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An Ancient Mystery: Darrian Ruins in the Sacnoth Dominate

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue.

In 25 D.E.*—4359CE by the Old Terran calendar—the Sacnoth Dominate government announced it would sponsor several exploratory expeditions into the frontiers surrounding Sword Worlds space. The Sacnoth Dominate Exploratory Expeditions marked the first major interstellar expansion since the original settlement of the Sword Worlds. This essay appeared in a special issue of the Journal of Diplomatic History (a publication of the University of Ny Kalmar on Gram) devoted to the history of Sword Worlds settlement and expansion, released following the exploration announcement by the Sacnoth Dominate government.

Effective 15 Februar 25 D.E., this decree prohibits government- and privately-funded exploitation or settlement in any system in the Pilgrim frontier in which evidence is discovered of ancient Darrian ruins, with the sole exception of minor facilities established well-away from any such ruins to provide for the wilderness refueling of starships transiting through the system.

Within two years of establishing formal diplomatic relations with the Darrian Confederation to spinward of Sword Worlds space, the Sacnoth Dominate, while preparing for an extensive program of exploration of the Pilgrim, Sepireld and Danuuz frontiers, has banned any exploitation or settlement in newly-explored systems which are found to have ruins of the mysterious ancient Darrian civilization. What could have led the Dominate government to make this remarkable decision? Was some secret accommodation made with the Darrians? Did the Darrians offer an explanation of the mysterious Maghiz which sparked the ban?

Long before we encountered actual Darrians, Sword Worlders had discovered ruins of the ancient Darrian civilization destroyed in the interstellar cataclysm called the Maghiz by the Darrians. That an ancient star-faring branch of Humaniti had been present in the region where the Founders had come to make our home was an unsettling mystery which framed Sword Worlder conceptions of security from the very beginning of our history.

The first discovery of ancient Darrian ruins in Sword Worlds space occurred on Gram in 2 F.E.* during the early surveys following the original settlement of the planet. We know now that the Darrian settlement on Gram had suffered no direct harm from the Maghiz itself but failed in the years afterward as contact with other Darrian worlds was lost. (The ancient settlement seems to have been a small scientific outpost which was possibly studying Gram as a potential colony world.) Because the Founders had no knowledge of the Maghiz or its effects on ancient Darrian civilization, the reason for the failure of the settlement remained a mystery. Thus, the initial discovery was suppressed by the Gram Admiralty in order to forestall fears about potential survivors on Gram or of star-faring Humans in nearby space or even of some as-yet-undiscovered harmful aspect of Gram’s ecosphere which had caused the failure of the settlement.

The discovery of the Darrian ruins on Gram was a key motivation for the early surveys of nearby worlds that led to the discovery of surviving Darrians on Cunnonic in 3 F.E. and sparked the establishment of small settlements on Joyeuse, Colada, Tizon and Hrunting to pre-empt Darrian expansion into Sword Worlds space. (The large population of Darrian survivors on Entrope also led to a decision to forego settlement of Ansehelm** in order to maintain an informal “buffer zone” with Entrope.)

It wasn’t until after the discovery of the failed Darrian mining colony on Excalibur in 108 F.E., somewhat better-preserved because the settlement had suffered from the disruption of communications and computing systems caused by the Maghiz, that formal efforts were made on other Sword Worlds to discover ancient Darrian ruins. The Excalibur discovery led to the subsequent discovery of ruins of Darrian settlements on Joyeuse, Colada and Tizon, all of which had apparently been unscathed by the Maghiz itself but failed in its aftermath. The Darrian settlement on Gram was also revealed in this era—presented publicly as a recent discovery, as Sword World archaeologists began to piece together the widespread collapse of ancient Darrian civilization (and as our covert reconnaissance began to establish that the Darrians had only recently returned to interstellar space).

Though the first Darrian traders from Mire began to appear in the Sword Worlds in 135 F.E. they were reticent to discuss their ancient history. With time, in bits in pieces, some of these traders confirmed that the ruins in Sword Worlds space were indeed the remnants of ancient Darrian settlements but no explanation was offered for their failure. On the other hand the Darrians were also careful not to press any territorial claims in Sword Worlds space.

The colonization of Anduril in 183 F.E. led to the discovery of the most well-preserved Darrian ruins in Sword Worlds space, the ancient settlement there having failed after suffering from the destruction of a large proportion of electronics and gravitics modules caused by the Maghiz. With the discovery of Darrian ruins on Hofud and Sting in this period as well, we developed a newfound appreciation of the scale of destruction experienced by ancient Darrian civilization and a greater foreboding of its causes—though the details of the Maghiz itself still remained unknown. The most recent Darrian ruins in Sword Worlds space were discovered on Morglay in 209 F.E. It was in this period that we also learned of the Darrian ruins on Caladbolg.

While the Darrians have been reluctant to provide details about the cataclysm they call the Maghiz, scientists have reached a consensus that it must have been some sort of high-energy, electro-magnetic phenomenon emanating from somewhere in Darrian space. Some have posited a solar nova but there do not seem to be any remnant stars in Darrian space which could have been the source. Still the patterns of destruction across the various known ruins sites, with those settlements closer to Darrian space having apparently suffered more severe electro-magnetic damage than those which are farther away, indicate a wave of destruction spreading out from a single point. (Scientists are reasonably certain this origin point is somewhere among the cluster of Darrian systems which include both Mire and the Darrian homeworld.) It seems reasonable to conclude that it is the Maghiz which was responsible for the collapse of the ancient interstellar civilization of the Darrians.

If the source of the Maghiz was not a natural one, the prospect of an artificial source is a chilling possibility. Obviously, such an artificial capability would represent a terrible weapon of mass destruction on an interstellar scale. It seems unlikely the Darrians would be reticent to speak of their experience of the Maghiz had they been the victims of an attack by an adversary with such a weapon. On the other hand, if the ancient Darrians inflicted this cataclysm on themselves perhaps the security concerns of the Founders provoked by the discovery of those first Darrian ruins on Gram over two centuries ago were not misplaced after all.

— Professor Erika Narankha
Department of Anthropology
University of Foerstaberg, Sacnoth
25 Mars 26 D.E.


Alien Module 8: Darrians—Secret of the Star Trigger, Game Designers’ Workshop, 1986.

Sword Worlds: The Day After Ragnarok, Steve Jackson Games, 2004.