Enter the Empyrean


 

“The universe was created by the gods—at least that’s their story.”

Feroze the Dweorg paced in front of the students in his classroom.

Feroze was short, even for a Dweorg. Standing a mere three feet in height he might have been mistaken for one of the children in his school room if not for the long white beard labeling him as an adult. The children were races from across the Empyrean. All the children were young and in their first years of school. Feroze’s job was to teach these children in a way they could understand.

The trading city of Zawar on his homeworld of Vestri was home to many of the races of the Empyrean. Dweorg aetherships regularly ferried beings from their homeworlds to Zawar to pursue trade, share knowledge and partake in the great community which the Dweorg hoped to forge between the races.

“The universe is a sphere of crystal encompassing all of our worlds, we call this the Empyrean. Philosophers say that the stars we see are the lights of the gods and spirits watching the dance of life within the sphere.

“As you all know, we have two suns, a yellow one and a red one. Each of the races has named them, here on Vestri , most Dweorgs just call them either the red or yellow sun. Fanciful names are the stuff of mythology. We’re modern Dweorg now and take a more scientific approach to the universe. Vestri is unique among all the worlds of the Empyrean. Does anyone know why?”

Several hesitant hands lifted throughout the room, mostly Dweorgs. There were several races represented in the room. Dweorg children were by far the dominant race, but among them were wrinkled Spriggans, horned Molochs, leafy Meliae and even a lone insectoid Kepri attempting to be invisible in the back corner of the classroom.

Feroze looked across the forty pupils in the vain hope that more hands would join those already showing. The remaining children studiously focused on their desks or stared out the window at the landscape or simply directed blank stares at their teacher.

“Tagat,” Feroze pointed at the seven-year-old Moloch child whose horns were just beginning to push through the skin of his brow.

Tagat leaped to his feet and stood stiffly to answer. His long, spade-tipped, tail twitched from side to side in excitement over being called upon.

“Teacher, the world of Vestri does not orbit either sun like the other worlds. It remains stationary between them.”

“Very good Tagat. Vestri does not orbit either star but it does rotate. Our days are bright and our nights a dull red. They say that the sun never sets on Vestri. We don’t know how our world alone came to stand stationary between the suns but it has allowed us to be a central location for commerce between all our worlds. Now, who here can describe what the aether between the worlds is and how we—”

Feroze’s question remained incomplete as the door to the room erupted inward in a spray of wooden shards. Several children screamed at the violent interruption.

“Cease this blasphemy.” A silver-skinned Alfar entered the room. He was forced to duck through the door as it was much shorter than his seven-foot-tall frame.

The Alfar wore golden armor with silver filigree, the armor of an Alfar officer. He drew his silver sword as half a dozen other Alfar moved into the small schoolroom.

“You there,” he said and pointed at Feroze with his sword. “You will cease teaching this blasphemy to these children.”

Feroze sputtered in confusion. “What blasphemy? I teach history and science here.”

“Lies,” the Alfar officer spit. “Private Shadethorn, seize this miscreant.”

One of the Alfar in unadorned armor moved to the front of the room and grabbed hold of Feroze’s arms. Feroze shrugged violently and the Alfar staggered back, Dweorg were much stronger than Alfar. The Alfar soldier was not deterred, he approached the Dweorg again and struck him with all his might with a steel gauntleted fist.

Feroze’s cheek split and blood sprayed across the chalkboard in front of the room. The Dweorg staggered and fell against the wall. He offered no further resistance when Private Shadethorn once again grabbed him. The Alfar marched the small Dweorg teacher through the room toward the door.

“You are to be taken to Alfheim for re-education. Your refusal to teach the truth of the holiness of the Alfar Sun and supremacy of the Gods has been noted and you will be taught the error of your ways. You will learn, or you will perish.”

“You have no right to do this.” Feroze’s voice was thick, his abused cheek was already swelling to enormous proportions. “Vestri is sovereign territory. This is an act of war.”

“No Dweorg, not war, this is a Holy Crusade and it shall not end until all races return to their proper subservient position beneath the Alfar Sun.”

Feroze was dragged from the room to the terrified shrieks of the children. The Alfar marched the Dweorg teacher onto the small crystalline landing craft on the lawn outside. Across the city, smoke rose and crystalline ships swooped above the violence.

The landing craft glowed with all the colors of the rainbow and then rose into the air. It shot upward through the atmosphere and into the aether to rendezvous with its mother ship carrying Feroze to meet his fate.




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