At the heart of the Serene Sea, small circular rooms can be found in dead temples built from mere stones by the last broken survivors of the Sequence, left alone in the empty ruins of what had once been an empire, millions of years in the making. These temples bear the figures of the sovereigns — the last guides of the Sequence, the ultimate bulwark against rot and chaos that emerged in the last days of the hierarchical civilisation. Endless nanometric carvings tell the tale of the sovereigns, but they do not invite the passerby to revere them — instead, they are monuments to hatred, celebrating the coming death of an empire barely holding on to life.
The sovereigns were first assumed to be the ultimate form of the Sequence of History: immense collective intelligences operated by a transbiological network built from the organic substance of absorbed civilisations. In truth, the sovereigns are both less and more than hiveminds. They are individualities, born out of the incredibly complex thoughts of the civilisations nurtured and swallowed by the Sequence. They are individual consciousness, hijacking the transbiological frame harvested from untold billions of sophonts to become their own thing. In a sense, the sovereigns can be considered as the pinnacle of the Sequence and its greatest failure. The pinnacle, because they are true rulers, almost all-powerful sophonts created from the remains of lesser, weaker ecosystems. And the failure because instead of achieving the Sequence’s dream of forceful but harmonious unification, they took the power of the empire and ran with it, carving entire solar systems of biological matter to their liking — to their intent. They are a hierarchy made visible at the scale of stars. The end point of the Sequence. The last monarchs of an already dead kingdom.
Five Sovereigns are identified by the temples. Their names and symbols change, but their identities remain.
- The Strategist is one of the only sovereigns encountered by humankind, and strangely enough seems to have existed before the Sequence became derelict, albeit way after its golden age. This sovereign is described as “a cloud of aged blood, shimmering pearls and the taste of battles past”, and is assumed to be rather small in size, probably capable of fitting aboard an Orrery ship. Their frame was seemingly assembled from the filtered organic remnants of vanquished species, perhaps selected on the basis of combat prowess. They once led the vanguard of the Sequence in battle against enemies such as the Vriij, the Forgotten Traveller and the creators of the Pale Path. They have met defeat for the first time at the hands of FTL-capable human vessels during the assault on Draugr, albeit they were already less than a shadow of their former self.
- The Avid Watcher, sometimes referred to as the Uncautious Observer, is a very old sovereign, possibly the first one, built from the matter of seven sapient species absorbed by the Sequence one million years ago. Their appearance is unclear, albeit the carvings regularly praise their “strange scent, like honey pouring from stars.” Little is known about them, aside from the fact that they now exist dormant in the secluded parts of the galactic halo. Several millions years ago, the Avid Watcher sought to see glimpses of the future through an artificial wormhole that required the destruction of several hundred stars to construct. It is unknown what they saw, but as soon as they managed to peer into the future, they destroyed their wormhole and went into a state of stunned hibernation — the remnants of their observation device now form a 100 lightyear bubble of empty void, in the middle of the Perseus arm. A fringe theory posits that what the Avid Watcher saw was nothing other than us — humankind, frail and young, but with the possibility to travel between the stars in the blink of an eye.
- The Shimmering Weaver, often angrily referred to as the One That Orders, is perhaps the closest we know to a golden age Sequencer. Described as a “baroque painting in movement, a cloud of sentient gold”, the Shimmering Weaver has been located in the Perseus Arm, albeit the Starmoth Initiative refuses to disclose the exact location of the sophont. The Shimmering Weaver was assembled out of other Sequencers through millions of years of ritual self-sacrifice. It resides in a living planetoid, and was once the single most powerful sophont of the entire galaxy, pulling the strings of a non-negligible portion of the Sequence. The planetoid is now pristine and seemingly in working order, maintained for all eternity by armies of enslaved, sub-sophont creatures chittering in the dark. But the great room at the heart of the planetoid, behind gates the size of a city and armies of skeletal warforms...it is empty. We have seen the throne of a divinity and it is empty.
- The Old Seeker was once a powerful Sovereign, described as a “continent of knowledge, the scent of blood sprayed on warm dust, hills of bone and books”, possibly a warden of the knowledge of civilisations past. Little is known about this Sovereign, as they are currently dead — as much as a Sequencer can be. Their location has been pinpointed to a rogue body in the Norma Arm — in effect, a planet-sized skeleton, a perfect sphere of empty bone, except for an opening near the equator, three thousand kilometers in diameter, through which something went in and killed the Sequencer. Analysis of the crater suggests that several civilisations lived and died in the opening across at least two million years, as the decaying body of the sophont was still emitting residual heat.
- The Silent Blade was the Sequence’s executor, a thousand kilometers long sophont that assumed the shape of a worm. Assembled from the DNA of multiple predatory species, it could dessicate itself to travel at sublight speeds towards its target, spending thousands of years alone in the void. Upon arrival in a target system, the sophont would come back to life and slither its way towards a planet or space station. There, it would divide in an untold number of copies and start a one-sophont war. Or, if the target was small enough, it would simply swallow it. In its worm form, it was impervious to virtually all weaponry, even Sequence-made UREBs. Yet, it was killed in a single shot. A simple tungsten rod wrapped in a spacetime field, travelling at 0.98c, hurled through space by the Forgotten Travellers.
The temples also refer to two other figures as “Outsiders”. We can only suppose that these sophonts were as powerful as the Sovereigns, albeit they did not hail from the Sequence.
- The Moth is never described, only alluded to. Careful textual analysis of the carvings reveal that the Moth is likely to be a paracausal sophont, unbound by time and possibly space. The Moth is described as a kind, understanding figure, and vast in size, possibly larger than the Sovereigns. The Moth watches, say the carvings. The Moth understands.
- The Interloper is a real headache. Their description is not unlike that of a Sequencer, with a tentacled form attached to a cloud-like, undefined main body, but instead of the Sequence’s typical black and gold appearance, they’re said to be white and silvery. The vocabulary used about them is almost diplomatic, as if they were an ambassador of some kind — perhaps that of another, extra-galactic Sequence.
NASA/Caltech, Galaxy of Horrors poster series.
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