Welcome back, cosmic wanderer, to the intriguing universe of the Astral Assemblage. Join us as we dive back into the complex machinations of the Archon of Black holes, where Thorne finds himself navigating an intricate web of alliances and secrets in the ominous realm of the afterlife, Purgata.

This is part Two of a Three Part Series. For The Blackdrifter’s Dawn – Part One, click here.

Alongside Thorne, Galladriel, the reclusive Archon of the in-between, orchestrates her strategies with inscrutable intent, fostering an atmosphere of uncertainty and caution. Tensions rise as Thorne and Galladriel face-off, their every exchange fraught with unspoken suspicions and veiled threats.

Our narrative shifts focus to Eridan, now known as the Blackdrifter, who emerges as a key player in the battle against Azathogros, a void creature of terrifying power with the ability to drive people mad with fear. Thorne’s bold move to purge the Void Creature from Eridan’s psyche creates ripples that affect the very foundation of the Hypostasis, leaving the fate of Aesculpa hanging in the balance.

Join us as we further explore the Astral Assemblage. Here, decisions have far-reaching consequences, secrets hold the power to upend realities, and alliances can mean the difference between survival and devastation. We invite you to delve into ‘The Blackdrifter’s Dawn Part Two’—a tale of cosmic intrigue, high stakes, and the relentless pursuit of balance.

In the heart of the cosmos, within the Council Chamber of the Seven Spirits, Thorne, Archon of Black Holes, sat heavily in his seat. Solitude filled the room, the silence broken only by the celestial humming of the stars beyond the chamber walls. Behind him lay the lifeless body of Eridan, once a Zephyrian Commander – an alarming testament to the escalating danger lurking in the shadows of their universe.

His mind echoed with an unanswered question – “How?” How had Eridan perceived what even they, as divine beings, could not? How had he identified the presence of the Shub-Nagarr, the insidious, virus-like entity eluding even their senses? It was a riddle Thorne knew he must unravel, for the survival of their universe hinged upon it.

Reluctantly, he stirred from his thoughts, initiating the divine summons that echoed across the cosmic fabric, drawing his fellow Archons to the council meeting.

As the Archons materialized within the chamber, Cygnus, Archon of Celestial Bodies, took the lead. His voice filled the chamber, outlining the dire state of their universe. His words painted a chilling picture of the Void Rift, its creatures, and the spreading infection that twisted beings into nightmarish forms.

However, when Cygnus spoke of the amorphous, shape-shifting virus plaguing star systems, Thorne interrupted. “Shub-Nagarr,” he stated with chilling clarity, sharing his revelation of the rooftop encounter and the creatures’ collective declaration.

Oriel, Archon of Radiant Nebulae, voiced her skepticism about Thorne’s belated revelation, sparking a heated exchange. Thorne defended his actions with a stinging retort, reminding the council of his seniority and unmatched intellect.

As the tension rose, Calantha, Archon of the Frozen Wastes, restored order. She steered the council back to the pressing issue, questioning Thorne about his source of information. The chilling truth spilled from Thorne’s lips – Eridan, their potential key to understanding the Shub-Nagarr, was no longer among the living.

Aria, Archon of Cosmic Symphony, suggested a desperate course of action. Could Orin, Archon of Comet Trails, not pluck Eridan from a moment before his demise? Cygnus was quick to dismiss this, reminding everyone of the cataclysmic aftermath they’d faced when they’d meddled with time before.

In the ensuing chaos of debate, Calantha sat quietly, her gaze locked onto Thorne’s. She saw a clear path through the storm. They needed to converse with the dead. A single nod from her silenced the room.

Despite Thorne’s protests, the council reached a unanimous decision – he was to journey to Purgata, the dominion of Galladriel, the Archon of The In-Between. There, he would seek answers from Eridan himself, paving the way for their first real offensive against the relentless Shub-Nagarr invasion.

Thorne’s arrival in Purgata is like stepping into a haunting echo of a once-lively symphony. The vibrant nebula, normally a riot of shifting hues, is now a strained gray, besieged and beleaguered. Two things immediately strike him as amiss. The In-Between teems with the dispossessed, the sheer number of wandering souls painting a grim picture of the toll taken by the Void creature invasion on the Material World. And above it all, hanging ominously in the sky, a network of grotesque tentacles converges upon a singular red point – a star that was not a star. He recognizes it with a sinking feeling. Nyarlathotep, one of the void creatures they had encountered at the rift, seems to have located Purgata.

With a sigh heavier than the cosmic ether around him, he turns his gaze away from the looming threat and takes a step, intending to explore. But his stride falters. He cannot subdivide. His connection to the celestial flux is unnervingly absent. A cold ripple of unease cascades through him, echoing into the cosmos. “Galladriel,” he calls out, voice imbued with celestial resonance.

In response, the sky quivers. The not-star flares red in brightness, its tentacles writhing and tightening. Bolts of purple energy crisscross the heavens, beating against a vast energy shield. Galladriel’s doing, Thorne surmises. Nyarlathotep, it seems, is held at bay. But its reactions, the unsettlingly rhythmic pulsations of its tentacles, suggest it might have sensed Thorne’s arrival. And with it, the presence of fresh Zoe-tropic Light.

Deciding to put aside his frustrations for the moment, Thorne sets off toward the Grand Citadel, Galladriel’s seat of power. Along the path, he bears witness to an unsettling scene: thousands of souls queued before the grand staircase leading up to the Spire at the heart of the Citadel, waiting for their turn to be judged by the Actuary of the Afterlife.

He finds himself still able to glean the final moments of these souls. They are fear-stricken, withdrawn. Trauma from their violent, abrupt ends at the hands of Void creatures tinges their spectral presences. One, however, stands out. A soul still seemingly suffering, an impossibility in Purgata. The visions his touch draws forth are chilling: a humanoid creature in a dark green cloak, an oily black sphere where a head should be. Within its glossy surface, a horrifying reflection of the soul’s worst fears. Even as Thorne probes, seeking clues, he hears the soft whimper of the soul turn into choked cries. The name “Azathogros” resounds in his mind.

“That will be enough of that, Lord Thorne,” a stern voice cuts through his focus. Galladriel appears, an entourage of sin-eaters following in her wake. She points up to the pulsating red entity dominating the sky. “Your actions are causing more distress than necessary and frustrating our dear friend above.”

Thorne withdraws, finally turning to face the archon. Ignoring her admonishment, he asks, “Are there more like him?” His eyes are hard, unyielding, pointing to the soul trapped in trauma.

“Thousands, at least. And they’re all from a planet close to the rift you inadvertently created,” Galladriel shoots back, the dig evident in her voice.

“And the binding?” Thorne continues, his tone icy. “You tread on dangerously thin ice.”

“The binding is a necessary evil. Flares in Zoe-Tropic activity only invite more attention from our celestial nemesis,” she gestures upward. “Your binding aids the shield, providing safety to Purgata.”

“Your binding prevents me from fulfilling my duties. Undo it,” he counters.

“But surely, Lord Thorne, you must see that our priority now should be to ensure the safety of the Hypostasis. We cannot afford to be divided,” she replies. There’s a slight pause, and Thorne can’t help but feel there’s something more in her words.

“I am here for an Aesculpan Commander from the Zephyrian Military. Eridan.” He asserts his purpose, trying to keep the conversation on track.

“And I will assist you in finding him – once Nyarlathotep has been dispatched. That is, if you know how to do it,” she challenges, a faint, unreadable glimmer in her eyes.

Thorne sighs, realizing he must tend to his immediate duties as one of the Seven before he can delve into the mystery of the Shub-Nagarr. But as he follows Galladriel, he can’t shake the feeling that there are deeper machinations at play.

Thorne was left to his own devices as Galladriel returned to her duties in the Grand Chamber. From his lofty quarters within the Citadel, he watched the unending procession of lost souls, each silently pleading their case before the solemn Archon. Despite her seemingly stern facade, he couldn’t help but notice Galladriel’s genuine care for each lost spirit. Even the traumatized ones were given an extra amount of time, a softening in her gaze. A whisper of her celestial power used to calm their fears, an arm around their shoulder in a soothing embrace. He grudgingly admitted to himself that her work was admirable, even as he chafed under the binding that kept him trapped within the confines of Purgata.

He was still deep in thought when a knock echoed through the grand quarters. An attendant entered, a man trailing behind him. Thorne recognized the figure immediately: Eridan, the fallen soldier from the Material World. Thorne blinked, momentarily taken aback by the rapidity of Galladriel’s ability to produce Eridan. He also found himself momentarily concerned about the state of the soldier before him.

Eridan stood tall but his eyes were haunted. They were the eyes of a man who had seen something that had shaken him to his very core. The soldier who had bravely faced a legion of shape-shifting void creatures was now visibly agitated, a thin veneer of fear pulling taut over his features. Even his posture had altered – his shoulders hunched as if perpetually bracing for an unseen strike.

As Thorne delved into the fallen soldier’s memories, he found a well of terror residing there. It was a terror that echoed with a name – Azathogros. Eridan had been touched by the nightmare entity and his psyche bore the horrific scars. The creature’s shadow loomed ominously in Eridan’s memories, its oily slick darkness permeating memories of his life, his death, and even his time in Purgata. It was here, hiding in the crevices of consciousness, feasting on the fear it induced.

Eridan was speaking now, his voice hollow and lost. His words revolved around the visions of his wife, his daughter, both possessed by the void creature, their eyes staring back at him in horror. He was trapped in his own nightmare, unable to see past the horrifying images imprinted on his psyche.

Looking at Eridan, Thorne found his irritation at the binding and Galladriel momentarily eclipsed by a flicker of compassion. In a rare show of kindness, Thorne gently laid a hand on the man’s forehead, apologizing softly before he put Eridan to sleep. He pulled his hand back just as the Citadel trembled, a resounding vibration rippling through the celestial flux.

From his balcony, he saw the sky outside flare into an alarming shade of crimson. The celestial shield that held back the grotesque network of Nyarlathotep’s tentacles shimmered dangerously, pulsing in sync with the energy Thorne had just released. He muttered a curse under his breath, knowing all too well the difficulty that lay ahead of him. The binding Galladriel had placed on him was not just a hindrance; it was a ticking time bomb threatening to escalate the situation within the already beleaguered Purgata.

Staring at the slumbering form of Eridan, Thorne found himself formulating a plan. The Shub-Nagarr had been unsuccessful in their attempt to infect the Aspects on Aesculpa. Perhaps it was due to the inherent light each Aspect carried within them, a light that these Void creatures found unpalatable. If Azathogros shared this weakness, then elevating Eridan to Aspect status might sever the connection it had established.

His thoughts spun around the concept, like a weaver at a loom. His fingers, as if in echo of his mind, plucked at the strings of his binding. Each miniscule release sent ripples of energy coursing through him, causing the celestial sky to shudder in response. Bit by bit, he accumulated the necessary power for his audacious plan: Ascension.

Projecting his consciousness into Eridan’s sleeping mind, Thorne sought out the intrusive presence of Azathogros. An insatiable curiosity drove him, a desire to see firsthand the shock on the creature’s ethereal face as he bestowed Ascension on Eridan and drove it out. What he found instead was a twisted mockery of a domestic scene. Eridan, enjoying a meal with his wife and daughter, each of whom were infected and marred by the Void creature’s touch.

A cold fury took hold of Thorne, but he maintained his composure, focusing on his task. He began to summon his celestial power, coaxing it into a sphere of pure, vibrant zoe-tropic light. The heavens outside quaked and seethed in reaction to the exertion of such formidable energy. Unperturbed, Thorne took aim, launching the sphere into the very essence of Eridan’s being.

A brilliant, blinding flash of light exploded from Thorne’s quarters. For a moment, time itself seemed to pause in the Grand Chamber below. Then, Galladriel’s voice shattered the silence. Her words were frantic, charged with fear as she screamed about the breach in the celestial shield and the disruption of the binding.

As the light began to fade, Thorne rose. He extended a hand to the now awakened Eridan, his voice resounding within the shocked silence. “We haven’t any time, I’m afraid. Rise, Eridan, Blackdrifter, Cosmic Knight of the Archon of Black Holes.”

Gathered in the celestial light of Purgata, Thorne, Eridan, and Galladriel stood. Thorne, his gaze focused on Galladriel, began to unravel his plan, each word measured with the gravity of the situation. “We must Ascend the souls infected by Azathogros, Galladriel. We will raise them to Archonic Aspects.”

Galladriel blanched, her radiant form pulsating with sudden shock. “Ascend them? Thorne, you speak of creating an army! If the Council were to hear of this…you know the consequences of such rampant use of the Flux!” She turned away from Thorne, her celestial eyes scanning the procession of souls as if searching for an alternative answer.

Eridan, the newly ascended Blackdrifter, observed this celestial stand-off. A soldier at heart, he recognized the escalating tension. But this was not a battlefield he was familiar with. He stepped into the breach, hoping to ease the friction, “Why don’t we ask the Council for help?”

Thorne didn’t move his gaze from Galladriel. “Involving Aria and Oriel might serve us with the Nyarlathotep. But Azathogros…,” he began, only to be cut off by Galladriel’s stern rebuttal. “Out of the question, Thorne. We would risk drawing more Void Creatures here.”

Resolute, Thorne insisted. He recounted their victory over the Yog-Sothorg, how they could lure Nyarlathotep and the other lurkers away from Purgata. But once again, Galladriel dismissed the idea outright, an undercurrent of finality in her voice.

In this moment, Thorne found himself caught in the throes of frustration. Galladriel’s stubborn resistance to his suggestions raised his suspicions. The lure tactic was proven and reliable; he’d used it before with success. He turned to Eridan, leading him away from Galladriel towards the balcony. The space between them hung heavy with unanswered questions and unspoken fears.

“Eridan,” Thorne began once they were alone, “tell me again about the Shub-Nagarr. Their eyes…how you knew.”

Eridan recounted his observations on Aesculpa, explaining how the sight of the black eyes had tipped him off. His memory played back scenes from the battle, the eyes of the Shub-Nagarr, an eerie black, stood out against the chaos of combat. His helmet’s HUD had highlighted the abnormality, making it impossible to overlook.

“Their eyes… They were like voids, black and devoid of light. It was like looking at death itself,” Eridan explained, his voice far away as he recollected the chilling vision. “They appeared normal at first, but the HUD flagged them. It was like… like a shadow in their eyes. It was what allowed me to detect the infected among us.”

Thorne absorbed this new information, his mind working overtime. The description didn’t align with what he himself had witnessed. His celestial sight had shown no such details. His gaze flickered, thoughtfully. Could his Archonic sight have overlooked something so seemingly simple?

“But what’s puzzling, Thorne,” Eridan continued, “is that I’ve seen those black eyes elsewhere…not just among the Shub-Nagarr.” He paused, glancing back towards Galladriel, a sudden realization dawning upon him. “I’ve seen that same shadow…in Galladriel’s eyes. But only when she’s especially stern or angry. It’s quick…so quick that you might miss it if you aren’t paying attention.”

His words hung heavily between them. An unnerving possibility began to take root, threading its tendrils into the very fabric of their understanding. Could Galladriel herself be infected with the creeping darkness of Azathogros? The thought of the infection having reached the heart of Purgata was alarming, but the pieces were beginning to fit in a pattern too disquieting to ignore. Thorne felt a cold shiver of dread descend upon him. He needed to act, and swiftly.

Without warning, Thorne’s grip tightened on Eridan’s arm. His eyes bore into Eridan’s, the urgency in them palpable. “Listen carefully, Eridan. When I give the signal, reach into your core, draw forth the void. You must be in contact with Galladriel when you do this.”

Taken aback, Eridan nodded, the power within him sparking at Thorne’s words. Thorne let out a sigh of relief, instructing him one last time, “Keep Galladriel occupied. We’ve little time and much to do.”

As they returned to Galladriel, the air seemed to thicken, each second ticking by like a drumbeat echoing the approach of an impending storm. The cosmos shivered in anticipation, a celestial tempest in the making. Thorne’s mind raced with possibilities, the calculated risks of their imminent stratagem twining with the inherent uncertainties of their situation. This was it, the precipice, the deciding moment that could sway the balance in their favor…or plunge them all into abysmal darkness.

“Galladriel,” Thorne began, his voice an even baritone that belied the gravity of their conversation. “Eridan here has made an observation that could well turn the tide of our fight. It concerns the Shub-Nagarr…and their eyes.”

As he gestured to Eridan to proceed, a shared glance passed between them – an unspoken pact of unity and resolve. The next few moments would set the course of their fate and of Purgata. The storm was coming, and they were in the very eye of it. It was time to brave the tempest.

For now, we must leave the cosmic stage of ‘The Blackdrifter’s Dawn’, we find ourselves teetering on the edge of revelation and calamity. Galladriel’s enigmatic actions hint at hidden dangers, while Thorne’s strategic maneuvers highlight the escalating tension in the Hypostasis. As Eridan, now the Blackdrifter, steps into the forefront of the narrative, his new role has the potential to turn the tide of the cosmic conflict.

The struggle against Azathogros and Nyarlathotep is far from over, and the landscape of the Astral Assemblage stands to be irrevocably altered by the fallout. The fates of Aesculpa, Purgata, and indeed the entire Hypostasis hang in the balance, their futures uncertain in the face of mounting threats.

As we step back from the stellar tableau, we reflect on the intricate dance of power and purpose unfolding in this expansive universe. The characters we’ve come to know continue to navigate the vast cosmic stage, their actions shaping the fate of entire civilizations. With alliances tested, secrets unearthed, and the balance of power in constant flux, the saga of the Astral Assemblage continues to captivate.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in this thrilling cosmic journey as we further explore the depths of the Astral Assemblage. Until then, may your stargazing be bright and your celestial journey be enlightening.