The years following the First Galactic War saw an unprecedented expansion into previously unknown space. As the Confederacy grew, so did the length of the border with the Grugell Empire. Despite the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Empire, there were many cross-border incidents.
It was during this period that several thorns began to make themselves felt in the Confederacy’s side. The establishment of several colonies on the generally ignored planets of Wilson, Last Chance, and Jinx, known as the Rim Worlds, provided a safe haven outside the Confederate border for escaped convicts, murderers, traitors, and renegades from both Confederacy and Empire. All three worlds, situated as they were on the outer edge of the Galactic arm, were notoriously poor in water, metals, and other resources. The inhabitants of those worlds resorted to raiding on small colonies and undefended freighters to support what industries they managed to create.
Perhaps more surprising was the discovery of a unique retroviral disease that had given rise to an ancient, almost forgotten Earth legend, and the fact that carriers of the disease still lived and traveled throughout the Confederacy even in the modern era.
One such carrier was later discovered to have been influencing human history and events to his own benefit for well in excess of a thousand Standard Years.
- Morris/Handel, A History of the First Galactic Confederacy, University Publications, 2804 CE
"I have learned not to think little of any one’s belief, no matter how strange it may be. I have tried to keep an open mind, and it is not the ordinary things of life that could close it, but the strange things, the extraordinary things, the things that make one doubt if they be mad or sane." -- Bram Stoker
Wallachia, 1462 CE
It was a bright day in early spring, with a hint of winter’s chill still in the air. The Carpathians brooded over the tiny village as they had for centuries, caps of white still glinting on their peaks this April day. The wind regularly brought whispers of war to the valley, but to a teenage boy, the talk of war was a distant matter, hardly of any concern at all.
"Belos!" It was his mother, calling for him from the back door of their tiny hut, a rude, thatch-roofed, two-room affair down a side alley of the tiny village. "You must go to the well for water! Hurry, boy!"
"I’m coming, Mother!"
As he hurried towards the hovel he shared with his mother, he heard the drumming of hoof beats. Riders frequently came and went through their tiny village, but this sounded different. Many horses were pounding down the road.
Belos ran to the hut, retrieved the bucket from his mother’s proffered hand. "Mother! There are riders coming into the village!"
His mother shook her head. "And your father away, fighting in Vlad’s Crusade," she spat and cursed. "Evil plagues the land these days, Belos!" She stepped out, listened. "They’re stopping in the village square. Well, come on, boy, let’s go see what they want of our poor town."
In the village square, a rider in mailed armor was just now unrolling a scroll, which he read in a booming voice:
"The Lord Vladimir Tepes commands that all males aged fifteen summers and older are to join his army under the banner of the Dracul to war against the infidel Turks, against the army of the barbarian Suleiman Bulut. All of you such, in this village, will join our march at once. You will gather here in one hour." He rolled up the scroll and tipped up his helmet’s visor to reveal a hawk-like face, long moustaches dangling. "Well, what are all of you looking at?" he snapped. "Get moving!"
Belos walked his crying mother back to their rude hut. "But, Mother," he assured her, "Father is in Vlad’s army. I will find him and fight at his side, and when the Turks are beaten we will come home together!"
"I will pray for it to be so, my son," his mother sobbed.
But it was not to be.