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When explorers first discovered Arquand, they were
ecstatic: a pastoral, resource-rich world without sentient
life, ripe for settlement. Within a few months, however, the tenor
of their reports shifted. They spoke of seeing long-dead loved
ones lurking in shadows, of technology randomly malfunctioning,
and of native fauna demonstrating eerily organized hostility.
After a disaster in which an entire encampment disappeared, the
remaining explorers pulled back to their ships in orbit.
Further research suggested an unusual explanation: while
Arquand contains no sentient life, the planet itself is self-aware,
reacting to the desires and fears of resident life-forms. For lessintelligent
creatures, it might produce food when they’re hungry,
or it might change shape to aid in migration; and thus, simple
life on the planet thrives, from herds of long-necked, six-legged
gazelles to colorful, four-winged birds in city-sized flocks.
With intelligent life, however, this mysterious force preys
upon visitors’ psyches, feeding upon their emotions, which
gives the force shape. A visitor might wake from a nightmare
to find that the ravening monster that pursued him through his
dreams now slavers at the foot of his bed. Even manifestations
evoked by positive feelings have dangerous effects, drawing
out obsession and siphoning away the sanity of their creators.
Despite these well-publicized dangers, Pact Worlds settlers
and explorers continue to flock to this false paradise, hoping
themselves disciplined enough to harness the planet’s
wish-fulfillment potential.

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