THE THRULD

The planet D’Arayn was the home of a humanoid race collectively called the Thrutan but which, during generations, had split into two distinct factions. The Thruld worshipped technology, seeing in it the key to their future and willing to sacrifice anything to further advances in it. The Thr’iln followed a path of mental development, striving to bring the brain’s abilities to their ultimate potential and shunning technology save for necessities.

Inevitably, war broke out, war that lingered for many, bloody years. The technological weaponry of the Thruld was powerful, but the Thr’iln wielded mental powers that countered it at every turn. Yet, neither could achieve more than a stalemate.

But then the Thruld devised a single weapon that they felt would end the war in their favor. They launched it, intending its power to raze clean the lands of the Thr’iln. However, the device had not been tested thoroughly and misfired. From the sky, it sent out a wave of deadly radiation of a kind previously unknown. All of D’Arayn was bathed and even though the radiation dissipated after a short time, its foul effects remained. The Thrutan as a whole were affected, their DNA permanently damaged. Mutations developed, mutations that grew with each generation. Their bodies also began to break down without warning and without any pattern. In the beginning, an organ might fail or a limb wither. From there, other parts would fail. The only constant was that an agonizing death would soon follow.

The Thruld hit upon what appeared the only solution, replacing the diseased portions of their bodies with artificial ones. However, before long, they started taking what they considered preventive measures, replacing parts of the body still untouched. Only the brain remained intact for, in what some took as an ironic verification of the Thr’iln philosophy, it was the only organ unaffected by the radiation’s monstrous legacy.

Ruthless Thruld logic finally dictated that to defeat the damage to their bodies, the bodies had to be replaced as soon as possible. They began to transplant the brain into a mechanical form, one enhanced in a thousand ways.

A few of the Thr’iln joined their course of action, but most protested this heinous path. The Thruld, now more machine than mortal, looked upon the other faction with disdain. In a momentary act of remorse, they have shared their technology with their enemies, saving countless lives. However, more and more of the Thr’iln had already begun to reject that aid, seeing it as leading to darkness. They pointed out that once one became only machine, all the pleasures of life --- even such little things as smelling a flower or tasting a rich piece of fruit --- were then beyond reach.

But they preached to those already beyond redemption. Savoring their new, powerful forms and seeing no limits to how they could be enhanced, the Thruld had only contempt for any who spoke against what they had chosen. They deemed the Thr’iln weak and unfit for survival in their new world. If the Thr’iln would not adapt with them, then there was no reason why they should any longer exist.

And so the Thruld swept over their world and eradicated the Thr’iln. The slaughter was swift as it was merciless. And with the Thr’iln went the Thrutan. There was only the Thruld now…and the Thruld discovered that they did have one great overriding emotion remaining. They sought to conquer more.

United now as one, the Thruld ventured out into the galaxy, gathering more resources and building upon their advances. When they first encountered races from other worlds, they briefly took the path of negotiation and trade until realizing that those races were not as powerful as they were. The Thruld then took what they wanted and any foolish enough to resist were enslaved or slaughtered.

The Thruld empire grew. Outwardly, it appeared that conquest remained their only goal, but, at some point, there came a second, perhaps even greater goal. Rumors swirled around a massive container found on an old, empty world, a container transported back to the Thruld homeworld and whose contents were known only to the lead command. About that same time, the Thruld also discovered the first vestiges of the one race whose technology had clearly surpassed their own…indeed, dwarfed theirs. The Ortheeni.

The Ortheeni had come and gone, so old was their race. There were no signs of what they had looked like, only great machines and other artifacts that bespoke of their almost godlike powers. The Thruld became filled with envy and sought to master the machines….only to fail time and time again. They could neither fuel the mechanisms nor divine their creation. The secrets of the Ortheeni eluded them.

Obsessed, the Thruld sought the ancient race’s legacy wherever it could be found. They gathered what could be transported and secured sites where moving the relics were impossible or impractical. Not only did they still seek the secrets of utilizing the Ortheeni technology, but a concern now touched the Thruld. Somewhere, they decided, some Ortheeni power source must exist. They wanted no others to learn to manipulate the artifacts first, for that would potentially threaten the empire’s domination...and the Thruld’s very existence.

And thus began the Great Hunt…a swathe of destruction and death that would lead to one planet…and another legacy of the Ortheeni that would prove the Thruld’s bane – the Rune Keepers…

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