Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The Achrifendil fought us to a standstill so many times. From star systems down to lonely hilltops, they fought like we could only dream of being: ferocious, honourable, truly legendary at times.
What we did in frustrated response was infamous, vicious, and devoid of honour.
To this day I can feel the shrinking awe I felt on first seeing their final stronghold: it was a gigantic ring structure thirty kilometres in diameter. Faced with it, our tacticians calculated that to assail its walls and clear it bastion by bastion, room by room, would cost us thousands of casualties.
So we broke a twenty-decade oath to Emil Hirsch and turned one of the FTL drives he invented into a warp weapon. We set it down dead centre, and watched a tornado of translucent grey consume the place.
Everyone within a thousand kilometres felt a wave of debilitating terror. People dropped, catatonic or screaming. Then it stopped, like a switch had been thrown. The warp effect blinked out.
I led the only expedition to ground zero, picking our way through crumbling cadavers. Many were suspiciously small. Toys and tomes by far outnumbered weapons. We found their fighters, dressed in armour, adorned with banners and trophies, their equipment clean and charged. They’d been ready to face foes who chose battle over indiscriminate slaughter.
In a chamber carved from purple crystal we found it. We knew it was a religious relic, having come across smaller examples on other worlds we’d conquered. But this one was made from a meteorite. We still can’t identify all the metals that comprise it.
Unlike every other one we’d come across, this was written in Terran. In shame and respect, the rest of this document I give over to the words of an unknown, and undoubtedly warp-killed, Achrifendil.
I who set this bane am my father’s pride and my mother’s hope. I too am my people’s rage, and my own despair. Never before you had I seen a race that wars with such little care. Planets, lives, stars – it matters not what you destroy, what sacrifices you make, what ills you inflict, so long as you claim that ephemeral thing you name ‘victory’.
We have no equivalent. The word we use, ‘creszad’, translates as ‘mutual realisation of futility’. When we make war, it is done reluctantly. An embarrassing last resort that all involved seek to forget as swiftly as possible – while always recording the circumstances that led to the failure, so they may never be repeated.
We denied you access to one planet. In response, you began an invasion of our entire territory that proved to be unstoppable. Our civilisation has been destroyed by gleeful thugs. It is beyond comprehension.
All we can do is fight on regardless, because it has become clear that, win or lose, we are doomed.
To be reading this, you will have conquered Raetelmuh, an edifice comprising twenty-seven temples grown together while remaining sacrosanct for seventeen hundred years. Before it existed, we were warring tribes. From founding to your arrival, it never knew bloodshed.
Habradulin, the one who brought the tribes before the Star That Fell – which I have reworked to make the bane you now read – stopped a thousand years of strife with these words –
“You who claim to be mighty, that seek to put your mark upon histories yet to be told, there is one truth you must abide: destruction does not magnify deeds, for ashes need no temples”.
This bane I now set upon you all: generations of futility and failure, until not even ashes remain.