Natural Wonders of the Worlds, 3591

The Singing Towers of Saint Germain

Saint Germain, Orion Cluster

Found on the abiogenic garden world of Saint Germain, Orion Cluster, the Singing Towers are among the most ancient alien artefacts found in Human Space, having apparently been manufactured approximately fifteen million years before present — making them older than the native biosphere on Saint Germain. It is thought that proper motion has driven this world far from its neighbours at the time of the towers’ construction, explaining the complete lack of similar artefacts elsewhere within Human Space.

Although the exact purpose of the towers is unknown — indeed, after fifteen million years, it’s doubtful any mechanisms within the machines remain intact — they have become famous across Human Space for their beauty.

Saint Germain is a world in the process of becoming tidally-locked to its parent sun, and as such has an incredibly long day/night cycle. The sun takes eight and a half hours to rise, and traverses the sky over the course of several Earth-standard days.

When these winds blow through the Singing Towers, the pass over the complex surfaces of the structure itself, channeled by its ancient, unyielding geometry. Reports vary — depending on the day, the time, the angle of the sun, visitors to Saint Germain may hear a variety of different sounds. Whispers. Mournful echoes. Sad, beautiful singing, echoing across the plains of bacterial mats. An eerie whistling sound, like a thousand mouths forever kept from harmony.

The exact age and composition of the towers is hard to verify without damaging them, something archaeologists are unwilling to do. It is believed to be composed of some sort of metal-impregnated diamond nanomaterial, possibly maintained by active repair systems in the past, although a long, slow process of mineral deposition has changed — and weakened — the structure over the intervening aeons.

Bookings must be made at least five years in advance due to high demand.

The World of Scorning Doors

Scorn 86, Pleiades Cluster

Named as much for the title this planet was given by a standard reconnaissance probe during the Pleiades Settling as for their supposedly derisive behaviour, the eponymous Doors of the planet Scorn 86 are unknown spacetime constructs of apparently alien origin. Although some, like the one pictured above, appear to hang free in midair, the vast majority are found within the strange, branching labyrinths which tangle themselves in knots all over the surface of Scorn 86.

These doors are, or at least appear to be, some peculiar sort of wormhole of a kind beyond human science. They appear, for example, to have been stable over the course of tens or even hundreds of millions of years, apparently immune to the natural tendency of wormholes to shift out of sync with one another and collapse. Similarly, though they may draw on energy sources within their environment, the famous Doors of Scorn 86 do not appear to require the vast support superstructures of many human wormhole constructs.

Because of this, the labyrinths are almost impossible to traverse consistently — their corridors and thoroughfares bend into a nightmare of non-Euclidean space, hard to map and even harder to travel through. Even mapping them from without is difficult: whatever strange substance the labyrinths were forged from blocks almost all signals. Some have suggested that parts of the labyinths may in fact be located on distant worlds, or in a space beyond our own. The doors come in a variety of shapes — some round, others square, most rectangular. Some are horizontal, others vertical; a small fraction are angled relative to the ground.

According to some rumours, the wormholes themselves may either move or be replaced — supposedly trapping even seasoned explorers in impossibly twisting spaces and passageways. In other instances, people have reportedly exited the labyrinths months or even years after entering, despite having experienced only hours or days in the intervening period. Counter examples, of persons vanishing around a corner, only to be found in a profound state of decomposition, are also rumoured.

Perhaps most interestingly, the Scorning Doors are infinitely thin — and so, perfectly sharp. They’re like windows, cut from one part of the world, directly to another.

This strange aspect of the Scornful Doors themselves led to a morbid sort of tourism during the Glitter Plague — unable to find surgeons willing or able to amputate glitter-sick limbs, many of the sick and dying made a gruelling exodus to the World of Scorning Doors in order to use their infinitely thin throats to remove infected body parts. Rumours abound of shambling, glitter-stricken horrors lost deep within the shifting halls of the labyrinths — though these are almost certainly scare stories, of course.

Like most worlds within the Pleaides Cluster, Scorn 86 was once inhabited by a substantial population of Gardener Crabs, though examination of their technology suggests that it is deeply unlikely they actually produced the Scorning Doors for which the world is named. Instead, it’s thought that they studied the wormholes left behind on this world and developed theories of their own.

Rumours persist that some person or persons have discovered a way to move or even reproduce the Doors. This seems unlikely — despite their obvious existence, no obvious trace of the Doors, in the form of mass, electrical charge, or magnetic field, has been consistently detected — making it unclear exactly how these devices could be moved.

Then again, they had to be manufactured somehow.

A number of luxury homes on the World of Scorning Doors incorporate the gateways into their structure. The grandest mansions connect rooms across half a dozen landmasses. Smaller houses — especially those possessing only one Door, connecting to an underground chamber or passageway — appear only as the front entrance of a home, standing free in the wilderness, but containing a whole home within.

To date, no complete count of the Doors has been completed. Those freestanding on the surface, outside of the labyrinths, are thought to number well into the several thousand at the very least.

The World of Scorning Doors is best visited during midwinter — the Great Northern Blizzards are known sometimes to spill through Doors into the dunes and scrublands of the equatorial deserts. Another sight to see would be the Panama Pair: a pair of Doors fifty metres wide and the same again tall, positioned at sea level, connecting the oceans to either side of the continent Arahlage.

The Sundown Lovers

Bahshan, Rimward Limn

On the western, forever dusk shores of Bahshan’s largest continent, where the Sea of Night breaks against the gravel beach, there stand two curious figures carved by the epochs by the motion of the tides and the million year shuffle of glaciers from the rockface itself — The Sundown Lovers.

Unlike the previous entries in this chapter so far, the Lovers are thought to be truly natural, rather than relics of some past civilisation or culture — produced not by alien machines and artistic tastes but rather by the slow, insistent hands of geology and chemistry. These vast monoliths, the leftmost owing its two kilometre height to Bahshan’s low gravity, have been shaped by nature into harsh, proud figures by natural forces which look oddly similar to a pair of humans, staring wistfully at one another across the beach which separates them.

To many, the Lovers’ visage may seem silly — indeed, they look far more like a pair of lizards or dinosaurs than men — but it’s hard to dispute just how iconic the Lovers have become for many both within the worlds of the Rimward Limn, and beyond.

Some see them merely as a source of vital tourism, diverting some small fraction of the Inner Worlds’ wealth towards the impoverished backwaters of the Limn; others still have either been caught up in the Lovers’ romantic appeal or pretend to be to bolster that same tourist market. Yet others, however, view these twinned statues not as works of nature, but as signifiers of an almost religious important — either the product of ancient aliens, or else of some mysterious previous human civilisation, or else the miracle work of some obscure God or Gods — all offering little people, left behind by a rapidly changing Galaxy, the illusion of some personal importance beyond their mundane lives.

Despite the allegedly mystical origins of the Lovers, they have been defaced several times, more often than not by careless climbers eager to scale the broken, slate facades of these parted lovers. Because of this, Bahshan’s Colonial Authority has erected various barriers around the base of both Sundown Lovers, and aims to prosecute anyone who trespasses. In light of this, and given the CA’s apparent unwillingness to budge, this author recommends that the best view of the Sundown Lovers may be found not by climbing one of these enigmatic figures, but by riding the regular, if ramshackle, hot air balloons which chart a course between them. Afternoon tea can be purchased as an extra and, because of Bahshan’s status as a tidally-locked world, is naturally available at all hours of the day.

Plans proposed to the Colonial Authority which would see the Lovers brought together by a vast geoengineering project have, unfortunately, been shelved indefinitely — for fear not only that they would harm tourist revenue, but also that they may damage the Sundown Lovers permanently.

There is good news, however: what little geological activity still drives the continents of Bahshan will bring the Lovers into union once more — a mere eight million years from now. If anyone is still around to see it, their wedding, after aeons apart, ought to be a magical moment.

–Excerpts from Songlines to the Stars, (3591), Chapter Four:
“Natural Wonders of the Worlds”

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