Excerpt from To Guard Against the Dark
by Julie E. Czerneda
published by DAW Books 2017
Seeking that which stole from AllThereIs, the Great Ones felt neither strain nor effort as they
reached along the bridge, crossing Between into NothingReal, the space occupied by beings of
Until they reached through the portion where Between had begun to rot.
They faltered, impeded. Experienced dislocation. The universes had an order. They were part
of that. Disrupting it had consequence--
But their task was unfinished. They reached with FORCE.
Uncounted Great Ones winked from existence, leaving gravity holes to warp AllThereIs,
Others were created, cataclysms of wild, vibrant energy to fill and alter what had been.
The Dance changed. The change took place before the Singers could perceive it. If they
could. To them, AllThereIs was the fabric of the universe and eternal.
But the Watchers saw. They learned a new and terrifying truth about the order of universes.
All things begin.
And all have an end.
At the same instant, in the universe where the lifecycle of stars and their planets were predictable
and of note mainly to astrogaters:
On Cersi, an Oud had died, having crawled to its final rest. Unlike other Oud, this one had
stuffed its ventral pouches with objects that were not Oud, but when iglies swarmed to consume
the corpse, as was their role, there was nothing left inside.
On Deneb, a Human inner system, in the fortified hillside estate of the new leader of the Grey
Syndicate, a gem-encrusted raygun disappeared from where it had been tossed in a drawer, its
new owner frustrated the thing didn't work.
In the well-protected vaults of the First, the aging collective of species who'd begun the
search for the Hoveny and remained transfixed by its mysterious sudden collapse, cases filled
with artifacts emptied. Those thefts went unreported; the fortunes of the First were scant enough
in this era of peace within the Human-inspired Trade Pact.
Little did they realize the theft was happening on every world gifted by the Hoveny
Concentrix with its technology, for everything once able to rob AllThereIs of its living energy
had been, finally, removed from existence.
A handful of archeological sites emptied; most remained unaffected. Still, panic could have
spread, for such happenings had no precedent--
--but they were over as soon as they'd begun. In the aftermath, few wanted to admit what
they'd lost, fewer still what they hadn't. Curators on several worlds retired their costly "Hoveny"
displays and looked for new jobs.
What had happened? Speculation was rampant, whether secret or in public. The Hoveny built
with materials no one in the First or the Trade Pact yet understood, but if they'd a finite lifespan,
where were the products of that decay? If, as Turrned missionaries preached, the former Hoveny
Concentrix was cursed, why this consequence? And why now?
Unknown to the rest, heedless to the order of universes and consequence, was another opinion