Planetary type: Rocky world
Region: Serene Sea
Age: 4.8 billion years
Parent star: single neutron star
Natural satellites: rocky moon.
Surface gravity: 0.68 Earth gravities
Atmosphere: 2.5 Earth pressures, partially breathable.
Average temperature: 295k
Ecosystem classification: unique, suspected artificial origin.
Solar revolution length: 78 Earth days
Day length: 68 hours and 45 minutes.
Settlement Type: Surface outposts, orbital bases.
Settlement age: 65 years.
Population : 550,000.
Distance to Earth: 800 lightyears.
Starports: Raven's Nest, Draugr Citadel, Hugin Point.
1 - A Planet That Should Not Exist
"This planet should not exist" is a common joke sentence among space navigators, referring to the fact that the vast majority of discovered worlds were not accurately predicted by Low Age models.
In the case of Draugr, this is to be taken literally. Sure, technically neutron stars do have a habitable zone and technically a decently-sized planet can survive the process that leads to the creation of a neutron star. In fact, there are even recorded occurrences of neutron star planets harbouring life, except those are gas giants with an incredibly thick atmosphere because a neutron star is the cosmic equivalent of an open nuclear core. By a lot of metrics, including such things known as regular logic, Draugr shouldn't exist. There is no physical way an Earth-like planet with only 2.5 atmospheric pressures can orbit a neutron star and harbour life.
But the Serene Sea is a weird place.
2 - Old Forest
In theory, the amount of high energy radiations emitted by Draugr's parent star should be enough to completely sterilize the planet and its biosphere. The planet's atmosphere is way too thin to ensure any kind of natural filtration, which means that something else is in play.
The first thing that catches one's attention when entering Draugr's orbit is the smooth, somewhat organic texture of its surface. In fact, what one can see from up there isn't the ground. Draugr's bedrock lies a good ten kilometres below the surface. The planet is surrounded by a thick layer of carbon-based vegetation that covers the entire world from the poles to the equator. This protective layer is what enables life to thrive on Draugr despite the raging, constant radiation storms.
The Old Forest, as the Starmoth Initiative named it, is a single, symbiotic, planet-sized organism. The top of the planet-spanning canopy is made of trillions of leaf-like organisms that draw energy from the neutron dwarf through photosynthesis. These organisms are directly exposed to deadly radiation from Draugr's parent star and have their life expectancy measured in days. These symbionts feed massive, kilometre-long wooden organisms known as nodes, which are specialized in converting nutrients and energy into constantly renewing the layer of leaves. Below the node layer exists a third, deeper layer of fungal symbionts nicknamed synapses due to their role as the Old Forest's regulatory and sensory network. The synapses are fully protected from radiations by the accumulation of leaves and wood above them.
The depths of the Old Forest are the only habitable part of Draugr as far as humans are concerned. They are a serene, eerie place, bathed in the silver glow of synapses the size of rivers.
3 - Off-Sequence
The Old Forest is rather unique in that it doesn't seem to have a real evolutionary history. When Draugr's star went supernova and turned into a neutron star, the planet was completely purged from any pre-existing life, meaning the Old Forest has an off-world origin. It is unlikely that such a complex organism developed on its own, without artificial interference, but whoever planted the Old Forest isn't around anymore - their creation clearly outlived them.
One thing is certain: the Old Forest isn't affiliated to the Sequence in any way. The Draugr system is completely devoid of Sequence ruins and remnants, which is an oddity in the Serene Sea. Despite Draugr harbouring several research stations in its orbit, the planet was never targeted by Sequence raids. Something in the Old Forest scares the Sequence off.
I am not certain we should be eager to determine the reason for this fear. The Old Forest is likely to be older than humankind and the secrets it holds might be better left in the shadows.
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