A Palace for Corpses and the Dead Ghosts of Empire
The plumes of soft, powdery, grey dust drifted downwards slowly under the asteroid’s weak gravity. It had begun to settle around the feet of the landing gear. The ship sank into the thick loamy crust as it compacted the matter beneath it.
Dracnyr stood at the base of the boarding ramp, watching the hull still crackle with the greenish-blue hues of star-fire. It’d be at least a day before the storm of ionised particles from the local yellow dwarf quietened down, and probably another two before it was safe to take off again. Which left Dracnyr the unenviable joy of hunkering down and waiting out the storm.
Dracynr flexed xyr vacuum armoured tentacles and began to inspect the local area. Xe strained with the myriad facets of xyr compound eyes, the dust clouding the deep basin in which the ship now sat, obscuring anything beyond a couple of tendrils. Dracynr blinked and slide the nano-molecule nictitating scanner membrane across their bulbous quintuplet of eyes. The scanners filtered out the noise, interpolating shadow fractals, tweaking photon gain, and splicing in the wavelengths beyond xyr biological capability to see.
The basin began to resolve slowly as the membrane layered the composite images together, scrubbing out the fog of dust and revealing whatever was out there in the cold and the dark.
As the shapes took form they seemed smooth, regular, and vertical, not loose and jagged slopes Dracnyr would have expected from an asteroid basin. Not even the smooth regularity of a cliff-face. It felt far more artificial than that. The walls of basin became coarse and pixelated colonnades nearly half a klyx high. Xyr view traced down from these grand and imposing pillars to the open space on which xyr ship rested. It was a klyx wide and ran in a line for nigh on a decaklyx, bordered by short walls with regularly spaced archways. At its head a titanic portico filled the entire wall. This dead and cold palace exuded a precise and almost offensive grandeur. But how could anything live in the hard vacuum? Why would anything build a palace in a place such as this?
The images sharpened. Dracnyr zoomed in on the majesty of the portico. Its back wall was smooth, blank. The ghosts of what may have been doors or windows flickered on the mass-density scan, all had been bricked over and sealed shut. High above the ground, on this now featureless back wall, there was something written on it. No. Not written: Carved. In great, ragged letters, brutally hacked into façade.
Tendebantque Manus Ripae Ulterioris Amore
Sunt Lacrimae Rerum
The translation banks held all languages alive and dead known to Dracynr’s people. It grunted. Dry. Empty. It did not know what it said.