Ciravel’s first—and only—childhood memory is of tasting the stars. Peering through a window into the depths of space, innumerable galaxies stare back at her and glitter their welcome. She remembers that moment, possibilities and potential branching like fractals, infinite possibilities for infinite stars; and yet, six stars shine brightest of all. Someone hands her something sweet that tastes of honey and spices, and the world smells of citrus and the sea. Fragrance embraces her, the sweetness lingering upon her tongue—the past and the present dancing together in a shared instant.
But before and after… Nothing.
And then, in some time or none at all: heat, and the rain on Sovyrian’s canals.
Ciravel’s young adulthood was spent at the university, where she earned impeccably high marks studying xenobotany, while also attending martial arts and combat training. Time rarely seemed to be the issue for Ciravel “But how do you manage it all?” her classmates asked. Ciravel shrugged. “I plan well. I have to.”
And she did need to plan. Multitudes of worlds and peoples mean multitudes of different shapes, sizes, limb configurations, and body structures. For Ciravel, it meant a body which, since birth, has been particularly responsive to varying gravities, atmospheric pressures, and other planetary properties. Some days, and in some places, Ciravel has little-to-no pain and walking isn’t a problem. Other times or places, she manages exhaustion and pain. Like many others across the Pact Worlds and beyond, using a hoverchair, or a cane for shorter distances, helps Ciravel reduce fatigue and makes moving around less difficult and painful. She trained to fight while using her chair, harnessing the thrusters and momentum to dodge and attack, conserving energy, to use her cane to counterbalance and anchor herself. Ways to minimize a bad day amongst the good and maximize a good day amidst the bad. But never knowing what sort of day was ahead meant Ciravel had to learn early how to plan for each possibility. So, she’d examine each potential outcome and prepare for each iteration until it became instinctual.
After graduation, Ciravel’s academic success in xenobotany caught the Sovyrian leadership’s attention, and in time, she was trusted with occasional official journeys to Absalom Station. Each time she boarded a starship, it felt more like home than Sovyrian ever had. It was the end of one of these trips, heading back through the station towards her waiting ship, that she was stopped in her tracks by the smell of crisp citrus in the sea air.
It was a scent she had all but forgotten, and in an instant, she was back in the memory of a window and stars and spiced honey. And in that moment, existing in two times, simultaneously, she understood. She could bend this moment to her needs. She could stretch time—delay her departure long enough to find the source of the fragrance. It wouldn’t last long, and it’d be exhausting, but it would be enough.
Illustration by Remko Troost and Ignacio Bazán Lazcano.
She stretched time at the docks and compressed it nearby. Following the fragrance, or perhaps led by it, she found the source—a young woman with golden eyes and swirling tattoos that almost seemed to dance, carrying a bundle under her arm and walking quickly into a small temple with a shattered mirror on the door—the sign of the Gap Recollective. Ciravel peered in, and when the woman drew back the cloth of the bundle, it revealed a truly ancient warhammer engraved with glowing Dwarven runes. Ciravel tasted spiced honey on her tongue. The young woman looked at her. Smiled.
And Ciravel was suddenly back on the ship home.
Years went by, and Ciravel became the default representative for most off-planet xenobotany meetings. Her excursions were always on time, dodged inclement weather, and when her insular life among the elves caused a diplomatic faux pas, it was somehow forgotten by the next meeting. With the arrival of the Idari, Ciravel was invited as part of the elven delegation to the kasathan worldship. She observed adat and was awed to note that after death the kasatha, like she, exist in two aligned points in time. She befriended one of the adata, who wore a pin engraved with a circle and arrow containing a six-star constellation.
The six stars from her memory.
The adata explained it as the symbol of Ibra, The Inscrutable. Guardian of mysteries and miracles, of exploration and discovery and the cosmos. They spoke at length of Ibra and cosmic enigmas swirling like nebulas and questions, but eventually, Ciravel bid the adata farewell and boarded the ship to Castrovel.
Another young woman boards Ciravel’s ship. She smiles at Ciravel with golden eyes as an unfamiliar object peeks out from the bundle tucked under a tattoo-adorned arm.
Citrus and spiced honey and salt flood Ciravel’s senses. Time stops.
Ciravel tastes the stars a third time. And this time, she understands.
Her memory is of the Gap. And either this woman with the golden eyes or this strange object is a link to it.
Ciravel untangles the possibilities—the present and the future, selecting a strand, tracing it forward. She knows this woman, Prindra, will lead Ciravel to the Gap Recollective on Castrovel. That Ciravel will peer into the maelstrom of the Recollective’s esoteric secrets, and someone, or something, will peer back. That they will hunt her, thinking three moves and four dimensions ahead. Ciravel unknots another time-thread and finds people who can help her, who she will help, who will become trusted companions. Ciravel knows she will become Forlorn, but feels no despair, for she will bend time itself for the friends she will make, keeping them safe on new worlds as they explore the mysteries of the stars together. Invigorated, Ciravel takes these strands and twists them together, weaving them into a new, stronger thread. Possibility.
She peers out the window, smiling at galaxies glittering with infinite potential and adventure and possibility, for Ciravel has time.
Despite understanding and manipulating the mechanisms of time, Ciravel is by no means omniscient. She selects the best plan based on the information she has on a given topic, and even when she knows an outcome, she still gets nervous from time to time. She also recognizes that someone may have information that informs a different option than the one she has chosen, so, while she will defend her statements, Ciravel is willing to follow another’s suggested plan. Her humor tends to be dry and occasionally dark, but she is playful and loyal with people she trusts.
Ciravel’s insular upbringing can manifest both as ignorance, condescension, and elitism—she corrects inaccuracies, but lacks firsthand knowledge about much of the galaxy, its peoples, their worlds, and their cultures, not for want of curiosity, but simply from a lack of exposure—more than once, cultural ignorance has put Ciravel into a sticky situation. She can be impatient and often will finish others’ sentences, assuming she knows what they were going to say, and she’s usually right. When all is said and done, there is nothing that thrills Ciravel more than exploring the galaxy, putting together a puzzle, and staring out at the stars with her friends.
About The Author
Jennifer Kretchmer is a Diana Jones Emerging Game Designer Award finalist, TV produce and performer, author (D&D’s Candlekeep Mysteries, Haunted West), streamer, and disability consultant (Skybound Games: The Walking Dead, MCDM) who has been playing TTRPGs for more than 20 years. She appears on several actual play streams including Vampire: The Nightlife (Renegade) and Heroes of the Planes (Demiplane), where her character, Alyndra, is a playable champion in Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms. Jen is a Jasper’s Game Day Ambassador and is the creator of the Accessibility in Gaming Resource Guide.