Whispers of The Starkin: Two Parables

(The following material is intended only for SolFed military personnel with Class 9-10 Clearance, or those presently working on Project Precursor. If for whatever reason you have viewed this material, whether accidentally or otherwise, without said clearance, submit yourself immediately to your nearest Data Oversight Center for immediate memory scrubbing. Failure to do so will be counted as high treason, punished by on-site summary execution, when discovered.)

Admiral Williks,

After considerable analysis and comparison with the fragments collected in the Vega system, we’ve managed to translate the tablets recovered from Io. This took much longer than anticipated. Despite the fact that Specialist Illowen insists they are completely non-magical in nature–much as the child in me rejoices at the Merge, dealing with these arcane variables is most unhelpful–they actively resist translation.

I myself find my mind seems to, for want of a better phrase, bounce off the edges of their meanings; even when I begin to comprehend, I must defeat something comparable to pre-blackout intoxication. Confounding matters, many of the fragments from other cultures–particularly the Fetaarans, who remain desperately unhelpful–have deliberately altered the meanings of precursor words to separate them somewhat from the essence of their creators. Even the name the Fetaarans give them, “Starkin,” while the most fitting so far, seems to have been bastardized from the real phrase; the Fetaarans refuse to tell us what it is, insisting it’s “too close to the truth.” You see once again what we’re working with.

I asked Specialist Faring to Psi the tablets, and she remains in a coma since attempting it.  I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed by their contents. Instead of technological or military information, they appear to be a set of parables. I have allowed several team members to try McMartin’s Cipher Hypothesis again, but in my personal opinion, these stories are just stories.

I must further observe that while our phonetic understanding of the precursor script seems mostly complete, the definitions of multiple key words and phrases elude us. I would prefer not to tell it to you at all–for the usual reasons–but I will obey your orders on this point. Therefore, before offering what we understand of the parables, here are a few linguistic revelations:

The word “Vohdrii” (voh-dree–I like these pronunciations no more than you, but the other team members were insistent we translate sounds consistently rather than based on English alone, and their key has worked so far) appears 18 times despite being relevant only to the second character of the second parable. Saying it aloud produces severe psychological as well as physiological effects (we are preparing studies on this point), so I must caution you against doing so.

We have mitigated this by deliberately butchering the word’s exact rhythms and enunciations, but this only goes so far. Typing it is vastly better, but thinking it appears worse than either, and we can’t very well speak or type the word without thinking it first. I cannot emphasize strongly enough that only the most psychologically durable should be involved in the Project on any level.

And please, Admiral, take care to involve yourself as little with the words as possible!

You will find this harder than you expect; every precursor word I learn sticks in my mind. Oddly, this seems worse for words without translations, such as the one I have just mentioned. I hypothesize this is because having a translation allows us to focus on our own words, which forms a sort of mental defense against the precursor language’s influence.

I must caution that we’re talking about the difference between craving and addiction. We can fight regardless, but it is difficult, and growing moreso the more of their language we discover. I will have a list of current psychological casualties at the end of this month, but after saying the aforementioned word in unison–this appears to have been a bet, which I have now forbidden–Specialists Oberinck and Ilyich killed each other in a knife fight using fielding knives they stole from the armory.

With this in mind, other samples include “giraesh” (gih-ray-sh), “suriit” (soo-reet), and the especially queer “vrash’cht” (v-rah-sh-cht). Specialist Clearview has suggested that the aforementioned apostrophized word bears a marked resemblance to the warning hiss of many Earth vipers. This seems objectively ridiculous–the idea that Earth fauna would appear on whatever alien world spawned the precursors and their language violates all current experience–but at least in phonetics terms, I’m forced to agree.

The apostrophes are a regrettable necessity invented since my last report; the precursors insist on mashing sounds against each other in ways we would not. Where you see an apostrophe, the syllable immediately following it is to be pronounced without regard for the previous sounds, but otherwise as part of the same word.

For example, “conceit” would be come “conce’it” (con-seh-it). This is representative of the way the precursors treat many vowel arrangements, and remarkably obnoxious; their suffixing system requires the attributive i (ih) come before the pluralizing a (ah), turning a phrase like “warriors’ path” to “karhaki’a waichet.”

A final note: the sheer volume of untranslated material remaining on the tablets means we are likely missing everything but the most obvious meanings of these parables. There are many phrases which may be anything from physical description to philosophical exploration which we simply don’t understand. I will note that the use of sound and rhythm in the pieces outstrips all but the best of Earth poetry. I will only provide examples of this if directly ordered to; Specialist Murikomi has been reciting the same three lines for a month, pausing only to breath, and no longer responds to external stimuli. She appears happy about this.

The first parable is the less subtle; we have loosely titled it the Parable of the Four. Our synopsis follows:

The Parable of the Four concerns four warrior siblings, each trying to change the universe for the better. The first and eldest is a brother who spends all his early life training but takes no time to examine himself. He misses many flaws in himself and his skills, and the mistakes he makes in order to learn better undo much of the good he attempts.
The second, the older sister, comes to understand the universe but not herself or the skills of warriors, and she cannot fix the problems she sees even though she knows how.
The third, the younger sister, spends all her time on introspection and spirituality; so she comes to know her own flaws, but she lacks the skill and discipline to correct them and she knows nothing of the wrong in the universe.
The fourth, the second brother and youngest sibling, sees that each of his siblings has perfected a part of the truth but cannot grasp the remainder because they studied their segments in isolation. He seeks to master his skills and himself, to understand the universe, and to perceive each of the three as a whole. He goes forth to do good and succeeds.

The parable’s meaning is largely self-explanatory, though a few phrases hint that we should be surprised the fourth, successful sibling is male. This ties in with a few hints from research near Canis Majoris suggesting the precursors may have had a matriarchal society. The second parable has its own title, which translates to “Of the Three Ways.” It is as follows:

Three warriors consult a sage in turn about the best way to reach their destination, an ancient shrine believed to hold the key to understanding life itself. Before giving them guidance, the sage asks each a series of questions about who they are, how they fight and the way they see the universe.

The first warrior explains that he is a loyal servant of the Empress and it is his duty to learn all he can in order to better protect her and her interests.

The second says that she wishes to become the greatest fighter in the universe, and no level of training or struggle is too much for her goal.

The third explains her wish for peace among all sentients, but that she understands she must fight for it.

The sage tells each warrior to take a different path. We have loosely named these three, in order, as the Loyalist, the Duelist and the Arbitrator; these appear to be accurate translations of the titles the parable gives them.

The Loyalist moves through hilly terrain and falls in with a group of Imperial soldiers. They are called to fight a number of battles and the Loyalist is forced to choose between his sense of duty and his wish to reach the shrine. In the end he chooses the latter, believing that the knowledge of the shrine will do more good in the long run.

The Duelist travels through jungles, over frozen mountains and through arid canyons. She fights many enemies and ultimately kills a rival Duelist. After the final victory, she pushes on to the shrine but remarks that she feels her journey ended with her slain rival.

The Arbitrator solves the disputes of many travelers, mostly through diplomacy but occasionally through violence. She encounters an ancient spirit who insists she turn back, for there is nothing at the shrine. The Arbitrator states that she must still see for herself and she too moves on to the shrine.

The three warriors arrive at different times, though how far apart is not clear. At the shrine each finds only an old altar, to which each adds an offering. Each is disappointed, the Loyalist most so, but each comes to the conclusions that the lessons they learned in reaching the shrine have made the journey worthwhile in itself.

The first moral of the parable is quite obvious–the usual “journey, not destination” platitude so beloved of fiction writers and SR communities–but I believe there are multiple layers of meaning here which violate the normal format of a parable. The script comprises the equivalent of between 14 and 15 pages of single-spaced, 12-point font, and considering this particular writer’s obsession with the active voice and the more permissive grammar of the precursors’ language, I believe it contains far more material than this count implies. The three warriors seem representative of specific real-world organizations, but these organizations match nothing in the fragments from other precursor sites.

I’ve attached more material below concerning further precursor words we’ve yet to translate, and some very interesting hypotheses from Specialist Dale. There’s a particular word we’ve only seen once–all other instances have been scratched out–which has provoked radical behavioral–if not, in fact, character–shifts over the last few months, namely
—DATA CORRUPTED—
—RETRIEVING BACKUP—
—BACKUP RETRIEVAL FAILED—
—IF YOU GAZE LONG INTO AN ABYSS, THE ABYSS GAZES ALSO INTO YOU—
—THE ABYSS GAZES ALSO—
—INTO YOU—
—THE ABYSS—

Say something, darn it!

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