THE VANISHING OF SHAKTI
from the Chronicles of the Empress Erantho of Savarda-Dohor
Once, the known Worlds were few in number. They lay within a great Rift in the fabric of space, within which one might travel, but beyond whose reaches no one could cross. And those who studied the heavens feared the Rift, for it seemed to them that it might one day close like the jaws of a great dragon, and swallow the Worlds forever.
Now in those times, the Gilkesh race had already begun to make its home among the stars, but most of the people still lived on their ancestral homeworld, Shakti. And all of Shakti came under the rule of two Queens, Kathris and Amira, whose great realms rivaled one another for dominion.
It happened that Amira and Kathris came to meet, and became lovers, and were married; and their two realms were joined as one. But the union of the two realms was an uneasy one, as was the marriage itself.
After a time, Amira, being of a restless and passionate nature, grew dissatisfied, and found comfort in the arms of a young adviser named Joli. For a time, they continued their secret trysts, of which Kathris knew nothing.
Now there was also a third queen among the Gilkesh, but she ruled in secret, and Kathris and Amira did not know her. And she was heir to a throne that had existed for ages, and whose power was malevolent; and her followers were scattered among all the nations of Shakti, and all the worlds where the Gilkesh lived, but they did not disclose themselves, nor did they speak of the dark designs of their secret nation. For they sought only destruction and oblivion, save for the few who ruled over them, who desired to increase power for themselves. And the secret nation was called Singularity, or Dilgu in the language of the Gilkesh; and its ruler was called the Ice Queen.
The Ice Queen knew of the Rift, and thought to use its fearsome power to her own ends. And so she commanded her followers to build mighty engines of destruction in the deeps of space, at the very corners and edges of the Rift itself, so that they might, on her decree, collapse the Rift upon the Worlds as a steel trap snaps shut upon the leg of a luckless animal.
As the love between Amira and Kathris grew cold and bitter, and turned slowly to mistrust, the Ice Queen perceived her chance to spring the great trap that she had carefully laid, and bring destruction and chaos to all the inhabited worlds. It happened that Kathris had an adviser named Sestris, whom she trusted above all others; but her trust was ill placed, for in truth Sestris served the Ice Queen.
And so as Kathris grew in her suspicion of Amira, Sestris planted in her the thought that Amira sought to kill her and seize the entire realm for her own. Building a palace of falsehood upon a foundation of truth, Sestris craftily led the Queen to the knowledge that she had been deceived by her beloved spouse; “and if in this she has deceived me,” thought Kathris, “what other evil may she be planning against me?”
Now Joli had to fear the jealousy of Queen Kathris, and she had awakened to the peril of the Ice Queen; and she regretted that she had been the cause of strife in the royal household. And she resolved to present herself to Kathris, to confess her wrongdoings and to warn the Queen of the great evil threatening the Realm; but she was too late, for Kathris had already decreed that Joli should be killed. And so Joli died before she could deliver the message.
Yet Joli had given warning to Queen Amira before she died, and to her friends also Joli had given warning. Without the aid of the armies loyal to Kathris – for the two former realms were ever but poorly united – they could not hope to utterly defeat the evil forces of Singularity and the Ice Queen; but still they mustered a band of warriors and struck boldly at one of the Ice Queen’s deadly engines, which had been poised to crush the realm of space wherein dwelt the living souls.
The Ice Queen’s attack was not foiled, but its force was blunted. Deadly was the destruction, but deadlier still would it have been. In the end, Shakti was utterly lost; but the one hundred and twenty colonies were spared, and in later times they throve. What is more, the Rift, which had enclosed the inhabited worlds like a great impenetrable womb, had vanished, leaving the Gilkesh free to explore the depths of space and time.