Soon after his foundation of the Vigilant Church, Emperor Jarec issued an Ancestral Decree, creating major class and racial divides across Cassus. The ensuing abuses against the lowborn proved too much for Serrick Brightland, one of the Dominion’s most esteemed commanders, who spearheaded an uprising that led to a bloody civil war. Leading a ragtag group of rebels, the indomitable Brightland won a few early victories. But the tides of war would turn soon enough...

1378 AE Brightland's Rebellion

Synopsis List
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Part One A Traitor's Regret

Serrick Brightland paced the bridge of his flagship, his command screen dominated by the immense red whorls of Quorin Prime, trying to will its gravity well into concealing his fleet just a few moments longer. The Dominion armada had found its prey. Outnumbered and outgunned, the battered fleet commanded by Brightland himself, decorated general and now branded a traitor, hid in the shadow of a gas giant and waited for salvation or oblivion.

Using a planet's gravity well as camouflage was a classic tactic. It was a maneuver his former star pupil should know well: Brightland had taught it to him. It wasn't like he'd had a choice, though. Especially after the last clash. Caeson had scoured eleven prospective gas giants for Brightland prior to this. Enough to make him sloppy? Serrick walked around his bridge and wondered.

On his thirty-second circuit, Serrick got his answer. One instant he was switching direction on his heel. Then blinding tendrils of coruscating weapons-fire lit up the viewports, crackling his shields to a crisp in moments. Even as Brightland barked the order to return fire, five of his crippled ships melted under fire and decayed from orbit, trailing flame and dust as they plummeted towards the planet's scarlet abyss. Caeson's timing had been perfect.

Serrick ordered the retreat, knowing his fleet was doomed. As Aurelius knew, the gravity well that had sheltered them also made hyperjumping impossible. His attack ships would be well in range before Brightland's could even hope to attain a safe distance.

Radiant nosed forward, filling Brightland's screens in an obvious strut of disproportionate force. But slowly. Aurelius was delaying, not from respect but, Brightland realized with horror, contempt. For his ship's age, the Star of Dominus' inability to keep up with the newer, faster Radiant. The recognition galled him. He set his jaw. Underestimation by one's opponent was always an advantage.

"Admiral," came Aurelius's voice, maddeningly gentle. Condescending. "Surrender and your rabble will be spared. Otherwise, I begin targeting them. In five seconds." A pause. "You are playing a losing hand, Serrick."

Fair point, Brightland reflected. In his defense, it wasn't like he'd planned any of this.

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Part Two Breaking Point

The cultural solidarity of the early days after the Mechari’s return had seemingly lasted for centuries, but the Eldan's purported ascension to godhood had exacerbated some deep-rooted social unrest. Once the Ancestral Decree had stated that those of Luminai blood were better than those who weren’t, a schism had puckered open. Beloved chronicle houses that had stood for hundreds of years were torn down and replaced with Vigilant churches. Verbal effronteries had led to increasingly physical abuses against those they were already calling "the lowborn". Brightland being critical of such actions in public brought him to the brink of court martial.

What started out as wage protests rapidly metastasized into bloody skirmishes. As tensions escalated, Dominion military leaders ordered brutal crackdowns against all who opposed the new order. Somewhere along the line, the Vigilant Church ordained that a zero tolerance policy was by definition the only sensible path.

But after the massacre in Toria Square, Serrick Brightland had had enough. When he refused to open fire on revolting civilians, they'd found someone who would. And he, the most highly decorated officer in Cassian military history, was incarcerated to await execution for treason. Like his flagship the Star of Dominus, Brightland had been facing retirement. Instead, while shackled he broke all five necks of his escorts to the firing squad, escaped single-handed while in transit to his execution, and called a secret conclave of commanders whose loyalty he trusted. There'd been many more than he'd dared to hope.

After commandeering the Star of Dominus from dry-dock, Brightland led a daring attack on the Dominion High Command itself, taking out myriad warships before withdrawing.

More victories followed. Forming a government-in-exile, Brightland set his sights on the prize that would bring the Dominion to heel: the capitol.

But before he could mount his attack, Aurelius, a protégé he had trusted, found his loyalty to the Dominion outweighed decades of friendship. The resulting ambush nearly proved Brightland's undoing. Though he and his fleet survived mostly intact, the ensuing weeks ground steadily away at his forces and ambitions with accelerating violence. While Brightland was able to initially rely on his prowess to prevail against insurmountable odds, his enemies had the resources of many worlds to draw upon. Even one defeat threatened to cripple the fledgling resistance. Resupply options running low, Brightland retreated with his bedraggled fleet, knowing his only chance lay in living to fight another day.

And now even that was to be denied him.

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Part Three A Desperate Gamble

Brightland grimly surveyed the battle screens as his five seconds trickled away. Finally he sighed, "Permission to come aboard then, I guess. Hand you my sword." He brought the Star of Dominus about and set a course for the flagship.

"You're doing the right thing, Commander," Aurelius said into his ear.

"I think so too." And he unleashed his ship's entire arsenal upon the Radiant.

Stabbing a button to silence Aurelius's growl of fury, Serrick bathed the massive flagship in violet geysers. Then Aurelius returned fire. Every battery blazed, engulfing Brightland's ship in ghostly zero-g flame. Beyond, Exile spindrives flashed one by one as the ships winked out. Maybe we'll make it after all, Serrick thought right before another volley from Radiant flung him into first one wall, then another, before a sliver of bubbling metal speared his lung from behind.

Blinking away blood, he gazed at the sole remaining display showing his relentless collision course, already too close for the Radiant's widely spaced cannon-turrets to track.

Brightland leaned on his console and hailed the flagship. His brain felt fuzzed and heavy. He meant to say something about the uncertainty of losing hands but all he managed was, “This… isn’t over… Aurelius."

The Dominion captain regarded him impassively. "It is for you. Traitor."

Chunks of hull plating flew from the two ships as they hurtled toward impact. Dimly, Brightland heard his voice mumbling a slurred command to jump.

He blinked and suddenly found himself in a med bay, an impossibly young girl with ensign piping leaning over him. "Where am I?" he croaked. He couldn't feel his limbs.

"With the fleet, sir. We escaped. We need orders."

"The ship..."

"The Dominus is being refitted, sir. It'll be ready in a week."

"Call it...the Gambler's Ruin," Serrick whispered. Then the void enveloped him.