I’ll skip over the history segment; while it’s fascinating, it also has details best discovered in person and is the sort of thing most players will skip. Instead, we’ll be moving more properly into the cosmology of the system today, beginning with the innermost bodies – the white dwarf Aethera and the yellow fire-aligned star Ashra.
So first I’m going to correct an assumption I made; I mistakenly thought Aethera was originally fire-aligned and collapsed into an aether-aligned white dwarf, but it’s the sole body in the system whose element has not shifted in response to the Collapse. This is interesting, particular since the white dwarf has interesting effects of aetherite.
Fun with gravity: the two stars have Lagrange Points noted by the book’s writers, which pleases me a bit. They’re referred to as gravitic sinks, and GS 1-3 – the barycenter of their mutual orbit, and the side opposite their dance partner for each star – are swirling aether vortexes, while GS 4 and 5 are dead zones that collect debris that comes cruising in too slowly to escape from their mutual gravity. Needless to say, what with the collapse of the interplanetary empire of the Progenitors, that makes GS4 and GS5 rich grounds to go exploring for ancient technology and other prizes. Mind the pirates, though.
Interestingly, many of the flares on Ashra are the result of wars between elementals, and entire civilizations of elemental fire dwell in the corona. Even more interestingly, sometimes cool spots occur and mysterious structures rise from them for a short time before descending back into the corona. The latter might be structures from the plane of fire itself, or they might be potentially functional Progenitor structures waiting for someone to figure out how to get in without dying to the environment, the warring elementals, or the hazards inside the structures.
Since Ashra was a planet before the Collapse, it has a Gate Hub for easy interplanetary travel; fortunately for the explorers who came through first, it provides a protective field against the hellish heat and radiation of the star. The Hierarchy has taken to using phalanx as explorers, due to their resistance to many of the dangers of the area, but even they have their limits – particularly to the stranger hazards around Aethera itself.
Much of the mass of Aethera is simply missing; not blown off when it became a white dwarf, nor present on the current celestial object. What happened to it is a mystery, although the answer might have something to do with the destruction of Amrita – or something weirder. The behavior of aetherite around the white dwarf certainly suggests ‘weirder’ is an option – solid aetherite may move on its own, aetheric plasma produces whispered telepathic choruses and semi-prophetic hallucinations, and so on. Even better, the accretion of mass from Ashra’s flares produces flickering storms of light that range from green to blue-white, outbursts of hard radiation, and who knows what else.
There’s a nice list of notable locations at the end of the section on the binary stars; in addition to the gate hub and the mention of a captured comet turned aethership refuel station, there’s an amusing pop culture/conspiracy theory reference in the form of the Ebon Knight, a Progenitor construct that remains in orbit around Aethera and definitely active. There’s also a potential derelict space station, a defunct Nightmare Fuel alien aethercraft, a molten glob of metal as a moon/planet of Ashra, and a bunch of creepy giant statues with weird teleportation effects. Fun for everyone before we even leave the heart of the system!
Check back next time when we’ll wander further out from the suns, and I’ll talk about the organization that I’d only barely trust before the Nightmare Fuel aliens themselves.