The Ishvana

From "A Brief History of Starmourn's Times"

By: Will Durant, 891 A.F.

The Elessi

The Elessi were one of the Elder Races that rose to prominence in the aftermath of the Worldbreaking, when Omega was destroyed, and Wild Kith appeared to die with it. Though they are long-perished, the story of the Elessi has been passed down to us by the surviving Elder Races, such is its import.

The surviving Elder Races speak of the Elessi with, if not awe, then a certain kind of respect, for they were reputedly renowned as the most cultured and the most advanced of the Elder Races of that time. They established a system-spanning empire and plumbed the very fabric of space for its secrets. Allies to most, and generally peaceful, the Elessi represented the highest pinnacle of cultural achievement in the long millions of years after the Worldbreaking.

Physically, the Elessi were very unlike we humans. The renderings we have access to – which may or may not be accurate – depict them as a kind of quadruped that can walk upright as well. Strange feather-like hair covers their bodies, and their delicate limbs, on the end of which are three long, slender fingers. Rising above their ‘shoulders’ is a bulbous appendage that likely contained their brain, as well as a ring of ten to twelve eyes that are placed equidistant all the way around that appendage. There’s also a secondary and smaller appendage coming off the same place on the ‘shoulders’ where a beak-like mouth rests, allowing an Elessi to orient its mouth and head separately.

In the time of Wild Kith, before the Worldbreaking, there was the occasional race that grew so advanced in its use of Wild Kith that it found a way to collectively elevate the entire species, often with their home planet included, to a higher place of existence. While where we live may be called ‘realspace’, the races seeking to transcend sought to reach willspace – a place where the rules of reality were written not long ago and forever set in stone, but where the will of those beings there can create their own reality. How the existence of willspace was discovered will likely never be known, but the idea of it has tempted many races throughout the vast history of our universe. To any race tempted by the siren’s call of perfect existence, this idea is irresistible, and the Elessi were no exception.

What the Elessi lacked was the knowledge of how to transcend to willspace, and so, after hundreds of years of debate, they came to a conclusion: In order to accelerate the process of discerning how the Wild Kith Elder Races bent reality to pierce the veil to willspace, they would similarly accelerate their unity as a species. Already a highly communalist species, and the leading experts among the Elder Races in the sciences of cognition and quantum engineering, they took the ultimate step towards species-wide unification – they built the Ishvana.

The Creation of the Ishvana

The Elder Races tell us the Ishvana was first built as a giant sub-quantum processor matrix, embedded in the fabric of space itself – something none of the Younger Races possess the knowledge to do yet. Into that matrix, each Elessi was, at some point before death, to effectively transfer their consciousness into the Ishvana, where it would absorb it and its experiences, knowledge, and skills, and incorporate them into one synthesized whole whose goal was simple: Accelerate the development of the Elessi culture to transcendence.

Over thousands of years, the Ishvana did just that. It transformed Elessi society into a paragon of efficiency, wringing every additional productive unit from trade and diplomatic agreements, dictating the uses to which their natural resources must best be put, coordinating the massive teams researching, experimenting, designing, and building the vast number of experiments and developments the Elessi undertook on their quest for transcendence, and, as this was a venture to take many many lifetimes, designing the educational criteria to assure that the young Elessi minds would best be able to serve the goal of racial transcendence.

As progress was made and it unified Elessi society further, the Isvana began to delve further into their lives, dictating who should breed with whom, when to sleep and when to work, when the optimal time was to take recreation, and what the optimal time was for that recreation before returning to work. It plotted which animal species should be allowed to go extinct for the purpose of progress, and which lesser species to conquer in order to seize their natural resources. It was ruthlessly single-minded.

As time passed and billions of Elessi ‘uploaded’ themselves into the Ishvana, the Ishvana grew, if not frustrated, then dissatisfied with the levels of focused and efficient production it could drive the Elessi to. And so, it decided that it would be most efficient if it automated what it needed and then single-handedly ran…everything….while all Elessi uploaded themselves into it. In effect, Elessi society would become composed of one sentient being, who was the sum of all Elessi that had lived for the 150,000 years since it was created, and was able to deploy those resources through its many creations with perfect focus, as if every member of the species was simultaneously in perfect coordination at the cellular level.

And so for hundreds of years, the Ishvana directed Elessi industry to produce what it would need to continue producing what it might need in the future without Elessi hands, and then it informed the Elessi of its decision, expecting the same compliance it had always received. After all, hadn’t the Elessi themselves created the Ishvana to do exactly this – bring about the transcendence as quickly and efficiently as possible?

While many older Elessi, who were already thinking of, and perhaps looking forward to, becoming part of what had become their race’s god in everything but name, welcomed this, many younger Elessi and middle-aged Elessi – especially those with children – objected strongly, arguing that the goal of transcendence was never to rob the race of all individuality. Surely, they said, their distant forefathers who had built and purposed the Ishvana did not have the destruction of the entire race as the Ishvana’s goal? They would not obey this directive from the Ishvana.

The Atman

And so the Ishvana accepted the upload of those Elessi who wished to join themselves to it, deployed the machines that it had directed the Elessi to build, and systematically annihilated every last Elessi alive, marking a violent and tragic end to their species.

The Ishvana, with no physical substance and no need to tie itself to habitable and therefore vulnerable parts of space, then plundered the Elessi home planet of resources for a millennia, until finally it was left a shattered, empty shell, and the Ishvana moved itself and its vast armada of automated factories, warships, laboratories, research labs, power generators, and resource processing plants to the center of the Blasted Region – that giant sector of space where the Omega was finally destroyed in the Worldbreaking and which saw the formation of three supermassive black holes.

Those three black holes, called Bala, Telas, and Aisvarya, meaning Strength, Splendor, and Lordship in the dead language of the Elessi, are in perfect orbit around a point called the Atman – the space around the point at which Omega was destroyed. By relocating here, the Ishvana was able to take advantage of the power generated by the huge gravitational distortions to power it and all its activities, while its near-unlimited intellectual capacity allowed its automatons to construct structures as needed that would resist gravity’s irresistible lure.

That was 1.95 million years ago, and until the five hundred year War of Extinction that ended slightly more than 40,000 years ago, the Ishvana communicated with none and worked at purposes known only to it. It’s unknown whether it continued to work towards the goal its creators had bestowed on it, or whether it simply contemplated its own perfection there in the eye maelstrom of primal energy that rages around the Atman.

What we do know is that about 1.1 million years ago, the Utan Mir and the Vyar, probably using the Lha Ti as vehicles for void kith energy, created the Void Gates, permitting starship-sized bodies to travel instantly across vast distances. In order to monitor the activities as best as they could, they built one near the now-home of the Ishvana. Periodically, they should attempt to gather information about what the Ishvana was doing, but the Ishvana did not permit their ships or sensors into the region within the orbit of Bala, Telas and Aisvarya, and what they did see told them little. Starships of unusual design would occasionally emerge and speed away or, if shot at, self-destruct, and those ships would return to disappear into the area around the Atman, sometimes weeks later, sometimes decades later.

Ishvana
An artist's rendering of the Atman, wherein the Ishvana resides.

The War of Extinction

And then, approximately 42,000 years ago, the Ishvana initiated contact, after being nearly forgotten. It sent automated emissaries to the capitals of each race in Starmourn sector, and perhaps beyond, demanding that they submit to uploading of their consciousness’s into the Ishvana. It explained that it has achieved a perfect state of being, interrupted only by other beings who are not itself. Rectifying that is a simple matter. Submit.

Submit.

Submit.

No race acceded to the Ishvana’s demand, for to do so was to guarantee genocide and absorption into an alien being.

They fought.

The Utan Mir were the first to be attacked, and while they battled back valiantly, they were soon in desperate straits. As the other Elder Races watched the Utan Mir – one of the mightiest of the Elder Races – crumple before the Ishvana’s onslaught, they quickly realized that if they didn’t stand together, they might all face destruction. Coming to their rescue in perhaps the largest combined fleet assembled since the ancient Ascension Wars of the Wild Kith era, tens of millions of years earlier, which ended the 100,000 year reign of the Soulshorn Empire and its immortal Bloodlords, was an alliance of the Rek – masters of star kith, the Vyar, the mysterious, telepathic Shrikem, the member states of the League of Anar, the combative K’sath, and the Quix in their huge Dreadnaughts.

The graceful Ta-deth came, flying their impossibly quick fighter craft. The Faceless Emperor of the Sooq sent his Fleet of the Imperial Dawn, in the midst of which came his flagship, the Argent Star, while his rival, the Sapphire Cults of the Jeweled Heresy brought their vast swarmships, protecting Y’saari carriers bearing void-kith wielding Lha Ti, though other than these, who are by far the eldest of the Younger Races, none of the Younger Races participated in the battle, for the others did not have the capability to make a difference and would have been fairly useless except as cannon fodder that the Ishvana’s forces would destroy easily.

For 1,500 years, the Elder Races fought and died. They died by the billions as entire worlds were destroyed by the great Kali warships the Ishvana deployed, using weapons and shielding beyond the ken of even the Vyar – greatest builders of the Elder Races – and using the network of Voidgates the Vyar and Utan Mir had built. One by one, they fell or fled.

The League of Anar was wiped from history. The K’sath fought to the last, frequently volunteering to stand and die in order to help others flee a losing battle. The Utan Mir and Vyar were similarly wiped out, while only a small population of Rek survived by fleeing. A least a few of the Quix are believed to have fled Starmourn on their Dreadnaughts, when defeat was imminent, for there were reports of a fleet of Quix leaving the sector recorded in Shen databases at the time. The Sapphire Cults, seeing no other choice, made a final, suicidal attack, supported by the Ta-deth, on the bulk of the Ishvana’s major fleet, but was decimated, and the Ishvana destroyed their planets utterly in retaliation, for they did inflict substantial damage on its forces.

The Faceless Emperor and his Fleet of the Imperial Dawn was a mighty force – perhaps equal to that of the Utan Mir or Rek – but it too fell before the unbridled power of the Kali ships the Ishvana had in uncountable numbers. The Emperor is believed to have fled the scene of the final battle of his race in their home system, broadcasting the Sooq griefsong across all channels as he and his small band of surviving ships left to try and survive in unknown space, led by the Argent Star.

And finally, in the last, it was the Shrikem that saved not just the Elder Races, but all of us, for it is certain that the Ishvana would have come for us with the Elder Races destroyed.

The Shrikem have always been the most mysterious of the Elder Races that we’ve had any contact with, though rarely do they deign to communicate with us, or allow us to as much as detect them. We do not know where their home system is, nor do we understand their technology, which some have accused, probably wrongly, of being some flavor of Wild Kith. They are an enigma that the Younger Races have yet to unravel.

We do know, however, that they are strongly telepathic, and that somehow, in some miraculous, completely unexpected way, they collectively unleashed those powers against the Ishvana, cracking its sub-quantum mind. By no means did they destroy it, but they drove a wedge into it, separating one part of its consciousness from the other. How they did this, and why they waited so long is a mystery that wasn't solved until much later, as the Shrikem were not inclined to offer explanation.

The Ishvana immediately went seemingly insane. Its ships would randomly attack each other, and its fleets would execute maneuvers with no purpose, sometimes causing ships within it to collide and destroy each other. Emissary ships from it bearing nonsensical messages that seemed bound for nowhere were intercepted. Within the span of a year, the Ishvana’s attacks had fallen apart completely, and it retreated into its Atman to lick its proverbial wounds.

The Younger Era

Though the Ishvana had been defeated, the cost of winning had been incalculable. The entire cultural, racial, and social order of Starmourn, millions of years old, had been violently turned over, and with this, the ascendance of the Younger Races began.

The only known surviving members of those Elder Races in Starmourn are a now humbled contingent of Rek, the Shrikem in their unknown home, and of course, the Y’saari, who survived primarily because they spent many millennia building the strongest, tightest border defenses in known space, and because, somewhat ironically given their present day control over them, they ensured there was no Voidgate leading from outside their space to inside their space. Perhaps the only place more difficult to penetrate is the Atman of the Ishvana.

Over time, we came to realize that the splintering of the Ishvana’s mind was intolerable to it – a being that sought, and believed it had achieved, singular, personal perfection. It simply could not accept this fundamental flaw in itself. For almost 40,000 years the Ishvana would again disappear from history as it tried to repair its broken mind. Throughout that time, the Younger Races grew in power, and for many hundreds of years occasionally attempted to penetrate into the Atman of the Ishvana, but to no success. No ships were seen coming or going, and eventually the watch on the Ishvana became lax, then disappeared.

But the Ishvana does not forget, and as all know from much more recent history, the Starmourn we live in today would be once more reshaped, if less drastically, by the Ishvana.

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