piecemeal, one planet at a time. Instead of single recon craft, they now dispatched squadrons of colonization ships, escorted by heavily armed frigates.

There were other reasons for militarizing space exploration. While dissent was virtually unknown on Cassus and always rapidly quelled, it was a different story in the colonies, where decades of hard toil in dreary backwaters had predictable results on the loyalties of even its most exalted denizens. Changes in command from deaths or defections mounted.

But such bleak conditions also produced exceptional warriors. The greatest among these was Tresayne Toria. Contemptuously disregarding her own ancient and illustrious antecedents to become the youngest and most famed swordmaiden in history, by age nineteen she and her mostly female disciples had brought dozen of bickering warlords throughout the far-flung colonies to heel, restoring dozens of worlds to the rapidly expanding Commonwealth.

Then came the day when the Mechari armada darkened the skies over Meridia to tender their proposal.

Ultimately, Tresayne accepted. Accompanied by several hundred of her sisters-in-arms who refused to be separated from her, she boarded the Mechari ship. A week later, the fleet departed.

Over the ensuing decades, these events were unceasingly dissected and mythologized, with even the authenticity of the recordings themselves subject to fierce debate. Even some who had been present that day began to doubt the veracity of their memories.

Then, thirty-one years to the day after their departure, the ships returned. This time, an organic emerged.

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Part Three Favorite Son

Dominus the Half-Blood emerged from the Mechari flagship, a titan in red armor, his mother's sword scabbarded at his hip. This crowd was much bigger than the last. He'd viewed Pheydra's first visit many times. These will be your subjects someday, his mother had whispered. Note what compels them and be prepared to simulate it.

Not all those present looked compelled, he reflected as he scanned their ranks of troubled faces and averted glances. But he sensed the gazes of many beyond the periphery of his vision who could not stop staring at him. Despite his strange alien features and outsize bone structure, his mother's likeness had not been forgotten. They saw it in his penetrating golden eyes, sidling gait, the deceptively casual assurance of his sword-hand. And they glimpsed something far more.

"Kindred," his voice reverberated, "my mother was Tresayne Toria, the Commander of your fleet. The sacred blood of the Eldan also courses through my veins. I have come to lead us to greatness. As your Emperor."

"We have no need of emperors here," a nobleman said icily, limping forward . "And you'll have no more of our women."

"Do you doubt my claims?" Dominus said, softly but in a voice that carried. He stepped forward, hand on the pommel of his sword. "Do you call me liar?" His sword sang as he drew it, raised it above the man's unblinking face, and brought it down with a THOOM that echoed like thunder throughout the square, the resulting shock wave knocking dozens off their feet and radiating outward across the city in an expanding seismic ring. Skyscrapers groaned and settled.

Hundreds of eyes locked on Dominus and on the blade sunken hilt-deep in the steel boulevard at his feet. "This blade was forged from alloys that at your current state of progress you would not have discovered for a million years." As he spoke, his other hand hurled a scatter of silver marbles heavenward. They vanished into the cloudless blue sky. Moments later it began to rain. "Mastery of the elements is nothing to our patrons." Dominus kicked away the nobleman's cane, gestured at the man's bad leg as with a shocked gasp he fell forward. "They offer nanites, capable of reversing tissue damage of any severity." Catching himself, the man looked down wonderingly at his visibly regenerating foot.

"Together we will control the essence of creation. Do you accept?"

Within seconds, the erstwhile crippled nobleman was the only Cassian in the square who was still unbowed.