Friday, May 22, 2015

Orbital Biomes

It is a great secret, but the era before the Time of Fire and Madness was one of creation and mastery. Among a great deal of other things, the sorcerer-kings created orbital colonies.

The high elves made a great many things, including orbital colonies.  When the Time of Fire and Madness scorched the earth, the creatures in orbit did not escape unscathed.  Now the low orbits above Centerra are filled with their own, unique biomes.

Membranous forests made of enormous leaves, each one hundreds of feet across, that all turned in unison to face the sun.  Globular habitats of silico-cellulose.  Nacreous blooms of orbital krill.

And like all of the outer dark, the orbital reaches of the planet are not devoid of air.  Shitty, toxic air, but air nonetheless.  Thicker in some places than others.  There is wind in space.

Most of the orbital environments are pieces of Eladras, the elven sky-tree that grew from the moon down into the planet's atmosphere.  Like the rest of the world, it was shattered by Fire and warped by Madness.  Strange things swim through the bristling woods of the void.

art by Mikhail Rakhmatullin
Aventuring In Low Orbit

The easiest way for an adventurer to get into Low-Centerra Orbit is to travel to Ba Dwai La and use the portal to get to the moon, where they will be able to buy fish skins* and No Breath potions.  From there, it's just a short jump out of the moon's gravity well down to the Maze.  Any captain worth their voidship can take you.

*Fish skins = space suits.  They're covered with scales, and they're alive.

The other easy way to reach low orbit is to travel to the Grey Waste and catch the Cat's Tail when it passes overhead.  This is the remains of an old orbital elevator.

You could also summon a byakhee and ride it, but most people don't enjoy their half of that bargain.

You could also ride a dragon, but this is the riskiest task.  Terrestrial dragons tend to over exert themselves and blow up before getting any higher than 30,000 ft.

A digression about dragons: Look, dragons are highly magical creatures.  Anyone with a cursory knowledge of biology is going to tell you that a dragon would need much larger wings to actually fly.  And that's true, until you factor magic in.  A dragon's wing superheat the air beneath them, giving them a great deal of buoyancy. And once they get into open, gliding flight, they are capable of a mild form of jet propulsion along their wings.  That's how you know a dragon is really struggling: their wings start to smoke.

Drakes do the same thing, and are much faster.

Space dragons presumably do the same thing.  The only known space dragon is Forganthus Valore, who lands every ~100 years for the Hundred Year Stew.  He is a gourmand.  And after he eats the 90 million or so calories required to escape from the planet's gravity well, he departs atop a pillar of fire.

Space dragons don't look much like dragons.  Except for the fire, that's still the same.  Their bones are raw feroxite and their bellies are just pools of rocket fuel.

art by Mikhail Rakhmatullin

Orbital Forests

Eladras's green shards did not die when it was sundered.  They grew, like potatoes abandoned under the sink.  The trees are spindles of enormous leaves that rotate in order to best face the sun.

The largest threat of the orbital biome: high-velocity impacts from micrometeoroids and other debris, and handled simply by avoiding any biology with weakspots.  Any tree can be shattered; each piece will safely regrow.  The leaves--each hundreds of feet across and as thin as a piece of paper--are riddled with millions of ragged holes and scorchmarks.

The interior of these forests are the safest places.  There is some shielding from the radiation here, and most micrometeoroids don't penetrate into the forest's interior.


A parish is a hermetically sealed township.  They are full of clans of goggle-eyed halflings (being the race best adapted to living in tiny, sealed containers for their entire lives).  Quite a few of them are primitivists, and many of them believe that the planet is only illusion--nothing lives on the surface because it has no surface.

If you were expecting space-halfings to have better technology and magic than their earth-bound counterparts, you would be sorely mistaken. The tools are foreign and the magic is strange, but most orbital halflings eke out miserable existences inside their metal tubes.

art by Mikhail Rakhmatullin

There are races of man who are adapted for the void as well.  You can see them sometimes, with their gossamer wings dimming the sun, flitting around the perimeters of the forests.  Their skin is metallic, to protect against the burning radiation of God's Fury--the sun.  Their horrific faces belie an alien but not incomprehensible intelligence.  They communicate with bacteria, and lack lungs.

They are huge, 20' tall, and weight about 40 lbs.  They move ponderously, like creatures at the bottom of the sea.  Only in combat do they lash out quickly, with movements that threaten to rip off one of their own arms.

They tend to ignore travelers unless they are approached, or if they've formed into a raiding party.  So, it is not hard to observe them without much fuss--perhaps a mother wrapped in the amber silk of her wings, with an infant pressed to her mirror-like breast.

Although every part of their body can be regenerated if damaged, their brain cannot, and such a precious cargo can only be protected in one way: their skulls are solid adamantine.


Oh, there are a great deal of undead in space.  The biggest hazards of that place pose no threat to those who are already dead.

Space ghouls sometimes travel in voidships like other civilized folk, but more often they just travel in ravenous packs linked together by rope.  They're all armed with grappling hooks (or a reasonable approximation).  They use these hooks to catch fleeing creatures as well as to hold their pack together.

If you approach the poles, you may be unlucky enough to see one of the lich princes, riding a ziggurat ripped from some lunar necropolis.  The lich will be at the apex, naked face gazing into the void, preparing to enter the polar blowhole and descend into the blue-lit interior of the planet.

You are, however, quite safe from vampires up here.  The sun is huge and inescapable.


You can find poets of the lunar people here as well.  They'll be orbiting the planet a few times, locked tightly inside their hedonism-shells, where they invent narcotics and drink water from the tail of a comet.  Sometimes they do poetry, as well.

art by Mikhail Rakhmatullin

More Space Suits

See also, this sweet thing by Cedric P:

Because of course there are space knights.


  1. Make me think of one of my knights: :)

    1. That is obviously a space knight, and I will update my post to reflect this obvious omission.

  2. fucking outstanding. goddamn beautiful