Open Light of a Foreign Star

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Without life a necromancer cannot sharpen her art, and without death she has no tools. The moment between life and death, or when life becomes death, that is where she does her most potent work. Blood of our forebears, earth of this world, allow new life into these still bones.

— Manciple to the Dead

Act IV: In Ending

The tablet illuminated the chin of the chanting priest, his face smudged black by a thick layer of hastily applied grease paint. Everything was hastily done now, there was no time for proper sacrament or liturgy, no time for a proper space with vestments. A hole had been smashed into the roof, the symbol of god (lines curving into lines interlocked) had been smeared onto the wall with the same grease paint, and two cultists stood by the window chattering in their loudest whispers as they took turns gazing through a telescope. The sun was a ring in the sky, that was proper, as was the young woman dressed in white.

She did not move, though her chest raised and fell, so she was still living. The dress was thin and silky, real silk even, and clean despite the state of the rest of the room. Hoping that perhaps god in his various infinities would be willing to overlook the rest so long as she was still pretty enough. Her golden hair was long, and it slid over the edge of the table in twisted clumps like strands of glittering ivy, and over her eyes a blindfold had been wound of white cloth.

This was the ending, brought about by shuffled feet and muffled voice, as many were. Was this a different sort of ending perhaps? There was a lack of fervor and zeal, but that was just the sleep deprivation. There was a lack of ornamentation, but that was just the fault of the fire. The cult was small, but that had been the fault of rifle shot. There were many faults to the ending, but did that make it truer?

The eclipse above was watching them, that was what the two by the telescope knew. God of the ghosts of stone was listening, that is what the priest knew. And what the woman knew, she did not share. She did sit up though, for the ropes were lost to the fire, first to her elbows, and then again properly with her legs over the edge of the table. She looked up, and the blindfold obliged to fall away, so she might stare into the eclipse. It was not at the red corona of the sun, or the black of the moon, but the white spot opening in the moon’s heart to which she was drawn. The whole of the thing like an eye with its colors all jumbled. In that spot of white, something made itself whole and known.

She reached for it, and it for her.

In death the soul and the spirit separate and go where they must, for one the River and the other the sky, only such separations are not always easy. They long for one another, spirit and soul, for each other is all they have ever known, and so in death they cling like lovers. The spirit is the energy of the soul, and the soul of the meaning of the spirit, and together without the flesh a ghost or revenant is formed. They cannot become one with the River in such a state, but they can find a place within stone or dirt or water. With this said, why do you think, child, that the moons are haunted?

— Occula Primary of the Gazing Eye, watchful for the Stars that Move.

Act II: Of Ghosts and Spirits

It was a tech-cult ship, those who live and work within the skin of their manufactured gods worshiping the ghosts within the machine. They say those cultists are always careful to keep some great works of their life unfinished or some grudge in their hearts fresh and wet, and I don’t think it’s too hard to guess why. There’s something people fail to realize about tech-cultists, how cautious they are. The soul does not yearn for machinery the way it does dirt, so they had to find the ways to trap a soul and to bind those ghosts to the wiring. And, that was the ship we found drifting dead.

Space is a big place, but the River has only so many tributaries unless more are made. I think tech-cultists know how, I think that’s what this ship was, a means to carve a new stream into the River. The ship was dead and I mean that well and truly. Tech-cultists make their ships places of undeath, places of ghosts but there were no ghosts on that ship. They use the River as most others do to travel between here and there, and they buffer their ships so their ghosts aren’t peeled away, but, what if and maybe this is just the liquor speaking, they used the ship to carve a new branch into the River?

It’s possible, right? Their ships are full of ghosts, their ships can touch the River for they are also full of dead. But why, I can’t understand that. The wards on the ship were shattered, the crew was gone, and this piece of space has only been charted by the Occula, so why would they expend a god so carefully crafted of spirit and soul to place a new branch of the river here?

I love cults, I collect cults, but this is something I think best left alone. Leave them their secrets before their secrets find us.

It was necromancy that enabled space travel, people forget that. If not for the River, if not for spirit science and paraenergy discovered back in the 1970s then we never would have left the skin of Earth or the light of Sol. I think we forget that too, how kind Sol is. It burns its heart for us, and does not hunger as its false cousins and dead relations do. There are stars whose foreign light should never touch your skin. Light that should never reach your eyes, lest they become your eyes. There are stars that burn cold, and those living-things are the hungriest of all.

Perhaps it was better on Earth when we only knew the gods of home, but it’s too late. The stars are already hungry.

— Commander of Reliquary for the Nine Cohorts

Prologue: Old Plots, New Victims

There is much to say about the universe, but so few words to say it in. Of the things that linger in the void between stars, the gods that create worlds and the worlds that create gods, the stars that look back at you in malevolence, or moons haunted and yet still living. There are as many cults as there are unknowns to be worshiped, as many religions as there are gods to demand our attention, as many settlements as there are systems that do not reject us. Yet, anyway. Maybe all of this means a lot to you, or maybe it means so very little. Magic and occultist meaning, important to some, meaningless to others. Why care about those who worship the great Kraken of Earth’s shifting seas when you’re many light years away and working a nine to five.

The universe might be out to get you, but what is there to get if you’re not sticking your neck out there? Though, sometimes you find yourself with your neck out there through no fault of your own.

You knew Cold Harbor was a cultist ship long before you boarded it, it was hard to miss the runes of blood and decorative bone that gave strange shapes to what had once been some model transport or another. Did this concern you? I cannot say, but you chose to board. Maybe it was for vacation, perhaps for work, or driven by the search for new opportunities, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you are here, and that the universe is full of plots and plans, and that you’ve found your way into one.

And once the eyes are upon you, they will never look away.

Strangeness begins when you first notice it, and it is that noticing that allows it to see you. It’s fine of course if you stick to the regular sort of strange, magics and magi, necromancers of the flesh and bone, for the things that look back are those that are known. The problem is when you start looking into strange unknowns, when you start letting curiosity demand answers of you. You do that, and the crooked things will turn their gazes, and everything gets completely fucky-wucky. It’s a bit like when you learn a new word and next thing you know everyone is saying it. Only, the words are aware that you know them, and that makes them want to speak you too.

— A warning on an old cult collection forum

Act I: You


Everyone goes by something, don’t they?

There are plenty of ways to be who you wish to be.

Still use old Sol standard for this, be a shame if kids living on Pluto didn’t enjoy at least having one birthday before they die.

Do you have one? Tell us a little about them, just a few words for my collection.

What are you good at?

Do you have talent? A touch of the occult? Grace with magics defined or newly found?

Who are you?
Lua Asera



A cult collector myself, three joined and a couple dozen heard out, always room for one more though, if you’re looking to share.

Lua is a people person, which she should be, it’s how she’s always gotten by. She’s good at reading people, if not just a little too willing to get involved with others.

Spirit Caller
With an object of meaning to or of the deceased, and access to some form of paraenergy or thanergy Lua can draw a spirit back from the River and and draw them to her as a ghost or a revenant. The older the soul, the less relevant the object of meaning, or too weak the replacement spirit and the summoning could fail or draw forth what was not meant to be called.

An object can set the rules for what has been brought forth, though it is the necromancer’s skill that sees those rules followed by what she has called.

Born to the backstreets of Aiday, a colony of the garden moon of Chang’e, she grew up where the new city scraped against the old and hidden streets were formed of grinding. All cities have their hidden streets, that the mundane overlook and those of a mystical bend practice their art. You can find them easily enough if you look, they never are hidden well as reality demands its weight.

For a girl with a talent for necromancy, this was a fine place to grow up, surrounded by the witches and wizards of Aiday and the twisting threads of plots they created. Her parents never had a heavy hand in Lua’s life, they had been young and she was unexpected. It wasn’t abuse, beyond perhaps a failure to connect or a disinterest in what she did. Perhaps it was a cry for attention, or a look for some meaningful connection, but at seventeen Lua joined her first cult.

As cults went, the one Lua found was not in search of its end nor did it search to sacrifice its members for a god beyond. They worshiped the amalgam soul which had formed within the rock and earth of Chang’e from long before the arrival of human ships, and its members were old. That perhaps, more than anything, was what drew Lua to them, even then she wasn’t with them long. There was no real reason for it other than the drifting passions of a teen searching for… something in her life.

Necromancers were who she found next, and with them she found a talent she never knew she had. To gaze upon the river, and invite those within its current to return. She outgrew Chang’e in time, in her twenties she moved out to strike the light of foreign stars for adventure, and well, she’s found plenty.

The Lady Sigifrit von Asceburg is dead.

Dead at only thirty-four. And with her whole family, by the looks of things. A terrible tragedy. Terrible, terrible tragedy.

Ah, no, perhaps you hadn't heard the news. Hildegard is such a long way away from the busier corners of the cosmos, and so much is happening, all at once - so much noise, so much chaos swirling amidst the stars. It would take an oracle to parse it all, a hierophant to give it order. Yes, the noble house of Asceburg is dead, slaughtered in their very own home, bodies mutilated near-beyond recognition, souls lost beyond scrying. It took a bone-gardener just to tell the pieces apart, and even then they all had to be buried in a shared tomb.

Funny thing, though, is that the robbers took little. Lord Adalwin kept a perfect record of his property. Gold candle-crucibles untouched, ruby-crusted knives unsullied, even the silk-woven tapestry of the Asceburg family tree safe in its frame. No, the only things that went missing were a silver compact, a leather traveling case, some less-fine clothes, and an amethyst pendant. Lady Asceburg was quite fond of that pendant, the houseservants said. Terrible thing to take from the dead.

Alfrothull bless, may their spirits rest on high, untroubled by the dragon's teeth.

The Lady Sigifrit von Asceburg is traveling.

Odd accommodations for a woman of her stature, but she does not seem intent on being seen. Would you blame her, considering the rumors? Talk of a family slaughtered, of limbs flayed and splayed to spell out runes unspoken in the name of some darker thing below. Who would spread such terrible lies?

No - the Lady Asceburg is travelling with but a simple cloak, her compact, her traveling chest, and - of course - her beloved pendant. She dares not part with that. It is a relic of protection, a ward against harm. One does not risk safety when traveling. Not when traveling by such dubious means. Only a fool would see the Cold Harbor as anything but a cult-ship, and cults are not to be trusted lightly with one's life. It is with a wary eye the Lady boards, her hands pulling the hood of her cloak tighter over her face, her lips pursed, her dark eyes steeped in darker shadow.

The Lady Sigifrit von Asceburg is traveling aboard the Cold Harbor.

Where is she going to?

Only the Traveler knows.
Raymond Skaden, if you dig deep enough



Cults are for those dedicated or desperate, and he knows them just well enough to pass through them when he has to. People don't tangle with cults, but he might deal with them, or hide with them; nothing an appropriate sum couldn't arrange. He doesn't need a cult to stick to the shadows, and the figures inside them, otherwise.

Survival. He has lied, cheated, and stolen much to get by and to get away, and learned an unlikely lesson; to survive, one needs other people. He travels with a new pack every harbour, revealing exactly what he has to so they will shelter him. And then, he moves on.

When a lie or a clever truth do not conceal him from prying eyes, he steps into shadows. If you asked him, he is simply an extraordinary sneak, and he keeps the times he cannot explain how he got away to himself. Sometimes he can just pass by unseen. You do not question a gift.

Raymond was born in the asteroid patch on the shadow of a gas giant, Nijhus, where there was no day and no night. His family, his community, were mining colonists, escaping the everlasting darkness by burying themselves in even darker earth. Life was hard, but it was guaranteed, until a revolt by the third moon's farming colonies destabilised the government; smaller settlements could not be provided for, and the asteroids were nigh forgotten. His community tried to provide for everyone in it, but it was simply not possible. Hunger and disease ravaged them and the children, those born to the darkness, would not die to it. They stole and fought and killed, if they had to, because they had always dreamt of a sunrise, Raymond right in the middle of it. He didn't always get lucky; once he was cornered, he could not return to his shelter and turned to the shadows of the eternal night, setting out into the unsettled canyons. He cannot, or he would not, tell anyone of what happened out there, of how he survived the bitter cold.
When relief efforts finally reached their colony, he left his home with the first ship at 17. The government only took three years to stabilise again, but three years were plenty of time to never lose the Darkness that had settled between his ribs.