A Withering World

In a solar system located in the outer bounds of the Druthian Galaxy, Kaarnoss is one of seven planets that orbit the brown dwarf Bykar. As Kaarnoss is the farthest planet from Bykar, a failed star that emits little light anymore, the planet is in a state of perpetual night. Floral life is extinct as a result; however, the decayed remains of ancient trees can be seen throughout the land, relics of ages past when darkness was not so inescapable. At one of these gnarled trees, a creature may stand and remember Kaarnoss as it once was. The creatures look out onto what are now fields of rocks and gravel, recalling how they were once lush meadows, or over wastelands littered with debris and exposed stone projections, which were thick forests before Bykar’s collapse.

Fading Memories

A withered tree rising from a barren land with a meager river and dull stars in the background

These reminiscent creatures are the Former Folk, the last living group of inhabitants on Kaarnoss that were born when day still existed, a time that has become known as the Light Years. The Former Folk are the only ones that remember what Kaarnoss was once like: a thriving planet coursing with clear rivers and full of vegetation, a planet of verdant wilderness and fresh air. Now, the planet was dead. Clean, proud rivers are murky trickles of water that feed into lakes that are covered with a layer of grotesque scum and reek of decomposing fish. The air is marked by an odor of rot that continually grows stronger and has driven most of the remaining life on Kaarnoss far up into the mountains where the air is thinner and the smell less noxious. The Former Folk, too, have been repelled into the mountainous regions of the world, but every so often, when the inner call cannot be suppressed, they make the trek down to the lower parts to stand by a decrepit tree and recall what once was.

The younger generations, those who have never seen more light than the flicker of a torch or that which shines down on them from distant stars, tend to consider the Former Folk strange and their stories fanciful. Some simply cannot believe old descriptions of Kaarnoss while others force themselves to disbelieve the Former Folk’s accounts lest they should come to find the current state of their world hopelessly unbearable. Indeed, some have been depressed by tales of the Light Years and have made the miserable decision to travel down to the lower regions of Kaarnoss and never return, their fate unknown but presumably tragic.

Days in the Dark

One of the Former Folk wandering the valleys of Kaarnoss with a torch

Despite the mass extinction of all life that could be expected to occur on a planet that lost its primary source of light, Kaarnoss has adapted to the situation remarkably well. Of course, trees died off from the inability to photosynthesize along with other sizeable plants and the large herbivores they sustained, but these were the few types of organisms that were severely impacted by the dimming of Bykar. Many smaller plants on Kaarnoss were already independent of light, being chemosynthetic plants instead. Vast colonies of these peculiar, heat-resistant plants have long thrived around geothermal vents at the surface of the planet. From the chemical compounds secreted by the vents, which are plentiful because of Kaarnoss’ frequent volcanic activity, the plants are able to produce enough oxygen to preserve life on the planet, from tiny insects to massive mammals. Reptiles, too, have been able to endure the cold transition to darkness by migrating closer to the hot vents, and avian species quickly followed, though their move was brought on by a need for food more so than warmth. Aquatic species have been the only kind of creatures to seemingly disappear from Kaarnoss entirely; however, this observation is purely superficial. While most surface-dwelling fish have sadly died off, there exist thriving ecosystems deep at the bottom of the abundant lakes and few oceans across the planet, again fueled by geothermal vents. Indeed, life now centers around geothermal activity. Even tucked high up and away in the mountains, the Former Folk and their tribes rely on vents, planning their communities around them and cultivating farms in their fertile deposits. Were it any other planet, life would have surely vanished, but Kaarnoss, with its prolific subterranean volcanism and specialized plants, seems to have been created to withstand the darkness.

Ignorantly, the worlds beyond Kaarnoss believe it and all its inhabitants died soon after the onset of the darkness, though there have been no expeditions to the planet since Bykar shriveled and dulled. Evidently, these other worlds are mistaken; Kaarnoss has not died, but merely entered a new era. Whether the planet will flourish or stagnate in this new age is far from certain, but to find life at all will doubtlessly be a shock to those who ever dare to explore the darkness of Kaarnoss.

Categories: Planet


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