Blueshift: the big picture
I’m finally writing something about Blueshift.
The known world, by which I mean “everywhere that people have gone”, is called The Rings of Behir, or more commonly, The Rings. Legend has it1 that in the beginning of time, Behir drifted through the void alone, and her lover Talathir looked upon her and despaired. Then he collected up every rock and speck of dust and mote of gravel in the void and fashioned them into ornaments and jewellery for Behir, and yet there was not enough to produce a decoration that would encompass her. Thus, Talathir created small gems and rocky pendants with his material, and sent them into orbits around Behir such that they would encompass her over time.
Be that as it may, the phrase “the Rings” is a verbal shortcut to encompass everything that orbits or interacts with Behir, from Behir herself, to the halo, to the core worlds, and event out to the remnants.
Behir is the star at the centre of everything. In various cultures she is worshipped as a god or goddess, sometimes alone, sometimes as the head of a pantheon. While different cultures regard Behir as male, female or sexless, the influence of Valari scribes means that in most written works she is referred to as a female.
Behir is a light blue-green colour, and she would be quite bright except that her light is shielded somewhat by her halo. Scientists and scholars have long theorised as to the makeup of Behir, but no research vessel has ever made it to the centre of the halo to find out. Detailed surveys have revealed that Behir masses at least ten times greater than any of the islands, assuming she is made of known material. A number of scholars believe that she is also made partly of lodestone, as it is observed that objects floating in the ether are slowly pulled toward her.
Surrounding Behir is the halo, a thick mix of gasses that orbit her constantly. By best reckoning the halo is several days’ travel in thickness, although no craft is able to withstand the pressure and temperature of the inner halo.
The gasses of the halo are harsh and corrosive. Ships which wish to venture into the halo have to have their hulls specially reinforced to deal with the atmosphere. Occasionally, forces as yet unknown will eject thick plumes and clouds of the halo out into the Rings. These plumes are often brightly coloured, and vary in density from a diffuse misting to a thick fog. islands will occasionally get caught in these plumes: the effect is dependent upon the size of the island and the severity of the plume. In some cases all that will change will be the colour of the sky, while in others occupants have to walk about with handkerchiefs over their mouths and noses for a week (or worse).
Any piece of rock orbiting Behir is commonly known as an island, although scholars generally only refer to a rock with its own atmosphere as such. A number of islands orbit Behir, and that’s where people live.
Islands vary wildly in size. The biggest have birthed entire civilisations, and when Behir is shining you could even forget there were other worlds. The smallest drifting rocks, bereft of gravity or atmosphere, with maybe a small mining base or smuggler’s outpost hanging onto the side like a limpet on a dinghy.
The majority of islands, especially the larger ones, contain a core of lodestone, a dark-grey or black rock that has the interesting property of attracting other matter to it. Without loadstone, islands seldom grow big enough to be habitable. The loadstone can be mined, although on smaller islands this can damage the integrity of the island itself.
Closest to Behir lie the fragments, a series of small, broken islands which often do not have enough substance to grow or maintain much life. A number of these islands dip into and out of the halo, and these fragments can often be pitted with wear.
Despite the somewhat forbidding nature of the fragments, life still clings on here. Scholars have documented whole families of plants and insects that live on the side of these small islands, often pulling nutrition from the atmosphere or even collecting water and nutrients as they fall towards Behir. Several of the larger fragments are big enough to support a proper atmosphere, and here animals thrive. The Kayyik, a sentient race of pack-like scavengers and hunters, live on the rocks of the fragments, and while they never developed technology beyond simple metalwork themselves, they have adapted themselves to the more complex world that has been introduced to them.
A number of the fragments are rich in some of the rarer elements, and a number of civilised races have mining colonies set up on the islands. Pirates, smugglers, and radical seperatists may also be found in the fragments, relying on cover from the sheer number of islands and shoals that occupy this zone, as well as the relative safety of the halo nearby.
The core worlds
The core worlds make up the majority of “civilised” space in the Rings. Considerably larger than the islands making up the fragments, core worlds are distinguished by being at least approximately spherical, large enough to maintain a thick atmosphere, and possessing at least some ground water. The majority of the Rings’ inhabitants live on the core worlds, and on a sunny day it’s generally possible to forget that you live in a system teeming with life where people regularly travel between islands.
Every Core World is different, from the atmosphere, to the gravity, to the colour of the sky. A number of races originate from the core worlds: the development of agriculture seems a prerequisite to technological progress, and farming only works when you have the land, air and water to support crops.
The remnants lie further from Behir than the core worlds. The divide is a blurry one - far less well-defined than the divide between the fragments and the core worlds. The remnants tend to be cold, waterless places, in general smaller than the core worlds. While some of the remnants are rich in iron or lodestone, their distance from other islands makes mining them less lucrative than extracting resources from either core worlds or the fragments.
Nonetheless, a number of communities make their living in the remnants. They are traditionally a place of quiet contemplation, spiritual enlightenment, and retreat from the chaos of life in the core worlds. They also host unique flora and fauna, from giant ferns and creeping vines to the Achula, giant beasts that navigate the ether from island to island, grazing on mosses and other small plants that thrive in these outer islands.
That’s the general outline of the Rings of Behir. Next time: maybe I’ll go into a bit more detail about how people live: the ether itself, lodestone, and the ships of the Rings.
While a number of different cultures have a number of different stories about Behir, the Valarii First Church of Behir is the most vocal regarding the origin of Behir and the rings in general. Different splinters of the First Church have attempted to reconcile these stories with those of other cultures at various points, although the First Church themselves are notoriously conservative regarding integration. ↩