The Howlers were one of the successor species of the ancient Yinnari and by far the most successful. They stemmed their origin from within the Great Rift, where once was a massive planet-sized space station orbiting a black hole. For a time, after the Fall, life at the station continued normally. Yet, cut off from the manufacturing hubs that supplied parts to sustain the station’s function, little by little, over centuries, things began to deteriorate. Sections began to darken as power generators began failing. Necessities, plentiful at the beginning, became ever scarce.

As resources dwindled, society began descending into anarchy. Violence, malnutrition, and plague dwindled the numbers and regressed the state of the Yinnari race until all that remained were barbaric tribes wandering the darkened halls of the failing station. With eyesight of little use, over the generations, they grew blind and their other senses heightened. Termed ‘Howlers,’ they relied on their loud guttural growls as echolocation as well as a form of long-distance communication within the station’s labyrinthian confines.

The Tenacity of Life

For millions of years, such remained the situation within the failing station, with the Howlers evolving more slender bodies and their hearing sensory organs growing larger. Now, more adapted to their cavern environment, they again began their slow transition from a wild state to building a primitive civilization.

But fate to the nascent Howler civilization was never kind. As soon as they had built a complex society, the gravity stabilizer holding the structure intact failed, causing it to slowly collapse in itself. Virtually all howlers perished in the process, save for a few that were lucky enough to be forced onto the surface.

There, they found a breathable, diverse biosphere, for gases, microbes, liquids, and even complex life have long slipped onto the structure’s surface. Yet, as the structure slowly contracted, becoming a planet, cataclysmic earthquakes, toxic fumes, and eruptions of molten metal made any attempts at civilization impossible. For a further 10 million years or so, descendent of surviving Howlers eked out a difficult existence as nomadic hunter-gathers on a volatile planet. The saga of the species, however, had only just started.  Their descendants of the far future would play an integral role in shaping the galaxy before humanity’s dawn.

The Al’yan Asecenedncy

Different types of Howlers. Spec-evo art
Pictured here is an etched cave ‘painting’ [visualized as it would appear to the Howlers] of two Ordos subspecies: Two Warriors on the right and a Giant on the left. Their hand prints signify their loyalty towards each other. Also shown are the Karova, their domesticated cattle.
Over time, as groups became geographically isolated, they began to diverge into various subspecies. Some regressed in their intelligence but many continued to advance in their cognitive capabilities. However, as the planet stabilized, the various howler groups experienced a surge in population and migrated outwards from homelands, ultimately coming into contact with one another.

Most interactions were violent as the divergent groups saw each other as competition and rivals. Over the progress of many thousands of years, many subgroups would become extinct, being outcompeted or outbred by their more successful cousins.

However, not all interactions were violent. Some saw the obvious advantages of mutualism and allied with one another. These ‘super-groups’ absorbed or eradicated all competitors until only two factions remained: the Ordos, composed of various hunter-nomad Howler subspecies and an alliance of various more settled and civilized subspecies called Al’yans.

The two factions remained on unfriendly terms but neither was strong enough to outcompete the other. That is until the invention of the Basalic – their equivariant to our gunpowder but far deadlier. Made from exposing organic cellulose to various acid mixtures, the result was a highly explosive compound that could be weaponized. The balance of power thus shifted greatly on the side of the Al’yans. Within a century, they virtually eradicated the Ordos and settled their lands, rich in resources. With trade now more secure and prospering and cities no longer under constant threat, industrialization began and the Howler civilization entered the modern age.

A Message from the Void

The Howler Civilization continued to advance further, eventually harnessing the power of the atom and quantum mechanics. Yet, despite their technological prowess, they remained a species stuck to their planet. For you see, lacking eye-sight and relying on hearing, as they ‘looked’  to the sky, they did not see the heavens, the stars, or even their moon. All they could sense was a vast void  – immeasurable and all the more frightening.

However,  one day, their communication arrays picked up an unusual sound emanating from the void – it was so foreign that even the best minds could not decipher it. Yet, at the same time, it felt similar, as if broadcasted by another intelligent life. It was now realized that the Howlers were not alone in this vast void, that there existed other worlds with other civilizations and other species, who, likely, harbored the same curiosities, struggles, and wants as they did. The search was on, the Howler space program was launched and it was soon that they became a space-faring civilization.

A realistic alien astronaut

The Riddle Unfolds

For many millennia thereon, the Howler civilization enjoyed great prosperity, creating a vast empire wedged between the Sagittarius and Orion Arms, stretching some 10,000 light-years and coming in contact with more nascent space civilizations such as the Bea’viskar and the Shifters as well as intelligence far more primordial. Yet, the origin of the cryptic message sent to their forefathers so far back in time, an event that single-handedly forever changed the course of their civilization, remained elusive.

Had it been a message adrift in space from a long-lost civilization, an unexplained anomaly, or just an erroneous reading of some natural phenomenon? No one could answer and eventually, it felt irrelevant.

But, then, traversing the unknown expanse, Howler explorers discovered a drifting vessel in space. Survey indicated the vessel to be some 100,000 years old; its occupants in cryogenic pods long dead as the power failed ages ago. Yet, the wealth of data stored onboard the ship was remarkably preserved and what’s more, closer examination showed their language matched the signal that had kickstarted their journey to space. Finally was there an answer to be found. When the message was deciphered, it read: DANGER | DEATH | BEWARE

This was not what the Howlers had anticipated yet they ignored the warning, believing that whatever the threat had been, it must have occurred in the distant past, and thus, it was no cause for concern. This assumption would cost them dearly.

One Last Stand Against the Coming Darkness

The last stand of an alien empire

It occurred suddenly, a vast concentration of Hybo Ordus, numbers never before witnessed in Howler’s recorded history, surged into known space, threatening civilizations. Planet after planet fell to the innumerable scourge. While the Howler had the edge in technological superiority, there just were far too many to kill. Also strange was the behavior of these Hybo Ordus; they were far more aggressive and less self-preserving. Stranger still, in every engagement, the Howlers could sense the emotions these hyper-predatory species exhibited – it was fear.

Slowly, in a war of attrition, the Howler began losing ground until they were contacted by a Matrioshka brain called Pathfinder. That was no good news, however, for such hyper-advanced A.I. normally kept neutrality in organic’s affairs unless there was a matter of grave concern. And of grave concern it was, for these Hybo Ordus were, in fact, fleeing from an even greater threat. The A.I. would reveal that all its simulations showed a zero chance of the Howler civilization surviving what was to come but the rest of the galaxy could be saved if only the Howlers agreed to trust it and follow its plan.

For precious minutes, the Sovereign, the leader to some 1 trillion souls within the empire, shut himself from the rest. He emitted a screech out through his palace which echoed through the vast artificial caverns of his grand capital. He could sense the immensity of the place – build over countless centuries by generations of howlers. The Howler Empire stood at the zenith of its long existence. But, in a span of a single day, it could all be undone. The Sovereign had a decision to make: keep fighting a losing battle in hopes of an eventual breakthrough or trust this enigmatic A.I. and his plan.  And he had to make it fast for the enemy was closing on the capital quickly.

Next day break, it was decided. The capital will be abandoned and all resources at their disposal will be deployed in enacting the A.I. plan. Their empire will perish but, in doing so, they will give the galaxy respite against the coming darkness.

To their last, the Howlers fought the frantic horde, bidding the A.I. time to construct its great structure – a network of pylons, stretching across the galaxy. As the last of the Howlers fell, their sacrifice was not in vain. The pylons activated and rend the fabric of space and time around it, effectively creating a ‘great wall’ that, if nothing else, brought time for the other civilizations, hopefully, to advance enough technologically to face the threat once the pylons start failing.

This entry was created by community founder, Artnoob100

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