In celebration of my latest book release party, although not actually book release, I am throwing a sneaky draft chapter from Greyblade onto the blog. This is contextless and may or may not wind up included, since I’m not properly writing yet … but okay, I’m making notes and things are beginning to happen. So here it is.
For general reference, this segment belongs more or less alongside Character study: The Destarion, also sneak-posted on the blog ahead of canonical schedule.
The Category 9 Convoy Defence Platforms were the final dreadful invention of Arbus Rosedian, one of the most spectacularly deadly minds of the first Worm Cult occupation of the Corporation.
A Molran by birth, by his First Prime Rosedian identified himself as a Tenth Elder. This was a philosophical and intellectual position. There were ten Elder Races, of which the Molren were one. One of the ten, however, did not exist – and had never existed. This was widely agreed to have been the work of the Relth, the Vultures of Limbo. The Tenth Elders had delved too deeply into forbidden secrets, and had been cauterised from history. Their existence was purely speculatory – there were ten of every other important thing in the urverse, and only nine known Elder Races.
Utter nonexistence was a fate even more impressive than that of the Kernians, the most famous of the forbidden-secret-fiddling Elder Races. They’d just been struck mad. So the more brilliantly unhinged creative minds of the Corporation claimed kinship with this lost species of master unravellers of the fabric of reality.
Rosedian was considered a dangerous intellect even among those who called themselves Tenth Elders, to whom a maniacal laugh and a pledge to show all the fools who said they were mad was considered a standard and balanced reaction. He’d smuggled himself out of The Centre at a time when the Worm Cult had blockaded the Dimension itself, forcing the populations of ten million universes into Capital Mind and its outlying hinterlands, and had planted their vast and inscrutable Riddle Towers like guard posts around the inner city.
 This may of course have been overblown for the purposes of mythological epicry. A horde from Beyond the Walls was unlikely to be so vast that it could fill even the charted regions of ten million universes, or move into the Corporate Dimensions so systematically that it drove the entire known population inwards without leaving large pockets that had absolutely no idea the Worm Cult was even invading. Still, the refugee colonies of The Centre during the Worm occupation were staggering.
He stole out of the occupied Dimension and spent years in the chaotic ruins of the Kernians’ civilisation where not even the Worm had dared to venture. He’d crept around the edges of their abandoned facilities and snuck glimpses at their buried experiments. And he had returned to The Centre, and put what he had learned into practice. He did so with the wealth and influence and workforce of the Pinian Brotherhood behind him, and even in the time of the Worm the Firstmades had practically limitless resources at their disposal.
The Vultures, by Rosedian’s own reckoning, had appeared before him on no fewer than six occasions, and four of these were independently verified … but he never overstepped. Never committed the transgression that would spell his doom.
He called his final creations thokagna. The fangs of God. From the slang word thok, the Molranoid’s elongated eye tooth. The name made sense, since that was what the vessels resembled. But that wasn’t really why he so named them.
The vessels were commissioned at the end of the Worm Cult’s invasion. The Cult had been driven from the Corporation and their masters from Capital Mind, and the displaced multitudes were beginning to make their way home. The Dimensions of the Corporation stood empty. Open and waiting for any refugee civilisation with the will to reach out and take them.
Battles over sovereign territory rights were bitter, and the relocation of entire uprooted cultures – and even biomes – was a huge and ponderous undertaking. A refugee-species in transit was vulnerable, and the worlds on which they used to live very much a matter of debate … if by ‘debate’ one meant ‘firepower’.
The Pinians’ solution was to have more firepower.
The Pinian-worshipping races were divided into massive convoys, and the defensive measures – platforms – into ten categories. The Category 10 Convoy Defence Platform was nothing less than the Pinian God and Disciples themselves. Rosedian’s thokagna were the next tier down.
They were more than warships. They were living things, organism meeting machine meeting the divine, and they were designed to improve themselves. From the beginning, even in the dark centuries of territorial disputes and running wars that followed the Worm Cult occupation, their sheer power was a matter of concern. The most famous of the Category 9s, of course, was the Destarion … but she was as famous for her failures and atrocities as she was for her successful convoy tours. The rest of the fleet, Rosedian’s Daughters as they came to be known, carried out their missions flawlessly.
 It was said that the Destarion‘s infamy, and her defeats, stemmed from the refugee human population she safeguarded and the affinity she later developed for the species. This was little more than fallout of the Worm Cult’s prejudice, however, and had little to do with humans specifically.
After the time of the convoys was over, treaties and agreements and accords were made. No more God-teeth were made. Indeed, but for a very few resource-bloated empires and the ever-present Firstmade Brotherhoods, nobody had what it took to make more of the pallid monsters anyway, even if it was possible without Rosedian’s direct input. The Destarion was decommissioned and placed in a caretaker orbit of the Four Realms, only entering combat in the direst of situations when the accords broke down. And the rest…
The thokagna were too mighty, too awful to die. They did not want to retire like their broken sister, would not allow themselves to be dismantled.
So, in keeping with the accords, they left.
Arbus Rosedian took his fleet, his flock of deadly daughters, and flew out of the Corporate urverse. With the sanction of the Pinian God and the stated intent of tracking the Worm to its lair and destroying it once and for all, they disappeared Beyond the Walls.
And like most who ventured into the cold and the dark, they were never seen again.