From the Middleground - From the Darkness


J. Edward Tremlett

I've seen the same nightmare in all our dreams
But now it's come to Earth in search of us
And through treachery we are found
So we must pray to the Maker of all things
And wait for the storm to come

Pray - Gary Numan


The sky above the Underworld was never much to look at, even when it could be seen through the black waves of the Storm.

That's not to say none of the dead ever looked up at its blackened and contorted length, though. Some would stare wistfully at the constellations they thought they knew, and wonder where the old lights had gone. Still others of a more scientific bent might stare at the new, muddy pinpricks of light up there, and wonder where they'd come from.

But there were other sights in that dead sky - ones much closer than the aching, pinprick stars.

There was the Sun, which was cold, hazy and sightless: not bright enough to provide more than grainy twilight at Noon, even on the best of days. There was the Moon, hanging far too large in the sky, and cracked from top to bottom like a titanic egg. There was Mars and Venus, too - sometimes even Jupiter if you knew where to look, and when.

And then there was the new star: the baleful, red one no one liked to speak of.

* * *

Those wraiths who had been around before the Storm had no recollection of ever seeing it, back them. When the Maelstrom had died down enough that they could leave their Haunts and take stock of what little remained, it was there, looking down at them. Meanwhile, those wraiths who'd come around since then had never known a dead sky without it, but they still just didn't like the look of it - unless they were insane.

And some of the more perceptive souls got the feeling it was mutual...

Put it another way: the occasional Oracle might claim to have some talent for speaking with those dead, hanging stars above. They tend to call it Astrology, these days, and practice it with charts, graphs and calendars. Some even use a Relic telescope, if they want a more "accurate" look at the subject {and can afford one}, and for everyone else there are standing stones, megaliths and the ancient observation towers Stygia plundered from places long-since crumbled to dust.

In spite of such odd methods, these "astrologist" Oracles are as good as any other member of their Guild: able to take a few, chance pieces of information and spin answers from them all.

But to this date not a one of the Guild's Astrologers will use that red star in their divinations. They won't even look at it, if they can avoid it. They can see it just as well as any other wraith, but often pretend it's just not there.

* * *

In fact, the Oracles seem to blanche when the subject comes up, as though one were speaking openly of The Void, itself.

The more bold amongst their number simply state that the red star isn't worth thinking about. They say it's only some strange trick of the Storm. When the Maelstrom passes it will be gone along with it, and that is all that needs to be said.

And they may yet be right.

But those who dare to look at it for long are not too sure. Those who enter the Skinlands have said that they can even see it there, too. It is far too solid to be an optical illusion, far too bright to be anything but a star, and keeps far too stable an orbit in the dead sky.

And they say it's getting brighter all the time...